Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I may be a Sociology major. I may want to be a Sociologist. But African-American Studies MADE me.

It was the first thing I fell in love with on this campus. Everything that I do, I do because it said I could, because it changed my implicit definitions of "scholarship" and "intellectually significant". It made me realize how much I didn't know about my people, about myself, and about what learning should feel like. And so, while I was off the map when Schafer Riley attacked those graduate students and the discipline I think of as home, I'll be damned if I stand for it. The work we do is important BECAUSE it's not mainstream, because despite all of the post-racialness people like Riley proclaim, no one will do this scholarship if we don't. #Blackademicsunite 

Without Black Studies, what would we know of black protest of Jim Crow, slave revolts (and white suppression of records of these revolts), or the medical exploitation of black and brown bodies? Who would chronicle not just the struggle, but the achievements, creativity, and joys of black lives and experiences? Do naysayers really imagine white scholarship, on its own, has given an honest account on these topics? Or are such accounts simply irrelevant to them?
If anything is intellectually fraudulent, it’s scholarship that, consciously and not, excludes POC scholars or ignores race and ethnicity as categories of analysis. We all, white people included, need Ethnic Studies. Both academic scholarship and our understanding of the world are better, more honest, more robust with them than otherwise.
None of this is to say that black studies is perfect. Like many academic disciplines, it can be deeply bound to “traditional” approaches that marginalize scholarship from or about women, queer, and/or trans people. But it’s also the case that substantive critiques of Black Studies by scholars who take race and racism seriously (i.e., not Sowell and Steele) already exist. That critics are wholly ignorant of both the contributions and critiques of Black Studies is an example of what Spelman anthropologist Erica L. Williams describes as the “emotional labor” PoC scholars “must perform … beyond our job descriptions” and not just in the humanities. The considerable stresses of educating and producing scholarship are compounded by the suspicion and racial hostility PoC scholars routinely face.
PoCs are constantly expected to be emotional midwives to white people. Attempts to claim space or identity for ourselves—without deference to whiteness—are inevitably met with suspicion, anger, fear, and guilt (witness white anger over the President’s racial self-identification). We’re expected to have a conversation on race and racism that centers and assuages white emotions, to speak about race in terms and frameworks that are neither by, for, or ultimately about us. What little space we’re afforded in mainstream media is taken up with 101-level education, demands that we justify our existence, and prove the merit of our perspectives and accomplishments beyond the shadow of a doubt. White critics and, occasionally, other people of color, often feel a casual entitlement to pass judgment on PoC narratives of our own experiences, and on our scholarship, without putting in the effort to learn about or engage with either.
--T. F. Charlton
(via Racialicious

I cannot express how much I love this

Reblogged from La Belle Vita

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I see what you did there...

Going back to what I said about regret a little while ago...

Your life has been exactly what it needed to be.  Don’t think you’ve lost time.  It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the current moment.  And every moment of your life, including this one right now, is a fresh start.

Another way to look at sex-positivity

“Human beings took our animal need for palatable food … and turned it into chocolate souffles with salted caramel cream. We took our ability to co-operate as a social species … and turned it into craft circles and bowling leagues and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We took our capacity to make and use tools … and turned it into the Apollo moon landing. We took our uniquely precise ability to communicate through language … and turned it into King Lear.

None of these things are necessary for survival and reproduction. That is exactly what makes them so splendid. When we take our basic evolutionary wiring and transform it into something far beyond any prosaic matters of survival and reproduction … that’s when humanity is at its best. That’s when we show ourselves to be capable of creating meaning and joy, for ourselves and for one another. That’s when we’re most uniquely human.

And the same is true for sex. Human beings have a deep, hard-wired urge to replicate our DNA, instilled in us by millions of years of evolution. And we’ve turned it into an intense and delightful form of communication, intimacy, creativity, community, personal expression, transcendence, joy, pleasure, and love. Regardless of whether any DNA gets replicated in the process.

Why should we see this as sinful? What makes this any different from chocolate souffles and King Lear?”


It only changes form. 

Sometimes my feelings can only accurately be expressed through meme generators.
There are 64 email threads under my "DC Housing" label in my Gmail account, and I send more email inquiries legitimately every day. And yet, I do not yet have a place to call home outside of the state of New Jersey. I took a trip to DC earlier this week to meet people and view places I had had positive email interactions with, hoping to come, see, and conquer the DC housing market in two days. The third of the five places I saw, I fell in love with nearly at first sight. It was all I could do not to gasp as I was given a tour of the apartment, and I could see myself becoming fast friends with the roommate. She was a Black girl with loose curly hair and awesome earrings who is a PoliSci major at Howard. COME ON NOW. Maybe I was overeager and scared her off. Maybe a friend of hers or the girl who is moving out got the room. I don't know. All I know is I had already started envisioning myself in that space and was feeling quite comfortable there when I got the email saying they'd decided to go with someone else. That email was quickly followed by one from a place I wasn't interested in, saying the same thing. My second choice place had had two rooms available, but the one that was in my price range and with my more favorable move-in date was accounted for already. It was like my whole trip had been for naught.

So I had a mini-breakdown and then reopened padmapper and craigslist and kept looking. I'm now waiting to hear back from two people in a lovely house who sound really nice about a room that's available July 1, and then will have to work out where to stay for my first week of work. I see a fairly expensive sublet for two weeks from June 15-30, or I could try to see if I could stay at a friend's parents' house or with one of my older sister's friends, or if my mom wouldn't absolutely freak out at the idea of me doing Airbnb for a week. There's a room available with this black girl in Arlington for $40/night that could be fabulous and maybe we could even be friends.

During the writing of this post, I was contacted to say that the other roommate in the July 1 place wants someone older. The search continues. My parents are both using the "everything happens for a reason" route to suggest that something better will come along. I have no choice but to believe them (or carry out a half-assed plan to just sleep in my private office and shower in the gym in my building). Someone will want to live with me. I'm a cool person, I promise! Lots of people like me. I make really good pancakes. I'd want to hang out with my roommates sometimes, do brunch or drinks or throw a party or something. I'm social but not cray. I'm a little older at heart than 22. Always have been. Someone will want to live with me. 

I just hope it happens in the next six days, or I'll have to call work and admit defeat on my first deadline before I even start...    

Monday, May 28, 2012

W.E.B. Du Bois called it "double consciousness." Some current scholars say "epistemic privilege."

What I see is that the struggle for recognition as whole entities is the struggle for recognition as whole entities, no matter what particular version of wholeness you're fighting for. Not that individual and group differences don't matter--that's a statement that would never ever come out of my mouth and y'all know it--but that we should be able to recognize our strivings in the strivings of other people(s). Maybe not equate them, but support them as we support ourselves. For how can you ask to be seen if you refuse to see?

"I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to note that women, from a young age, are required to consider the reality of the opposite gender’s consciousness in a way that men aren’t. This isn’t to say that women don’t often misunderstand, mistreat, and stereotype men, both in literature and in life. But on a basic level, functioning in society requires that women register that men are fully conscious; it is not really possible for a woman to throw up her hands and write men off as eternally unknowable space aliens — and even if she says she has, she cannot really behave as though she has. Every element of her life — from reading books about boys and men to writing papers about the motivations of male characters to being attentive to her own safety to navigating most any institutional or professional or economic sphere — demands an ironclad familiarity with, and belief in, the idea that men really are fully human entities. And no matter how many men come to the same conclusions about women, the structure of society simply does not demand so strenuously that they do so. If you didn’t really deep down believe that women were, in general, exactly as conscious as you, you could probably still get by in life. You could probably still get a book deal. You could probably still get elected to office."
—Jennifer duBois, Writing Across Gender (via florida-uterati)
To apply a bit of intersectionality to this…women of color and the many marginalized communities we belong to—especially communities of color—have been saying this for a minute.
(via Racialicious)

Who exactly constitutes a "jury of your peers"?


I get up in the morning. And I do it all over again every day. If that's not optimism, I don't know what is.

Life is one incredible act of resistance, bravery, hope, and love. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I'm going to miss easy physicality with people.

I don't remember why this came up, but I clearly remember saying this during the wee-hours-of-the-morning drunken conversation KS, EY, and I had the night before last: 
"You know who I kissed twice last night? CB. You know who I'm not attracted to at all? CB."
I also remember KS being confused by my shirtless snuggles with MT and my having kissed him the week before (#truthdarekissorcody #middleschooldrinkinggamenight #dranglerproblemsawesomesauce), so I decided not to mention having also held MT and JD's hands that night or been in a cuddle/feel-up puddle with DS, SW, and RW the night before. When you're with a group of people that will get up and run around the house naked on a moment's notice, touching each other isn't always the biggest deal. But even when I'm not talking about PQCSS members or that kind of touching, it's still really easy to be physically affectionate with a lot of the people I'm (sometimes not even particularly) close to on this campus: for example, there are at least two guys in my eating club who I usually initiate interaction with by running my fingers through their hair and massaging their scalps. We used to get a small Asian female member who has since graduated to walk on our backs, and massage circles are still quite prevalent. It's not uncommon for people to sit on other people's laps for no particular reason; we're quite cuddly. 

And I thrive on that. Granted, I don't have that kind of easy physicality with KS or EY, and they are the people I'm "closest" to overall on this campus, but there are few other people I call close friends that I would hesitate to put my arm around in daily life. ChoosingPancakes was entertained by the fact that my strongest love language on this quiz we both took was physical touch, because that was one of her weakest. I don't just mean sex or sexual-ish touches when I say I value physical touch as one of the strongest ways to show me you care about me. It can be little things, like hugs that feel like you mean it, or not feeling the need to jerk your knee away if it meets mine under a table or on a couch, or an arm around a shoulder for no reason at all. It's rubbing my back when you're comforting me while I'm crying. It's me being in your space/you being in mine not being a big deal. That's how friends should be, in my opinion, but I know that a lot of people have much stricter restrictions on even light physicality than I do and try to respect them (though that sort of goes out the window when I'm drunk, oops). For me, it can certainly also mean being able to do things like hold hands and snuggle in various degrees of undress and kiss in front of a room of cheering friends on a dare without it being a big deal, but again, I recognize and respect that most people have lines they draw in this arena.

What worries me, though, is when I get to wondering if I'll ever have this kind of easy physicality with a group of people ever again. I had it for a while in high school--one of my fondest memories from sophomore year will always be laying on the floor in PD's living room watching Pirates of the Caribbean with my head in the small of TJ's back and him telling me he would be my pillow anytime--and I have it here in this amazing community of 'Dranglers (who mean more to me than I may ever be able to express), but conceptualizations I have of the "real world" suggest that maybe it's something about youth and chosen communities, that grown folks don't do that.  I feel like in some respects, adults revert to like middle school rules about what touching someone means, and it makes me sad. 

Side note: Did I ever tell you how when I was holding PD's hand at an Applebees once to comfort her while she was telling me about a breakup and some dude came up to our able to ask if we were lesbians? I both appreciate the acceptance of this as a possibility by our unknown audience and am mad that two people interacting with each other physically must be presumed to be romantically involved.

If being okay with you touching me and vice versa is a quality of youth, then I want to stay young for as long as I can while I grow up. How do I find other people who want to stay young in the same way? I don't necessarily need people who will laugh at bad porn together on a giant television in the middle of the night or play shirtless ruits (though that would be AWESOME), but I want people who understand that the unequivocal best way to watch a movie is while snuggling, people who won't read anything more into me laying my head on their shoulder than I find your presence enjoyable. But I feel like that kind of easy physicality only comes from like, spending all your time together in intensely social subcultural spaces, and that seems difficult to recreate in the 9-5, separate addresses, lack of communal spaces world. I feel like if I want someone to replace the guys whose hair I like to fluff, I should get a pet. Sigh. 

Growing up stinks. I want to change it. But this revolution can't just be personal...

Reason I brought back Truth, Dare, or Kiss?

Reblogged from Singles Warehouse

Sunday Sounds

Thanks to @SirJoshBennett for introducing me to A Yellow Man

Who led me to Purple Ferdinand

This relates to a drunken conversation EY and I had last night about a person we both feel we should be closer to:
 “I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”
- John Steinbeck
“I won’t kiss you. It might get to be a habit and I can’t get rid of habits.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flappers and Philosophers

Reblogged from Square Dancing with Giants

I place a lot of value on short-term relationships.

This is likely not unrelated to the fact that they're the only kind of relationships I've ever had, but regardless, I don't like it when people find it incredulous that I can have been so substantially emotionally affected by people I only dated for a few months (or less). I'm sorry, was I supposed to be closed and fake during the first few months and only open up and be vulnerable when we had hit a certain point? Is that point six months? A year? Oh, this question is silly? Then sit down.

The Anti-Intellect waxes on this in a recent post:
Underestimating love was our first mistake. Thinking it needed years to do its thing. We forgot-–or, perhaps, never remembered–-that love could come in a week and completely rock our world.

I had to embrace that notions of eternity, however comforting, don’t afford us the opportunity to do justice to our intimate relationships. Our obsession with length rather than quality thrusts us into boxes of obsession that render us incapable of judging intimate relationships on criteria other than “duration.”
When it comes to relationships, “long term” or “short term,” if it ain’t about mutual pleasure, understanding and love, I ain’t checking for it. I no longer seek long-term-relationships just to be able to say that I am in one. While length can convey certain things, such as commitment and conviction, it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all when we look at love and relationships.
I enjoy being in a place mentally where I can enjoy a relationship regardless of its duration. I can value a two week relationship just as much as I value a two month or two year relationship. I treasure love when it comes. Nothing in nature lasts forever: seasons come and go, rivers dry up, and night eases into day.  I’m not caught up in “forever.”

Saturday, May 26, 2012


What is the most honest way to address privilege short of cursing out colleagues and friends? How do we examine the overlapping oppression among our peer activists who, apparently, are unaware (or unabashed) of the other forms of white privilege they possess?

I may have coined a term on Twitter the other day.

I tried Googling it and came up with no hits, so maybe I'm the first (in spaces privileged enough to be cataloged on the internet). And now, like any good academic, I am going to define it.

sex subject (n.) a person enthusiastically engaged in the attainment of their own sexual pleasure, with or without the involvement and pleasuring of another person(s). Viewing yourself and others as sex subjects entails the recognition of sexual partners as whole persons with valid sexual desires and the right to choose whether or not to act on them at any particular time rather than just sources of sexual pleasure, as well as an awareness that your partner(s)' body and company are privileges that your partner(s) choose(s) to share with you, not rights or de-personified items to which you are entitled. Ant: sex object

(Now you have something to cite, ChoosingPancakes.)

I welcome commenters with ideas to flesh this term out a little.      

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I need feminism because "'Guys like that don't date girls like me' has been said in my presence one too many times. Not agreeing on music or politics is one thing, accepting the close minded, bigoted socially constructed version of beauty from a boy you like, and feeling like less for it is entirely different.
-- Who Needs Feminism

Reblogged because "said in my presence," for me, means not only that I have friends who have said this/things to this effect, but that such things have also come out of my own mouth, and that has to stop. That kind of attitude reduces both the self and the object of affection to prescriptive stereotypical roles and just isn't doing anything productive/constructive for anyone involved. Subset of my new "Why not?" philosophy on life: What do you have to lose? 

I've decide to come out and say it. Full disclosure, right? I'm...a feminist.

A lot of you might be looking at me like, "Well duhhh." But until very recently, I purposefully did not align myself with "the feminist movement". Distancing myself from it was a conscious political decision on my part. I had bought into this idea of feminism as a White woman's thing, concerned with getting them out into the working world while Black and Brown women took care of their kids and no one took care of our kids. I saw feminism as a perpetrator of racism, classism, homophobia, and various other -isms in their focus on the horrors of sexism. And yes, I knew of the existence of feminists of color and of "womanism" as a concept (a concept unrecognized by spell-checkers everywhere, but a concept nonetheless), but I suppose I regarded these feminists sort of like I regard Black Republicans, as entities that fundamentally confuse me, and I rejected Womanism because in my limited understanding of it, it was caught up in religion and y'all know I don't do that.

But then, out of a combination of curiosity and ChoosingPancakes's urging, I took a class this semester called Ain't I a Woman? Women of Color and the Politics of Feminism. I had taken quite a few things that are cross-listed with Gender and Sexuality Studies before, as you might expect, but nothing that dealt so specifically with feminist discourse that has emerged from marginalized populations. During our first seminar, we watched a video that featured some women who espoused a lot of feminist notions but adamantly refused to identify as feminists, and while some persons in the class were condemning them, I totally understood. I had "feminist tendencies," but damn if I was gonna identify as a feminist because I didn't like the history of that word. A rose by any other name, right? Why did it matter if I didn't call myself a feminist if I still fought for the rights of women (and all people more generally)? 

Then we read Benita Roth's Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America's Second Wave. Roth shows how these movements were all interrelated and grew out of and from and through one another. She also shows that particular strains of feminism, especially Black feminism, really seem more like the general human rights activism that I have always identified with. I was intrigued. Then we read bell hooks, who made her theory quite accessible and suggested in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center that marginalized populations have a sort of backwards privilege towards understanding the way oppression works because we so often experience it in myriad ways. By this point in the class, I understood liberal feminism as saying "Women and men are equal," radical feminism as saying "Women and men are different, but those differences shouldn't stigmatize women,"' and hooks as saying LOL HOLD UP WAIT A MINUTE ALL WOMEN (AND MEN) AREN'T EVEN THE SAME AS EACH OTHER. *intrigue grows* If there's anything I can always get behind, it's some good old intersectionality. (Shout out to Bonnie!) hooks said feminism is for everyone and redefined it as "a movement to end sexist oppression," and when it was noted that sexist oppression cannot be ended without an end to all of the other oppressions that plague women, I started to warm up to this "feminist" idea.

Then we read this awesome anthology called This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color which had stories and testimonies from lots of feminists of color and I identified with so much of what they said. We read Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis, who comes at feminism from a Marxist perspective and brings in so many of the class issues that worried me about feminism. We questioned the role of academics in feminism, as well as the tensions between scholarship and on-the-ground activism, the concept of "truth"(s), and why we've been taught to devalue experience as a source of knowledge. I was really getting into this stuff, to my own surprise. I got to write a paper about Erykah Badu as a source of Black feminist thought and it was awesome.

We asked the kind of crazy questions with no answers that I live for, like "What's the difference between objectivity and generalizability?" or "How do we know it's normal to group ourselves?" and a HUGE one for me, "How do you have unity and diversity simultaneously?". We read things that were half in English and half in Spanish, like Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands, and felt what it feels like to be linguistically excluded from scholarship/activism in your own favor. We read Patricia Hill Collins's Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment and discussed the matrix of domination, the way very diverse experiences can come together under it, and the idea that everyday survival can be a form of activism. We talked about the fetishization of the idea of the individual genius, when really the overwhelming majority (if not all) of thought is produced in dialogue. We talked at length about the politics and power of self-definition, and I realized I was falling in love.

I had to miss the week we read Audre Lorde because my thesis was due in three days, so I am saving her as a treat for when I miss academia in the coming months. The few things I've read by her in the past (mainly "Uses of the Erotic" and some random quotes) suggest that I will wish she had adopted me and raised me as her own. We read about Third World Feminism and talked about how essentialism arises both within and outside of communities, how people with colonialist mindsets often totalize minority populations, taking some aspect or attribute of a subset of the population and characterizing the entire population as having that aspect/attribute, the notion of cultural authenticity and how to reconcile it with generational changes, and internalized sexism and how patriarchal culture is not always enforced only by the patriarchs. We asked more questions that make me want to moan with scholarly/activisty pleasure: What happens when we bring labioplasty in the US into conversation with female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa? How does that change the "cultural" arguments that are usually made about female genital mutilation? When do we consider things disabilities or abnormalities instead of recognizing that everything exists on a spectrum?

Our last week of class, I gave a presentation on an anthology called Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, and even though those women were all about my mom's age, theirs was a feminism I could totally get behind. It raised issues like the lack of truly safe spaces in any human interaction, feeling like a particular identity of yours isn't "enough" for an identity-coded space, feeling like your birth family isn't the family that can best support you, the politics of the "people of color" label, colonization in interpersonal romantic relationships, sacrifice, the lack of space for mixed race persons in the White/poc dichotomy so often presented, feeling like you can't be fully yourself in identity-coded spaces, accountability, gentrification, HIV, hip-hop and empowerment, the intersections of motherhood and class, the subtle-ization of racism, the politics of femininity and femme-ness, the politics of sex-positivity as a woman of color, guilt amongst the successful daughters of unsuccessful parents, etc. etc. etc. It's a book I'm torn between selling back so that I can get more money to furnish my apartment and keeping because I want to have it on my bookshelf forever.

And if all of that wasn't enough, we had this incredible final project. We were to pick a subset of feminist thought and create an anthology around it. I chose trans feminism, because it seemed to me a sort of final frontier of inclusive feminism, and because the struggles trans women undergo in their quest for acceptance in feminist spaces reminded me of the struggles of Black/Brown women and lesbian women in the past. I read so many things, first from radical feminists who said things so terrible about trans women that I refuse to repeat them here, and them from trans women themselves responding to that and developing scholarship about their own oppression out of it and wanting to reconcile trans activism with feminism, and then finally from people who are not necessarily trans or women who believe that feminism cannot be true to itself without the centralization of the trans experience. And that's when it hit me: if these women can be feminists when a non-trivial percent of feminists wouldn't even call them women, then what the fuck am I doing? It's not feminism that's wrong, it was my previously held interpretation of feminists and feminism as homogenous (White, privileged) things. It was my failure to realize that a feminist identity should be allowed the same degrees of freedom as any other identity. It was my failure to realize that, by the measure of the scholars I value most in the field, the work I do is already feminism, but naming things and being able to stand in solidarity is important.

So, I am a feminist. I am a militant, Black, class-conscious-but-struggling-with-her-own-changing-class-perspective, outside-of-the-gay-straight-dichotomy, likely to drink a beer while wearing a dress, sex-positive, unwanted-children-negative, big-titties-embracing, revolution-demanding, self-loving, hegemonic-standards-of-beauty-rejecting, romantic-comedy-loving, stereotype-eviscerating, all-inclusive, no-kids-wanting-but-motherhood-respecting, checking-my-own-privilege-but-checking-yours-too, articulate-but-still-will-grab-a-n*gga-by-the-collar-quick, justice-fighting-for ready-to-fuck-up-some-traditional-gender-roles, academic-who-curses-too-much feminist. I am everything I am...I just didn't realize it could all fit under one word.    

Reblogged from Who Needs Feminism
"For absolutely so many reasons. But mostly to stand in solidarity with every man, woman, trans, gender-queer individual who has ever felt degraded, ashamed, fear, sadness, rage or despair at the hands of the patriarchy." -- Who Needs Feminism

"...because apparently talking about my period out loud to a friend is vulgar. But the guy three seats down made an announcement about his threesome last night and is getting high fives." -- Who Needs Feminism

"I need feminism because the fact that I’m an overweight, person of color, and a female isn’t anything to be ashamed of, nor does it tell you what I’m capable of. Three strikes against me my ass." -- Who Needs Feminism

And the tl;dr version of this post: "because a friend of mine said she doesn’t declare herself as a ‘feminist’ because she ‘doesn’t believe in everything they stand for’. As if every feminist must hold the exact same opinion/criteria of beliefs. The reality is we each have individual opinions, ones we agree and disagree with but we are united with the common need for equal rights." -- Who Needs Feminism

Friday, May 18, 2012

Goal Number Next: To Not be Homeless

I graduate in 3 and a half weeks. I start working in DC in six and a half weeks. Thus, the only goal right now is to find a place to live (which certain professors evidently just don't care about when they assign 14-pg take-home exams to be done in 4 days over the last pre-holiday weekend of the month). But moving somewhere from out of town is more difficult than I'd previously imagined. 

Struggle #1: Where do I want to live? 

When I first started this search, my answer was just in the city limits, rather than in Maryland or Virginia. Then I realized that DC is, like any other city, made up of lots of little neighborhoods, and that some places were convenient for me to get to work and that others weren't. My older sister used to live in DC and so she's trying to give me input, but her opinion of the safety of various neighborhoods is like 9 years old. At this point, I think that I would most preferably like to live in the Atlas District, Shaw, Mt. Vernon, Ledroit Park, or on the Hill.

Struggle #2: How do I want to live?

Should I jump right into this independent living thing, or take it easy and get roommates to start? If I want to live by myself, should I be trying to do so in a studio or 1BR? I have an irrational opinion of studio apartments: they seem like it would be weird to have people over, even though they're basically the exact same thing as a dorm room. Maybe I just feel like any place I live when I am working a real job and making real money should be a considerable upgrade from dorm living. But trying to furnish a whole 1BR apartment straight out of college sounds like start-up costs I can't afford. And living alone in a new city sounds like I could be lonely. But on the other hand, it sounds like it might force me out to explore. But I had a roommate in Chicago and still felt encouraged to go out and explore, and sometimes had an exploring buddy. At this point, I've decided that I would prefer to move into a 3+ bedroom house or apartment with other young professionals, because having a group of people to introduce me to other people and hang out sounds awesome and only having to furnish my bedroom sounds cost-effective. 

Struggle #3: Distance is a bitch

I think that this will always be true, regardless of the context in which we're discussing the bitchiness of distance. In this case, it's difficult to coordinate how to actually meet people and see places. I'm going to have to go to DC--probably next Monday-Wednesday--but that means spending money to get there and missing shifts at work in which I could be making more money. In-person viewing/meeting seems fairly necessary for any situation involving roommates, though. Then scheduling these meetings is extraordinarily difficult. Most people seem to be having open houses on weekends, and this damned take-home is preventing me from being able to be in DC right now. Next weekend is a holiday weekend, so a lot of people are going out of town and unavailable. This means I'll have to try to squeeze in all of my viewings over the course of two evenings (maybe an afternoon if someone has a non 9-5 work schedule) while navigating DC public transit for the first time, at least some of which will probably be after dark, as I'll have to wait for people to get off of work. This sounds like the opposite of fun. I'm not looking forward to it at all.

Struggle #4: People are ineffective writers/advertisers. 

There are certain things you should include in an advertisement for a room in a house/apt with roommates. As a bare minimum, I would suggest these things: the size of the room, or what comfortably fits in it now if you haven't got a tape measurer or whatever; the age/gender breakdown of the other people living in the house; a short description of what these people are like; whether utilities are included in the rent; some amenities within walking distance. Occasionally people only have one or two of these five things. That, people looking for roommates, is simply not helpful to my life. I've legitimately resorted to language-profiling to figure out whether the person writing an ad is male or female, which makes me feel all gender essentialist-y and shitty.

Struggle #5: Every minute I spend doing schoolwork, leases are being signed and my potential for homelessness is rising.

Every time I click on a listing I had favorited to see that the posting was deleted by its author or it has expired from Padmapper's map, I get a little more scared. I legitimately don't understand how Princeton University expects me to function successfully in my post-graduate life if it won't give me a break to establish the means by which to function in the real world. I feel like I'm going to rush into something just for the sense of security it will bring, which is generally not a good look, no matter what aspect of your life it relates to. I have a couple of places lined up to look at, though. I'm hoping everything will work out.  #wishmeluck

One thing that put a smile on my face today: someone emailed me back to let me know that while I sounded like a great addition to their house, they had already filled the room, but to let them know if I wound up in the area, as they were planning to have a barbeque sometime in June. Even if he didn't mean it, that was really nice of him. I like cities whose neighborhoods have that small-town come-over-for-a-bbq feel.     

May is evidently National Masturbation Month. infographic.

Some people are surprisingly nice to kiss.

...That is all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our first Mother's Day with cancer.

I'm glad that this post isn't called "Mother's Day from Room 302B" or something to that effect. My mother has been home from the hospital since Thursday, after going in for a planned stay on April 23rd.

Still, I was dreading calling her yesterday morning. As much as I miss(ed) her and want(ed) to talk to her, I knew that hearing her voice would hurt as much as it helped. Her voice...isn't hers. My mother's voice is strong and sassy. This is one of those times when Spanish makes more sense to me than English, because for 22 years of my life I've thought of the "is" in that sentence as a permanent kind of is, a this is how it always has been and this is how it always will be kind of is. A "ser" kind of is. Cancer taught me that "estar" can sneak up on you. La voz de mi mama estaba fuerte. Now, her voice is barely above a whisper. It is characterized only by its hoarseness. I feel bad asking her to repeat herself, because I know that the shortest of conversations is draining to her. It's draining to me too, because I don't know who this frail person on the other end of the phone is. Mi mama es una mujer de fuerza. 

But the woman on the other end of the phone, who can barely muster the strength to thank me and ask about my exams, is my mother. I guess doing the impossible for 22 years can catch up to you. She's not invincible. (She's too young to not be invincible.) Forty-two and fragile just isn't fair.

On your first Mother's Day with cancer, tears spill out of your eyes after approximately two minutes of hearing your mother labor to speak with you, and you try with all of your might to keep her from hearing them. You use every bit of strength you have to keep your voice steady. When that strength begins to falter, you quickly tell her that she should get some rest and you'll talk to her soon. The heaving sobs come as soon as you push "End". You feel like a woman of despicable priorities for not being there, despite the impending deadlines, despite her telling you not to worry. You are ashamed of yourself. You are six years old and having a nightmare again, only this time it doesn't go away when you wake up. Before you can stop yourself, you wonder how many more Mother's Days you'll get to wish her. And the rest of the day feels impossible as you move your sobs from the bed to the shower. On your first Mother's Day with cancer, you wish you were sick one. You feel like being your mother took everything out of her. You wonder if anything will ever feel right again. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Prejudice usually can't survive close contact with the people who are supposed to be so despicable, which is why the propagandists for hate always preach separation.
--Patrick Califia, Sex Changes, 115

Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm going to think about bathroom signs like this from now on:

Regret is a strange beast.

My final class as an undergraduate was this past Wednesday. That fact, coupled with CC gchatting me recently to tell me that someone had lastchanced her (which introduced me to lastchance) had me feeling some kind of way about this guy (who shall remain moniker-less). 

When I met this guy a full four years ago, during our Princeton visit weekend, I was kind of curious about him. He seemed like a person I would like to get to know. When we had a class together freshman fall, I was impressed by him intellectually, but my romantic interests were elsewhere at that time. By sophomore fall when an extracurricular activity brought us around each other regularly again for a little while, I felt that old There's something about him that I want to know better creeping up again, but a friend of mine who knew him better than I did informed me of something that led me to feel like I'd be wasting my time/emotional energy developing that feeling, and a roommate of mine was basically appalled that I found him attractive, and I just took these things at face-value (*facepalm*) and left it on the back burner and kept doing my thing. [Insert semester-long flirtation with someone I'm no longer even remotely interested in or attracted to here.] While that was going on, he and I had class together again and started to commiserate about our professor and impending decisions about what to major in, and had I not been so preoccupied with the very slowly developing thing I had going on with other dude, this might have been the perfect time to make a move. But it came and it went.

By junior fall he was still on my short list, though I was still fully accepting hearsay which suggested that I was wasting my time. Junior spring: [insert relationship with my ex here]. I ran into him at a party the first week of senior year, and he did the whole, "We should hang out sometime..." thing, which had me so geeked that KS noticed and asked if I liked him. I confirmed, and I'm pretty sure K's reaction was to say something vaguely approving and to the effect of I needed to be with someone bigger than me anyway (which the guy we're talking about is). Then we got sorted into the same group for an extracurricular activity we both participate in, and I relished the chance to be near him and hear his thoughts/stories each week. All year, I have gone out of my way to see/hug/talk to him at parties or other social events, but at the same time, I've seen a few things that suggest confirmation of the thing my friend told me sophomore fall. I had resigned myself to just letting it go, but as I got to know him better through this activity we do, the vague interest I'd been harboring for years intensified. I found myself sometimes thinking about him. 

I casually mentioned my interest in him to CC after she told me she had been lastchanced, and she told me I should go for it. I said, 'What do you mean go for it? We have x-number of weeks left on this campus and after that we'll be on opposite sides of the country." She then argued that I could at least hook up with him. I may have surprised even myself when I responded that actually, I don't think I could. I don't want to hook up with him; I would date him. To quote ChoosingPancakes, "I [would] relationship the shit out of him." And I think that means that even if I could lose myself in a hypothetical moment and make something happen with him, it would just be damaging in the long run. 

And when I realized that, I cursed myself for not having acted on it earlier. I realized that this might be one of the few things I legitimately *regret* about my time at Princeton.

But when I was talking to CC and making her sad at my resolution to let it go, I came to another realization: "Honestly, while I've been vaguely interested in him for a while, I don't think that an earlier version of me would have been anything other than adverse to the idea of pursuing anything with him [for reasons I've detailed above]. I feel like my deeper interest now is related to my being the person I've become. So I can't regret it too much."

And that realization has made me kind of question the concept of regret in general. I think it's fundamentally based on an "If I knew then what I know now" mindset, and that's just impractical, infeasible, and unproductive. So I used to try to say I live with no regrets somewhat facetiously, but now I'm going to try to mean it. Experience is the best teacher, and regret is a wasteful feeling. If I wish I had known in the past what I know in the present, I must be wishing away both long-ago-past and recent past experiences, which would mean wishing away myself. And I am certainly not something I regret. 

A quote from a comic about genderqueer/trans identity that I'm including in a final project for my feminism class:
"I have always been becoming what I am right now."
--Katie Diamond and Johnny Blazes, "transcension"

I have decided to stop attempting to involve myself with [name-redacted]

Yes, unfortunately, I am referring to the world-rocking man I've referenced a couple of times recently. It's time to place him in a different category in my head: guy I slept with (past tense) rather than guy I am casually sleeping with. That latter category might have been presumptuous on my part from the beginning, though in my defense he did all but offer me the d on a silver platter.

None of my attempts at bluntness since have been fruitful, though. He usually chalks chalked it up to timing: he goes to sleep absurdly early during the week, and by the time my thesis and show were over, it was final project crunch time for him. That's fine. Having radically different schedules is unfortunate, but what are you going to do? Then I invited him to come to the open bar and dancing part of Houseparties last weekend--before you read into that, I saw this as an opportunity to get a little tipsy, have someone to dance with all night, and then keep the party going back in my room, if you catch my drift. And he agreed to that, but then had to cancel and felt the need to send me a long and detailed explanation of why, along with an invitation to have lunch. "Lunch" is not something included in the kind of arrangement I was trying to craft with him, so I replied that what he needed to do was "more important than drinking and dancing and other things with me. Don't feel the need to explain or make up for it." 

Maybe that was abrasive? He didn't respond, but it didn't really call for a response, so I didn't think twice about it. Then I texted him yesterday afternoon to see if he was going to Senior Pub Night, and if he'd like to come over response. 

And some of you, if you're like KS, are probably wondering what's so egregious about any of this. Nothing, really. He didn't do anything. We haven't interacted in any way besides text for almost a month, besides very briefly running into each other at the student center with a group of mutual friends about three weeks ago.

So what's wrong? I don't like always being the one to try to initiate. It makes me feel kind of like I'm begging for it. I like even less that this is rarely successful. Even if it's all circumstantially unsuccessful, as he has claimed, I think I'm still new enough to this casual thing that I feel like I'm putting a little of myself on the line each time I reach out to him. Even a circumstantial rejection carries a bit of disappointment with it, even in just that I got myself excited about the possibility of something that's not going to happen. It would be different if sometimes he reached out to me, but that hasn't been the case (re-enter begging feeling). Not being responded to at all yesterday made me feel undesirable, and I think that as a general rule of life, I should not try to sustain involvement with anyone who can make me feel that way, even unintentionally.

So I want to be done with whatever I was trying to sustain. Thinking with my head and not my nether regions didn't particularly work to keep me from involving myself with him the first time, though, and I'm unsure that I'd be able to resist if the situation presented itself again, knowing exactly how damn good what I'd be giving up is. Perhaps if I could make myself fully let go of any expectations of repetition, it could happen. #AmIweakwilledorjusthorny? Le sigh.

(KS suggested that I should just get it from somewhere else without giving up on this if I feel like he's not available enough for my needs. #Iwishitwerethateasy. Monogamy on my end is an unfortunate condition of my life, not a circumstance I'm actively working to create.)   
“If you speak in an angry way about what has happened to our people and what is happening to our people, what does he call it? Emotionalism. Pick up on that. Here the man has got a rope around his neck and because he screams, you know, the cracker that’s putting the rope around his neck accuses him of being emotional. [Laughter] You’re supposed to have the rope around your neck and holler politely, you know. You’re supposed to watch your diction, not shout and wake other people up— this is how you’re supposed to holler. You’re supposed to be respectable and responsible when you holler against what they’re doing to you.”
--Malcolm X

We can add Donald Glover to the list of famous people Princeton has introduced me to:

Yes, that is my arm around his waist. I also got to see him shirtless and sweaty immediately after the show. All in all, it was a good day, haha.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Have I mentioned how much I love Lianne La Havas?

The newest things I have discovered by her: 

Looking at her list of tour dates in the UK pains me. Adding non-US artists to my OMG-I-NEEEEEEEEED-TO-SEE-THIS-PERSON-IN-CONCERT-ASAP list is problematic...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

“she's a friend of mind. she gather me, man. the pieces i am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” 

-toni morrison

This is how I feel about a certain best friend of mine on campus.

I think one of the most radical things we can do, as oppressed peoples, is reclaim our bodies as our own and reject those normative standards of beauty. We need to see our bodies, our lives, as beautiful. We need to not only be ok with our bodies but also celebrate them for their difference, their gorgeousness. We need to look in the mirror and be able to masturbate to our own image. We need to see our wild, natural hair and our thick thighs and see them as the epitome of splendor. We need to be able to dance in the street and shout that we are fucking hot!
Is this easy? Hell no! We need to deprogram decades and decades of messages that tells us that we are ugly, worthless and unworthy of love. This is hard work! And it is only done with the gentleness of a community of people that love and affirm us. Because otherwise, the constant batter of hatred that we face in everyday life will convince us that we are ugly, worthless and unworthy of love. We need to have the place to come home to to heal and recover and remember who we are.
--witchymorgan (via freedom fighter)

“Fat people who love themselves scare the shit out of people who don’t love themselves. Even fat people who are TRYING to love themselves scare the shit out of people who can’t do the same. We force people to have to look at why they hate their bodies because we are “supposed” to hate ours and we don’t. And sometimes they have no idea what to do with that, so they act like assholes.”

- Tigress Osborn

Reblogged from freedom fighter as well

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My first gynecological exam

wasn't nearly as weird/scary/uncomfortable as I thought it would be. I found it somewhat patronizing to have her sit there and explain the virtues of condom usage and how various STDs can be spread, but that is information that a lot of people do need, so I won't complain too hard about it. She talked to me about the HPV vaccine and it sounds like something I should look into in the future (if my insurance covers it), so that was helpful. I didn't have a problem talking about my sex life--this is something I do regularly--but it was weird having all of the actual clinical terms injected into that conversation. 

Actual conversational excerpts:

Her: You're currently sexually active?
Me: Yes. I'm not in a relationship, but I'm sexually active.
Her: Okay. When was the most recent time you had intercourse?
Me (with zero hesitation): The 13th.
Her: Wow, you knew that right away.
Me: Well...I was celebrating having turned my thesis in...


Her: The penises that have been inside you are way bigger than my speculum.

So as she pulled the curtain for me to get undressed, I distinctly recall thinking that as a person who has streaked a semi-public place twice, I really didn't need this privacy to get naked, lol. She taught me how to do a breast exam and that it's important to start now so I get to know "my normal" and anything that recognizes multiple normalities is cool with me. We talked about methods of hair removal, and it was nice to talk about those things with an actual doctor. The stirrups had a fabric covering, so they weren't cold, and the speculum was plastic so it was also around room temperature--no "Nazi steel stirrups" and/or "cold metal ducklips" as The Vagina Monologues had me worried about. (Yay progress?) I actually found most of the experience of the exam itself to be vaguely pleasant, if anything. The pap smear swab tickled--I wanted to laugh. She's not the first person to open it up and look at it, either, which might have also contributed to how not weird it was--I've had that experience (again a la VagMos) with a guy before. Everything was fine and kind of nice except the part where she had to push on my stomach to feel my ovaries. That kind of hurt, but it was still kind of cool that she could feel them being physically present in my body. I like it when things I can barely conceptualize become more concrete and extant in the world.

The part I'm most disappointed/annoyed by is that my insurance company is being stupid and I have to go drop my pap smear results off at this lab like two miles from campus, which means bumming an awkward ride or calling a cab or riding my friend's bike, none of which sounds like fun. Sigh.

Anyway, to anyone else like me who has been avoiding it because people say it hurts or it's awkward/uncomfortable: I felt silly having avoided it for so long because none of the actual exam was a big deal at all. It took a matter of minutes. So go forth and be safe.
The only goals that matter are the ones we set for ourselves. The vision of our lives that matters most is the one we hold for ourselves...Take the leap. If you have to crawl before you can run, crawl. Go at your pace. Take a breather if you need to. This is your journey.
--Leandra, of What My World's Like

Final Bows for Balancing Act, or My First Big Last.

Backstage on our second night, some of my fellow cast members and I were discussing whether we get emotional at the end of shows. I was saying that I'd never been before--I'm usually more excited to stop missing all the things that hell week/shows made me miss. 

Saturday night was different. About halfway through the show, we were signing cards for our directors and stage crew, etc. when I casually mentioned that it was hard for me to figure out what to say to MJ, as I had been her mentor the year before, and LC because she's actually my favorite person in the class of 2013. They're both people whom I would say have been integral to my Princeton experience, and trying to sum up what they mean to me in a few lines on a group card was impossible. This prompted one of our freshmen stars to suggest that I be the one to speak at the end of the show and present everyone with their flowers and cards, "because it means the most to me." 

It didn't really hit me how right she was til I was there after our final bow asking everyone to stick around because we as a company had some things to say. I gave every member of the crew their cards while EM distributed flowers. Then I stepped into the middle of the stage with MJ and LC on either side of me and gave them their cards and flowers and hugs and encouraged the crowd to give it up for them. I talked about how my freshman year, there were seven people in BAC|Drama, including the director's boyfriend whose participation may or may not have been voluntary. There's no way something of this magnitude would have been conceivable, let alone possible. MH came down onto stage and I said she was right there with me freshman year--we never imagined seeing the company grow to something like this. I was so incredibly proud of them, of the company as an abstract idea, of the actors and actresses (some of whom I'd just met that Monday but already felt so close to). It wasn't until after they'd each spoken and I was hugging people trying not to get my running mascara on them that someone pointed out to me that I should be proud of myself too, because the work MC, JB, and I (and countless others) had done in earlier years created an environment in which dreams this big were able to be realized. 

There are only two organizations in which I've been actively involved since my freshman year--the Black Arts Company Drama troupe and the Princeton Association of Black Women. These were among my first extracurricular homes on campus. There are few other things which I have played some role in shaping in which I can see such substantive change in over the course of my time at Princeton. Few other things played such a role in changing me--I had never acted before, never written for the stage or directed, never felt comfortable standing on a stage with a bright light shining on me. I don't know how I went from being a person who'd barely even seen plays to being a person who has been in 7 productions, co-directed a one act, co-wrote a one-act, and wrote directed and performed a monologue, a person who can improvise her scenes as she goes along without fucking anything up and making the audience crack up. Acting/writing/directing is something that was given to me in this space and it's something I'm unsure I'll ever really have again. 

Coming to the end of that took a lot out of me. It was the first of the Princeton-specific things in my life to come to an end...the first of many. It has been a beautiful experience overall, and I can't think of a more fulfilling end than Balancing Act. Much love to the whole cast and crew, and I'm looking forward to making the trip back to old Nassau to see you all do Aida next year. *sniffle*    

It continually amazes me how much substantitve change can occur in such a short time for teens and twenty-somethings.

So ChoosingPancakes asked me to see my OKCupid profile sometime last week. I'd told her a while ago that she could look at it, so I opened it up to send her the link and she sent me hers. I was comparing some of our answers to various questions (we're a pretty good match, heh) out of curiosity when I stumbled upon an answer to some question about sex that actually made me laugh out loud. An answer to another question which had become completely false contained the explanation "I don't to casual sex..." and I almost fell out on the floor, I was laughing so hard. I then searched my OkCupid profile for every question I had ever answered about sex so that I could throw all of it out and accurately represent myself. Today I finally got the personality-meter to say I'm ever-so-slightly sex-driven, and that made me smile.

...But it's not like those questions were from a particularly long time ago. I just made that account towards the end of last summer, as part of my breakup-recovery process. (Talked to a few guys, was reminded of my desirability by men who aren't my ex, didn't actually meet any of the guys I talked to, but felt like my mission had nonetheless been accomplished.) The oldest those questions could be is from 9 months ago.

...And yet, I'd guess that less than 30% of them were still accurate. It seems that nearly the entirety of my opinions about sex and sexual relationships has changed over the course of this academic year. Granted, the casual sex I've had this year ranged from somewhat awkward (but still pleasurable) to mind-blowing chronologically. But I actually don't think that's at the root of my changed opinions. Maybe it's less due to substantive change and more due to me no longer giving a fuck about who and how and why I fuck about self-repression for the sake of decorum or societal pressure or respectability or whatever. Maybe it's less that I stopped wanting to be a good girl and more that I realized I'd never really wanted to be overwhelmingly good in the first place, and that I didn't particularly like being perceived of in that manner. On an even more basic level, though, I think I always knew that I wanted my first time to be "special," but that after that, I was probably going to be open to a bit more adventure and sexual exploration.

I wonder how my experiences (hopefully) exploring this magical thing between hookups and relationships called "dating" might prompt changes in the responses again. I'm sure I have friends who would say this is just one more example of why you can never trust my opinions on anything because they'll change in a year. I will concede that my opinions about things change a lot, but that doesn't mean I'm fickle or that I wasn't being honest or trustworthy when we discussed my opinion the first time--it means that I am the amalgamation of my lived experiences and this funny things happen, when those grow and expand, so do I.