Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sorry Boys, I'm Not Your Dress-Up Doll

I should probably be writing about the new Lily Allen video (My initial reaction: I like it; followed by my more thought-out reaction: Does that make me a #solidarityisforwhitewomen -style racist? Yikes . . . more contemplation later!), or explaining where I've been since The Militant Baker freaking rocked my world by linking to my post about Maria Kang, fitsperation and privilege (moving to the new house, making art, and not sleeping very much is the short answer). However, last night I had this brilliant idea for a post series, and I just can't wait to get it started. Therefore, without further ado, I give you:

Feminist Undercover: Keeping My Big Mouth Shut, One Shift at a Time

Tuesday nights, I work as a bartender. Generally, I like it: I get to join in for karaoke when I'm not too busy, the pay is good, and the owner is chill. The customers are also pretty chill, for the most part. But here's the thing:

Every week, I wear a pair of cowgirl boots. And not just any boots -- these are my very favorite, super-comfortable red cowgirl boots that the Mr. gave me for Christmas seven years ago. Since then, I've rarely appeared without them -- with the exception of my wedding ring, they are my most-worn accessory. And I love these boots. I love the way I stomp around in them. I love the way they make even the most mundane outfit look cool and artsy. And I love the way they support my feet -- especially over a long shift at work.

The highly controversial boots.
Apparently, not everyone at the bar feels quite the same way. And last night, when I got on shift, my boss pulled me to the side, explained that I was doing a great job and no one has any complaints, except . . . "People are tired of the boots." I didn't have to ask to know exactly which people we were talking about. 

See, I catch the tail end of the day shift's crowd. And overall, they're nice people -- hardworking, mostly blue-collar, mostly middle-aged dudes looking for some cheap beer and a pretty girl to talk to before they go home alone. And I know that not everyone can be an ├╝ber-progressive feminist baddass like myself, so I don't hold it against them that sometimes their conversation topics leave me wanting to either give someone a vicious intellectual tongue-lashing, or run for the door. And I understand that part of my job is to look cute, and act cute, and put up with their unsolicited comments on my appearance, because at the end of the day, they are the customer, the beer is the product, and I am a major part of the packaging that makes a 66¢ bottle of Bud worth the $2.50 they pay for it. And lord help my closeted feminist butt, but I keep doing it week after week because the money's good and I need that money right now.

Even so, I have my limits. Back when I was in high school, some random girl once handed me a "Fashion Police" citation for wearing a pink t-shirt with red sneakers. Back then, I simply laughed and threw the slip of paper away. Now imagine me ten years older, with a whole lot less fucks to give.
Me: "I'm sorry, I really like my boots. I dress up for the customers, I do my makeup for them -"
Boss: "No, you do that for yourself. You do it to get better tips, pick up some more hours . . ."
Now, I may be misquoting here; because a slow miasma of rage had begun to creep across my vision. But the basic implication was, if I vary my footwear, I stand to improve my nightly haul and potentially pick up more hours on the schedule. Let's ignore the questionable logic of that statement and focus on the important stuff: 

"So you want me to wear . . . more?"

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe we have just discovered my bar's "Flair" policy.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On Maria Kang, Fitsperation, and The Problem With Fitness Privilege

(This is a cross post from my personal health and body positivity Tumblr. Enjoy!)

Warning: LOTS and LOTS of swear words coming up. You've been warned.

Now let's get down to business.


There's already been a ton written about super-fit mom-of-three Maria Kang. If you haven't been living on the internet recently, you can read a decent summary over here. I understand her intentions weren't to shame people, and I think her accomplishment is amazing. I even think it's a great thing to set as a goal and pursue, if that's what you're into.

HOWEVER. (Let's pause before the following paragraphs to put a big ol' "IMO" in front of everything I'm about to say.)

Monday, September 30, 2013

In Which I Discuss All The Things, Part I

Not pictured: Anxiety, Stress, Bad Decision Making,
Reverting to Your College Eating Habits Because
That's All You Can Afford Right Now
HOLY CRAP, let's talk real life for a hot minute.

First, the Epic Roadtrip Of Awesome was freak-out-no-holds-barred-let's-force-all-our-friends-to-view-a-slideshow level of EPIC.

Lucky for you, I have too much stuff going on right now to edit those pictures (and yes, since learning to use Photoshop, I basically can't post pictures without pulling them through an editing process. I just cant. I have a problem).

Instead of that
. . .

When we got back from said alluded-to Epic-Roadtrip-Of-Awesomesauce, I had this really bright (not really) idea about getting back to house shopping. We'd looked around a bit before our trip and there hadn't been anything that great, so I figured more casual browsing wouldn't hurt.

Except then casual browsing turned into casual viewing turned into casual finding a great house turned into casual putting in an offer -- except oh wait, there's nothing casual about that, and then wouldn't you know but all my brilliant plans of not becoming overly involved went straight to hell.

There's probably an old saying about, "when you drive by the house you just put an offer in on and notice that the fridge is sitting in the front yard for some mysterious reason, you might want to reconsider your decision," but I'd personally never had such an experience until, um, the fridge was sitting out in the front yard for some mysterious reason.

Turns out, some motha effers were in the process of clearing the place out, and had been interrupted by our drive by. Don't worry, they got right back to work after we left, and the fridge was gone by the next day (I know that's what you were worried about). I have never felt so personally responsible to people I've never met - I'm still replaying how we should have handled things differently. Adding insult to injury (for them), upon further inspection, we decided we didn't want that house after all -- which then meant, for those of you who are house-shopping uninitiated, that we had to wait for our thousand dollars of "I swear I'm super serious about this" earnest money to be mailed back to us in check form, and apologize profusely to our realtor for wasting his time on paperwork, yadda yadda.

But wait, there's more! Within a day or so of cancelling on the one house, we decided we wanted to buy another one of the houses we'd seen. And guess what that offer required?

If your answer is "One Thousand Dollars Earnest Money" -- good job, you've been paying attention. On the bright side, apparently it's possible to squeeze extra money from your monthly income, so long as you give up luxuries like fresh produce and making sure you're not going to run out of gas. With our penny-pinching budget in hand, we managed to wring not one, but TWO earnest money checks from our rather anemic-looking bank accounts (not the first nor the last time I'm going to wonder why exactly I thought freelancing was such a good idea . . .), and hop on board for the second time.

Which brings me to the loan approval process . . .

Will Chad and Kate get a house? Will Kate finally let go of her overly optimistic expectations that anything will ever be easy? The adventures continue next time!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Baby Fever, and How It Grew

I'd say I've had the normal cycle of procreative urges: meet a nice boy, fall in love, decide he'd be the perfect father to my one-day kids. Get married, have that moment six months in where I want to have a baby, since that's what you do when you're married and all (riiiiiight?). Grab ahold of my hormones with both hands, remind myself that I'm waaaayy too young to think about such things, and put it off. Push it back hard -- in fact, push it back so hard that I actually reach a point where I can't imagine myself with kids, where I'm terrified at the thought of kids.

The Horror.

Actually, that turned out to be a really, really, REALLY good thing, because it gave me time to actually work on me, and my marriage, and blah-de-blah-de-blah. Three years later, my life is sorta sorting itself out - or at least beginning to reach a point where it could sort itself out. And some major scary health things happened in my family, and it brought my priorities into perspective. And I realized that seeing my family meet my child is more important to me than pursuing grad school right away, or a whirlwind trip around the world, or being able to go out to fancy restaurants whenever (or almost whenever) I feel like it.

Hi-five, younger self.
So the Mr. and I had The Talk - and we figured out that 2014 would be our lucky year for having a kid. Coincidentally, this lines up perfectly with my 12-year-old self's life plan: marry at 22, have kids at 27. Of course, I never thought about the logistics that go into having that kid at 27 (hiya, nine-month gestational period) - so here I am at 26, working to get all my ducks in a row so that we can start FFB later this year (it's like TTC, only more fun and more accurately-phrased). And I'm still terrified, in a way - but I'm also excited. Like, really excited. And I can't wait until we have that little mini-us on the way - but I still have to get those ducklings fully in line.

Until that happens, I'm just going to have to stay where I'm at, counting down until we're ready to launch into the next phase of our life. Here's to learning to love the process.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why I Prefer the F Word: A Letter

Confused? Click here to catch up.
Dear Person-Who-Supports-Equality-But-Isn't-A-Feminist,

I want to talk about the F-Word. (No, not that F-word.) Specifically, Feminists. And I'm going to get a little serious -- but this is important, and I really want you to hear me and understand that this is coming from a place of love.

If you live on the internet and frequent (gulp) feminist blogs like I do, Taylor Swift's declaration that she isn't a feminist is ancient history. OLD NEWS. So why am I bringing it up now? Two reasons: 1) I had a fantastic discussion with some beautiful and passionate people about what feminism is, at the end of which we all went away satisfied and fired up and ready to group hug the world, and 2) I'm really getting tired of having that discussion, because it focuses my energy on the wrong part of problem.

Feminism, like any other movement or school of thought, has multiple facets and ideologies -- denominations, if I may bring my Presbyterian upbringing into play :). The broadest school of thought within Feminism is one concerned with equality for all. Within the current incarnation of feminism, known as 3rd Wave Feminism (Wikipedia is good for a quick catch-up on the waves and general history of the movement), the concerns have have broadened from the too-limited, overwhelmingly white, discussion of women's rights in the 60s and 70s to a fight for the rights of all racial backgrounds and nationalities, all sexualities and genders, all belief systems, and people from all socio-economic backgrounds, etc. etc. -- essentially, the 3rd Wave takes the 2nd Wave's idea of "personal integrity" and seeks to actually apply it for all people.

Some people who identify as feminist choose to continue to focus their energy causes that are female-specific, and this decision can lead onlookers to characterize feminists as only being interested in advancing women's rights. I disagree. Someone's decision to focus on certain issues doesn't mean they're disinterested or apathetic to the other struggles out there - it could be that their chosen issues are where they feel their voice will matter most. Other people choose a more broad-based approach, following their passions across a variety of fields. I fall into this second group - though I focus primarily on abortion rights, body and information integrity, systematized inequality (race, gender, fiscal, social, etc), and obstruction of civil rights, I'm also passionate about preserving the environment, supporting the arts, pursuing world peace, and increasing global education rates. I flit from issue to issue, depending on what speaks to me at the time. Many of these causes take me outside of female-specific concerns, but I still consider myself a Feminist first and foremost - and I believe that all of my causes, and indeed all battles for equality and respect for the individual, can be grouped under the umbrella cause of Feminism. Why? At its core, Feminism is about redefining the way we distribute power in society, and therefore is applicable to many, many systems outside of those thought of as relating to women.

This leads to the question of whether to all people who are passionate about equality should band together under one banner or remain as separate groups. Let me be clear -- a huge aspect of feminism is allowing people to form their own narratives and identify how they want -- and I will never be the person saying someone has to identify as Feminist. I do believe that we are stronger when we come together to support each other and fight on many fronts together, and I'd like us as a culture to get to the point where we're not in the business of tearing down one identity in order to define another. Take Ms. Swift's original comment to The Daily Beast back in October, in response to being asked if she considered herself a feminist: "I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life." I'm not going to get into the history of feminism being maligned or miscast, or how Taylor Swift is likely to continue being a problematic role model. To put it in one sentence, I think Taylor Swift fell victim to a incredibly common misconception, the same misconception that's making me tired of having this discussion: Feminism doesn't mean what many people think it means. Opponents of the F-word have defined it as the opposite of equality, as opposed to a synonym. Even when dealing with the female-specific issues raised by feminism, I think this us-versus-them mentality is a huge mistake. Highlighting one group's suffering doesn't automatically minimize another's, or set one group up as "more worthy" -- it's simply the necessary identification of one specific issue to tackle in order to break down the system piece by piece.

In fact, feminism is arguably the main engine behind men gaining greater freedom, as they are allowed to embrace their whole selves and adopt the non-traditional gender role of nurturer, just as women have become more empowered to adopt roles outside of homemaker and caretaker. My favorite pop culture manifestation of this has been the shift in advertisements I've noticed over the past few years -- Huggies, in particular, has been rocking my world with their depiction of Daddy as a caretaker, without any "Mr. Mom" jokes worked in. More dads are demanding schedule flexibility to take care of their children while more moms are able to hold jobs actually capable of supporting a family on one salary, and more companies are responding to this shift by offering parental leave regardless of gender. Our society's concept of parenting is just one zone to observe feminism's effects, of course, but it's one where I've seen some huge developments firsthand.

As the great Gloria Steinem said,
“We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
We're just at the beginning of that arc, of raising sons no longer limited by their own gender constraints, who are capable to not only perceiving their own privilege but actively working to reach out beyond it to share that power with others (beautifully exemplified by the father mentioned in this TED talk), but I really do believe we're going to get there. While I know that the F-word "feminism" sounds awfully a lot like it's only working for the benefit of women, especially with all the connotations that have been forced on it, I believe that true Feminism is working for the greater good and equality of all.


(Feminist-and-Proud-of-It) Mrs.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Can't A Girl Just Be A Housewife Already?

This past week's PostSecret featured one card with particular relevance for me:

"What  do we want?"

"More oppression!"

"When do we want it?"

But in all seriousness, there's something about this sentiment that really gels for me. Ever since quitting my remaining "real job" back in April (I have since picked up a bartending gig one night a week, but that's not exactly what I got my college degrees for), I've been spending a lot of time around the house. Some of it's spent working to grow our design business, some of it's spent blogging for The Art Abyss, and some of it's spent wrastling the fur babies. Okay, more than some.

The view from my office chair. How do you not wrastle that?

But business grows slowly, and blogging can only take up so much time. Fur babies aside, that means I end up engaging in the selfish acts of
a) working out (which is justifiable as good for me, but feels like stolen time)
b) reading books (possibly justifiable because all great writers should be great readers (right?))
c) attempting to clean house (justifiable if I actually get something done - therein the rub)
d) browsing endlessly on the Internets and making too many Facebook posts (tangentially justifiable under the heading of "the more you know," but highly suspect on a productivity scale)
a significant portion of the time. And then my husband comes home from his 9 to 5, and I wonder how I can make it look like I actually accomplished something that day.

On a blog titled "Mrs. Degree," you might be surprised to find such angst about semi-housewifehood. But let's remember, that title's a send-up of something my grandmother said to me when I was going into college. I have every intention of having my own career, making my own living, creating my own arc independent of that of my husband. And please believe me when I say I know I wouldn't be able to be making the go of things the way I am if it weren't for his emotional - and financial - support. And that's where it gets sticky.

Right now, I am a woman with the capabilities to make a living on her own -- perhaps not my ideal living as a self-supporting artist and writer, but a living that supports a solo apartment, some nice dinners, the occasional vintage hat splurge -- but because I have the support of a gainfully employed spouse, I'm able to pursue my ideal professions without having to freak out about where the next paycheck is coming from. Sure, since switching to freelance "full time," we've had to tighten our belts and go out less, but hey - it's all in the name of pursuing a dream, right?

Yet until I have our business chugging along, until I start seeing my writing and my painting bring in regular paychecks, I still feel like a housewife playing work. And though I absolutely respect the women and men who have chosen to care for their household full-time while their partner works (there's even evidence that such arrangements may be more efficient), for me personally, I feel like I'm not living up to my full potential -- even to my full obligation. And that leads to some very real feelings of guilt.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

10 Things I Learned From Leaving My "Grown-Up" Job

"Hold on guys - which one is mine?"
Congratulations Graduate!!

Remember May? You ripped off your robe and threw up your cap to celebrate your first real taste of freedom. You enjoyed the slew of parties, binge drinking and awkward conversations with people your parents insisted on inviting to your graduation party, and now a bunch of people are getting ready to ship off to grad school, and a bunch more will be shipping off to careers they've had figured out since December. This post is not for those people.

This post is for you, person-whose-degree-and/or-career-choice-requires-significant-DIY-work-post-college. I was you, two years ago, and I was lost as all hell when it came to what I was going to do next.

Technically, I'm still figuring that part of it out, but along the way, I have learned a crap-ton about what NOT to do. So strap in, hold on, and get ready to hear about the three times I've left behind a "grown-up" job in the past two years. With any luck, you might be able to skip making a couple of these mistakes in your own life -- but, if we're being honest, probably not.

Life's all about the journey, right?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pinterest Guilt: This Monster Must Be Stopped

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is an epidemic in this country. An epidemic of unrealized dreams, quashed ambitions, wages squandered chasing impossible goals. It is what keeps women up at night, what leaves infants to cry unattended in their cribs, what causes men to go bald ten years earlier. It is the scourge of our society, and it must be stopped.

What is this beast, you ask? I give you Exhibit A:

My feelings of inadequacy tripled simply by reading that headline.

You can read the entire article here, but you may become afflicted by the dreaded "why is this news" syndrome: eye rolling, name calling, lashing out irrationally at overly-nice strangers who sit with legs politely folded in perfect little dresses on slightly too-high benches on morning television (WHY MATT LAUER WHY???). You have been warned.

But back to the epidemic: as one mom says,
“We have a hard time enjoying our own experiences because we feel it’s not worthy of this invisible judge,” Andersen said. “It’s so easy to get depressed. You start to feel like your entire life has to be like a magazine all the time.”
Ah yes, that common overwhelming pressure to be perfect. I believe it's what my mother's generation called "Martha Stewart."

In all seriousness, it's not that hard to understand where these moms come from. I mean, just look at my friend Kadie's obnoxiously perfect Memorial Day BBQ:


I know it's hard to believe from these pictures, but did you know Kadie is a professional photographer? (More importantly, did you know Kadie and I started a kickass blog together called The Art Abyss? You really should go check it out.) It's true -- and what's more, she happens to be a trained artist, with years of experience, no kids, a work-from-home job, a very supportive and very helpful husband (the rumors are they stayed up incredibly late the night before in order to get everything done), and - most importantly - this is the only party she has thrown in the last couple of years. Don't get me wrong -- I wish something fierce I could have hopped a plane and attended what looks like the best ding-dang BBQ party on either side of the Mississippi EVER -- but she didn't just roll out of bed with her backyard looking like that, and she certainly doesn't throw events like this on an everyday basis.

The moral of the story: MOMS OF THE PINTEREST, STOP FREAKING OUT. There will always be at least one actual real-life Martha Stewart in the world, but the reality is, most of us are sweating, scrambling, stressing, and stuffing all the junk we didn't get cleaned up in time into some back room before the party just as much as you. And that's really, truly okay.

Also, TODAY Show? Get a lower bench. Your news-conversationalists look ridiculous.

Seriously. Dumbest. Set. Ever.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lightbulb Jokes Can Be Illuminating

Right before he declares he's done chasing lightbulbs on Facebook.
For more on the friendzone, check out the electrifying content here, here, and here. Intelligent commentary on the matter really just makes me all glowey.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

13 Things I'm Going To Do In 2013

No, this is not a list of resolutions. Or maybe it is, but I'm not holding myself accountable to it. How about we settle on this being my stating my intentions? You hear me Universe?? Let's make this happen!

  1. Paint my nails more often. I am quite possibly the worst ever at doing this, even though I love having painted nails. Perhaps the fact that I feel like I don't have time to give myself this little bit of pampering is proof that I need to SLOW DOWN -- and doing this is going to force me to do so.
  2. Cook. Really, truly, actually cook, and start learning some new recipes. And doing it regularly, too -- none of this once-in-a-blue-moon stuff.
  3. Design and sew some new clothes for myself, instead of buying. I made my Halloween costume for the first time since middle school last year, and it was quite possibly the best thing ever. There's no reason to restrict that joy to October -- and if I could make time then, I certainly can make time now.
  4. Go hiking!! Preferably every other weekend or so -- I absolutely love hiking, and camping, and all that, and I pretty much never ever do it.
  5. Learn to be really good at CSS. Yes, it will help me with my job, but it also is something that is wicked cool now that I've learned a bit about it, and I want to reach the level of the wizards over at the CSS Zen Garden.
  6. Start casually expanding my German vocabulary. Practice with the Mr. to get comfortable using more phrases, and actually use those phrases.
  7. Dance more, and practice a LOT more. Country Swing is not going to learn itself, and being able to show off on the dance floor would definitely be worth the extra effort.
  8. Post relatively often in my blog. Yes, that means here.
  9. Journal about it (no, not here), when I'm feeling all twisted up, instead of looking for a fight or numbing with food. And journal about it when I'm happy. Write down those memories and good feelings along with the bad.
  10. Accept that I need to find doctors to take care of my grown-up self -- and then actually make and attend appointments with those doctors. I have health insurance, now I should use it!
  11. Trust that my passions will show me the way - no more sitting around waiting for the right time, that time is NOW.
  12. Not be afraid of telling people "No." No being willing to refuse something outright gets me in trouble all the time. If I'm going to run a business, I had better get this down pat.
  13. Be willing to tell people "Yes." Right now my default is "Maybe," and that's weaksauce.