Something has been on my mind lately…
Street harassment has been a hot topic recently. It sprang into the news earlier this fall when The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams responded to some clueless Fox News anchors describing claps and catcalls toward women as “compliments.” She then proceeded to sit down with women in Manhattan to talk about their personal experiences with street harassment, as well as taking The Daily Show viewers on a journey through her daily footed commute in downtown New York City.
Being hassled on the street is not new (my mother has told me stories of men hanging out of cars and making kissing, slobbering noises as they drove past her in the 60s and 70s), but the media attention it’s receiving is. It’s a pervasive issue: I don’t know a single female over the age of 11 who hasn’t received unwanted attention from strange men.
In talking to guys I know about the issue, I’ve received a number of reactions. Most of them have been along the lines of, “Dudes are so creepy,” and “Women are brave just stepping out the front door in the morning.” It does take some bravery, but that’s not all there is to it. I’ll get to that in a minute. The second response I’ve gotten is, “They’re just telling you you’re pretty. You should be happy!” Uh, what? There is a huge difference between complimenting someone and going out of your way to interrupt a stranger on the street to tell him or her that you are “warm for their form” (only one of the lovely “compliments” I’ve received on the street). Compliments, in general, are welcomed. Pests are not. Especially pests that make you feel like your appearance is theirs to judge, and that you sure as hell better listen to them discuss your body and the things they want to do to it in graphic detail.
Now back to the issue of bravery.
Besides being incredibly offensive and inappropriate, one of the things that make me the angriest about street harassment is how it makes my friends and me feel. Yeah, the dudes are scummy mouth-breathers, but if you dare to let them know their advances are unwelcome, roll your eyes at them, or even ignore them, there is a good chance they will let you know you’re a stuck-up bitch. Being called a bitch by a douche on the street is nothing. What is harder to deal with is the inner twinge of guilt that maybe that stranger was right. That maybe I was rude to him. That even though all I’m guilty of is walking down the sidewalk minding my own business, I’m the bitch for not smiling/flirting with/reacting positively to a sexually inappropriate interruption from a stranger. Yeah, catcalls can be scary and require putting on a brave face, and that sucks, but what I think sucks more is the feeling of guilt many females feel for not responding positively to these assholes.
Aside from the vague “compliments” received, the vast majority of street harassment I’ve personally experienced is being told to smile. I have what M and some friends lovingly refer to as Resting Bitch Face – that is, my natural, relaxed facial expression looks stand-offish and, obviously, bitchy. Usually my facial expression is a good way to ward off most catcallers and would-be Lotharios, but, sadly, this is only true about 35% of the time. The suggestion to smile might seem pretty innocuous at first, but if you think about it for more than a minute, it too is street harassment, especially when the suggestion is presented in such colorful ways as “You’d be prettier if you smiled” (thanks?) and the always popular “I bet I can turn that frown upside down” (no you can’t because I hate you and everything you stand for. Also barf.)
Jerry Seinfeld once commented that he didn’t understand what catcallers were hoping to get out of these situations. Perhaps, Seinfeld guessed, the men were hoping the women would run after them and return their feelings of attraction. What it really seems to come down to, like most negative things between the sexes (street harassment, abuse, rape, etc.) is, in my opinion, control. Men on the street want women to know they see them, that they have objectified and judged their appearance, and now they are going to force you to hear their opinion of your body, facial expression, etc. These men have reduced us to objects of appraisal that don’t deserve the same amount of respect as a human being.
By simply ignoring them, we take this control away, the catcallers get angry and want more control, etc. It seems to be a pretty vicious cycle. Women like Jessica Williams and Shoshanna B. Roberts (she recorded 10 hours of her being catcalled in NYC) are taking back control for all the women out there who have been subjected to this form of harassment. They are shining light on the men who do this, pointing out just how ridiculous and shitty they are. Hopefully by getting a taste of their own medicine (albeit much more appropriately), by publicly calling them out and judging them, this form of harassment will hopefully soon disappear.
I sent in my application for the University of Washington a few weeks ago – I should find out if I’m accepted in mid- to late-November. If I am, this will be my first time at a traditional university – I graduated from art school in 2007. Art schools are quite different in a lot of ways (Think Stella Artois and cocaine instead of Pabst and pot – though there were those things, too)(I also never did any coke, just saying.), but there are some guidelines that are universal. With college right around the corner for many, I thought I’d share some of my very, very wise tips for the incoming freshman.
- Befriend people in your major who are ahead of you. They have a lot of good advice – what classes to take and from who, how to get in good with a professor, what topics are the most important, etc.
- No one cares about what you did in high school. Seriously. No one in college is going to care that you were the head cheerleader/Homecoming royalty/star quarterback/valedictorian/whatever. It doesn’t carry the cache it did in high school. Please do not wear your high school letterman jacket to college. It’s embarrassing.
- Teachers will not hold you accountable. Your education up until now has involved a lot of handholding, largely because classes were smaller. College classes can be enormous, and professors don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to make sure you don’t fall behind.
- Learn to cook. Going out to eat with new friends or ordering pizza is a lot of fun and is certainly easier than cooking at home, and you should do it on occasion. But it is also extremely expensive and bad for you. Learn to cook a handful of relatively cheap, healthy meals to have on hand. A slow cooker is a great idea, as your meal can cook while you’re in class.
- Don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Colleges mark up their books so much. Look on Amazon, Half.com, and other resources for much better prices. Amazon even lets you rent books for a quarter.
- Go to class. This one is related to #3. Your parents aren’t around anymore to wake you up and make sure you get to school on time. Go to class, pate attention, and you’ll be doing better than a lot of your peers. College is also very expensive and every class skipped is money down the drain.
- Remember to sleep. It can be hard to get all your studying done without staying up extra late, but it is equally hard to do well in school if you’re a zombie. Study every day to avoid late night cram sessions and make sure you are getting adequate sleep so you can operate at your best.
- Use alcohol/drugs in extreme moderation. Technically you shouldn’t be drinking at all if you’re under 21, but pretty much no college student follows that rule. Alcohol will be made available to you, and it can definitely be a great way to loosen up, meet new people, and have fun*. Know ahead of time what your limit is so you don’t get too crazy – 1 or 2 drinks an hour, plus 1 glass of water for every drink – is more than enough. Make sure to eat and stay hydrated, and keep close, trusted friends with you at all times. These rules apply for drugs, too. Basically, don’t be a dummy.
- Eat right and exercise. Freshman 15 is very real for most people. This relates to #4. Pizza, fast food, and cafeteria offerings are not the healthiest of options. And it can be tempting after a long day of classes to go home and crash. But try taking a walk, going for a run, or lifting weights at your school’s gym instead to blow off some steam. It can do a world of good.
- Make a few practices trips of your class schedule before school starts. This can avoid being late and having to ask for directions.
- Get to know your professors. They can help you out in a number of ways. Familiarize yourself with their office hours and try to set up meetings with them throughout the quarter. As a for-instance, years ago I had a Buying class and would get terrible test anxiety. My teacher knew that I knew the information, but despite this I’d still get average grades on tests. After setting up a meeting with him to discuss the problem, he came up with a great solution: He’d split my test scores between the actual exams and questions he’d ask during class. No one else knew, so it wasn’t embarrassing, and I was able to bring up my grade.
- Take notes with a pen and paper, not a laptop. Laptops lose power and can also be very distracting. I also find the act of writing material down further cements it in my brain.
- If you’re feeling depressed or otherwise not mentally up to snuff, there are plenty of free resources for you. Talk to your school counselor, the college health clinic, a trusted professor, etc. Don’t suffer in silence!
- Be considerate of roommates and others in general. I had a roommate in college who would routinely eat my food (it was clearly marked with my name, too. One time she ate all the delicious bread my stepdad had made for me before I came home from class. I wanted to punch that bitch in the throat.), leave body hair she’d shaven off on the bathroom counter and in a ring around the tub, and once I came home around 1 AM to our front door open with her inside, passed out. She was the worst. Don’t be this roommate. Clean up after yourself, ask before using/eating other people’s things/food, be quiet if you have to wake up before them in the morning, etc. In short: Don’t be an asshole.
- WATCH YOUR BEVERAGES! This is true for the ladies and Do not ever accept a drink from someone you don’t trust implicitly, unless it’s from an unopened can or bottle. Before I left for college, one of my older brothers told me to never go to parties, because I would get roofied, and I would get date-raped. While that’s a huge overreaction from a protective brother and you should definitely go to parties if you want, be smart and aware of yourself and your drink.
*You do not have to have alcohol or drugs to have a good time! If you’re not comfortable drinking or doing drugs, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that.
Father’s Day is always a bittersweet day for me. When I was eight years old my father unexpectedly passed away. He and I were very close, and his passing left an enormous hole in my heart that has never been completely filled. This day in June serves to remind me of who and what I’ve lost, but also of the time I got to spend with truly one of the most magnificent people I’ve ever had to pleasure to know or love – and he loved me right back!
We only had eight years together, but in that time my father taught me lessons (purposefully and not so) that would alter, for the better, the way I navigated my life.
- Stay curious
Without a doubt, Daddy was the smartest person I’ve ever met. He knew a lot about a wide variety of topics and was constantly reading. The bookshelves in my childhood home were packed with tomes on everything from manuals explaining how to construct your own yurt and tattered copies of Franny and Zooey to complete Civil War histories and Chaucer.He was curious about everything and took it upon himself to read as much as he could about every subject that struck his fancy. He felt education was one of the most valuable things in the world and that it didn’t stop the moment you received your diploma. Education and learning were lifelong endeavors, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Laugh loudly
Daddy had a large nose and a dry, sardonic sense of humor. He laughed loudly and often, fully enjoying whatever joke a friend was telling or whatever trouble The Simpsons clan was in. I have vivid memories of him laughing uproariously, slapping his thigh, and occasionally snorting. While there are no thigh-slaps in my laugh, I inherited his nose and thus snort quite a bit whenever I laugh hard. Being able to fully enjoy a joke or hilarious situation is not possible when trying desperately to affect a different laugh. In elementary and middle school, especially, this snort was the bane of my existence and I tried hard to cover it up. It wasn’t until junior year that I gave up all pretenses of having a dainty, girly giggle and embraced the snort.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
This lesson I learned by doing the opposite of what I saw in my father. While he was a brilliant, talented, hilarious, and caring man, he was also full of self-criticism and doubt that he acquired as a young man. What my mother, his friends and family, and I saw as an amazing human being was completely different than what he saw in the mirror. It breaks my heart to this day that he didn’t realize how truly fantastic he was. While it is a daily struggle for me not beat myself up about God-knows-what, it helps to remember that those I love don’t hold me to the same sky-high standards that I hold for myself, and that they don’t think any less of me for slights I perceive as being huge, glaring failures.
- Do what you love
I feel fortunate to have received from both my parents a creative streak. My mother is a talented artist and runs her own graphic design firm in my hometown. My father worked with his hands building amazing pieces of furniture and, his greatest labor of love, the house I grew up in. Like my mother, he also ran his own business building and repairing furniture. He was a true craftsman and had an eye for seeing the beauty in something as seemingly mundane as a pile of lumber. Daddy loved his work and didn’t see the point in doing something he hated for a living if he could follow his passion while getting paid to do so. Both my parents taught me this lesson, and while I’m still making my way in the world trying to figure out the logistics of this plan, I am looking forward to the results.
- Don’t be afraid to be silly
Despite him passing away when I was eight, I feel pretty lucky that I got to spend as much time with my father as I did. He worked from home, so he had the freedom to drop me off at school, pick me up from daycare, and be around when I was at home. I have many wonderful memories of him, but some of my favorites involve him being a-okay with being silly with me as a little girl. He had absolutely no problem letting me putting his hair in barrettes and then going out to do some grocery shopping. He did voices for all the different characters in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Silmarillion, all of which were bedtime story favorites. Daddy was comfortable with who he was and loved me so much that it didn’t matter if others stared at his wild hair or he adopted a feminine voice for Galadriel. He was willing to put aside any preconceived notions of normalcy if it meant making his loved ones happy, so it was never a dull moment with him.
Like many people, I use the website Reddit and enjoy it quite a bit. I learn all kinds of new things on a regular basis and enjoy hearing other people’s stories and points of view. I don’t always agree with the other points of view, but that’s a given when there are literally millions of users in one place. Generally I let opposing points of view roll off my back.
A few weeks ago, however, I came across a subreddit called The Red Pill (because the truth is hard to swallow, get it?) and its sister sub, Red Pill Women. This opposing point of view stuck in my craw and I’ve had a harder time letting it go.
If you’re unfamiliar, The Red Pill philosophy, according to its subreddit, is devoted to “[the] sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” Or women, as is the case of the Red Pill Women sub. The idea is very anti-feminist and in favor of traditional gender roles as it relates to men and women. According to Red Pill Women’s sub, they “work to identify [women’s] weaknesses, stifle their inner bitch, and increase their female sexual value as much as possible in order to attract (or keep) a good RP man.” Part of having a high sexual value means not engaging in friends-with-benefits relationships or one-night stands. Not only that, it means maintaining the “correct” BMI, sustaining a flawless appearance, not being too competitive, and never, ever cursing.
According to The Red Pill, women shouldn’t have many (if any) sexual partners before her husband, but men can have as many as he wants. I found this gem on The Red Pill’s sub: “A woman is a lock and a man is a key. If a key opens a lot of locks, it is a master key. But if one lock is opened by lots of keys, it is a dodgy lock.” Gross.
I was disgusted, sure. But I was also fascinated. For funsies, I decided to find out what my sexual market value was. I didn’t know how to do this, but luckily there are plenty of douches on the Internet who can help me out. I’ve outlined the test and my results here, so you can see the highly scientific questions being asked.
- How old are you?
- How important is makeup to your appearance?
- What is your IQ?
- What is your breast size?
- Your breasts look firm and pert when you wear a) a bra, b) nothing at all, c) never.
- How long are your legs in relation to your height?
- What is the shape of your ass?
- How flat is your stomach?
- How toned are your upper arms?
- How big are your hands?
- Where is there hair on your body?
- What is your hip-to-waist ratio?
- What is your BMI?
- One a scale of 1 to 10, how pretty are you?
- How clear is your skin?
- Do you have any noticeable deformities?
- How full are your lips?
- How high is your forehead?
- How long is your jaw line from ear to chin?
- How big is your chin?
- How big is your nose?
- How big are your eyes in proportion to your face?
- What is the distance between your eyes?
- Do you frequently wear sexy lingerie, even when not prepping for a hot date?
- When someone gets hurt are you the first to ask if they’re okay and offer aid if needed?
- Are you highly competitive and do you often play co-ed sports?
- When a guy approaches you in a bar, regardless of your attraction to him, do you a) Smile and look at him, b) Pretend like you don’t notice him coming, or c) Frown and tell him you’re talking to your friends before he even gets a chance to say hi.
- On a first date the check arrives for dinner and drinks. You a)Offer to split the check or even pay in full, b) Smile and thank the guy when he pays, or c) Forget to thank him after he pays for you.
- How do you react to a new sexual partner’s small penis?
- What do you think of/do you do/how many times have you done various sexual acts I won’t describe here?
- How often do you curse?
- How would you describe your fashion sense?
I scored a 25. According to the lovely website who’s quiz I took, this means I’m a “Greater Beta. More than a few attractive guys will approach [me]. But if [my] personality is flawed [I] risk becoming a pump and dump victim.”
Well good thing I met M. Otherwise I’d be pumped and dumped all over town due to my gutter mouth, not-huge boobs, and affinity for outdoor recreation.
I mean seriously, what the damn hell is this? It saddens me that people actually take this stuff seriously and live their lives according to it. This is 2014, not 1954. And even if it were 1954, I have a feeling my grandmothers would have punched my grandfathers in the face if they expected all this nonsense from them.
Nerd alert! I haven’t mentioned it before, but I’m pretty into Dungeons & Dragons. For those poor souls who are unfamiliar, you can find a quick summary here.
While shows like Community have popularized D&D recently, my love affair with the game began in college. A group of audio geeks from AV department took me under their wing and re-introduced me to the game. I had attempted to play in elementary school, but 3rd grade Caitlin didn’t have the patience for it. As a wizened, learned 18 year-old, however, I was ready for the action.
Taken merely at face value, D&D is still extremely fun. But it also serves many other purposes…
Practice Makes Perfect
Generally speaking, each D&D game revolves around quests with an end goal in mind: finding the treasure, rescuing a friend, etc. Each player starts out with a certain level of points for each category. In order to gain points and level up, they have to role dice each time they attempt to do something. As is the case in life, whenever we try to do something – say, rescue a princess from the leader of a race of desert bandits by using our grappling hook to climb over a tall wall– we try until we get it right. In the beginning we might not throw it far enough, we might fall, etc. But the more we try, the better we get. Eventually, when we throw our grappling hook we’ll get over that wall with great ease.
Or something to do with real life. You get the idea.
Embrace Your Creativity
Anything is possible in the world of D&D. If you want to base jump off a giant unicorn while shooting lasers out your eyeballs and land gracefully on a pile of griffin feathers, all in the name of completely your quest (or not – whatever), go right ahead. D&D affords players the opportunity to use their imagination and create fantastic worlds and scenes with others. And, as we all know, creativity and imagination come in handy in all aspects of life.
Use Your Words
Aside from dice rolling, success in D&D depends a lot on listening carefully to the DM and communicating your actions clearly, two skills important to take with you in your day-to-day life.
Teamwork Is Important
Getting points is great, but there will be plenty of times when you can’t level up your character on your own. The world of D&D, like real life, is unpredictable, and you need a good support system to get through it and make it out the other side stronger and smarter than before.
Always Be Prepared
Just like you’d never face a level boss in D&D without taking every precaution, you should never go into important life situations without also preparing yourself. Whether it’s researching for a job interview, measuring a room before moving furniture in, or studying for a big test, preparation is important and not just for the Boy Scouts.
Last month on February 28th I celebrated my 27th birthday. So happy belated birthday to me! While not much of a milestone as far as birthdays are concerned, in the past year I have learned quite a few things.
1. Be an activate participant in your life.
This first one is important, and one I already had a fairly tenuous grasp on. But in the last year, I’ve taken some risks (good ones!) that have led me down a path of self-discovery I may have otherwise ignored. I know what I want and I know that I’m not going to get it without putting in the effort – I can’t just let things happen and hope for the best. I wanted a better job, so I am going back to school to finish my Bachelors degree. I wanted to be stronger, so I have started lifting heavier weights. I wanted more female friends, so I went out of my way to meet some. If I want the best, I need to make it happen myself.
2. Go outside your comfort zone.
In the past few years, my social life has been a bit of a roller coaster. My best friend of ten years (aside from the husband, obviously) very abruptly wasn’t my BFF anymore and I grew apart from a lot of people I had known for quite some time. Like I mentioned above, I wanted more female friends, but it seems simply by being an adult (especially being an adult in Seattle – I’ve found the Seattle Freeze phenomenon to be a very real thing), genuine friendships are hard to come by. It’s not like when you were six and your friends were based on who was in your class, who lived closest, or who had the same color pants. So when I had the opportunity to meet potential friends, I took it. This meant going outside my comfort zone and reaching out to people with the risk of being shot down. Rejection was a very real and very scary possibility, but I forgot one thing: There are plenty of people in the same boat and every person I reached out to was responsive. By sticking to my current circle (or lack thereof) of peers, I was preventing myself from meeting some really amazing people.
3. Listen to your body.
About a month before my birthday, I injured my wrist (I’m still not sure how exactly, but I think I sprained it). I was also feeling lethargic and crankier than usual. After going through and dismissing any possible health problems, I was stumped. Then it hit me: I work out nearly every day and have done so for years now with no break. My body was just plain worn out. I am the type who, despite conventional wisdom, will say, while blowing her nose or hugging the toilet bowl, “I can still go for a run/lift weights/do some activity! It’s only other people who needs breaks.” It took a bit of convincing myself and encouragement from M, but I allowed myself a break from working out (okay, I still took long, brisk walks) while my wrist healed. I ended up feeling better than ever and completely invigorated by the end of my little vacation. I even PR’d some lifts. So yeah, listening to your body and taking it easy sometimes really does help.
4. Comparison really is the thief of joy.
This one is still a work in progress. I have a very hard time with this one, especially since my closest friend is a thin, talented, red-haired knockout. But who am I to argue with Theodore Roosevelt? Comparing your appearance, talents, work, personal life, whatever with other people is a game we have all played that we just can’t win. We know the story behind ourselves, the nitty-gritty details. We don’t know the story behind those we’re comparing ourselves to. As cliche and ridiculous as it sounds, the only person I freely allow myself to compare myself to is the me from yesterday.
5. Be comfortable with yourself.
This related to #4, but it is important to really, truly know who you are and be okay with it. Or, as Mandy from xoJane puts it, “Own your shit.” Having a firm grasp on who you are and what makes you you – flaws and all – makes it a lot easier to happily go through life and a lot harder for negative Nellies to bring you down.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ME! Let’s see what stellar lessons I learn in 2014.
Generally speaking, November – March is not a friendly time period in Seattle, weather wise. It being January, I still have two and a half more months of cold ickiness before the temperature even starts to sort of rise. During this time I take my running indoors to a treadmill, stop gardening, and mutter obscenities to myself as I make the short but bracing trip from my front door to my car, where it is still cold, but not wet (hopefully). I also can’t wear certain shoes without freezing my tootsies off. In short, blergh.
But! The wintery months are not totally without their pleasures, either. I quite enjoy spending cold nights inside reading, watching movies with M (we’ve been on a Carey Grant kick lately), and leisurely enjoy a nice hot bath. And because I want to be cozy on the inside, too, a nice hot cup of tea is always helpful (it’s like a hot bath for your stomach! Or something!).
Along with a nice book, movie, or TV show, these are my cozy nights at home necessities that are sure to ward off the brrr: