People: what a bunch of bastards.

Forgive the title; I’ve been watching a lot of “The IT Crowd.”

During my recent spell of unwellness (documented here in no short measure), I’ve had a lot of time to just read. As a reformed journalist, I am a news junkie, but at the first hint of feeling poorly, I am reduced to consuming simple sentences with lots of pictures. Pop culture becomes my fix. Accordingly, I have a few rants, and they all center on the same focal point: being a woman.

First of all, I love Nigella Lawson. I her to hug me and use her free hands to back a cake behind my back as we become girly pals. When photos recently emerged of her husband clasping her throat and twisting her nose in public, I felt shocked. These are disturbing actions to happen in public, to be documented rather than stopped, and to be distributed. Worse yet was the response by some readers/viewers. I saw many articles where people said we mustn’t jump to conclusions and he was probably just feeling her glands, as though reaching across a dinner table and squeezing each gland with either four fingers or a thumb were perfectly normal. I’m all for our legal system’s “innocent until proven guilty” approach, but I loathe that we’re living in a time when people call for the death of a whistleblower (name one, any of them, and it’s true) while saying we should try to place ourselves in the shoes of a man who makes his wife cry in public.

Sadly, this isn’t surprising. For as much as we scream, fight, reproduce, work, and write, we’re still living in a World of Men. Jezebel contributor Lindy West pushed back against men in comedy making unfunny, malicious rape jokes, and what did she receive in return? Read for yourself the vitriol thrown her way. If she infringes upon a male comedian’s right to talk about a hypothetical rape, she’s stomping all over their rights and must be silenced by being murdered, by being raped, or by being reminded that she is too fat/ugly/stuck up to be raped since nobody would ever want her (because obviously rape is about sex and not at alllll about power). Rape is obviously one of the darkest things that can happen to a person, and people use humor to cope with darkness, but we’ve reached a point where the joke’s on the victim, not the horrible person who just couldn’t keep their penis (or hand, or object, or WHATEVER) out of another person’s body. It’s not funny, and if people keep conditioning themselves to think it is, then we’ll have even worse sexual assault statistics. I already have multiple friends who were sexually assaulted. You probably do too. Is that okay to just accept? (The answer, by the way, is absolutely not.)

You can’t even escape this in entertainment.  Women are sex objects everywhere, meant to be looked at critically (and approved of or cut down) and consumed. The fact that we have a whole “Law and Order” spinoff dedicated to sexual assault is telling, and you can’t even get new shows without rape cropping up. Special shout out to “American Horror Story” here, which had rape in both of its seasons so far! But it doesn’t just have to be about rape or something so blatant. I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, but when Alice Eve stripped her perfectly toned body down to her matched underwear FOR NO REASON, I felt angrier than any other point in the movie. (If you want to argue that James Kirk also loses some clothing, I’ll remind you that he was with multiple women at once, making him not the object but the objectifying party since I’m sure he wasn’t courting them all for polygamous marriage.) Film studios shouldn’t apologize about such scenes after the fact; they shouldn’t include them in the first place. I’m really not bothered by sex scenes or tits, but we have reached a saturation point, and only Michael Fassbender seems to be fighting back with some full frontal of his own. Shame was viewed as either brave or deplorable, but women are expected to lose clothing without a peep.

Linda Holmes’ blog over at NPR shows that the problem gets worse. We lady folk want an alternative to being objectified, but we don’t even have much of a choice other than not going to the movies at all. The last movie I saw was The Purge, and I would argue that the women in that film hold their own against the men (though they take time to build up the nerve). I’ll confess I kind of hated Bridesmaids because it did have a spectacular female cast, but the lead still needed to turn back to good old baking and a man in order to be happy! (Apologies to Chris O’Dowd. I’d want you at the end of a movie too.) We consider it progress when one woman kicks ass in an ensemble flick, or we tell ourselves that we ladies don’t have to be defined by romantic comedies since we too can enjoy the movies men do. I promise you, I loathe rom com and adore me some horror, but when wildly popular shows like “The Walking Dead” make their female characters incredibly annoying before killing them off (as opposed to in the comics, where they are people rather than whining moving targets), I get really fed up.

So you can’t really deal with TV or the movies. Surely there’s music? My Twitter feed has been obsessed with Kanye West’s leaked album. The media’s abuzz with it. I decided to read some articles about it since Kanye’s not my cup of tea. As an aside, if you go into a coffee shop or restaurant and ask them where your damn croissants are, I fucking hate you. End of. Back to the point, behold these lyrics: “I wanna fuck you hard on the sink/ After that, give you something to drink/ Step back, can’t get spunk on the mink.” Look, I get it. I get that he’s supposed to be this egotistical rich guy with a god complex who thinks that he can own anything, from fashion to women. I get that a lot of rappers are like that. But does that make it okay? No. It’s gross. It’s not amusing swagger. This guy just had a little girl and is engaged. Regardless of how I feel about Kim Kardashian, I wouldn’t want her to be treated with that power complex. Those lyrics don’t hint at rape, but it’s like they’re looking across the dancefloor and smiling coyly at it. If you aren’t a sexist, why don’t you just stop writing sexist things? It’s not entertaining. It’s not cool. It’s not swagger. And if you’re just “trolling,” then you’re pretty desperate for attention and have an empty life that mink won’t fix, even if it has a little sperm on it. By the way, jackass, it’s your own ejaculate, so you deal with it.

I’d go on and on about other people who have sexist lyrics, not the least of which Rick Ross with his song “U.O.E.N.O.” that actually DEPICTS rape, but fuck, I’m exhausted.

So what can we do about all of this sexism? Well, we can talk about it. We put up with this shit every day, from the way people talk to us to how we’re made to feel about ourselves, so we should let it be known. The majority of men out there are pretty cool dudes who don’t like making anyone feel like shit, and they wouldn’t want to be aligned with any of these actions. We have to build a network and push back. It’s not about “Leaning In” since that book was basically bullshit for anyone making under six figures a year. We have to challenge the frivolous and call out those who would excuse crimes against women as mere misunderstandings, amusements, or whatever. The act of rape isn’t funny, and many jokes about it aren’t. Domestic violence is not the victim’s fault and shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. We’re more than half of the fucking population, and so to the shitty guys out there, vocal minority that you are, grow a pair of balls and learn how to respect us. If you’re so threatened by women speaking out, that might just make you a pussy, and what’s worse than being associated with a female sex organ?

Why I’m Broke, or Modern Medicine: A Kick in the Pants.

Allow me just a bit of time to bitch.

Ever since my wallet and I parted with more than $300 just to have a wisdom tooth yanked out of my face in under 15 minutes, I’ve felt somewhat victimized by The Man. You know how it goes. I’m a “Young Professional” who took on student loan debt to study at a pretty great private university away from home rather than staying within my own state to study for free. Now somewhere around a fourth of my income goes to paying back student loans each month, so my expendable income is not what it should be. (If you’re thinking that I should’ve stayed in-state and used it as a springboard, shut up. We’re not going to get into my IQ, my qualifications, my desire to move, and the fact that I wouldn’t have this decent paying New York City job with a West Virginian education. Deal with it.) I made my choices, I prioritize when necessary, and I live within my means.

The lovely dentist that I went to two weeks ago does not accept most dental discount programs, and her practice does not allow for payment plans, so I rescheduled my dental appointment until after payday. It would make things tight regardless, but I figured it would be best to stop putting off addressing those cavities. You’re only born with one mouth, unless you’re a conjoined twin, but my twin is independent, so there you have it. I made a grown up decision. I’d go to the dentist of my own volition. I’d be proactive.

My body had other plans.

I woke up Tuesday morning with a vague stomachache. I assumed that it was just nerves from going alone to see one of my favorite artists ever, David Ford (check him out, I demand it), who I had interviewed over the phone some weeks before. I had a bit of that giddy schoolgirl feeling going on because he’d shared my review of his latest album (which is brilliant), and I wanted to introduce myself as said writer. Work ended, I moseyed on down to the show, and I managed to nab a seat at a table with his parents, as fate would have it. Mr. Ford put on a spectacular solo show with the promise of a completely different setlist and a backing band the following night. I decided to put off socializing after the show because my two Half and Halfs (Half and Halves? Whatever. Sweet tea vodka and lemonades) hadn’t settled very well on my stomach. I had time, right? I had another gig in me!

Wednesday was shit. I woke up feeling even worse but forced myself to go through the motions in the morning, preparing a cup of cinnamon tea to settle my stomach. Calling out from work would just make me feel worse and guilty to boot, and I might talk myself out of going to Manhattan to see the gig. This would not do. I took about two sips of tea and three drinks of water before the body rebelled. I don’t care what you want, I thought bitterly. I’ll buy breakfast on the way once you calm yourself. Of course, my train got all sorts of delayed because that happens every single time I want to get to Manhattan early. The only place with a short line was the cafe across the street. The yogurt parfaits looked so simple, so tempting with the base settling the acid in my stomach. I didn’t think about how sour stomachs and dairy don’t mix. I forked over five dollars because I am a crazy person, then brought my bounty to my desk, thus sealing my fate for the day.

Friends, this parfait was disgusting. The overly sweet yogurt was topped with granola that had appeared to just have blueberries, strawberries, and a kiwi that quickly made its way into the bin, I saw the monstrosity the green disc had covered. There were raisins and maraschino cherries in my granola. I like raisins in my granola when there aren’t other fresh berries involved. A dried grape feels like an insult. And maraschino cherries? Only acceptable when they are doused in alcohol. My stomach turned as I tried to consume my breakfast. About an hour later, I politely excused myself to throw it up in the bathroom, then stayed at work another hour to be sure I was sick. Why? Because I’m crazy. Crazy responsible. Crazy irresponsible. Then I booked it home for hours of watching MasterChef, eating only Triscuits, playing fetch with my kitten, and having a fever. I tried to snap a photo of the thermometer hitting 100.8, but apparently when you have a fever, the device blinks and beeps like a smoke detector, so use your imagination.

So I missed the gig. One of my gigs of the year. I’m still gutted.

I then set my alarm for Thursday normally. I got up at 6:45 to shower and noticed a pain in my chest, a little to the right. My first thought was I’m having a heart attack, followed by I refuse. So I went to shower anyway to see if the pain would last. It did, but it didn’t lead to any further complications. Still, I called out sick from work and decided to go to a walk-in clinic in Williamsburg. I saw online that their hours were from 8 am on. At this time it was around 7:30, so I booked it out to be there when doors opened.

Friends, Thursday is the only day they open at 9.

If you’ve never been stranded in Billyburg, let me tell you that many of the hipster cliches are true. I wandered aimlessly to find a place to get some breakfast (Huzzah, returned appetite!), but since it wasn’t brunch, few places were open. I settled on a bagel shop where I could get tofu spread (natch), and when I heard “Chasing Cars” play, I had a momentary crisis since I was wearing a Snow Patrol shirt and wondered if that was weird. Then I nearly cried. Being sick makes me emotion. So does chest pain, apparently. Filled with bready and tofuy goodness, I went to the drugstore to get some Wisps to brush my teeth prior to the doctor. I tried to remember which pop star was in an ad for Wisps a long time ago. Mandy Moore I think? Near the cash register was a giant tower of Pabst Blue Ribbon to remind me that I was in hipster heaven. I nearly took a photo, but I didn’t want to encourage them.

So I went to the doctor. For $25! Insurance! So much better than not having insurance, looking at you dental community. After waiting an hour, I was in. The doctor was very amused to hear that I had once had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, because clearly the peak moment of my life was being paralyzed from the waist down for a week at the age of four. She checked my symptoms and then gave me a very profound medical opinion worth my $25: “I have no clue what’s wrong with you.” Thanks! Due to my chest pain, she sent me to get an x-ray to rule out pneumonia, but she prescribed Tamiflu just in case. “I think what you have is probably viral,” she said. “The prescription might be able to lessen the symptoms. You may get over it a day earlier, but you need rest.” With that, she sent me on a half hour walk to the x-ray clinic. In the pouring rain. Physical fitness!

By the time I got there, my chest was in agony, and an old Polish dude had hit on me, because that’s how you know when you’ve crossed from Williamsburg to Greenpoint. I got in pretty early, stripped down for my x-rays, and didn’t even mind when the technician told me that he had to reposition my “tresses.” I had to raise my arms over my head and hold very still, and even in my agony I thought, Thanks for making this pose easy, yoga! Boom, boom, two x-rays and I was done. I saw the technician adjust the contrast on my scan, and seeing inside your boob is surreal. I guess the rest of your body too, but man, my boob was too big to fit in the image. Awesome. (For the record, my x-ray was fine.)

Utterly trampled, I caught the train back to the same drugstore as before to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist just had to check my address. I told him, and he said that was incorrect. Apparently I lived in Cleveland. You know you’ve shunned medicine for a long time when your last known address to the medical community is your college dorm. We got that nonsense sorted out, and I handed over my insurance. I was feeling good since this was not the dentist.

Your total: $106. You saved $36!

What the fuck? This is for ten pills. That’s $10.60 a pill, or the rough equivalent of eating out for lunch and dinner every work day for a week in New York City. I swiped my debit card. It didn’t go into the system, so the taunting bastard made me swipe again. I signed (well, PIN numbered) away basically a day’s wages, then came out of the store with a tiny bag of tinier pills. The tower of PBR mocked me. In the land of cheap beer, high medical expenses won again. I couldn’t afford cheap beer, let alone drink it since it’d interact with my newfangled medication.

On the way back to the train, a woman balancing a binder on her head called out to me. (Fucking hipsters, I thought.) She was wearing a Greenpeace shirt. “You look like an Earth lover!” she cried.

I held up my prescriptions in supplication. “I just spent a lot on medicine and have no money!” I retorted, making my retreat.

“Well, I like your shirt. Snow Patrol’s a great band!” she said to my back. And that was the first and last time I’ve felt good since contracting this flu/viral infection/plague.

Insert “lack of wisdom” pun here.

Confession: yesterday was my first visit to the dentist since I was a child.

Most of my 20-something readers, particularly those who live in New York as well, will understand how this came about. Low pay, high student loans, and high costs of living collude to make you really prioritize where your limited funds go, and by the time you save enough to visit the sort of doctor you want to see, something goes wrong to rob you blind. Oh, and I don’t have dental insurance, so paying $100 just for the pleasure of another person’s company feels much more like a less fun version of prostitution.

Also, I killed my dentist when I was a kid, so there’s that. But that’s a story for another time.*

Anyway, I was having some pain on the right side of my mouth. Like any Brooklyn cliche, I assumed that my everything bagel had just lodged some sort of seed or topping back there. I brushed and flossed vigorously, doing my best to ignore the pain. That worked for a few days.

Wednesday was of course A Day. I forgot my cell phone at home, the trains were all messed up, and, naturally, I couldn’t chew with the right side of my mouth. After scrambling to find any sort of dentist who didn’t seem to charge a thousand dollars to yank out a tooth, I managed to book an appointment for Thursday online. The only problem: you have to enter a PIN number texted to your phone. Yes, even without making an appointment through my phone, I needed my phone. My friend Meghan kindly obliged to receive the text for me, and I was on my way.

Fast forward to Thursday. The pain had certainly gotten worse thanks to an ill-advised gum chewing test, so I was relieved when I entered the dental practice at 5 PM sharp. The soundtrack of Journey, Kelly Clarkson, and Pink did its best to make me grind my teeth, but I resisted the impulse. It was only when I was in the dentist’s chair that I began to really worry. Actually shaking levels of worry. I don’t know what really got to me other than the absolute lack of sharp tools out. I was prepared for nearly anything, but to be thwacked repeatedly by blunt objects inside my suffering mouth seemed too punishing to imagine.

Of course the dentist expressed dismay over my lack of dental visits, though I pointed out I have no insurance. After declaring an extra cusp on one of my molars “very cool,” she found the offending wisdom tooth. My first, even at the tender age of 26, had become abscessed.

“Your appointment’s only for fifteen minutes,” she reported. (Thanks, technology!) “I can hook you up with some antibiotics and painkillers and have you come back next week, or we can extract the tooth right now. We can do that in fifteen minutes easily.”

I considered my options. After days of favoring the left side of my face, a little narcotic bliss was tempting. But if your tooth is dying, it’s dying, and there’s no point in adding hundreds of dollars to an already outrageous bill just for a week of putting off the inevitable. “Let’s take it out,” I said.

My dentist seemed surprised, but she was quick with three needles to numb the area. I haven’t experienced all that much pain in my life I suppose, but the worst may just be the sensation of needles slipping into my gums and then pumping in the liquid. I felt like giant bubbles were swelling up inside my mouth. “You’re very brave,” the dentist said. Very stupid, I felt. A single tear fell along my cheek like that fabled Native American in the commercial where he observes litter upon his precious land.

My tooth had grown in fully, so it was a matter of prying it out. You would think there would be some delicate way of doing this. No. Instead the dentist pushes, pulls, wiggles, wedges, and finally yanks it out. Fortunately mine went out in one piece, so that was it. Fifteen minutes and $328 of my hard-earned money. For the record, the $8 part came from an extra fee to use my debit card. Because obviously I should carry hundreds in cash at all times.

I don’t know if I am “brave” after all or just particularly lucky, but I haven’t needed prescription-level painkillers (that the dentist didn’t give me anyway) and feel decent other than the disgust I have from the coppery taste of blood lingering in my mouth. The dentist wants me to come back to deal with those cavities I’ve been ignoring forever, but we’ll have to see what the wallet says about all that…

The Fallen.

Recently I read an article that claimed it was an inherent contradiction to support a nation’s troops without supporting war and other military efforts. I beg to differ. “War” is such a high concept. We declare wars on ideas, wars on objects, wars on countries, but you can’t attack anything that nebulous. You have to attack people instead. Some people do not think that human life is the appropriate price to pay for the mere potential of defeating “drugs” or “terrorism” or whatever.

But what our society or government or military disagrees with will never be fully eliminated. There will always be some corner of the earth that holds another way of life. It’s not necessarily the existence of evil in the universe; difference just has a way of metastasizing. Eventually a few people decide that many will have to make that fight physical in order to seek some precarious resolution. Because of this, we will always have soldiers.

We’re lucky to live in a place and time where and when people choose to join the military. Becoming a soldier is an exercise of free will. Who can’t behind choice, even if it’s not the one you would make yourself?

My cousin Cory chose to serve. His time was nearly up, but he made a choice to stay so someone else could get home sooner. He chose one dinner option over another. He chose where he sat in a mess hall. He chose not to get up and swap out his meal for pizza. It was a day like many others, except this time, a man entered the tent and blew away Americans and Iraqis alike.

That was 2004. Two days ago, two bombs went off in the same town of Mosul, killing three and injuring dozens, including children. I don’t point this out to make any political point. These are just the tragic facts.

Memorial Day has become a little more difficult these past nine years. We’re all taught to honor fallen soldiers, but in my childhood, such a concept seemed so distant, like remembering men and women who had served decades before in the World Wars, Vietnam, Korea. Now people I grew up with are making those sacrifices. Today I’m doing laundry, watching Netflix, typing away on my computer and considering whether I should go out to do anything today. Some no longer have the luxury of the mundane as I do.

The numbers are harrowing. They become so large that they cease to make sense as faces, names, years of love and hobbies and favorite bits of entertainment, personal grudges and heartbreaks and chipped shoulders. Cory never saw his beloved Monty Python hit Broadway with Spamalot or Alex Trebek ditch the mustache he sported for so many years on “Jeopardy!” He didn’t even get to see the age of thirty.

My hope today is that people don’t forget. I hope they look ahead and make informed decisions, those that factor in the ultimate price. I hope that fewer children grow up to lose the babysitter who cunningly tricked twins into giving up their two whole peanut butter sandwiches in favor of one sandwich that had been neatly cut into triangles. I hope, if only for a day, people with power remember the cost of a human life. I hope they remember any name at all rather than a number.

sneezonal allergies.

Oh dear domain, I have been neglecting you. I do have my excuses reasons! First of all, I joined the team over at The Third Bar, so I’ve basically spent a lot of time learning just how much I don’t know about WordPress. (Also, if you like Snow Patrol, we’re awesome, I swear.) Second, I’ve had some fiction ideas brewing in my head, so I’ve been attempting to attend to those before they dissolve into dust. But mostly, I have had allergies. Props to my friend Allison for serving me some Targaryen realness and lighting a fire under my ass to write about the thing that is impeding me.

If you have never experienced seasonal allergies, I want to meet you. Not because I’m really interested in your smug face (“Clean living! Local honey to get used to the allergens! Desert air!”) but so I can go all science experiment on you and figure out how to be like you. I used to be one of you. I marked off seasons by wardrobe changes, not health crises. (This is a lie. I had bronchitis for several winters in my youth. Who wants to play in the snow when you can drink disgusting yellow liquid and cough for months?) Then I felt that tingle. Oh friends, you know it well: the tingle in your front teeth that says you have a sinus infection. Suddenly nothing is the same ever again. Even on “low pollen” days when it’s raining, the change in pressure outside will make your face the most uncomfortable part of your body. If only you could chop it off.

If you’re anything like me, and I imagine you are for finding this blog, then you relentlessly Google to find out how to treat these horrible symptoms every spring. (If you Bing, you aren’t like me, and please go away.) Fortunately I have done a lot of research into why the inside of my nose feels like a lead-filled balloon, and I’m happy to share a lot of bad tips in one place!

Take some medicine. This is my favorite. When I tell people that I am ready to carve out my sinus cavities with a letter opener, their response is usually, “Do you take anything for it?” For the low, low price of a pound of ivory and a bottle of children’s tears (unfiltered), you can get a month’s supply of indoor/outdoor allergy pills. Zytec, Claritin, Allegra. These are the names we swap with fellow sufferers like we are chasing the high of illegal drugs. Really we’re just trying to avoid the sinus headache that only kind of goes away when you’re on these drugs. That’s the best result you’ll get: almost functional. It makes you aware enough that you can articulately express how much pain you’re in.

Neti pot. If you’ve never seen a neti pot, it looks like a teapot that someone stomped on due to how stupid it is. It’s stupid. You put the spout up your nose and try to pour warm, salty water from one nostril to another like the world’s most humiliating fountain. In reality, my sinus cavities contain a tiny Gandalf forcefully declaring, “You shall not pass!” to the water, thus backing it up into my nose, down my throat, and all over me. Right to left? It’s gross but fine. Up the left nostril? It won’t come out the other side. I fail at neti potting. You can only snort warm salt water all over the front of yourself before you quit, a broken woman.

Elimination diets!!!: Shut up. Okay, some people have food allergies, and that’s fine, but I’m pretty sure broccoli isn’t the reason why maple gives me the facepunches.

Wear a mask. We all know that this works because Michael Jackson did it, and it was so effective that his nose shrank down accordingly.

Wear giant sunglasses. This is supposed to block the pollen from getting to you. Really it just irritates the bridge of your nose. I would go a step further and just wear a helmet, attached to a full body suit, at all times. Oh, fuck it. Just be an astronaut. There’s no pollen in space.

Alternatively, you could just never go outside ever. Hose down anything that comes into your home, especially if it breathes. It was probably breathing in pollen. Nobody can be trusted. They’re carriers. Look what happened in Contagion. Gwyneth Paltrow has like the most restrictive diet ever, and she still died (spoiler alert). Can I offer any real advice? Netflix. You will need the entertainment when you are drugged out of your skull by 9 PM every night but can’t go to sleep quite yet. Trust me, that “Rob Lowe in Stephen King made for TV movies” marathon was my personal highlight of last week. M-O-O-N, that spells “Is it August yet?”*

*That’s a reference from The Stand. It’s on Netflix. I couldn’t quote Rob Lowe since he was deaf, mute, and dumb.

An Open Letter to Brad “Accidental Racist” Paisley.

Dear Brad (Can I call you “Brad,” Brad?):

You don’t know me, but I know plenty about you. Few of us at John Marshall High School during the early noughties could take a class with Mrs. Brinkman without her gushing about “Brad,” no last name necessary. I know plenty of people who think of you like a Glen Dale version of Elvis in a cowboy hat. Your folksy, po’ Southern boy style is representative of many people from the area, and I won’t pretend differently even though we’re from above the Mason-Dixon line and our state separated from Virginia to remain part of the Union during the Civil War.

But man, you’ve made us all look like idiots with your song “Accidental Racist.”

On the surface of things, I can respect your intentions. You set out to show that your “Southern pride” is not meant to be oppressive to African-Americans, so when you wear the Confederate flag, you are not making a statement about the Civil War. You even have a Yankee rapper on the track to back you up! You hash things out! You can’t be racist because you have at least one token black friend. You can see how this is getting complicated already.

I don’t think that it escaped your attention growing up that our school was extremely white. Being “Southern” and waving that ridiculous flag meant you were anti-establishment and proud of being a redneck, not part of the Navy that briefly used said design for a couple of years during the Civil War. In an insular white community, maybe that makes sense in some distorted fashion. But you draw an international audience now. Maybe you could like “The South” on Facebook or take any other stance besides defending and reclaiming a flag so loaded with negative connotations. That flag doesn’t stand for being a redneck, four-wheeling, hunting, fishing, and having cheap beers with your buddies at the mud bogs. It was used by people engaging in open treason against their country, and the richest were the ones with the most to gain or lose. That “most” includes slaves, people as property. You must realize that symbols hold the meaning ascribed to them by people. For instance, the swastika is a type of cross, but no one would dare defend that as a symbol of peace today. The views on good and evil from the Civil War are not so clear, it would seem, but that flag has a blood-soaked legacy.

But you don’t need a history lesson. Even though you’re a millionaire living the dream, I will pretend that you are defending the “redneck” way of life with pride. You’re “proud of where [you’re] from but not everything we’ve done” (even though West Virginia was in the Union, la la la). The major problem with this song, surprisingly, is when you let LL Cool J enter the discussion. I think everyone can agree that people of all backgrounds can harbor racist tendencies, and we all make unfair shortcuts based on what we see because we can’t be bothered to get to know everyone’s inner secrets. Mr. Cool James defends his right to wear gold chains, saggy pants, and a do-rag without being thought of as a thug, but then he reaches an epiphany that he too is judging you for your white cowboy hat and ridiculous flag t-shirt. “I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book,” he says. This is absurdly stupid.

Chains, low-slung jeans, and do-rags are not symbols. A cowboy hat is not a symbol. If you look at someone in a cowboy hat and think he’s a racist because of that item of clothing, you’re being a lazy asshole. If you look at someone who wears a do-rag and assume he’s a criminal, then yes, you are a goddamn racist. You don’t get to pick and choose which aspects of Southern history you’re representing with the so-called rebel flag because even though the region is rich with so much culture worth celebrating, you aren’t saying you’re proud of Southerners like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. Racism has extended far past the abolition of slavery, and that continued prejudice is hardly just paranoia over white dudes just wanting to watch NASCAR and give ‘er dun. Brad, your lyrics indicate that you’re proud of the region, not its role in the Civil War. Why then must LL Cool J, a “black Yankee” of his own admission, actually say the words “RIP Robert E. Lee”? LL forgives you for wearing your shirt, you never meant any harm, and everyone walks away happy. Who wins here?

Between you and me, Brad, here’s a hint: the problem isn’t a grudge we Yankees hold from the Civil War. I appreciate that you want to open a dialogue and help mend fences, but the problem goes much deeper than you being shocked anyone was offended by your clothing. If you want to distance yourself from racist connotations, I’d be more than happy to buy you a new t-shirt.

Yours in Monarch Pride,
Casey Hicks, salutatorian, Class of ’04
(All opinions are my own, and I have no connection to the school beyond my diploma)

P.S. – The flag you celebrate was banned at John Marshall at one point in time. I’m not sure if the policy still stands, but when singing about where you’re from, that’s a valuable bit of information.
P.P.S. – You should listen to more rap/rock. Even Limp Bizkit could balance singing and rapping better than your tune does, and that’s just sad.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire…

I had a Bad Day on Tuesday. You know the sort: when you’re pushed to the outer edges of your sanity by work, irritated by certain personalities, screwed over by the volatile randomness of the universe, and forced to make a difficult choice: pizza, wine, or both to emotionally drown your sorrow? (For what it’s worth, I chose pizza.) Wednesday was meant to be different, with its calmer nature, nighttime formula sinus medication, and West Wing marathon. Then I heard my roommate.

“Casey, I don’t want to worry you, but I think part of the building’s on fire.”

Even with my sinus situation, one sniff was all it took for me to confirm that the smoky scent I picked up was not coming from my overworked, cheap space heater that resented still being cranked up high in April. I did not have time to finish my episode of The West Wing; I had to get ready to evacuate. I changed from bedtime shorts to yoga pants, as though having my ankles cold would be that much better than having my shins chilly as well. I mentally high-fived myself for having resisted the urge to take my bra off before 10:30.

Then I packed. Okay, I threw my laptop and phone into my purse, and that’s it. Looking around my tiny lofted room, I saw precious little that meant a lot to me. Sure, I’d be upset if I lost all of my clothes, books, CDs, and mementos, but let’s face it, they are things. I took my means of communicating with the outside world and nothing more. (This is a lie. I grabbed my Kindle, but it was plugged into my computer already since it was charging, so it just kind of happened, okay?)

My roommates scrambled to pack up their cats in the meantime. Five of them, to be precise. In four carriers. Our sixth cat, Cinderella, resident eater of souls and vicious old crone, will gouge out the corneas of anyone who dares to spell the word “carrier,” so we left her upstairs until we figured out why there was smoke billowing past our window.

Then the power went out.

We formed a pathetic, shuffling parade of sad people with sadder cats and moved into the hall. (I bitterly noted that the hall had electricity still.) There, a neighbor told us that a section of the roof was on fire. There were no evacuations happening, and the firefighters were letting residents come and go as they pleased. It was roughly freezing outside, so we decided not to stand out on the street with our brood, being silently judged for having four cats even though we actually have six and thus deserve more scorn. Back into the apartment we went with our unhappy pets to wait. And wait. And wait.

At quarter til midnight, I decided to risk my iPhone battery to use my flashlight app and pack a bag to go to my sister’s. I don’t need power through the night, but the possibility of a cold morning shower in the dark was not tempting to me. I would do the walk of shame with my bare ankles to my sister’s place if it meant getting off to work with marginally less greasy hair. As soon as I walked downstairs with my backpack (change of clothes, phone charger, and that’s it), the power was restored. Hipsters cheered on the firefighters in the streets, and then they were gone. I reassured the Internet that I survived, then gave in to the smothering embrace of the PM sinus medicine.

My kitten woke me up at 6 to fetch. That bitch.

Marriage equality: why you should be for it.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing oral arguments on California banning gay marriage. Tomorrow, they will consider the Defense of Marriage Act. I’m a big supporter of gay rights, or what I like to think of as common sense. Why? Because people are people, and love is love. If you consider yourself too “traditional” to support gay marriage, you should look over these ten handy reasons why you should reconsider your stance. If you’re still not convinced, well, then I feel genuinely sorry for you.

1. No one will force you to get gay married. The really awesome thing about gay marriage is that if you’re not gay, it won’t affect you. Nobody will suddenly assume you’re gay. Nobody will propose to you and pressure you into an unsuitable gay marriage. It takes absolutely nothing away from you except maybe availability at your marriage venue of choice.

2. You can’t justify your stance through the Bible. Right, that whole not lying with man as with woman thing? It’s bullshit. Sorry for referring to your sacred text that way, but if you’re going to enforce this bit, you have to go with the whole thing. So you can’t eat certain foods (ham is out, but locusts are in!), get tattoos, shave your beard, gossip, have pre-marital sex, or curse (oops, guilty already). Sure, you can get stoned for a great many things, but one is being a disrespectful child. And don’t even get me started on the laws involved when ladies have that time of the month. Oh, and don’t forget the salt in your sacrifice to God. God really hates it when you forget the salt.

3. It’s not contagious. Why is this so difficult to comprehend? People act like this is opening the way to bestiality. No, animals cannot consent. Likewise, it is not opening the door to pedophilia. Children cannot consent. There are laws on both counts. Why won’t it lead to child brides and grooms? Well, let’s look at our legal system. We have juvenile courts for juvenile offenders, whose  minds may not yet be fully developed. Yes, sometimes they’re tried as adults; some children get married with parental consent. If you’re really so scared for the kids, maybe parent them rather than grown adults who are in love. Also, I live with two lesbians (engaged, by the way) and a gay man, and I am a-okay with that. So are they.

4. It doesn’t “hurt children” or “destroy families.” If you’re a parent, chances are your children will see non-straight people at some time in their lives. This is not a traumatic experience. If they ask you how that couple will get a baby, your life is not over. I’ll admit that I come from a very rural, white area, and when I first saw an African-American man as a child, I was stunned (or so my mom tells me). He was very kind about it, and you know what? I love diversity. He was born that way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s a human, just like me. Which brings me to my next point.

5. Sexuality is probably not a choice, and even if it were, why would it be the wrong choice? Personally, I’m of the opinion that sexuality mostly comes from how you’re wired, but the truth is that it really doesn’t matter if it is a choice. For many, it’s about dating, falling in love, having a family. If I met a woman and fell in love with her, I really wouldn’t give a damn what other people thought about that (unless she were a bitch, in which case I’d hope my friends would tell me just as much as they’d judge a really bad dude).

6. Heterosexuals have done a damn fine job destroying the so-called sanctity of marriage on their own. We’re at the point that most marriages end in divorce anyway. How is this the “defense of marriage” by making it about one man and one woman? Because they can biologically have kids? Then the Defense of Marriage Act should ban divorce, separation, and you know what else? Death. It’s very selfish when parents go and die. It should be illegal. It keeps the children from growing up with two parents. That’s not okay.

7. More marriages will boost the economy. Because ridiculous laws and rules often ban same-sex couples from adopting, getting married, or just having equal rights no matter how long they’ve been together, same-sex couples tend to have disposable income that their heterosexual counterparts do not. I’ve read research in the past (sorry, no link) that says this is particularly true of gay men since there’s no glass ceiling in the way. Regardless, these people want to get married. They want you to take their money. TAKE THEIR MONEY.

8. If you don’t like people making a big deal about being gay, shut up about your straight life. Stop putting the “sex” in sexuality. Straight people are so obsessed with their romantic lives that it’s not surprising if maybe people with other orientations want to be open too. I’m perpetually single, and let me tell you, people in relationships? You never shut up about it. Ever. Maybe once they have the same rights as you, LGBQT people will realize how obnoxious you’ve been all along. But they deserve to be obnoxious too.

9. If you think gays are “gross,” turn on some reality television. I’ve had friends say that they like gay people but don’t like to imagine them having sex. That’s fine, as long as you acknowledge that you don’t want to see some straight people having sex too. Two dudes or two ladies going at it may not be your thing, but likewise, Honey Boo Boo’s mom has had plenty of kids, which means she’s had plenty of sex. Bless her for enjoying it and having found someone who loves her the way she is, and I’m all for her confidence, but I’d rather be waterboarded than watch a sex tape of her. See, it goes two ways. Also, straight people can have sex in as many weird and potentially fucked up ways as same-sex couples. Fifty Shades of Grey shows that “the straights” can have very gross sex as well, so your taste is really a moot point.

10. You sound like a fucking idiot if you oppose it. Go on. Come up with one good reason to oppose gay marriage that doesn’t make you sound like a crazy foaming at the mouth. I bet you can’t. “Civil unions!” Create second-class citizens, I retort. “It’s not natural!” Tell that to my flamingly gay dog Turk, I say. “They don’t HAVE to get married!” Neither do you, but you have that right.
People are people. Adults deserve the right to marry someone they love. We have no business separating our citizens into what’s “normal” and what’s “other.” Support equality and love. You know, or else you look like an asshole.

In Defense of Taylor Swift

Disclaimer: If the only thing you enjoy more than mocking Taylor Swift is being right, do not read this post. It will only compel you to a) attempt to correct me, b) go into a homicidal rage, or c) have a medical condition flare up to such severe results that were you to survive, you would sue the shit out of me. If you are one of these people, I genuinely do not give a fuck about your opinions other than the fact that you are giving me repetitive motion injury from rolling my eyes at your holier than thou attitude.

At last, it has come to this. I have had this idea kicking around in my head for weeks, talking myself down from blogging because I do not want to be That Person. But I’ve done some soul searching. I’ve chewed my nails over it. I’ve visited Tumblr for some distraction only to see the same tedious shit reblogged again and again, and I’ve discovered that yes, I am That Person. So here we are. This is my Chris Crocker moment. LEAVE TAYLOR SWIFT ALONE.

There are a lot of reasons to dislike female celebrities. In the case of someone like Ms. Swift for instance, you might argue that hearing her over the speaker at Duane Reade/Walgreens and running into an aisle of her merchandise when you really just need to get some tampons like right now is the pinnacle of overexposure. (To this, I merely whisper, “Beyonce,” drop my microphone, and vanish from the Internet.) Maybe you don’t like her music because you’re just not into that countryish/young girl/pop kind of thing. That’s totally valid, unless you hate all female singers because it’s just how you are, in which case what you are is an asshole. Maybe you don’t know who she is, but you can’t check her out now because she’s already exposed, so the hipster in you just has to rebel against what is popular. (If this is the case, just get your kumbacha and leave.) But this is the point I am trying to make: if you dislike a celebrity, 99% of the time, it should be due to that person’s WORK, not their personal life. Here are the most popular reasons I have seen for disliking Taylor Swift, followed by my rebuttals.

All she ever does is write about her love life!

Wow, that’s incredible! No other musician has ever thought about writing about the trials and tribulations of love ever, and no wonder since it’s obnoxious! Except, oh wait, pretty much everyone does it. You don’t really hear this argument about male musicians, so it is a bit sexist. My favorite band is Snow Patrol, and I’ll be the first to admit that a solid 90% of their songs are about Gary Lightbody’s former relationships. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, a quick Google tells me that The Beatles, arguably the biggest band of all time, used the word “love” 613 times in their music. Next?

But she writes about her relationships! And she has so many of them! It’s slutty but her image isn’t slutty so she’s just really, really fake!

Okay, since when does someone’s musical talent hinge upon the number of notches in their belt? It’s gotten to the point where she can just make eye contact with a man and supposedly be head over heels in love with them according to the press. She’s had a lot of public romances, but that happens when you get famous young and are constantly stalked by the press. These things also flame out quickly for who knows what reasons (said stalking, busy schedules, the relationship fizzling out because God knows why). She’s been under the glaring eye of public scrutiny since she was a teenager, and she’s still very young now. How would she have much else to write about? Also, it’s not like she names names most of the time (and if you take issue with “Dear John” calling out the human slime that is John Mayer, we have a problem, friend). I’ve seen the same newspaper (hint: it rhymes with Daily Fail) claim “I Knew You Were Trouble” is about John Mayer and then Harry Styles, no question, just fact. Duh. Plus are we seriously slut-shaming someone for dating?

Also, she has pretty bad taste. Stop applauding Harry Styles for being classy about their breakup and read up on how he broke up a marriage. No offense to the guy, he has a sense of humor about himself, but being younger doesn’t mean he’s squeaky clean.

Whatever. When you come to your senses, she’ll write a song dissing you too. But she’s still really fake.

I really don’t get this “fake” argument that we unleash on things we don’t like. There’s a huge layer of artifice involved when a celebrity tries to present his or her life for an audience. You become your own brand. I’m going to try to comprehend this though. She’s fake because she acts surprised to win awards? Because she keeps her image pretty tame? Because she talks about hunting for antiques rather than getting stoned? Okay. Pretty much everyone pretends to be surprised to win an award. I’d rather read about antiques than see another pop star getting her tits out, and how the hell does Rihanna not get arrested when there is so much evidence that she’s smoking pot pretty much all the time? We live in a weird society now where it seems we can only like one sort of female pop star, and we have to tear the rest down. Most of the people I know who insult Taylor Swift as “fake” are huge fans of Beyonce. I could explain the irony here, but I’ll just let it stand for itself. At least Taylor Swift doesn’t make up the majority of her writing credits.

I don’t like her face. She’s squinty.

Oh my God, shut up.

I could go on, but I’ve exhausted my brain trying to think of where the hate comes from. You know who’s talking about Taylor Swift all the time? You ,the people who hate her. So get over it and hate on Syria or something, because you’re petty as hell.

Fanifesto: 10 Ways to Fill the Gap Between Concerts.

Traditionally, the winter months aren’t known for their concerts. Travel across some countries is difficult at best when you’re hauling equipment, people hate standing outside in line in the bitter cold, and musicians sometimes go crazy and want to spend time with their families or creating new material. What bullshit, right? Well, you don’t have to go through the agony alone. Here are ten suggestions for beating the SAD (seasonal affected disorder) feels (feelings).

1. Relive the magic through denial. Turn out the lights and put on a DVD or a really nice quality YouTube video if you can manage it. If you only have audio available, try standing in another room so you can tell yourself that your view’s just obscured. It’s just like the real thing but without the late asshole trying to squeeze in front of you.

2. Write fan fiction. If those artists won’t come to you, then you’ll just have to make them. You know, through the written word. The find and replace option on word processing software means that you can even publish your work if the quality’s great enough without having to worry about being sued. Even if it’s really terrible quality, just throw in a lot of sex and it’ll sell. I mean, look at 50 Shades of Grey. (Please don’t really look at it. That’s just a saying.)

3. Binge watch television shows. Chances are your favorite artists have been played as soundtrack music on a show before. If House has one episode with a great musical moment, then chances are that there must be one other episode that has a similar high, right? The only way to find out is to watch every. Single. Episode.

4. Edit your old photos. Sure, you uploaded 200 photos to Facebook as soon as you got home from the gig, but did you consider applying a filter? Crop out everyone else’s hands as they reach for your man! (Stupid sluts.) There must be a way to improve things.

5. Stand outside for five hours with minimal supplies. You don’t want to be off your game just because nobody great is touring. Having nobody to hold your spot in the imaginary line will just make you that much more hardcore. If you need motivation, camp out in front of a store and wait for it to open. May I suggest a local record store?

6. Jump up and down and scream. For hours. Look, the worst feeling in the world is going to a gig and having your legs defy the magical dance party going on within your ears. Keep those legs and lungs fighting fit! You might also want to throw some elbows in case you expect someone to be pushy at your next show.

7. Check out local artists. Of course they’re not going to be as great as what you’re used to, as you tell yourself in your biased mind, but you might be able to brag in a few years about how you saw them for the cost of the beer you drank. You can also convert their fans to your superior obsessions!

8. Set up a fan page. I mean, who cares if everyone’s seen the same photos over and over again? On Tumblr, all you have to do is embed it and then post. Watch it get reblogged without citation! Also, it’s totally cool to steal photos and then put them on Facebook unsourced. You look like the hero and don’t have to share the credit. Watch them bow down to you, and try to ignore how much they want your future husband since you already know what your future looks like. Be sure to tell them about it!

9. Use all the money you’re saving and apply it to something else. You could pay off your credit card debt, but that’s boring. Why don’t you buy the same instruments your favorite artists use, then learn how to play their songs? Someone could get injured at some point. They might need you. You wouldn’t let them down, would you? This could delay touring further.

10. Make some new friends. Haha, no. They don’t get it.