The Strangeness

My poor husband must put up  with my strangeness.
My poor husband must put up with my strangeness.

I am awkward as f*ck. I know I am. This is not the part where I apologize for it. This also isn’t the part where I thank people for “putting up with me.” I am not that person.

I tend to embrace what makes me strange and use it to my advantage. That shit works for me. But sometimes, my awkward self comes out at the most inconvenient times. Like, for example, when someone I used to know pops into the shop I manage.

I see someone I recognize and go into panic mode. I force an uncomfortable amount of customer service and small talk into a whole new level of cringe. I never know when to just walk away. I ask stupid, outdated questions about kids who don’t talk to you anymore and animals who passed last year. I basically feel like a total BOOB.

So, to the old friend who didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she went looking for wooden rings honed from ancient elder trees fed only with fairy dust and unicorn piss, I won’t be apologizing for my awkwardness anytime soon, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing you anytime soon either.

Sorry about your 3-toed sloth.

xo Rach

The F-Bomb: A Rant

I am exhausted. I’m  tired of trying to please everyone in my life. At the end of the day, no one is happy, me least of all. You see, I enjoy an alternative lifestyle. I won’t  give you too many details, but I will say I not only enjoy my life, I embrace it. I belong to  it. I couldn’t imagine a boring leave-it-to-beaver life, lacking my awesome strange friends, our booze, smoke, and laughter filled nights, or our existential conversations at 4 in the morning.
I couldn’t imagine not cussing! That might sound stupid, but FUCK is a very important word in my vocabulary. It can be an adjective,  a noun, a verb. It expresses a wide range of emotions. Honestly, I don’t know how some people live without ever dropping an F-bomb. I don’t  think I’d be the same person without a few expletives sprinkled in.
The fact is, I like being crass. I like being a little bit raunchy, even controversial. Not only is it a great way to get people to listen, it’s  comfortable to me. Like a brand new pair of leggings, cussing just feels right. But, like leggings, my language and my message is going to piss people off sometimes. I can cry about it and eat junk food, like I did this morning, or I can let it fuel me and write about it. And still probably eat junk food.
I realized something, since I started writing this post.  I am going to piss people off. I am going to have more people disagree with me as more people read this blog. And that’s ok! The is America and you have every right that I have.  So disagree with me! Throw me a comment, lets start a discussion about it. I love debating, especially with intelligent and educated people.  But if you come here to spout hate, and to try and shoot me down,  keep on moving. I am shining too bright for anyone to put out my light.

Wander-ful Writing: Journal Entry from a Self-Proclaimed Hippie

hippie

I always thought of myself as a romantic. A hippie, a free spirit, a bohemian, a wandering soul. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I always pictured my husband and me going on grand adventures, sleeping on the beach and going where the wind blows. The situation we’re in… The couch-hopping, tote-bearing, no-home-having life we currently have… is not what I pictured when I said we were hippies. Every time I daydreamed though I forgot to add the part where we don’t know where we’re sleeping every night, when our next meal is, or who is going to be offended if I ask to take a shower. How many of our friends think we’re big moochers, despite the numbers of times they crashed at our apartment, when it was ours.

Granted, we do have a “home base,” a place to keep our bed and our clothes and our kitty cats. We count ourselves very lucky to have that single thread of stability in this storm. It’s bittersweet, though. It’s not home. It’s not walking around in our underwear playing Tool and smoking cigs at noon. It’s not dragging the mattress out into the living room, eating nachos, and watching Harry Potter for three days straight. We lost so many silly things that really defined our lives. In the strangest way, though, it seems this defines us, too. The struggle is really real. We are the wandering souls. Not just physically, but literally. Allen and I would not let the patriarchy chew us up and spit out what we were supposed to be. We bucked against the system and now is the hard part. We must figure out a way to create our own living. To sustain our selves, without selling our souls.

Last night I was cynical. I was complaining and whining about how miserable I was. This morning I woke up with a cleaning gig on my phone (one of the many ways I make money), I got cat food, smokes, and donuts at the corner store. Allen made coffee. The fact that this morning we all share a tiny bedroom with nickelodeon slime green walls doesn’t seem quite so depressing this morning. This may be a setback, but life’s not over. We’ve seen worse, and we’ve always made it out on top.

There are many beautiful opportunities on our horizon. I think what we’re waiting for is the courage to reach out and take them.

Activism, In Small Doses

After my first WGS class, and well into my second, I began carried around a terrible weight on my shoulders. It took me a while to realize, I was carrying the weight of the world. Every Women’s Issue, every issue involving race and class, every story about the terrible things going on internationally, they were all weighing on me in a very personal way. Here I am, white, middle class, attending college. I had all this privilege and it seemed I had to use it. Every time I heard a news report about human trafficking, world hunger, or women’s rights I felt the need to immediately take up arms and… what? It was infuriating to see the monstrosities going on and be so newly educated on the why’s, the how’s, the politics and the patriarchy, and yet feel helpless.

I was a determined driver, left without a vehicle. This was really hard for me. I went through a period of time where I was ready to give up on WGS and find something easier, like history: you can’t change it. WGS focuses on the present, and the future, a lot, and they are so malleable, it was terrifying. I didn’t feel like I, someone who can barely keep her own shit together, could make any difference in the big scheme of things. The women who I admire and am inspired by seemed like muses, not completely human, or legends, not completely real. Gloria Steinem seemed more like a hero than an activist. Maybe, though, are they one and the same?

My trip to the Oakton Community College Women’s Conference opened my eyes to the vast and welcoming community of WGS scholars. I found that presenting, listening, and having meaningful conversations at conferences like this was a great way to be introduced to what activism could be like. A group of people discussing change, exchanging ideas, and networking is often how a movement is started. It seemed much more obtainable to discuss small matters of change, than marching to Washington or staging a rally. Additionally, I had so much new information to take home with me, and that has been invaluable as I have completed research papers, started new policies at school, and started this blog.

Even with all this new information, at first I was lost at what to do with it. I was in my last semester before graduating and getting my Associate’s degree, and I allowed the stuff that wasn’t homework and studying to fall to the wayside. Up until mid-April I didn’t think much about activism at all. Then, I got a letter in the mail from my college. It congratulated me on my upcoming graduation and reminded me that in order to walk at the ceremony I would have to purchase a cap and gown, a roughly seventy dollar purchase. I immediately felt the tears well up in my eyes, not only from sadness, but from anger, too. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford this. My husband and I have been struggling to stay afloat ever since I dropped to part-time work in order to finish school. Seventy dollars was an electric bill, gas for a week or better, the new tire we desperately needed. I felt cheated or tricked, like I had worked so hard to graduate, with Honors, on the Dean’s List, and on time, and it wasn’t good enough to get to walk across the stage. Instead, I would get an unassuming envelope a month after school is over, no bells, no whistles, and no applause.

And I am not ashamed to admit, I like applause. I like being celebrated. I’m pretty freaking awesome, in my opinion.

Then I started thinking about other students from my community college. Many of them had gotten their GED, and this would be their first graduation ceremony. Others would go straight into the work force, and this would be their last graduation ceremony. Many were single parents, some were even single grandparents. Every person who I sat next to in class, every student who stayed at the library from open to close, every student who had to bum rides and take the bus, they all deserve to walk across the stage. They all deserve to celebrate, get an applause, and shake the Dean’s hand. When all of these thoughts came to me, it gave me the funniest taste in the back of my mouth. Bitter and salty, it was the taste of a call to action. I knew I had to do something.

I wrote a heartfelt letter to the Dean of Students. I explained the dilemma that caps and gowns caused many of our students. I proposed a plan. I called it Pass Down the Gown. The premise was simple, after graduation, those who chose to could donate their gown and next year students in need could simply pick one up. I outlined my own personal connection to the problem, but explained the bigger picture. The cap and gown provided confidence, recognizing one’s achievements helped them achieve more and more! It was a disservice to our students to allow financial problems to get in the way of celebrating a milestone. I nervously delivered the letter, by hand, to our Dean of Students and waited nervously for her to call. Honestly, I didn’t expect a busy and important person in a higher faculty position at my school to take any notice in the rantings of some broke college student.

I was wrong. Doctor Smith called me the next day! I was overjoyed (and still nervous.) She told me my idea was the best she’d heard all year! She gave me some recommendations on how to proceed, and pretty much gave me the reins. She even mentioned it the Board of Graduation that morning and many didn’t even realize this was an issue. She said many of them said it sounded like a great idea. I was thrilled, over the moon, and felt so empowered. I immediately began writing ideas and expanding my simple idea into a huge charity event, complete with photoshoots and balloon animals. The next morning I brought it all to my professor and good friend, who I met twice a week for an independent study class. I laid out my plan, admitting it had grown a bit since we last talked. This class taught me much, enough to fill an entire blog post of its own. One of these was this: In order to succeed, you must start small. You must remind yourself to think of the simplest way to complete this project, and then you do that. If that succeeds (or if it doesn’t), you take the good parts, you toss the rest, and you try again, incorporating some of those other ideas. Thankfully, I was convinced to keep it simple for the first Pass Down the Gown, too.

I passed out flyers in the “Gowning Room” for a while, but I don’t think people liked the idea of giving it up so soon; they hadn’t even walked yet! I explained that I was collecting after the ceremony, but still… So I just sat the flyers on a busy table and mingled with different groups I knew. I spoke about it casually (as “casual” as I get…) and mentioned getting together after the ceremony.

Before too long it was time to graduate. It was a surprisingly sweet and heartfelt ceremony, but maybe I was a bit nostalgic. I walked across the stage and heard my name called, and my hubby and friends whooping, I think. It was over in, like, thirty seconds. But I’m glad I did it.

After the ceremony I headed straight to the “De-Gowning Area”, thinking I would get them as they came off, but it turns out, people really like to wear them for a while. I didn’t take into consideration that many people would want to go out to eat, show it off a little bit. I even went down to the lobby and front steps outside, thinking I may get someone after they’ve taken pictures, but no luck. In the end I didn’t get a single gown. I was beyond disappointed, but between my husband and friends, and my favorite professor, I plucked up, and began to plot my new strategy…

A Feminist and Her First Conference

This year has been full of so many great opportunities for me, but one of the most important, life-altering events was my trip to the Oakton Community College Women’s Conference. The theme was “Who’s Afraid of Feminism?” and on the car ride there, I admit I was a little afraid. I, along with three other WGS students had been invited to present a panel at the conference. A panel is a group of like-minded individuals with a common theme in their research. We had all done papers about how film effected and influenced the behaviors of children and adolescents. At a conference, a panel talks about their different research, how it is applicable to the theme of the conference, and usually there is a Q and A session afterwards. I hadn’t really done a lot of public speaking as an adult, and I felt like the small parts in high school plays I had fumbled my way through were in no way preparation for the cool, academic crowd of feminists I was expecting. The only thing that distracted me from the cacophony of doubt in my head was the great conversation only road trips can foster.

From Louisville to Chicago is 5 long hours of driving. Before we got in the car three of the four riders were pretty much strangers. Our only common thread was my professor, the one who had convinced us all to write these papers and submit an application to the panel. She’s also the one who got me interested in WGS in the first place, and the one who told me to start a blog. So I guess you could say I trust her opinion pretty well at this point. She was as smart as ever to put the three of us together, we hit it off instantly! The conversation flowed generously and the ride flew by. It was a new experience for me to be surrounded by people I could talk about these things with, and I was thrilled! Starting with the conversations that we had in that car ride, I began to shape a new vision for what my life could include. A community of people who understood when I rolled my eyes at pop songs and didn’t laugh at sexist jokes. People who also picked apart popular movies, analyzing and loathing the stereotypes and tropes within them. I could also talk about the guilt I felt for loving these movies, and found I wasn’t the only one! That car ride was the beginning of an eye opening and mind blowing experience.

The bonds forged on that car ride made it easier to maneuver the landscape of the conference. Even for a community college conference, the crowd was pretty big. It started early, with breakfast and coffee, and a keynote speaker. Anita Sarkeesian gave an informative and entertaining presentation about the controversies of “Glitter Science.” I’m not super interested in the STEM subjects, but hearing her talk about them was really neat. I could feel her passion, as well as everyone else’s in the room. There was a lively Q and A afterwards. Next, we broke into groups. At a conference, there are usually several panels going on at one time and you visit the one you’re interested in.

One of my newfound friends and I were really interested in a panel on Feminism and Religion. There were five women on the panel, a Mormon, a Jewish woman, a Zen Buddhist, a catholic, and a Muslim woman.  Hearing how they found peace within their religions while also maintaining feminist beliefs was empowering and inspiring. I also learned a lot about religions I’d never considered studying and was pleasantly surprised at what I learned about Catholicism, the religion I grew up in. After the first panel we broke for lunch with entertainment. The Zen Buddhist from the religion panel was also a traditional hula dancer. She danced and played tradition Hawaiian drums and told a story about a volcano and a beautiful woman. I may sound corny here, but it was downright magical.

After Lunch was our panel, and I was terrified. My research paper was based on Mean Girls, the movie we all know and love. I analyzed the behaviors of the Plastics, and made some inferences about how I believed they were reflected in the negative way teenage girls treat each other. I loved researching and writing this paper, and I still love Mean Girls, but I was not ready to share this with the world. Then the microphone was passed to me, and I raised my eyes to the fifty or so in the audience, and I saw friendly faces. These people were here to hear what I had to say, and that was exciting. I began reading, too quickly at first, but I soon regained my composure. After I was done, a feeling of relief and self-confidence surged through me, and I was proud. It was then I knew, I wanted to do this again and again. I wanted to be a part of this community. I wanted to be an activist.

The day continued on, no one around me realized that everything had changed. I saw another panel, about how girls navigate the online community, specifically gamers, without being completely smothered by the patriarchy of the uglier part of the internet. After the panels were over, we all met up and traded cool stories from the panels we’d visited separately. The four students, me included, and our professor, (mentor, and friend), all went to downtown Chicago and did some exploring. I’d never been before and I loved the city. It was so big, so full of life, so bursting with eclectic smells and colors and sights and sounds. The brief glimpse I got of the sprawling city made me promise to come back for more.

We stopped for dinner, agreeing that we’d like to try something new, since this was an excursion in trying new things. We found a quaint Ethiopian place covered in traditional Ethiopian art and bursting with spicy and exotic smells. We were all in awe and couldn’t help but crane our heads to see every wall in the establishment. The waitress helped us with ordering, unbeknownst to me, Ethiopian food is brought in big platters and shared by everyone at the table. You use a soft, spongey, sourdough type bread to scoop different types of stew with your fingers and escort them to your mouth. It’s an experience that not only excited your taste buds, but also provides good laughs, as we all tried to gracefully eat with our hands. The different stews were delicious, made with lots of curry and spice, sometimes based with chickpeas or potatoes.

The meal provided good fuel for a nice ride home, we continued talking, but much more subdued with full bellies. I arrived home so late it was early and passed out before washing my face. I was exhausted by the onslaught of new information, the countless names and faces and shaken hands. Despite all that, though, I went to sleep smiling.

The Magical Mystery Shirt (and the joy of being a daughter.)

According to Blogging University, the next post I write should be the post that made me want to start a blog in the first place. I’ll be honest with you, reader, it all started with a shirt. You see, last weekend we had a yard sale. There are many positive factors in having a yard sale. You make money, you get rid of junk, but the best part, for me, is it’s a family affair. Every year either Mom or one of her sisters hosts a yard sale and we all get a part of yard to lay out our stuff. By “we all” I mean my cousins, aunts, sisters, and me. I grew up in one of those stereotypical Kentucky families you may have seen on a bad TV movie. We were all raised Roman Catholic, Mimi had five children, and three of them had three. My generation seems to like a minimum of three so far, too. We just love big families, and a yard sale is just an excuse for us to sit around and gossip and pick through each other’s junk.

That is how the shirt came into my possession. Mom was studiously hanging the nicer clothes line while I was laying out some old dinnerware with orange mushrooms painted in the cups. I could hear Mom’s loud, audible in-take of breath. Like she had seen a giant spider, or twisted her arm the wrong way, or found an a hundred dollar bill in the pocket. She makes that noise a lot. So, obviously, I freak out, “What! What?!” And she holds up the shirt, with a smug, all-knowing smile.

“Go try this on.” Was all she said, and knowing my mother well enough, I didn’t see any reason to argue.

I mean, it was obvious I was going to hate this shirt. From the hanger it glared at me with disgust. The fabric in the front was short enough to show inches of midriff, with black fringe comprising the rest of the length, with the back fabric being normal length. I never, EVER show my belly, not even in the summer, not even in a swimsuit. The neck was huge, scooping, and flowy, with wide short sleeves. It would show my bra straps and annoy me. And the pattern! It was about to be summer and this was drab, dark, and too maroon for my taste. But I tried it on, for Mom. I had dark jean shorts on.

This shirt, if you haven’t figured out yet, is magical. I fell in love as soon as I looked in the mirror, and swore to buy more items with fringe in general. The fringe flatters my middle area more than I ever thought possible, and the sleeves and neckline shows off my wicked tattoos. The red tones of the pattern, it turns out, compliment my complexion and the pattern, once I looked at it closer, is very bohemian meets gothic, which I love. I ran back outside to show my mom the shirt she so spot-on picked out. And she turned her nose up. “That shirt shows way too much midriff.”

It just goes to show you, you can never judge a shirt on the rack.