Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Someone out there is trying to tell us the press is our enemy. He’s been spreading lies about how they’re our greatest threat and how we must defend ourselves against these horrendous, conniving nerds with notepads and laptops. This person has clearly lived a life of privilege, because there are a whole bunch of things I’m way more afraid of than the New York Times.

Here’s a short list:

  1. long lines
  2. peeling potatoes
  3. tight pants and buffets
  4. commercials where babies talk
  5. trying to close a pocket knife
  6. earwigs
  7. leaning on a railing
  8. over-plucking my eyebrows
  9. making uncomfortable small talk
  10. invisible mold

I could keep going, but I’ve worked myself into a frenzy of fear just thinking about this list. I’m going to go read a trustworthy news site to calm myself. I suggest you do the same.

Livin’ the Panda Life

I’ve been watching a lot of baby panda videos. They’re ridiculous and adorable. I’m just ridiculous, but I do think we still have plenty in common. Here’s are just a few ways we’re alike:

1. I make sure to stay a little squishy to prevent serious harm from my many accidents.
2. I tend to walk around without looking where I’m going.
3. I’m annoyingly persistent.
4. I wear a lot of black and white.
5. I eat mostly green things.
6. Sometimes I fall down and it takes me an unusually long amount of time to get back up.
7. I like to sit around all day and look at stuff.

So I’m pretty much a giant panda, and I’m now in the market for a team of caretakers who will throw apples at my face and carry me around. Generous benefit package if you’re into chopping down bamboo and having someone cling to your leg all day.

Walk > Talk

I know most of us don’t want to listen to our current president’s statements. I don’t click on the videos that pop up on my feed because his voice makes me cringe. I’m not accustomed to finding any space in my life for people that serve only to make it worse. Plus, when I hear one of his interviews, a tiny tornado starts to whirl inside me. After that, I can’t be responsible for what happens. Tornados are hard to control.

To keep from going into a wild fury or collapsing into a little heap on the floor, I avoid it entirely. It’s not the most socially or politically responsible act, but it’s the arrangement I’ve made for myself right now.

The bright side of this disaster is that terrible people make great examples for what not to do in life. Today’s lesson: what you say means nothing if you do the opposite. For example, side-stepping into a near-repudiation of recent hate crimes means even less when you’re being coached by the founder of a media group that spreads and supports hate, misogyny, and neo-Nazi politics.

The need for an actual, substantial response against these crimes is real and urgent. Anti-Semitism has been on the rise in the United States. Or, at least, outright and reported acts of hate and violence have been on the rise. Incidents on college campuses nearly doubled in 2015, hate-mongers and neo-Nazis have found strongholds online and are stepping out from behind their computer screens, and there have been 69 bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers in the past two months.

This isn’t a new problem. Hating Jews is old hat. They keep on coming and we keep on surviving. And then celebrating that survival by eating a lot of carbs. It’s not a perfect cycle, but it’s got us where we are today. Today, though, is turning out to be not so great. What had been forced to quiet down for a bit is screaming again, and it’s making those of us getting yelled at a little comfortable. In times like this, it’s nice to have a leader who says, “Lock it up, haters. Chill out on the conspiracy theories and calls for mass murder.”

We don’t have that, but he did once utter that anti-Semitism is horrible, so let’s—for just a moment—pretend our fearful leader is consistently saying those things. It would still mean pretty much nothing. If you tell me you’re a vegetarian while chomping down on a cheeseburger, I won’t believe you. If you say you can read Mandarin, but you won’t translate anything for me, I’m going to be skeptical. And if you tell me you condemn hate and violence while bolstering and endorsing people who promote hate and violence, I won’t believe you either.

Basically, talk is cheap. Cheap like a bad toupee or a gold-plated toilet seat.

 

Subtle Ways to Spit in the Face of the Patriarchy

It’s important to make bold moves in the battle against inequality, but we can’t always run full-speed ahead into the front lines. Wrestling with deeply ingrained ignorance and misogyny can be exhausting. I mean, sometimes just getting out of bed and putting on pants is exhausting. We need to take a moment every once in a while to rest up for the next drive.

Unfortunately, the patriarchy doesn’t take breaks. It’s fed by the confidence of mediocre men, so there’s no shortage of fuel. To stay vigilant, we have to find ways to keep it in check even when we feel drained. As a public service, I’ve started a list of easy acts we can take to fight the man. No battle gear required. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Keep talking when you get interrupted.
  2. Order the pasta on a first date and actually finish it.
  3. Pull a Hillary and ditch the make-up.
  4. Don’t move out of the way when a man walks into you on the sidewalk.
  5. Politely ask a man to close his legs on the train.
  6. Stop being embarrassed when someone sees your very unshaven legs.
  7. Wear flat shoes to fancy events.
  8. Rename your virtual assistant, so it answers to Alfred instead of Alexa.
  9. Learn the names of five female scientists and tell people about them.
  10. Give a woman you love a compliment that has nothing to do with the way she looks.

Too Real

Last night my favorite zombie-related program came back. And oh was it great. My Walking Dead friends finally came together to start their journey against evil. It felt really appropriate for this moment in all our lives.

The group had been separated, both physically and emotionally, by some serious trauma. Things have not been good. A really terrible leader took over the land by intimidating a communities and making them think he was their only option for survival. Also by killing a bunch of people weaker than him. He’s putting everyone the group cares about at risk and destroying the relative progress they were achieving. It’s been a disaster and it felt kinda hopeless for awhile. Also maybe a little like real life. Or a lot like real life.

But now they’re back together and getting stronger—hopefully strong enough to take down the self-righteous, violence-prone current head honcho. Cause he’s got to go.

The episode was a great reminder that if we connect with the awesome people we love, we can battle evil—and we will probably win. It might get a little gross, what with all the stray rotting arms and legs flying through the air, but it will be worth it. If we look something terrible in the face, if we don’t ignore the horrors, and if we decide to actually do something about it, we can change the course of our lives for the better.

See, parents and teachers, we really can learn everything we need to know about life from TV.

No Thanks

I know there are a lot of important things going on in the world and I swear I will eventually write about one of them, but, for now, all I can think about is people hating on Lady Gaga for having a body.

Now, I’m not going to talk about the fact that Gaga obviously has a rockin’ bod. And awesome peel-off face sparkles. And bejeweled shoulder pads I wish I could wear while walking down the street. It’s clear she has a lot going for her and plenty of reasons to stand proud.

What we do need to talk about is the fact that a bunch of people felt the desire to pull down a talented woman, and they decided the best way to do that would be to insult her body. Because it didn’t look exactly the way they imagined it should look. Because talking about someone’s body is an easy way to keep from talking about things that actually matter. Because deflecting your insecurities onto someone else is a great way to avoid resolving them.

The most important part of this body-shaming isn’t the piece that was directed at Lady Gaga though. It’s the portion of that message that was directed at the rest of us. By insulting Gaga’s body, they’re insulting mine. They’re telling us we’re not good enough and saying we need to cover up a bit of ourselves to keep them from feeling uncomfortable. Well, it’s not our job to make sure these people are comfortable.

I say we respond like Gaga did. She did a badass job, and her music sales went up 1,000%. Then she told everyone that she’s happy with herself and she hopes we are too. So, from now on, when we pass a magazine cover created solely to make us feel bad or we turn on the tv and see a commercial for diet pills or we walk through a grocery aisle lined with low-fat, carb-free, sugar-free “snacks,” let’s turn our backs.

Reject that narrative. Other people’s opinions are not your reality. Someone else’s insecurities don’t need to be your own. Just say no.

Ok, that one is about drugs, but I think the message is the same. Turn your back on what’s trying to pull you down. Don’t get distracted by someone else’s self-doubt. We are powerful and we’ve got things to do.

A Month of Success

I have survived so many things in the last month. It’s been tough. I deserve like twelve medals. Here are just a few of the situations I’ve handled like a boss:

  • Cut open four avocados without hurting myself. That’s a lie. I cut open one and then Dave said, “What are you doing? Give me that.”
  • Stood shoulder to shoulder with over 500,000 people. Me. And all those other people. Together. I didn’t get trampled or kidnapped.
  • Safely exited my train station after some crazy guy with a knife was apprehended by the police. That sounds a little more dramatic than my actual experience, which basically involved getting stuck in the metro tunnel. But that poses it’s own dangers, so I think it warrants a mention.
  • Managed to read the news and keep functioning mostly like an adult.
  • Fell down the stairs at work. Ok, one stair. That’s why I survived.
  • Managed an anxiety-induced heart attack. It might not have been an actual heart attack, but don’t tell my body that. It knows the truth.
  • Escaped a sinking Titanic. Yes, it was a professionally staged event. Yes, I paid for the experience. But there were old-timey clothes and a vintage candlestick phone, so I think it’s possible the rising waters were also real.
  • Got my face drilled into by a madman (or my kind, old dentist—depends who you ask).
  • Ate so many jelly beans that it started to feel like my head was detaching from the rest of my body.

There are probably way more things I could include, but I think the list is still pretty commendable. I’m hoping I can meet the challenges of this next month with the same strength and fortitude.

Technology Is Hard

I’ve been away for a while, working on lots of stuff for my real-life job and a few things for myself. One of those things in the second category is a digital portfolio. It was super challenging, because technology is both a friend and an enemy. On the site, I have an awkward bio, some of the print and digital work I’ve done for National Geographic, and a link back to this blog. I’ve also integrated it into this site, so you can click on the link if you’re interested in seeing some of what I do when I’m not sitting on my couch or exploring the world.

In the process of creating my portfolio, I spoke to a lot of WordPress associates. I talked to eight of them and spent approximately 3,784 hours chatting about how to make this site work for me. Seven of those people were really nice. One of them was very rude and made me feel I was an idiot. For a few seconds, I started to feel bad. Then I remembered that I’m a valuable human being and I don’t need to let a stranger make me feel terrible. I quickly but politely ended that interaction. Luckily, the next person I spoke to was great, which is a lesson for life. Just keep moving until you find the great one.

The biggest problem of the entire process, besides my almost-total lack of comprehension, was Dave’s feelings of neglect. Apparently they’re lasting, because I just mentioned something about building a website and he said, “Psh, you’ll just chat with the WordPress people for seven hours and then say, ‘Oh, Dave, I picked a theme.'” I told him that maybe if he knew more about technology I’d talk to him. Then I threw chocolate chips at his face because that’s how we solve problems in this house.