Get Off My Lawn

I am terribly cranky today.

Yesterday’s pardoning of Scooter Libby was the last straw. The guy committed treason. No punishment the USG could come up with would be good enough. When he outed Valerie Plame, it was damn lucky he didn’t get her killed. Do all intelligence employees under cover have to be afraid of their own employer now? If I was in their position, it would incense me that even people who commit crimes against national security can almost assuredly get away with murder, both literally and figuratively. Not only was Libby’s personal case a red flag, the precedent it sets is even more scary.

It’s probably against the Geneva Convention so this is absolutely a hypothetical situation, but say there was a black op to take out Assad so that citizens wouldn’t be harmed. You could absolutely argue that the ends justify the means, but someone leaks that information to the New York Times or the Washington Post while Special Ops is in country…. not only the op, but the names of the soldiers involved. How long would it take before their heads were on a spike in Damascus? If you said “10 minutes,” I would answer, just like James Comey, that it was nine minutes longer than I expected.

The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is that no one asked me what I thought (that was a joke).

No one asked me what I thought about confirming Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, either. If the confirmation goes through, we’ll have someone in charge of foreign relations that believes in the Bible more than the Constitution. His view of homosexuality is that it is a perversion, and that his belief is not wrong-headed, but a persecution of all Christians. This is not something I want broadcast all over the world, because the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatry Association disagree with that, and have since the 1980s. It is terrifying that only some people’s beliefs have progressed since then because a book that was meant to be a living document, changing over time as we understand more about medicine and science, in their view must remain literal and stagnant. It is generally believed by progressive theologians that the real abomination in the Bible concerning homosexuality was an ancient Canaanite practice of temple prostitution [by both adults and minors], tarnishing a place meant to be holy ground.

As theologian Jim Rigby once said, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, so it cannot be essential to his teaching. Ancient desert people would never have known same sex orientation as an identity. The word homosexual was not even coined until the 1900s. It is an identity because even queer celibate people still consider themselves as such [using queer as a catch-all for the entire community and not as a derogatory term. I’m gay, so I can use it. Straight people can’t get away with it. Sorry.]. It is absolutely the last thing a follower of the Christ should embrace, because Jesus was constantly widening the net of acceptance, something that has been twisted since the New Testament, where Paul condemned homosexuality.

Paul had other beliefs that were equally toxic, like the prohibition of women speaking in church… something mainline Christians have moved past, so why is being gay different? Additionally, if you believe in one Talmudic law, you should believe all of them, so advocate for shutting down the NFL because players are consistently touching pigskin. You have to ask yourself whether someone who has an international platform should be able to hold these untranslated views, because even if you don’t support our community, do you really think it’s wise to bolster countries who still execute people for these “crimes?” Do you believe in ending lives and devastating families? The stakes are higher than you think.

In the United States, it means a disbelief of the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. If I am truly equal to everyone else, I am a citizen who should be protected by the law, not persecuted by it.

Everything gets messy when the law goes from national to personal, because people can wrap their heads around discrimination of a group, but not their own relatives…. where, often, they fall short in making the connection.

There are still some extremists in this country that are every bit as violent toward the queer community as Sharia law, validated by people who don’t believe in internment camps and execution but aren’t vocal in speaking out about it……….

This leads me to believe that were those things to happen, it would be swift. Ten minutes at most, nine minutes longer than I expect. World issues are literally making me ill.

I am terribly cranky today.

Beautiful Music

I am writing to extraordinarily beautiful music today, some of which is new and other pieces intensely familiar. It’s a playlist I created on Amazon Music called The Mozart Big Box. It’s the name of an album, but I also added all Mozart’s choral works. I am trying to stay focused when there’s a figure that astounds me, like a melisma. Mozart is not particularly known for them, so when they happen, I have to rewind. Handel and Bach are the masters. With both of them, it’s just Abs of Steel…. provided you are breathing down to your feet and only using your stomach muscles to sing. In order to do Bach and Handel correctly, you must study vocal technique, because the accompaniment is so sparing that it points out every flaw if you don’t. Mozart is much more forgiving, because as Emperor Joseph II says in the movie Amadeus, there are simply too many notes, that’s all. If you make a mistake, the accompaniment will catch you.

Melismas are the entire reason I muscled my way into Varsity Choir at Clements. My one claim to fame in high school is that my junior year, I was in the top choir and the top band at the same time, the first to do so. Originally, the choir director put me in Junior Varsity, and I said, are you sure? I’ve done lots of major choral works with my church choir. She pulled out a Messiah book and said, prove it, and flipped to (of course) the most difficult soprano passage in the whole friggin’ work, which I’d only done for the last five Christmases. Someone could wake me up in the middle of the night and I could sing it blind.

I flat nailed it, and the choir director said, I stand corrected. You’re in. I was lucky that I spent nearly an hour warming up, because my head voice (the top of my range) was incredible that day. I am not a diva by any means. I am quite humble about my abilities. But there are just certain days where I amaze myself, like I’ve never heard myself before. The reason I felt fantastic after that audition is that I’d never sung any soprano part in a choral work all by myself. I usually needed the other sopranos in my section to be able to sneak in breaths, which is what sectional sounds are for….. To me, nailing it was not only the notes being spot on, but being able to hold my own with breath control….. which does not come easily to the anxious.

The only time being in both bit me on the ass was that tryouts for All-Region Band and All-Region Choir were on the same day. I chose band, and I think in retrospect that I chose………. poorly. In soloing with my voice, I do not get the same stomach-churning stage fright that I do when playing my trumpet. Something I nail in an empty sanctuary is painful once it’s full. I did manage to get into High School for Performing and Visual Arts with instrumental music, but I’ve never been better than that. I peaked early.

I feel as if I should have known I was a singer and not an instrumental musician, because I got into the adult choir at my church when I was in Grade 7. As an adult, the two times I’ve had the feeling of being wowed at myself were singing the Pie Jesu movement of the Rutter Requiem with full orchestra in Portland and The Lord is My Shepherd from the same work in Houston with incredible pipe organ and the first desk oboe player at The Houston Symphony. The second link is actually me. The recording of the Pie Jesu is lost to history. Despite a few flubs that only I would notice, it’s the best recording of me I have. I forgive myself completely because I was not in great voice that day. I woke up with complete laryngitis and had to sit in the shower for almost an hour before I could even talk. I was relying completely on my diaphragm to get me through, and it did not fail. Because I was so incredibly sick, as soon as the solo was over all my adrenaline ran out and I just wanted Dana to take me home and put me in bed with the remote, some orange juice, and enough Nyquil to plunge a horse into unconsciousness. It was at that moment I realized I was introducing the choir at the next service. There may or may not have been a lot of damn its and oh, fucks involved.

One of my deepest regrets is that my mother heard me sing a lot in high school because she was in choir with me at church and my accompanist everywhere else… but as an adult, either we were too far apart geographically or she had her own church job. My only hope was that she would come to DC when I was singing after she retired. The school year ended in May, and by October she was dead. I was completely dumbfounded because it happened so suddenly, and losing that particular dream knocked me down with force. We were both such serious musicians that I really can’t take it when thinking that my mother and I will never perform together again. She heard the recording in the link above, but she was never in the congregation after a year of intense private lessons, when my opera voice flipped on (link is to a clip of one of my voice lessons that still cracks me up to this day).

The memory is still precious, though, because even though my mom wasn’t there, Dana’s was. She grabbed me after the performance and gave me the biggest bear hug on record, exclaiming, that voice! Where did it come from?! My only answer was a hell of a lot of hard work, woodshedding every measure until it was perfect. My garage had amazing acoustics, and I shudder thinking that I never apologized to the neighbors, because I have a big damn voice.

Although my favorite compliment came from The Divine Mrs. B, who said I should have an oboe player follow me around wherever I go. Believe me, I could not afford that particular oboe player, and a beginner will clear your sinuses.

If there is anything negative about all this, it’s that soprano sections are very competitive, and I generally make friends with the basses because of it. Bass notes make me happy, and I would much rather ignore all the singers in my own section, just put my head down, and do the work. One of the first things that I asked my choir director in DC was, are the sopranos mean? He said he was the only one who was mean. I told him I was in.

Luckily, he turned out to be right. That being said, I haven’t sung a note in a year. Eventually, I’ll get back to it. Right now, everything about church choir brings my grief extremely loud and incredibly close. I can’t sing and panic at the same time. I know. I’ve tried it.

I do listen to great sopranos, though. Nothing makes me happier than the Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis duet, Let the Bright Seraphim (Handel). I feel like it marries the best parts of me, an intensely personal piece. Once I was driving and singing along to the recording and forgot the windows were down. I stopped at a stop light and the cop next to me with his windows down said, very nice.

Which is probably the only interaction I’ve ever had with a cop that didn’t cost $200. There are just so many things that beautiful music can accomplish.

There’s a Crazy World of E-mails in This Crazy World

I have loved e-mail since I first used it in the mid-’90s. Typing was so much easier than handwriting, and to me it had the same heft. It allowed me to “think in longhand” because e-mails felt like actual letters as opposed to text messages. I was not particularly fond of my handwriting (still not, really), and because I was also on IRC, I had to learn to type very, very fast to keep up with the conversation. Hunt and peck was so slow that by the time I hit Enter, what I was responding to was already five minutes gone. DeletedI started touch typing by watching my friend Luke. It was basically osmosis. Now I’m so fast that I can literally type an entire paragraph with my eyes closed, as long as there aren’t too many numbers. My fastest typing test was 100wpm with six errors.

Now, I hover around 74 perfectly. It’s the entire reason I carry a Bluetooth keyboard around with me everywhere. I can’t text for shit. As I was telling my Facebook friends the other day, if I don’t have a keyboard with me, you’ll be watching those three little bubbles for a half hour (and you better not be surprised if you only get back “k,” because most likely I’ve typed a paragraph and then hit something with my hand and accidentally erased it, too enraged to do it again). So, of all ways to communicate, I love the blank screen in front of me. I use Gmail exclusively, with occasional ventures into Hotmail to retrieve ancient messages. 21st century archaeology at its finest….. Hotmail is old school, but I still feel infinitely superior to those who use AOL. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. There isn’t much in this world that makes me feel superior. Let me have this one. I do, however, like the Hotmail interface, because it reminds me of old-school Outlook (before the ribbon).

I switched to the Gmail suite when I learned that ads were few and function was overwhelmingly good, even with a basic web interface. Most of the time, though, I set it up in Evolution or Thunderbird with Lightning and Provider for Google Calendar so that it catches all of my appointments, as well. However, Thunderbird does not have pop-up notifications unless it’s running, so I don’t use it for anything, but I also plug my e-mail account into Mail for Windows 10 so that Gmail is integrated into system notifications. When they go off, I then open my client of choice.

This tiny dissertation on e-mail is brought to you by the movie Love, Simon. Basically, I spent most of it saying to myself, see! E-mail does create real emotion! It was fascinating to watch feelings evolve the longer the e-mails went back and forth.

It was horrifying to see that homophobia still exists… but it’s become nicer, I suppose. For instance, coming out is still a big damn deal. Straight people don’t have to come out. Straight just is. In an ideal world, gay would be the same. But parents cry. I have no doubt that some parents wonder where they went wrong, as if it’s somehow their fault for not being harder on their sons to gravitate toward boy things and their girls to gravitate toward girl things.

It doesn’t work that way. I have plenty of lesbian friends who played with dolls, still wear a face full of makeup, and spend an hour on their hair. I have plenty of gay friends who played football and joined the military.

As a sidenote, I also know straight girls that have turned out every bit as military jackass brotard and straight men who love Broadway and tote bags. In the end, we’re all just people, and the spectrum is large.

I think, though, that gay men have it harder than lesbians, and that’s because in this society, it’s not cool to be feminine, because you’re seen as a man submitting yourself to another man. We really have to examine that prejudice, as if seeming feminine is the worst thing in the world. I think that some people are homophobic because they’re misogynistic. I could be wrong, but it’s probably a fair assumption.

I also think that since more and more people are coming out every day, straight people have this idea that you can catch homosexuality like a cold. It’s not the number of gay people that’s changed. It’s the number of people that are willing to tell you they’re gay, because they’re not afraid of you turning them in to the police anymore.

It is also my opinion that gay and straight are subsets of bisexuality, and bisexuals are mostly invisible, even though they’re the majority. People tend to base their identity on what kind of couple they’re in, but wouldn’t seem gay or straight if you looked at their behavior over multiple years. Even I, someone who looks like a 15-year-old boy, would never be uncomfortable identifying as bisexual, because I never want to make it seem as if only the women in my life matter. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I am still mother-lion fiercely protective of my first boyfriend, and that feeling will never go away. We were the cutest couple in the history of the world, and that is a stone cold fact.

I identify as lesbian because I want a woman to be my life partner, because I can’t imagine spending my life with a man. I gave up on heterosexuality when I realized how I could utterly destroy a man’s heart with my inability to look into the future and assure myself I could still feel an attraction. It wasn’t because I didn’t care about them as a person. I just didn’t want us both to be stuck in an unhappy relationship, which I can see much more easily.

All of this is to say that there’s really no difference between being gay and straight, because we all go through the same stages in life. All couples talk about the same issues behind closed doors, with the exception of procreation. That is a separate and expensive process. But then everything returns to being the same after the children arrive, because all parents speak the language of Cheerios and bath time.

Love, Simon bothered me…. that coming out still rattles people’s cages. Simon doesn’t want to at first and still views it as a secret. Once Simon does come out, his parents take it well, but still cry and feel like it’s A CONVERSATION. He’s still bullied at school. The movie is tempered with a lot of love and support for him as well, but the problems I experienced from 1992-1996 are all still there…. although I didn’t have a girlfriend willing to come out, so in a lot of ways, my experience was similar and different. I was this blabbermouth activist with a girlfriend who treated me….. Ummm, badly is not quite the right word, but I did feel hidden like a cheap mistress. I put up with it because it wasn’t like anyone else was out and proud. I was it.

That slowly changed once we graduated, but by then the relationship was mostly over, anyway…. like most high school relationships…. earth to straight people.

Just like Simon, though, I was outed to my entire school at once when someone taped a flyer to my locker talking about “scary lesbians” my freshman year. I was mortified because it was the only time my ex-boyfriend and I went to the same school, and I wish I’d been given the opportunity to talk about it privately with him before the rest of the world knew. I think we maybe had one conversation in which I told him I thought I could be in love with one woman, but it wasn’t THE TALK that said this is who I am now. I don’t have one isolated crush. I was embarrassed to talk to him because we’d just broken up about six months earlier, and he was embarrassed to talk to me for completely unrelated reasons. So this boy that I loved more than life was suddenly not my friend anymore. It took a few years, but now it’s on like Donkey Kong, and he only lives about three and a half hours away.

The opportunity to come out to my parents was also taken away by my high school counselor, and I didn’t learn this until I sat down to have THE CONVERSATION with them and they told me they already knew. I can’t decide whether it was a relief or not, and it’s over 20 years later…. Additionally, this same counselor did nothing to punish the kids who bullied me or prevent it from happening again by saying, well, what did you do to provoke them? Ummm, I just exist?

I was bullied way more at HSPVA than I was at Clements, which was also a shock to my system because HSPVA is located in the most liberal part of Houston and Clements one of the most conservative. Maybe there was a lot more going on behind my back in which I just wasn’t aware, but for the most part, I was just seen as eccentric, which is definitely not an untrue statement regardless of orientation. My favorite conversation of the whole year was, do you wear that rainbow necklace because you’re gay or because you’re an idiot? Being outed at HSPVA and the homophobic kids being merciless in their hatred of me was much, much worse. I wrote about my experiences at HSPVA in Creative Writing at Clements (see last link), and my teacher said that it was too private to share with the class…. which also made me feel different, even though I wasn’t.

E-mail was a way for me to connect in the air with people who weren’t out on the ground. In recent years, it’s been a safe place to be who I am with people I truly adore, even though e-mail is the only chord that runs between us… because now, being who I am does not include sexual orientation as this wholly other thing. Straight or gay, we all just love writing letters, and that’s the thing. It’s a stranger on a train, often easier than talking to people in real life. Letters to people who don’t know the people in my life mean much because they’re not trying to be friends with my friends, so they’re solidly on my side. It creates real emotion because of that very fact. They see everything through my lens, because they’re only getting my side of the story. Therefore, they’re rooting for me even when I’m clearly wrong.

The best part is having a long-term pen pal. I’ve been writing to some of them since my college years.

I would have liked to see Simon and his pen pal remain anonymous, or maybe a different movie altogether that is only about writing to people you don’t know. There’s a ton out there on catfishing, but few pieces of media that focus on real relationships created “in the air.” I am certain that movies and books on catfishing are more popular because they’re dark. News and art tend to run that way…. whereas lots of relationships created on the Internet are deep and lasting. They’re cherished friendships precisely because they’re not on the ground and not in spite of it.

For instance, it’s great to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t know your high school bullies, but has a lot of ideas on how to get back at them.

Love,
Leslie

Thanks, Y’all

Lately I’ve noticed that my stats and followers are going way, way up. The Board of Directors (donors that set me up years ago) is going to be pleased. Not that I’m counting on you to give them stock dividends or anything, but it’s good to be able to say to them that their contributions didn’t go to waste. No one has been more surprised than me to learn that my writing is actually worth something, that people are willing to pay when they come to a site they can read in the bathroom at work with no ads (don’t think I don’t know that last part is fo’real). I’m starting to feel more comfortable with telling you how I feel about issues as opposed to just running commentary on my life, going from personal to global. Not every entry will be about politics and the weather, but it’s nice to know it’s possible. You’ve just made a lot of my friends more comfortable, that’s for damn sure…. well, except the ones that are genuinely excited when they appear and search for their names.  ::squinting at James::

Hopefully in the running commentary department, you’ll get to hear more about “my babies,” the three new characters I’ll be adding to Stories in the coming year. The twins (boys) were born a few days ago, and the little girl whose face I already love will be born in the next few months. Rooting for her to be a not-too-early preemie so one of my best friends doesn’t have to be gigantic pregnant in the South in the dead of summer. I’ll never give up writing about my life, because this site will first and foremost be the repository where my memories go so that a hundred years from now, genealogy on me won’t be hard. Here’s everything you never wanted to know about me, kids. Sometimes it’s comforting that writing on the Internet is as permanent as a tattoo on the face, because even if WordPress doesn’t exist, Wayback Machines that archive everything on the net certainly will. I know because I can still access Clever Title Goes Here, the popular blog I impulsively tanked because I had a much thinner skin then.

It was a #dumbass attack, because I was in on the ground floor, when Heather Armstrong, Anil Dash, Wil Wheaton, Jason Kottke, Eden Kennedy, Ernie Hsuing, et al were also coming up. It felt amazing to be part of such rareified air, especially w/ Wil, because I met him at a reading at Powell’s and he knew exactly who I was, signing a copy of Just a Geek with:

Dear Leslie,

Clever Inscription Goes Here…

Love,
Wil

Writing has never been about money, but respect. I’ve never gotten rich off it, but it was nice to walk in those circles. The difference now is that my entries are generally much longer, with more to chew on. Hopefully you’ve picked up nuggets of wisdom along the way by me laying out all that I’ve done wrong AND right, rather than thinking I pimp out my friends.

Believe me when I say that they notice, all alert to the fact that they never know when an entry will pop up about them, and within limits, I will not give them the luxury of taking things down, because it’s not about them. It’s about my reaction to them, however untrue they think my statements are… there’s a reason for this. I am aware that I have huge flaws and get things wrong a lot. I change my mind on a weekly, if not daily basis. I am not waffling, it’s that every entry is full of my revelations to myself and what I think about what happens. I can only hope that when I write about my life, it is the good and the bad, so that you see a full picture instead of only amazing and horrible with no grey area. Something that was true for me on Monday is not true by Thursday. Evolution of thought happens, as does cognitive dissonance with relationships. Sometimes, disparate ends of the spectrum are both true.

For instance, I will never give up loving my friends and myself, even in those moments where I’m not altogether pleased with them/me. Just like you, I love them even when I can’t like their actions whole lot. But fortunately, not being happy about what they do in reaction to me is extremely infrequent, and I have no problem with not excusing how I behave, because I don’t often come away from a situation looking like a hero…. more often than not, I’m the antagonist and the protagonist in my own story. Through this web site, I have learned not to always be the one that throws the first match. I see up close in black and white how I could have done something differently, and I do. I look back and say to myself, well, that could have gone better.

Stories is basically a chronicle of learning to get out of my own way. I try to gather intel on how not to sabotage the good things that come my way. Also, I am a person in 3D. You don’t get to know everything, and often when people meet me in real life that have only known my writing, they comment on how different I seem (I thought you’d be taller. #dead).

The weirdest and most fulfilling is hearing people quote me to me, because it just feeds my self-esteem that there are indeed lines that stick with people.

On the flip side, it’s excruciating to meet readers who try and prove to me that they know me better than me because of the silly thoughts I write down, not allowing for the fact that my thoughts evolve. This has happened on several occasions because I put my URL in my OKCupid profile. I don’t use it for much except finding local friends, but I will never be friends with a fan who’s impressed and/or throws things I’ve written back in my face because it holds me to my past instead of allowing for the future. If they knew me well, throwing things I’ve written back in my face wouldn’t matter, because I know that they’re not trying to hurt me, just showing me old patterns of behavior and wondering if I might be repeating them. A first meeting is not that emotional place.

I will not take my URL off my profile, though, because it’s a separating the women from the girls sort of thing. If someone can’t deal with the fact that I write so publicly, the relationship won’t last for more than about five minutes.

I feel like I should buy five or 10 t-shirts with the words I’m blogging this and just wear them daily. This is because I’ve had several non-romantic relationships end over not knowing and caring a little too much when the mirror I hold up to the world points toward them. Often these are the same people that say I have great insights regarding everyone else, and those insights don’t translate to them. I can write about everyone in the world amazingly well except for them.

I get it. It’s not a big deal until it’s personal.

My heart is heavy thinking about the lives I’ve interrupted out of idiocy and not malice, often presenting as headaches or stomachaches. It’s the entire reason CTGH doesn’t exist. I got tired of this whole idea, forsaking the thousands of people who genuinely loved my writing and my excoriation of myself in the quest to make me a better person. No one should ever think that being a personal blogger is easy, because it comes with…….. consequences.

With Stories, I constantly adjust the limits to which my writing matters more than my friends, because in some ways, my on the ground relationships take precedence. In others, I have to look at what matters more, my ideas or theirs. It’s an inner landscape, and I should be allowed to have it. I often choose between being self and other-aware.

….because a lot of my inner landscape is me emotionally bleeding out to find others who’ve had similar experiences and say, I know how that feels. I have worn that scar on my skin…. because maybe someone in my real life has never had my experience, but someone in China has… and can look at my situation more objectively than I can because they’re not in it or of it.

I need people that disagree with me, call me on my bullshit… to gently argue with me to get me to see something they do.

Personal blogging is a mixed bag, just like me.

When You Have to Take a Step Back

I am so tired of 2018.

I’m tired of people saying they’re SO liberal on LGBTQIA issues and then saying things like (paraphrasing), I don’t think this woman should have mentioned her wife in class because it’s a conversation I would like to have privately with my children at home…. but I belong to a liberal open and affirming church so I can’t2018-04-08 13_27_52-tired - Google Search possibly be construed as a bigot. In 2018, why is homosexuality something that has to be explained privately as if children don’t have enough agency to understand basic family constructs on their own? They’ve probably had classmates with same-sex parents since they were in kindergarten. By the time the asshat father I paraphrased got to his kids, they were probably eye-rolling because OMG. Gay people. I have to be prepared to see them out in the world. It’s not as if when queer people move into your neighborhood that spaceships land and little burritos walk out. For the love of Christ, literally.

I’m tired of Assad and his chemical attacks and his bombing of the people he’s supposed to serve. I’m sure he doesn’t see it that way, but the best rulers lead from the back. I’m tired of wondering if our military, our diplomats, and our intel operatives and their friendlies are safe or fighting for their lives as equally hard as Syrian citizens. I’m tired of American attitudes that our people’s lives are worth more than theirs.

I’m tired of Donald Trump and his Twitter foreign and domestic policy, but I’ll bet I’m way less tired than the people trying to reign him in.

I’m tired of journalists, bloggers, and media influencers being put on a list, not knowing what the information is for, but know that nothing good can come of this. I’m tired that every single story President Trump reads is deemed fake, as if “The Fourth Estate” isn’t supposed to do their damn jobs. I’m exhausted thinking that both Helen Thomas and Molly Ivins are dead and there’s no one being as loud as they would be if they knew what was happening. I am happiest picturing Helen Thomas flipping the bird.

I am tired of black people dying for absolutely no reason, and the chutzpah cops have in shooting someone eight times in the back, because they know there’s no penalty. Not all cops are bad, but the ones that are aren’t being punished nearly enough.

I am tired of children having to ask for help with gun control and it being this huge debate, as if adults aren’t the ones in charge of keeping them safe. I am sure that for gun freedom advocates, it will take their own child being shot in math class to change those hearts and minds. It is not, however, something I would wish on them. No parent should ever have to bury a child. It is only an observation that it takes a truly earth-shattering realization to change someone vehemently entrenched in the position that all people should be able to own firearms in which the Founding Brothers never could have conceived.

I’m tired of angry rants on Facebook that come up in my feed whether I’m looking for negativity or not…. that even discourse that starts off as civil ends up being monstrous. I will engage in politics, but at the first sign of an ad hominem attack, I’m out. This is both because I don’t need that temperature in my life, and second because when I play “Let’s Be an Asshole,” I am in it to win it. I am just not interested in seeing that version of myself, because it’s egocentric and therefore, absolutely toxic. There is no exhaustion worse than being tired of listening to yourself.

I am tired of having to be this version of me, the one that has to stand up for all the little people, because the majority doesn’t understand that they don’t get to dictate to the minority what hurts and what doesn’t.

I am tired of thinking that it will be this way my entire life, because society won’t progress far enough to accept everyone by the time I die…. but, I hope so.

2045: Martians are so eloquent…… I want to touch their skin just to see what it feels like….

I wish we could all step back and take a breath, but it seems as if when we do, it’s not a matter of learning to listen to each other, but thinking about what we’re going to say next. I am certainly not immune to this…. but in a lot of ways, I can’t breathe under the best of circumstances. One of my tribe was just fired for simply showing a photograph of her family. It’s just not possible for me to contain rage over it, although I try to put a smile on my face even when I want to scream, as I often do when I wake up to news that transgendered people have been shot, most of them to death.

And some of the time, it’s by people who claim they live and let live.

I’m tired of the marijuana debate, and not because I’m all excited about smoking it. I don’t. I’m tired of violence at the border and inequality in sentencing when minorities get caught smoking and/or selling. White boys will be boys, but scary black men are going to prison for life.

I’m tired of the immigration debate, the back and forth between enjoying cheap tomatoes and the gate should have closed after I came in. You don’t want to give minimum wage and health care benefits to full-time farm workers, but you don’t want to welcome people that will do the job for peanuts, either…. surprised that after immigrants have been deported that fruits and vegetables are withering on the vine.

I’m tired of people still harping on Hillary Clinton as if she’s been elected to anything or even has a public life anymore. I mean, she’ll always be well-known, but she’s not influencing public policy. She doesn’t even have an advice column. Have a Coke™ and a smile and shut it.

I’m tired of people going bankrupt over medical bills, especially when they’re shot or otherwise injured through no fault of their own. I am sure there are people who were gunned down at the Pulse night club (and lots of schools) who now have to pay for the “privilege.” We are one of the richest nations in the world, yet most of us tied to jobs with golden handcuffs as not to lose insurance. Other countries have so much more freedom than we do because their people are allowed to move freely and take any job they want because insurance is not dictated privately or state-by-state.

Most of all, I’m tired that we claim all people are created equally, but some are just a little more equal than others.

Send Help

I saw a picture on Facebook that resonated with me. Something like, my diet ranges between supermodel and unsupervised child in a convenience store. I haven’t eaten very much this week, overwhelmed with writing to the point I couldn’t even finish a rough draft, like I said I would. This is not because I didn’t work hard on it. It just, in my opinion, wasn’t good enough. I needed more time to think before I put it in front of an extraordinary mind who would see through paragraphs of bullshit in a New York minute. This is because the book I’m reviewing is terrible. The story is solid, but there are so many grammatical errors and therefore, punctuation missteps that the entire novel was just a slog. All of the mistakes took me away from the story and I had to reread pages just to figure out what the sentences actually said. It’s never a good thing when I stop concentrating on what I’m reading and get lost in my own head, trying to figure out how I would have phrased something instead (as if I’m the authority on such matters….. geesh).

And then my anxiety went to 11 because I had to e-mail my editor and say, it’s not ready. When is the next best day I could send it? It’s the first time I’ve ever had to do it, which is probably the only reason I was anxious, because I wasn’t sure of her reaction. I told her that the book didn’t even have to be marked as “read” until Monday, and the review didn’t need to be turned in until the next one. I gave myself padding in case something like this happened, because I knew when I started reading it that it was going to be an uphill climb. I was afraid of turning my lack of preparedness into a kink in her day.

So, my appetite went haywire. Most of the week I ate a large bowl of oatmeal for one meal a day. Last night I made up for it by eating (almost an entire) pizza, wings, and a very large chocolate chip cookie. According to bumper sticker wisdom, every pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself. I also drank a two liter of Diet Pepsi, something for which my mother would have chastised me greatly- not because of the amount, but because I was drinking that Pepsi mess, as she called it. I didn’t feel bad about it because most people drink that much wine on a Friday night… and besides, diet soda is my favorite form of caffeine because it’s not extreme highs and lows, it just keeps the bus from going under 50 (wow, that reference ages me).

The shame of it is that it wasn’t even Monterey’s or Red Rocks, just plain delivery…. but it was free. Free covers up a lot of pizza sins.

Now the only question remains is how do I not do this? I can’t decide whether it’s okay or not. Some nutrition experts would say it’s fine as long as I’m getting the calories I need over the course of the week instead of every day. Some nutritionists would beat me like a red-headed stepchild. It’s not about weight control. I am extremely healthy in that department. It’s more the binge and crash of it all, as opposed to an even keel.

Being so small is sometimes as equally body-shaming as being overweight. I know this because I have been both at different points in my life. The worst story in recent memory is that I bought six different kinds of chips at 7-Eleven, joking with the cashier that they weren’t all for that night. He said, well, your skinny ass sure needs ’em. I was definitely thinking about responding with physical violence, but, alas, I am too much of a peacenik for that sort of thing.

Setting body issues aside, the reason I took off so much weight is that I’m short. When I am heavy, I bear a strong resemblance to a teapot…. which reminds me of a great story. I met one of my readers a few years ago, and one of the first things she said to me was, I thought you’d be taller. My then-wife and I got mileage out of that one for months (years?). One of the reasons I thought it was funny is that I wanted to impress her so bad…. which reminds me of another funny story. Dana and I both love eye candy, so we both fell on the floor laughing after a few moments of talking with her when I ran into a door and clocked my nose, I thought she was so cute.

The fact that both of these things happened within a few minutes of each other is something that could only happen to me…. as well as overdoing it in the flirting department to the point where she didn’t want to talk to me anymore…. a moment when I truly wanted the earth to swallow me up, I was so embarrassed. Since we were both old and married, it didn’t occur to me that I was over the line, Smokey….. a dumbass attack of gigantic proportions. I’m sure I am not alone in having moments I’d give a limb to take back, and the entire reason I rarely (if ever) have a second cocktail as to avoid my lips being too loose, creating more of them. On the positive side, I make a cheap date. 😛

However, I am absolutely 100% certain I am not the first or last woman to lament what a shame it was she didn’t bat for our team…. just one in a long line of broken hearts all over the world. I so want to tell you what it was that flipped my shit, but I would be even more embarrassed if I somehow outed her real name by a description. Enough people know that story already, including those who didn’t think it was as funny as Dana and I did. By the grace of God, the one person I didn’t manage to offend was my real-life wife, who just laughed through my stupidity. Note to self– wear sunglasses.

I think that’s about enough reminiscence for today. I need to get back to work…. just know that I really, really don’t want to.

Send help.

Facebook Thinks I’m Black

In terms of ad preferences, Facebook lists your likes and dislikes and compiles information they infer about you by what links you engage with (like, share, click through) the most. The most maddening of these inferences is race, because they can’t come out and ask what race you are, they call it “Cultural Affinity.” There are already minority groups chomping at the bit to get Facebook to remove it, because it has led to more than one case of housing discrimination. Facebook insists that it’s just a cultural identity, not a way to actually determine race, but I believe this is untrue. In 2016, they mined for “ethnic affinity,” and had to quickly come up with neutral language to spin it. Oh, it’s not racial profiling. It’s an “affinity.” That it’s OK because Facebook does not have an official channel to report race. They’re not talking about the color of your skin, just saying that if you’re a member of the NAACP on Facebook, you’ll probably like ads targeted towards African Americans.

This is why I find it troubling, and my Facebook status yesterday:

I did that thing where you look up what Facebook thinks about you (in terms of ad preferences). Apparently, Facebook thinks I’m black. I have mixed feelings about this. I am proud of myself for posting so many things about inequality that Facebook has noticed. I am weirded out that Facebook thinks just because you post things about inequality that you must be a minority. It’s not that I care about being labeled African American. I care that so many white people don’t care that companies infer that I’m a minority because I do.

Here’s the thing. I looked it up, and there is no “Caucasian Cultural Affinity.” If Facebook believes you are white, there’s no Cultural Affinity at all. This is problematic because yet again, white is the default and non-white is a classification. It is especially troubling because 85% of Facebook’s daily active users are outside the United States and Canada, and non-white is the default in the rest of the world…. that I can identify. Some scientists do not consider race to be a valid identifier, and some do. But by and large the statistics I could find by world population say that Asian is the majority for the globe. I found a web site claiming racial population, but did not deem it a viable source of information.

It is a valid argument that race is invalid, considering that there are billions of people who have genetics from every continent. For marketing purposes, though, the current thinking seems utterly backward for all sorts of reasons…. the biggest being what are we missing by giving different audiences different ads? Why do you, as advertisers, only want to cater to people you think will already like you? Isn’t the whole point of advertising to reach out to new people rather than the ones already on board?

It causes more problems than it solves, because the information gathered can be used in nefarious ways. It is not as inert as you think.

For instance, you can find ways to advertise jobs to an overwhelmingly white audience, or perhaps real estate listings. Facebook was sued in November of 2016 for this very thing, and after looking through the docket, I can see no evidence that the case has been resolved. The closest is that Facebook made a motion to dismiss, then vacated the motion to continue mediation. But that was in October of 2017, and no official decision has come down (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or law student- if an official decision has come down and it hasn’t been published publicly, I wouldn’t be able to get into Lexis-Nexis to find it).

Here is the last order that is public facing:

By December 14, 2017, the parties shall file a joint status report addressing the status of the mediation efforts and, if appropriate, propose new dates for the hearing on Facebook’s Motion to Dismiss and Initial Case Management Conference.

I can find articles on Facebook claiming that they’re taking down the “Cultural Affinity” classification altogether, but mine is intact and sources referenced, again, aren’t viable.

I am going to be chewing on this for a while, because I think Facebook believes what it’s saying- “cultural affinity” is not race. However, intent and reality are not the same thing. There is a wide margin between Facebook’s claims and how the information is being used.

I am dismayed because instead of erasing divisions, we seem to be striving towards sustaining them, or finding new ones altogether.