Friday, August 3, 2018

Oops, I Accidentally Got a Crush on an MRA, Part Four




In a piece of administrative bad luck, both the Cute Pansexual Assistant Manager and I took sick days on the Monday that followed that Friday snit. The Store Manager was out again on Tuesday so there was no meeting, no resolution. CPAM had clearly been told not to talk to me about anything that wasn’t work related. Why would this be a solution? Barring me from small-talk could only serve to further separate me, not make me feel safe or included. I shouldn’t have to be ready to, for example, confront a rape apologist in order to rate a slot in the cheery work chitchat.

I was scared when I came in and in fact asked if I should leave, but CPAM became friendly again pretty quick., joking about his unicorn-ness and bonding over the music. I even wondered if Friday (and I guess the whole rest of his microagression-o-rama) had been a fluke, just a snit. I felt sheepish to have been so upset.

But then, while we were working happily together in the back room (that darn back room!) with a recently-back-from-vacation grad student, he asked, apropos of nothing, if she had ever heard of the documentary “The Red Pill.”

            I hadn’t heard of the movie, but my hackles went up. I knew that “Red Pill” mentality was one of the Men’s Right’s Activist, deep-Reddit monstrosities that has become the part of the toxic misogynist soup we’ve all been swimming in. In their parlance, “taking the red pill” means realizing that (white) men are actually society’s most oppressed category and that one of the ways to correct this “imbalance” is…rape. I also knew that the Red Pill/ MRA movements are tied intimately with white supremacist movements.

            After a few minutes of him summarizing the “documentary” and me saying “that’s TERRIBLE” a lot of times, he continues to double down on men’s vulnerable status. (NOTE: Men ARE vulnerable and harmed, but he wasn’t realizing it’s heteropatriarchy, not rape survivors, who make the rules.)

            I asked him to change the subject, but he said “I’m not talking to YOU. This isn’t work related.” And stalked away. I walked right after him.

            “I thought we were going to get along,” I said calmly but forcefully, “But you CAN’T be sexist at work. The people you’re talking about are rape apologists.”

“No, they’re not. You’re just saying that because you disagree with them. No matter what I say, you’ll hear what you want to hear. Besides, it isn’t work related.”

            “It IS work related because I don’t feel safe at work. This is a microagression, no, a MACROaggression!”

(As if he would know what either word meant.)

I went back to working on the books, but my body didn’t want to be there. After he evoked the Men’s Rights Activists, the trauma of the 2016 election, the “Lock her up” mobs, the way Trump had recently threatened to forcibly take “Pocohontas” Elizabeth Warren’s DNA to test and mocked the #Metoo movement in the same sentence, it felt like all of that was in the room with me, and it was. The store was presided over by a giant photo of the college’s mascot, a white colonizer, rape and murder in his puppet eyes. How does any woman get through a day on that campus, or in America, or anywhere in all of history?

            I went home. I called the HR hotline, called my therapist, called (ex-wife, BFF) Sweetie. I felt helpless, scared, worthless, panicked, but more than anything else, I felt angry—for the time theft, the money theft, the ELECTION theft brought about by misogyny in general and the MRAs specifically. I felt like I would never be safe anywhere.

Earlier this week, I watched “To All the Little Girls: The Untold Stories of the Sixty-five Million”, https://www.toallthelittlegirlsdoc.com/watch Rebecca Morgan’s story of her work on the 2016 election and it’s aftermath. After the election, Becca was diagnosed with PTSD, and in some ways, I think the whole country has it. I know I do. It’s hard to shake the idea that I have to fight and scrap for survival, that we all do. I don’t know what healing looks like, but I do know that I’ll call out hate (and call HR) just as freely as I call Congress. My heart aches for whatever genuine friendship was there, for having left another thing I liked. I don’t know where we’re going, but I know whose side I’m on: mine.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Oops, I Accidentally Got a Crush on an MRA, Part Three



Yesterday would have been my first day back at the bookstore. Cute Pansexual Assistant Manager was transferring, so it seemed doable a couple of weeks ago. When the time came, though, it seemed too sad. I knew it would take a lot more transformation for me to feel safe there, and it felt like that would take more work than my 10$ an hour covered. I’ve been wanting to commit to my own business anyway, so I took the leap and declared myself bossless. I’m nervous about the change and still heartachey about what happened, but I’m proud that I put myself first.

Things finally broke down between me and CPAM while the Store Manager was off for a week. We were setting up the textbook department for fall rush, so there was lots of good getting-in-a-flow-and-moving-heavy-books-around—my favorite part of the job.

But on the Friday of that week, something curdled in CPAM. He was in a text message argument with his sister-in-law. (she and his brother had just moved back in with his parents, where he lived as well) He was sniping about her to another employee in the back room and when I walked back there to get more books, he looked at me with such deep contempt, like how dare I walk in there, as if I were the hated sister-in-law herself.

I kept doing my job and chitchatting cheerfully with him—I have that abused-kid bad habit of trying to nice somebody out of being a jerk, as if I can avoid being hurt by being well-behaved enough. It bugged me, though, when he talked about her “bitching,” when he said he was going to “put that bitch in her place.” I had been volleying back his low-key prejudices for weeks, but this outright misogyny was still shocking. I didn’t say anything about it, though, because I was sick of having to say something so many times.

But then he turned on me. Although I had been working with a textbook company on and off for fifteen years, he decided to explain how alphabetizing works. Then he explained it again and again.

“I know how to alphabet,” I joked to try to get him off my case, but I succeeded only in giving him a chance to correct my grammar. Just want to mention at this moment that I have a Master’s Degree in Education.

            I said calmly that I wanted to be treated like an adult, but he kept doubling down on the condescension. I needed to learn how to take constructive criticism, he said, because after all, he was my superior. Which technically he was, but nobody had ever put it quite that way to me before. In all my years of low-level and often-temporary positions, no one had ever talked down to me that way.

As I tried to stand up for myself, he poured on the gaslighting: He said I needed to “compose myself.” He said I wasn’t hearing what I thought I was hearing. I left early, feeling livid and shaken. I wrote to the Store Manager about what happened, and he wrote back right away saying that he would take care of it.

Next Time: He didn’t.





Saturday, July 28, 2018

Oops, I Accidentally Got a Crush on a Men’s Rights Activist, Part Two




This story is sad, but it’s hopeful too. I like the way that I was able to love this person, this man so disjointedly separate from me, so deeply. It gives me faith in my heart, even if my taste in humans is once again not the best.

Conversation came back again to the “morbidly obese” who were, Cute Pansexual Assistant Manager kept saying, a problem. “For them,” (us, I meant) “MAYBE, but it’s not fair when society tells people what our bodies should look like. It makes me want to punch society in the face.”

WHY was I IN a conversation about his, about ANY of this, at work? With the Assistant Manager and the Store Manager? The Store Manager cosigned my feminism out of empathy for his teen daughter, which was comforting, but it hurt to have to defend my body weight in the middle of my stupid day job.

Even when I told Cute Pansexual Assistant Manager directly that he was hurting my feelings, he maintained that it was “just a difference of opinion.” He had thoughts on the matter if I was interested. NO, REALLY, SUPERVISOR AT WORK, tell me more about how the size of my ass is burdening you.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a comp class I was in fifteen years ago at Syracuse. The professor had ostensibly chosen food politics as the semester’s theme, but in retrospect I can see she was doing body terrorism before I knew there was such a term. As we watched Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me show shot after shot of headless, poorly dressed fat people, revealing the filmmaker’s contempt for both the fat and the poor, I sat in my slightly two small classroom desk feeling scrutinized. The fat at my middle felt naked, my boobs too big. I felt exposed in a way that reminded me of my long-ago rape.

In 2018, I would have been OUTRAGED, would have called every campus official, but instead I wrote about objectification in my class papers, got an A and moved on. Now, whenever I see Morgan Spurlock’s book, or any other piece of body-shaming trash, in the Little Free Libraries around town, I put them in the recycling where they belong.

Anyway, back to the bookstore, fat-shaming comments weren’t the only ones to come out of CPAM’s mouth—he seemed determined to dismiss any existence of sexism or racism ANYWHERE. “It’s 2018,” he said, “It sucks for everyone.” He brushed off feminism as man-hating, ignored my complaints about his frequent casual racism, and seemed personally injured by any kind of justice talk. I was only DOING any justice talk because his gentle but constant stream of prejudice kept nagging my conscience to say something.

 “Stop trying to school me,” he eventually said, the third time I tried to calmly explain that fat people aren’t less-than, that we haven’t necessarily “let ourselves go,” that we haven’t somehow placed a burden on him or on other straight-sized people just by existing.

I can see how the “schooling” was annoying to him and how it DEFINTELY wasn’t my job. I gave him way too much leeway because I needed a friend, because I wanted a new bookstore home. I should have reported him to the Store Manager, but he had a ways to go, too—I’d had to also gently call HIM out when he referred to an old Cosby joke that was only sort of about rape. (At least SM was receptive to pushback and didn’t make me explain myself, but the reference hadn’t exactly inclined me toward trust. )

Partly, I was doing a bad white person thing: I didn’t want to give up comfort to do what was right. I wanted a break from being like this. I wanted to be a part of things without being an SJW for like FIVE SECONDS but I think what I’m learning is that those days are behind me. Good.

I’m not sure why I tried so hard to belong there, when there’s so much belonging available all around me—there’s marches, there’s canvassing, there’s yoga and massage and occasionally stopping into (super liberal Unitarian) church. There are my feminist-bookstore-owning neighbors who still have their Hillary sign (from primaries!) up. I have a home in the world no matter what. I’m not sure how or why that bookstore got so important to me.

Because of that needless struggle to belong, or because of my poor handling of it, (and, to a greater degree, because America puts children in cages now) the first half of this summer was about battling depression, about really struggling for hope. I want sometimes to go back to my life before activism, before Nazis came back to the streets, before Heather Heyer got murdered, but this is where we are now, and there’s no way out but through.

At the bookstore, that would mean a few more snits and a lot more HR.

Next Time: Does he know what he’s saying?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Oops, I Accidentally Got a Crush on a Men’s Rights Activist, Part One




I remember when this blog used to be mostly cuteness and sexy adventures. I hope it’ll be those things again someday, but it’s 2018. Dietland is a show, I write to congress so much it’s starting to feel like a diary, and I have new stupid story about clashing with an ignorant white dude about once a week. So here we are.

About two months ago, I started working at a nearby university bookstore in the mornings. I mostly loved it—my commute was only three songs long (meaning, for several belty weeks in a row, the first three songs of George Michael’s Faith…) and the work was emotionally neutral. Best of all, hooray, the assistant manager was a cutie-pie pansexual guy with a great talent for iterating entire (original, not remake) Will & Grace episodes and an ability to endlessly process the new season of Kimmy Schmidt with me.

Unfortunately, the whole staff seemed to have a gentle South Park vibe, a we-pick-on-everybody kind of casual prejudice, but I was new and I thought I could change the culture with friendship, kindness, patience and love. Did I mention the three-song commute?! I had Faith indeed and I thought I could avoid blowing up about prejudice just this once, that the culture of the place would change if I just patiently explained what was wrong, little by little. It was a self-serving mistake, and it bit me in the ass. At this point, spoiler alert, I’ve realized I can call HR just as often as I call congress, though I don’t think they’ve invented any cute Resistbot-style apps for it.

So I bonded with Cute Pan Assistant Manager and indulged my sincere love of stacking textbooks—there really isn’t a better workout in the world. Despite the giggly blush of new friendship and reminding myself this could never be like the Mister Makeout Music situation, there were hints that our pop culture bond didn’t transcend CPAM’s general lack of awareness. A few days into the new position and already DEEPLY in friend-crush territory, I was sad to overhear him chitchatting with other members of the team about “the obesity problem”

I haven’t weighed myself in a while, but last time I checked, I was hovering around 300 pounds. At 5’10,” that places me squarely in the “extremely obese” category on most charts, and that’s what it says on my medical records, but this has never rung true to me. I’m healthy, active, and the problems that arise from being fat come more from the outside than from the inside.

I’ve spent a good chunk of this year looking at #fatshion for ideas about how to femme it up, listening to the She’s All Fat podcast, (https://shesallfatpod.com/) answering all of the questions in The Body Is Not an Apology (https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/) and reading/watching/obsessing about Dietland. (https://www.amc.com/shows/dietland/full-episodes/season-01/episode-01/episodes-1-2)  I’ve gotten in the habit of Instagramming myself in cute outfits and tagging @whatfatgirlsactuallywear. So I have no patience for the way that talking about the “obesity epidemic” lends a sheen of science to prejudice and serves to legitimize diet culture, that creepy little cousin of rape culture. I’ve had quite enough of any and all efforts to make women smaller, literally and figuratively.

I was little-kid hurt that my seeming new friend would other me that way, especially at work, so I gently pulled him aside about it. “I just want to be treated like an equal,” I said, and though he denied having said anything, it felt like he heard me. I ended the conversation with “It’s not you, it’s the patriarchy,” and we happily went back to debating whether or not Erasure is a good band. (OBVIOUSLY THEY ARE)

We were happy and giggly together. Though it seems really weird now, it felt like we were a ridiculous new kind of soul mates. He was a close talker and sometimes a chat really felt like a cuddle. At least I know I still turn into a complete fool-o-rama when someone is cute, it gives me hope for better days.

I taught him what the word “unicorn” means in poly slang, and he kept me up to date on all of the cutie-pies breezing in and out of his life. Work days felt charged with compersion for his exploits and it reconnected me with a need for warmth I hadn’t felt in a while. It felt sweet and dangerous and I don’t know why this always happens to me at work—there’s really no excuse.
It SOMEHOW came out (because he brought it up) that we were both switches and I happily acknowledged inwardly that I would know exactly how to order him around in a non-coworker version of the world.

Next Time: Micro(and MACRO)aggressions are not cute.





Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Open Letter to LGBT Community Center Hosting The Scary Party


3/21/2018

Dear (Executive Director),

I have shared a deep concern with the (LGBT Community Center Hosting The Scary Party) staff via email a couple of times and my complaint has been ignored. Just a heads-up that what you are about to read may be triggering, and for that, I’m sorry.

I am writing to you under my blog name to minimize outing other partners I’ve written about on my blog.

Since finding out that (LGBT Community Center) is now hosting (The Scary Party's) monthly parties, I have been suffering flashbacks to traumatic events that happened to me at the hands of their leadership, as well as feeling that I no longer have safe access to (LGBT Community Center) for counselling and other events.

At an (Scary Party) event in 2013, I experienced numerous consent violations from the head of security at the time and his friend, who was also on the security staff. In response to my report, the dungeon's leadership gaslighted me, blamed me for what happened, and the entire (Scary Party) community gang-trolled me on FetLife. 

I have considered (LGBT Community Center) to be a wonderful resource in the past, but until this situation is corrected, I will no longer feel safe using your services, and I don't think any woman/femme/submissive should.

Here are detailed blog posts on both the original incident and the FetLife nightmare. In the future, I hope you will consider safety and consent in your booking decisions.




Best,
"Pretty Ribbons"





Sunday, February 25, 2018

Heart and Hoo-Ha Check-In



The other day in a tricky facebook argument about the porn industry, a twenty-something woman who was mistaking my anti-rape stance for being anti-sex helpfully explained to me that “Sex is good and people like having it.” She was on the defensive and making a mistake about what my values are, but she got under my skin.

Being mistaken for a Puritan got me thinking, where DO I stand with sex these days? This blog wouldn’t be here if I didn’t find sex a difficult thing to wrap my head around, and lately I’ve been wondering if I might be something like demi-sexual. I almost typed demi-romantic but then I remembered what really sweeps me up and carries me away.

One thing I’m sure of is that sex is not presently the central force of my life. My wrongheaded friend inadvertently shamed me for that, but most of the time, my life is a happy and calm one, punctuated by marches and letters to congress. When I’m not working or activist-ing, I prefer to be by myself, reading novels, drawing, singing random songs to the cats. Sex is still with me, just quietly, a gentle tide that buoys me up sometimes, but not the emergency it used to be. Sometimes I miss it, but mostly I’m just relieved.

But also, there’s this: I let my heart run away with itself for Mr. Makeout Music, and, to a more sense-making extent, for The Professor. The pain of those two failures-to-connect is still so much that it’s hard to see the good in those attractions, hard to see what was gained. The sense of loss I feel around those two guys has turned into a barrier against even the most modest fantasies. I’ve dated since them, sometimes to great enjoyment, but those two still loom large in my heart.

There’s no risk of running into Mr. Makeout Music—I haven’t even been to the library where we used to work together since I left. I didn’t go to the Big Poly Conference this year, partly because of some misogyny in the organization’s leadership but partly because the pain of seeing The Professor and not hugging him would have been too much.

The thing with Mr. Makeout Music ended in such misery and heartbreak that he is a lost cause, and probably The Professor is too, but there was something so real about my connection with the latter, something so sweet and easy about the physical spark between us—I am still having a hard time convincing myself that there wasn’t a potential there for love, a potential that I ruined in a flurry of panic and, okay, both of us being jerks. I ended up feeling thoroughly embarrassed, and because The Professor is so connected to the higher-ups of that particular poly community, the embarrassment feels public and hard to get past.

Oops, I set out to write about sex and ended up writing about love. These are attachments built on a workplace flirtation and a few days of glorious hotel-kissing, followed by an almost-relationship where we talked on the phone while I colored in a coloring book called “Secret Paris.”

Objectively I don’t see what’s wrong with being a fool for love, I would never judge a friend for it, but I am angry with myself still for the shame, loss, and trapped feeling that went along with Mr. Makeout Music, for the miscommunication and can’t-keep-up feelings of that connection with The Professor.

When I sat down to write this, I imagined that it would be a post about being a little scared of sex right now because of “metoo, because Trump is president (PLEASE WATCH THE BROAD CITY EPISODE “WITCHES” ON THAT THEME) because activism is demanding and news cycles keep bringing new waves of fight or flight, because it’s hard to relax and be vulnerable in the midst of so much fear.

But it isn’t bodily harm I’m afraid of, it’s love. I fall. I fall and it so seldom works out well. I feel like I can’t keep up because I CAN’T KEEP UP—people can fall into physical affection without worrying what it means, meanwhile my heart is sprouting flowers and building monuments. I’m afraid of the addictiveness of those flowers and monuments, and I’m afraid of the way everything else pales in comparison. I LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE, I don’t WANT it to pale.

So, the times when sex and love are put aside are just as important to me, just as vibrant, just as shiny with life-force. Love and sex are overwhelming to me and sometimes I like to be overwhelmed by other things. I don’t want to be ashamed of the times of solitude or of the romance that sometimes spreads rampantly from me like morning glory vines. I want to accept that it happens at inconvenient times, with the wrong men, or the right men when I’m unready for them. I’d like to think that none of it was a failure at all, just awkward, messy collisions that were just as important as the loves that make more sense, just as beautiful and necessary.

Friday night at yoga, I was stunned to notice that a beautiful man seemed to be flirting me, maybe seeing through the veil of good vibes and invisibility I tend to bring with me to self-care occasions. He was covered in tattoos that were clearly from a younger part of his life. On one hand it said “fear” and the other it said “less.” It was from when he used to think he was tough, he said, and I recognize a good new mantra when I see one. So that’s the goal: while I work to accept my solitary self, I can probably make a little more room for magic, I can probably manage to fear love less.





Monday, November 13, 2017

Bye and Thanks to The Socialist


My third date with The Socialist (a week ago yesterday) was just as warm and snuggly as the first two. I drove out to visit him in the suburbs, to his very guy apartment with a goth mix playing and Smiths posters all over the walls. He was wearing a Smiths t-shirt that matched the rest of the aesthetic, and all of it felt very homey and familiar. When I was nineteen, my boyfriend-type-person was a goth guy who took me to a rave club on Friday nights, and that seems to have influenced most subsequent decisions.

I felt so cozy sitting on his (velvety black) couch with my feet in his lap, talking about books and life and politics. I was SO RELIEVED when he made fun of the idea of a rigged 2016 primary! I told him he deserved ten blowjobs for that, and I meant it, but maybe I need to set my bar higher than “only buys into SOME misogynist news cycles.” Kinda where we are right now, though.

In bed, it was easy and warm. He knew just how to kiss me and just how to fuck me, didn’t mind when my exuberant moans rattled the walls of his crowded apartment building, though he did eventually get up and close the window. I couldn’t contain my joy, and he didn’t want me to.

After a couple of snuggly hours, I got tired of the goth music and (this is seriously one of the best date things that ever happened to me) put on one of his TWO Monkees playlists, singing along to cheery retro deeps cuts with his whole heart and his whole face. This, to me, is the miracle of dating, the way that, in spite of every wall and flaw and trope, a near-stranger’s perfect goofball humanity can shine out of him like the sun, and I am sometimes lucky enough to be there, naked and satisfied, to witness it. (And, in this case, laugh my head off.)

Definitely not hot songs, but I climbed all over him some more anyway—"Another Pleasant Valley Sunday” indeed.

The trouble started when I tried to tell him what I needed in terms of post-snuggle communication. He had disappeared for most of the week following our excellent second date, and as I tried to ask for something other than radio silence I felt stupid and needy and a little flower of hurt bloomed in my chest. I knew I wanted him to be more present by text, but everything I said felt like it had the potential to scare him away, everything kept coming out wrong.

We did spend a very pleasant half-hour joking our way through the emoji keyboard (Upside-down-smiley-face makes a much better ping than the businesslike thumbs-up, don’t you think?!) As I was putting on my pants, though, I knew I had to try and get serious, and he could not have looked more miserable about that.

I explained that praise is a really important part of sex for me. “Praise” makes it sound more BDSM than I meant it to. What I really meant was…softness. Kind words. He hadn’t given a single tiny sparkle of a compliment, and I explained that I couldn’t read his mind to tell if he liked me. He argued that he wouldn’t have had me over if he didn’t like me, but that is just nonsense when it comes to sex. (And I have, like, five years of blogging to prove it.)

“I’m just not good with praise” was the verdict and so was “I just don’t like all the talking.” I said that if we were fucking, he needed to communicate better, and he seemed to take it to heart.

On the long drive home, my phone chimed, and I got my hopes up that maybe he’d said something sweet. When I pulled up at home, I opened the phone and saw…more bantering about emojis, which is admittedly fun and cute but also nagged at that little void in me where kind words should’ve been. I have all the kind words to offer, and I wanted to believe that I deserved some in return.

He pinged the next day, but the connection felt broken. There would’ve been so many things to chitchat about all week—the Blue Wave! The new emojis! Orange heart! But my phone was silent except for reminders from ResistBot, so I had to admit that The Socialist didn’t like me the way I liked him.

After I let him go, I felt a return to myself, a relief from the emotional hangover that had made the sad election anniversary even harder to navigate.

What I want is simple, I want the cute person to tell me I’m cute. What isn’t so simple is remembering that I deserve it.

As the dust settled and I sent my OKC app to the cloud for a breather, I realized something I’ve never been able to non-judgmentally take in about myself before: sex is a scary thing to me. It’s all of the wonderful things, too, but sharing my space, my body with someone takes a deep investment of trust. I’ve always wanted it to be no big deal but with a sensitive body and soul and a heart that will leap into action at the least provocation, I have to take care of myself. I have to admit what I need.


So it’s a sad week, guywise, and I’m disappointed, but this is also a good, big step. I listened to him when he told me what he had (and didn’t have) to offer, and I believed him. Instead of treating the difference between us with self-sacrifice and eventual resentment, I treated us both kindly, setting us free to find a better fit. Sigh-go me.