Monday, October 30, 2006

This Will Make You Smarter

Seriously, just go to Political Theory Daily Review. It looks kinda scary because it's just a bunch of words and no pretty pictures, but that's because they've got so much to say. Actually, they've got so much to tell you about what other people have to say (they've even pimped us!), but damn if they don't make it a lot easier to cull through all the important crap out there. So definitely bookmark them. Right after you bookmark us, of course.

Monday, October 23, 2006


It’s funny what time and the social graces of adulthood will make you forget. Adults never ask; they’ve been conditioned to believe it’s impolite, so, instead, they stare at my face a second too long, avert their eyes, and continue to force the course of the conversation.

But children are another story. My first year teaching, I assigned my sixth-graders to write about a time they had been teased. As I read the essays, I gasped when I came across one, written by a very quiet girl in my class named Maria, so quiet that I could count the times on my finger I’d actually heard Maria speak. I hadn’t noticed, but she had a scar on her face, and she wrote about how the other kids teased her, and called her “scarface.”

It didn’t take a teaching job for me to understand that kids can be assholes – I knew that. What surprised me was the fact that I had always believed I was the only one against whom this word had been directed. You see, I, too, was called “scarface” as a child, and it caused me a considerable amount of shame growing up; so much shame, in fact, that I never told anyone, not my parents, family, friends, nor the men I would grow to love. Not even the one I followed to New York after he told me my scar was sexy. It was the one thing I had always kept to myself, until I read Maria’s essay.

I was 8 years old when it happened. I was playing at my friend David’s house one afternoon that summer, and I heard my older sister calling me from across the canyon to come home. I ran upstairs towards the deck, worried I would be in trouble with my mother for staying out too late, and crashed through the plate glass door. I have no memory of actually hitting the door. One minute I was running toward the door; the next, I was on my knees on the deck, blood gushing from my knee, down my leg. My upper arm was split to the bone, and when I saw it, I became hysterical, and began running toward the edge of the deck. David’s older brother rushed from the house and grabbed me before I tumbled over the edge.

David’s brother put me, swathed like a baby in a blanket, in the car and drove me to Children’s Hospital in Oakland. There, the nurse bandaged me, and I was placed in an ambulance, and sent to Kaiser Hospital. When the ambulance doors swung open, my father was standing at the emergency room door, and I burst into tears. He held my hand as they wheeled me into the operating room, and continued holding it while doctors, wielding needles the size of ballpoint pens, descended to anesthetize and sew me closed. Every time a needle pierced my flesh, I screamed, and my mother screamed louder from the waiting room.

Looks are pretty important in my family. Add to that black folks’ neuroses about skin color and hair texture and you can fuck up a child damn good. My grandmother pronounced me acceptable — or halfway, at least: Upon first seeing me as a baby, she declared, “She’ll have nappy hair, but she’s light.” It was the opposite with my older sister: “She’s dark, but she has straight hair.” During my weekly call home from college, instead of inquiring about my grades, as I imagine most mothers would, mine would ask, “So how’s your weight?” ... click to read more

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Is Dieting Anti-Feminist?

I grew up without a scale in the house. My mother threw it away when I was 8 years old because she didn't want me to become a slave to it like she had as a teen. I also didn't have any Barbies growing up because my mom didn't want me to have a distorted body image. Hey, makes sense to me: I got My Little Ponies instead … they have stumpy legs and plump bubble butts and are probably a much better body model for little girls. As a result, I grew up with a solid, healthy body image and a body to match: I'm totally average—thick, but not fat; strong, not skinny.

However, six-plus years of working as a writer/sedentary lump accelerated my metabolism's natural decline. Despite a daily yoga practice, I've never been an especially active person and having a sit-in-a-chair career is without a doubt my biggest health liability... I started wrestling with myself: I felt unhealthy — and then felt guilty for feeling that way. Was I a victim of the patriarchal societal pressures my mother tried so hard to shield me from? Then again, does fighting the patriarchy mean stuffing myself? Was I buying into some clucky NOT ME style national weight obsession by feeling like I wasn't eating right? ... click here for complete story

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm Not Your Porn Star!

Apparently I'm not allowed to have pubic hair anymore (even in Playboy, no one under 30 has it, and that magazine has to be the most sweetly old-fashioned of all the skin mags). In fact, I should only have hair on my head (and maybe my eyebrows, though they must be perfectly plucked). I also need to fret about the size and symmetry of my labia and the pigmentation of the skin around my anus (ass bleaching kit, anyone?).

Sexual intercourse in the missionary position is hopelessly provincial, and since oral sex is now regularly practiced by 12-year-olds, that is sooo first-date. Anal sex, however, is now a permanent part of the menu (just bite on something, darling, I'll get more lube!). Multiple orgasms are so '80s, so I really should achieve that illusive female ejaculation. And after I'm done, I must be up for having my partner ejaculate all over me. And let's not forget bringing someone else into my relationship for the all-important threesome.

Wow. So much to keep track of. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

I blame the mainstreaming of porn. Porn has become so pervasive in the past few years (thanks, Internet!) that what used to make it so titillating (experimental sex, obsession with how intimate body parts look in close-ups) has become our standard. And if we refuse to live up to it, we are labeled uncool and prudish. ... click here for more

You Know You Like It!

Okay, yes, the porn industry is exploitive. No millionaire’s daughter has ever starred in an adult film. And okay, a great deal of porn is misogynistic. Both of these things are true.

However, to paraphrase early feminist icon Emma Goldman, a society gets all the pornstars it deserves. It’s not the porn industry itself that really deserves blame, but the policies and attitudes that continue to allow the United States to have the highest poverty and lowest literacy rates in the developed world.

And as for the misogyny, I’m not so sure all porn is about being anti-woman as much as it is about being pro-selfishness. Sex revolves around power dynamics as much as anything else. When the power dynamic in bed is completely equal, the sex is pretty dull. That doesn’t mean the man should be in charge; it means each partner should be in control at different times. Sex is best when both people are thinking about pleasing their bedmate some of the time and themselves some of the time, when the dominant/submissive dynamic is in constant flux. But porn, on the other hand, is porn. The vast majority of it is created for one purpose: to get men off without having to think about anyone else’s needs in the process. Thus it makes sense that a lot of it would be focused on woman-as-slave-doll. Is this the same as misogyny? Not exactly. Does it potentially promote misogynist attitudes in interactions between men and women outside of pornography? Probably. But it’s important to recognize the distinction.

Why? Because the “right” porn does not have to be a negative thing for women, and it has done more good for our sex lives than most people realize. ... click here for more

Men Don't Suck

My first crippling crush—which, in seventh grade, counts for love—was on the president of the student council, an honor roll all-star with deep blue eyes and adorable freckles who was shy with the girls, oblivious to his more physical charms, and clumsy with a compliment (“um, you look way better in person than you do in your yearbook photo”) but sincere. My first true love arrived in my sophomore year of high school with a hell of a head of sandy hair and some serious aqua eyes, but, more importantly, the awkwardly sweet disposition of a science geek: He knew he couldn’t buy a good gift to save his life, but he gave them anyway; he had a tough time saying “I love you,” but his “I wish you didn’t have to go home yet” was enough for me. And my first big love—the one I almost married—stuck with me through the 10 toughest years of my life (commonly known as one’s 20s), through bouts with recurring panic attacks and several rounds of paying off my staggering credit card debt, among other crises.

These were not perfect guys, and there were a few bad ones sprinkled here and there. But the bad was few and far between, which means, mostly, that I am lucky. However, I’m of the mind that we make at least a little of our own luck. And more than a few girlfriends have asked me, “Why do you get all the good ones?”, which means there must be some explanation (besides “because I’m awesome, duh”). I believe it is this: I freaking love men.

Yes, some are emotional fuckwits (some women are, too). And they all can be a little mystifying (God knows we can, too). But really, aren’t a lot of them lovely creatures when it comes down to it? The way they often buy us pretty things just because they think we’re pretty, or help us move furniture just because it makes them feel strong, or try to be witty just to hear us laugh. They go to baseball games with us, buy us beer, push us on swings at the park, dance with us. They are even trained from birth to open doors for us, pay for our food and beverages, and generally make the first move … and these days, they’re also trained to respect our opinions and make sure we come first. The good ones are, anyway.

I happen to believe, incidentally, that the “good ones” are plentiful. But you wouldn’t know it from the culture at large. It’s perfectly accepted in the post-feminist world to joke about the woman wearing the pants in the family—even though in a lot of cases, she’s a domineering, soul-crushing bitch, and it’s hardly funny. We’re far past taking men down a few notches in the name of fighting patriarchy. And, frankly, if you’re wondering why you can’t find a good man, I’d suggest you start by waking up to the fact that you’re surrounded by them—so if anyone’s to blame, it might be you. ... click here for more

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dating Down

Remember when choosing a mate was easy? You and I weren’t alive then, of course, but back in the day – way back – when humans were just starting out, our needs were simple. All a man needed was a fertile female; all a woman needed was a genetically fit male who could provide her with resources while she carried out the metabolically expensive task of carrying, birthing, and raising offspring (we’ve always been the more complicated gender). His politics, his taste in music, his values – none of those things mattered; everything was streamlined. I’ll make babies, you keep me alive. Done deal.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, a lot has changed in the last 10,000 years. You know, we talk now; we’ve industrialized; we use birth control. Human life is a whole new ballgame these days. One clear sign of this change may be the fact that there are more and more couples out there who seem to reverse this deeply ingrained relationship pattern. Think Britney and Kevin, or Ashley Judd and her NASCAR racing hubby Dario Franchitti (for real – note that this headline actually says, “Ashley Judd’s Husband wins blah blah blah…” – not his own name!). Or, if you like your relationships fictional, Miranda Hobbes and Steve Brady on "Sex and the City," Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court in "Say Anything," Will Hunting in his janitor phase and that Skylar chick played by Minnie Driver in "Good Will Hunting."

It makes sense, of course, that relationships like these are cropping up more and more these days. Women are kicking some serious ass when it comes to education and accomplishment. Women are, for example, outnumbering men on more and more college campuses, and in many schools they outperform men. In time, this pattern may tip scales in the working world and beyond, but even now, we’ve got the cultural upper hand.

Despite all this great progress, though, old habits die-hard – our gender’s preference for hooked-up men seems to linger: one American study found that women still pay more attention to ambition, education, and earning capacity in a mate than men do (appropriately, men still care primarily about physical signs of fecundity)... Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You Don't Get to Call Me a Whore ...

But I'm still feeling a little ... um ... uncomfortable about my brazen admissions in the first paragraph of the below Sirens story. I know that saying this kinda negates the whole, "I am sexual woman, hear me roar!" message for said piece, but, see, things change when you know your dad subscribes to the Sirens newsletter. So while I'm totally fine with, like, strangers or whatever knowing about my threesome fantasies, Daddy is another story.

This is actually an issue we face quite frequently here in the personal essay biz--just how much to reveal about our personal junk to juice up our pieces, which quite often tackle oh-so-current issues in our sex lives and relationships. I know this is hard to believe, but there's actually PLENTY that we leave out, mostly to protect our engagements, fledgling dating lives, jobs, etc. And, yes, our fathers' delicate sensibilities.

So to that end, I'm going to give props to a gal who puts it all out there on her way cool sex blog, Sexualite. Or maybe we just like her because she gave us a shout-out. Or maybe we're just suckers for her Australian accent.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Slut Is Not a Four-Letter Word

I have had a threesome fantasy or two in my day—the two-guys-and-me kind, not that way overplayed other kind. I have boys-and-boozed it up just for sport, and/or to lift spirits that self-help books would’ve told me just needed some yoga or a lavender bath or special “me” time. I enjoy a good vibrator and great oral sex and hot guys wearing boxer briefs.

I don’t think any of this makes me very different from lots and lots of other women. But until recently, you wouldn’t have known many of us existed—at least not if pop culture was your barometer. Even the coolest chicks on TV have, if anything, been too busy being, you know, Strong Female Characters—chatty single moms, super-spies, angsty students, neurotic lawyers, mega-bitches—to get too down and dirty. In movies, women’s overt sexuality came with such lovely bonuses as gratuitous crotch shots and boiled bunnies. Music gave us our savior, Madonna—and then another 20 or so years of occasional tiny breakthroughs (Alanis Morrissette, I salute your idea of a good night at the theater; Kelis, sweetie, you can charge whatever you want; and Liz Phair, well, I’m speechless in awe), but no major movements.

Until now. Thanks to the Super Sexual Powers of a rag-tag team of surprising heroines—Meredith Grey, Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado, Fergie, and the Pussycat Dolls—our time has finally, ahem, come. And it is precisely because these women’s presences are so overwhelmingly popular, so mainstream—and so wonderfully slutty (that’s a term of endearment here)—that they’re so important. ... click here for more

What the Fuck Is Wrong With You Bitches?

Ordinarily, ladies, when I come to you in this column, I am asking some sort of gently-mocking question like, “Why do you wear high heels?” or, “Who thought shorts would be a good choice for evening wear?” and I’m all funny and snippy and whatever. But today I am without comment, without the ability to make fun of you or even come up with anything decent to say about the baseball playoffs. Frankly, I don’t even know who I am anymore.

You see, I am now going to write a column about finding a dress for the Emmys, and I am going to write it while getting a pedicure in a salon in Austin, Texas. The situation is wedding-related and unavoidable, and it is a perfect storm. It is the tomboy’s nightmare. My identity has been ripped out and thrown into the street, and so now I have nothing but one enormous, overriding question—and it’s not the one you think. No, today I come to you while someone is clipping my cuticles to ask:

How the hell do you bitches do it?? ... click here for more

Friday, October 06, 2006

So happy not to be a teenager anymore

I know I keep referencing Laguna Beach around here, and that's mostly because I like to do my blogging in one big chunk, and Wednesday is that day--because, for my day job, I am required to post my thoughts (I use the term loosely here, natch) about this wisp of an MTV "reality" show. You'll get the full run-down here, but suffice to say that these kids that they follow--as well-off as they may be--do not make me the tiniest bit wistful for my younger years.

I do not miss so-called relationships that consisted of more self-imposed drama than conversations, tricking guys into saying "I love you," or break-ups and make-ups that feel like they happen devoid of anyone's free will. All hail adulthood.