Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the break

Do you remember the dark ages before the world wide web?   I do.  I remember distinctly the first few times that I tried e-mail.  I used Netscape Navigator and wrote like I was composing a formal letter.  I did not yet grasp the concept of the immediate, cheap connection to anyone at any place.  Now I have a better understanding of how easy it is to reach out and touch someone.  There aren't any doors to formally knock on and introduce yourself- people can just appear into your cyberworld without warning.  I see a lot to gain from inter-connectivity.  Thanks to the web I was able to contact the actual sources of information when I was writing my thesis.  Thanks to the web I made some friends before I moved to Italy.  Thanks to the web our family was able to finally diagnose my father's autoimmune condition. 

I spent a long time living in a happy bubble of anonymous familiarity until I eventually was treated to the other side of internet life.  As easily as I can reach out to someone, it is just as easy for someone to reach out to me.

That familiarity that we have with our internet community can sometimes expose us in ways that we didn't think about.  I used to have a blog previous to this one.  I used my real name.  Why not when the only people who read it were my friends?  Eventually I started receiving comments from people who I didn't know and was pleasantly surprised that strangers related to me and possibly even enjoyed my stories.  I was getting such positive feedback that I continued to share.  Then one day it happened- a snarky comment.  Not just a snarky comment, but a comment that cut deeply because it was a very personal attack.  It was an attack of me that was armed by my own words. It attacked something fairly intimate about my life which I had initially shared with others with a belief that my respect for my readers would be reflected back.  After walking around with a lump in my throat for a few days I shut down the blog.  I had very quickly learned that everything I put out into the world does come back with magnitude and the return shot is not always pleasant.

In the past two months I have had two of the blogs on my blogroll go inactive after the bloggers decided that they weren't so keen on receiving abuse.  One the the bloggers is a dear friend and so I can still participate in her life and the other is a woman who I have never met and probably never will.  I hope that they both come back because I have enjoyed participating in their virtual lives.    I also have thought about the pros and cons of putting yourself out there and in my case I came back because I discovered that I enjoyed the interaction with others.  Since most of my readers do not know me in my "real" life I find a kind of honesty in feedback that I don't always get in the real world.  I also get a different community that stays together based on mutual interest rather than some of the associations that are used in the real world.  I think there is more choice out there.

That being said, I would seriously warn anyone who is beginning to blog about exposure.  The more you expose, the more you can gain from others feeding back, but you are also...exposed.  All of my personal attacks have come from anonymous readers who take advantage of their protected identity while becoming rather intrusive with me.  These are readers who can get as close as my posts will allow them. Along with being anonymous they have one other characteristic in common.  The attacks say more about them than they do about me.  I will give two examples:

"I feel sorry for your husband; you are a bitch and he will leave you."  I have taken the liberty to correct the grammar from the poster, who writes at a much lower grade level.  Poster is not feeling sorry for SB.  Poster is feeling sorry for herself/himself and she/he is probably single.  I imagine the poster is wondering why I get a mate and she/he is so much "nicer" but is alone.  Because you are probably not so nice, honey.  Read your message to me and think about it.  I would defend my bitchiness but I am too busy being loved up.

"Haha, you have a big nose.  How does he kiss you with such a shnoz?....you are not an interesting writer."  This was one of the posts that caused me to close my original blog.  I won't include the more personal attacks because they were much more personal...in fact, so personal that the anonymous poster outed herself as the woman who SB broke up with three years before I even met him, who was so disinterested in me that she ran a search of my name online and stalked my posts.  I would defend my nose but there are enough pictures of me for you to judge.  Yes, I broke it playing rugby but that would make it crooked, not big.

The internet, just like the real world, has bullies who hide in the back of the classroom and attack others in calculated and very personal attacks.  Unlike that bully in the classroom who you will eventually chase out of the room when you freaking snap, these internet fiends are able to stay hidden.  Of course I wonder how satisfying it is for them when they cannot measure a reaction.  When I shut down the first blog, my non-anonymous poster stepped up an anonymous e-mail campaign but after she got no response she eventually deflated and slithered away.  And I am still busy being loved up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

things that make you go hmm

It is interesting that I had forgotten all about these salacious memories until tonight.  I was catching up on one of my favorite feminist websites and it had a discussion about the world's oldest profession.  Some second wave and third wave feminists were arguing on whether a so called feminist prostitute blogger was empowered, subversive or objectified.  Frankly, I haven't asked myself if prostitution is feminist or not so I don't have an immediate opinion.  Let's see...working outside of the traditional convention: check; self deterministic: if there isn't a pimp involved, I guess; empowered: ummm...?

So I surfed over to one of the blogs listed and gave it a bit of a read.  The author called herself a feminist but I wasn't sold.  She didn't seem to be too concerned with gender equality.  In fact, her only concerns seemed to be related to money and the designer clothing that she bought with her money.  And so I kept reading (for research purposes).

In one of her entries, the call girl recalled a meet and greet function for "providers" and "hobbyists" that took place in a hotel lounge.  Suddenly I remembered something.

When I was 19 years old I worked in a four star hotel.  I worked in the back of house organizing banquets and events.  Once each month the penthouse of the hotel was reserved for a meeting for the higher ranking members of a charitable organization which shall remain nameless.  I would set up the penthouse for a dinner followed by an informal meeting (a bar was set up in the corner).  Then I would leave, never to be invited back.  This was unusual because usually as the coordinator I was expected to stick around to take care of any requests but for this group, only male staff were admitted into the penthouse once the meeting was underway.  I never really thought to much about it because the members were all aged men who were affiliated with a religion and I assumed that the male only service requirement was related to some sort of traditional (hegemonic), medieval belief.

One day though, my friend JR couldn't help himself and let me in on the truth.  He grabbed me and dragged me from the back of house to the hotel lobby so that I could witness a troop of women enter the lobby.  "Holy crap, are those prostitutes?" I whispered in shock.  I had never seen any bonafide prostitutes up close before.  They actually looked just like the stereotype: tacky makeup, big hair and cheap little, itty bitty dresses with "hooker" heels.

That's when JR informed me that the hookers showed up every month and went to the penthouse where the high ranking members of the charitable organization were meeting.  I couldn't believe that a sexist big mouth like my coworker Gustavo would resist the urge to share this with me because he loved making me uncomfortable at work but JR sheepishly told me that the men who worked the shift were tipped big.  Really big.  And since they wanted to continue receiving big tips they kept their mouths shut, even Gustavo.  JR also revealed that another perk of working the event was that there was always porn on the televisions after the meeting had cleared out so the guys would stay up there to drink from the bar and catch up on the maneuverings of Misty Flatback or whoever. 

After that, when I saw the high ranking members of the charitable organization handing out candy in the Riverwalk Parade I would cringe.  Kids, you don't know where that hand has been.

I hope that SB never wants to join the upper ranks of a male only, charitable organization.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the middle ground

I had another long day today and have been sitting on the couch, drinking a glass of wine and decompressing in blessed silence.  SB poured me the wine even though he can't drink it because he is allergic to red wine.  He is bumbling around the flat with my i-pod because he is trying to give me quiet time.  Sometimes it is the small things that reawaken all of my feelings of love.  Thank you SB for knowing what I need.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

passive aggressive internal dialogue

I worked overnight on Wednesday so SB had to fend for himself.  85% of the time this means that he cooks himself a package of refrigerated tortellini in a soup of chicken stock.  I was able to ascertain what he had for dinner because the bowl was sitting on the dining table when I returned home.  On Thursday night I washed out the pot that he had cooked dinner in and proceeded with the evening's fare.  As I set the table I saw his bowl, spoon and drinking glass on the table but left it for him to pick up.  We had dinner with an extra setting of dirty dishes to the side.  I cleared the table, except for his dirty dishes from Wednesday night.  Last night the dishes remained while we ate curry.  "Hey look, it's your dishes from Wednesday," I pointed out helpfully.

It is now Saturday afternoon and we have finished lunch with our extra place setting.  I feel like if we continue to have an extra dinner companion we should give him a name.  Or he could wash the damn dishes.  I have debated with myself over just cleaning them up but now I am holding out based on principle, whatever that may be.  My internal voice tells me to just suck it up but I want to hold out this time even if it is much more difficult to force him to clean up after himself.

internal voice: just pick up the dishes. 
me: no, he needs to wash them.

internal voice: but you always wash the dishes
me: exactly, but the least he can do is clear the table
internal voice: he doesn't care and he won't remember
me: yes he will.
internal voice: how many times have you told him to clear his dishes
me: *sigh*

I don't get it.  We are feminists.  How did I end up doing the majority of the housework?  What happened to all the equality that both of us believe strongly in?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

cultural norms for the fat bottomed girls

While perusing Iva Skoch's Wanderlust section for the Global Post my gaze was drawn to a mural that was painted in Tanzania as a pictorial sexual education service announcement.  Rather than words or photographs, the murals have caught on with the public as an effective way to relate sexual health to the general public.  The picture I liked the most was this one:

“The one where the guy is staring at the girl with the big butt,” she says and stretches her arms three feet wide. The mural shows a couple walking down the street with the man turned around to check out another woman who is noticeably more gifted from behind. The sign above them says, roughly translated from Swahili: “Be happy with what you’ve got.”
I am tickled with how perceptions of beauty vary greatly among different cultures.  And I am contemplating a move to Tanzania.  
In defense of western culture, my bubble butt has garnered its share of unsolicited praise over the years throughout my time in the US and Italy.  I have no idea what the HK people think probably because I am no longer a single gal in my 20's and taking photographs of my posterior is frowned upon in more mature social groups.

Monday, November 1, 2010

fun for the familiy

We have a little family of two people but looks can be deceiving.  Depending on the day, time and place I may be living with a 5 year old, 14 year old, 38 year old or a 72 year old man.  It is one of the joyful/painful realities of living with someone with ADD.  I sometimes am worn out and beg for a break.  I sometimes send him off on his own so that I can clean up the home that he has destroyed or just so that I can be somewhere quiet where I don't hear him asking me to find things for him (that he will then leave lying around) or playing music, chatting on the computer and watching a movie all at once.

Most of the time I enjoy our adventures.  For the most part, ADD boy and hyperactive girl work out very well together.  We play a lot.  We hatch schemes and go out on missions together.  And he is so darn adorable with his goofy, gap toothed grin and crinkly hazel eyes that hold so much laughter.  I have a hard time saying no to him. 

Which is how I ended up with a ghillie suit in the closet.

Or how I woke up with cold feet one morning

 And then there was that time when he wore his hockey jersey to bed

 On Friday night as we were buying groceries he came bounding over to me like a happy Tigger, his ears a-twitching and eyes a-crinkling.

Me: Yes?
SB: (bounce, bounce, bounce)
Me: Honey, is there something you want me to buy?
SB: Can we have a pumpkin?

He picked out a monster; I bought the smallest one I could find that was still feasible for carving.  I still have nightmares over the Christmas tree that took up half of the floor space of our previous flat and shed bucket loads of sharp, little needles.  I have a fragrant smelling pillow that I made out of the needles that I picked up every day for 1 1/2 months while he falalaed away.

I sketched out a few designs for him and we settled on one that worked well for the size.  Then I had to set up a LOT of newspaper for him on our nice rug because he said that his mother used to carve the pumpkins indoors when he was a child.  Hmmm.  Then he plopped down and began his handiwork. 

I think that he did a great job.  I wouldn't let him save the seeds for me to roast.  I don't have the time to clean them and roast them right now, and from experience, those pumpkin seeds do not yield much food.  Last night he placed a tea light inside and then raced downstairs.  He called me from the street to complain that he couldn't see the face very clearly from the street.  He still isn't getting a bigger pumpkin.  I don't have enough newspaper.

So handsome