It's crazy what you could have had.
Anyways, because I'm a gamer and I'm into anime and go to cons I've been following in a sort of half-assed way recent controversies over the way women are portrayed in comic books, the way they are treated when they engage in cosplay, and their trials and tribulations as "girl gamers" in a male world. That's what it's all about, I guess...a male world. Anyways, there's been a few exceptionally well-written articles of late and so I've been reading them and pondering them and ruminating on them and not really coming to any sort of gestalt. You know, I'm a gamer and I've never experienced any of that, and I go to cons where quite lovely women and men cosplay and I've never seen any abuse, and I don't doubt that any of these stories are real but they don't resonate with me personally because my experience has been different.
And then Elliot Rodger happened.
If you haven't read his manifesto, you probably should. Yes, yes, I know. Don't give the little shit any more publicity. But to be honest, if you have not read it, then you will have no real idea of how unbelievably horrible it is that there are people out there who 1) try to deny that he hated women; and who 2) applaud his both his beliefs and his actions. Whatever else he did, he laid out for us in nearly 140 pages exactly what he did and why. The only comfort is that he failed to realize the full extent of his vision.
After you've read that, read this and this too.
I'm not going to go into anything about guns and the 2nd amendment. His guns were all legally purchased in a state that has very progressive gun laws. I'm not going to go into mental health issues. As far as I can tell, he was getting the help everyone around him felt he needed. But I will tell you a story.
Once upon a time, when I was younger, as we all were, I had one of those enormous 300-student intro biology courses in college, where some teacher you could barely see conducted his class in an auditorium with a slide projector and some overheads. (Kids, you won't remember those. Not to worry. They aren't important.) One day a guy sitting next to me, who I did not know, asked if I could help him understand something the teacher had said. He was an Iranian student (he told me), English wasn't his first language, and given the enormous class size and the accompanying noise levels, he hadn't really caught some point the professor had made. I sat with him for maybe 10 minutes, explained it, and then went on my way. The next class he sat by me again. He was nice enough, very polite, told me his name (I've forgotten it), and otherwise just sat there. After a few days of this, he asked me out to dinner. I was seeing someone at the time, so I declined politely, and he seemed fine with it. Or so I thought. The next class he showed up with a rose and asked me out again. I again told him I had a boyfriend. He insisted I take the rose anyway because I was "so lovely and kind" and we were such good friends. (Ikr? wtf?) He continued to ask me out but got increasingly aggressive about it, until he essentially got to the point of offering to buy my company. His family was quite rich, he could not believe any raggedy American boyfriend I could have could ever offer me the life of luxury that he could, and he promised to shower me with clothes and cars and houses (!) if I would go out with him. Plus, he knew I liked him because I was nice to him. Seriously freaked out by this I made a point of sitting in places in class that he could not sit next to me but he then made a point of waylaying me after class and pursuing his case. I finally told him to leave me alone, that the few minutes I spent after class one day to help him out was just being nice and didn't mean I was interested in him, that I had a boyfriend.
Then it got ugly. He called me a whore. Told me the way I dressed meant that I was available to any man so why not him? He knew what American women were like, all harlots, all sexually available to any man with money. That in his country a woman like me would be shamed, and then bought like an animal, and treated accordingly. He was a decent person to want to honor a dirty thing like me with his love, with his money, with his family. He'd show up outside my classes, follow me, alternate asking me to date him and calling me a heathen slut. I was terrified. One day I got into work and there was a GIANT bunch of roses sitting on the bar. For me. From him. (To this day the largest bunch of flowers I've ever received. There must have been three dozen of them.) I have no idea how he found out where I worked, other than that he'd been following me off campus. I started taking odd routes home, checking my rearview to see if anyone was following me. One night, late, he called me at home. I had an unlisted number. Turns out he'd shown up at my job, turned on the charm, and convinced someone there that he was a good friend who had misplaced my number and they'd given it to him. He started calling at all hours, heavy breathing, dirty talk, obviously jacking off, and calling me a filthy whore the entire time, listing all the ways he'd violate me and how I'd beg him for it. And always talking about his money and all the wonderful things he could offer me. I started letting the answering machine take the calls; one night I got home from work and there were 20 minutes of sex talk, name calling, and vague threats about "doing something" to me. This was back in the day when you got maybe 30 seconds to make a phone message and then you had to call back. He'd nearly filled up the tape. Yes, I went to the police. They said he'd done nothing illegal and there was nothing they could do. The campus security people got tired of me calling them for escorts to my car. My boyfriend offered to get some friends and take care of things but I'm not a violent person and I was afraid they'd be the ones to get in trouble, so I wouldn't let him.
Finally, after I don't even remember how many months of this, I had a Psych final on the far side of campus that ran late. The school was doing some kind of earthquake proofing on its older buildings so my class was meeting out in some isolated quadrant of the campus in temporary quarters. I finished my test early (because I was a hella good student) and got up to leave. I walked out the door and there he was, out in the hallway, with a half dozen of his friends. Waiting for me. I looked him in the eye, I saw what he meant to do, and I turned right around and went back in the classroom. My teacher, who was a pretty cool guy, took one look at me and asked me what was wrong. So I told him. Everything. And I'm pretty sure I cried because I was really scared. He sat there for a couple of minutes calming me down and then he asked the three biggest guys in the room to come with him and they went out into the hall.
I don't know what my teacher said to him or what happened in that hallway. After some time they all came back into the room and the professor said they'd taken care of it. Two of the guys walked me to my car and both of them told me that if he ever bothered me again in any way to let them know and they'd "have a little talk" with him. I never saw him again. The phone calls stopped. I didn't stop looking for him everywhere I went until I moved away to an entirely different state several years later.
So that was bad enough. The worse thing was how nearly everyone else reacted to it. I was raised to be a strong and independent person and feeling at this guy's mercy throughout my entire life was horrible. I got little support anywhere; most people laughed it off. The police, campus security, people at work, my friends They minimized it, said he probably wouldn't do anything, I was overreacting. And btw, did I lead him on in any way? Christ. The only people that ever took it seriously were my boyfriend and my teacher. Anyways, I got past it, and moved on. It never really left me though. Years and years later, when Dennis wanted to post some photos of us on the internet, I wouldn't let him because I was afraid the guy would find me, and he was pissed about it. How could I let something that happened years ago and didn't really turn out all that bad keep him from doing something he wanted to do? Yeah, it was probably an unreasonable fear but unless you've been there you have no idea how reasonable unreasonable fear can seem. It pervades every part of your life and it takes a long time to go away. I can't even imagine what it's like today, when it is so easy for people to find anyone they want on the internet. I've had fucking therapists tell me it was no big deal when obviously if I can remember it in this kind of detail twenty plus years down the road it goddamn mostly certainly is a big deal.
I have been raised my entire life to fear men. Don't take candy from strangers. Don't accept rides from strangers. Don't give your number out. Don't walk alone at night. Keep your keys in your fist. Be prepared to run. Don't let men you don't know buy you drinks. Don't go to frat parties. Don't wear skimpy clothes. Don't do whatever it is you did that made them do what they did. I did nothing but be nice to this asswipe for 10 minutes in a lame biology class. And yet somehow I've never stopped thinking that somehow it all was my fault. Somehow I failed to learn the appropriate lessons that would have prevented it from happening.
I don't know where I'm going with this, other than that I've been reading the news again and it's never good. It never ends well. It dredges up all kinds of crap I wish would stay buried. But what are you gonna do?
This is harder for me than you might think. For one thing, I hate just throwing out perfectly good stuff. I'm not fashionable, far from it, and most of my clothes tend to be "timeless" (the kindest way I can think of to put it). They are are serviceable: comfortable, natural fibers (mostly), mix -n- match, work good in layers, etc. I can wear the same clothes for years if they don't get stained or torn. But eventually I get tired of things or they don't fit anymore or they just start looking too lived in to be suitable for work (and I have a very relaxed work place as far as attire goes). Then it's time.
I kind of suck at clothes shopping. Because it's expensive and pretty much requires me to financially support foreign sweat shops and other abusive labor practices at some level of production and marketing I avoid it as much as possible. Then when I'm absolutely forced to do it, I buy a ton of stuff and it's expensive and exhausting and ultimately not satisfying. This is a long way of saying that I last went clothes shopping seriously probably 3 years ago.
So here I am with a bag full of new clothes, well, a laundry basket full of new clothes, because I washed them all to get the sizing and starch out. I realize I have no hangers for them, no drawer space for them. It's a long weekend and I have no plans. Time to thin out the wardrobe.
Like a surprising number of things in my life, usually involving change (hmmm...), cleaning out my closet is fraught with danger. Here's why. I have a lot of clothes that I bought when I was sick. Most of them I cannot wear anymore for obvious reasons. When they no longer fit me I hung them in the darkest, farthest reaches of the closet or shoved them as far back into a drawer as they could go and then I ignored them. Once or twice I've thought I might get rid of them, donate them to Goodwill or something, but every time I've tried it's just been too weird. Not exactly painful. I don't know how to describe it, other than to say I'd rather not deal with it.
This is an anniversary. The five year anniversary. People who are into round numbers might think that's portentous. I don't know about any of that. I needed closet space.
The first part was easy. Some stuff has not emotional resonance. It's just old stuff I don't wear anymore for whatever reason. Into the Goodwill box it goes. Then it gets harder. These shirts, these pants. I remember buying them when I literally had nothing to wear because everything I owned hung on me like a sack and it made me (even more) depressed to go out in ill-fitting clothes than it did to stay in alone. I touch them, I feel strange. That all happened to someone else. What are her clothes doing in my closet?
It's not all bad memories. There's the pair of jeans my friend K bought for me when I was crying about how I couldn't go anywhere or do anything because none of my clothes fit. He showed up with a bag containing a pair of jeans (size 10!) and a t-shirt that fit perfectly. Now, I love K and he's an awesome person but he's not really the sort of guy I'd expect to be up on women's clothes. But he totally nailed it. I still have the t-shirt too. And I think I'll keep the pants. I will never be able to wear them again but they are imbued with all kinds of happy thoughts.
Other things though, they go. It's kind of funny to see the range of sizes I went through. The smallest was size 4 (size 4!). That's a skirt my friend gave me because it was too big for her. It's purple and swirly and it looked great with boots. OK, I'll keep that too. Because reasons. There's a pair of size 10 skinny leg jeans (what was I thinking), white short shorts (again), and some tight little tops that really showed off my emaciated ribcage. From there it's mostly size 14 stuff; I seemed to have plateaued at that size for a while. None of it fits anymore and I'll never wear it again. The thought of what I'd have to do to myself to be a size 14 again is kind of nauseating. Then there's a kind of escalating progression of sizes as I advanced toward my current size (my lips are sealed).
It may sound strange but all of these old clothes, some of which are in excellent condition because I only fit them for a short time, feel like failure sometimes. I think it should be the opposite. They should scream success to the world. They should shout out "I LIVED DAMMIT, I LIVED!" but they don't. Instead all I see is my future. This will happen again. And probably again.
Anyways. All of them (except for K's jeans and the purple skirt) went into the box. And my shiny new clothes now have pride of place in the closet and the dresser. The old crap is gone. The memories will hopefully go with them.
I feel OK about this.
I know it’s not really the anniversary. Well, it might be. I don’t really remember what the exact date was. In my mind, philosophically, this is the day.
So yeah, it’s been five years. If I were a cancer patient that might be cause for some rejoicing.
I remember everything. Everything.
Anyways, thought you’d like to know.
This morning I rode up in the elevator with a woman who, no lie, had five large bags on her person. One was a gigantic purse but the rest were those big square reusable grocery bags. She set one down and I could inside it and it was full of ...stuff. Gloves, books, tissues, what looked like day planner jammed with odd bits of paper, some snack foods. No idea what was in the other bags. This isn't the first time I've seen her and every time I see her she has five bags (or more) with her. There are several women in my building who bring actual luggage to work every day and one that carries three large purses. These aren't the only people who do this; these are just the ones I see frequently. I see it more and more. At work, at the store, walking downtown, people, always women, laden with bags and bags of stuff.
I have no clue. I personally can't imagine the need for this. If I didn't have to carry a small folder of work-related documents home with me when I telework I'd not carry a bag at all. As it is I use a messenger bag that is mostly empty. But I know that many people are comforted by things. I also sense that many people are worried or stressed by the thought that they might be somewhere and need something and not have it with them. But how could anyone possibly need so much on their person for the eight or so hours they are at work? Even if they carry a wallet and makeup and a book or two and tissues and a planner and phone and pens and coins and gloves and mail (I'm running out of things...), how could it take up three huge purses or five grocery sacks or a matched set of luggage? Why does it seem to be only women that do this? I wonder if they do this everywhere they go, spending their lives burdened by their things in a physical rather than a metaphysical way.
This is one of life's mysteries I guess. It probably disturbs me more than it should. I see it so much and it seems to be getting worse. We have become a fearful people. Everything is conspiracy. We have too many enemies to count and they are all invisible but around us everywhere, all the time. People won't touch surfaces in public areas, won't let their kids play in the dirt, think anyone different from themselves is a terrorist.
Sometimes I wonder if people carry things with them because they fear their lives will disappear while they are away. They are carrying supplies for the apocalypse.
What is this? I don't even...
Yearly reminder: unless you're over 60, you weren't promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.— Kyle Marquis (@Moochava) July 10, 2013
Also, quit bitching about hoverboards. We can't have nice things.
Well, yes, exactly. But here's the thing: why would I?
Back to the beginning. This time last week I was barely this side of comatose, laid low by the common cold and my own stupidity. I broke my cardinal rule: never attend a social event with school-age children during cold and flu season. Within days of this lovely soiree I was sitting at my work computer starting to feel the beginnings of fatigue, the tickle in the back of the throat, the cough that sort of started and never went anywhere. Work over, I logged out, canceled that night's raid, and passed out. I might have eaten something; I don't remember. It snowed overnight. A lot. It was still snowing in the morning when I woke up, let the dogs out, and passed out again. I don't remember much else of that day. The next day, Friday, was marginally better. That's about the time I realized this wasn't really "just a cold", but by then what could I do about it? A foot and half of snow on the ground, car covered in snow (not that I could drive), nothing shoveled, streets barely plowed and still slick. I'm obviously on the mend, even if only barely, but doing what it what take to get out of the house and to the hospital is out of the question and it would serve no point. It's a freaking cold.
In general, obviously, I don't do doctors. I never have. I don't get sick often and when I do, honestly, it's usually just a cold and all it needs it hot tea and lemon, the judicious application of Nyquil, and time. There is almost nothing that would encourage me to see a doctor, even if I think I might have the flu. What good does it do? Yes, I could go and sit in a doctor's office and shed virus on everyone. If I can even get them to see me. When was the last time you called a doctor and had them say "sure, come on in!"? These days it's usually they can get you an appointment in two weeks and if you think it's an emergency go to the emergency room. Well, that's not happening. Sick as I was, there was no freaking way I was going to sit in some ER somewhere for hours, exposing people to and being exposed to god knows what. Also, people fail to realize that for me to go to the ER it's a ride in an ambulance. If the weather were better and I felt it was something truly life-threatening, yes, I'd call a friend or something. But that pretty much commits that person to spending hours in an ER with me because no kind person just dumps a sick friend off at the ER and drives away. I'd call an ambulance before I'd put someone out like that and it's gonna have to be pretty bad before I'm willing to go that distance.
The last time I had the flu (probably 20 years ago, or damn near) I was raving with fever, delirious. I couldn't get off the couch for days. I scared people. I had housemates then. They'd pass by me several times a day, make sure I had a glass of water nearby and was still breathing, and otherwise went on their business. I lived. I was weak and pale and out of things for weeks afterwards but I lived without medical intervention. That is literally the only illness I have ever had where I thought later that I probably should have gone to the hospital. I didn't go because I had no money and no insurance and also probably because I was too out of my mind to think about it.
So this time, maybe on Friday or Saturday, I thought about it. But by then the worst had passed, that was obvious, and as weak and sick as I felt, it was clear to me that this was just an industrial strength cold brought on by ill-considered exposure to the kinds of powerful organisms harbored in disease vectors I rarely contact. I was just constitutionally unprepared for it and my immune system rolled over and played dead. In retrospect, not a big deal although it kind of sucked at the time. I honestly couldn't see any reason to go to the doctor at that point. And so I didn't and here we are.
People at work ask me what I did on the long weekend and I say I was sick and that starts the inevitable round of questions:
"Did you have the flu?"
"Did you have a fever?"
"Are you feeling better?"
"Did you go to the doctor?"
"Why didn't you call someone?"
I just shrug but inside I'm confused. And do what? Ask them to suit up and drive to my house in the snow, wade through the snow on my treacherous stairs and walk, get me mobile, get me in their car, drive me to the hospital, wait around for hours, maybe drive me to a pharmacy, drive me home, get me back into the house, and ... leave me there? Even if it's a neighbor, it's still a fair bit of driving and snow-wading and risk. For the record, once my neighbors knew I was ill, they did check on me and one of them even shoveled my walks (superheroes are real!), but there was really only the one day that I was totally out of it. I wasn't "missing" long enough to alarm anyone. Most of them just figured I was out of town or that I'd shovel once the snow actually stopped. And as far as it goes, I was not in any real danger either of dying or failing in my obligations. I had plenty of food and so did the animals. The heat was working. The phone was charged. I was able to take care of the dogs and cats. I had nowhere I needed to be. It's not that I don't have anyone to call. It's just that I'm not really sure what good calling anyone would have done. Even calling an ambulance out in the circumstances would have been irresponsible. I'm fairly sure the emergency responders had better things to do that day.
I think most people view living alone as freakish and weird and dangerous. Liking it is evidence of a personal failing, accepting defeat, willful defiance of everyone around you. Whatever. I don't have a great deal of choice in the matter, and besides, I do like it. It suits me. But it does have certain...complications. It changes your calculations of need and risk and eventually, when no one is ever around, you forget that it's even an option. Calling on someone is not the first thing that springs to mind. If I fell down the stairs and broke my leg I'd probably run through all the self-sufficient options (I could make a splint out of a broom handle and drive myself to the ER!) before I'd think of just picking up the phone because that's what I do. When you live with someone the phrase "hey, can you help me with this" is second-nature; when you don't it drops out of your vocabulary. Thus when I'm so sick I can barely stand up my first thoughts are always "how can I handle this, what do I need to do, what can I get away with not doing?" and not "who can I call to help me?" By the time I do think of it, there's no point. I think it freaks people out though because it's a way of being that not many people I know understand. Think about it. When was the last time you were alone for any length of time?
Believe me, it used to freak me out too. But I'm used to it now. And it's OK. Really.