Mourning, Rage, Heroes, Villans

This is going to be shorter and less well put than I want it to be. But I have something I need to say.

One of my (personal) resolutions for the New Year is to try to be a better ally, and I’ve realized there are certain issues I shy away from talking about. I think sometimes there are legitimate reasons (I don’t tend to post with the news cycle, or maybe I sometimes feel that some subjects are outside of my area of expertise, or the scope of the blog) but the regularity of my silence sometimes concerns me. There’s no way to avoid it, I just don’t talk about race.

***

I’m a thirty year old white radical. That’s not all that I am, but it is part of who I am. White privilege allows me to move through the world with a certain amount of ease and safety that non-white* people simply do not have access to, even as other facts of my identity (orientation, family status, social class, gender) limit my privileges and mobility. My family can be denied housing because my wife and I are both female. But also, we have a secret laundry room key because we have a baby and the landlord understands that having to find the building manager to get laundry done with an infant is a huge fucking problem. We are not the only family with a baby in our building.

What we are, though, is the only family with a white baby.

***

Yesterday, two pieces of news dominated my social media feed.

  1. No one will be indicted in the murder of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old black child.
  2. Lemmy Kilmister, from Motorhead, died suddenly but peacefully at home.

One of these pieces of news had acquaintances gathering together to drink, mourn, and celebrate the life of the deceased. The other one was about a child who died too soon to ever put out an album.

***

I’m not saying the people who gathered together to celebrate and mourn Lemmy were wrong. I’m not saying these two deaths need to be dealt with in exactly the same way. First of all, Tamir Rice did not die yesterday, and so the immediate mourning period, for many people, had probably passed. Secondly, we necessarily have a different emotional relationship with the loss of those who create art that we love, and the loss of strangers through murder and injustice. Lemmy’s death inspires mourning, but also celebration and remembrance. But Tamir Rice’s passing inspires rage and despair. Many of us only learned of his existence because he was gunned down by the police. What could we say to eulogize him?

I’m not personally a Motorhead fan (sorry!) but if my Facebook feed is any indication, it seems people have a lot of nice things to say to eulogize Lemmy. It’s not wrong to go to the bar with friends after a hero dies. If anyone had wanted to go to the bar with me when Helen Frankenthaler passed away a few years back, that would have been oh-so-lovely.

I’m not saying any of that is wrong.

But it does make me sad. It makes me sad in a way that is hard to define. It makes all my limbs feel heavy. It makes me feel tired. It makes me feel angry at all the white people I know who aren’t actively fighting against racism. And then it makes me angry with myself. Because really, what am I doing?

***

I don’t have any answer. I just have grief. I just have mourning. I get in an argument with strangers on Facebook about why criticizing Black Lives Matters protestors for not being ENOUGH like Martin Luther King Jr. is TOTAL BULLSHIT. I know the argument is, and will continue to be, fruitless, but I get into it anyways. I take care of my kid. I nurse this nasty cold I picked up on the solstice.

***

I am a mother. I am a mother of a male child. Sometimes I call him my son. He is crying for me right now. He wants to nurse again. He ALWAYS wants to nurse again. I would do almost anything for him. I would do almost anything to protect him. Sometimes I feel like I can protect him. Sometimes I actually can protect him.

Tamir Rice’s mother though, she could not protect him. And the machine won’t even attempt to hold anyone accountable for his death. And I cannot imagine the pain. I will never, ever, be able to imagine the pain.

***

Today. Today I am mourning.

 

Advertisements

Songs My Kid Knows, Six Months Old

Hello beautiful readers! Things are absolutely all over the place around here, what with holidays and my wife having a birthday and work deadlines and having to feed the cats. It’s possible that things are also a little chaotic for you! Well, I’m doing something a little bit different today. Instead of my usual fun, here is a list of songs, in no particular order, that my six month old child seems to recognize and enjoy

1. “Fall of the High School Running Back” – The Mountain Goats

You guys, this song is probably his favorite song in the whole world. What does that say about me as a parent? That was a rhetorical question.

2. “The Great Compassion Dirani”

This is actually not a song. It’s a Buddhist chant his Ma has been chanting to him since he was a lil’ tadpole that just barely had ears.

3. “Mama Can’t Wait Til Ma Get’s Home” – Me

This song is about what it sounds like. There are several versus that discuss the various things we are looking forward to doing when Ma does, indeed, get home, such as handing the baby to her.

4. “We Get Our Jammies, Jammies On Again, Get Our Jammies on” – Ma

I have had this one stuck in my head for a week now.

5. “Pink and Blue” – The Mountain Goats

At least it’s about a baby?

6. “Lean on Me”

Oh little baby, maybe one day I’ll have a problem that you’ll understand.

7. “Simple Gift”

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free,
Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

My mom used to sing this one to me when I was little, d’awwwwwwww.

556346_10200246698198032_1916653583_n

This guy though, this guy hates all music.

Embraced By Crapitalism, or, The Goal Of Advertising Is Money

Advertising is always about capitalism, not support.

I was going to write something light and fluffy this week (don’t worry I have the fluffy thing for next week!), but then I was scrolling through my facebook feed while breastfeeding my tired, crabby, teething, infant, and I saw this:

12359905_10205058242963644_5706343675541300916_n

It’s a post from the It Gets Better Campaign, sharing a Washington Post article about TEH GAYS in commercials. It’s supposed to be uplifting. It’s supposed to be progress. It’s so inspiring! I mean, ten years ago you couldn’t have gotten away with a movie tie-in soup commercial featuring two dads! Isn’t this progress?

Ugh.

I have kind of a lot of feelings about this. Let’s just dive right in.

First of all, we need to talk about the language used by It Gets Better, versus the language used by the Washington Post. It Gets Better says that these companies “embraced LGBT community with advertising” whereas Washington Post says these advertisers “embraced gay people.” Why does that matter to me? Because there is a fucking difference between what “LGBT community” means and what “gay people” means, and I’m sick as fuck of the most privileged, insulated members of the LGBT community acting like there isn’t.

So who exactly are they embracing? (I keep picturing ad execs hugging queers, it’s awkward.) Mostly white, able bodied, cisgender, monogamously partnered, gay men. A couple of lesbians. I mean, a couple of white, able bodied, cisgender, monogamously partnered, congenitally attractive, lesbians. These are the gay people who get embraced. There are two more fucking letters in that acronym up there, but you wouldn’t fucking know it when people use “LGBT community” in that way.

Secondly, let’s talk about the nature of that awkward embrace. These commercials may be cute, they may be funny, they may even be inspiring! There is a chance that they may change your homophobic Aunt Rhonda’s mind. I mean, I guess even homos buy soup, so I guess that “Same Love” song was right after all! But regardless of all that, that isn’t why these companies, and the advertising companies they hired to make these ads, chose to go with gay people in their ads.

Sit down, I’m about to blow your mind.

They did it to make money. Capitalism is all about growth and profits, just like in The Lorax. These companies need to keep growing. If they are featuring gay people in their advertising, it’s for two reasons. One, they see gay people as a potentially profitable group of consumers to target, and want to market directly to them in order to get them to buy their products. Two, they know that the (much larger) demographic of straight liberals freaking love the “feel good” experience of seeing clean happy homes on screen, and also love the feeling they get from supporting companies that they see as supporting gay rights. There is almost nothing a neoliberal enjoys more than pretending that buying something is an act of goodness that proves that they are a good person! Look, organic vegetables! Look, .00003 percent of my purchase goes to help breast cancer research and/or awareness! Look, TYLENOL likes fags now!

It’s a little bit complicated, because just like intent isn’t magic when someone does something shitty, it isn’t the only thing that matters in cases like these. Even though TYLENOL’s purposes are definitely not “awe, we just wanna help queers, ya know?” it is entirely possible greater gay visibility could change some homophobes minds and benefit some gay people (as long as they’re white, able bodied, monogamous, cisgender, attractive, gay people!). But I’m not about to bake them a batch of ally cookies for it, ok?

Third, let’s please not pretend like capitalism isn’t evil just because we (hey, I’m a relatively privileged gay!) got treated decently for a second. Sweatshops are still a thing. Global capitalism is still killing us all, in all the same ways it was in 2014.

10393178_10201974898481959_622704947993379859_n

And also, while there are things that I like about It Gets Better, the fact that they are constantly buying into this kind of shit is a fucking problem. Its not really surprising, since it was started by his holiness Dan Savage, a white gay man who is so thoroughly invested in ignoring his own level of privilege it is sometimes unfathomable. I do think that encouraging LGBTQIA (look Dan, I used all the letters and I didn’t even sprain a finger! Imagine!) teens to not kill themselves, and reminding them that they likely have the option of a a better future, is good and important work to be doing. That’s why when the serious shit talking about It Gets Better starts I’m all like “awe c’mob guys…”

But very very often, It Gets Better falls into the camp of reassuring the most privileged among us that, never fear, we may one day be able to attain an even higher level of privilege! There is nothing wrong with caring about white, cisgender, gay, teenage boys who feel hopeless and need some help. I think we should care about those kids. Some of them are in really awful positions, and they really need our help and support. But when It Gets Better’s primary focus is “you will one day attain the level of privilege and purchasing power to leave your small town/abusive family/etc!” that’s a pretty major problem because, well, that particular kind of better isn’t coming for a lot of LGBTQIA people. I’m among the more relatively privileged queers out there, but even for me that equation only kind of works. Yes, we have choices in our lives, and oftentimes more as we get older, but forces like global capitalism also limit many of our choices. My working class background, and my status as a woman, mean that my earning potential is much lower than that of a white man (but I do have the privilege of being white). Under capitalism, money is power. I may not be able to move to a blue state, for example. And what is It Gets Better saying to gay teens working in Chinese factories to produce the goods we love to buy? That’s right, it’s not saying anything to them. What could it possibly say to them, when the message is “better living through capitalism.”

And now it’s patting these capitalists on the back for acknowledging and “embracing” us, and I just cannot even with this bullshit. In a world filled with oppression, thanking the oppressors for being a little nicer to us while they gleefully oppress others, it makes me a little nauseous.

UPDATE: While I was working on this in-between baby-wrangling activities, Autostraddle did a piece on the same topic. Of course theirs is way more nuanced than the Washington Post piece! I love you autostraddle, please let me write gay things about cats and babies for you for money.

December Link Post!

Hey all, I’ve decided to do a short post of links to wonderful (and related) things out there on the big wide internet. I’m thinking of doing them roughly monthly in the future, but it will likely vary depending on what content I want to share with you. Without further ado, then…

10557739_10202953954037736_4229498904488185043_o.jpg

The always amazing Sam Dylan Finch, over at Let’s Queer Things Up, spoke out about the harrassment he has received as a non binary trans person by trans medicalists. Post Nuclear Era aims to stand in solidarity with all LGBTQIA people, and I find in-community harassment and bullying to be especially abhorrent. Sam’s bravery is an inspiration.

It was around that same time that a transmedicalist appeared in my Twitter mentions, accusing me of pretending to be trans for attention and tweeting to followers of mine that they should withdraw support from me because I was not yet on testosterone.

Imagine the hell I was already in: I wanted testosterone and I couldn’t access it.I was struggling to figure out how to come out to my family, fearful of rejection. Every day I was trapped in a body that I could not change, sitting on a secret that I was convinced would destroy my family.

 

Over on Pregnant Chicken, Erin Williams has written a hilarious piece mocking all of those “best toys for 2015” lists parents, and other people shopping for babies and small children, are seeing all over the web right now. I love her ideas for developmentally appropriate baby gifts!

This toy comes in two components, and must be assembled at home (this is an easy DIY- much less frustrating than 97% of all Pinterest projects, according to focus groups). Begin assembly by consuming an entire container of expensive gelato late at night in your sweatsuit, careful not to let any of it drip off your chin and onto the leaflet titled “Why You’re Doing it Wrong” that your pediatrician gave you. Wash empty container, fill with Deck of Cards, and screw on cap.

 

And yours truly wrote a piece for Romper, all about my family’s experience living in a punk house when we were basically homeless. This is my first published piece for Romper, and it is really exciting to see something so near and dear to my heart up there.

She would make coffee and toast in the morning while I fed our kid, and then she’d leave for work. After a short play session with the baby, I would get him down for his first nap of the day and then go downstairs. I loved the house in the morning, it was oddly quiet, light and airy, and everything felt crisp and lovely. Sometimes I would find myself daydreaming about making it our home.

 

Ok, that’s all I have for you right now, because from the sounds of things my baby is pooping himself awake. Wish me luck!

How Not To Manifest Positivity

15643_3968236172228_1068332636_n

I married an optimist. If you, like me, are a self identified pessimist, I highly recommend this as a life strategy. Sure, some days your optimist will annoy the every loving fuck out of you, but other days you will find yourself rubbing off on each other in the best ways. I don’t believe in moderation in ALL things, but maybe in this most basic part of our outlook, a little moderation can be a great help.
I swell with pride and joy when I see my wife, staring down a situation that she once would have barreled into with a smile and “everything will work out for the best, people are basically good!”, stop and proceed cautiously.
And I’ve also become a bit more willing to sigh and admit that it probably WILL work out just fine in the end. I guess that’s a good thing too.
***
I went into pregnancy with A Really Great Attitude. I thought my Really Great Attitude would shield me from the horrors, I thought I would be able to laugh stuff off because I was so HAPPY about the BABY. As it got worse, and worse, and worse, I kept up my relentless positivity. Surely next week will be better. Surely the next trimester will be better. It’s not SO bad, I just have to keep my spirits up!
But it was so, so, so, bad.
One night, I really wanted to have sex with my wife. It was scary, the very idea if sex, because my pregnant body was a foreign and unpredictable place. Anything could happen. But I wanted to. And she wanted to. And it had been so long. And I thought, you know, you can’t let fear stop you from doing things. You have to be brave. You can do this. Stop assuming it will go horribly, what if it goes great?
So we did it. And I was a little nauseous. But for once I managed to put my nausea out of my mind, and that was a gift. It was a good time. It felt like reconnecting with a part of myself I was afraid I had lost.
Immediately afterwards, when we should have been cuddling, I started to cough. Then I doubled over and started violently puking all over our bed. The force of the puke spasms made me pee myself. The pain made me sob. I couldn’t see.
There I was, in the dark, with my beautiful wife, pissing and puking everywhere, crying my eyes out, wishing I was dead. I hated that she had to see me like that. I hated that she would have to clean up the mess. I cannot describe the level of shame and wretchedness. If you know it, you know it. If you don’t, you can only look on in horror and pity.
So, you know, fuck positive thinking.
***
I don’t write about him much, because it makes me uncomfortable. He was my boyfriend. He was my boyfriend and he was a master manipulator, skilled in the fine art if gaslighting. I was young. When we first started dating me, he told me that he always lied, that way he could tell the truth sometimes, and nobody would know. He told me that he loved to control people, but that he would never do that to me because he loved and respected me.
I didn’t know which parts to believe. I believed the wrong parts. That was the point.
And he was a hippie. We would sit up late and have these Deep Talks. You manifest your own reality. You manifest your own reality. You make the world in your own image. If you put out positivity, the universe will bring positivity back to you!
So he did what abusers do. He isolated me from my family and friends. He did his best to keep me confused. I hated being with him, but I was afraid to leave.
But I kept trying to manifest positivity. You make your own reality, afterall.
It was a really great way to make it all my fault.
***
You guys, sometimes things just suck.
***
So a friend asks why things always seem to work out for me, and I’m torn. On the one hand, I love my life. I am grateful for so many of the wonderful aspects of my life, including my beautiful marriage, my delightful cats, my growing son. On the other hand, if things always seem to work out for me, it only seems that way because I’m a liar.
I’ve learned how to carefully edit my life for the internet, I’ve learned it so well that it’s automatic now. So you see that time I made those really amazing cookies.
But you don’t see me crying, puking, and pissing all over myself at the same time. You don’t see me have labor flashbacks during a transvaginal ultrasound. You don’t see me meekly filling out the postpartum  depression survey and admit that yes, I think about death every single day. You don’t see me get do anxious every time I have to make a phone call that I don’t get any of the therapy I need. You don’t see recoil from the infected c-section incision. You don’t see me battling the landlord over the cockroaches. You don’t see me finding out that my abuser moved two towns over and live in fear of running into him for WEEKS.
But hey, I made cookies!
***
Obviously, or maybe not obviously, both things are true. There is light and there is darkness. It’s all true. I have postpartum depression and PTSD and anxiety. I’m poor. I’ve had some really really hard times in my life, many of them in the last year. But I also have an amazing baby and I’m figuring out how to make a living off of The Written Word and some days I bake cookies. Some things are really really good, y’all. I have a roof over my head. My baby just learned how to bang two toys together to make them make a sound.
But things aren’t good because I’ve manifested so much positivity in my life. Things are good because sometimes I get lucky. And sometimes I don’t get lucky.
And that matters too.
I’m sorry.
So I guess just enjoy the good parts. Enjoy them as hard as you can. And if some sick fuck tries to blame the bad parts of your life on you, well, it might be my ex boyfriend. Tell him to fuck off.

Just The Three Of Us; Post Nuclear In The Single Family Home

Hello, I am an idealist. I love dreaming of what a better world might be. I love pushing myself and my loved ones to get closer to attaining it. The thing about being an idealist though, is that it is literally impossible to live up to one’s own ideals all the time. There is failure. There is the unexpected. There is reassessment.

Like ideally, the baby would wear cloth diapers 90% of the time. In the real world though? My wife and I are notorious for getting behind on laundry, and the kid really actually prefers disposables. A little part of me dies when I think of the tiny consumerist I’m raising, and even more so when I take the bus to the big box store to buy the cheap diapers that won’t give him a rash. But I do it. He’s wearing cloth diapers today, and I could lie to you, I could say it’s because my idealism has won out and I want to be a Better Person.

But no bullshit? It’s because we just payed rent and we’re out of money.

***

Back in September, the housing collective we were a part of broke up.

It’s a complicated story that isn’t all mine to tell, but suffice to say, it wasn’t really working for anyone anymore, not the way it should have. There were more reasons to go than to stay, and so we did the math, and we went.

We went, with the intention of finding an inexpensive rental, but we kept getting turned down.

So we ended up stay at another, older, more established, housing collective for a month or so. Some things about that experience were amazing and life affirming. Some things about it reminded me of why chosen family is so important to me and why I love community and what I want my kid to grow up around. And some things about it were hard as hell.

And now, today, we are on our own. Me, my wife, our child, and our cats, we have a tiny apartment that I am falling in love with. It’s just the three of us (or just the six of us, really) and we are settling into our new place and putting things just how we like them. It’s predictable. It’s comfortable. I’m an idealist. I believe in collectivism. But if I’m going to be really really brutally honest with you, (yes I am,) my family probably won’t live collectively again for a very long time, if ever. And I’m mostly happy and relieved about that fact.

10858360_10202935492056198_7197172304937617356_n

***

The nuclear family was invented with the rise of wage labor and capitalism as we know it today. The modern nuclear family (sometimes called “the traditional family” in politics, mostly by people who think it’s the bestest) follows a very specific format and is a means to a specific ends. It is monogamous. Two parents who are legally married to one and other and coparent their biological offspring. It is romantic. Two parents who are supposed to be in love, and stay in love. It is heterosexual and cisnormative. One masculine, male bodied parent, and one feminine, female bodied parent. It is patriarchal. The husband and father is the head of the household, and the wife and children must ultimately defer to him. It is capitalistic. The husband and father works for wages outside of the home to provide a livelihood for the family, he derives his self-worth from this work, and ultimately his status over his wife is reinforced by his ability to bring in an income to be exchanged for goods and services.

Basically, it’s the 1950s.

These days, I see a lot of people tweaking this recipe for familial bliss just a tiny bit, while never criticizing it’s core. Ok, so maybe sometimes the wife works outside of the home a little, but for less money than her husband! Ok, maybe one parent has children from a previous marriage, but we’ll blend it as well as we can (a la Brady Bunch) to make it look normal!

And, ok, maybe every once in awhile the two parents are actually of the same gender. But we’re just like you we swear it! All we want is the single family home, the white picket fence, the dog, the 2.5 kids. Never mind the fact we’re both wearing dresses. We’re exactly like you!

***

So as you may have gathered, the name for this blog came from my reaction to, and rejection of, those ridiculous standards. If you are in a heterosexual married couple raising children with a patriarchal power structure, I may like you a great deal, but with respect, I’m actually nothing like you. I hate being lumped in with that stuff, and I strive, daily, to question those norms within myself, and to make my rejection of them apparent on the outside.

And when I started this blog, part of that, part of trying to live my ideals, was choosing to live collectively with chosen family. And now, at least for the time being, that part of my life is over.

***

So how do you live and demonstrate the post nuclear lifestyle while living in a single family home with your partner and child? No seriously, I’m asking you. I have some ideas. I’m working on it. But I don’t have all the answers. I still feel confused about it, and I’m nervous about writing about an issue I still have mixed feelings about, but I’m doing it anyways because I think it’s important. Here are some of the ways I think my family is doing a good job of resisting the pull towards nuclear normalcy:

  1. Despite the fact that our family only contains two people capable of speech and taking an active role in decision making, we are making our decisions by consensus. We have Family Meetings, where we bring up family needs, assign responsibilities, and what have you. This is important because it stops us from defaulting to one person making all the decisions, and it keeps us checking in about our roles and how comfortable we are with them, rather than assuming. When our child is older, he will be able to take part in some of our decision making (as is age appropriate) rather than being treated like a piece of property with no agency.
  2. We are not actually monogamous y’all, and we never have been.
  3. We live in capitalism because we have to, but we work our asses off not to bring it into our relationship. That means that my wife is not a more valuable member of our family because she works outside of the home more than I do and brings in more income. Our finances are communal, they are not controlled by the person who exchanged labor for them.
  4. We’re not an independent unit, and we don’t seek to be. This is something I used to really struggle with, I had inherited this pride in independence, and that made it really hard (nearly impossible) to ask for help when I needed it. Even a year ago, I would have preferred to take care of all problems within the family unit and not involve “outsiders.” But that’s stupid. These days I am not afraid lean on my friends, family, chosen family, and community, and I hope they can feel the same way about me. When we need help we speak up. We live interdependently with the people we love.

But it’s still a struggle, and there are just as many ways that I feel like we’re failing. We don’t see our chosen family nearly enough now that we live on our own, and our child views adults other than his two parents as suspiciously “other.” It’s hard. We were raised in nuclear style families, our extended families are constellations of nuclear families, and it is so easy to fall into those familiar patterns. It’s easy to skip meetings. It’s easy to talk about “my money” and “her money.” It’s easy to imagine that either of us is an authority figure.

***

10401893_10202398470470994_6013115271936194713_n-2

The only answer I have today, is to live as deep as I can within that struggle. I try to think about the ideals I seek to emulate, and the ideals I reject, and to mix that with my day to day life and physical needs. I stop myself from saying “well it’s my money, I earned it!” I remind myself why meetings are important. I call up a friend. I put my kid in cloth diapers, some days.

And that’s all I can manage right now.

It’s not anti nuclear, after all. It’s post nuclear.

Updates and Announcements!

Hi everybody!

It’s been kind of quiet around here for a couple of weeks. I was doing pretty good about getting a post a week up, but then it kind of fell off. However, fear not, brave readers! Tomorrow morning we resume with a brand new really real post all about families and feelings and terms and such. After that, look for a post approximately every Friday. I’ll do my very best to keep up.

11057274_10203514310806305_5597460328980884650_n

So that’s tomorrow. Today, we’re doing announcements!

First, I am excited to announce that I have my very first piece up over at Ravishly! It’s all about the things that I learned about myself from the hell that was the last year. You should go read it now! Here’s an excerpt:

Now, I have rode a horse exactly once in my memory, and it did not go well. I really don’t feel like I need to relive that embarrassment, actually. For me it wasn’t really about an actual equestrian interest, the horse was just a symbol. I wanted to be a strong and capable pregnant woman, taking the world by storm, possibly while on horseback.

Second, I’m working as a features writer over at Romper.com! I don’t have any pieces up on the site quite yet, but I will very soon, so look for me there. I may share a few here from time to time that I think are of particular interest to the post nuclear among us.

Third, and this might seem boring, but I want to draw your attention to the Standards and Policies tab at the top of the page here. We don’t get a ton of comments here on Post Nuclear Era, but they do trickle in from time to time, and I want everyone to know that this is a moderated comment space. I’ll probably flesh out a more detailed comment policy at some point, but for now just know that I reserve the right to delete any comment I think is jerky or mean or that I just don’t like, and that’s not in violation of the first amendment because I am actually not the government.

Ok, happy Thursday!