Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Twitter Blocking

Has blocking people on twitter become the modern equivalent of "shunning?"

Some of the manosphereans and neo-reactionaries are upset because they are finding themselves literally shut out of feminist and liberal conversations. Cuz censorship! Freeze peach!

What kind of activism will they be able to do if they are no longer allowed to intrude on or "re-tweet" their "enemies"? How will they fight the Blue Pill now? There are even "feminist blockbots" out there that will automatically block social undesirables them.

"I don't get it," one little shitbot tweets plaintively, if a bit disingenuously. "I don't block anyone." Indeed not, since provoking people young women via his smartphone is his raison d'etre.

At least I don't have to worry about it: I've never twittered, and never will. I don't even have a smartphone (to the endless derisive amusement of my students). As far as I am concerned, people already have far too many ways to communicate with me, and I already have far too many ways to get myself in trouble. La Strega + twitter account + 2 martinis = hella trouble.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nobody Knows

Nobody knows, nobody can know, what goes on between couples. Curious onlookers, we may wonder what keeps them together, or what drives them apart, or whether they are truly as happy as they purport to be, or which party loves more, but we cannot know anything more than what they choose to reveal in their actions and words. Often the people involved don't know themselves! I've read that, while fifteen percent of married Americans admit to having "cheated" on their partners, the majority of these "adulterers" maintain their marriages are "happy." And not even swans, who are said to mate for life, are entirely monogamous. 

Of course, some people can only screw up their courage to leave an unhappy relationship by hopping, like anxious frogs, onto the next lily pad. And some people engineer spectacularly hurtful breakups because they enjoy creating drama, or they need to force the other person to leave them. And sometimes they just can't help falling in love with someone else, or they're in the process of becoming someone different than the person who once swore, in all sincerity, to be loving and true 'til death dost them part.

Shit happens.

I've been cheated on more than once, and nothing is more wretched. I've howled at the moon and torn my hair over the unfairness of it. Years later, I could start to acknowledge the role I had played in these dysfunctional relationships, and it was both humbling and healing. And now, many years later, I am mostly grateful, because the breakups that ensued pushed me on down the path of my own personal journey. And I must say, I am happy where I've wound up, so I guess it was all worth it...

When it comes to matters of the heart (or loins) I can only say this:

The older I get, the less judgmental I can be. Life is complicated and messy, and nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors.  [cue Charlie Rich]

Friday, August 22, 2014

Zoe Quinn

UPDATE: I came back to this blog after a few days off the internet, and was surprised to see the number of comments. Zoe Quinn is, to me, a complete "non-story" except insofar as yet another young woman being the target of online harassment. I'll admit I am not into games, and I'm in no position to judge whether or not she wrote a good one, but that is the only question anyone should care about. It's absurd to care a fig whether, or with whom, Ms. Quinn cheated on her boyfriend. Substitute the name "Tyler" for "Zoe," and imagine Zoe were the angry ex who had thrown up a website for the purpose of humiliating him. You can be sure "Zoe" would still be the target of angry, jealous little shitbots like Matt Forney. 
So apparently Matt Forney's latest "doxing" victim is Zoe Quinn, a talented young female game designer who had the misfortune of having a vindictive ex. And so it goes...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Giving Away My Age

I'm trying, but old habits die hard.

Trolling For A Living?

I once had a boyfriend I felt pretty serious about, but was frustrated with because he never had enough time for me. Part of the problem was that when he wasn't working, he was tied up with his mysterious friend, "Steve." They often spent their weekends engaging in various male-bonding activities (i.e., drinking copious amounts of beer and smoking prodigious quantities of pot), yet in the two years we were together, I was never introduced to "Steve." 

There was a fairly elaborate back-story with "Steve," and I remember many of the details. He had a sick mother whose house he shared, kept a high-strung miniature Doberman Pinscher my boyfriend detested, and worked sporadically as a painter (and therefore required my boyfriend's assistance moving furniture at odd times). Although "Steve" was a depressed, rather needy friend who required an awful lot of TLC, what could my boyfriend do? They'd been best friends since high school; they were "brothers from another mother."

You can see where this is going, can't you.

I'm not the jealous type, being so narcissistic oblivious that it rarely occurs to me someone would want to be unfaithful to me, but it finally became apparent that my erstwhile bf was a two-timer.

But I had to know for sure.

So I set up a sting operation wherein I invented a fictional character of my own; we'll call her "Delilah." Of course "Delilah" was tailored to my boyfriend's specifications and had all the attributes I lacked: She was a sultry brunette with just enough avoirdupois who was considering breast reduction surgery because her 36GG "girls" were a physical burden, not to mention a distraction, in her quest for Mr. Right. She was looking for a sensitive long-haired poet-type to take her to art films and alt-rock venues. And let's see, what else..? Oh yeah, she loved to cook.

I cast my bait and waited. Within 24 hours, I reeled him in. And then I played him a bit, just for sport, and when I'd had my "fun," I cut the line.

And that was the end of that!

Years later, I deigned to re-friend my ex (platonically) because I have a nature that is, paradoxically, both vengeful and forgiving. (And also, I needed someone to accompany me to indie movies and alt rock venues.) One night, we were sharing drinks when he began to reminisce about this incredible woman he'd once met named Delilah. They'd never met in person, their correspondence having been mysteriously and abruptly terminated -- but he still longed for her, still wondered what if...?

Emboldened by my second martini, I bit the bullet and confessed my hoax, prepared to endure his righteous wrath over my deception. But my ex wasn't angry at all. He wasn't angry because he didn't believe me.

And flash-forward ten years later, he still talks about Delilah, and I still remind him she was my creative "product" (a figment, to be sure, of both our imaginations) -- and he still doesn't believe me.

I confess all this to explain why I have a serious fondness for those pranksters who troll the manosphere sites. Or maybe I just want to believe that some of these guys are trolls. The Internet allows all kinds of virtual realities to flourish. And I've had enough exposure to the "manosphere" that I'd like to see what I could pull off. 

If I was able to "play" a truck driver with an eighth grade education IRL, I'll bet I could play a gun-totin', bible-thumpin' casserole-bakin' red hot mama with a pit bull stashed in her apartment and a secret vocation to... wait, I don't want to give it all away yet! Suffice to say that only true Christian gentlemen would be allowed to comment on my website -- y'know, the kind who know how to treat a lady!

Well, someone has to fill the void that Sunshine Mary left. The Manosphere needs the crazy ladies. Just remember: It's all about sex! And who knows, maybe I could become so successful that I could retire to, say, Mexico, and surround myself with dancing cabana boys, just like Ava Gardner in Night of the Iguana.

And maybe Richard Burton would stop by now and then.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No Dogs (Or Cats) Allowed?
Am I discriminating against crazy cat ladies?

My partner and I rarely argue. (The dynamic between us is more along the lines that I kvetch, and she jollies me out of my ill temper.) I joke that there's no point in arguing because she's always right, and she placidly agrees -- in fact, she has a bumper sticker to that effect -- but it's no joke really: She usually is. I may have the "book-larnin," but she's got the practical "School of Life" smarts. So when we do disagree, I have learned to consider her point of view very carefully (and then proceed to do whatever-the-hell I want).

And right now we are arguing about cats and dogs. Not the relative merits of the two species, of course, since we both love all kinds of animals, including bunnies, burros, pygmy goats, and geckos, but whether or not to allow prospective tenants of my rental property to keep pets.

Although my partner is imploring me to put a "no pets" clause into the lease, I am loathe to deny anyone a companion animal (nor deny any animal the chance of a good home). OK, she says, but at least specify "no cats." She has a point: Cats are said to be more destructive than dogs when it comes to carpets. But what about neutered cats? I know my readers, no doubt being veritable cat hoarders themselves, will have something to say about this, so do weigh in and educate me. I've never kept a cat myself.

Before I had a dog, I had my parrot, but I quickly learned not to let her out of her cage unsupervised: In less than five minutes, she took a four inch square chunk out of the cutting board. That was twenty years ago. Do you think the landlord has noticed by now?

Of course, children are potentially more destructive than either cats or dogs. I can't very well turn away renters because they have children, can I? And boyfriends or husbands who take their anger out by punching the drywall are more common than you might think. One guy recently told me about a model tenant whose boyfriend set fire to the building in a fit of pique. Well, I guess that's what insurance is for, and I can't very well confine my market to childless celibates!

I'm a newbie landlord, and full of doubts. I certainly don't trust my own judgment when it comes to assessing a stranger's character. I could write a tragicomedy about my disastrous history of sketchy room-mates.

I have a lot more experience as a renter than as an owner, and although I never intentionally damaged my landlord's property, I wreaked more than my fair share of havoc. Now all those episodes are coming back to haunt me:

There was the time I decided to dye a dress crimson in the bathtub. No amount of Bon Ami and elbow grease could restore that tub to its former pristine porcelain glory. For the remainder of my lease, my bathroom resembled a murder scene.

Then there was the time I was living in a poorly insulated shotgun flat in Milwaukee. When the temperatures plunged to forty below, I had the bright idea of sealing up the doors and windows with duct tape. By spring, that duct tape was, well, a permanent fixture.

I cracked a number of glass refrigerator shelves by placing hot pans on them, and replacing those shelves -- if replacements could be found -- isn't trivial. I also scorched a beautiful butcher block the same way. I once shattered a bidet by dropping a bottle of Clinique astringent in it. One Easter I was dying eggs in my living room and knocked over a big bowl of green dye and vinegar onto the brand new, cream-colored wall-to-wall carpet. I worked on that stain every day for a month: It would disappear, only to later resurface, again and again, like some ominous message from beyond the grave in a horror movie. And I even managed to set fire to the wall of my massage studio in a freak candle accident (I was able to smother the flames by whipping the sheet off my startled client, a clear violation of Washington State "draping" regulations).

Other than that, I was "the perfect tenant." Well, at least, I usually managed to pay my rent on time.

I've decided to get a property manager to vet prospective tenants. I haven't a clue how to run a credit history, criminal background check, or draw up a proper lease. It's well worth paying a professional for these services, at least initially.

As for the "no pet" clause? For now, I'll go with "One small dog allowed; no cats or ferrets please," and hope David Futrelle won't hold it against me. 

Meanwhile, I leave you with this video making the Facebook rounds. I have already watched it three times today, and I'll probably watch it three more times tonight, because it makes me so dog-gone happy. Dogs just wanna have fun!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Is Matt Forney a One Trick Pony?

That aspiring professional troll, plagiarism enabler, wannabe journalist / musician / groupie magnet, and all around stinkbot, is back to his old tricks, er, trick of bringing down "feminist enemies" by (in his buddy Roosh's words) "raping" their Google-able identities.

I swear, this kid has the emotional maturity of a twelve year old. Matt, does your mom know what you're doing on the internet when she leaves you home alone? 
Gawker employee Dayna Evans recently (and apparently successfully) got ousted "Vice" founder Gavin McInnes' hands slapped for writing what has been widely described as a viciously transphobic screed that violated the standards of even Thought Catalog. I'll admit I haven't read McInnes' piece because I do have my limits, but I kind of doubt that Evans is gonna lose any sleep over this.

If They Were Women...

Some of the New Misogynists are a bit ticked off by the recent media attention given to the FeMRAs. Roosh posted a video warning the Men's Rights Movement that they were making a serious tactical error by allowing girls into their tree house. Some of these guys believe that FeMRAs are the Trojan horses of a vast feminist conspiracy to infiltrate every last space once the sole and rightful dominion of men. [Sigh! If only!]

Mostly their feathers are ruffled because journalists find the spectacle of female anti-feminists more freakish intriguing than a bunch of Angry White Guys bitching and moaning about how they've now got to share their pie with everyone else, and it's so [sob!] unfair! 

Vox Day observed the other day, "If we were women, there would already be a Time Magazine cover with Roosh, Roissy, and me dressed in all black, arms folded, cast in dramatic lighting." 

Actually, if that trio were women invited to pose for such a cover, they'd be photographed in soft pastels, nonthreatening postures, their makeup and hair impeccably done, bathed in the warm, flattering light of feminine subjugation. Now wouldn't that be a pretty picture? Although even then, they'd have to face an onslaught of angry readers who complained they were too fat, ugly, old, or hirsute to merit media attention.

 But that remark got me imagining: If I really were "La Strega" and had magical powers that could, say, transform a prince into a frog, what more delightfully malicious way to exercise them than to turn all the New Misogynists into women? I don't mean permanently -- I'm not that cruel! -- but only until they could persuade a beautiful transgender warrior princess to kiss them and reverse the spell...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Alpha Male (Bull) Shit

A guy once announced to me that he was "an alpha male." Ironically, I had really been attracted to him up to that point because I thought he was funny, honest, clever, kind, and bore more than a passing resemblance to Iggy Pop, and I inwardly cringed to hear this. Not only have I never been attracted to "dominant" men, he had diminished himself in my eyes by revealing his massive insecurity. Men who describe themselves as "alpha" or "dominant" are unfailingly anything but.

If I saw a man with such a claim emblazoned across his chest, I would automatically assume he was not only a moron, but completely deluded. And now I would also wonder if he were capable of beating a woman within an inch of her life.

War Machine Has Been Caught and Arrested Near Los Angeles

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Intactivists Are a Thing

So "Intactivist" Evan Roman is this resentful young man who still can't forgive his mother for circumcising him as an infant, despite her abject, public apology for having put him through the trauma. Because parents should respect their children's bodily autonomy.

You know, Evan, I feel your pain: Nobody asked my permission when my mother, alarmed by my growing resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman, hauled me in to Dr. Cohn at the age of twelve to have my teeth forcibly straightened. God, I hated wearing that headgear (almost as much as my dad hated paying those orthodontia bills)! And Dr. Cohn was so incompetent he managed to kill one of my incisors by applying too much pressure when he tightened the braces during my monthly torture session, later necessitating a costly root canal. Sure, the whole ordeal corrected my overbite, but look at this permanently discolored tooth! My mother's good intentions were no excuse!*

Of course, the evil of male circumcision is one of the Men's Rights Movement's hobby horses. I am inclined to agree that parents should be discouraged from having their sons circumcised (unless their religion requires it), since it appears to be a medical procedure with some (small) risk and dubious benefit. However, a generation ago, people were taught by medical authorities that male circumcision not only helped men maintain good hygiene, but also reduced the risk of cervical cancer and a host of other potential maladies. It was such standard medical practice that infants were often circumcised without the parents' permission. 

I was surprised when a friend elected to circumcise his own infant son several years ago, but I expect he was operating along the lines "like father, like son." 

I am of that same generation as my friend, so I'll admit I didn't get up-close-and-personal with an uncut cock intact penis until I went to Italy. And frankly, I found it to be -- how can I put this delicately? -- an acquired taste. (Of course, I didn't care for raw oysters the first time I tried them either, but I came around soon enough.)

So, no, I am not defending a practice that is gradually, and perhaps rightfully, falling out of favor in the U.S. And I also don't approve of piercing babies' ears. Or of docking dogs' ears or tails and de-clawing cats, for that matter.

On the other hand, I haven't met any circumcised men who complained their penises weren't sensitive enough, despite lacking a protective shroud of foreskin. Hell, I had a Turkish boyfriend whose circumcision was delayed until he was eleven (the family waited until they had a batch of boys ready since the party accompanying these rituals can be quite expensive), and then it was done without any anesthesia by a dirty old man with a rusty razor blade (and he had the scars to prove it). Still, he did all right...

 Evan Roman needs to get a grip, accept his mother's heartfelt apology, and get on with his life.  

And nothing jacks my jaw more than MRAs that equate male circumcision with female genital mutilation (FGM). The masculine equivalent to FGM, in terms of sensory function, would not be the removal of the foreskin; it would be the removal of the glans (head) of the penis itself.

When I was in the middle east, I met a number of Egyptian and Somali women who had been "circumcised" (that is to say, their clitorises excised) as children. Although the practice is not prevalent in Saudi Arabia, and most Muslims abhor it, there are regions where the tradition persists. I vividly recall one of my students (at 27, already the mother of ten) confiding that, try as they might, her husband could never bring her to orgasm because that vital bit of sensory tissue had been carved out of her at the age of seven at the behest of her own grandmother. Although she enjoyed a very loving relationship with her husband, they were both frustrated and saddened they could not share equally in the physical pleasure of sex. As a result, they were firmly united in their resolve to resist family pressure to "circumcise" their own daughters. But even she didn't blame her mother for allowing her to be mutilated in such a devastating manner. She understood that traditions die hard, and it often takes at least one generation of education to implement social change.

If I could meet that former student now, I would urge her to consult with Marci Bowers, one of the few surgeons who performs clitoral restoration.  Dr. Bowers is a renowned authority on "sexual reassignment" surgery, is a trans woman herself, and is reported to enjoy great success in restoring not only form but also function to realigned genitalia.

* My older sister had it even worse, being one of the last generation to undergo a routine "prophylactic" tonsillectomy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Call Me Anything You Want (Just Don't Call Me Late for Dinner)

I'm ready to cut a deal with the New Misogynists: I will happily stop calling myself a "feminist" if they will agree to accord me the same rights and responsibilities of an XY adult. Because seriously, I'm not wedded to "feminism." I'm just a random XX person who wants to do her their own thing, and not be limited by what other people judge to be my "proper place." Can we come to a cordial agreement that, when we meet in a public or professional sphere, we politely ignore our respective genitalia and simply interact as two individuals united by our common humanity? Can we judge one another by the quality of our characters and not the configuration of our chromosomes?

Man, that would be sweet, because truth be told, I want to run away from some of "those feminists" as much as you do. And just because I read We Hunted the Mammoth, it doesn't follow I am exactly in my element in the comments section. In fact, lately, the moderators have been slamming commenters for failing to meet their own exacting standards of political correctness. Well, it's their party, they can do what they want to, but...

Some of the gals over there remind me why I avoided "feminism" for years and years (until the New Misogynists forced my hand).

Back in the late eighties, I returned from a couple of years teaching in a women's college in Al Hasa, Saudi Arabia, a region that Saudis themselves consider "the sticks." It was like escaping a minimum-security, air-conditioned prison. I moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to explore a different professional direction (lateral, of course, since my life has been one long series of entry-level positions). 

Glenwood Springs is a beautiful resort town in the foothills of the Rockies and it was close to where my mother was living. However, not being an "outdoorsy" type, I was frustrated by the lack of social opportunities. In an effort to meet other women of similar age and background, I joined the local chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women).

I lasted approximately two months. I wasn't exactly booted out, but I wasn't made to feel welcome, either. See, I had assumed I was a feminist, but I quickly learned that I wasn't the right kind of feminist.

Here's how it happened. The Gulf War had just started. In response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the United States was stationing troops in Saudi Arabia. Suddenly there was a great deal of interest in the Gulf. Because I had just returned from the region, the ladies of NOW invited me to speak about my impressions of what life was like for Saudi women. Of course, I accepted. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to become recognized as part of the organization. Besides, who doesn't like to talk about their travels? I had slides and everything!

I spent hours preparing a brief but informative talk about what goes on behind the veil of the Kingdom. I pulled together what I thought was an interesting, original take on what happens when a person is immersed in a very foreign culture. I explained what my preconceived notions had been, and how they had been challenged by the reality of my experience.

I don't remember everything I shared, but I do recall explaining how surprised I had been when I realized that, contrary to envying my free-wheeling life as a single western woman, the female Saudi students and faculty actually pitied me. I could drive? Big deal! They had drivers. I was allowed to work? Too bad! They didn't have to work. I wasn't married? What kind of deadbeat dad neglected to secure his daughter's future?

By traditional Saudi standards, I was a complete washout as a woman: no gold, no sons, no family to support me, just an itinerant worker one level up from their Sri Lankan maids at home. Plus, I was kind of dirty -- not physically, of course, but in a spiritual sense. Girls would carefully sweep aside their skirts when I approached, lest I contaminate them. It was a humbling experience to have a student bolt from the room to perform ritual ablutions because I had inadvertently touched her. They openly speculated I was no virgin, despite my never-married state, and I could hardly deny that. In short, I was regarded as an object of some contempt. Teaching English under these conditions was a challenge. Fortunately, the only English they wanted or needed to learn was what they could use on their next shopping trip to London. I supplemented the heavily censored textbooks with heavily censored fashion magazines.

The experience was a real eye-opener for me, and fundamentally changed my perception of my status as a privileged, liberated woman. I realized how arrogant I had been.

Then I wound up my presentation by speaking in favor of the U.S. intervention in Kuwait, which I supported. It seemed evident to me that when a sovereign nation is invaded, the rest of the world has an obligation to come to its defense. That was not the line this particular crowd of feminists wanted to hear.

I stumbled off the podium to a tepid trickle of applause. During the coffee break, everyone studiously avoided me, although I seem to recall one woman murmuring in passing that my talk had been rather "disappointing." 

That, and a number of similar experiences since, has taught me that as much as I ally myself with card-carrying feminists in the cause of gender equality, I am unlikely to find my social needs met by that community. Because I'm not very interested in "feminism." I am bored to death by feminist theory (the boys over at CAFE have read more feminist literature than I have). I don't really understand what "women's studies" even means as an academic discipline. I took a "Psychology of Women" class as a freshman, back in the day when lesbianism was a form of political expression and Ted Hughes was a brute who had pushed his wife's head into an oven, and I thought the instructor was positively cracked.

I don't know that I have any close friends who self-identify as "feminists" although they sure know (and resent) sexual discrimination when they experience it. Most of my friends are working stiffs like I am, trying to keep their heads (and their families) above water. Some of them are atheists, some of them are believers; some of them are straight, some are queer; some are traditional, some are boundary-pushers; most of them are parents, a few are without issue. The only thread of commonality is that they are all decent people who care about the well-being of their fellow (wo)man and can laugh at the absurdities of life.

Truth be told, I'd rather spend an afternoon with an anti-feminist like "Geisha Kate," Mark Minter's wife, than half the commentators on We Hunted the Mammoth. At least (judging by her comments here) she seems like a pleasant person. The fact that we probably vehemently disagree about everything under the sun doesn't mean we couldn't enjoy a coffee now and then. And, who knows, maybe I could correct the "errors" in her thinking while we got our nails done.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Woman of Property

My greatest regret in my long life as a barren spinster-slut is that I failed to take my father's advice in 1988. I had just returned from a teaching stint in Saudi Arabia with a modest nest egg of $25,000. He suggested I use the money to snap up a condo in the Denny Regrade area of Seattle. I resisted; I didn't feel ready to take on the responsibilities of property ownership because I was so unsettled in my personal and professional life. I had a vague, screwy notion common among women my generation that I should wait until I was "settled" (married?) before acquiring my own house. Big mistake! How was I to know that ten years later seedy Denny Regrade would morph into ultra-hip Belltown? I could have practically retired from the sale of that property alone. Argh!

Ten years later, when I relocated to Seattle, I had the opportunity to buy a nice little fixer-upper in Ballard (another gentrified area near the city center) for about $65,000. Again, I dragged my heels. Of course, today, that same property is going for $400,000+.   

Finally, I took the plunge and bought the house I am living in now. It was right before the housing bubble crested, so I didn't make a killing -- but nor did I lose even when the market inevitably crashed. It's a pleasant little house in a pleasant little suburb, very convenient to my job, and it has served me well. It's no McMansion, but rather the sort of housing that will always appeal to young families, retired couples, or singletons like me. It's fifteen minutes from downtown Seattle and is considered a safe, quiet place to raise a family.

When my mother passed away, she left me a small inheritance that allowed me to finish paying off my mortgage. Suze Orman is right about this: Nothing beats the psychological security of owning your own home free and clear. Not having a mortgage payment also helped me live comfortably on a low salary while continuing to sock away ten percent of my income in tax-free retirement savings, even as I indulged my taste for travel and other small luxuries.

A couple of months ago, my partner (a former contractor, she has an eye for real estate) noticed a HUD duplex had gone on the market at a very tempting price. She strongly urged me to take the leap and establish a real estate "portfolio." Being a HUD property, the duplex was a bit down on its heels, but my partner assured me that it really only needed some cosmetic improvements, which she would be able to perform, or at least oversee. It's located across the street from an elementary school and on a major bus line. Again, it's perfect for young families, retired couples, or professional singletons. Plus it's zoned for commercial development, which makes for some interesting future potential if the area continues to grow. I tried to resist, but it didn't seem like I could lose on this deal, so I acquiesced to my partner's demands and put in a loan application.

Anyone who has bought a property through HUD recently knows the paperwork is formidable. The past month I thought I would go out of my mind getting qualified for a mortgage. Everyone held my hand and assured me, in the long run, it would be worth the intense hassle. The fact that I'd paid off my previous mortgage, had sterling credit and no debt helped, of course. Seriously, how could they turn me down?

This weekend I became the proud owner of a rental property. It's a little scary taking on a mortgage again. Financially, I'm very conservative, thanks to Depression Era parents, and have always (just) managed to live within my very limited means. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have the duplex whipped into rent-worthy shape in the next several weeks. Ultimately, I'll have two rental houses providing a "semi-passive" source of income in my dotage. My partner also has a couple of rental properties, so between the two us, her small Navy pension and my job, we should do all right.

As the author of bodycrimes recently pointed out, one of the ways that marriage benefits men (and women) is that it often prompts them to put down roots in the form of real estate. Real estate is a kind of forced savings program that, if one is lucky and astute, can really pay off in the long haul. Buying and fixing up residential properties is how my paternal grandparents lifted themselves out of the grinding poverty of the thirties. And my partner's parents, working-class folk who scrabbled for their livings and never dreamed of playing the stock market, were able to leave a significant estate to their children in the form of savvy real estate investments. 

They bought what they understood: modest residences or empty waterfront lots that, back in the sixties, went for a song. Sometimes they miscalculated (one riverfront property has now been lost to the vagaries of the Snohomish, for example) but overall and over time, they did very well. The irony of that generation is, of course, that they wound up spending the last decade of their lives sitting on a million dollars while continuing to clip coupons and rejecting out of hand such minor treats as a trip to Hawaii as "too expensive." Self-denial had become such a firmly entrenched element of their life styles that they could no longer live any other way.

Of course, what I failed to realize in the folly of my youth is that one does not have to wait to marry to invest in real estate. Young women are waking up to this. An acquaintance who sells downtown condos reports that at least 75% of his clients these days are single women. No marriage is as permanent or secure as a deed. And frankly, back when I was dating, most men thought it was kind of attractive that I owned my own home. Contrary to what the manosphereans will tell you, a typical man is pleased to discover that the woman he fancies is also "a woman of property."

I've never been particularly frugal except insofar as necessity dictated. I spend what I have, but I don't accumulate debt. When the cash runs out, the spending stops. I buy used cars, I pay in cash, and drive them until they are dead. And I'm not a risk-taker, nor am I an optimistic person who believes that if it's not raining today it won't rain tomorrow. In fact, I'm a person who keeps a six month supply of canned goods (and spirits) at all times.

And I'm not anticipating a lavish lifestyle in my retirement. I will be happy to continue to live modestly at the same level I do now. Honestly, all I need to be perfectly comfortable is plenty of hot water, access to a public library and decent medical care, and quality food and drink. All I need to feel "successful" in life is the sense I am contributing to my community, and that I am loved and appreciated by those I love and respect. I don't want to be a burden; I'd like to leave a little more than I took. If a few good people remember me fondly after I've gone, I reckon my life will have been "successful" enough.

I am optimistic that I have moved one step closer to my goal this weekend.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cultural Appropriation

Sometimes being a white, middle class feminist can be such a headache, you know? Having to identify and own one's privilege. Constantly monitoring one's speech and thoughts to ensure one isn't infringing on other people's sensibilities. Analyzing everything one thinks, says, produces, or consumes unto death. No wonder people hate feminism: It's bloody hard work if you're doing it right. (And I'm the first to admit my "feminism" is about as haphazard as my housecleaning, but then, I've never subscribed to the old adage "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right.")

I note Jezebel was having a go at Katy Perry today. I almost didn't read it because I could not care less about Katy Perry (or Miley Cyrus or the Kardashian sisters or any other piece of celebrity eye-candy who is now being shamed for the crime of "cultural appropriation.") Leave it to Jezebel to always land on the most trivial tips of pretty big icebergs and chip away with 400 words of sheer snark. But those five wasted minutes that I will never get back did get me to pondering.

When it comes to members of a dominant culture adopting behaviors of a marginalized culture, where is the line drawn between respectfully borrowing (or even paying homage) and stealing or exploiting?

Last month I saw Cher on her "Dressed to Kill" tour. The stadium was packed. The audience (mostly older women like myself) were ecstatic.  Of course Cher didn't sing anything new: She gave her audience exactly what they had paid for by not only recycling her hit list, but also her original wardrobe. In other words, this spectacle -- like Cher's career itself -- was as much about her clothes as it was about her songs. And she still looked fabulous in those gorgeous Bob Mackie numbers, at least as far as I could tell from my precarious perch in the nose-bleed section.

Then she did that number "Half Breed." And all I could wish is that she hadn't.

It wasn't that her seventy year old thighs weren't as toned and tawny as ever; it was her choice of resurrecting this particular number that really gave away her age. I shared my dismay with my friends, and one of them said, "She is part Native American, so she has the right!" "She's part Armenian," I snapped. I could tell they thought I was just being a deliberate pain, so I shut up.

But the incident reminded me how much our mores have changed in the past forty years, at least regarding the appropriation of First Nation cultural symbols.

Some years ago a boyfriend gave me a bone necklace of the sort once worn by Sioux warriors. It was a thing of beauty, and unusual, and I thought I would enjoy wearing it. But I never could bring myself to do so; it just seemed wrong. I finally gave the necklace away to my stepson, who has Native American ancestry. He probably won't wear it either, but he appreciated its significance.

I haven't always been that sensitive. Back in the seventies, when I was in Afghanistan, I perplexed my Afghan hosts by wanting to buy a burka. None of the women in this middle class, urban family wore one. Of course, I couldn't tell them that the real reason I wanted it was so that I would always have a cheap, easy Halloween costume. Nevertheless, they knew the value of this garment was in the way it represented a cultural practice westerners find abhorrent, and they were rightfully offended, and politely declined to help me find a burka shop.

Why the burqa is part of Britain
Not an appropriate Halloween costume.

My partner wants to throw a "Bollywood" party, and have all the guests wear saris and bindis. It could be a lot of fun, but how will it make the Indian caterers feel? (Actually, they might find the sight as hilarious as my Turkish friends find middle aged American women belly-dancing in Greek restaurants.)

Anyway, this essay by Jarune Uwujaren has at least helped me frame the question for myself, and that's a start. The bottom line is, as always: Be polite, considerate, acknowledge the humanity of everyone around you, and examine your own motives fearlessly and honestly. I reckon that's the best that any of us can do: Try to be decent human beings. And you don't even need feminism for that.