Thursday, March 31, 2011

Time to Facefacts!

I recently saw “The Social Network”, thought it was well written, well acted, but certainly not as good as all the hype.  My love for Justin Timberlake is embarrassing and ridiculous, but that’s not really what I came here to talk about.  What’s compelling about that story is that a guy fired up on wanting to get revenge on a girl who snubbed him used his computer brilliance to make a website that, in theory, brought people together.  He made friends along the way, friends that he would eventually betray and get sued by.  The last scene of the movie with Zuckerberg, alone,  looking at the Facebook profile of the girl that started the whole thing, was strangely chilling and got me thinking about this thing we call “social” networking.
Originally I thought FB was one of those things that only idiot twenty somethings did, I chalked it up as Myspace 2.0.  My former boyfriend was on FB years ago as many of his students told him it was their preferred method of communication, which sealed my disdain.  I used to tell him that he had to be the oldest person on Facebook and that the whole thing was stupid.  One of my shittier qualities is that I pass judgment on things without getting the facts, which I will readily admit to.  A few years back I got a Facebook invite from a gal I knew in my twenties and figured, all right, let’s see what’s going on here, in an attempt to not fall into my usual hater hole.  As time went on, I found loads of people from the past, most of whom I was thrilled to see to get the current scoop on, and I took some satisfaction in seeing that people I chose as friends long ago were still really wonderful people currently leading (seemingly) happy lives.  But what lies beneath?  I feel the need to BREAK IT DOWN.
Things I enjoy about Facebook:
1)    Fun quips from fun people.  It’s a snark circus and I enjoy an opportunity to have a sass volley.    Plain and simple, I like to make people laugh, it makes me happy.
2)   Music videos.  I love tunes, old and new, and I don’t listen to the radio currently, so I get a lot out of my musically inclined FB friends.
3)   Seeing photos/getting updates on people who live far away, as well as people I work with that I don’t see enough.  It does make them feel a bit closer.
4)   Asking a wide range of people’s opinions on practical matters, like buying a new blender.
5)   Getting info about goings on around town, etc.
Things I seriously don’t get:
1)    Checking in everywhere.  I’m happy you’re getting a burrito/working out/going to work, but unless you are someplace really impressive, I’m not sure I need to know about it.  Again, there may be some bigger picture answer to why people do this, and my mind is open to hearing about it.
2)   Bitching/looking for sympathy.  I am not against either of these things, I do a good deal of both of them, but I really feel that you need real people in real time for this.  Again, your mileage may vary, I suppose if you don’t have access to talking to someone on the phone or meeting them, then FB solace is better than nothing.  I just don’t feel comfortable reading people’s private matters in most cases. Those who know me know I am the queen of TMI, hell, I told a hundred plus strangers about a one night stand I had recently….I really have no shame.  But it was person to person, I guess that’s the distinction I’m making here.
3)   The weird friend collector people.  I have three people I have blocked on FB, one of whom I considered to be a friend until he did something unspeakably douchey (in person), the other two I didn’t know, got sucked into discussions of music (oddly, in both cases, discussing David Bowie) and ended up going down some weird interpersonal friendship/romance rabbit hole that crashed and burned.  No major repercussions as in both cases our relationship wasn’t based in reality, just a general waste of time and energy, fueled by loneliness/boredom.  But it was an eye opener to what’s out there, people who spend their time in some strange fantasy life….apparently it’s not enough to play Farmville or Mob Wars, they need to play emotional games with other humans.  Creepy.

Here is my friend breakdown.  I have 193 Facebook friends as this moment….a pretty standard amount.  There are very few people I don’t actually KNOW in real life, at least to some degree.  I am “friends” with one Top Chef, one member of the Fastbacks, one fabulous lady comic who used to be married to a guy I worked with….that’s the extent of my FB starfuckery.  Oh, and I’m friends with a friend’s dog.
Friends from work = 84
Friends from elementary/high school = 28
Friends from my past life as an adult = 46
Friends of friends that seem great but we don’t actually hang out = 20
Other folks of Chicago that I’ve met through 2nd Story, etc = 11
Family members = 4
That brings us to 193.  I put a star by everyone that I talk to regularly; either in person, or by phone/text/email, if that’s not possible.  Stars = 19.  People of those 19 that I would feel comfortable calling at 2 am with an emergency = 9.  I used to refer to this as people you would call if you got a flat tire, but I no longer own a car, so let’s just say there are 9 people who I would feel comfortable contacting with one of life's metaphorical flat tires.  Then there’s the real world.  My BFF is not on FB, she tried it and proclaimed it was a party she didn’t want to be at, that it didn’t make her world better, just louder.  I recently made her the beneficiary of all my assets in the event of my death, and she is the person I list as an emergency contact when I do things that require such a thing.  Should I ever find Mr. Right and get married, I guess he can have all my dough when I kick the bucket, but until then/if that doesn’t happen, the girl who has loved me unconditionally for the last ten years has earned every cent of that money if I were to be hit by a bus tomorrow.  Although she might be secretly trying to poison me….that’s why I always switch drinks with her when she’s not looking.  The only person I seriously dated over the last two years wouldn’t be on Facebook if you put a gun to his head, and since his house is full of guns, this wouldn’t be hard to prove. 
Am I bashing Facebook?  No.  I like what it provides.  But in some ways, it’s relationship junk food, to be enjoyed in small quantities, in addition to real quality human interaction.  As my super wise friend Colleen says, “it is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t.”  Food for Facethought.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is There A Nonstop To Suffragette City?

Over the weekend I took a writing workshop where when I was done reading my story, I was asked the big question, “So what is this story REALLY about?”  When putting down an actual event from your history on paper, you are forced to ask yourself (or in the case of the workshop, answer to others), “What do I want others to get out of this?  Why THIS story?  What’s the fucking point here?”  Getting to the meta of the matter, perhaps.  My reply was that EVERY story I write seems to lead to the same place, my desire to express how powerful it can be to be a woman.  I’ve been concerned about burning out this theme, but then I pondered, what else is more important to talk about?
Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  From International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday.  I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t been a fan of Annie Lennox on Facebook, which shows how much I was paying attention.  I appreciate that it is a celebration of women’s achievements, and there are so many to celebrate!  But women still make less money than men, violence against women is still a major concern (according to Amnesty International, at least one out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching 70% in some countries), and rape is a weapon of war.  From a Time magazine article on IWD of 2010: “What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night? Or that a soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette was afraid to report it for fear she would be demoted — for having gone out without her weapon? Or that, as Representative Jane Harman puts it, "a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire."  I could continue to quote sources and get myself into a lather about this, it makes me so fucking pissed off.  Which leads us to, what do we do?

Good question.  There are many good organizations that support women on all sorts of levels, if you want to make a monetary donation or volunteer with them, I’d leave it up to you to research which ones you really feel good about.  There are cool campaigns like NOW’s Love Your Body,, has many worthy causes, your neighborhood no doubt has a women’s shelter, and again I could go on and on.  But let’s talk about things on a smaller level.  Do you know someone who’s in an abusive relationship?  Can you lend an ear?  We all figure that adults can take care of themselves, but have you offered your opinion and your support to help?  Do you have women in your life that have low self esteem?  (If you’re saying NO, you either know no women or have amazingly evolved friends and I’d like to hear your secret)  Have you told these women how beautiful, how smart, how important they are?  Do you know someone with an eating disorder?  I’m sure you see what I’m getting at here. 

But what if you got to the heart of the matter and looked at yourself?   I had plans to spend some time with a gentleman friend of mine this coming weekend;  he’s a nice enough man that I’ve encouraged myself to hang out with even though we have no long term potential as he’s nice, good looking, he bakes pies, plays the piano, and means well.  And the world at large would tell me at my advanced age (44), that I should be happy with what I can get in that department.  What I was ignoring in this equation is that this most happy fellow doesn’t particularly care about what goes on in my life, has no interest in my friends or family, and often makes remarks that convey his insecurity about the fact that I make more money than he does, a fact that means nothing to me.  I’ve just been accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative, latching on to the affirmative and spending time with Mr. In Between.  I thought it over carefully, realizing I’d rather be alone than trying to make a half full glass more than it is.  Even for one weekend.

Years ago I saw Maya Angelou speak in Seattle.  She was, of course, charming and lovely and moving with every well chosen word.  Before reciting “Phenomenal Woman”, perhaps her best known poem, she told us all that a man had recently stopped her to tell her how much he loved and admired the poem, HOWEVER, what about men?  They are strong and sensitive and have love to give and can be great husbands and fathers.  They deserved to be acknowledged for their accomplishments as well, no?  Maya’s response?  “Write your own damn poem.”  So there you go.

Before you think I’ve gone all feminazi/man basher on you, I do feel that some man, perhaps even more than one, holds the keys to my heart, which is currently closed for repairs.  But he’s going to have to dangle them in my face, because for right now I’m busy.  Busy trying to make every day a better place for Team Vagina.  I would LOVE to hear any input you have on this subject, or any other, if you’re reading this.  Happy International Women’s Day, friends. 


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing of my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

There's No Place Like Homo

I recently did a reading at Webster’s Wine Bar in Chicago for 2nd Story, where I was honored to have a good turnout of my fabulous friends.  The second night one of the other storytellers remarked, “I’ve come to the conclusion that any good looking guy who comes up the stairs is here to see YOU”.  Yep, it’s true…..all of the hot boys of Chicago came to see yours truly, mostly paired off with other hot boys.  Since I was old enough to sneak out of the house and drink Zima, I have attracted more homos than you can shake a dick at.  Before the term “fag hag” jumps into your head, let’s replace it with my friend Heather’s kinder, gentler, “fag mag”….as in the fags are magnetically drawn to me.  For thirty plus years now, I’ve had instant chemistry with dudes who quickly ask, “You know I’m gay, right?”  Bitch, please.  I saw you checking out the waiter’s ass.  And I noticed your ears perk up when they started playing Culture Club.  And you’re wearing your sister’s Jordache jeans.  And if you found me in a sea of people for no apparent reason…. wait for it….YOU’RE FUCKING GAY.
Why do they find me?  I’m not completely sure, but most likely it has to do with the peace I’ve made with my masculine side….I often run around disheveled, I like vulgar jokes, I get loud after a few drinks, generally speaking my mind in a voice so low that customer service people refer to me as “Sir” on the telephone.  I don’t really follow the “Nice Girls Act Like This” rules, mostly because I’ve perceived them as being NO DAMN FUN AT ALL.  Sure, straight guys might be unamused.  But do I want to hang out with some guy looking for a prissy girl or do I want to talk shit and dance to Madonna?  Your mileage may vary, but I pick B every time.
Why do I love the gay boys back with all my heart?  Easy.  They hold the secrets of the universe.  They have better relationships than any of my straight friends for a good handful of reasons.  Among my gay friends, the following are true:  They have mutual respect for each other.  They like to have fun.  They are romantic and thoughtful.   And here’s a biggie, THEY ARE WILLING TO ADMIT THEY WANT TO FUCK OTHER PEOPLE.  Straight people seem to have this ridiculous notion that they are supposed to want to only screw one person forever and ever.  NOT POSSIBLE.  I’m not saying monogamy isn’t a great goal, but let’s admit that it’s difficult.  Seriously.  Everyone THINKS about getting a little strange now and then, gay couples are willing to put those cards on the table and even play them sometimes.  And I’d venture to guess that they cheat less because of it.  It’s like if you’re on a diet and all you can think about is the forbidden cake.  If everyone says you can eat the cake, somehow your obsession with the cake wanes.  Also they give a shit about what they look like.  I’m not talking six pack abs and manscaping here….it’s just nice to see a general fashion sense.  When I was in Paris, I thought “how can every man on the Metro be gay?”  Then I realized that was my assumption as they were all wearing dress shoes.  Kind of a sad state of affairs.  I’m all for being comfortable, to be sure, but if you’re going on a date with a gal, would it kill you to not wear a T-shirt you’ve had since high school?  If you even had an iota of an idea of the prep we do to ourselves if we even think we might sleep with you (plucking, waxing, shaving, moisturizing, perfuming, push up bras, Spanx, high heels, ETC!), you’d hopefully agree that you should put forth a little effort to be presentable.
They also are great listeners and great advisers on all things sex related.  No one’s going to tell you how to suck a dick better than a guy with a dick who sucks dick.  It’s like the Holy Grail of dick data.  I’m just sayin’. 
I did some work with some friends here in Chicago with It Gets Better Project a few months back, where the participants told stories of bullying and abuse that they were subjected to growing up because they were gay or even just "different"...we all know that still goes on today.  The fact that assholes like the Donald and Rush Limbaugh are against gay marriage when they themselves trade in their wives as often as they trade in their cars is hypocrisy on the highest level and Elton John should have to turn in his gay card for playing Rush’s wedding.  Or at least write “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”  ten thousand times on the blackboard.  If you are a parent, you need to rail against this bullshit.  Quoting the fantabulous Maya  Angelou…” Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”   We all have to pick our battles, but those who espouse a bunch of ignorance fueled venom should not be tolerated.
Not sure if any straight guys have even made it to the end of this, but you can learn a few things from our gay friends.  If I can embrace my masculine side, you can embrace your feminine side.  It’s okay to smell good and like dumb songs on the radio and be a good dancer and talk about your feelings (I assume you have some) and let your guard down.  And for Team Vagina, if you’re feeling low, go out to the nearest gay bar you can find, order a drink, and start dancing.  You’ll soon be surrounded by hot guys who love you enough to tell you that your ass does indeed look fat in those pants and you are going NOWHERE with that hair.  And you will love them for it.