How to Deal with Trump-Supporting Relatives at the Holidays

Spoiler alert: I don’t know exactly how you should deal with your racist relatives this holiday season. Every family situation is obviously markedly different, and will call for different strategies. But it will probably be helpful for us to think through this together before you go—don’t you think? With the election behind us and #trumpocalypse looming large, this is more important than ever.

Spoiler alert: I don’t know exactly how you should deal with your racist relatives this holiday season. Every family situation is obviously markedly different, and will call for different strategies. But it will probably be helpful for us to think through this together before you go—don’t you think? With the election behind us and #trumpocalypse looming large, this is more important than ever.  Continue reading “How to Deal with Trump-Supporting Relatives at the Holidays”

A Note from the Editor

I went to sleep before the final election results came in last night, too anxious to keep refreshing pages and too horrified to keep looking at a map awash in red. But I’m jolted awake now, at 4 in the morning, with the very visceral and real fear that comes with waking up in Trump’s America. 

I think many of my friends are realizing the extent to which we lived in a blue bubble, an echo chamber where we could reassure each other that the American electorate as a whole valued the same things we do: the equal rights and protection of women, of people of color, of immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the disabled—of every person who is or has been vulnerable in our society. We willfully forgot how many of our culture war victories were won for us by the Supreme Court, where the margin of support has always hung by a thread. Now I understand the fear of conservatives when faced with a lifelong liberal appointee, because I look at the future and see a united Republican government that has either pledged to undo our work, or is too cowardly to stand up to the demagogues who will. 

No matter who won this election, a huge percentage of the population was poised to be unhappy. Deeply so. I am disappointed with, and deeply disgusted by, the portion of the electorate willing to stand behind a vicious con man with no qualifications to speak of, a proto-fascist who has made clear his disdain of those who make up more than half of the nation he will now govern. Still, it happened. Deep down, I think I always knew it could and would happen, though I was afraid to look this fear in the eye. Knowing what we know about the violent, virulent history of our nation, why are we surprised that this history has risen up again? Why are we surprised that, when Trump offered his supporters the promise of a whitewashed future built on the glorious past, they took it? 

I’m tempted to turn away from Trump supporters completely. I’m tempted to say I’ll never, never understand the choices they made that led us to this. It would be easy to retreat further and say, this is an aberration that makes no sense. But to move forward in this new and terrifying world we have to acknowledge how much we underestimated the strength of racism and of blood-and-soil nationalism, to say the least. Even if Clinton had won, Trump’s supporters were not going to go away. As they have shown us tonight, they are a bedrock of American politics, and must be reckoned with. 

I see a lot about moving forward no matter what, and putting faith in American democracy, and galvanizing ourselves for the next fight. Although I am too heartbroken to really feel that fully, I believe it too. I am blessed to be looking at the beginning of my law career next year, and hopeful that I will be able to wade into the fray for those I love, for those who don’t have a voice, for those who deserve more champions than this sorry election has given them.

On Turning 30

Thirty was the dead end of narratability for female protagonists until the twentieth century. By thirty, the heroines of my most beloved novels are either long married or long dead. Either way, there is no more story to tell about them, as they have reached a sublime and static state beyond narrative. Like fairy-tale princesses, they have ridden off into one sunset or another.

All this has of course changed. Fictional female protagonists, like real women, now have flourishing lives after thirty (and after marriage). But women are still raised with the awareness that our society has assigned us expiration dates, even if that date is now later than thirty.

by I.C.

On April 23 this year, I turned thirty.  Prior to that day, on the few occasions that I mentioned the upcoming birthday to other women, they gave a slight wince of commiseration.  They knew this was a birthday that must come with mixed feelings, at best.  Turning thirty represents the crossing of a bridge, invisible but very real.  On the other side I find myself the dreaded femme de trente ans.  A woman of a certain age.  When I was younger, influenced perhaps by too many historical and literary idols whose flames had burnt bright and briefly, I thought it was rather unromantic to live much past thirty.  Then again, when I was younger, I couldn’t actually envisage myself ever being thirty.

Thirty is the age that has traditionally marked the end of youth.  Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, turns thirty in a novel all about disillusionment and disenchantment with youthful ideals.  “I just remembered that today’s my birthday,” he recounts himself saying, and thinks grimly: “Thirty.  Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of a new decade… Thirty– the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”

It’s a difficult birthday, and, whatever Nick Carraway might say, harder for women, in whom our culture so fetishizes youth.  In the nineteenth-century novels that have been my personal and academic staple, this birthday marks the end of the age of marriageability for women.  Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion generously announces himself ready to marry “anybody between fifteen and thirty.”  In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas’s sense at age twenty-seven that thirty is fast approaching partly motivates her agreeing to marry the pompous Mr. Collins, whom Lizzie has already rejected.  Charlotte cannot afford to be “romantic,” unlike Lizzie, who is “not one-and-twenty.”   Similarly, in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the narrator intones: “At twenty-five, girls begin to talk about being old maids, but secretly resolve that they never will be. At thirty they say nothing about it, but quietly accept the fact.”

More generally, thirty was the dead end of narratability for female protagonists until the twentieth century.  By thirty, the heroines of my most beloved novels are either long married or long dead.  Either way, there is no more story to tell about them, as they have reached a sublime and static state beyond narrative.  Like fairy-tale princesses, they have ridden off into one sunset or another.

All this has of course changed.  Fictional female protagonists, like real women, now have flourishing lives after thirty (and after marriage).  But women are still raised with the awareness that our society has assigned us expiration dates, even if that date is now later than thirty.  (Amy Schumer’s “Last F**kable Day” sketch famously skewers the expiration dates arbitrarily assigned to female desirability.) Furthermore, it’s hard to get past the idea of this particular birthday as a sort of milestone or benchmark.  A lot of us use thirty as a deadline—whether for marriage, starting a family, or reaching a certain place in our careers.  We feel like we should have our personal and professional lives mapped out by the time we’re thirty, or at least have found some stability in those areas.  Twenty-somethings, even those in their late twenties, can laugh about not having their lives together, about not feeling like an adult.  But no one thinks that’s cute when you’re in your thirties. 

elle-port

Thirty in our culture ideally means empowered adulthood.  In the 2004 romantic comedy Thirteen Going on Thirty, an awkward teen wishes herself to the pivotal age of thirty, when her career (if not her personal life) has all the trappings of success.  Last year, I read Elle Magazine’s triumphantly titled “This is Thirty!” September issue, its cover featuring Keira Knightley, who turned thirty that year.  If one reaches thirty with Keira Knightley’s impressive resume and astonishing beauty, it may be easy to embrace the birthday with grace confidence.  For me, I’ll admit, it hasn’t been so easy.

One of my own personal “deadlines” for years has been to get my PhD by or at age thirty.  This one actually looks like it will happen.  But as I plan to walk across the stage at my graduation ceremony this May, it’s possible that while doing so I will still feel like a failure. That PhD has turned out to mean none of the things I thought it would mean, and the rest of my life is in a slightly tumultuous state.  I have to accept that turning thirty is not a stopping and resting point, but a period of transition, of enforced dynamism, of change and even transformation.  Sometimes it feels like I’m in free-fall, shoved off the path I’ve diligently pursued for years.  As someone who is less inclined to embrace change than to be dragged toward it clawing and clinging like a cat to the familiar, this is especially difficult.  But I know that at thirty, I’m only beginning to write my story. So I’m trying to see thirty as a beginning, not an end. 

Perhaps the key to finding empowerment in a “benchmark” birthday like thirty is not in trying to dismiss it with an “age is just a number” or “thirty is the new twenty” attitude.  Maybe it’s more empowering to actually embrace turning thirty as a sort of day of reckoning: specifically, of reckoning up your life, your accomplishments, and weighing them in the balance against the dreams that have sustained you.  We gain so much self-knowledge in our twenties, putting us in a good position at thirty to look hard at our life choices.  If our lives don’t match our dreams, it’s time to reevaluate one or the other.  It’s not easy.  And we need to have compassion for ourselves in the process—that isn’t always easy either.  But comparing ourselves to our best possible selves is certainly a more positive mental task than the tempting but toxic one of comparing ourselves to other people—their accomplishments, careers, relationships– at the same age.  If we use this birthday as a chance to focus on our own paths, to consider honestly how to better align our lives with our goals, and if we then have the courage to act on that assessment, there’s promise in thirty.  There’s hope to be found in it.  Even if you don’t resemble Keira Knightley.

“What Are You?”: Let’s Talk About Asian-American Encounters

This is a bit of an anomalous situation, but once…my sister and I were on a horseback riding tour in Wyoming, and somehow it was just the two of us with the guide. He was a typical white cowboy-type, kind of dashing in his way, until he opened his mouth to say, ‘What are you guys?’ (Humans?) In this situation, where we were literally in the mountain wilderness alone with him, how sassy could I afford to be? So I just replied, ‘We’re Chinese-American.’ He seemed perplexed for a second before relaxing. ‘Cool,’ he replied. ‘I love sweet and sour chicken, I eat that all the time at this place in town.’ Was this a strange flirtation attempt couched in the language of…food? What was I supposed to say, ‘I’ve eaten mayonnaise before and it’s pretty good?’ Here’s a hot tip: don’t treat someone’s ethnicity as something edible. If you have to reach that hard to find something with which to connect, just use, you know, your shared humanity.

by B.C.

[to] customer service guy, fun fact: my race is not a conversation starter and I don’t care that your ‘best mate’ is getting married to an asian girl.

When I posted this status on Facebook about how a customer service rep unnecessarily remarked on my race, I was kind of surprised by how it blew up with ‘likes’ and comments — but also not that surprised. 

Among my friends, including those on social media, it’s pretty common knowledge that these types of comments are unwarranted. But I was reminded that it’s not common knowledge for everyone.

To backtrack, I was at a Verizon store getting a phone upgrade. This guy was helping me along and we were making typical small talk. Then, out of nowhere, he asked if both of my parents were Asian. I was unsure of where he was going with this but answered, yes, only to have him tell me he was surprised I didn’t have an accent.

As those words left his mouth, I felt myself cringing. Really? Did you really say that? I told him, politely, that there are lots of Asian-Americans like me without accents and that his comment was a little offensive.

He seemed taken aback, shocked, even; he immediately apologized and said he didn’t mean offense. Okay, I thought, well good. Glad that’s over. But then he continued the conversation by telling me that his best friend was marrying an Asian girl, as if that were a way to redeem himself.

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As it to convey, hey, I’m a nice guy. I didn’t mean any harm. My best friend likes your people, so I can relate and it was okay of me to say what I said. I wasn’t so much upset as I was flummoxed by his cluelessness. He was only making things worse without even realizing it. Continue reading ““What Are You?”: Let’s Talk About Asian-American Encounters”

What to Do About Depression: The Limits of the Social Model

How do people usually talk about disability, and is this model of thought applicable to thinking about mental illness and depression? Writer S.T. takes us on a journey through her own experience, both experiencing mental illness and researching the subject.

My sophomore year of college, I went through the worst depressive episode of my life. Making it to class – not even participating, just getting myself there – was a victory. I could barely leave the apartment, and some days, I couldn’t even leave my room. Pulling out details is difficult – most of the year is still submerged in a thick fog – but I remember sleeping through a psychology exam in November. The next day, I went to see my professor, sobbing hysterically in her office as I tried to explain why I had slept through two alarms. Abstractly, I knew what depression was, but as I sat there under her unsympathetic gaze, I didn’t feel like I was suffering from an illness. I felt like I was just lazy, weak, a bad student. A failure. My professor was hesitant to give me a makeup test. Her anger felt physically painful to me, but it was a pain I felt certain I deserved.

sad-505857_960_720.jpg Continue reading “What to Do About Depression: The Limits of the Social Model”

Assemble the #GirlSquad: Finding My New Best Friend on BumbleBFF

tldr; I tried online friend-dating so you don’t have to.

A good friend of mine says she wishes her early and mid-20s would come with a guidebook, like those pamphlets on puberty from grade school. There are just things we don’t know to expect, despite our generally good educations and common sense. Examples?

Here are some weird things your not-yet-old, not-quite-young body will start doing. Ten things besides taxes you don’t yet know how to do, but should.

After I uprooted my life and moved to a new city with my boyfriend, I added something else to her list: it’s really f*cking hard to make adult friends.

To paraphrase the ladies of Another Round, it’s weird to try finding adult female friends if you don’t have a good reason. You can’t just lean over to that cool-looking lady on the bus and be like, hey bus friend. You wanna go to the movies sometime?

A good friend of mine says she wishes her early and mid-20s would come with a guidebook, like those pamphlets on puberty from grade school. There are things we don’t know to expect, despite our generally good educations and common sense. Examples? Here are some weird things your not-yet-old, not-quite-young body will start doing. Ten things besides taxes you don’t yet know how to do, but should. After I uprooted my life and moved to a new city with my boyfriend, I added something else to her list: it’s really f*cking hard to make adult friends. 

I don’t mean friendly acquaintances, like that girl you always see at the gym and often chat with. I don’t even mean surface friends, the ones you see once a month for drinks and some pleasant small-talk. I’m talking the dream of female friendship that, lately, has blossomed beautifully in our pop culture: the Broad City love, the tight-knit ride-or-die crew. The women whose lives are woven together deeply through late night giggle sessions, daily commiserating over nothing at all, and deep existential talks while drunk.

broad city
TV’s weirdest and best female friendship

To be clear, not everyone wants or needs this level of female friendship. Plenty of people do well without. But it was certainly something of a lonely shock for me to be plunged from many years of effortless community building (through school), into a work-from-home situation where I trudged from coffeeshop to coffeeshop and wasted time in insipid MeetUps. I still had the friends I had relied on to keep me sane throughout school, and I still loved them as much as ever. But there’s a difference between even the most fulfilling GroupMe chat, and the reassuring feeling of having a friend in the same city who can run over at a moment’s notice. I had been confident that I could build a strong friendship network in my new city. After all, I had met *soulmates* in unlikely places. I had made friends even under the crushing pressure of a graduate school program I grew to deeply resent. I had never failed to make connections before—and now I would have all this “free” time. I could be flexible! Instead, I found myself split between my new city and my yearning for my friends in other places. I traveled a lot of weekends, dropping in for an intense bout of fun and emotional connection before returning to my lonely weekdays of work. Without the support of a structure, like school or a workplace, I found myself floundering. To paraphrase the ladies of Another Round, it’s weird to try finding adult female friends if you don’t have a good reason. You can’t just lean over to that cool-looking lady on the bus and be like, hey bus friend. You wanna go to the movies sometime?


 

In the corner of the internet where my online friends live  (a secret facebook group that doubles as constant sleepover/oversharing extravaganza), a woman mentioned a new resource that I had been waiting for without realizing it: BumbleBFF. You may know of Bumble, the dating app that requires women to make the first move when meeting men. BFF is a new feature in this app, which lets you create a profile and swipe on potential female friends like you would in a dating app.

Once you download Bumble (or set it to the BFF option), you create a profile by linking your facebook, much like tinder. You write a blurb about yourself, which is one of the hardest and most awkward kinds of writing that exists. You can also play around with your photos by deleting, rearranging, or adding new ones from your camera roll. Crowdsourced word of advice: pictures of pets? Good convo starter. Five bathroom selfies from slightly different angles? Not so much.

 

Many of the women using the app referenced well-known TV friendships in their blurbs, noting that they aspired to find their beautiful-tropical-fish-Ann-Perkins, or that they were looking for the “Tina Fey to my Amy Poehler.” I must have seen that line about Tina and Amy at least ten times. Are women more conscious of the expectation that they have a #squad? Probably. TV has perhaps fueled the desire for this kind of friendship—which is not a bad thing in itself. Many, many of the women on this app were also quick to note that they were on BumbleBFF because they were new to the city, or were looking to expand their social circles beyond work and their boyfriends. I’m normal, I promise!
It’s weird in some ways and not others, of course. It makes perfect sense, in this moment, to try and make friends the same way we do so much else: through an app. What’s weird is the slight mismatch between this interface and its purpose. When you swipe, you decide based on a picture and a blurb…but a lot of women don’t fill out the blurb, or list only a series of cryptic emoji (burrito, wine glass, twin bunny girls dancing). It’s pretty visual, and that’s a strange sole criterion for friendship. After all, I have never made an IRL friend solely based on her cuteness. But for a lot of these women, who for some reason chose only a selfie and no other info, that was all I had to go on.

It’s kind of a distasteful process to confront your own visual prejudices so clearly. The game-like aspects of this app, like all dating and social-matching apps, winnow your preferences quickly and clearly. The act of swiping trains you to quickly assess a limited amount of information and make a decision. In all honesty, I hesitated, and often swiped left, on *basic* white girls with chevron print dresses or monogrammed wine glasses. I swiped left on people who listed alcohol as their main interest, because it felt like they were performing some kind of *bitter-but-cool-millenial* wine-guzzling act. (I also like wine, and drinking, and brunch, but GIRL everyone does! It’s not a lot to go on when meeting an individual). They are probably lovely people, and we could have had a fine time together. Regardless, I swiped left because some part of me instinctively recoiled, and there were a lot of other women to look through. I’m sure other people on the app did the same for me.

I have never actually used a dating app, since my current boyfriend and I have been dating since before tinder was a thing. It was fun to participate in this facet of culture. As a low-stakes way to specify the kind of friends I wanted to meet, it was great. But for my (squad-)goals, did it work?

IMG_8014
Aren’t these redaction stickers the cutest?

I had a few matches within the first couple hours, which was heartening! When you match with someone (meaning both of you swiped right on each other), your phone buzzes in celebration and a whole world of possibility opens up in front of you. At least, that’s how it felt the first time I matched. A new window comes up, letting you know that the hours are ticking down on your new #foreverfriend, and one of you will have to start talking. Members of the secret facebook group mentioned above agreed: it is awkward af to start small-talking someone you don’t know if you’re not face to face. Some girls sent a blank, “how are you?” which was about as inspiring online as it is in person (which is to say, not very). A couple people sent compliments: “I love your hair!” or “ooh, the donuts in your pic look so yummy!” As is the case when I make in-person small talk, I felt like I was lifting heavy weights. (Small talk is tedious, y’all. Why don’t we as a society just acknowledge this fact?) It felt easy to let conversations fall by the wayside. After all, these were still strangers to whom I owed nothing. But that also meant that moving forward to meeting up was hard. Usually one or both of us flaked, or the topic never came up at all.

While I’ve yet to meet up with any of my matches, I suspect that this app, like most dating apps, can only do so much. We will still have to wade through the slough of small talk and introduction together. We will meet, and leave that meeting, still basically strangers—and it will take some effort to keep any momentum going. One or both of us will have to be very proactive, in a way that I find most people of my generation rarely are—at least when it comes to making and keeping social engagements with people, especially people you don’t know well. It’s too easy to lie back in bed, log in to netflix, and lazily flick through the next 20 women waiting in your screen. BumbleBFF may help us take the first step, but the hard work is still up to us. I remain optimistic, though. If anyone wants to buzz me, I’ll be here.

 

Journey to the Gym: How Exercising as Self-Care Really Works

For a dedicated screen-potato, deciding to try a gym membership is about loving yourself and being reminded to take stock of one’s well-being, mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

by B.C.

I never thought I’d say this, but the gym brings me a special kind of zen. I find its disorder comforting. The one I go to is especially painful to look at. Its branding is marked by bright, kitschy colors and overly encouraging slogans left and right. You can do it!!!!!!! You feel like you’re in a kids’ party place or some kind of large, interactive cult. Maybe even a carnival-themed dystopian society where electricity relies on manpower. Continue reading “Journey to the Gym: How Exercising as Self-Care Really Works”

The Childfree Choice

by I.C.

Throughout my childhood, insofar as I ever thought ahead to my adult domestic life, I assumed I would do exactly as my mother had done.  I thought the ideal plan was to get married straight out of college, wait about three years, and then have three daughters, each spaced out two years apart.  There was a sort of fairy-tale symmetry to that arrangement.  While it was comfortably far off in the future, I could take it for granted that I wanted something similar.  I took it for granted, as I think most girls do, that I would want children.

Then the future came up to meet me, and found me changed. Continue reading “The Childfree Choice”

#FeeltheBurnout: Can We Keep Caring?

Actually, I could care less.

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For those who try to navigate the world from a place of care, life can be exhausting.  Caring as a lifestyle is a recognition of the threads that tether us to each other and to the world; it is an affirmation of our interconnectedness.  But there are so many things to care about, so much suffering, cruelty, and injustice.  Human and animal suffering, the environment, social justice, poverty, hunger, political and institutional corruption—these all seem to be things we have an ethical obligation to care about.  So how do we navigate our whole lives from a place of care without burning out, without retreating into apathy from the sheer inundation of the world’s problems? How do we recognize and meet others’ claims on us?  It can be so much easier to walk a narrower path, to move through the world guided by an ethics of self-interest rather than an ethics of care.  Let me say from the start that I don’t have the answers. 

Compassion fatigue is well-documented among those in what we can call the caring professions, from doctors, nurses, and veterinarians to, more broadly, social workers, aid workers, emergency first responders, and even defense lawyers.  I’ve seen it among activists in documentaries.  For example, the two young women in 2015’s The Hunting Ground (Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark) who have dedicated their lives to helping other survivors of sexual assault, who listen to their stories and sometimes talk them down from suicide, at certain points seem understandably overwhelmed by the responsibility.

Maybe sympathy must be balanced with a measure of detachment.  In another documentary, 2014’s Pelican Dreams, I noticed a technique used by a man who rehabilitates pelicans that have been injured by increasing human interference in their environment.  The filmmaker at one point asks the name of a particular pelican, and the rehabilitator insists gruffly that he doesn’t name them.  He just uses numbers to keep track of them.  But it’s not because he doesn’t care about them; his every word and action shows he does.  The not-naming is a deliberately adopted measure to prevent himself from caring too much, from getting too attached, so that he can still sleep at night after releasing a bird back into the hazardous world.

I have a friend who is a counselor for troubled teenagers.  I’ve seen counselors and therapists who, having been in their profession for a long time, have found it necessary to build a self-protective wall between themselves and their patient’s suffering.  They have to remain detached, to let their patient’s problems go when they leave work, or they’ll be consumed by the suffering of others.  But how do they balance empathy and detachment?  How does one draw boundaries around care?  My friend is still learning; her work still follows her home.    

This same friend uses the metaphor of a bucket: she pours her whole bucket of emotional investment into her work.  In order to replenish that bucket, she has to practice self-care; she has to spend time not thinking about work, or, conversely, spend time talking with people in the same line of work who understand.  Humor helps too, she says; this reminds me that I’ve heard of nurses making jokes about patients in a way that would seem insensitive to outsiders, but really just allows the nurses to stay afloat emotionally. 

But you don’t have to be someone who specifically works in a field that alleviates suffering to experience compassion fatigue.  You can feel it as someone who nurses your aging parent or your sick child, who volunteers at a shelter for the homeless or a shelter for animals, who has a friend with PTSD, or who just reads the news daily.  So many of us are in some sort of constant contact with the suffering of others, and need to find the balance between apathy and taking all that suffering on ourselves.  Caring is hard emotional labor—the kind that, in many of its forms, has been most often demanded of women, and is rarely renumerated.  Given this, new demands on our care can leave us feeling resentful.

I have an email account specifically for the emails I receive from animal welfare or environmental organizations.  Once or twice a day I check it, sign countless petitions.  Occasionally—not often enough—I send money.  Sometimes stories or images in those emails, or in mail sent to my house, will haunt me for days, weeks, longer.  I feel angry at the human cruelty and ignorance they often expose, and frustrated at my own helplessness.  But that anger and frustration irrationally redirects itself at whatever organization is giving me this information, and thus asking me to recognize another claim on my care.  (Did you really have to include that graphic image, PETA?) It’s the same with ASPCA commercials; I have to change the channel immediately.  See me. Care about me.  That’s what the eyes of starved dogs and cats in cages plead to the strains of Sarah McLachlan.  I do care.  I don’t want to see.

Guilt and irrational anger also merge in the discomfort I feel when faced with human needs I can’t adequately meet.  In the warmer months of this past year, I used to see the same homeless woman begging on the sidewalk every time I drove to my nearest pharmacy.  I rarely carry cash, and I would always feel relieved when the traffic light was green, so that I had no chance to stop for her in any case.  But I remember she would stand with her arms outstretched, the universal gesture of supplication.  See me. Care about me

It’s easier not to really see, because then you have to care.  And then you have to help.

The temptation to turn a blind eye, to be willfully apathetic, stretches from small personal decisions—like my looking away from the homeless woman—to ones with much broader social implications.  For example, I find myself increasingly seeking out apathy when it comes to politics.  We have a responsibility to care about politics because the election of those in power affects every aspects of the lives of those most in need, as well as the welfare of the planet we inhabit.  I was fiercely passionate about re-electing Obama in 2012; I thought the election of Mitt Romney would be catastrophic.  I even (temporarily) unfriended a cousin on Facebook because of his pro-Romney postings.  But now, with far worse potential presidents in the running, the election season hurts too much to think about.  I find myself avoiding reading or listening to the news.  In the search for a “leader of the free world,” it may (sadly) be too much to expect a public servant of moral wisdom and practical integrity.  But to be forced to accept that such a bullying, blustering, buffoonish, narcissistic blowhard as Donald Trump could actually be president almost makes me want to throw in the towel on caring about my country.  Trump and his almost equally ridiculous GOP opponents, all preying on ignorance and fear, expose not only the moral bankruptcy of the Republican party but the seemingly irresolvable division of American society into two sides that can never see eye to eye. Given a problem so seemingly insoluble, the temptation to slip into apathy is all the greater. 

It’s easier to think of reasons why something or someone doesn’t really deserve your attention or help, to justify to yourself why it’s not your responsibility to care.  But I am afraid each time I find myself doing this, afraid I am burying deeper and deeper a voice in me that matters.  Afraid that someday I won’t be able to hear it at all.  I don’t want to let it fall silent.

The Recovering Good Girl

The Recovering Good Girl: As we go into full new-year’s-resolution-mode, I.C. shares a powerful and personal story of her journey toward recovery and what it means to go beyond the strictures of the “good girl” and its control.

by I.C.

I have lived my life with a sort of luminous double, a potential self I’ll call the “good girl,” as close as my own breath and as far away as a star.  As I come from a conservative Christian background, in which messages about appropriate feminine traits were inescapable, this imaginary figure gained a good deal of power over me, and I spent many years of my life trying to attain the promise of perfection she held out.  It was a very traditional, even retrograde, type of perfection.  Being a good girl meant being obedient, modest, meek.  The good girl did not speak until spoken to, concealed negative emotions, and if she didn’t have anything nice to say, she didn’t say anything at all.  For those traits, I believed, she would ultimately be rewarded with approval and love. Continue reading “The Recovering Good Girl”