Thursday, December 20, 2018

Honoring the Dark Goddess; Winter Solstice 2018

in researching a direction to point a Solstice ritual in, I ran across many deities (Demeter, Persephone, Dionysus, Saturn, Isis, Horus, Amaterasu, Tonantzin, Mithras, Quetzalcoatl, Lucina/Lucia, Sarasvati, Spider Woman, Deer Mother, the Hopi Kachinas), and festivals (Saturnalia, Poseidonia, Haloa, Brumalia, Yule, Hestia's Fires, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Soyal) across all traditions (Persian, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, Yoruba, Pagan, Italian, Swedish, Native American, Eleusynian/Women's Mysteries, Jewish), nations (Europe, India, Asia, Africa, North & South America), that have a connection to the Winter Solstice, including this one crazy Viking Goddess of Winter called Skadi, who "in some of the more negative tales...was named Mornir, the troll woman, and was said to have castrated and then collected the penises of heroes," and "that offerings of men's blood were made to Skadi, symbolizing the blood of Loki that had fertilized her.  Priestesses of Skadi were said to have bathed in blood as preparation for their rituals."  pretty intense.  she, like other Dark Goddesses whose stories center around this time of year, is not evil - she is symbolic of the primordial womb, and reminds us that without darkness there is no light.  we celebrate these deities with home fires and ritual, though more privately, and in a more domestic sense, then one would in summertime.  While she is always associated with fertility and the continuation of life, in her aspect as the Dark Goddess, The Crone, She Who Cuts the Thread is calling back the Sun God, to whom she is giving birth.  he is the son/sun who will grow to re-fertilize the Earth in the spring, bringing light and warmth back into the world.

of course, since I've been on a journey with Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Dead, I feel it's her and her sister's story I want to engage with this year.  the short version - Inanna made a pass at Gilgamesh, he didn't dig it, she got mad and sent her sister's husband, Gugulana, after him. Gugulana is killed, and when Inanna shows up at the gates of Kur to pay her respects, she is made to remove an article of clothing or accessory at each of seven gates, appearing naked before Ereshkigal, and still makes a play for the throne, cheeky girl.  she is found guilty by the 7 Judges of the Underworld and sentenced to death.  Ereshkigal then kills her, and hangs her corpse from a hook to rot.  of course, Inanna left instructions for her servant to come to her aid after three days and three nights, which she did by having another god make two sexless beings to enter Ereshkigal's domain and empathize with her labor pains, to win both Inanna's corpse and the means to revive her.  so Inanna was set free, offering first her husband, and later his sister, to take her place in the underworld.

this story is obviously the basis for the later Demeter and Persephone mythos surrounding Hades that I think more people are familiar with, but it's the same, nonetheless - the longest night ending the dark half of the year, and the oncoming increase in the light, but acknowledged from a feminine perspective.  rather than a mother's sorrow over the loss of her daughter through the implied rape of a powerful man, we have two sisters symbolizing different aspects of what could be any woman's psyche.  the male archetype is hardly necessary in this myth - he is a later invention of the Son born to the Mother, who grows into the Lover, that becomes the Consort, when he can fertilize the fields, and they can be reborn.  the child belongs to the Mother - the Mother is the constant.  Our Great Mother.  enough son gods have been born, and as much honor as most of them deserve, I worship none above non-gendered Creative Source, and I give my solstice energy to its divine aspect as the Dark Goddess, Ereshkigal.

we may not find the Dark Mother comforting or appealing, but we must be willing to acknowledge the Goddess in all her aspects if we want to understand ourselves in the same way.  Most traditions honor any number of deities or beings associated with shadows and darkness, and calling upon them in ritual can act as a way to cleanse and balance our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy, help us face up to any fears, be real with ourselves, do the dirty work and get it done, offer strong protection, boost confidence, and invite joy.  in whatever form you worship Her, remember to show respect.  the following ritual is written specifically for Ereshkigal and Inanna, but feel free to change it up as you need.

I begin preparations for my rituals ahead of time, such as doing a general de-clutter around my house (especially if it's around a gift giving holiday), finishing up paperwork that's been on my desk too long, moving things in or out and making sure they have places to live, dusting, vacuuming, that sort of thing.  I'll prepare special foods or fast, plan a ritual bath, and take time to choose my outfit and accessories in a certain state of mind as it's all a part of the plan, and an important step in creating a mood and vibrational energy.

decorate your altar with symbols of the season, such as evergreen, pinecones, antlers, bells, suns, mother and child statuary.  mead or wine, water, pomegranates, apples, oranges, and walnuts are all appropriate for the altar, too, but I wouldn't eat or drink during the ritual, and would probably fast for a day or so before, though eat right after.  have a black candle for Ereshkigal, a white candle for Inanna, a blue candle for the lapis lazuli associated with them both, and a gold candle for the new-born sun (red, orange, or yellow work, too).  stones you might use include black tourmaline, jet, hematite, obsidian, bloodstone, garnet, ruby, emerald, and diamond.  pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon, frankincense, and myrrh are all good choices for incense.

fire is an essential part of any ritual, and since it's too cold out to do ritual work outdoors, even near a fire, I plan to light a small one in the woodstove I'm lucky enough to have in my living room, to burn throughout my day.  into the iron cauldron filled with water on top of the stove, when it's going (to put some moisture back into the air), I will toss some pine needles, fruit peels, and cinnamon sticks.  some of the stones I mentioned for the altar would do well to be charged out in the moonlight for several nights, then added to the ritual bath - or at least on/near the tub - before being placed on the altar.

for the ritual bath:

  • fill up a bath with water at the temperature you prefer (I like it hot), and add dried or fresh herbs (sage, chamomile, basil, peppermint, cinnamon, sandalwood, lavender, rosemary), a few drops of essential oil, or both.  add any stones charged in the moonlight.
  • light candles and incense around the tub, turn out the lights, close the door/curtain, play soft music.  intentionally create and set this space.
  • sink slowly into the water, and feel yourself relaxing and releasing, letting go everyday thoughts and tensions, and making way for clear, cleansed, and purified focus and intention (a quiet, hummed, 'Om' often helps, bonus if there's an echo) .
  • honor your shadow self, and your connection to 'darker' emotions, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  connect them to the deepest roots in our psyches, our oldest instincts.  examine your fears and feelings of discomfort.  sit with them awhile.
  • offer these feelings to the Mother and to the Moon.  hold them up for Her to see.  let Her give you the strength, courage, and endurance to rebirth them into something new.
  • after the tub has drained completely, discard any herbs outside in the moonlight.
remember to dress and accessorize intentionally and accordingly!

for the ritual:

light any candles not for use in the ritual
light incense 
cast a circle
call the quarters

light the white candle and say, 

The land is dead, the soil is cold.
The fertile womb of the Earth is barren.
As Inanna descended to Kur,
so the Earth descended into Night.
Relinquishing a piece of Herself
at each of the Seven Gates
to Her sister's realm,
She stood naked, 
was found guilty,
struck dead.
Our Lady,
hung 3 days and 3 nights
on a hook
to rot.

light the black candle from the white candle
extinguish the white candle and say:

In her anger and sorrow, 
Ereshkigal locked the gates
to her realm.
Stripped Her sister
of her crown,
jewels, and garments,
and killed Her.
The crops died,
all life withered,
and the soil went dormant.
In Her grief, 
She cries.
For all the love lost,
for lives ended too soon,
for Justice.
For all the dead souls 
held inside Her,
and the pain 
of rebirthing 
the world anew.

Half the year
we dance 
with the growing light;
half the year
we dance 
with the growing night.
We honor
and celebrate
the deepest shadows
in the darkness.

now is the time to enter into personal meditation.

take some time to reflect on the darker aspects of your personal human experience.  think of deities and other mythological beings who evoke the darkness, and other frightening aspects of our nature.  do you see some of that nature in yourself?  is there some pain you are hiding, or longing to set free?  are there old wounds, anger, or frustration that you still need to move past?  She knows our ancestor's pain and She's here to destroy us, the shameless harlot, to fashion our raw heartbreak and rage into something new and beautiful.  in this context, Ereshkigal is the catalyst for Inner Knowing.  She isn't mindlessly evil, She is the Refiner's Fire, the Ordeal one must complete in order to reach the next stage of their development.  Her boundaries are clearly defined and firmly set, and Her wrath is incurred through their violation.  Her rules are not to be disrespected.  now is the time to acknowledge that the worst kinds of work we are called to do in whatever capacity is good and valid, to be thankful for it's place on our path to the light, and to offer our appreciation for those who do that work regularly.

when you are ready to end the ritual, chant:

Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna
Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna
Ereshkigal, Lilith, bringers of destruction and darkness,
we embrace you.
For our rage, we have pleasure,
for our pain we have peace.
For making it through the night, 
we are given the day, 
for without death, there is no life.
Dark Mothers - we Thank You
as we look towards the return 
of the light.

relight the white candle from the black candle
light the gold candle from the black candle

close the quarters
open the circle

this year, we have the added delight of the moon being full on the (day after) Solstice, so definitely find a way to work the Moon into your ritual, which shouldn't be hard to do, since it's pretty woman-centered to begin with.  it's got a bunch of cool traditional names like the Full Cold Moon, Long Nights Moon, and Big Spirit Moon, and as if all that plus the Ursid meteor showers weren't enough celestial goodness for you, there's ALSO a bunch of conjunctions with the moon and Aldeberan, Jupiter and Mercury, Venus and Saturn...check it all out at:  I also read an interesting bit about how Venus  - associated with Inanna - appears to...well, disappear from one horizon for three days, then show up on the other horizon, then switch back.  I didn't chase it down because I was headed elsewhere, but it sounded pretty interesting, and is worth going back for!  Venus is also connected to the number 7, and the 7-circuit labyrinth (and my Lady Ariadne), which reminds me of the 7 gates, and the 7 things Inanna has to give up, and the 7 chakras...there's just so much to explore.

I was once again disappointed (though not surprised anymore) at how Eurocentric all the articles I referenced were.  obviously, it has much to do with the content, but I've long since felt that I should know more about African traditions than that in our modern age, about half of the continent is Muslim, and the other half is Christian, with a handful of other Abrahamic traditions mixed in.  there is a huge, colorful, varied historical background particular to each different group of people inhabiting that vast land, and I want everyone to know more about all of it.  I also want to engage more with the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads to get a better understanding than my basic knowledge of some of their main deities, and the names of their holy books.

so enjoy your personal holiday celebrations, but remember to let your spirit draw inward as well, and rest.  do some serious hibernating to honor your inner sacred stillness, and renew your strength.  tend to your flame so you can emerge into the new solar year renewed and refreshed, whole, and in harmony.  I'm so far down in my solstice descent already I've been having headaches from forgetting to eat while preparing for my ritual work.  then I got my period, and my car broke down, and I didn't have any groceries in the house!  so I baked bread with what I had in the pantry, and slathered it with butter, which has become one of my funerary rights - when someone I care about dies, my body craves bread and butter.  there just something comforting about something so simple, I guess.  and it's like I'm mourning my own hanging on that hook during these darkest days, but we're almost through them for the season, and on into the light.

Blessed Be!

great link to various myths! -

other various links:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Hannukah 2018

lame store-bought excuse for suvganiot, given how delicious my homemade version is...

it's the last night of Hannukah, and it's been a rough week, so I'm glad it's over, but I'm also feeling like I need to take stock of how my holiday panned out, now that I have a minute to sit back and think about it.  so here's a quick rundown of how it went:

1st night - it's a week ago, already, so I barely remember what happened, but I DO know my teen was away with his sports team until around 3pm, after which he had a 3 hour band rehearsal.  I lit the electric menorah in the window before we left for rehearsal so we'd enjoy seeing it's glow in the night when we returned, but there was no holiday food, or presents (other than the gift of being together, safe, sheltered, with electricity, food, water, our good health, and our cat, which is plenty good enough for both of us, but I'm sure the cat thinks she could have done better).

2nd night - the teen came home early from after-school sports practice, and discovered a package in the mailbox from his dad (no note or anything) with a cool pair of wireless earbuds in it.  we got out our 'proper' menorahs to light actual candles (we still light the electric one, but it doesn't feel right to me unless we light the real ones), and made delicious latkes for dinner.

3rd night - I completed an important overdue task before indulging in some much needed self-care (good meal/hot shower/clean clothes), and went to the laundromat while the teen was at music lessons & band rehearsal, where I ran into and chatted with a newer friend, before visiting the home of a much older friend, until it was time to pick up the teen and go home.  I think we forgot to light the electric menorah before we went's pretty disappointing when you pull up in the driveway and those pretty lights aren't there to cheer you.

4th night - really rough...the teen had a spot of trouble at school, and as a result, was not allowed to compete with his team in their event after school that day, which broke his poor dear heart, but he learned that his less-intelligent actions can have serious repercussions, no matter how remorseful you feel in retrospect.  he needed to crawl into my lap (all 130+ pounds of him) and have a good cry about it, too.  we lit candles, but they burned down in the kitchen while we cuddled on the couch watching a movie and eating crap food.

5th night - we splurged and went out for a meal ($30 total, tip included).  another rehearsal night.  we may have lit candles when we got home, and I'm pretty sure we remembered to light the electric ones before we left.

6th night - the teen skipped sports practice to come straight home from school because he had to report to the venue for his gig by 4pm.  and there were gifts for him!  socks and comfy pajamas from some dear friends!  he did great at his performance, but I felt barred from entering the venue to watch him so...I didn't feel particularly celebratory, or supported by my 'community'.  it was an electric menorah night, and a rough one, at that.

7th night - I was gifted with the concern of several of the other parents at the music school who were wondering what had happened between the school and me to cause such bad blood between us so suddenly after 5 years, and their insistence that I offer those administrators (and the idiots who sowed the seeds of discontent with them) a big 'fuck you' by standing proudly in the middle of the room to watch my son perform.  while it was nice to feel seen, heard, and supported, I was too fragile to do it due to being blown off two nights in a row by the teen's friend who said they'd be there, but wasn't.  the teens are too young to drive, so it's not really the kid's fault for not making it, and who knows what their mom was struggling with to tell me she would bring her kid to the show two nights in a row, and not only Not show up, but Not call to make any kind of excuse...well, that's pretty insulting to me, and disrespectful of my time, and makes me have to reconsider how close I want to be with her in the future, as this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened between us.  knowing one's worth - or being reminded to respect it - is an important gift in and of itself.  the teen performed another great show, and his gift was his mama's pride.  seeing our almost fully lit menorah in the window as we arrived home was a comforting sight.

8th night - we took the day off.  we literally laid around in our pajamas and did nothing other than watch some television shows we borrowed from the library, and munch on handfuls of cereal straight out of the box.  since we had no plans of any kind (for a reason - I wanted us both to have a break after our busy week), I had hoped that This would be the day that I would somehow magically have the energy and fortitude to make 500 latkes and 1000 suvganiot to celebrate Hannukah the way I know how - with lots of yummy fried goodness, and song (I'm still without the resources to provide material gifts, but yes, that's generally a part of it, too).  we didn't.  we did have to run out to the grocery store, and while we were there, I picked up the last, pathetic, getting stale, jelly donut in the case to serve as the symbol for our crumpled-wax-bag of a Hannukah this year.  we lit the electric menorah, ate our sad, commercial-grocery-store-bakery-bland, overly sugary donut (pictured at the top of the post), made a mockery of singing a few verses of various Hannukah songs ridiculously loudly, high-fived, and called it a holiday.

in stating my disappointment with myself at not having made the time to either decorate, or cook traditional foods, the teen wisely reminded me that it doesn't have to be Hannukah to make latkes or suvganiot, and I replied, "no, I only make them once a year, and that once is on Hannukah, and Hannukah's over now, so...I'm not doing it."  I knew in advance it was going to be a hard holiday for us due to my lack of financial wealth, a particularly bad case of 'winter blues/seasonal affective disorder', and the work/school/extra-curricular schedule, but there were still times that I could have made cooking a priority instead of plopping down in my chair to check facebook, or watch part of a movie.  there was definitely some gratuitous lounging around this week as I was having a hard time processing all of the emotional baggage into manageable packages so I could function at a base level, if not much more.  mainstream society doesn't often leave much room for cultural norms that fail to coincide with the status quo, and I'm not surrounded by a large and loving family/community that makes it easier to be festive by all being involved in preparing for the same party.  in fact, the one party I Was preparing for (my son's gig) left me out in the cold, and feeling the very opposite of joyful and connected.

still, all in all...the teen and I, in our tiny little two-person family, made some effort at keeping the traditions alive, which is better than not having done it at all.  the teen got some gifts that he needed (and loves), and even a gift that he wanted (and loves).  he sang his heart out, played the best solo of his life two nights in a row, and gracefully accepted some hard lessons.  I got reminded how important it is to be with people who cherish me rather than tolerate me, and that even though it generally feels like I'm out here all alone all the time, there are still folks who are willing to come out and support me every now and again.  the teen and I joked and laughed together, the way we always do, because even though our lives can be hard, we do our best to have fun and enjoy it anyway.  and to be fair, the one batch of latkes I did make were delicious (even if I did forget the sour cream and applesauce).  now it's time for me to retreat into my best version of hibernation, do some serious inner journeying for the Solstice, avoid the madness of late December consumerism disguised as religious posturing, and look towards celebrating my 50th birthday soon after the new year.  I hope it has something wonderful in store for us, we sure could use some 'wonderful' around here.

happy winter holiday season, whatever you celebrate!


Monday, November 26, 2018

Bread Crumbs & Brandy

so...seasonal affective disorder, and the January blues.  it usually hits me right between Halloween and Truthsgiving, which is the most current, Native-American-centered term I am familiar with for the day many citizens of Amerikkka celebrate during the month of November to commemorate the colonizing of the land that government holds.  the combination of the decreasing light, and this horrific practice happening all around me (not to mention the implications of the toxic-turkey-trade), in combination with my feelings of isolation in being estranged from family and not generally having anyone to gather with in community regardless of the reason, has been bringing me down hard and fast for nigh on 20 years, now.  some people get their winter blues later in the season, in January, when the winter holidays are over, and the relative hardships of the winter wear them down.  I'm generally feeling better by then, as the light increases after the solstice, and the sun begins to move into my astrological sign, but whenever the winter blues hit, or SAD is making you sad, there are ways to nurture yourself through it.

  • taking 1000 IU's of vitamin D2 (plant-based) or D3 (animal-based) daily
  • staying warm with layered clothing, hot baths, saunas, warm foods & drinks
  • light therapy - taking walks outside around noon, getting a light box, or a light therapy lamp 
  • getting up early in the day to 'set your inner clock' 
  • eating well of proteins and veggies, increasing probiotics (yogurt) and omega-3's (oily fish, walnuts, flax/hemp/chia seeds), cooking hearty soups & stews while avoiding processed foods, dairy, and carbohydrates
  • exercising is one of the healthiest ways to boost your mood - doing it outside in the sunlight is an added bonus this time of year
  • staying active and involved - being social is really hard when all we want to do is hibernate under a blanket and go to sleep until spring
  • keeping a positive mindset through meditation, and practicing gratitude
  • sleeping well - just like it's healthy to be in sunlight during the day, it's important for your body to be in the dark at night, so try to keep the bedroom free of electronics, and also slightly cool 
  • use bergamot, lavender, and rose essential oils in a diffuser, add them to your bathwater, combine them with coconut or olive oil and wear them, or simply sniff them for a lift!

I began my process at the autumnal equinox this year, having heard a call from Erishkigal - Sumerian Queen of the Underworld - back in the summer.  she seems to be with me on my journey this season, and I'm ready to learn what she has to teach me.  I first met her back when I was just a baby-occultist, discovering the wonders of more ancient wisdom than I previously knew existed, written in language and symbols that were somehow familiar to a young Jewish seeker.  she is connected to, or associated with, Lilith, who - as the daughter of a feminist Jew -  I have known since my childhood, and was my first representation of a deity outside of the Jewish 'god'.  of course I had some glancing familiarity with Greek and Roman mythology, as one will pick up in public school, but as a teen on the edge of puberty, who had either just - or was about to - become immersed in tarot, my gateway to the occult, I was thirsty for what looked an awful lot like forbidden knowledge.  so I went as far back as I could find texts to our earliest written memories - to Mesopotamia, Sumer, and Babylon, where I met my Queen of the Underworld.

Erishkigal by Thalia Took

in the years following, I spent more time meeting with and learning from aspects of my various selves as they appeared over the course of history, as well as the triple-goddess-nature of the pagan/wiccan/celtic traditions, maiden/mother/crone.  young journeyers that we were, my coven and I, we added a fourth aspect to our goddess-devotions to suit our needs - the warrior aspect - as many of us felt we were no longer innocent naive young girls, yet nowhere near ready to take on roles as mothers, or start bearing children.  my incantations during those years of my adulthood invoked the feminine in a variety of her guises and forms:  Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.  later I met Ariadne, in her labyrinth, whose story bears some resemblances to her divine ancestor, in her role as a Dark Goddess, a Mistress of the Underworld.  bulls, the number 7, a little sister, a consort, sacrifice, isolation, an eventual romantic partnership, and a certain sensuality.  she called out to me then, asked me to help tell her story, which I did, and still do.

Ariadne - the Snake Goddess

from there, my devotions turned towards the Shekinah of the Hebrew Kabbalah, the divine feminine aspect of the Absolute, and to the Prime or Creative Source...whatever you call the Oneness we all come from.  I often send devotions towards the moon in my personal rituals during her monthly transitions, as an aspect of the divine feminine, as well, though most other directions in which I send energy I think of as non-gendered, and more at cardinal points, spaces in time, or like a 'cosmic pool of collective love', if you will.  I've made a glancing acquaintance with Sara Kali, who is a Romani saint, and a Black Madonna, but I don't know much about her, and she isn't really part of my personal tradition, but I like to give her a nod for her possible place in my ancestors' past.  this time of year, this year in particular I suppose, that oldest of Goddesses is asking me to see her again, to maybe find something of the wonder of that young girl who first found that forbidden fruit in the dusty back corner of the library.  it goes along with doing a bit of the reclaimation of a lost or long hidden Self that I've either written about before, or meant to write about, or have a draft of somewhere.  sometimes it's frustrating to not have a community to practice with, but that goes right to the heart of the matter of the season, and going back to a more pure and simple kind of solitary practice.  to light the candles on my altar with intention, and breath new life into my inner practice.

Ereshkigal. (JasonEngle/ Deviant Art)

she called to me
come down
she called
come down to me
my sister
visit with me
down here
in my kingdom
through my
seven gates
at each
your clothing
your jewels
come to me
before me
in my kingdom
where I will take
your skin
hang your empty
on a hook
in my domain

and I must
journey back
I say
before I go
and puzzle out
what I'm willing
to sacrifice
to take my place
in her kingdom
while I'm gone
something I'm
willing to
go without
during my
in the world

The Queen of the Night (the 'Burney Relief') - Inanna (Ishtar)/Ereshkigal/Lilith

most recently, I've been learning more about Maa Kali, and Maa Durga...and I think there are some parallels to be drawn from them, as well, but I need to research further to know for sure.  I'll be spending some time with these powerful energies as we move closer and closer to the darkest days of our year, and seeing what wisdom they allow me to drag back out into the light, and what I have to give up for it along the way.

just for fun, here's my horoscope for the week, because it's on point, and mentions one of my favorite poets:
"In one of his poems, Arthur Rimbaud extolled the exquisite evenings when the mist soaked his face as he strolled, and he sipped that heavenly dew till he was drunk.  Was he speaking literally or metaphorically?  Probably both, if i know Rimbaud.  Anyway, Aquarius, I'd love for you to engage in similar exploits.  What are some natural adventures that might intoxicate you?  What simple pleasures may alter your consciousness, nudging you free of its habits?  Meditate with sweet abandon on how to free yourself through the power of play and the imagination." - Rob Breszny, Free Will Astrology


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Donna Nobis Pacem...November 4, 2018

I saved this template for more than a year.  I had been doing the Blog4Peace for a few years in a row from 2010-13, but then took just as many years off.  I suppose I meant to do it last year, which is why I saved the template, but I forgot about it, and by the time I remembered, it was obviously so far past November I thought I may as well wait until it came around again!  so I was all ready to do it this year, but...a separate issue came to my attention, and had to be dealt with in a timely manner, so it got set on the back-burner, and here I am past the deadline again.  I'm sure no one will care if I'm a few days late, peace is peace after all, right?

so I downloaded the template with every intention of playing around with it creatively before posting it with some attempts at demographically-expected attached text, and feeling like I'd done my moral duty as it pertains to blogs and blog blasts and blog blasts for peace for the year.  as it turns out, I don't happen to have access to my own computer at the moment - mine had a terrible mishap and hasn't been working properly, so I've been getting by with my son's older outdated refurbished MacBook he was gifted at his Bar Mitzvah that has since been replace by a much more up-to-date system.  what that means is that I don't have access to all the features and programs I would normally, so I wasn't able to play around with the peace globe template.  so there it is.  that's what I got.

to be honest, I haven't been feeling very peaceful with all the hate that's going around lately.  I mean, I tend to try and maintain a certain personal calm when dealing with the intrusion of unwanted energies and elements into my daily life, but we all live in this world together, and we all experience small moments that trigger our anger or frustration, and truly stressful events that can bring out our fear and rage, so I find it's been more necessary of late to stand up and identify myself as someone who's available to act as a shield to others who maybe aren't feeling so safe these days.  and I say that as a member of several targeted populations - more than some, less than others - which is to speak to my seriousness when I say Never Again, and We Will Outlive Them, to my experience in handling these types of attacks, and to offering the care necessary to heal from them.

yes, I pray for peace.  I hope for it with every ounce of my being, with the belief that willing for a thing in the right frame of spirit can bring it into being.  but what do I do on the daily?  remind people that racism is unacceptable?  tell them that anti-semitism Must become a chapter in our less than illustrious past history as it pertains to human dignity and tolerance?  act as a reminder that people who stand next to me on the street every day have the same rights I do?  that people who are struggling to get here deserve the same?  that people in foreign countries deserve to not be thrown into the depths of a humanitarian crisis by Our country so we can continue to pretend America is any kind of measure of freedom and justice in the world?  to get us to pledge our support to the Ferguson activists who are being systematically murdered for their parts in attempting to heal and uplift their communities?  what about two unrelated people simply shopping in a grocery store?

what peace have I brought today?

who's peace have I bought?

certainly not my own...

it's still a choice, though, and given the option, I will usually choose peace.  but if diplomacy fails?  and something or someone plans on coming for me and/or my friends?  I won't be going down without a fight.

Appropriation Soup

if broccoli & cheddar soup is made from broccoli & cheddar, potato-leek soup made from potatoes and leeks, and tomato soup is made from tomatoes, then is G*psy soup made from G*psies?  I mean, it does seem to follow, doesn't it?  and you see that asterisk (*) I put in place of the 'y'?  I picked that up from other Roma who do it to indicate to non-Roma that for them, the 'G-word' is synonymous to the 'n-word' for Black people.  I also use a capital 'G' to show that I'm designating an ethic group.  while there are plenty of Romani people who use the term with pride, there are also many who would prefer to see its use dropped from the lexicon of world language entirely.  I can't and don't blame them, as the exonym comes from the mistaken belief that Roma people come from Egypt, and the term 'tsigane' (tzigane, cigany, zigano, cingaro, gitano, zigeuner, tigan), which is used for Romani all over the world, is synonymous with 'slave', and literally translates as 'untouchable'.  so can we maybe call the soup something else?  unless the cook is Romani, in which case, it's up to them.

now, let's take into account the fact that Roma are not just people, but A People, with roots in Northwest India before spreading in a diaspora throughout Europe, and the rest of the world, escaping oppression, enslavement, torture, and murder.  Roma have no homeland, and though they live in many different countries, have a mostly common language with many dialects, a flag, and a cultural pride - which is why it would be better for non-Roma people to find other ways to show their admiration for the Roma than by naming their businesses, their children, their food, and their pets 'G*psy'.  as the common term for an oppressed and maligned minority, the word 'G*psy' became a curse in the mouths of non-Roma, hurled at generations of children as a supposed measure of their collective worthlessness, their inferred inferiority.  every manner of sin is attached to their public image; they are often the prime suspects to many an inquest.  is that the spirit with which non-Roma don t-shirts emblazoned with slick graphics denoting their 'G*ypsy Souls'?

oh, look a this - with the ridiculously inaccurate, and therefore doubly insulting - to two cultures, so FOUR times as insulting - excuse for a Native American headdress. 

maybe living in refuge camps and substandard housing without clean, running water or access to other municipal services is what non-Roma people mean when they talk about 'loving their G*psy life!', or makes them proclaim 'G*psy life forever!'?  or maybe they're thinking of the stereotypically hyper-sexualized Romani woman as exotic 'other' trope to be found in literature, film, and theater, like Hugo's Esmerelda or Bizet's Carmen?  maybe they simply mean they want to be like my friends and I who are all just trying to make a living, make ends meet, get the bills paid and have enough left over to get something nice for the kids, have meaningful experiences and warm family moments, living life like the majority of other people on the planet, in our roles in our communities as teachers, police officers, singers, writers, dancers, full-time parents, doctors, government officials, musicians, fashion designers, bakers, athletes, constructions workers, machinists, etc... 

visit Chad Evans Wyatt's work over on his website RomaRising

while it seems romantic to live in a horse-drawn vardo traveling the countryside playing music around the campfire, much of that lifestyle was the necessary result of having to either fend for oneself out in the wilderness, or submit to the aforementioned horrors of oppression and slavery.  and while the Roma were eventually free of legal slavery, if not the stigma of being considered 'untouchables', there are always other expressions of racism lobbed in their direction, always more news of some atrocity or other, as if losing 80% of the total population of an entire ethnic group to the Nazis in World War II wasn't enough.  and the majority of Roma have been 'settled' for several generations, now, it's time to stop perpetuating the myth that we're a traveling people.  we're simply done running.  I know, I'm belaboring the point, but I wanted to make sure to include plenty of backstory for the rest of what I came to the page to say.

for many years, there haven't been people in any kind of position to stand up and talk about this stuff.  I mean, for sure there have been many Roma over the years who have raised their voices repeatedly for long periods of time, and their having done that obviously laid the ground-work for all the great progress made so far, but there are an unprecedented amount of young Roma coming up in the world who have managed to fully utilize all the benefits they could get access to as a means to forward their education and careers, who are doing all manner of amazing work across a variety of fields, and as a result, as A People, the Roma are beginning to be recognized as an ethnic minority it is no longer acceptable to discriminate against (not that it ever was), and that our cultural contribution to the global community is worthy of respect.

Roma Education Fund Early Childhood Education Program

as a woman of Romani descent, even though I wasn't raised in a 'traditional' way, taking part in activism on behalf of the Romani people is something I do as a way to honor my Romani ancestors and heritage.  one of the main ways I am able to do that is by making sure everyone in my circle of family and friends is aware of the issues facing many Roma today, both overseas, and here in the United States.  I bring that awareness out into the wider community by talking to people about how they use 'the G-word' when it sneaks into everyday language, or comes up in conversation.  I approach it on Halloween in the streets, and in songs at the music school.  I write in to the newspaper to let them know their use of the term in specific contexts is prejudiced and misinformed.  I helped a store-owner recognize that she had the creative ability to come up with an even better name for her shop to put on a big sign out front than something that would have been insulting for to me to have to see every day in my local community.  I sign and share petitions concerning Romani issues, and I support Romani artists and endeavors when and wherever I can.  so here is where we get to the meat of my story today ~

this Halloween, while helping to chaperone my friends' and my small tribe of trick-or-treaters as they lay waste to the town's candy supply, one of my friends mentioned to me that they had heard, or read an article about, a new restaurant opening up in the next town by the name of 'The Twisted Gypsy'.  they mentioned it to me because they knew it would matter to me.  deeply.  and they were right.  I went immediately into defensive mode, deciding on the spot that the minute I got home that night I would begin doing everything I could, as fast as I could, to make sure that didn't happen.  I sent an email to the diner up the road from my house, because the guy who owns the diner, my beloved, hometown diner, where my kid and I get our locally-sourced 'eggs any style, rye toast, crispy bacon, and roasted potatoes' with generous tip included for $20, is the very guy who is the one opening up this latest insult on my culture, right here where I live, where I'll have to see it, and hear about it, and deal with pretending it isn't killing me inside a little every day.  and then I'd have to boycott my beloved hometown diner up the road from my house where my kid and I have gotten many soul-healing $20 breakfasts, which supports local agriculture, economy, community, and families.  and that wouldn't feel good.  besides, I'm just a poor, single mom, with little to no pull in this community - this guy owns at least one successful business if not more, and is about to open another one.  what chance do I have to be heard, to be taken seriously, of being respected?

here's the article from when he bought the property:

in my email to the diner, I told them I had heard about the new restaurant, and a rumor about a proposed name for which I suggested the restauranteur sit down with me so I could help him pick a more appropriate name for his new endeavor that did not include a racial slur for my people.  I offered to work together to find a way to move forward as friends and neighbors, in an environment of mutual respect and understanding for each other's cultures.  then I posted the information on facebook.  I told my friends that I had learned of the plans for the new restaurant, the proposed name, and insisted we could not allow it to happen.  I asked them to be ready and willing to support a coordinated action to help the owners understand why finding a new name would win them many new fans and loyal customers.  my friends said they had my back.  then...

article where the 'Twisted Gypsy' rumor began:

a friend of mine who knows the restauranteur stepped in and asked me to hold off on the letter-writing and boycotting, because knowing him to be a fair and decent guy, he wanted a chance to talk to him before I went full social justice warrior on a local business owner over a misunderstanding, and perhaps even facilitate the proposed sit-down I suggested.  knowing my buddy to be a fair and decent guy, I agreed, and he responded promptly with all assurances that the new restaurant would not carry that, or any name like it.  just like that.  I heard about it Wednesday night, by Friday morning I had a second-hand assurance, and on Friday night I had an email from the restauranteur thanking me for reaching out with my concerns.  he explained to me that when he purchased the building and property - having been, in its previous incarnation, a cantina by the name of Gypsy Wolf, which functioned on that spot for 25 years, and was still open when I first moved here, which I never patronized for the offending name, and has since shut down - they needed to form an LLC, and settled on the name 'Twisted Gypsy' by combining a nod to the old Gypsy Wolf, and the twisted willow trees indicated on the site plan.  they had no intention of offending anyone, and do not plan on using that name as part of the new restaurant.  done.

I haven't responded with a thank you email yet, but I'm getting to it.  I keep a file of articles and stories like this on a facebook page I manage called Romani and Allies 'Gypsy' Activism, because as a community, it's important for us to recognize when people make the right choice; like Chef Mitch at Taco Moto in Milwaukee,  Students United Ithaca who refused to whitewash Esmerelda's character in their school musical, a retailer in Dallas who renamed her shop Favor the Kind from something less...kind, and the Actor's Equity Association for renaming their traditional Broadway ceremony, and its accompanying accoutrement.  I am happy to now add to that list the Phoenicia Diner, where they "serve your favorite diner standbys based on locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients from nearby Catskills and Hudson Valley farms."  so they do that, AND respect the culture of their neighbors.  feel free to let them know you appreciate their decision, and integrity.  if you're local, go visit (the food is Amazing, and it's a real friendly place!), if you're within traveling distance, make a weekend of it!  if you're far away, just send a thank you note.  I'm sure they'll enjoy knowing they won a few fans by choosing to be on the side of history that favors inclusion; and in recognizing the importance of the individual ingredients, will find a better name for their soup.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Utter Nonsense Unworthy of Being Read

in accordance with my own parameters, I like to post here once a week as my own personal 'use it or lose it' boot camp.  I only posted twice this past month, and while I'm quick to forgive myself (because it's not like anyone really cares about this blog other than me), I'm still annoyed about it for it's place in the web of other tasks I didn't manage to complete in a timely fashion recently.  I have four drafts that I've been working on for varying amounts of time, according to their relative emotional difficulty to get out on the page, and my own laziness/busyness.  so in the interest of 'getting something out there', I'm going to whip up a list of:

"Things I Think About While Awake at 3am"

  1. why am I awake at 3am?
  2. should I go to bed, or will I just lie there with my eyes open, staring at the ceiling, thinking about everything I could be doing instead?
  3. how long will the logs in the woodstove burn?
  4. what music should I listen to?
  5. what is there to eat?
  6. can I just keep snacking on candy all night/morning?
  7. there are dishes in the sink that need doing.
  8. there is laundry that needs doing.
  9. my bathroom needs to be cleaned.
  10. I need to sign up for the parent-teacher conferences tomorrow.
  11. I need to pay all the overdue bills...somehow.
  12. I shouldn't eat any more candy.
  13. where's the cat?
  14. why didn't I know about that gig that cool band I like played?
  15. I hope everyone got home from Trick-or-Treating safely.
  16. the kitchen floor needs sweeping.
  17. I just ate another piece of candy.
  18. why do I have so much stuff?
  19. why do I censor myself?
  20. will I ever love again?
  21. does it matter, as long as I get to have sex?
  22. this isn't music I'm listening to - it's annoying noise.
  23. when will I finish that 3k-word story?
  24. my desk is a mess - I really need to spend a few hours doing paperwork.
  25. I don't think I'm going to be under 200 lbs. for my 50th birthday.
  26. I could be under 200 lbs. for my 50th birthday if I work really hard at it.
  27. why can't I think of myself as attractive if I'm fat?
  28. there are lots of beautiful fat people.
  29. why are all the people who contact me on dating websites sub-par (for me)?
  30. does that mean I'm sub-par?
  31. how do I up my game?
  32. why do I want to 'up my game'?  I don't have any 'game'.
  33. what is going on in that woodstove?
  34. I ate more candy...
  35. look at all the stuff I have to Read!
  36. it's November - time to batten down the hatches.
  37. should I get the cat a kitten?
  38. can I stop the horribly named restaurant from naming itself so horribly?
  39. will people help support me in getting them to cease and desist?
  40. 'when you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dying day'!
  41. am I pretty?
  42. can someone please Tell me that I'm pretty?
  43. 42
  44. 27
  45. 18
  46. hut, hut, HIKE!
  47. the car is going to need new tires...
  48. I feel disconnected from my spiritual community.
  49. I often feel disconnected from my community.
  50. gotta pee!
I think that might be enough to knock me out for the next three hours before my alarm goes off, but we'll see...we'll see...

Friday, October 19, 2018

Mysteriam Ink

The Unused Portion has been neglected, lately, and for that I apologize.  work for money generally takes precedent these days, so in order to get my hustle on the past few weeks, one activity (or two) had to take the fall for me to get back on track a bit with some pressing issues.  I've gotta start these posts earlier in the week so I'm not banging the whole thing out of a Monday, trying to get it all in, failing with the rushed effort.  give myself time to look at it, reflect, let it breathe - it's supposed to be my day-off Monday Meditation!  which is even harder when heading into the season of the year where time seems to roll so swiftly towards some bitter end, bringing melancholy and "that old familiar feeling of impending doom", as a friend lost to time and circumstance once said.  while I tend not to feel the doom and gloom, I do feel an incredible need to rush and get things done "before the snow flies".  15 years living in Vermont taught me to Be Ready For The Winter, which was more important there, than here in NY, where I live now - where the plow truck drivers are out salting the roads as soon as the first flake hits the ground.

it's time to trade salad greens and fruits for root veggies and squash.  I already made soup, a pot of chili, and lit the woodstove.  I brought all my house-plants back in from the porch over a week ago, because I could Smell the snow coming, and even though we still had a few warm days after that, I'm glad I did.  over the course of the summer, I may well have propagated almost double the amount of plants I had before the weather warmed up, so now I have to find room for them all in my small, poorly-lit cottage!  they're currently being 'staged' in the kitchen, and my Teen Wolf has had about enough of the jungle on the table and counters.  they'll find their places for the winter soon enough...I think I may have solved that dilemma in thinking about how the market season is almost over for the year.

I finally made it back to the Market this year!  I haven't had a booth at a flea market in...23 years or so!  (wait - I'm lying.  the kid and I had a booth at a homeschool market or two within the past 5 years).  it took me a lot to get there, but I made it, and it was a lot of fun.  Teen Wolf came with me and we made a day of it.  he even went and got us lunch at the deli across the street - not the sort of thing he tends to take on individually, but I sent him, so he went, and didn't even say anything about how nervous it probably made him.  but we chatted a bit about how I was scared to walk up to the flea market guy and ask him where I should set up, but I did it anyway, because I'm the kind of person who can talk to anyone, and...I needed to know where to set up, or I wasn't going to get very far with my plans.  the teen said he would have stood in that field all day because he wouldn't have had the courage to approach the guy.  interesting, right?  well, he'd been to the deli across the street before, and I wasn't about to leave our booth when we got hungry, so...he had to screw up enough courage to go get us some lunch, and he did.  I mean, he's 14...he's perfectly capable off crossing the street in the town he grew up in and around to get a couple of sandwiches at the deli, all teenage awkwardness aside, and I like for him to go walk around town, and feel comfortable in the local shops because it's a big world out there, beyond the bounds of our small town, and he's gonna have to navigate it!

we talked about confidence, sales and marketing, money management, customer service, fashion and style, aesthetics, profit and overhead; we got to be outside all day in glorious weather; we got to chat with some nice people, and make some sales that not only put money in our pockets, they felt good.  there was that guy who bought 15 vinyl albums of Israeli folk music and army songs for a birthday present for his dad, who is a retired Israeli soldier.  the couple who bought the glass music note for their musician daughter; the butterfly lady who adored the butterfly paperweight, and the lady who loved the Murano one.  there were some beautiful scarves that went to new homes, and stylish purses; a pair of shoes, some earrings, and a couple of pots and pans.  Teen Wolf sold some 'older' toys...only from the past decade, though some of them are apparently rather collectable.  we didn't even bring everything we had to sell - there wasn't enough room in the car!

more than anything, being at the market reminded me of my traveling days, when I lived on the road, in my car, with my cat.  I made jewelry, and other various forms of art which I sold at flea markets, enabling me to move from town to town, pitching my tent in campsites and national parks, visiting with other traveling friends who were taking a minute off the road in one town or another (as well as those who preferred more permanent dwellings), crashing in dorm rooms and motels, sleeping in the car.  god, I was so free...  just a few short years before the teen is legally allowed to step away from government-sanctioned education, and then who knows where I'll be?  will he need me to stay here?  will he be going somewhere else?  somewhere he'll need to come 'home' from?  can he stay here on his own if he wants?  can I leave?  there are a lot of questions about to come up in my life, and given the way I've been feeling since we got back from Israel, I'm sensing some major changes in the wind, and on the horizon.

first I've gotta sell off the rest of the flea market stuff I already have - which will probably have to happen next season, at this point - and whatever else I manage to whip up between now and spring.  maybe by then I will have figured out how to get my computer fixed so I can add photos and other cool things again.  it's such a pain in the ass to not be able to access technology, it's like the cornerstone of the online cottage industry, and I'm just starting to figure out how to use it!  do you know The Unused Portion is going to be 10 years old this spring?  that's crazy!  and I just 'built' a new page - a business page.  there's a page on this blog called 'Mysteriam Ink', and you should go check it out, if you haven't all ready, but a friend recently advised me that my business page shouldn't be an after-thought on my blog, so I felt inspired to create one that stands alone.  you can find it (still under construction) here:

Monday, October 1, 2018

Framing Ford's Fiasco

content warning:  description of non-consensual sexual contact and related issues

when we were around 19 years old, a friend and I met two guys at a street fair where we were vending, and made plans to catch up with them later that evening at a local arcade.  at some point that night, while killing a game of Black Knight, I started to feel sick and began to slump over the pinball machine, but I was racking up the high score, and didn't want to give up the game.  eventually, I asked my friend to take over so I could go outside and get some air, yelling at her over my shoulder on my way to the door not to lose my ball, because I'd be Right Back to finish the game myself.  after walking around the parking lot a bit to clear my head, I decided to go sit in my car and relax for a few more minutes before heading back in.  the guy I had been hanging out with suddenly got in next to me, started touching and kissing me, making out with me, and I know I told him I came outside to breathe because I wasn't feeling well, and I'm sure there was a "No" or a "Stop" in there somewhere.  he started to climb on top of me, and managed to lower my seat back to a reclining position (I was in the driver's seat).  he started rubbing himself on me - took his penis out of his pants, and with his full weight on me, thrust himself between my breasts until he came all over my chest, at which point, he jumped out of the car, and was gone.  I remember laying there in my car, thinking "what the hell just happened?"  I don't remember finding something to clean myself off with, but I must have, because I Do remember walking back into the arcade, finding my friend, and telling her that we were leaving - Now.  she was confused, and made some half-assed attempt at arguing, but the guy she was hanging out with wasn't all that interesting, and I was her ride, so off we went.

and that might have been the end of it, however inappropriate it was.  I would have gone home, taken a shower, and moved on with my life without giving the incident too much conscious thought, though obviously, the experience has never left me.  I hadn't been hit, bruised, beaten, threatened, held down, or hurt.  I hadn't tried to scream or fight - mostly I remember being dizzy and confused, and wondering what was happening, what he was doing to my body, wondering why he was doing it.  it was over just as quickly as it had started, and he took off like a shot, leaving me lying there, covered in his mess, not understanding why I let it happen in the first place.  sure, I wasn't feeling well, I was dizzy and nauseous, and having to fend off an overzealous date wasn't something I thought was in the game plan for the evening, but I'm not a 'lay there and let it happen' kind of girl, so...why?

about 5 years or so later, I was living with a boyfriend, and in the cottage next door lived another couple we were friends with.  one afternoon, my neighbor and I were hanging out and she was gushing about this new friend she'd made, telling me how awesome he was, how she had invited him over that evening, and that my boyfriend and I should come over, too, and we'd make a night of it.  Sure, sure, no problem, we'd be there, can't wait to meet him.  so the four of us (the two couples) are sitting in the living room of the cabin when the new guy arrives.  the moment he stepped through the door, my blood turned to ice.  yeah, it was That Guy...I stared him down while our friend made the introductions.  The look of sheer terror on his face when she introduced us turned to shock as I smiled and reached my hand out to him.  "Nice to meet you," I said, as we all settled in for a night of board games, adult refreshments, and camaraderie.  my skin was on fire, or icy cold.  my head was pounding.  I found it hard to follow the conversation, speak, or make eye contact with anyone.  I excused myself, and went back to my own apartment, shut off the lights, and lay in bed with my eyes burning holes in the bedroom wall, fists wrapped tight in the blankets, while my boyfriend, our neighbors, and their new friend, all had a grand old time together.

this asshole now became a part of our group.  he was invited to all the parties.  he came on all the hikes.  he was brought to our special swimming spot (where he forged an inappropriate friendship with another one of our friend's girlfriends, go figure).  he 'was in the neighborhood, so he just dropped by'.  he came to my house, and expected to be let in to hang out with the rest of us.  I think that must have been the point at which I finally said something to my boyfriend.  I remember telling him that I didn't want that prick in my house, and I resented the fact that saying so would make me look like the asshole, because everyone just liked him so much.  I don't remember how my boyfriend reacted, but I do remember words like 'long time ago', and 'different person now' floating around my brain, trying to connect with words like 'it would be weird if we suddenly stopped letting him come around, especially if we're all hanging out'...

here it is more than 25 years later, and I no longer know those neighbors.  the old boyfriend is still around, less a friend of mine than a friend of a friend.  I have no idea what happened to 'the asshole', but I wouldn't be surprised to hear he ran for congress or something, because that's where these fuckers seem to end up.  I don't even remember his name (ok...wait, yeah I do.), but I can still recall the look on his face every time he spoke to me - it was like he was pretending to be sorry for doing something he knew was wrong, but also like he didn't get caught or called out for it, so he was smug about having 'gotten away with it'.  I should have knocked his teeth out, or pushed him down my stairs, or told my girlfriends, or...Something.  I shouldn't have just let him off the hook.  especially after he and that chick at the swimming hole cheated together on her boyfriend - a good friend of mine to this day - and effectively ended their relationship (it's ok, my buddy married someone way better than that bitch).  hell, my so-called boyfriend should have done All those things on my behalf as soon as I told him what happened!  I don't recall whether or not I told anyone else.

while it certainly wasn't the worst thing to ever happen to anyone, if he did it to me, he may well have done it to others.  others who aren't tough-as-nails like me, women who may have been devastated by less...or seriously damaged by more.  how might he treat his wife, if he ever got married?  his daughters, if he has any?  and to be fair, my beef is not specifically with this one person, it's with All the people who use others as if they have some special privilege (there's that word, again) to walk through this world without the consequences of their poor behavior to hinder them in any way.  he was neither the first, nor the last person who treated my body like it belonged to his personal desires rather than to me:  there was the inappropriate babysitter I just learned about recently; there were incidents with my brother's friends who spent the night at our house; there was the 21 year old college basketball player I gave my virginity to when I was 15; the high school footballer who took me into the bathroom at a keg party and made me give him head for what felt like hours; the 'boyfriends' who only ever wanted to have sex and wouldn't hang out with me if I refused; the high school hockey dude who got me drunk at the drive-in, had sex with me, and took my underpants so he could bring them to school and yell down the hallway, "you left these in the backseat of my car the other night!".  there was the random dude at some party where I must have been drugged because I still can't explain how I woke up in a strange bed, my neck black with hickeys.

do you want to know what I was wearing when these events took place?  do you want to know why I chose to give up my virginity to a college dude who was 'home on break' that I hoped never to see again when I was so young?  do you want to know what I was doing at keg parties while I was still in high school?  do you want to know why I went out with guys who were only after what was in my pants?  why I went to the drive-in and got drunk with that loser who stole my undies?  why I was at a party where I didn't know who I was partying with?  who cares?  I was a teenager - a kid.  and yeah, a pretty stupid one, at that.  I hitchhiked around in mini-skirts and three inch heels (and mostly got picked up by little old ladies who were Very concerned about my welfare).  it's called life.  it's called learning.  did I learn how alcohol works in my body, and decide that drinking wasn't really for me?  yes I did.  did I learn the mechanics and politics of sex?  yes I did - and after many years (and several kind and patient lovers), I eventually learned how to enjoy it.  did I learn that dating meat-head jocks was best left to some other chick?  abso-fucking-lutely.  did I learn to party responsibly, and only with people I know and trust?  definitely.  did I learn to recognize a dangerous situation and how to extricate myself from it?  yup.  did I spend years training in the martial arts?  you betcha.

does my working through my issues excuse any one of those boys from treating me like an object to be used for my parts then tossed aside?  No It Does Not.  every one of the above experiences (barring the babysitter) happened when I was a teenager.  less than 20 years old.  by the time I was 21, I took no more shit from anyone, for any reason.  and I'm in no way attempting to diminish my own irresponsibility in these instances, because I was most certainly irresponsible, but that doesn't in Any Way mean that a series of belligerent, entitled, white boys under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol had the right to use me like a sexual doormat.  the weird thing is, given all I've written above, I am also guilty of not having believed one of my college roommates when she claimed she was raped.  in the room next to one of the nicest, and most gentle human beings I have ever met.  to this day, I believe she slept with my friend of her own free will, regretted it, and made up the rape story to pre-empt and redirect her boyfriend's anger from focusing on her, to the guy who supposedly violated her.  I don't think he bought her story, either.  my friend, on the other hand, locked himself in his room, stopped coming to meals and going to classes, lost a ton of weight, got sick, and eventually moved to another dorm.  you'd think if the allegations against him were true, the school would have kicked him out rather than simply move him across the quad...

in retrospect, the other three of us roommates were kind of shitty to have looked at her askance, and thrown all the rote, misogynistic questions at her, making her go over it and over it for us so we could pick her apart, and still not believe her.  the thing was (still is, I guess), I knew a girl who made up a rape story to cover a lie she told her boyfriend.  I also knew a girl who made up a pregnancy story as a way to exact 'revenge money' from her ex, ostensibly for an abortion, with which she bought herself a pair of rather stylish and expensive boots.  so learning that there were women with the same poor judgement skills as the idiots I had the misfortune to cut my sexual teeth on definitely contributed to my general skepticism, but knowing a person's character gives you a really good idea about who a person is, and how they may behave.  in the case of my college roommate and my buddy, our neighbor, the differences in their characters told the story:  she was a social climbing, party-girl who came to college to find herself an athletic husband, and a career that offered a flattering uniform; he was a shy, sensitive soul, an art major with a low, quiet voice, and a bit of a dark edge due to a certain depth of knowledge.  who knows what happened?  maybe, for all I know, he did it, and they gave my roommate that line about how it wasn't fair to ruin a young man's life, blah blah blah, and they moved him away from us, but nowhere she didn't have to still see him most days.

we have to be sure about these things.  for instance, I can get behind the death penalty, but only in cases where the evidence proves beyond the shadow of any doubt, and all that.  there are few upstanding and righteous individuals - most of whom are not students of the law - I would trust to judge delicate issues, such as the one I've mentioned above, and others of a similar, or even darker nature, because of their understanding of 'truth & justice'.  what I've seen recently, in relation to current events, is one particular person looking to be appointed to the national committee we have in this country that oversees that sort of thing, but he's kind of just like that arcade-parking-lot-molester-type dude, and doesn't belong in that position.  was it a long time ago?  yes.  could he be a different person now?  yes.  are his buddies asking me to be silent in my own house so they can have their little boys club that benefits them, and harms pretty much everyone else?  YES.  am I going to?  NO.  why?

because they're going down in flames, these assholes, and they know it.  and they're grasping at every last straw of power they can get their mitts on before they go.  and that means it's going to get a bit worse before it gets better.  and that means a few more bodies on the fire before we manage to see this thing through.  but we will see it through, we're closer than we've ever been.  we have to build on the work that's been done before us, and smash all this nonsense that been going on around us with the words we've been holding in for too long.  and (white) guys, I get many of you who are good and decent people are getting a raw deal because of these assholes, but the truth is, you all have had the benefit of the doubt for way too long, now, and it's time to share the sandbox.  that is all.  and stop touching women in ways you wouldn't touch other men.  or your mother.  maybe this is a good place to talk about sex work, even, who knows?  or a jumping-off point for that discussion, anyway.  it's all related.

we shouldn't even need to be having this discussion.  from what I saw on national television, the general consensus is that a certain party does not appear to be a model of impartiality, or an arbiter of justice, and we can do so much better.