Life, or Something Like It

Once upon a time, I wrote about the difficulties of purpose, particularly if you don’t lead a religious life. Every day for me since I was 18, or probably even before that, has been an odyssey of figuring out what it is that I want to do with my life, and tragically, nearing the end of my twenties, I’m no more sure now of what I want to do as opposed to then. I’ve sort of jumped from one situation to the next with no real sense of permanence, and while I was one of the lucky few to snag a decent job after I returned from England, one with full-time pay and some benefits, I’m still not feeling particularly fulfilled. What the hell, world? Why does adulting suck so goddamned always?

So I got a job last month (hence the more or less radio silence) working as a copy editor at a small marketing firm in Belmont. It ticked off the list of criteria I was looking for – it’s a livable income, it pertains to my major, and it is actually the sort of job I knew I could be good at. So what the hell is the problem? The problem is, it’s soulless. I’m not doing anything that is even remotely meaningful on any scale. Hell, when I was making coffee at Peet’s, at least I was doing something creative, something that people enjoyed as well as got use out of. In even a tiny way, I was contributing something marginally meaningful. At this job, I do a gigantic heap of nothing important. I help millionaires sell big, gaudy homes to other millionaires. I don’t write. I don’t create. I check facts and spelling. I’m constantly insulted, stifled, and/or left with nothing to do at all because my boss refuses to teach me anything beyond that. I also get paid almost 10k less per year than what a copy editor makes on average in the Bay Area. So that’s cool!

My dear friend’s older brother is one of the brilliant writers behind The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a webseries that has been critically acclaimed, and whose accolades include, you know, an Emmy or two. But the thing is, five years ago, he was stuck where I am now – working a job that didn’t give him any joy or satisfaction, so he took the risk, quit that job, and devoted himself to his passion, to great success. I know that that isn’t typical of most people who quit their jobs to become writers, but JFC, what do I have to do to push myself to take that kind of risk?

My best friend and I were discussing yesterday that one of the problems I have in my life is that I don’t do well with routine – having a predictable, day-to-day schedule doesn’t fit me particularly well, a side-effect, no doubt, of 9 years in the coffee industry, where no one day was the same as the day before. Today, I read the words “fabulous,” “contemporary,” “chic,” and “wonderful” so often that they’ve lost all goddamned meaning – you’d think every house in the Peninsula was a fabulous, chic, contemporary masterpiece with a wonderful master suite. And none of these are houses that I’ll ever see, let alone own. So what’s the friggin’ point?

It’s clear that I need to do more, or at least different. My biggest penis-envy inspiration are people like Ryan Sohmer, the guy behind Blind Ferret Entertainment and Least I Could Do, Bernie Su, the aforementioned writer of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, and, of course, the incomparable and dearly missed Monty Oum, the brilliant writer behind RWBY, as well as the founders and contributors of Rooster Teeth Productions. Not just because they’re all monstrously creative people, but because they took risks and brought something great to the world. That’s the sort of life I want to live. That’s what I feel like my purpose is. It’s like the sun – bright, shining, and so close, but equally difficult to touch.

I guess step one is stop being afraid. Step two? Figure out how to make it happen.

Wish me luck.

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An Open Letter to My Niece

Dear Aella,

When I first starting writing this, you were still marinating in your mama’s tummy, and would be for another 45 days or so. At this time of writing, I’ve met you, and I’ve held you, and I’ve fallen in love with you – you’ve got ten fingers, ten toes, your papa’s lips, and your mama’s nose, and you’re absolutely perfect. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And I love you more than people think is possible to love anyone, ignoring the fact that you aren’t even mine. But it doesn’t matter – the one thing I’ve learned from your parents, particularly your mother, is that blood isn’t what makes a family. I love your mother as much as any sister, and by extension, you, too, are the love of my life. I may not be blood like your Aunt Thea or your Aunt Aubrey, but I hope you’ll always love me as Aunt Michelle. And as Aunt Michelle, I wanted to write you a little something so that you’d always understand that, if you ever forget.

I knew you were a girl from the very moment your mom told me she was pregnant – I’m pretty sure I drove her crazy with my assertion, but I’ve only been certain of two things in my entire life, and your being a girl was one of them.  (I’m not going to tell you here what the other thing is, I haven’t seen how it’s panned out yet, so you’ll have to ask me after you read this). You’re my very best friend’s first child and my first niece, and there’s so much of the world I want you to experience to the best of your abilities. Your mom and I represent two very different, but equally strong and capable types of women who have both dealt with a variety of unique experiences, and we’ve learned a few things. Your mom will raise you with what’s she’s learned, but as your aunt, all I can offer is supplementary. I’m less of a fairy princess than your mom is, though – she’s definitely the sugar to my lemonade. She’s probably going to read this and think I’m being a downer, but I wrote it because I want to remember what the world was like before you were born, and I want you to understand the world in which you live now. Life is full of gifts, but they are fleeting, precious, and not without their prices. I think more than anything, that’s what I want you to understand, because I want you to grow up to be the kind of woman who understands the value of her choices.

I get preachy and feministy a lot, just as a warning. But you’ve probably learned that from me by now, so none of this should come as a surprise.

Value your mind over your appearance – I can pretty much guarantee that you’re beautiful. Your mother has always been beautiful, your aunts on your father’s side are beautiful, your grandmothers are beautiful. You will be gorgeous and you probably won’t even have to really try. Beauty seems like it’s everything when you’re young, and while I hope you aren’t subjected to the same sort of pressure to be pretty as girls were when your mother and I were growing up, if you are, please remember that it’s not everything. Beauty is transient, and it’s subjective. The people that really matter are the ones who think you’re beautiful no matter what – beauty is not what is going to make your life worthwhile. It’s easy to think so when beautiful airheads marry rich men, but those women will grow old and die knowing the emptiness of their choices. Your beauty should be measured by the intelligence you’ve acquired, your ability to love and be loved in return, your kindness and compassion, and your ability to be strong and stand up for yourself and your beliefs.

Think for yourself. It’s a double-standard for me to be telling you that, but I always think it’s worth being said. It’s easy to be liked by others if you give in to their expectations without a fight, but you will never be respected that way. Respect is far more valuable than likability. It’s what separates real friends from the false ones, the worthy from the unworthy. A woman who thinks for herself is a woman who will never be controlled and will always have the power to live her life in the way that she wants. That being said, remember the value of choice – a woman who decides to be a stay-at-home mom is just as powerful, amazing, and respectable as a woman who is the CEO of a major company. The point is, you learned what you wanted, you decided on what you wanted, and you went for it without anyone telling you otherwise.

Always demand more. People are always so afraid to question things – they accept what is because it is easier to do so than to kick up a fuss. The one thing that I’ve always admired about your mother is she gets things done when I was always too anxious to argue back. She’s mellowed out over the years and I’ve toughened up in that respect, but the point is, we’ve learned how to accept nothing less than what we deserve, and that’s what I want you to have from the very beginning – everything that you deserve.

Never back down from what you know in your heart is right. If you see someone being mistreated, speak up. If you know someone is in the wrong, correct them. But on the flip side, be open-minded. The world is never constant, nor does it follow any rhyme or reason. There is no single right way to live a life, and yours certainly won’t be the first. It’s important to stick to your guns when you know you’re right, but don’t be so inflexible that you’re not open to learning new things, or seeing things from a new perspective. You will never be right a hundred percent of the time, and your perspective should not be permanent. Learning is the most important part of growth, and that means more than what you learn in school – I mean what you learn by sitting with the broken, walking with the healthy, and running with the strong. Don’t follow blindly – question everything you’re told, and the only way you can do that successfully is to look at the world through the eyes of others who live very different lives than yourself.

I’m venturing into the preachy territory, and you’ve probably gotten bored of this already. You probably won’t even ever read this, although the Internet does seem to make everything permanent (another important thing to remember!), but that won’t stop me from wanting you to be the most extraordinary girl/woman you can be. And I want you to know that your parents and family and I love you tremendously no matter what path you choose in life. You will always have my support, and my love.

And probably my extra room whenever you need to run away. And probably money, because that’s what aunts do.

Love always,

Your affectionate Aunt Michelle

PS. Your mom doesn’t want me to swear around you after you’re old enough to learn what the words mean, so I figured I’d start practicing now, although you probably won’t be reading this until you’re old enough to make those sorts of decisions for yourself. Just saying.

Caitlyn Jenner Still Matters

Just because this has been cropping up in my Facebook feed a lot as of late:

This whole Caitlyn Jenner thing might seem like something trivial in comparison to the other important issues that are happening in the world. I’m not going to sit here and argue about why Caitlyn (And it’s Caitlyn, not Bruce, and she is a she/her, not a he/him/it. That really should not be so fucking hard to understand) is a necessary presence in the media – google Leelah Alcorn, google transgender suicide, and you will see why the prevalence of a popular media figure bringing the transgender movement into the public eye is a good thing. I don’t have time, nor the patience, to keep explaining why she matters. I’m also not at all indicating that her importance is any more or less significant than the accomplishments and sacrifices of others. But this is exactly like the‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ movement – no one is suggesting that black lives are negating the lives of anyone else just because their plight is the current focus of media attention, just as Caitlyn is not negating the importance or attention deserved of soldiers in the war, or Akon’s contributing solar power to millions of Africans. Those things are really fucking important, and Caitlyn’s presence in the media DOES NOT NEGATE THAT. What I’M sick of seeing is people who are blaming Caitlyn herself for her being in the spotlight in lieu of the others INSTEAD of blaming the media. She did not go up to Vanity Fair and say “Fuck Akon/the troops/whoever else, you have to put ME on the cover because I said so.” It is the MEDIA’S fault that due attention is not given to other issues that are, yes, believe it or not, JUST AS IMPORTANT AS TRANSGENDER RIGHTS. Two of my friends are trans. Several of my closest friends are gay. Almost all of them have suffered in some way, shape, or form from bigotry, ignorance of their plight, or outright physical abuse. Several of them have contemplated suicide because the world we live in was so cruel to their kind. Anything that gives them hope that the world is shifting, that it’s becoming more accepting of them, is a good thing, and that doesn’t become meaningless because someone else in the world has suffered more, or is doing something one’s opinion could consider more important. I’m not here to argue over who’s doing more. I’m here to say that if you want me to take your opinion seriously, if you want to make a difference, you will STOP putting the blame on the person getting the attention, and shift your blame to the ones ignoring others who are just as worthy of attention.

I would never, for a second, discredit or disparage the lives of our wounded/deceased soldiers. They are also heroes. I would never downplay the accomplishments of scientists in combating disease, poverty, or other societal ills. Akon officially has the label of “fucking awesome” for his work in bringing solar energy to millions in Africa, thus changing its landscape for the better. All of these people are heroes. But Caitlyn Jenner still deserves her place, and frankly, if you’re sick of seeing her in the media, and don’t think that it’s that big of a deal, then that means transgender normalcy has officially happened. And that’s still pretty fucking huge.

The Everyday Girl’s Guide to Getting Down – Cashing in the V-Card

Once upon a time, I wanted to start up a blog about sex that never really made it to fruition for a variety of reasons. Then I tried to get it started on Champion Up North, but it never really took off for whatever reason. So since this blog has kind of evolved from a silly little collection of my thoughts on antiques to my views on relationships and sex, I thought hell, let’s just do it here as another series. And I figured that since this is the first proper article in that series, it should be about that pesky little source of anxiety known as virginity, and more specifically, losing it. See what I did there? I seduced you in my introduction, now we’re losing the V-card after a few drinks. HA! I slay me.

Anyways.

Once upon a time, a girl’s virginity was considered sacred, something intrinsically linked to her value as property…er, I mean as a wife. The man who managed to lay claim to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow considered himself a veritable conquistador of chastity and virtue, as if he managed to do something legendary and worthy of praise. Not really, no.

Thankfully, the focus on a girl’s virginity has largely (although not entirely) been reduced, and with it, the notion that a woman’s value somehow depreciates after you drive her off of the virginity lot. Really, these days, a woman cares more about her own virginity then men do about taking it, whether it’s because they believe in waiting until marriage, or because they want their first time to be special, or, you know, because they don’t get out enough. Either way, the focus on virginity has shifted – a woman is more likely to safeguard the V-card, and a man cares a lot less if she still carries it and more about whether or not he’s getting laid at all. This is not a universal truth, mind you, but it’s pretty common nonetheless.

But we’re not here to point out who’s the prude and who’s not (Hint: It’s no one). We’re here to lay to rest some of the fears some of you may have about what it means to lose your virginity, which is easier for some than it is for many others. This is not an exhaustive list, so if there are any further questions to add, feel free to email me.

Will it hurt?
This is probably the most common fear a woman has about losing her virginity, and frankly, there’s no way to be kind about or sugarcoat it. Yes. It’s most likely going to hurt. The level of pain you may experience falls entirely on your physiology; some girls experience more pain than others, and vice versa, and it is not a fun place to feel pain AT ALL. There are some people who don’t experience pain at all – fact is, there’s no way to tell until you do it, and every body is different. But mercifully, if there is pain, it usually doesn’t last, barring some physical problem. You can tell him to stop so that you can adjust, and if it’s really overwhelming, you can tell him to pull out. Listen to your body and what it’s telling you. But there really isn’t any way to avoid the fact that the first time offers up some pain, and it’s not even necessarily because you have a hymen (the protective membrane stretched over the vagina that is the primary source of bleeding and common source of pain when torn). Many women these days actually don’t have hymens by the time they’re sexually active for a multitude of reasons that actually have very little to do with sex, so a hymen isn’t an indicator of virginity anymore like it used to be.  However, the secondary source of pain or discomfort, or primary in the case of non-hymenness, is the fact that you will be superduper tight. Vaginas are not wide – they’re tiny and narrow, and you’re basically shoving meat sticks into them that force them to open up. True, if the man did his job properly, there will be a certain degree of dilation and lubrication that comes with sufficient arousal, but it won’t be enough to quell the unfortunate feeling of pressure that you will undoubtedly experience, unless he’s hung like a Q-tip. Your muscles, remember, have no experience with that sort of stretching, and it will take time for them to adjust. The muscles in the v-jay are just like any others in your body – they need to be exercised and practiced before they get good at this sort of physical activity. Giggity.

The Bible says I should wait until marriage, but what if I marry him and he’s terrible in bed?
The Bible also says you should be stoned to death for working on Sunday, but that’s neither here nor there and I’m not here to make religious debate. The fact is, if you want to wait until marriage, that’s your decision. If you are dating a guy who wants to do the deed now and keeps pressuring you despite your deeply-cherished beliefs, then he’s a guy you don’t want to marry and you should probably break it off now. But if he respects you or holds the same beliefs as you, and you marry him, and the whole act takes about 4 minutes, don’t despair. I know a lot of women who balk at the idea of waiting until marriage to do the horizontal mamba for the very reason that they don’t want to be trapped in a relationship with a guy who is a terrible lay. I’m not remotely religious, so of course, I don’t have that particular concern, but I am a realist. Marriage isn’t supposed to be about doing things right from day 1, nor does it mean that you know your partner so well that there’s nothing from them that you won’t expect. Just like marriage itself, sex is supposed to be about exploration on an intimate level; learning what you like, what he likes, what you excel at, and maybe what you both need to improve on. Just because the sex is sort of meh the first couple of weeks doesn’t mean you’re shackled to a sub-par sex-life. It just means that you’re going to have to be that much more open and honest with each other (It’s marriage. You probably should be those things anyway) about your wants and needs in the sack. No one got good at sex from the first day they had it – it involved practice. It’ll be the same with your partner, except you don’t get to try it with different people. Unless that’s the kind of marriage you have.

What if the guy I lose my virginity to turns out to be a total douche?
HEY BEEN THERE!
Seriously though, this is a common fear that a lot of girls have, especially because there’s a big, romantic aura surrounding the notion of losing your virginity. It’s still considered sacred and you want to give it to someone who appreciates it. You’ll likely always remember the guy who took your v-card away, so naturally, you want to remember him fondly.
That’s a very pretty idea, except it rarely happens. As I mentioned, guys care more about getting laid than taking your virginity, and many of them will do whatever it takes to land you. A guy who seems like a prince one minute may very well turn into a frog the next (or, in the case of my ex, a warty, poisonous toad). So how do you avoid it? Well…you really can’t. This sort of situation involves a mixture of good judgment and a generous helping of luck. If he treats you well, and with respect, and he’s someone you can be yourself around, then he’s probably a good guy, but it’s easy to have the wool pulled over your eyes. I’m not saying be distrustful of every guy you cross paths with, but don’t be too quick to give them your trust. Very few people have married the guy who took their virginity, so odds are kind of not in your favor that he’s going to be your Prince Charming. The best way to circumvent a bad situation, if you feel comfortable and trusting enough of this guy to let him take your virginity, is to treat the act itself like a single, isolated event. Don’t add it to the pantheon of nice things he did for you, because if he breaks your heart, it’s only going to contort itself into something negative – “OH I THOUGHT HE WAS SUCH A GREAT GUY, HE ALWAYS BROUGHT ME FLOWERS AND SAID I WAS BEAUTIFUL AND THE FIRST TIME WE DID IT, IT WAS SO PERFECT!” etc. You’ll be using the event as a reason to hold on to the notion that he was a good guy along with all the other reasons, and by grouping them together, you’ll be turning the whole situation into a bad experience when you finally accept that he was a capital D. It’s better to treat the first time you ever do it as a single isolated event, so if you’re lucky and it’s everything you hoped it would be and more (like it was for me), you don’t ruin it with any bad feelings when/if he turns out to be a monstrous ass (again, like it was for me).

What if it’s awkward?
Well…do it anyway.
Seriously. Awkwardness is normal, and there’s no way to get around it. There is absolutely no way to circumvent any feeling of awkwardness you might have except to bite the bullet and do it anyway. You can decide to try another time, but odds are pretty good that you’re just delaying something that can’t be changed. It’ll be just as awkward later on. But on the flip side, if you think you’re going to need a liter of alcohol in order to calm your nerves enough, then odds are, you really aren’t ready for it. Do not quaff that kind nepenthe in order to get yourself through something that makes you that uncomfortable. Trust your body and your instincts, but have reasonable expectations. Odds are, you’ll experience nerves, but it’s better to muscle through it unless you’re too uncomfortable to do so, and don’t let anyone talk you into something you’re genuinely not ready for. This is something you have to do for yourself, not for anyone else – do NOT take his opinion on the matter into account because it is your body and your choice. I’m not condoning being pressured into sex AT ALL. I’m saying be realistic about fear – it happens, but if you want it enough, you can overcome it.

There are plenty of other questions about losing virginity and life beyond that haven’t been touched on or asked here, and I want to hear what questions you have! So send them my way, and I’ll be sure to cover them in future.

The Gay Marriage Debate – Can We End it Please?

This may end up on Champion Up North, for future reference.

As an American living in the UK, I’ve been paying attention to the progress of LGBT rights as they occur on both sides of the pond. While marriage equality has by and large seen a massive progressive shift in recent years, the US and the UK are both currently seeing another major step towards the inevitable acceptance of same-sex marriage. Or, you know, also back from. Looking at you, Ireland.

Being from the US gives me a certain degree of entitlement to say that the country is rife with absolute bell-ends who cannot get over the fact that gay marriage has officially reached tidal-wave status nationwide. With a 61% approval rating, the highest in history, there is nothing for the anti-gay movement to do in the United States but sink or swim. So it absolutely baffles me that this needed to go all the way to the Supreme Court to be hashed out by a panel of liberal and conservative justices, the latter whom even the most diehard gay marriage detractors are admitting will likely rule in favor of the cause. The Supreme Court began hearings on Tuesday to determine whether or not same-sex marriage can be banned by states (a little late for that, considering almost every state save for a select stubborn few have either lifted their ban, legalized same-sex marriage, or both). But then again, I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising, considering the absolute circus that same-sex marriage arguments have become in the States, especially when you have politicians named Randy Boehning (pronounced exactly how you think it’s pronounced) pulling off the textbook hypocrisies of voting against expansion of LGBT rights and then getting caught sending dick pics on Grindr. And yes, that is his real name – I’ve had to convince a few mates here at Champion.

What’s that expression? Those who protest the loudest usually have the most to hide? So what does that say about Nigel Farage?

Friends on both sides of the pond, I implore you, can we let this circus end? Frankly, it’s fucking embarrassing that this is even still an issue for discussion. Every single argument that has been used in order to ruin the credibility of same-sex marriage has been done to death, and they have convinced no one. As fun as it is for the rest of us to see what sort of desperate scare tactic the bigots will whip out next (My personal favorites being gay marriage will kill 900k unborn babies a year, or gays at Starbucks will put semen in your lattes), the whole situation has officially gotten old. It’s time for a free-for-all. One last push to tip the scales in the favor of progress. The shift is inevitable – even though Ireland has, once again, ruled against same-sex marriage, it has been by the narrowest margin to date, 47-49. If we can make that sort of shift in one of the most conservatively Catholic countries on Earth, we can bring this to a quick and painless end much sooner than you think.

Elections are quickly approaching on both sides of the pond, as the UK gears up for election season and the US begins its presidential primaries in November. Same-sex marriage may be legal in the UK, but there are plenty of twats in politics who’ll do what they can to discredit the cause. And in the US, there are definitely large strides to be made before we reach the finish line. So, my fellow Americans, and my British compatriots, help us secure a future that is safe for the LGBT community. Make your voice heard. Let’s bring this situation to a well-deserved and peaceful end.