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.

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.

Big Beautiful Bisexual

Cross-posted from my Facebook.

As most of you probably know, I’m bisexual, and if you didn’t know that up to this point, well, congratulations, you know now. Bisexuality doesn’t often get covered in LGBT issues, which is probably why I don’t bring it up much, most likely because bisexual people don’t get the same sort of oppression as the LGT slices of the pie – we have the unique advantage of being the fox in the henhouse. Until I decide to marry a woman, my constitutional rights really aren’t infringed upon.

However, I feel the need to point out that this doesn’t mean being bisexual means being free and clear of any sort of scrutiny, whether intentional or otherwise. I know no one actively goes out to insult someone who is bi, but there is some stuff I’d like people to be aware of that has happened to me, for educational purposes, mind.

NUMBER 1: My being bisexual is not “a phase.” I’ve known I’ve liked girls since I was 7 years old, but it was confusing because I also liked boys. I actually thought something was wrong with me until a former friend of mine came out as bi in high school. I practically cried knowing that there was a name to what it was I was experiencing, but it took me eight years to get there, and it’s thirteen years since then, so it is definitely not a phase. I still like girls and boys. Thanks.

NUMBER 2: Bisexuality is not “fake.” I got this a lot primarily from my friends who are gay, surprisingly enough. I understand the stigma because it’s hard to relate to someone who can switch over to what is considered “normal” by society seemingly on a whim, and there are plenty of girls who pretend to like other girls just so guys will want to fuck them, but that does not mean bisexuality isn’t a thing. It is just likely a thing that you cannot understand. Besides, I can’t get guys or girls, so if I’m bi just to get laid, I must be doing it wrong. WHICH BRINGS ME TO THIS NEXT POINT:

NUMBER 3: Being bisexual does not make you a whore. Believe it or not, people of both genders are statistically less likely to date bisexuals out of fear that they’ll be left for someone else of the other gender. Um, no. That’s not limited to bisexuals. Those are just shitty human beings. And this ties into 2 because you kind of can’t expect to think that bisexuality means all these dating doors are open for you, because in reality, being bi is less likely to get you a date. So there’s that. Regardless, my morality and my sexuality are not dependent on each other – I’m not a shitty person, nor am I a whore, so no, I actually wouldn’t ditch a person I was dating for someone else because that’s just a shitty thing to do that has nothing to do with sexual preference.

I will, however, admit that threesomes are fine by me. I like the FMF kind.

Also, my dad and my aunt can’t see this because no one on my dad’s side knows I’m bi. It’s fantastic having conservative Republican family members, and people who tell them shit.

This has been an educational announcement for the day.

A Tale of Four Keys

Ladies and gentlemen, a story.

I’m not a fan of purses. They’re cumbersome and uncomfortable and a magnet for things I don’t even really need. I use them for the practical reason of they hold my wallet, and my phone on days when I’m not wearing jeans (which is like…twice a month on a good month). But since I walk to the store from home here, I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing my hooded sweatshirts in lieu of my peacoats so I can stick my wallet and any other accouterments in the big front pocket. I needed to go down to Wilko today for some householdy goods, so I loaded up with my wallet, my phone, my iPod, and my keys, and set out on my way.

It’s a beautiful day in Headingley, cold, but not rainy, clear, crisp, and blue. With my iPod blissfully filling my ears with the sweet sounds of Satriani, Sublime, and Santana, I made my way down to Wilko without issue and stopped off at the Superdrug afterwards to treat myself to a bottle of my favorite perfume (Obsession, by Calvin Klein, btw. Just for future reference). I made my way back home, wallet lighter, hands fuller, head clearer, when it occurred to me once I got to the neighborhood to check my big pocket for my keys.

They weren’t there.

I dug around in that pocket in a panic, with a modicum of conscious acceptance right away that my keys weren’t there, and there was no use in fretting, but now I had to come up with a solution. My landlord would charge me 25 pounds for a new set of keys, since they’re an unusual make and I have four of them. My flatmates upstairs would have to let me inside since Sara is at work. I left the door to the flat itself unlocked as if I had made some sort of unconscious effort to abate the more detrimental effects of my future blunder. I knew going back to look for the keys would likely be fruitless, since the area was busy. I’d only just resigned myself to the inevitable headache of all of this when something else occurs to me.

How stupid would you have to be to keep your keys in that pocket? Along with your wallet and phone, no less, two things you’d have to extract more than once. That’s just asking for it. Could I have been that dumb??

The answer was no. Keys were in my back pocket. Duh.

The moral of the story, my friends, is that I am not always an idiot. Only sometimes.

Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby – It’s About More Than Just Birth Control. It’s About Control

So the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby today, vis-a-vis their religious right to deny access to birth control to their employees on religious grounds. The internet is, unsurprisingly, shitting a collective brick, and I’m just sitting here noticing that liberal media coverage of this sad day is not only shooting themselves in the foot, but they’re practically blowing the damned thing off. This is why we can’t have nice things!

I prefer not to associate myself with certain labels when it comes to my personal and political beliefs, and I wish people would do the same, because not only does it feel like we’re boxing ourselves into our labels, we start blindly following the leaders and the media who identify themselves the same way that we do. So while my personal beliefs are widely considered to be liberal, I don’t identify myself as one, and it’s allowed me to take a much more objective perspective. And that objective perspective has led me to realize that the liberal media is full of shit, and it’s no wonder this country is still so fucked up.

For those of you who have only read the titles of articles discussing the SCOTUS ruling in Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby, you may not actually know that the ruling allows Hobby Lobby to deny only four of the twenty available types of birth control that its insurance plan otherwise covers, namely emergency contraception that they believe is akin to abortion (whether or not that’s true is not the point). Employees are still free to seek out these four forms of birth control elsewhere, and honestly, they’re not particularly costly. So what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing, if you look at it on the surface, but the issues run much deeper, and the liberal media is actively fucking that up.

Every liberal article I’ve read about the SCOTUS ruling states that Hobby Lobby is now able to deny contraception to its employees. Think about that. Contraception. Not some forms of contraception, but the whole goddamned spectrum. Now anyone who decides not to read the whole article is going to think that Hobby Lobby is denying all forms of birth control to their employees, and those who do read are going to go in with tainted judgment. Liberal media is doing what conservative media does all the time – cherry picking information and using buzzwords that convolute the underlying problems they’re covering so as to put their own agenda in the forefront, and thereby widening the gap between liberalism and conservatism. So the focus is now shifting back to not what the SCOTUS ruling means, but about the us versus them black and white mentality that has kept this country at a dysfunctional standstill.

So what does the ruling ACTUALLY mean? Well, let me take a crack at it.

October of last year, I was still working at Peet’s, and thereby had Kaiser as my health insurance, before the ACA went into full effect. I had, up to that point, been debating for some time about getting an IUD, because I’d had one too many scares using condoms, and the pill was becoming increasingly difficult for me to keep up with because I was working two jobs with inconsistent schedules. So I finally decided to do it, thinking I was going to have to put down around 500 bucks to have something that wasn’t any bigger than my thumbnail wedged up into my ladybits to lock down my uterus for five years, because if there’s such hubbub about birth control pills, how could this completely voluntary procedure be covered by my insurance? I mean, my birth control pills were partially covered, so why wouldn’t I have to pay full price for an IUD? Imagine my surprise when I found out my company-paid insurance policy actually covered the full cost of my IUD, so I paid nothing out of pocket beyond my 20 dollar office visit copay. I thought that wow, maybe we’re actually learning in this country that a woman’s rights to her reproductive health are important and worth the investment. But then SCOTUS ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and I realized that I was wrong.

The problem that I have with the SCOTUS ruling is the same problem that everyone else has with it – that once again, the rights to a woman’s body and her reproductive health were put in the hands of men who have precisely zero right to interfere with them. The base argument is, of course the usual “Pay for your birth control yourself then! Don’t have sex if you don’t want to have babies! How would you feel if we made you pay for something you didn’t believe in?” et al.  And to a certain extent, I agree with it.  A woman should have control over her sexual health, and it’s not anyone else’s responsibility. If you want to have sex and not make babies, the burden of responsibility is on YOU AND YOUR PARTNER, not me. The problem with this ruling, however, is two-fold. One, it grossly interferes with a woman’s ability to access birth control,  and second, the problem isn’t what this ruling is on the surface, but everything that it REPRESENTS.

The dichotomy between men and women is pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain, but along with the societal implications, we also have to consider the biological ones. Men do not carry babies. They can make them, but if they decide to cut and run, what on earth is a woman going to do about it? That’s why I emphasized earlier that sexual responsibility is the duty of the two consenting partners, not anyone else. But once a woman becomes pregnant, her decisions are shackled to that pregnancy because she is the one carrying the fetus – the man can choose to stay, or he can choose to leave, because he’s not physically connected to his offspring at any time. Sound unfair? Well, it is, but it’s biology. There’s not a whole lot to be done about it. So while a man’s burden of responsibility doesn’t necessarily end at conception, he is now presented with the choice of whether or not he wants to take it. A woman’s sexual responsibility begins the minute she becomes sexually active and remains whether she is pregnant or not – she doesn’t have a choice, nor is she ever presented with one. It’s easy to say that a woman should just not have sex if she doesn’t want to get pregnant, but no one tells that to men, now do they? That’s because, once again, a man can make the decision to forgo responsibility for the child he sired, and women shouldn’t be denied the same joy that is sex and intimacy just because they never are presented with a choice. It’s an argument that reduces women to second class citizens because it revokes a second right on top of the one they already lost simply by being born with a vagina. Removing or inhibiting rights to birth control is just a reinforcement of the idea that women should not be allowed to experience sex or pleasure because they are not equal to men, but in fact are meant to be baby factories with no choice or say in the matter. So it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for women to be sexually responsible when you start taking all of her ability to be sexually responsible away.

So what does this have to do with Hobby Lobby winning the right to deny emergency contraception? The problem is that it’s going to be the groundwork laid down for more conservative men to continue the sad trend they’ve been on for the past few centuries – legalized sexism. The legitimate right to reduce women to second-class citizen status under the umbrella term “religious rights.” It’s opening the door to all kinds of religious whackadoodles who run corporations to deny their employees equal protection. One corporation could deny all forms of birth control because it’s against their religious beliefs. Another can refuse to extend insurance to the same sex partners of their homosexual employees because their religion condemns homosexuality. It’s taking the small amount of progress we’ve managed to make in terms of equal rights and representation and undoing it with interest. It’s giving another legal platform to those who want to set fire to the constitution and continue to put this country under the jurisdiction of heterosexual(ish) Christian men. So Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby isn’t just about giving a corporation a right to practice its religion, which is completely wrong on its own. It’s about white male Christian America trying to take back control.

I’m Going to Stick My Boobs in Your Husband’s Face for Spite

Have I mentioned how goddamned sick I am lately of marriages?

I have nothing against the celebration of love and the idea of an equal and supportive partnership between two consenting adults. It sounds great in theory, and believe it or not, I do know my fair share of people who have that. It’s fantastic. What I’m sick of, more specifically, are the people who don’t, and how much bullshit they feel the need to broadcast to other people about how lousy their marriages are.

So I read this absolutely fucking RIDICULOUS blog post written by a woman who either needs a therapist, or a good dicking (or both), and apart from the fact that she represents everything about the female end of the gender discord spectrum, she also raises one of my biggest issues with marriage.

If there are problems in your marriage, deal with them. Don’t hang your dirty laundry out, and expect someone else to wash it.

I think this struck a particularly hard chord with me because I and a bunch of my friends are stuck in a broiling shitstorm that is a couple of former friends’ marriage. I won’t get into the details of why their marriage is failing so fucking hard that’s it’s almost embarrassing, but what pisses me off is that instead of working on their issues, they’re too busy policing everyone else who knows about them – dictating who out of who else was involved that we can be friends with, what we’re allowed to talk about pertaining to it, etc. In other words, they’re doing everything they can to avoid actually fixing their marriage, and are effectively alienating their friends, whom they’re using as scapegoats.  The fact of the matter is, when you push your marital woes on others, like my former friends and the dumbass behind that idiot blog post, you’re blatantly disrespecting your friends, your peers, your spouse, and yourself, and this is why no one wants to be friends with you anymore.

So in other words, some people just don’t deserve to be married. There, I said it.

Fact of the matter is, marriage is between two consenting adults, and no one else. I’m not married to you, and neither are any of your friends. You’re married to your spouse and vice versa. It is, of course, not uncommon to gripe about your spouse to your friends when he leaves his underwear on the bathroom floor, or she maxed out your credit card on shoes, but when you have major difficulties, you do not, repeat, DO NOT drag your friends into it. You can go to them for emotional support, but you do not get to involve them in your marital issues, because what you’re doing is creating other smaller problems that you get to deal with so you don’t have to deal with the major problems in your marriage. It’s scapegoating, and it’s disrespectful. I mean, how goddamned idiotic is it that the sad little girl trapped in a 40-something-year old woman’s body is crying about how pretty young girls make her feel bad about herself, so can we all stop being younger and prettier so her husband doesn’t leave her? Whether it’s insecurity issues like this, or major issues like my former friends have, the moment you start dragging others into it, you’re reinforcing the fact that you’re not mature enough for marriage. And the next time you try to police what I say, or what I do, or how I look, because you have marital issues, I’m gonna stick my boobs in your husband’s face for spite.