Sketching is one of the ways I process grief. So. Uncle Stan.
Uncle Stan never really understood that his movies had become cult classics. Friends of mine, meeting him for the first time, would fan-boy over Ice Pirates or Krull, and Uncle Stan would just… kinda nod and smile and move on. Or look confused.
After a holiday dinner one night (I want to say it was Passover, but can’t swear it) we somehow got onto the topic of Ice Pirates. Probably me trying to convey to him how many people loved it (even though it was cheesy).
Uncle Stan: Ice Pirates… I think it had a different name once. What was it…?
Me: The Seventh World.
Uncle Stan: Wonder why I named it that?
Me: Because, back then we still considered Pluto a planet, and if you were coming into our solar system from the outside, earth was the seventh planet in.
Uncle Stan: Huh. That was clever of me.
The walk away is the most important tool in your dating repertoire.
I realize that can sound cold. Or even manipulative. It isn’t.
You need to be able to walk away from a bad situation. You need to be able to walk away from someone who mistreats you, or even just someone who is bad for you (without intent to mistreat you). In either case, you need to know how to walk away. And yet the instinctive response for a lot of people is to cling harder. To hold on harder, in hopes of fixing things by sheer force of will. That doesn’t work
One guy I dated didn’t want to hold hands with me in public at an art event he’d invited me to, because another girl he was dating was going to be there, and he hadn’t told her he was dating other people, too. I could have gotten insecure and put up with it and tried to please him. It would have made me miserable, though. So I didn’t. I told him no and not to call me until he got his act together. And I walked away.
He never called. And that’s a good thing. Because I would have been miserable dating him.
In another situation, a guy I’d been with for years couldn’t set boundaries with his family. Boundaries I needed. I should have walked away then, but I held on for another 6 months or so, before realizing I needed to walk away. He hadn’t mistreated me. Arguably, he didn’t do anything actually wrong. But I was very unhappy and it was only getting worse.
Here’s the thing, if you walk away from bad dates and bad relationships, pretty soon you start having good relationships. The ones you’d miss out on because you were trying to make it work with Mr. NotRight. (Or Ms.). The times someone treats you the way you want, you stick around.
You stick around when someone respects you, and shows affection in a way that works for you (let me tell you, the dude who tried to show me affection by scooping the cat litter when all I wanted was to be held? Not a winner).
So, when someone tries negging you, (“You’ve got an hourglass figure. I’ve always prefered waifs, myself,” or “Most people wouldn’t be into you, but I like you,”) — walk away. When someone needs you to always drop what you’re doing to pay attention to them (“Why are you always gaming? I want you to go see a movie you won’t like but I will and I can’t go alone, because my time is clearly more valuable than yours”) — walk away. When someone blames you for all their stress — walk away. When someone demands you magically read their mind and then gets upset when it turns out you aren’t telepathic — walk away. When someone is a rude jerk to you — walk away.
“But,” some friends of mine have protested, “what if they’re really awesome and I won’t find anyone better?”
Okay, no. If someone treats you poorly you can definitely find someone better. And I’m not saying to bail on a relationship the first time you have an argument. Arguments are unavoidable. And we all behave badly from time to time. The thing is, the good ones? When you walk away, they realize, “Oh, shit. I fucked up,” and then they walk toward you. Now they know you won’t put up with bad behavior, so they stop doing it. Or at least genuinely try to work on it.
Do not–I repeat– DO NOT use the walk away as punishment or manipulation. That’s stupid. And counter-productive. You overdo it, and you’re the asshole. That, however, is an entirely different conversation.
Walking away doesn’t guarantee you’re going to find the love of your life. It doesn’t guarantee that life will be puppies and kittens and rainbow skittles, either. But it does give you a much better chance of finding the kind of relationship you want. Yes, you may be lonely for a while. It’s not the worst thing in the world.
Every relationship I’ve had since I learned the walk away has been better than the one before. Sometimes exponentially better. It’s so noticeable that my entire family has commented on it. At one point my mother even said, “Wow, I like this boyfriend a lot. I can’t wait to meet the next one if this doesn’t work out.”
So please, please, please, please, please, if you’re dating someone who treats you poorly, or criticizes you endlessly, or takes you for granted, or kicks your cat, walk away.
The little guy passed his temperament test!
Bungee–as the shelter has named him–passed his temperament test and is approved for general adoption!
Which means anyone can adopt him, not just me! Which is great, because my boyfriend was unhappy at the idea of a third animal in our apartment (willing to put up with it to save a life, but unhappy). For the background on what happened, you can see my original post about the little guy: How I Got Bitten in the Face By a Dog (And it Was My Own Damn Fault).
I repeat, the pup was not at fault. Just scared.
If you know of anyone who’d like to adopt a cute little terrier, please send them to his profile.
Last week I got bitten by a stray dog I was trying to rescue. My neighbor (JG) had knocked on my door to ask for my help with this stray he and his wife (L) had coaxed into our shared driveway. I’ve fostered three dogs in the time I’ve lived at Tortuga, so I am the “stray-dog-expert” insofar as we have one. I am not a professional and I made a mistake.
Not terrifying looking at all, right? And not a vicious dog.
We’d managed to coax him closer to us with the use of slices of ham and sitting calmly on the ground so we weren’t a threat. He came close enough that L was able to pet him. He seemed to be calming down. And this is when I made my mistake. I tried to pick him up.
First I grabbed hold of his collar (he did have one, though no tags) and then I scooped my other arm under him. He started freaking out and struggling. Which I should have expected. But I didn’t.
I should have put him back on the ground and possibly tried to hold onto his collar. Or I should have let him go. But instead, I instinctively pulled him closer. This works great with wriggly toddlers. Not so much terrified terriers.
He started snapping at everything in reach. My hand, my arms, and, unfortunately, my lip. He didn’t even leave a scratch on my hands and arms, which is one of the reasons I don’t think he’s an inherently violent dog. That’s a dog trying to get away. Not trying to hurt. Not trying to latch on. But he managed to catch my lip.
Lips are fragile, in comparison to regular skin. He got me good. Note–he didn’t try to hold on. He could have hurt me a great deal more than he did. He’s a terrier. They’re made to kill things (yes, really, terriers are intended to kill rats and other rodents). But he let go.
Meanwhile, blood is pouring down my face.
L saw the blood and shrieked (this seems a perfectly normal reaction to me). JG, who had gone indoors, came running. I sent her off to get me a paper towel, told him where the key to my storage unit was and how to find my small dog crate. And I calmed the little guy down.
He actually did calm down while I held him and cooed at him.
We got him into the crate and then JG drove me to Urgent Care. Which is actually only two blocks away, but I figured I might get light headed if I walked.
Let me tell you, when you walk into Urgent Care with blood pouring down your face and neck, they respond right quick. They took down information and got me to a doctor. Ultimately (after a brief phone consultation with my Dad) the doctor sent me up to plastic surgery.
Normally, he said, they don’t do much other than cleaning mouth wounds. However, one of the cuts crossed the Vermillion border (there’s a name for that boundary between lip and regular skin!). That, he said, can be tricky. The injury only barely crossed it, so he said it was a toss up as to which to do. I called my Dad, who then talked with the doctor. I let my Dad decide. Because, at that point, I wanted to just sit and do nothing.
JG stayed with me and walked me over to plastic surgery. I deliberately had not washed the blood off myself because, again, people respond quickly when you’re covered in blood.
The plastic surgeon cooed over me, cleaned me up, and set to stitching. That hurt more than the bite.
Fast forward to Animal Control arriving. Because bite reports go to them. I was worried (and rightly so, though hopefully I can still work this out) that they’d want to put him down. The woman I spoke to was actually very helpful, explaining to me what would happen and why. She said they don’t normally adopt out dogs that bite (which I read as code for: we put them down).
So, I asked if I could adopt him.
I told her it was my fault. I told her why I didn’t think he was a vicious dog. I told her about fostering.
She was concerned that I already had a big dog who didn’t get along well with other dogs (she also knew exactly which houses on our block had dogs and how long they’d had them…). I noted that he’d done okay with the fosters and she got this considering look on her face and murmured. “Maybe he just reacts when the other dog acts like prey…” (I have found this to be true.)
She told me there was a chance they’d adopt him out to me. After all, I already knew he bit. She told me to tell them in writing that I wanted to adopt him. To just email them saying I wanted him and giving his ID#. (Here’s his profile from the shelter)
She put up handwritten signs around the neighborhood describing the dog, since the original owner could reclaim him easily. If they knew. If they wanted to. If, if, if.
I also put up posters with a picture of the little guy. A couple of the neighborhood kids helped with that one.
And now… we wait.
He’s in isolation now, so they can be sure he doesn’t have rabies. The clock on isolation runs out on 2/21. And isolation will only make him more skittish. And less adoptable.
So I’ve applied to adopt him via their web contact form. And I’ve sent a follow up email asking about him. I haven’t heard anything back, but he’s still listed on their found dogs page.
I look at that first picture and I just want to cuddle him and reassure him. I hope his original owner claims him. Or that they let me adopt him. I really, really hope they let me adopt him. He doesn’t deserve to be put down for my mistake (and no, I’m not beating myself up, just wishing I’d been smarter about it).
In future… I’ll call a shelter first. I hadn’t wanted to, because I didn’t want him to be at risk of being put down. But now he is, more so than if I’d called them first.
I will say that I found out other people in our neighborhood had seen him and even had him in their yard and done nothing about it. They let their kids pet him. But they didn’t try to do any of the things they should have. Hell, don’t let your kids pet a strange dog. They should have called Animal Control, instead of ignoring the problem. And that upsets me, too.
Ugh. I’m thinking of a lot of “what-ifs,” even though I know it won’t help.
Cross your fingers they let me have him.
I wrote this October 9, 2013 in my journal after hearing a lovely, but yet again unrealistic, love song in which the singer promises he will never get used to his new beloved:
I will get used to you. I will know your quirks as if they were my own. I will finish your sentences and sometimes stop listening because I know exactly what you’re going to say.
I will curl up around you in my sleep, even when you come late to bed and I am already asleep.
I will roll my eyes over something stupid and look at you and know you just did the same thing. I will be on your side. I won’t be able to imagine my life without you, though there will be times when I try.
I will reach for your hand without conscious thought. I will remember your favorite food but keep forgetting your favorite color. I will have silly nicknames for you that no one will ever hear–not even you.
I will memorize the shape of your eyes, how they turn down at the corners, making your face sad in repose.
I will go over the same topics with you again and again. I will turn to you to remember the things I don’t.
There will be moments every once in a while that I will look at you and remember the empty space in my life before I met you, and it will take my breath away to realize I might never have loved you, if not for happenstance. And I will look at you then, falling a little in love again, and you’ll catch me looking at you and tilt your head in question and I’ll just smile and say “You’re cute.” And you’ll grin at me.
We will not always be new. We will not always sparkle with novelty. We will wear together, rubbing away at each other’s edges like neighboring flagstones. There will be days everything about you annoys me, and everything about me annoys you.
There will be jarring moments that will decrease in occurrence but increase in intensity when we discover we have different assumptions. You will surprise me. I will surprise you. But, far better, we’ll become predictable to each other because we know each other so well.
Being with you will be like floating in warm water.
Read this and tell me there is no misogyny in games: Anita Sarkeesian Says she Was Driven out of House by Death Threats
Read this and tell me women are treated fairly and respectfully: Anti-Feminist Internet Targets “Depression Quest” game creator, Zoe Quinn
Because, clearly, the way to deal with uppity women is to threaten them with bodily harm until they shut-up. Or accuse them of promiscuity instead of recognizing that they may-just, possibly, may-have made a good game. Because the only way a game designed by a woman could succeed is if she slept with men to get them to promote her. (Which then touches on all of our fucked up issues around sex and female sexuality, but that’s an even bigger topic).
Let’s talk about the threats Jennifer Hepler got while working at Bioware. Or the general rage directed at Bioware for *gasp* portraying characters with non-hetero sexuality. Let’s talk about the “One Reason Why” phenomenon, that finally provided women in gaming a place to speak openly about the bs we get put through. You want evidence? You want proof that this shit happens? Open your eyes.
Here’s something I drew up to help me with character creation on the current game. It’s an RPG, so players will get to choose from various backgrounds. I’m not certain all of the variables I have here will make it into game, but it helps me keep track. It will also be useful to our UI designer (when we get a UI designer). They’ll be able to see what I was thinking, and come up with a much better way to represent it in the finished game.
Since the player can mix and match, I need to make sure all of these elements combine well. Functionally that means having a paragraph for each option that won’t contradict the other choices you can make. That’s the next step. I’m really excited about the age range we’re using. That’ll let me talk about characters in different stages of their careers and families.
And yup, there is a gender slider in there. It will have some effect on the character summaries, but not as much as you might think. Because we’re normalizing fluid gender identities in this game. Which means… the characters will treat it as normal, and rarely worthy of mention. Gender will not gate career backgrounds, family relationships, or appearance options. And everyone gets to pick the pronoun they prefer.
I realize a middle class white girl talking about privilege can go really, really wrong. I’m hoping that isn’t the case here. Quite frankly, I’m terrified of making an ass of myself. Which is why I’ve said nothing for a long time. Which is actually (heh) pretty privileged of me. I can afford to sit back and say nothing.
This isn’t for people who already know what privilege is and where they stand on that scale. This is for those friends who don’t really get what this “privilege” stuff is all about. The friends who may have heard the word tossed around, but never realized it applied to their lives (hint: it applies to everyone). Or the friends who’ve never heard the word tossed around, and are completely confused about why anyone would need to write about it. Mostly, this is for people who are privileged and don’t know it.
Okay. So. First off, if someone says you’re privileged, don’t get pissed off. Even if they sound angry or you think they’re insulting you, don’t get pissed off. There are a bunch of reasons for this:
- You may actually be privileged. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. That doesn’t make you evil or awful. That just means you have opportunities others don’t. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating those opportunities. And there’s quite a lot wrong with taking them for granted.
- Frustration often sounds like anger, and it often feels personal. Just as you want the chance to vent and be heard, so do other people. Give them the same kind of tolerance you’d want. Understand that they’ve faced challenges you don’t know about. Try listening.
- Giving in to anger almost always means you’ve lost your ability to think logically. Anger has a place, just don’t make it your first recourse. Wars, divorces, arguments… a lot of these things happen when they don’t need to because someone went to anger as their first response.
It may not feel like you were privileged, but take another look and really think about it. If you’d asked me 15 years ago if I was privileged, I might have laughed at you. And gotten defensive. And been an ass.
I am privileged. I’m white and middle class. I grew up in California, in an affluent area. My father is a physician. I had access to health care. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. I had access to schools. Fuck, I went to a private college. And I can (and will) point out that I could only afford it because of merit scholarships, because I’m damn proud of the work I did to get them… but the fact I even thought I could go to a college like that indicates a hell of a lot of privilege. And I had time in which to study or pursue extracurriculars so I could get that merit money. That time is a luxury. I never had to take a job to make ends meet when I was a kid or teen. My mom could drive me to debates because she had a car and she had time. She could also work with me on my homework and help me learn. Many things I took for granted when I was a kid were privileges I didn’t appreciate. Not then. Probably not enough now, either.
The First Defense
One of the most common responses I’ve seen to people being told they’re privileged is to list off all the ways in which they aren’t. As if having some hardships means you can’t also have some advantages. It’s a false dichotomy.
It is possible to be both privileged and disadvantaged. All the things I listed above are ways in which I’m privileged. I’m disadvantaged by being female and Jewish. Where I live and grew up, it was more being female that was a disadvantage. The Jewish thing, while it crops up from time to time, hasn’t often been an issue for me.
Just because I know what it’s like to be female in a male dominated society doesn’t mean I know what it’s like to be black. Or Asian. Or intersex. Or trans. Or gay. Or female in a different culture. Or anything other than what I am. Likewise, just because I have friends who are black, asian, intersex, trans, gay… that doesn’t mean I know what it’s like to be them. You can’t know what you haven’t experienced. You can imagine, sure. You can read books about it or listen to someone discuss their experiences. But that’s not the same thing.
The Second Defense
The next thing people do is fake apologize. You know, those apologies that aren’t apologies at all but are instead an attack? Saying, “Do you want me to apologize for being white/male/whatever? Fine. I’ll apologize. I’m sorry I was born white/male/whatever.” And they say it in that way that implies they’re being reasonable and everyone else is unreasonable. And that… is a red herring. It has nothing to do with the issue at hand, and instead escalates conflict and makes it personal.
I’m going to say this repeatedly, because it’s important: No one is asking you to apologize for your birth. No one is asking you to apologize for things out of your control. This isn’t about YOU.
You are being asked to listen. To acknowledge. You don’t have to do anything other than say, “I hear you.” If you want to say you’re sorry, go ahead. But say it out of sympathy, not because you’re angry or feel like you’re getting blamed. Say, “I’m sorry it was so hard.” Or, “I’m sorry shit like that happens.” And mean it. Don’t follow up with anything beginning with “but”. Lose the word “but” from your vocabulary.
Privilege means having advantages you didn’t earn. Go ahead and make use of your advantages; you don’t need to apologize. You don’t need to waste them. Just don’t be an ass to people without those advantages. Don’t tell them they’ve failed or could do better. Don’t assume you’re better than they are. Don’t judge them using a system that’s rigged in your favor. Don’t sit by while a friend behaves like an ass. I’m not sorry I was born into privilege; I’m really fucking grateful. I got a head start because of it. This, right now, is me trying not to sit by while other people behave like asses. And trying to understand my own privilege, so I’m not an ass.
It’s those of us who are privileged who most need to hear about it. And who are least willing to listen.
My friend, Ari, made a great comment on the facebook thread that I am including below.
It’s not really that people with relatively more privilege don’t get to have opinions, but that because our opinion is generally more valued and heard in our culture, we need to be mindful about making space for, listening to, and amplifying less privileged voices, and–particularly in spaces belonging to those with less privilege–being quiet unless we are asked to weigh in. I get to talk, as a white person, but I shouldn’t talk over people of color when the subject is the structural oppression they struggle with and their personal experiences with injustice (just using race as an example here).
And that’s hard to be mindful of, because literally everything in our culture is constantly reinforcing the idea that my thoughts, feelings, and ideas are just *worth more*, because I’m white. Having privilege makes it hard to be aware of privilege, and it’s really easy to start feeling devalued and even attacked when that gets called out, or when it’s clear that my voice is not dominant and welcome in the way I’m taught to expect. I just try to remind myself, you know, getting called out and learning to be a better person and to use my systemic advantage for good may be hard, but it’s not as hard as lacking those same systemic advantages.