Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sacred Bovine on Hiatus...

Life has been a little crazy lately. I've been a little overworked and a lot over committed, running around trying to keep a thousand plates spinning and getting annoyed at myself, over and over, when they keep breaking. I've been uncharacteristically (or at least I hope!) flaky lately to many people - messages and emails left unreturned, constantly running late, canceling on plans, and so forth. (Um, sorry to those of you who have been on the other end of this rampant flakiness...)

...and I'm guessing it's going to get worse. On Wednesday, I start a new job that I am incredibly excited about. (Not going to post it here, but email if you're curious). I don't really know what my hours are going to look like, but I have a feeling they are going to be long and unpredictable...especially given how much I care about the work I'm going to be doing. I'm hoping once I settle into a pattern to keep the flakiness to a mimimum of course...but for the next few weeks at least, I can't see it getting much better.

And I'm ready for it. A friend the other day reminded me that when I took my current (soon to be previous!) job, I had said I was looking forward to a slightly more low-key job (at least compared to the campaign insanity before that.) 8:30-5:30, hour for lunch, very little overtime. Time for myself - time to meet people, make friends in Boston, learn the city, add other (non-work) activities to my life. It was good to be reminded of that...sometimes it's nice to realize you've accomplished goals you've already forgot you set. It was a good year, and it was good to take the time for those things...and now I think I'm ready to get back to work (so to speak.)

Which was all a long-winded way of saying I'm putting the blog on semi-hiatus for awhile. I'm not going to stop blogging entirely, but given my dearth of posts during these last few busy weeks and the impending craziness, I doubt I'm going to be as regular a poster as before. We'll see, of course -- there's nothing like madness to get the fingers typing -- but for all, like, five of you who read this regularly, don't be surprised to see much bigger gaps between postings.

Here goes!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Heart Rippage

I found out tonight that my sister got her financial package from her top choice school. Bastards seem to think she and/or my parents can somehow afford $20,000+ dollars per year...and all I can think is, are they out of their minds? Did they *see* my parents' financial statements? Oh, they are nowhere near destitute, but come on now... and do they really think a kid going to a film program can possibly afford to graduate with almost ninety grand in debt?


As you can tell, I'm a little upset. I think this college financial game they are playing these days -- the one where private colleges seem to want to make themselves affordable only to rich kids -- plain sucks. My sister had her heart set on this school, and she got in with a (albeit small) academic scholarship. She deserves the chance to go and get that education she's been dreaming of.

Okay, I know, lots of kids deserve an educational experience they aren't going to get. Etc etc ad nauseum. But still.

I'm proud of the fact that I put myself through college, and I think my sister will be similarly proud, in the end. Sure, I got jealous when I saw friends or dormmates jet off to China or Guatemala or somewhere similarly exotic for Winter Term, and I resented, just a little, people who could afford to take unpaid internships. I still get angry when I see do-gooder organizing jobs offering a starting pay of $19,000, because the only people who can afford to take a job for that little is someone who doesn't have student loan payments. And lord knows I would love to be a little less in debt.

All told, however, I don't regret my college debt -- and, in fact, I think that independence has been good for me.

But my 30 or so grand in debt is not 90 grand. (Oh, and I feel guilty about that too...I got to go to my dream school, so it seems only fair that she should get to go to hers.) If I have a hard time making ends meet sometimes on my half-way decent PR salary and limited student loans, I have no idea how a film student (or graduate) could possibly strap together the cash to make that high of a monthly loan payment. Basically, she's been screwed.

So I've jumped into hyper-big-sister mode...strategizing ways of negotiating with the Financial Aid department, looking up programs she could apply to late, bugging her to send me her scholarship essays, wondering if I could somehow help spot her the money, trying to dream up a way she could take a year off, have a really fabulous experience somewhere, and somehow find a better, cheaper school in the meantime...and on and on.

I'm a classic oldest child, a distinction I come to better understand more and more each day. Even better, I am that particular variety of older sister that is just enough older than her siblings as to feel personally responsible for their well-being. I'm almost seven years older than my sister and another couple on top of that older than my brother. I didn't grow up playing the same games with them; I grew up babysitting them. We were never childhood playmates (a fact I regret, sometimes; there's a special bond there we'll never have). But they are mine in a way that I think only an older sister can really know. It was my job (self-appointed, perhaps, but my job none the less) to protect them from everything -- from the world, from other kids, even, at times, from getting in too much trouble with Mom & Dad. (There's the distinction from mother & older sister...the older sister runs interference with the parents as much as she does the rest of the world.)

I'm her big sister, and all I want is to make it better...and I'm realizing that the only way I know to make things better is through sheer force of will and a pretty good understanding of how to work the system.

But for all this flailing, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it better this time. I don't know how to protect her from this one. And it just rips my heart out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Newsflash! Women are Real People!

This just in from the Globe: Women have sex! Sometimes even (gasp) casual sex!

Not that we would know if they enjoy it, or not, because as the Dig so brilliantly pointed out , the Globe didn't bother to interview a single woman who is taking part in this "new trend" called "hooking up." (We won't even get into the fact that the Globe is about twenty years behind the curve. Reading this article, I felt as though some old woman was asking me "what is this 'hip-hop' that all the young people are listening to these days? )

No, instead they interviewed overly paid shrinks and authors of bullshit books to find out that hooking up "causes young women to be emotionally unhooked from a partner and from themselves" and makes them "pick up a lot of bad habits that makes it hard to sustain a long-term commitment."

No mention, by the way, of the young men all these young women are purportedly hooking up with. (Unless they're all hooking up with each other...but this being the Globe, I highly doubt that). The sexual habits of young men is of no concern to these authors, despite the fact that if girls are having guilt-free sex with partners they barely know, chances are good the guys are also having sex (guilt-free, or not) with partners they also know. (Although I am amused by the ridiculous scenario of women sleeping with men they barely know but who somehow know them very well.)

Of course, we all know that young men are hard-wired for casual sex, while young women are not. (See the scientific reference to oxytocin in the story...we're not sexist, it's scientific!)

So while the Globe thinks that it is breaking news that in our culture "young women take pride in guilt-free sex with partners they rarely know," we all know that if the sentence had read "young men...." it wouldn't have been news at all.

Oh, but it gets better. Because, you see, not only can women not handle sex outside the confines of a relationship (or maybe we can't handle it at all), "the irony is that girls aren't equipped to handle love."

So, to back up for a second, we can't handle sex, and we can't handle love. So, what exactly are we equipped to handle, besides baking and child rearing?

Expert shrink Laura Sessions Stepp goes on to chide us ladies. "Most girls," she says, "say they want to be in love eventually, they want to marry eventually. My question is, 'Will hooking up get you there?'"

I have no idea, Ms. Stepp, if hooking up will get me to love & marriage eventually. I sort of hope said marriage will include a lot of hooking up, preferably before and after those vows are exchanged, but who knows? I do know that, in the meantime, hooking up (casually or not; to each their own) fulfills a few other needs beyond love and marriage that, shockingly enough, women occasionally have.

I've been on a rage against this article all day. (Those of you who received outraged emails and IMs from me forwarding the link should know.) Every time I think of it, I find another reason to get angry.

I'm not even sure what I should be most mad about. Is it the blatant double standard? The outright sexism? The implication that women hooking up with men outside a serious, marriage-bound relationship are all sluts? The assumption that all women are looking for one thing and one thing only...and that is marriage? The fact that the Globe couldn't be bothered to interview a woman or two who has had great experiences with NSA sex... with no messy "emotional entanglements" that she "didn't know how to handle"? The complete denial of the very real sexual desires of many women? The idolization of these two nice young girls who have found themselves boyfriends (and ones who will pay for dinner!!)? The assertion that women who "hook up" are ruining themselves and will be unable to commit to a serious relationship at another date? The implication that all women under, say, thirty, are running around fucking anything that breathes...and that you can make any sort of generalization about "all young women" in the first place? The Globe's complete lack of knowledge or understanding of, for lack of a better term here, "youth culture"? Or just the pure, Puritan sanctimony of it all?

I'd like to kindly suggest that the Globe take the stick out of its ass, take a look at the calendar (it's not 1957, folks), and offer a sincere apology to its readers for the piece of complete and total bullshit they for some stupid reason elected to publish today.

Just a thought. Not that I can be trusted with anything so complicated as thinking.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Department of Stupid Things to Complain About

I've been losing weight lately. Nothing major - a pound or two every couple of weeks - but it's been happening pretty steadily for a couple of months now, and my pants are all starting to fall off, and I'm frankly a bit confused.

See, I'm not actually trying to lose weight. Oh, I'm certainly not complaining...and I'm not exactly in danger of becoming unhealthily thin any time soon....but I just don't get it. Losing weight, in my experience and in those of people I've seen try to do it, requires effort. Serious, concentrated, long-lasting effort. Maybe not for those lucky people with great metabolisms, but for people like me who usually gain weight by just looking at a brownie, actually losing weight is hard work. And I haven't been working.

In fact, I have never once been able to lose weight by trying. There have been times in my life when I have counted calories and dutifully gone to the gym three times a week and held off on dessert and all the rest, and not lost a single pound.

Which might explain why I find it so confusing, frustrating, and even upsetting when I go to the gym sporadically at best, eat whatever I feel like eating, and keep getting smaller. I've got one question for my body:

What the fuck?

It's a control issue for me. I like to think that I have control over my body, and that my actions influence how it functions. I can accept the physical consequences of my poor choices, just so long as they actually result from my choices. For example, if I eat poorly and don't get enough sleep and stress myself out, I am not surprised when I get sick. If I drink way too much wine, I am not surprised when I am hung over.

But when I treat myself well but suddenly find myself knocked on my ass with a cold...well, I get annoyed. When I wake up with a splitting headache and vague nausea after just a couple glasses of wine spread out over hours, I get sort of pissed at the grand unfairness of it all. I behaved myself; why can't my body? I don't like it when my body acts like an unpredictable teenager, acting capriciously, flying off the handle at the mildest provocation, not listening to reason. I'm an adult, damn it, and it's about time my body learned to act like it.

So while it's great that my moody, stubborn little body thinks it's fun this year to lose weight without trying, I'm a little worried about the day when it changes its mind and decides it is actually way more fun to watch me eat nothing but carrots and slave away at the gym as my ass gets bigger and bigger.

A little rationality. A little cause-leads-to-effect. Body o' mine, is this really so much to ask ?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back to the Well

I've taken a bit of a break from blogging lately. Not really on's just a factor of inspiration. I can't write these things unless it's welling up inside me (that old writer's tale about writing for your very survival), and the well has been running fairly dry these days.

Actually, that's not quite true. The well, in fact, is as water-filled as ever -- perhaps more so -- but I feel like I've dropped the bucket. I told a friend the other day that I've been having a hard time lately translating my internal thoughts into external dialogue, and I think that's a pretty apt description. I'm looking for the connecting rope -- and believe me, when I find it, it's all going to come rushing out -- but for now there's no pulling water from this well. (As you'll be able to tell from this post...I've been trying and trying to write a focused, fascinating, topic-driven post for the past week, and all I'm coming up with is the current stream of conscious nonsense.)

My beautiful photographer friend Jessie recently gathered a bunch of us together for a shoot. (I like the sound of that..."I was at a photo shoot." Very artsy-bohemian of me.) We had a lovely time, and that's an understatement. There's no one I know as good as Jessie at making you feel beautiful and photogenic (oh and believe me, I'm not) you are a fascinatingly sexy subject for her to train her camera on. She's a talented photographer no doubt, but I secretly (or, at this point, not so secretly ) think that it's her camera-side manner and ability to coax out something unexpectedly gorgeous that is going to truly set her apart from the rest.

She's been subtly (and at times you Jessie!) hinting that the photo shoot would make a great topic for a blog post. I think she's right, but I've been bumping up against that inspiration thing. I write because I have to, because I feel I will just explode if I do not...and as wonderful and memorable as that day was, there was no imminent explosion.

Until she posted a picture from the shoot on her website...from my quasi-topless shoot.

Actually, she posted the picture a week or so ago. She asked me to look at it to make sure I was okay with it being up, and I did check from my very dim computer at work. Looked discrete and tasteful to me. In fact, you could barely see a thing except for my face. Okay by me.

And then tonight, out of curiosity, I decided to check it out from my much-better computer at home.

Yeah, wow, that's my breast.

Which is, you know, cool. It's very artsy. Very tasteful. I feel like a much more exciting person than I probably actually am for having posed semi-topless for my soon-to-be famous photographer friend, and to have that broadcast to the world. And it's not like I didn't spend half my time at college coming up with new and creative ways to wear as little as possible in public (read: Safer Sex Night), anyway.

But I've been toying with the notion of exposure and vulnerability lately. Thinking about what it means to open myself up, flaws and all, and say to the world, "Here I am. Take it or leave it." Thinking about what it means to let people in, and to keep people out. Thinking about what it means to trust others with your vulnerability. Thinking about what it feels like to be exposed. All sorts of esoteric, big-picture ideas, right?

Turns out, there's nothing like a half-naked public picture of yourself to remind you what exposure and vulnerability really feel like.

So anyway, world, here I am. Flaws and all (though Jessie covers them nicely.) Take it or leave it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


"The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life."
-- Zadie Smith

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about The Perfect Novel. Reading articles lamenting the lack of Great Literary Works being published these days and the paucity of Bright New Young Talent (young, in the literary world, being defined as anyone under 40). Wondering where the Voice of My Generation is, wondering what they would sound like, what they would write about, what they would say. Wondering if there can even be a Voice of My Generation anymore, especially after reading some article somewhere that pointed out that the previous Voices of Generations all tended to be white and male…not at all in vogue in today’s climate of multiculturalism…meaning that the whole concept of a Voice of a Generation may well be bunk to begin with.

Then along comes Zadie Smith, who just wrote an absolutely brilliant article on the act of judging literature, the uneasy relationship between truth and fiction (and between the writer’s truths and the writer’s communication of said truths), and the real reason why there are so few Great Literary Works published in any generation.

It’s a long article, but if you have any interest in literature (or, say, were an English major in college) read it in its entirety. It’s one of the more fascinating and spot-on essays I’ve read in awhile.

Here’s one snippet:

It is impossible to convey all of the truth of all our experience. When we write, similarly, we have the idea of a total revelation of truth, but cannot realize it. And so, instead, each writer asks himself which serviceable truths he can live with, which alliances are strong enough to hold… In what form, asks the writer, can I most truthfully describe the world as it is experienced by this particular self? And it is from that starting point that each writer goes on to make their individual compromise with the self, which is always a compromise with truth as far as the self can know it. That is why the most common feeling, upon re-reading one's own work, is Prufrock's: "That is not it at all ... that is not what I meant, at all ..." Writing feels like self-betrayal, like failure.

It is possible I think this article is so brilliant because it addresses quite directly a few intellectual quandaries I've been having. She sums up it up pretty neatly -- the essential problem of writing something that is real and authentic and true, but is also fiction.

Perhaps I should back up.

I’ve been picking, very casually, very occasionally, at a novel. Ooh, that felt weird to type. It’s not really something I talk about. It’s nowhere near anything yet, and it may well never be. I’m just picking at the edges right now...chiseling a little at the corners, curious as to what shape the marble may hold.

I’ve always assumed I would write a novel someday. (The fact that I have no real experience, or talent for, writing fiction being only a minor obstacle.) I know it in the same way (I think) other people know they will have kids. Not sure when, not sure how (well, they might technically know *how*….), not sure in what way kids will fit into the overall plan…but part of the plan nonetheless. That’s what my novel feels like to me.

It’s inside my skin. There are times I can feel its physical presence inside me…can almost make out its contours. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly inspired to write, or when I can’t get certain phrases or ideas out of my head until I write them down, I think of my novel like a splintering bone. I think these phrases are bone spurs, digging their way through to the surface of my skin, and my only job, at the moment, is to pick them out, write them down and hold them for safekeeping. I have files and files of random sentences I’m keeping safe.

I’ve gone through a lot lately that has been inspiring random phrases, paragraphs, or even whole pages. And so I’ve been thinking a lot about writing as the revelation of truths. Writing fiction as an act of figuring out my own, real-world, life…of analyzing its patterns, of making it feel meaningful, of subjecting it to a poetic standard. Like Smith, writing keeps me from sleepwalking through my life. But also like Smith, I wonder which truths I pick. Where is the line between fiction and autobiography? What truths do I – can I – reveal, and what truths do I mix with what lies?

Any introductory creative writing class will tell you to “write what you know.” I want to write something that will ring true, that is an authentic representation of a real experience. And yet I also have a sense that a novel should be a little grander – reach more, aim higher, dream bigger. The stakes need to be higher and the themes bigger than just the tiny experience of one individual. A great novel lifts us up.

And therein lays the problem, as Smith points out. When we write to communicate Big Ideas and Grand Themes, we lose touch with the truths we know. We stop representing a real experience and start representing a clichéd conception of that experience. It’s Baudrillard’s simulacrum (that one’s for you, E.) – we start to think that this clichéd representation of experience is the real thing, and that experiences that do not fit this pattern are inauthentic…when, in fact, they are the most authentic of all because they are real.

Which brings me back to all this Voice of Our Generation stuff…because, of course, that’s the real hidden dream here. To write a novel is one thing, but to write a novel that speaks to the dreams and yearnings and questions and problems of whole generation…well, that's the ultimate, right? But in striving to represent those Great Themes, you risk running afoul of all the Great Clichés that are out there.

Such as, for example, the Great Cliché of the young writer dreaming big about her Great American Novel (which, once published, would propel her instantly into Voice of Her Generation status)... but not actually having a clue what that novel would be about or, for that matter, how to write even halfway decent fiction in the first place. Yep, walked right into that one.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dance, Magic, Dance

WFUV out of Fordham (which is, by the way, my new favorite radio station, a permanent desktop fixture in my 8:30 to 5:30 life now that I have some speakers in my office...check it out) is running a David Bowie tribute today. Turns out, Mr. Bowie is the big 6-0.

Which I find incredibly creepy, because David Bowie was my first sexual crush, back before I even knew what sex was. My third-grade self really wanted to do Bowie (not that I knew what wanting to "do" someone would actually entail), and now he's 60. I know I have a penchant for older men, but c'mon...this is a bit ridiculous.

Not that I think I'm the only pre-teenage girl in the world to get the hots for Bowie. Have you seen Labyrinth? David dancing around, swiveling his hips in those skin tight pants, revealing a, well, bulge bigger than one might think possible? Glammed out with make-up and bigger hair, looking oh-so vulnerable and available while cuddling a baby? Still wearing those, um, pants? In fact, I can't recall a single conversation with anyone about that movie (and being one of my all-time favorites, I've had more than a few such conversations) that didn't center on the state of Bowie's lower body. It's so damn obvious, how could you not talk about it?

10 year old me, staring at the TV, trying not to stare at Bowie's package, not even knowing why I wanted to stare at his package but having a vague feeling that I wasn't supposed to (but why, I also wasn't sure), and thus wanting to all the more so. Ah, the lure of the forbidden.

And now Bowie is 60.

And all the third-grader left in me can think is, "ewwwww."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Wild Yea-Saying Overburst of American Joy

As a voracious reader and literature-junky, I like to talk about books with people. A lot. I love finding out what others are reading, trading favorite authors, discussing well-loved books. I like to think who I am and how I think and what I do are, in many ways, shaped by what I read. ("I am well-read, therefore I am.")

I just finished a conversation with a good friend about this topic, and I've been mad to blog about it every sense. (The phrasing of being "mad" to do anything being a direct influence from Kerouac, for example.)

I was talking about Erica Jong, one of my favorite writers in a slightly guilty-pleasure sort of way. (Why a female writing about sex, even if it is profound, well-written and moving, should be a "guilty pleasure" is a whole other topic of conversation. Or, if I were more influenced by Ms. Jong, psycho-analysis.)

I went to see Jong speak at the Brookline Booksmith a few months ago, hoping and expecting for some form of transformation and salvation. See, I've been reading her since I was 17, when I first found a battered old copy of "How to Save Your Own Life." In many ways, that book changed my life (more on this later), and I felt a deep need to tell her this when I saw her. (I'm sure she gets that all the time and is, in fact, sick to death of hearing it. Still, I think if someone has changed your life, you ought to tell them if you get a chance, and I was determined to do so.) For a variety of reasons, her attitude and demeanor not being the least of them, this plan was a flop, and I left feeling incredibly disappointed.

But that's a minor side point. What this whole conversation got me thinking about is what books have literally changed my life. Not influenced my thinking, not made me reconsider my position on issues, not thrilled me or made my life more enjoyable. These things are nice, but not the big prize here...I'm talking about books that have very literally caused me to change my actions, to change the way I live my life, to change the course of my destiny.

Being a literature snob, I instantly want to bring up Blake, whose "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" I thought revolutionary sophomore year of college. I want to bring up Kundera, who made me reconsider my relationship to politics, to power, with sex, with love, with others, through his writings in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I want to bring up Faulkner, or Hemingway, or Morrison, writers whose collected works I have generally devoured and who I like to think of as pretty damn influential on...well, something in me, since I've read so much of what they've written. I want to bring up Kushner and Albee, whose plays I have read, watched, and worked on for hours and hours and hours, the lines of which I can still quote in my sleep. I want to bring up Kerouac, who (besides injecting the word "mad" into my vocabulary in a new sense) gave me Dean Moriarty and his yea-saying ways -- a constant reminder and inspiration to say yes to whatever life offers. Or Anais Nin, which I'm reading now, and is affecting me in many ways as Jong did when I was a teenager.

But I can't. As much as I've loved these writings, pondered and analyzed these words, and absorbed these concepts into my thinking, I can't honestly claim that any have changed my life.

To my mind, two books have: Erica Jong's How to Save Your Own Life and Rob Sangster's The Traveller's Toolkit. Sort of an embarrassing list, actually, but these are the ones.

I picked up Jong at 17, and I read about sex and relationships in a way I never had before. I think this was one of those second wave feminism books that came out in the 1960's and 70's, words that revolutionized and scandalized readers by talking about female orgasms (gasp!) and sex before marriage (double gasp!) and even multiple partners and lesbian affairs and all the rest (can't-breath-i'm-gasping-so-much). I wasn't terribly scandalized by any of this (well, maybe at the age of 17, I was a little scandalized by the orgies.) But I was intrigued and amazed by Jong's frankness when it came to relationships -- and, in particular, the way sex did and did not relate to love. Perhaps most of all it was her entirely rule-breaking, totally nonjudgmental, experiential-based approach to sex and love that resonated the most with me. I hadn't read Kerouac yet, but Jong was a yea-sayer, too.

I won't get into too many sordid details here, but I will say that I am positive that being exposed to Jong's philosophy of living changed my life.

Book number two I picked up at a used bookstore in Washington DC. (Right next to Eastern Market...and if you are ever there, I highly recommend a visit. The shopkeeper makes a point of insulting everyone that comes into the's really quite a sight to watch. ) They had a great selection of used travel books, and I picked up a whole collection of late 90's Lonely Planet guides to all sorts of cool places in the world. I was planning my Watson fellowship application at the time (for those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a program that allows you to travel around the world working on a special project of your design. Fucking awesome, and I didn't get it. But things work out, regardless.) I had originally been dead set on doing the Europe thing...until I picked up this book by Rob Sangster. It's basically a how-to book for first time travelers, although I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of planning a long trip, especially to less developed countries, even if they've traveled before.

Sangster made going to third world (sorry to be less than PC, "less developed" is just such an awkward phrase to use) countries seem accessible, doable, and far more fascinating than anything I could see in Europe. He took the fear factor out of it. His book opened me up to the possibility of going to places a little more off the beaten trail...leading me, eventually, to plan a six month backpacking trip all on my own through India, Thailand and Japan. He not only convinced me that I could do it, but that I had to do it.

And his philosophy of travel -- seeking out adventures, traveling cheaply so as to get to know the culture, but not so cheaply that you ended up miserable, being flexible and able to roll with the punches, focusing the trip on meeting people and learning the culture rather than seeing specific sights, not losing sight of the bigger picture whenever the traveling got frustrating and rough, and being a responsible traveler -- became my philosophy of travel. I not only chose my destination and made my trip happen because of what he had to say, but I had a far more enjoyable and successful trip because I had read his book.

So there it is -- sex and travel. The true impact of literature on my life!

I'm still trying to come up with other books that make the cut, but those are what I have thus far. I'd love to hear from others, and tell me what books have truly changed your life. I'm betting it will be a fascinating list.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I'd Like to Vote on Your Marriage

Sometimes you've got to go with your gut.

I've been agonizing for months over whether or not I thought the Legislature should vote on the gay marriage amendment. (Okay, so agonizing...maybe an overstatement. Even I'm not that obsessive, nerdy, or angsty.) I've been considering it. Going back and forth. Trying to figure out my opinion on the topic.

(I'd like to assume it goes without saying that I absolutely 100% think gay marriage should be legal and, indeed, is a civil right, etc etc etc. I also think the concept of "letting the people vote" on a civil right is absolutely abhorrent, a tyranny of the [potential] majority, and the reason we have things like Bills of Rights. I'd hope that was blatantly obvious to anyone who stumbled across this blog...but in case you're not a regular reader, let me clear that one up right away.)

I also have a great respect for process, and a good liberal loyalty to its sanctity. Ever since Politics 105 (Obies, you know it), I've thought process over product was a pretty sound theory, a method of policymaking that led, in the end, of the overall best product and the best protection of individual rights on the grander scale.

So this legislative vote has been a tough one for me. I thought Sam Allis wrote a great essay on the topic. He calls himself a process liberal, and I think I agree with him. But I also thought
Dan Kennedy got it right when he made an analogy between refusing to vote to put gay marriage on the ballot to refusing to vote to put slavery on the ballot. In other words, I've been all over the place on this issue.

But really, debating whether or not they should of voted isn't the point of this post. (After all, it's been done ad naseum in the Globe, the Herald, and on the blogs (just go check out
Blue Mass Group if you're really not sick of it yet.)

My point is that the second I heard that the legislature had voted to advance the anti-gay marriage amendment, I knew instantly where I stood. I was angry, I was upset, I was swearing in my office. (My co-workers, I'm sure, think I'm insane.) I didn't give a damn that they "upheld the sanctity of the process" or whatever bullshit language I was quoting to friends a few weeks ago. The bastards decided it was okay, actually okay, to vote on whether my friends, me, or anyone else I know can marry someone they love. I don't even care that most of them voted against it. They put it to a vote. They thought it was something they had the right to decide. I've got two words for them -- and for Mr. Senate President in particular -- fuck. off.

Even better, they didn't, in the end, give a whit about the process anyway. They refused to vote on the Health Care Amendment, which faced a similar fate as the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment. (But I bet you aren't going to hear the editorial staff at the Herald or the leaders of the Vote on Marriage groups complain about that, will you?) Turns out, they (or at least some of them) only cared about the "process" when they were getting a little public scrutiny on the subjects. There was no practically no media attention given to the health care amendment, and, hence, no vote.

Oh, the hypocrisy.

On the other hand, nice to know public outrage counts for something.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

There's no "I" in Communicate

A late night post after hours of with one of my best friends from high school. (Amazing/funny/wonderful how you fall into old patterns with old friends; we're both well past 21 these days, and yet to go anywhere but Perkins, our old stomping ground, feels a bit, well, sacrilegious.) As a result, it's 2am and my mind is running a million miles a minute. I'd like to keep the thoughts straight and type them in a fairly linear fashion, but I fear tonight I might only achieve general incoherency. We'll see.

(Why I apparently feel the need to preface my blog posts with semi-self conscious comments about what they may or may not be like is a whole other topic.)

I'm thinking about communication tonight. Actually, I think about communication a lot. I like to think I'm even pretty good at it, being a "communications professional" and all. I suppose when it comes to communicating with the general public I'm alright, but lately I'm starting to wonder if I am capable of communicating properly with real, individual people at all.

As it turns out, it doesn't really matter if you are good at expressing your thoughts coherently and engagingly in an email or conversation. Wit, charm, and sincere honesty (all of which I'm sure I posses in abundance...) don't really go far if the person on the other end of the conversation isn't actually catching your true meaning through all the witty, well-worded statements.

Communication is about the exchange of meanings. It's about you understanding what it is I am trying to tell you - exactly what I am trying to tell you -- and I understanding exactly what it is you are trying to tell me. So it's an individualist thing; you're trying to communicate with an individual person, not an anonymous stranger. You may well be "great" at communicating your thoughts and feelings, but if you don't communicate them in such a way that the person on the other end actually gets the meaning you are hoping they get, then it's worthless. And, similarly, you can be the best listener in the world, but if you misread what they are trying to tell you, then what's the point?

I recently uncovered a whole series of misunderstands with a friend based on this simple fact. I misread his meaning, and reacted accordingly. And then he misread my actions, because he didn't know they came from me misreading his meaning. And so on and so forth. We ended up having this drawn out fight -- a bit of a Cold War, really -- just because we kept misreading what the other meant, or felt, or was trying to say.

And while I might think that I was communicating my thoughts and feelings well, or that I was entirely justified in (mis)reading his words a certain way, none of that really matters, because in the end, for all our words, we didn't actually communicate.

What tragedies are built upon simple miscommunication. What hurts created, what wrongs unrighted, what wars started and peace offerings lost. What a tangled mess we weave, without even practicing to deceive. We just deceive ourselves.

So my new resolution - close enough to the New Year to possibly fall into that category, but one I'm trying to practice beginning immediately - is to learn to communicate with a person, rather than an anonymous entity that behaves by certain rules and can be interpreted in easily boxed ways. Individuals, after all, are weird, and quirky, and they don't always behave logically or predictably. And to remember that just because I react a certain way or communicate in a certain fashion, does not mean others will react similarly or have the same communication style as I. To stop worrying about being so damn clever, and start worrying about how I can get my point across, cleverly or not.

I want to exchange real meanings, and not just your typical pretty, witty, banter. I want to learn the real meanings behind the words of others, and not fall into the over-interpretation trap. A little more taking-things-at-face-value (and, while we're at it, a litte more loving-people-for-who-they-are) and a little more giving people the benefit of the doubt. At least until I know for sure what it was they really meant.