Friday, March 19, 2010

Thanks, but no thanks: Why you shouldn't email strangers to invite them to things

Months ago, the band Lifehouse put up their tour dates on their website.  I checked them out, and while the Boston date was a Saturday night (which is convenient), I didn't think it would be easy to get tickets, and I didn't think I could afford them.  I commented on the tour date, saying that I might try to see if I could get my sister to get me tickets, but that I wouldn't be going.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a young man named Matt; he had seen my comment on the website and wanted to know if I wanted to go to the concert with him.  He had purchased tickets, but before he asked any of his friends to go with him, he thought he would invite another Lifehouse fan.  I found the email sincere, but still a bit over the line.  I politely declined his offer, and never heard from him again.

This morning, I found another email in my inbox.  Actually, two emails.  One said that someone had posted a comment on my profile on the Lifehouse site.  I logged in and read the message, which was almost identical to the second email in my inbox.

Another young man named Adam had seen the same comment and wanted to know if I wanted to go with him to the concert.  He had apparently purchased two tickets to the concert, but his friend couldn't go.  He said it wouldn't be a date or anything, but that we could meet for dinner beforehand, and he attached a photo of himself.  He also said that the ticket would be free.

Both KJ and BF agreed with me: This guy wants a date.  I politely declined his offer as well, adding that I would be busy Saturday night anyway, meeting BF's parents.

So what's the problem here?  Two men offered to take me to a concert that I wanted to go to.  What's the big deal?

The big deal is that they thought it was appropriate to email me in the first place.  And that they offered to go with me, not just sell me an extra ticket.  And that the Lifehouse website is not a dating site, where one can expect to have strangers send emails inviting one to rock concerts.

Not only that, but this ties back (for me, at least) to the whole idea of not wanting to engage or be engaged with male strangers.  If a female stranger messaged me with a similar offer, I might be more inclined to say yes (or say no, but only because I'm meeting BF's parents that night), without worrying, "What if this female stranger is into women and hits on me?"  Not only would this hypothetical situation never happen, but if it did anyway, it would be much different--for the same reason that it would never happen.  It's men who invite female strangers to concerts; it's men who say hi and demand that female strangers smile on the street; it's men who openly stare at female strangers on the train.*

* Okay, so I was reading Bonk by Mary Roach, which is the funniest book about sex ever.  She's one of the few authors who actually makes me laugh out loud for real.  And this Jewish EMT (yarmulke + EMT jacket) kept turning around and staring at me.  He was one row up on the train, and I wasn't even laughing constantly.  It wasn't like I was on the T, where you're sort of staring into space and you suddenly realize that what you thought was just space is actually this other person's face.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Massachusetts Health Care

I like Massachusetts health care reform.  Then again, I'm privileged enough to have always had health insurance.  But last night, while filing my taxes,* I ran into a small problem.

I was on my father's insurance plan until June of this year, when I switched to my employer's plan.  My new insurer sent me form 1098-HC, so I could prove on my state taxes that I had coverage (since you get tax penalties otherwise).  But I received no such form to prove I had coverage during the first six months of the year, and while I assume my dad got such a form, I don't think he realized that, you know, I needed it.

I tried various things to get the Turbotax program to recognize that yes, I had coverage, since I was on my dad's insurance, but the program is a little dense, apparently.  And then I got lucky.  I never threw out my health plan card from the old insurer.  So I just looked up the federal ID number for the insurer, and then I had all the info I needed to say, "Yeah, I was insured from January through May."  Phew.

* I'm not done filing my taxes.  All I need to know now is whether or not my parents COULD have claimed me as a dependent.  On the one hand, they paid college tuition and my rent.  On the other hand, I had already moved out and by June was self-sufficient.  I'm 99% sure they could have claimed me, but if they couldn't have, I'd get such an amazing return ...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In which I gush about adorable little birdehs

Or one adorable little birdeh in particular.

- Loki has begun to demand, "Kiss!"  It's my fault; I taught him.  If I hear him say, "Gimme a kiss," or "Kiss!" I make a kissing noise.  You know, to reinforce the behavior.  And because, what, it's cute!

- His wings are in a half-clipped, half-not state, resulting in unattractive and useless flight feathers (the other ones haven't grown in yet).  I can't clip the long ones because I have no idea where my scissors are (for real; it's not like the times where I say I don't know where my W-2s are, when I really know that all my tax forms are in one of the boxes I throw all important files into).  But since he can't actually fly, he can't decide when he gets to go back into his cage.  He has to either come back to me, or he has to convince me that he's so cute and I should get off my ass and come get him.  This has resulted, all the fucking time, in him getting stuck trying to climb back up his cage stand.
Until tonight, when he managed to figure out he could grab the cage bars if he climbed up a certain way.  Yay for him!

- He really likes Bill, which is adorable because Bill really likes him.  This is pretty huge considering that Bill is the first person to come over on a regular basis and automatically take Loki out of his cage as long as we're not about to go out to dinner or fool around.  Most of my friends are either outright afraid of Loki, or cautiously friendly for my sake.  Very interesting.

- Loki's favorite song?  Lady Gaga's Love Game.  Really.  No, really.  I'm NOT looping Telephone for him (although he liked the video).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Really, I have weird dreams

Last night, among other things that I can't remember very well, I dreamt that I was in a flute trio, and that we were performing two different pieces.  I forget one piece, but the other was one of the movements from C.P.E. Bach's Sonata in c minor (which is actually a SOLO flute piece).  For some reason, I needed to play piccolo on my part for that piece, but I left my picc in my apartment because, like a normal flutist, I didn't know I was supposed to have a piccolo for what I've always known as a solo flute piece.

But it was late, and we were supposed to perform soon, so the other flutes decided to play the other piece without me (with someone standing in, I guess), and I ran to get my picc in time for the CPE.  But as I was leaving, I heard the other flutes playing the CPE without me, and I was really confused.

And then I couldn't find a Trader Joe's, but there was this massive Barnes and Noble that was about the size of an entire mall.  Really.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Love, Sex, Marriage

There's no right way to do love, sex, or marriage.  I'm sure there are plenty of wrong ways, of course, but wrong ways and not-wrong ways depend on individual people, at specific times in their lives.  It's so individual and time-sensitive and complicated that I constantly look back and, even if I think I made the right decision then, I can't imagine making that same decision now.  And so on.

I've been thinking about this issue lately because my brother's getting married, one of my friends slept with one of her friends and is now in a relationship with him, another of my friends has had casual sex but prefers to be in love before having sex with a boyfriend, and another friend of mine is two years my junior, and waited until he got married to have sex.  And I'm about to have sex for the first time with my new boyfriend (not "about to" like "in five minutes;" I mean this weekend).

I don't fall in love easily anymore, although it's not as if I do it enough to have a good sample size.  I've been infatuated with guys plenty of times, but I've been in legitimate love twice: once with a high school friend with whom I have a ridiculous history fraught with fights, and once with my college boyfriend.  Falling in love with my high school friend probably happened over the course of several years.  He may disagree, but I feel like we had a very Ross and Rachel approach: when I had a crush on someone, that was fine, but when I didn't, I didn't like hearing that he was interested in someone else.  Very much the, "I don't want to date him, but I don't want anyone else to either" mindset.  But by the time I realized how I really felt about him, it was too late, and now, I think it was very much for the best.

With my college boyfriend, we had sex before I was in love with him, which wasn't "intentional," but certainly we were aware of it and didn't care.  It was 6 weeks after we'd first hooked up, and we both wanted to have sex and were ready for it (emotionally, and in terms of having privacy and birth control, etc.).  Why should either of us wait until we were in love?  That could take ages.  As it happened, I fell in love with him a couple of months later, and he never fell in love with me.

I've had friends tell significant others, "I love you," (or vice versa) within a week of dating.  That's not me, but it works for them, and many of them have had lasting, healthy relationships even if that's how a relationship starts.  And hell, my high school boyfriend and I said the L-word within about 2 weeks of starting a relationship (I mean, we weren't in love, but what did we know?  We were 16!).  But I don't want to say something when it's not true.  And when it is true, I'll say it.

But I don't wait for love to have sex.  While I'm not going to make the claim that sex is just as meaningful as making out (or meaningless), I don't think it's that big a deal.  It's just sex.  Besides, there are different ways to have sex.  So sex is just ... a guy putting his penis into someone's hole.  Or a woman wearing a strap-on and doing the same thing.  Or a person using their mouth and/or hands to stimulate a partner.  It can be meaningful or meaningless, but the meaning is subjective.  There's no objective meaning attached to sexual activity.

So I don't have to be in love with someone to have sex with them if that's not a meaning I attribute to sex.  I don't have to marry someone to have sex with them if I don't see a connection.  And I don't even have to be in a relationship with someone in order to have sex with them if I don't see the connection there either.

For me, sex is something I do with a boyfriend I trust, and who I expect to be in a long-term relationship with.  It doesn't have to wait till I'm in love.  It doesn't have to wait until a certain amount of time has passed.  I have to feel ready for it, my partner has to feel ready for it, and we both have to discuss what it means for each of us so that neither of us gets into something we're not prepared for.  We need privacy and we need to use contraception properly.  We have to know we're STD-free, and we have to know what we'll do if I get pregnant.  So, if these requirements have been taken care of, why wait?

I'm feeling a bit testy about this issue right now because one of my friends, the one who waited until he was married to have sex with his now-wife, wasn't very supportive when I mentioned to him that I was planning on having sex with my boyfriend this coming weekend.  He thought that it was way too soon (my boyfriend and I started seeing each other at the end of January), although he couldn't really expand on that.  He acknowledged that he considers sex to be up there with marriage vows, and I respect that.  But at the same time, he couldn't really expand on why it was too soon for me to have sex with my boyfriend.  After all, I've had sex before.  And if I'm okay with having sex with someone I'm not in love with, why does it matter?  I don't know, he just wasn't supportive.

My only other sexual relationship ended badly.  I was heartbroken for months, and I still bear a lot of emotional scarring.  I'm slightly terrified of how things are going to go with my current boyfriend because of all the shit I went through with my last one, mostly in terms of sex.  But so many of the problems in that last relationship were because of my boyfriend, and my own inability to stand up for myself and what I wanted.  I'm sure my current boyfriend and I will have plenty of our own problems.  But that's not a good reason to wait indefinitely to have sex.  And sex isn't why my last relationship was such a disaster.

I know what's right for me.  And I trust my boyfriend to know what's right for him.  That's what matters.


I've recently begun a relationship with a man I'll call Brad.  He's my age, and also a recent college grad, and he's also looking to work in healthcare as a career.  We met on JDate, which I find absolutely hilarious because, well, it's JDate.*

As many of my friends know, and as many people could probably guess, one of the reasons I've had a hard time dating in the past is because I have "ridiculous" standards for a partner.  That is, as a progressive feminist woman, I expect certain things in relationships (respect, equality) and I've wanted a partner who cares about the same things I do without just saying so to get in my pants (i.e. also progressive, aware of his** privileges--whatever they may be--not ridiculously insecure about his masculinity).  I want to be able to get annoyed about the overt racism of Avatar without my partner telling me I should just enjoy the movie for what it's "meant" to be.  I want to be able to talk about sexual violence without my partner expressing rape-apologetic sentiments.  I want to be myself without worrying that my partner really doesn't like me for who I am and is really hoping I'll change and become what he wants me to be.

In the past, I haven't had that.  And while no one has every just told me to change those standards,*** that's been the overall societal pressure.  Go out on dates with guys you don't like because it's a free meal.  Get used to the idea that I won't be with someone who's as politically liberal as I am.  Change my standards until any guy could potentially meet them because I'd be lucky to have any guy who would be okay with dating a feminist woman.  Again, no one's ever said these things outright.  But it's there.  Besides, there's the constant backlash to feminism, the one that says, "Feminist women are ugly, man-hating lesbians; in order to stop being perceived as an ugly, man-hating lesbian who no man would ever want to fuck, you have to abandon feminism."


I don't have to deal with that with Brad.  He was interested in me because of my feminism and my progressive political views.  And likewise me with him; I was immediately interested in this man who didn't just say he was pro-choice because he knew that's what I wanted to hear.  It came up in conversation that he had been an escort for an abortion clinic.  Here was a guy who didn't just say he was pro-choice because he didn't care about the issue; he actually understands the need for abortion for the sake of women's lives.

Last night, while we were driving back to the suburbs from Boston, he and I were talking.  I can't remember how it came up, but he mentioned to me that he's been told before that he shouldn't hold other people to his standards (regarding social justice, politics, etc.), but that he doesn't care if his standards are "too high."  And I realize how amazing it feels to have someone desire you not in spite of your personal convictions, but because of them.  And I'm glad that I can reciprocate!

* I've realized recently that some people, especially people outside of the Jewish community, aren't familiar with JDate.  It's a specifically Jewish dating site (for example, under "religion," your options are things like "Reform, Conservative, Culturally but not practicing," etc., or "Willing to convert," and "ethnicity" means whether you're Ashkenazi or Sephardic), and it's meant to sort of take the place of matchmakers in modern society.  It's not the greatest dating site (I think I prefer some of the aspects of OKCupid), and it's fucking expensive if you want to be able to do things like read and send messages.  But it's pretty much the best place to meet potential mates who are Jewish.

I've always experienced JDate as sort of a joke in the Jewish community.  Not that no one uses it; it's wildly popular.  It's just even worse than saying you met someone on  It's like caving to years of a Jewish grandmother trying to set you up with a doctor (have I told my grandmother that I'm dating someone who's planning on going to medical school?  NOPE).

** Sexuality, especially my own, is a complicated topic.  I don't consider myself "straight," even though I've only ever dated and had romantic/sexual relationships with men.  Who knows if I'll someday meet and fall in love with a woman?  And, furthermore, who really cares?  Right now, though, I know I like men, and I've never liked women, so I was looking for a boyfriend, not either a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

*** I have been told outright to drop other standards, such as my typing requirement (if you can't IM me or message me in proper English, then don't bother).  Or my standard that I need to be at least marginally interested in a guy to go out with him.  People probably find it much harder to suggest that I date another Libertarian.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Matrix ... for feminists!

This post applies specifically to feminism, but it also applies to other forms of progressive thinking.  I'm aware of that.  It's good to be aware of that.  But right now, for this post, I'm going to focus on this idea as it pertains to feminism and sex/gender issues.

Today, speaking with a progressive friend, I was reminded of a discussion that I had with another progressive friend about the inability to just "forget" about social injustice.  That is, you know when your friend didn't like that Avatar was blatantly racist and you told h/er to just relax, stop thinking about it, and enjoy the movie?  And s/he said s/he couldn't?  It also ties into the idea that these social injustices were once invisible to you, even as they were all around you; it's why that progressive friend of yours sees sexism in commercials when you don't.

Look, it's the Matrix.  Okay?  Take patriarchy, for example.  It's the Matrix!  It's a system of control.  It's so widespread, that many people can't even see it.  Some people benefit from it, and would do anything to preserve it.  Others rebel, demand a choice, and refuse to be slaves or participants.  And then the system does whatever it can to stamp out, vilify, and discredit those who would rebel and try to undermine the system.

No, seriously.

I was just living my life, up through high school, sometimes feeling badly about myself for no reason, sometimes feeling uncomfortable about certain things for no reason.  I knew it wasn't okay for me to be fat because then I'd never have a cute boyfriend or have sex, things that I knew were important because otherwise I didn't have much worth as a person.  Never mind that this mindset made me unhappy.  I knew that I was embarrassed when classmates would grab at my returned tests or homework assignments and say, "See, of COURSE you got an A!" as if it were a bad, shameful thing.   I didn't like being a brain, although I didn't know what was wrong with it.  I didn't understand why girls who didn't care so much about school and homework and grades were the ones who the boys liked better.  I thought it was weird, but I didn't know why it was like that.
Sometime in college, I took the red pill, to continue this Matrix analogy.  It wasn't that I'd been TOTALLY happy thus far and then SUDDENLY could see all this injustice.  If I had been so satisfied, and I felt as if everything was right in the world, I probably never would have taken the opportunity to be given the choice of the red or blue pill.  But I was there, and I made my choice: I was going to take these classes and see what would happen.

It wasn't pleasant.  It's never all that pleasant.  Plenty of people are proud of their alma maters, but I'm not; I know how they treat rape victims.  I used to enjoy watching Family Guy; now I don't find it funny.  And while I know that whether or not I have a boyfriend says nothing about who I am as a person, or about my worth to society, or about the validity of my opinions, I'm painfully aware that a lot of other people, and a lot of men especially, think so.  I know that rape victims are not complicit in their own violation, and so I live with the knowledge of that helplessness.

Being able to recognize and understand is often painful.  But I can't just forget everything.  I can't go back to how things were.  And I don't really want to.  Those of us who've taken the red pill?  We're like Neo; it's impossible for us to see the patriarchy as anything other than a construct designed to control people and make so many of them miserable.  You might just see a commercial for jewelry, but we can see that the whole thing is made up of patriarchy, in the same way that Neo sees the numbers and symbols of the Matrix.