Sunday, January 4, 2015

Movement

I've been super remiss about blogging and so much has happened.

I'm pregnant. We left Germany and stayed in NY for a few months. We have now relocated to Los Angeles and I'm one day from being 28 weeks along (or 7 months). We're having a little girl and she is a fierce little kicker. My brain has been occupied with so many hopes, worries, excitement and concern. Past few months have been some of the strangest of my life.

What's pregnancy like? Well, it's weird. For me at least. Physically it's been a series of adjustments and I can't say as I've liked them all. Having someone else occupy my literal body space has, I won't lie, been challenging emotionally sometimes. My shape has become distorted, that's what pregnancy does, so there are days when I feel huge and strange and not quite myself. I'm not a slim pregnant woman, I'm plump and round and that's just how it is. Accepting that is a daily process, but I wouldn't change any of it. And I think pregnant women should be able to say they don't love every second of this without being shamed. By anyone. We should be able to talk about the reality of it without censure, without anyone acting like it means we don't really want our growing babies or motherhood.

But I'm proud to say that my baby is growing, according to every doc, "perfectly", and that whatever else goes on in my head, there's never been a question of her getting what she needs. I eat well, for some reason cantaloupe and grapes have loomed large, and I do my best to treat myself kindly and gently. Which is a little challenging, honestly. I'm used to being able to push myself harder. These days if I need a nap, I take it.

Pregnancy is such a personal thing, such a vulnerable state, and to a degree, isolating, My husband is amazing and has been the most supportive rock you can imagine. But he can't really understand what this feels like or share in it. "We" are not pregnant, and bless him, he thinks that entire idea is ridiculous. Now that the baby's kicks are more substantial (it's like some tiny game of ping pong in there sometimes) he can at least feel some of it. But he can't know what it's like to have someone pressing on his lungs from the inside, or turning over with hard little elbows, or poking him in the bladder. His stomach doesn't move when she turns over or presses on a nerve I feel in my teeth and scalp.

And now we're in Los Angeles where I get to, hopefully, raise my daughter around water and art and warmth. We've move into our new apartment next week, I start on a bunch of a new projects tomorrow, and finally get into birthing classes and making hospital plans. It's terrifying to think about, really.

There are so many things I want for this kid, but what I'm looking forward to most is meeting her. I want to get to know the person who has been kicking me and poking me and whose sweet little profile charmed us both in the ultrasound.

I'll worry about the everything else as it comes.




Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sexy & Comics & Covers

Unless you’ve been living under a comics news blocking rock, you’ll have noticed a series of complicated and heated conversations about a variant cover for the new Spider-Woman comic. It was painted by Milo Manara and could probably be best summed up as Dat Ass. As most outlets said straight away, Manara is a European erotic artist with many decades worth of (often) hardcore erotic comics/art under his belt. There seem to be about 14 covers total that Manara has been commissioned to do so far by Marvel for various titles.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, in a nutshell: a lot of people were wondering about the choice to have an erotic artist do this variant, which was featured prominently in Previews, to represent a book that was recently announced at SDCC during a Women of Marvel panel. The book was promoted as “for a female audience”, is not a mature reader book, and has since had some art choices that left a lot of people scratching their heads about the mixed messaging.

Personally, along with the problems above, I think it’s a weird choice for a #1 and not a super great example of the kind of pinup art Manara is capable of. You can see much better examples of his work with a quick NSFW Google search or just taking a gander at the other Marvel variants he’s done.

While I don’t have an overall problem with sexy images of women (I worked on a Jenna Jameson book and a Suicide Girls comic, in case you need credentials or whatever), and I’m not offended by this piece, I am perplexed at the use of it for this title.  I think how women are portrayed as sexy, whether they have any personality and agency beyond just sex appeal, and whether or not it’s right for the tone of the story, are all pretty important questions to ask in an industry that has a long history of portraying female characters as sex object first, character a distant second. Since Spider-Woman is not, to my knowledge, a mature reader book, having such an overtly sexual image seems like a strange decision. We set the tone with covers, so it matters whether or not that tone actually reflects the story or not.

In case anyone needs actual proof this qualifies, as Kelly Sue Deconnick has often said, as a “sexy lamp” type of image (ie. If you replaced this pic with that of a sexy lamp, would you get basically the same impression of the character, personality, and story from it? If so, time to rethink it.) I offer these points:

1Milo Manara is a world-renowned erotic artist. He was clearly chosen because of that style and genre. That is obviously why it was commissioned. To be viewed as sexy. No one’s debated that that I can see. It simply indicates the intent of the cover pretty clearly.

2. The choice of pose and the focal point of the piece. There is no getting around that we are meant to look at her presenting position. That butt is the main feature over everything else. The compositional reasons this is the clear goal? The pronounced heart shape, in red, against a dark, receding background that is nowhere near as detailed. The fact that the butt is at the top while the head/face at the bottom draws your attention, when viewing top to bottom as we tend to do, butt first. It draws your eye and holds your attention. An artist as experienced as Manara is very well aware of composition, focal points, and how to draw the viewers eye where he wants it to go. This is why I find arguments that the piece isn’t sexual in nature absurd.

3. That choice of pose defines the piece as sexual object first, character second.

4. The lack of any story elements further defines the piece as sexual image, not story image. A generic city and a ledge, coupled with her pose, make it clear that story was barely a consideration.

5. Her painted on costume. Everything is in service to, and revolves around, the extremely defined butt crack.

6. The choice of back view is so that it can be highly sexual and give the impression of near nudity, but avoid the trappings of “full frontal” on what is not a mature reader or erotic comic. That’s not by accident.

7. Yes, it could also be an interpretation of a classic Spider-man pose. But it is executed differently with a focus on sexuality, not heroism, story, or character. And since Spider-Man is a title for a straight male audience, as we have been told over and over, it’s very unlikely any butt definition going on is intended to sexually interest the intended audience. There’s no way you can argue that about the Spider-Woman cover.

8. If you removed the head from this piece this could be any female character. The body language and pose do not convey any characteristic other than “sex”.

9. The face, which has a partial mask, has a virtually blank expression. It also conveys nothing about the character’s personality. It is passive.

10. Compared to his other covers this one is particularly striking for the overtness of the pose and the lack of doing anything else of relevance in the piece. His other covers show characters in mid action, striking with swords, posing with strength, expressions clear on their faces. That they are also somewhat revealing doesn’t undermine the actual character.


Which brings us to: Arguments and Counter Arguments. (cont after break)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trolls They Be Trollin

Ah, misogynist trolls. I was wondering when one would crawl out and send me a nastrygram about my pregnancy. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and it says precisely what I expected it to.



Fair warning: This comment might upset people who know me or who are just generally not awful human beings. It has some pretty graphic language. So, feel free to skip it or scrub out your brain after.

“Holy shit. Sweetheart, you are seriously too fucked up in the head to have kids. Please, think about the children and get an abortion like now. Yup, stick the scissors in the skull and put that kid out of his misery before it's too late. With someone as neurotic as you for a mother, that kid is going to be seriously fucked up. And no, just because you're able to identify and acknowledge and blog about how fucked up you are with body image problems, panic attacks and obsessive compulsiveness and your tendency towards a perpetual persecution and victimhood complex, that doesn't make you any less fucked up. I'm pretty sure your kids will be gay whether it's a boy or girl. But I feel particularly sad for a boy if that's what you give birth to. You're going to be so obsessive about making sure he chooses his gender identification "wisely" and you'll most likely buy him both girl and boy clothes and make him alternate wearing them on a weekly basis no doubt. If you have a daughter, I'm sure you'll spend many hours reassuring her that being a cutter is perfectly natural and how it's not a parents place to judge. Although I imagine a daughter raised by you, as soon as she was old enough, would make a beeline to the porn industry simply to distract her from how she was raised. Wow. You. Breeding. That is fucking mind blowing. Society's only hope is that your pregnancy goes horribly wrong and you will lose all ability to have children as a result. Of course there's always adoption. But at least an adopted kid has the chance of already being fucked up in the head by being abandoned by his drug addicted crack whore mom. That would be a far better fate than imprinting on your stunning brand of pathological narcissism and hilarious levels of dysmorphia. Word of advice: it's called the morning after pill. Look it up. I hear it's come down in price.”

My general response:




Then this:



And then finally this: 




As you would expect, the above was sent anonymously as a comment on a blog post that’s well over a month old and has nothing to do with anything he’s commenting on. Which means he A. checks in on my Twitter every so often because that’s the only public space I’ve announced my pregnancy B. read through at least enough of my posts to familiarize himself with some of the things I’ve discussed (like BDD) so he can C. further waste his time telling me I’ll be a terrible mom because feminism. I guess that’s like being dedicated, only in a really disturbed way. It’s also a LOT of time to spend on someone you don’t like. But since I suspect the only way he sees anything he’s written published is when he pulls stuff like this, I guess it’s his idea of having a “craft”.



One thing I will say about the above: I feel like the public school system really failed him if he thinks that’s how the morning after pill works. I mean, if you’re going to bother trolling at all, at least try researching what things are. Also, why are trolls so allergic to paragraphs? It’s called the return key, use it.  A giant wall of text isn’t so much a “style” as it is a cry for editorial help.

The purpose of all of this is 1. To be very unpleasant, obviously. 2. To get my attention. Every time I’ve encountered this troll they are VERY put out that I don’t find them particularly noteworthy or engaging so, every few months, they pop back up, wave their arms, and I guess feel accomplished if I acknowledge that they exist? I can’t really express how sad that is as a life goal. If that’s your idea of an accomplishment, you need better hobbies.



Now, of course, by commenting on this and acknowledging it I’m giving him what he wants: a smidgeon of my attention. And I know the “don’t feed the trolls” advice, although I often don’t agree with it. Mostly because forcing me to be silent while they get to be awful without repercussions isn’t really a solution. They still send these messages. They still get off on it. It’s like bullies in school. They just escalate because they feed as much off of you having to deal with them at all, even silently, as they do attention. I’d rather call them out and not let it fester. I’m not any more responsible for what they get out of it than I am their choice to troll in the first place. He can sit around cheering for all I care, trolling is still the most useless way to spend time there is.

And yeah, this person is sad and pathetic and not worth my time. I’m not taking any of this to heart for all the obvious reasons.  Not to mention the fact that none of this is particularly new, imaginative, or interesting. This is the same dreck countless misogynists say. So it’s not even about this one dude and his laughably erroneous view of what a feminist mom would be like is. It’s, at best, an object lesson in absurdity. They couldn’t come up with anything more “scathing” than that my potential child will probably be gay (uh, why is that a bad thing?) and that old chestnut that feminists turn boys into girls or…something. It’s a little too obtuse and silly for serious analysis. As for their “thoughts” on my mental health…trolls commenting on any one’s psychological status is beyond hilarious.



Sadly, all of this isn’t random, it’s deliberate, and it's a choice. And it’s how trolls in general operate. They don’t choose to do anything worthwhile or useful. They use up precious lifetime to just be petty and shitty on the internet for like a hot second of sad, fleeting, mean spirited glee. They could have used that time to start a short story or invent a new kind of sandwich. But for trolls, the entire purpose is to inflict shittiness. As far as goals go, that is really...aiming kind of low. I can’t imagine thinking so little of my own existence that I’d ever waste that kind of energy.

So what does it say about my time that I’m addressing it?  Well, for one thing, that clearly I say things some folks REALLY wish I wouldn’t, so much so that they waste time trying to silence me with personal attacks rather than any kind of reasonable argument. Which signifies to me that, for all that comments like this suck for a minute, I’m clearly having more of a positive impact than they are a negative one. And I get the added benefit of not being human scum. It’s win/win for me, really.




I also think it’s important to tell other people who deal with this that they aren’t alone. That’s it’s ok to feel crappy if you receive messages like this, and it isn’t your fault. You haven’t done anything to deserve it. You just got targeted by someone whose life is so small and so utterly void of purpose that this is all they could think of to do. You could post nothing but cat pics all day, every day, and you’d be adding more value to the world than they are.

As for this troll, I'll let Bilbo and Theoden take it away:






Monday, September 1, 2014

Blorpy The Spudlet

I'm just about 11 weeks pregnant now and my last blog post, sometime in July, with a series of random thoughts, had one that simply said "Sometimes I feel guilty for not having kids". I find it obviously ironic since, when I wrote it, I was unknowingly pregnant. At the time I was pretty sure kids were not going to happen to us for a variety of reasons. So, you know, happy surprises.

Being pregnant is definitely weird. I'm not showing yet or anything, but I can feel a lot of changes. I'm tired a lot and nauseous pretty much all day (all normal, but still). Heartburn, which I've never had before, had been an experience. Oh, and gas. Lots and lots of gas. Those parts are not a lot of fun, although I'm happy otherwise. Naps help a lot. Crackers and tea have become my favorite things.

My doc had me go off of my anxiety medication cold turkey, which I do NOT recommend. My meds are actually considered "safe" during pregnancy, and then you taper off in the last trimester. But German docs are not super fond of brain drugs. I get it, but I would rather have been able to ease off. And the promise of acupuncture in the last trimester? Not really doing anything for all the sickness feelings now. It was also probably the first real example of people deciding things for you because you're pregnant. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Body-wise, I won't lie. Being pregnant is hard when you have BDD. And I haven't even started the major body changes yet. I haven't been having an issue with eating, except for the nausea making it so I have to eat less but more often. The result so far is a happy fetus that's progressing perfectly, swimming around and growing parts.

I don't feel like glossing over the difficult parts of all this. Women in general are expected to never complain, I think pregnant women get this pressure 1000x more. You're expected to be in bliss land, loving every second of the experience. And for some women it's like that and to them I say: thppppt. Well, not really. Mostly I say: you are SO lucky! For the rest, parts of this process are difficult and we don't feel that great.

Admitting that being pregnant isn't a thrill a minute doesn't mean you want it any less or aren't happy about the eventual result. It's just that, like most human experiences, there are ups and downs. I have friends who had truly miserable pregnancies and are great mom's. It's no reflection on anything other than whatever your personal hormone cocktail is doing.

I have, as I expect most pregnant women do, lots of worries big and small. Worry that everything will continue to go well. Worry about all the potential things that can go wrong. Worry about how I'll be as a mom. Annoying, superficial worry about stuff like weight gain. Frankly, I think anyone who isn't worried about what kind of mom they'll be or what the world will be like or the rest is a little weird. Of all the experiences, I should think pregnancy would make you just a little more concerned about...everything. Keeping calm and reminding yourself that billions of people do this is, you know, pretty helpful, honestly.

Anyway, I'll be painting my little versions of what we are affectionately calling "Blorpy" until such time as there's an actual gender involved, a few months from now. Most of the descriptions of embryo's and fetuses involve comparing them to fruit. So naturally it ended up as a blueberry with arm buds. And a cutlass. Because, uhm, being an embryo is probably pretty weird?










Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Random Thought

My mom studied Chaucer when I was little and would practice speaking Old English with me as we listened to Celtic music. 

The sound of my Nana calling my name from downstairs, emphasizing the "rye" sound in the middle with her soft Brooklyn accent.

Our favorite Christmas music tape had folksy covers of all the classics and then would cut to a song called "Dunderbeck" towards the end, all about a guy who invented a sausage meat machine he ends up ground up in. I think it was for kids. It was our favorite part.

On long car trips we'd listen to Shel Silverstein's "There's a Light On in the Attic" so much that I can't read any of those poems without hearing his inflections, laugh, and distinct cadence.

I ripped grass up from the ground once and the sound it made was like a human being growling. I got scared and ran away.

One of my most frequent nightmares is that my Nana has been alive the past 14 years and we all just...forgot about her until now.

Even though I love jewelry I can barely wear any because it makes me hyper aware of whatever part of my body it's on and I get uncomfortable. Necklaces in particular, I feel like I'm choking in them.

As a teenager I hated the thick collars on t-shirts so much I cut or chewed them all off.

One of my favorite movies growing up was Sleeping Beauty because they 3 fairies were amazing and Maleficent turned into a dragon. I thought Aurora was pretty boring.

I often mix up number combinations right after I'm told what they are.

My first experience with trolling was in 4 grade when I wrote a little humorous picture book called "How to Survive School Lunches" and someone wrote in the back that I was a terrible person and that school lunches were great. This was in '88 or '89.

I like to take pictures of my husband when he's sleeping. He looks content in a way he never does awake.

I have a weird aversion to bare feet. 

When I was little I used to paint smiling faces on any suns in my work and about 14 fingers on every hand.

Life is baffling and strange and weird and upsetting and it utterly paralyzes me with fear to think about ever dying.

I'm most creative after midnight but not very after 3am.

Summer is my least favorite season, I don't do well in sun and heat. 

If I could live anywhere it would be right by an ocean in a little Victorian style house with trees and it's own stream.

I don't believe in god, karma, or any afterlife. but if I did I would hope it would be like Terry Pratchett's or The Undying Lands in LOTR.

Sometimes I feel guilty for not having children.

My brain works on the nearly constant setting of Non Sequitor Theater.









Friday, June 6, 2014

Whole

Whole

A piece of me
Broke off today
I barely felt it go
Was it important
Like my sense of dignity
Or
the place between my legs
That
defines so much
maybe it was small
The piece of me that broke off
today
I hardly noticed
Until it was gone
What was it
My sense of humor about
The space between my teeth
Or
A memory of…well…
I forget
Still
A piece of me
Broke off today and
I hardly felt it

go

What If I Were Beautiful

I turned 35 this year. It’s both a totally unremarkable yet weirdly significant age to me. Everyone talks about 40 and I’m sure I’ll care about it when I get there, but for whatever reason 35 feels more weighty right now.

There’s this habit I have of ignoring the positive in favor of finding any and all ways to think negatively about myself. My therapist called them NAT’s or Negative Automatic Thoughts. Anyone who has been in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is probably familiar with the term and the worksheets that go with it when you start working on unwinding that particular mental ball of suck. It’s not a fun process but it is important and in the 4 years since I stopped therapy I’ve continued to apply what I learned about the ruts of my thinking every day.

Still, I fall back on certain old reliable NAT’s, the twin Brain Goblins (also developed in therapy: anthropomorphizing my issues into actual “things”. I decided on Brain Goblins.) of Not Enough and But You’re Still Fat and Ugly! whenever I’m stressed, tired, and/or working really hard on something important to me. Any time I accomplish anything significant, those two little mind parasites hop on up and start nattering in my ear.

Of course, Ed (Eating Disorder) is always around, desperately trying to get my attention and convince me that THIS time not eating will DEFINITELY solve all my problems. Those other times it made me sick and tired and unproductive were just because I wasn’t strong enough. This time, if I starve and get thin, everything will be just fine.

Basically Ed is the poisonous, kind of suicidal, part of my depression and anxiety that likes to sound friendly and cheerful, while he’s actually just eating away at my sense of self. He’s a real little shit and lies constantly. I don’t like him, he never brings me anything but false promises and grief.  However, mental illnesses like eating disorders are an ongoing process and you don’t really “cure” it so much as learn how to manage it. At least in my experience.

Lately, Ed’s been really enjoying this whole “getting older” thing and having a right fun time telling me that I “used” to be thin and pretty, but now I’m old and fat and gross. Nothing I’ve accomplished professionally or creatively means squat because I’m not a big gaping hole of hunger all the time and I wear an average dress size.

This is a bit of a switch from my younger days when Ed jused to tell me I was gross, full stop, no qualifiers. Nowadays, with hindsight and the discovery of photos from my 20’s and teens…it’s a little harder for him to convince me I was always hideous.

The thing is, that’s not really very comforting. I had absolutely no idea what I really looked like then, which makes it a pretty safe bet I don’t know now, either. And it means I’ve spent 22 years of my life or so absolutely convinced I’m ugly and not worthwhile because of it.

I feel guilty for caring about this because, on the one hand, it’s superficial and vain. Intellectually I’m well aware that my worth is not based on how I look and my life would have whatever meaning I give it regardless. But that’s the thing. If I can’t even say that I was pretty, that I might still be, and that my weight has nothing to do with it…I don’t think I’m really valuing myself fully. I don’t think I’m allowing myself to actually be…myself.

It’s difficult not to say that I’ve wasted literally two decades believing awful things about myself. “Wasted” is a strong word, implying I’ve done nothing and amounted to nothing and been essentially a lump on the face of the earth. I don’t think that’s true, at least on my good days. But there’s a wide gulf of difference between what I think and what I feel. And, when you’re something of an intellectual the way I am, it’s easy to pretend you can “think” your way out of emotional sinkholes. You actually can’t.

Whenever I talk about this people I know immediately reassure me that I have done things, that they wish they’d done what I have, and from their perspective my life and accomplishments look pretty okay. I never really know how to respond because if I deny it I’m being an ungrateful jerk, if I accept them, I tend to think that makes me an egotistical ass. The truth is probably more in the middle, which is not an area of thinking I’m particularly good at.

In therapy we called it “All or Nothing Thinking”. It’s probably my most consistent NAT and the one I strongly suspect I’ll be struggling with until I get old enough to stop caring or die. A little defeatist and a lot morbid but realistic.

I used to wonder why my thinking about certain things is so extreme, but after a lot of time to consider it, it’s pretty simple: I’m female, I grew up female in Western culture, that culture has influenced me, and in that culture women can’t really win when it comes to beauty. Or anything.

For instance, if you don’t care about how you look and just do whatever, the downside is that people will criticize you for being a lazy slob who doesn’t present themselves well, and if you’re not conventionally attractive, ugly and therefore worthless. The upside? You’re more like a “dude”, laid back and not all vain, like “other” girls, and people may take you more seriously depending on circumstances.

If you do care about how you look and work on it, the downside is that people think you’re superficial, vain, vapid, and high maintenance. You will also likely get a lot more unwanted attention. The upside? People are nicer to pretty, grown up, and especially if you’re conventionally attractive, women. You will have “worth” but only as long as you maintain your looks, and that kind of “worth” has a pretty limited shelf life. And it has nothing to do with you as a person.

There’s really no middle ground. It’s like that for a lot things that pertain to women, this lack of an inbetween, human place, where we’re individuals with complicated inner lives.

And even though I’ve been talking about beauty I’ve been avoiding addressing the actual title of this post because it terrifies to ask the question: what if I were beautiful? What if I was, all those years I thought I was some hulking she-beast, actually beautiful?

Would knowing that have changed anything? Would I have been a different person? Done different things? I have no idea. I only know that I avoided a lot of living due to how I felt about how I looked, like getting a passport until I was in my 30’s and had no choice. Because even though I desperately wanted to travel I was more paralyzed by my fear of taking a bad photo than of not seeing the world. Newsflash: my passport photo is terrible and now I live in Europe. Nothing collapsed, the world stayed in rotation, my friends still like me.

So now I’m 35 and I’ve managed to get to a somewhat neutral place about how I look sometimes. If I’m honest, I still think rather badly about myself in this area and it’s frustrating and discouraging. And it’s not about looking for compliments because, frankly, that makes it worse. I don’t believe people when they say I’m cute or pretty. I can’t. It’s like something would break and never get fixed if I allowed myself to entertain that was true for even a second.

I envy people who don’t care about this kind of thing, I really do. But I also know that feeling guilty for my culture having an impact on me isn’t really productive. And it’s true of everyone, just to different degrees and result.

So…what if I were beautiful? What  if I AM beautiful? What if who I am, inside and outside, is pretty and lovely and infinitely worthwhile? Am I going to discover that when I’m old and no longer able to deny the truth? Or can I somehow learn to accept it now, to embrace it, enjoy it a little, but not make it worth more than it is?

The answer is: I have no fucking idea.  I wish I did.


Me at roughly 20 or so.
Me, age 35.

Regardless, if I don’t stop poisoning myself with self-hate, it won’t mater if I ever know it. Because it will be too late.