All in the family

Tonight we had dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's house. It was a chance to see Audrey, my new niece, but also just a chance to hang out with Adam and Annie. My other brother Steve and his wife Cait were also there.

It was fun and relaxing. We ate Cait's homemade mac'n'cheese. We played with Buddy the dog. We chatted. We took turns holding Audrey. Well, Steve didn't because he's still afraid he might break her.

On the way home Cory remarked that it was probably the first time that the six of us had all hung out together without my mom or because there's some family function."

And it's true. Both of my brothers are much younger than me--eight and 10 years respectively. I moved out of the house when they were still in grade school. For the most part we've always gotten along but we haven't been super close.

That's starting to change now. They both got married last year. Then Audrey was born in January. Which means in the last year or so there've been showers and dinners and ceremonies and hospital visits and more dinners and, well, just growing closer. And I'm really happy about it. I've long said that family is just what you make it--and before this was simply my way of saying that I'd really focused on making friends my family. I've always been pretty independent and I think that's friends-as-family has been a natural extension of that for me. This is not to say I've been estranged from my family--just that often I felt closer to my friends. Lately, however, I'm started to realize that the 'family is what you make it' ethos applies to those to whom you're related as well.

"It's good--I don't think we should just see all of them at the holidays," Cory said.

"And I know you don't want to just see Audrey at holidays."

No, no I don't. So here's to renewing bonds and little babies.


Your Saturday afternoon jams

Cory and I had a pretty chill Saturday afternoon--well once we got done talking to the tax woman (and not about poetry, unfortunately). After that though, it was all nice. There was sunshine and lunch and record shopping and driving around in the car listening to oldies, including The Coasters' "Poison Ivy," which turns out to be a favorite of Cory's.

I remarked it must be the only song in the history of songs that references calamine lotion and Cory, as he is wont to do when it comes to all things musical, quickly corrected me.

"Lou Reed sang about it," he said. "I got my calamine lotion, baby, do it again -- I got a foggy notion baby, do it again."

Yep, Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion."

The more you know people, the more you know.

Because I cannot shut up about the "B" word and other topics

I know I've already written about this once this week.

Twice, actually.

And I know I must be annoying my friends on the subject, but the #BanBossy campaign has gotten me thinking not just about gender stereotypes when it comes to personality type and workplace presence, but also about the idea of writing as a woman.

I've written professionally since 1995 (meaning, I've been paid for my work), but my career and experience dates back to when I was 16 and started writing for my high school newspaper.

Mostly, I have not received much blowback because I'm female--but there has been some. And that there's been any at all for that reason is, frankly, appalling.

Professionally speaking, I've had to learn to get over what people think and say about me really fast--especially with the rise of the Internet and social media. In 1995 the major Internet outlets were various message boards and AOL.

Now, with Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc, there are myriad ways to get your snarky hate on.

Still, whatever the medium, the point is I'm always annoyed when someone zeroes in on my gender as part of a critique.

The following is a list of things I've been called via email, phone call, message board, etc in the last 19 years: Bitch, cunt, idiot, little girl, stupid girl, know-it-all-bitch, fucking, dumb bitch, and bitch-ass bitch.

The number of emails, phone calls and message board posts criticizing my writing/perspective/self-identification as a feminist has also been many.

It's interesting--do men get subjected to the same gender treatment? I'd argue no--save the recent popularization of the mainsplaining concept.

It's not always words, however. Sometimes the sexism is more coded. There's the person, for example, who pointed to an article I wrote as an example of "what 40something women like."

The message was pretty clear. 40something + woman = terribly unhip, bad, not worthy.

A friend and I had a long conversation about this topic over a beer the other night. She's a few years younger (in her late 30s) but already starting to feel some of the weird age/gender backlash in her line of work-- a line of work that, incidentally, makes her something of a public figure.  I'm keeping identifying details private because I haven't talked to her about writing this in a post, but one of the questions she posed struck me as very universal among women in visible positions of power.

Her experiences echoed many of mine: Reading comments on various message boards/Yelp reviews/Facebook in which the critique seemed to focus on her gender (or a combination of her gender and age) more than anything else. More than her actual skill. More than her actual talent. More than an actual mistake or misstep she may have made. 

The work that this particular friend does is absolutely not gender-related in any way, shape or form. At all.

That said, in the spirit of fairness / suffering fools gladly, I do write about gender quite a bit. Way too much, many would argue. It's my jam, topics-wise.

Whatever, criticize me for writing about topics that are important to me. Topics I believe need a public platform.

And go ahead and call me names. I've always felt that, save those instances where I've made a factual error or had a terrible lapse of understanding on a subject (it happens, I'm human; most journalists are), then criticisms usually mean I'm doing something right. Someone is reading. Someone is responding. If you're the type to stoop to using sexist terms to describe me then that's your problem, not mine.

OK, honestly, it is my problem, too, because it's so ingrained in the culture and yes that does impact me. All the time.

But I'm also doing my best to change that culture by giving minimal fucks about such things.