This book, WTF?!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was reluctant to read this book at first--a book club selection. I'm not really an advice columnist kind of girl. Well, as it turns out I'm not a typical advice columnist kind of girl (I say this having grown up reading Dear Abby and Ann Landers) and Cheryl Strayed is certainly not your typical advice columnist.

Part memoir, part advice column, the questions and answers here are universal yet unique (my favorite question in this book was the short letter that simply implored, 'Dear Sugar, WTF? Can you just tell me WTF?!) and Strayed answers are heartfelt and profound--sometimes simple, sometimes complex. Always thought-provoking.

I am an admitted sap so perhaps I'm not the best critic for this book--it had me crying more times than I can count at this point. It had many of my much more chill, not-so-sappy friends crying too, however. So there's that.

If you don't read this book at least go online and Google "The Human Scale" and read that particular question and answer (all columns here are culled from the Dear Sugar column from the Rumpus). Please just do that for me.

Oh, and she also references one of my favorite Lisa Germano songs in such a way that I felt as though she'd crawled inside my 25-year-old head so even if I'd hated the rest of the book, I probably still would've given it 5 stars just for that.

View all my reviews

Contraception talk a flashback to Mad Men days

Last week, the calendar marked International Women’s Day, but you’ll have to excuse me for not really noticing this milestone: I was too busy dodging the latest bullets lobbed in the war on women.

On that day, for example, Republicans observed the event by debating a new bill designed to restrict abortion rights. Specifically, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a March 8 hearing on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would make it illegal for anyone other than a parent to accompany a teenage girl across state lines for the purpose of getting an abortion—regardless of the circumstances.

The hearing was just the latest in a series of events underscoring the power religious conservatives are trying to exact on women. Apparently, we haven’t come a long way, baby. Witness the Susan G. Komen for the Cure-Planned Parenthood defunding debacle. Or Rush Limbaugh infamously branding Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she testified to Congress on the need for health-care supported birth control. Then, there’s the state of Virginia’s attempt to require women to be subjected to a medically invasive ultrasound prior to undergoing an abortion.

And, of course, there’s House Republicans’ attempt to introduce a measure allowing employers to opt out of birth-control coverage (and other reproductive-related services) by claiming a religious or moral objection. And don’t forget Foster Friess, the wealthy Rick Santorum backer, who helpfully explained his views on contraceptives, which, amazingly, sounded as though they were lifted directly from a Mad Men script.

“Back in my day, [women] used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” he told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

Frankly, I can’t believe we are even still having such discussions in the year 2012. Birth control? Abortion? These are the causes my mother and her peers fought for in the 1960s and 1970s. Why are we still talking about this? It’s appalling and frightening and not only strips a woman of the right to have control of her body, it’s incredibly dangerous.

Still, while this ongoing battle is an abysmal indication of how easy it is to chip away at pro-choice rights, I’m extremely grateful to conservatives for making this an issue of national debate in the months leading up to the presidential election.

In new poll numbers released earlier this month, for example, a Wall Street Journal and NBC News survey shows that 51 percent of women want Democrats to retain control of Congress—a number that’s several percentage points up from a similar poll conducted last summer. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among women has increased from 40 to 45 percent in the same time period. Oklahoma Sen. Judy McIntyre perhaps best explained the shift in political support after at a recent state protest against the Personhood Act.

The bill, recently passed by the Oklahoma senate and expected to be signed into law by the governor, would bestow personhood rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization. “The Republicans have awakened a sleeping giant,” McIntyre said. “When you get women stirred up, particularly the young women who are used to being able to make decisions about their own bodies, you are going to be challenged and challenged hard.”

So, go ahead and threaten to take away our rights—you’re not just pissing off a nation of women; you are spurring them into political action. See you in the voting booth. 

This post originally appeared in the SN&R.

Happy New Year – Whoa is Me?

The other day I received a message in my Facebook in-box. It was from somebody named “Jennie Her” and it read: “Are you a lesbian? You’re so wo is me. It’s a turn-off. People don’t like that.”

I pondered over that message for a few minutes. I don’t know this Jennie Her and when I tried to look at her Facebook page, I couldn’t see anything except her photo because she’d set up her profile to “only share certain information with friends” although apparently Facebook deemed it OK for her to share insults with anybody.

Cory thought it was just a spam message and although I marked it as such (and so it disappeared forever from my in-box)  I couldn’t stop thinking about that whole “wo is me” part and how it related to the idea that I may or may not be a lesbian and how this was making me less desirable to the world at large …

Wo is me…what did “Wo” mean? Did she mean “woe”? That would be the most obvious, of course and she wouldn’t be the first to tell me that, sometimes, I can be a bit too “woe is me,” a bit too mired in the misery, too down, too fixated on what isn’t going right. I can see how people might not like that trait but how it relates to being a lesbian is beyond me. Is woefulness a same-sex preference characteristic?

But then I thought, maybe she meant “whoa is me” – that perhaps I’m just too laid-back. Maybe I’ve been Spicoli-ing my way through life and people are finally tired of my stoner ways, they want me to stop, it’s such a turn-off.

Again, though, how does this possibly make me someone who is so out-of-touch with her own sexual preferences that she’s been living a marital lie for 10-plus years?  Dude, I’m so confused.

I do know this, however: wo, woe or whoa I don’t really care what people like or don’t like about me or what does or doesn’t turn them on.  And by “people” I mean those I don’t know or with whom I’m not already friends. My friends and family know me and, last time I checked they liked me. Oh sure, they occasionally tell me to (take your pick) snap out of it, get over yourself, lighten up, et al…but they do it with care because that’s what friends and family do.

So, sitting here at the dawn of 2010, sipping coffee and listening to the Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard record, I’m struck with the idea of how my life has seemingly shaped up to be what it’s supposed to be.

I have goals and resolutions for this coming year….some are the usual (lose that 5 pounds, read & write everyday, cook more, buy less, be more adventurous), some are deeply personal, others are just seedlings of inspiration, ambition and desire.

Wo, woe or whoa, I’m eager to see where and who I am at the end of this year’s journey – but I’m also ready to enjoy every little step it takes to get there.

My guess is that 365 days from now I’ll be just as wo, woe or whoa as ever and I probably still won’t be a lesbian although I do understand from first-hand observations that these things can suddenly change in mid-life and if that does happen I’ll be very sorry for Cory’s sake but, you know, shit happens….

So fuck you Jennie Her – whether you’re real or a spambot — and to everyone else, a very Happy New Year …..