Another Reason to Hate Cheesecake

Mark loves cheesecake. On Tuesday, I walked up to the grocery store to get him a six-pack of beer (Springboard Ale, in case you wondered) as a birthday present, and I stumbled across a very pretty strawberry-topped cheesecake that I picked up despite the fact that he told me he didn't want a cake. His friend was taking us to dinner that evening and I knew there was a good chance he'd be coming over afterward and thought it might be nice to have a dessert to offer, so I figured what the hell?

I don't like cheesecake. Never have. I like my sweets properly sweet, thank you very much, with none of the sharp tang of cheese tacked onto the finish to ruin my savoring of the sugary goodness. Cheesecake is filed away in the category which also houses cream cheese frosting, which grosses me out in similar fashion, and I rarely eat it unless I'm trying to be polite. Tuesday evening, however, after nine days of faithfully eating well and limiting my intake of sweets and exercising almost every day, I was fiending for some dessert, and that cheesecake was the only sweet thing in the house.

So I had a little slice.

Oh. My. God.

I don't know if it's a really good cheesecake or if my sugar deprivation amplified the flavor, but jeezum crow, that shit was tasty. Every slice since the first has had me eating with an OCD precision, forking up thin slivers with careful proportions of creamy cheesecake, sweet strawberry sauce, and gently spicy graham cracker crust, savoring each bite slowly and dreading the end of the helping. There's half a cake still left in the fridge and I'm scared I'm going to wind up eating the damn thing myself. My mouth waters just to think of it, and I find myself wishing I could make a meal consisting entirely of that delectable dessert and just skip the troublesome vegetables and shit that I usually force myself to consume before I get to the good part.

Cheesecake, one of the very few dessert foods that I have consistently disliked throughout my life, is ruining my healthy diet. Asshole.

Posted byMJ at 3:38 PM 1 comments  

birthday eve

This morning as Mark was on his way out the door for work, I called, "Happy birthday eve!"

"Happy birthday eve," he snorted. "That's the silliest shit I ever heard."

Then, later, when he was trying to rationalize not going to the gym on his lunch hour, he grinned and said: "It's my birthday eve. I don't have to go!"

Posted byMJ at 5:31 PM 1 comments  

Please Donate

If you can spare even a little cash, please head on over to Liz's blog and make a donation. She survived non-Hodgkin's lymphoma without health insurance, the medical bills have decimated her savings, and now she can't sell her house until it's rewired and reroofed. After much cajoling by loyal readers, she has finally put a paypal button on her page. Please help if you're able.

Posted byMJ at 12:56 PM 1 comments  

Strip Clubs are Bad. Here's Why.

Every year around this time, the issue of strip clubs comes up at my house. My husband's birthday is May 23rd, and his friend J.'s birthday is the day before, so it's become something of a tradition to go out for a shared birthday celebration with a bunch of other friends; the celebration often starts at a restaurant or bar, but almost always winds up migrating to one of the strip clubs J. frequents. I don't like it, and the hubby is no fan, but he wants to spend time with his friends so he goes along for the ride despite his misgivings. My distaste for strip clubs is deep-seated and difficult to articulate, so I've given a lot of thought to the issue over the past few days in an attempt to come up with a coherent explanation of what it is that makes strip clubs in general Bad Places.

Our society, which is patriarchal whether we want to admit it or not, commodifies sex. In essence, we think of "sex" as something a woman has and a man wants (think sex="pussy," as in, "I need to get some pussy," or "Bitch needs to give up the pussy."), and like all commodities, it is limited in supply. Because a woman's body is equated with sex, we think of her as somehow diminished personally when she "gives it up." This is where many of the negative connotations to slurs like "slut" and "whore" come from-- a woman who is promiscuous is essentially giving away pieces of herself to every person with whom she has sex, and if sex is finite she will eventually run out and be "used up." From this arises the classic virgin/whore dichotomy, and within this framework all women are the "sex class" no matter which category they fall into.

Sex workers-- from exotic dancers to prostitutes-- operate within this framework, and this is what makes the "but she wants to do this job" argument invalid. A woman's personal choice, even if it is miraculously made entirely free of social or economic coercion, is irrelevant to the argument: even if she chooses to participate in her own oppression and objectification, a woman is still being oppressed and objectified in such a sexist system, and it is the system to which I object, not the women's personal choices. In other words, a strip club does not hurt only the women who are inside dancing, it hurts all women because it perpetuates our standing as the sex class and reinforces behavior that demeans and objectifies women and robs us of our personhood.

In a strip club the women are ornamental. It doesn't matter that you can't have sex with them or even touch them; their purpose in that context is to exhibit their naked bodies for the titillation of men, most of whom have no hope of ever attaining the affections of a woman as stereotypically attractive as the dancers.

In an ideal world, a woman could choose to be a sex worker as if it were any other job, but our society's value judgments preclude such a neutral choice. (I don't believe strip clubs would exist in an ideal world, but that's another post entirely.) Because we view sex work as inherently diminishing to the individual who engages in it, the choice to become a sex worker is fraught with negative social value that may often outweigh the economic value of such a choice. I don't have any statistics, but I would bet that the majority of sex workers do it for the money rather than because it's an occupation they enjoy, and I submit that a person of any gender in any occupation should not have to suffer socially for economically-necessary choices. In other words, if a woman is in a position where she has to choose between a minimum-wage job and a higher-paying position as a sex worker, she should not be penalized with the social label of "whore" simply for making an economic decision. She is being punished for choosing the best option available to her within a sexist system.

So, my friends, please remember: when you support a strip club, you are supporting the subjugation of women as a class. And that's not cool.

Posted byMJ at 11:40 AM 8 comments  

The Gender Experience Project, episode 1

The profiles I made have been up for six days, and the results of the experiment at this juncture are interesting, if unsurprising. So far the female profile has received 30 messages (two of them from one guy who apparently doesn't take being ignored well), while the male profile has received only 9 messages.

Responses to the male profile are generally innocuous, along the lines of, "Hi! You're cute!" and sometimes "I'd like to get to know you better." The women responding almost never suggest meeting; only one suggested going out for drinks or coffee. The men who responded to the profile with my picture on it, however, are a different story entirely. Here's the numerical breakdown, in non-exclusive categories I devised off the top of my head:
16 of the 30 messages were in the "normal" category, generally along the lines of the responses to the other profile.
6 of the messages suggested we meet in person.
11 of the messages I filed under "weird"-- these ranged from the message whose subject line said "HEY THERE" and whose body consisted solely of a dirty joke, to the guy whose message said only "write me back," to the guy who wrote a second message attempting to convince our fictional subject that she was wrong to ignore the message he'd sent only the day before.
10 of the messages made some reference to appearance, ranging from the benign compliment of "you're cute," to the breathless and unconvincing, "my jaw literally dropped when I saw your photo!"

Only one message was explicitly sexual in nature, and it was so poorly written that I actually laughed out loud when I read it. The subject line was "lets enjoy hot and good and nice" and the message read:

i'm near disneyland
i'm Totally safe in every way, not a player, I love being sensual and i really love giving oral till u cum over and over and over , i just love that. I especially love foreplay and touching and being tender and experimenting what we like together to be pleased
I'm ,, 6'1 , 190 dark hair,slim build,, fit,, single , live alone ,very kind nice guy very safe and clean I'm well hung, very open minded and easy going and very discreet

[phone number redacted to protect the guilty]

Yes, friends, he included his phone number.

While the crudity of that message was a little shocking, it was more funny than creepy. The only message that truly rose to the level of "creepy" was the aforementioned second message from the guy who didn't like being ignored. His first message, sent Tuesday the 15th at 10:27 a.m., read:

Hi there...

Wow, you're cute!

Wanna go out & laugh a lot?

-[name redacted]

He did not receive a response, of course, because the woman at whom he directed his message doesn't actually exist. He doesn't know this, however, and the very next day at 4:29 p.m. he sent a second message with the subject "C'mon, it'll be fun!" It read:

Hello again....

Here's the thing...

I'm a nice guy, I'm very funny, I'm an expert people-watcher, and I think you're really cute!

How bad could it be?

Let's go have some fun.

[name redacted]
Now, this guy probably thinks he's being persistent and charming, but I'll hazard a guess that most women would agree with me when I say he's got NICE GUY written all over him, and contrary to how that might sound, it ain't a good thing. (Right about now, the dudes have their testes in a twist because they think I just affirmed the stereotype that women only like men who treat them poorly. Not true. Read this to understand just what's wrong with being a "nice guy.") In addition to coming on too strong, he's offering a tiny glimpse of the entitlement to female attention that so many men seem to feel: he thinks I am cute, therefore he is entitled to my attention. This attitude is frequently exhibited by street harassers, who at their most benign will command a strange woman to "smile" for them, and at worst call her a bitch or physically assault her when she doesn't respond favorably to their unwelcome advances. I'm certainly not suggesting that this guy's two messages on an online personals site constitute harassment or a proclivity to violence, or even that he's aware of how subtly demanding he's being; I want merely to point out the assumptions which underlie his statements and actions. He took a 24 hour silence, which on such a site is essentially equivalent to "I'd rather not date you," as a cue to talk his target out of her position. I hate to speak in cliches, guys, but no means no even when it's unspoken, and desperation isn't attractive.

I originally planned to leave the profiles up only for a week or two, but the messages (and the issues they raise) have been so entertaining that I may leave them up longer. If nothing else, they will yield the occasional comically bad missive, which I will of course pass along to be ridiculed by all of you.

I don't think there's any real conclusion to be drawn from this tiny slice of online dating life, but I think even this dinky data sample shows that men's and women's experience of social interactions, both online and in the real world, are sometimes starkly different.

Posted byMJ at 1:53 PM 3 comments  

In Which I Dabble at Science!

About a month ago I read a blog post about the recent Kathy Sierra online harrassment issue in which the author (a man) suggested that his male readers log into a chat room using an identifiably female handle in order to experience the type of sexualized comments directed at women as a matter of course. It was heralded by many commenters as a great idea, but I suspect few men would actually be willing to try it out because a) who goes to chat rooms anymore?, and b) it's just too much effort. This idea inspired me to come up with a little experiment of my own.

I wanted to find a way to highlight the differences in male and female experience of the internet, specifically the frequency with which users are harrassed or insulted in gendered terms. I'm definitely not interested in spending any time in a chat room, so I decided to make a couple of profiles on a free online personals site. The profiles are identical in every aspect but gender-- attached to the female one is an old picture of me, and attached to the male one is an old photo of my brother. The fictional ad-placers live in L.A., in order to maximize diversity of potential views and responses. The description of each profile reads:

I'm looking for people who live like it's no joke, but don't take anything too seriously. I love the outdoors; if it involves playing outside, count me in! I enjoy quiet, low-key evenings as well as nights out on the town, but I'm no fan of recreational drunkenness. A few drinks among friends is no big deal, but if you make a habit of going out and getting sloppy every weekend, we probably won't get along. Art, theater, live music: any kind of cultural event will pique my interest and lead me out in search of adventure and new experiences.
Bland and boring, nothing sexual, and listed as looking for people to "hang out." The goal here is to see what kind of responses each profile garners with no further encouragement. I will not respond to any messages or change the profiles at any point. I plan on leaving the ads up for a week or two and tabulating some kind of informal statistics of things like number of views vs. number of responses, number of harrassing messages vs. "friendly" messages, and number of multiple messages from single users. Any particularly vicious/vulgar/funny/creepy messages will of course be posted here for your reading enjoyment, and I hope you (all 3 of you who read my blog) will join me at the end of the experiment in speculating as to the meaning of the results.

Let's get our science on!

Posted byMJ at 11:40 AM 1 comments  

Operation Body Image

Last month's doctor visit brought me the news that I am carrying around about 15 pounds more than I should be. (No, the doctor didn't say this to me; the nurse weighed me and I went, "Gee, that's a little high.") Mostly out of deference to past body-image and food issues, I do not weigh myself with any regularity and although I had been feeling a bit bloated lately, I was surprised to discover that I'd put on that much. It got me to thinking.

I am a small person: I'm 5'3" and when I'm healthy I usually weigh between 115 and 120 pounds, depending on factors like recent salt intake and time of the month. I avoid "dieting" and anything resembling a "weight loss strategy" because those ideas are hideously tangled up in my head with body image. When I heard my weight at the doctor's office, I immediately started the negative self-talk, thinking, "I can't believe how fat I've gotten!" and "I've got to lose this weight-- I look disgusting!" It startled me how quickly my brain seized on the idea and how easily I slipped into that mode of hating my body. I didn't (and don't) feel any less sexy in the ways that count; my husband still finds me attractive and I can still feel good about myself when I avoid things like watching television and looking at magazines at the grocery store. It is very clearly an outside influence that makes me feel inferior, and I decided last month that it's time for me to change my life.

No more television. No more celebrity gossip blogs. No magazines at the store. No looking at weight loss ads.

There is nothing wrong with my physical appearance. I will always have hips, no matter how skinny I get, and I need to accept that my body will never ever EVER conform to the societal ideal and that's okay. I will not think of myself as "fat," even when I feel that way, and I will not refer to myself as such, even if I happen to think it.

I don't want to be skinny; I want to be healthy.

Since making these resolutions, I have been exercising at least five, and often seven, days a week and making conscientious decisions about food; I don't deny myself anything, but I am careful to be moderate in my consumption. Non-water drinks are junk food and should be consumed only as occasional treats rather than as a default beverage. Carrots and other crunchy veggies make a good snack, but if I really feel like I need something junky, a bite of ice cream when the craving strikes is infinitely better than denying myself and then eating the whole pint when I break down later. It's okay to eat a candy bar once in a while. Although eating in the morning makes me feel a little icky, I have more energy and eat less for lunch when I'm not ravenous and pawing through the cupboards for something tasty, so I'm trying to eat breakfast every day, even if it's just a carton of yogurt.

I want to start lifting weights. I'm physically weak, especially in my upper body, and I want to change that. Big muscles are not the goal, but if I start to get bulky I will not worry that I look "too masculine." If looking "feminine" means being weak, then fuck it-- I'd rather look like a dude.

I've always thought the most appealing attribute a person can have is confidence and comfort in his or her own body. Why so many of our strategies focus on changing our bodies rather than changing the way we think about them, I will never understand, but it is my mission to break free of the artificial notions of how my body should look and accept it for what it is, as long as it's healthy. This project of mine will probably last the rest of my life, but the ultimate goal is to accept myself as I am; A-cup chest, round hips, and all; and to feel comfortable and confident no matter what the scale reads. Not that I'll be reading it.

Posted byMJ at 11:29 AM 1 comments  

I Married a Nut, Volume I

Last night as we were leaving the grocery store, my husband said to me:

"Sometimes when we're in the grocery store, I want to say mean things to people. They're so inconsiderate! I mean, I know I should probably learn patience and stuff, but... I don't have the patience for that shit."

You know it's bad when you don't have the patience to learn to be patient.

Posted byMJ at 11:14 AM 2 comments