I Am My Own Beloved Houseplant

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I am soooo excited because my hope philodendron — which has been slowly dying back all winter and which I had kinda given up on — has sprouted two new leaves! HIGH FIVE FOR HOPE (philodendrons) ! 

I never would have written about this a year ago, because the ability to care about houseplants is something that has only recently sprouted in me. For years I killed every green thing I brought into my home, but not anymore. I talk to my plants, I pet them, I check when they need water, I trim their old leaves, I pot them in pretty containers … 

But mostly, I just pay attention to them. If the leaves are droopy, or yellowing, or looking too mushy, I give them a drink or put them in a different sunbeam or let them sit on a warm surface until the soil dries a bit … but there’s no amount of persuasion or yelling that will make an unwell plant happy again. I just have to tweak its surroundings and pay attention to what happens. That’s the extent of the tools I have to work with. 

This seems like common sense, right? Growth doesn’t happen because you force it or threaten it or scare it. You can’t shame a plant into growing faster or becoming healthier or more beautiful. Growth happens only when the conditions are right. 

So, knowing this about growth I have to wonder, why do so many of us try to scare or shame ourselves into it? Does it work, or could it be that using fear tactics as disciplinary tools against ourselves makes us LESS likely to grow? 

For me, I know that when I try to humiliate or terrify myself into making a change, what actually happens is that I shrink back from the leading edge of my growth. I become smaller and more fearful and it just doesn’t help. 

I have found a different approach, though, and it seems to work a lot better — that is tweaking my surroundings and paying attention to what happens. AKA, treating myself like my own houseplant. 

Instead of yelling at myself for not doing yoga, I try to think of ways I can make it easier and more attractive for me to do it, like leaving my mat out all the time, pairing it with another habit, and/or adding some pleasure to it in the form of a playlist that I love. 

Instead of feeling like a lazy whore when I haven’t gotten out for a walk in a few days, I make a date to meet a friend at a coffee shop I can walk to, and this motivates me to put on a bra and get out there. 

Instead of being frustrated with the fact that I don’t get to be creative at my job, I spend a little time in the morning before work on my own projects (like this newsletter) to exercise that muscle and set me up for a happy productive day. And I have my writing gear set up and ready the night before, to make it as easy as possible to get started when I wake up. 

None of this is to say that I never beat myself up for not doing yoga, or that I never feel like a lazy whore, or that I never get frustrated at my job. But I get a lot more yoga, walks, and creative work in than I used to, simply by tweaking the circumstances of my everyday life and paying attention to what works. 

All of these environmental conditions help me grow towards joy and possibility, and I discovered them not through hating on myself but by treating myself with love. Talking to myself sweetly. Making up stupid, cute, encouraging songs. Reminding myself how much I can grow when I’m in the right environment. 

In short, I am my own beloved houseplant, friends, and it works a lot better than being my own drill sergeant. By understanding how growth works — it can never be forced, it will simply happen when the conditions are right — I’m able to support myself. And look, I keep sprouting these sweet new leaves and dropping old ones, and I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s meant to work, right? 

Are you getting all the sunlight, water, fresh air, laughter, orgasms, chocolate, etc that you need to grow the way you want to grow? I hope so, but if not … try some tiny tweaks to help yourself out, and let me know how it goes!

What Am I Missing? Who Am I Leaving Out?

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Today I want to tell you about a documentary I recently saw about the legendary Japanese animator, Hiyao Miyazaki, called “Never-Ending Man.” Miyazaki is the creator of many gorgeous films including “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” and “My Neighbor Totoro” (my personal favorite, because Mei = me). 

I love his work because it is so odd, and so singular, full to the brim with appreciation for imperfect people and mysterious spirits and the world in which we all encounter each other. He is as charming and brilliant and weird as his work and I loved spending some time with him — watching him draw and obsess about drawing and chain-smoke and complain about being old while simultaneously pushing his team to deliver ever more magical and beautiful work. 

But there is one scene in this film that I can’t stop thinking about — when his young CGI team shows him a creepy AI-created film in which a strange conglomeration of body parts moves in a not-at-all human way across the screen. Miyazaki is a Jedi, and the team is humbly excited to show him their work. But Miyazaki is deeply offended by it. 

“Every morning … I see my friend who has a disability. It’s so hard for him just to do a high-five, his arm with stiff muscle reaching out to my hand. Now, thinking of him, I can’t watch this stuff and find it interesting. Whoever creates this stuff has no idea what pain is whatsoever. I am utterly disgusted. 

If you really want to make creepy stuff, you can go ahead and do it. I would never wish to incorporate this technology into my work at all. I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself.” 

The young nerds on the other side of the table are gobsmacked — their hero has just turned their world upside down. They woke up that morning thinking that they were going to show some cool stuff they developed to a master, and get his feedback, but they never imagined that the feedback would be “I am utterly disgusted.” 

Miyazaki offers no middle ground on this. In his view, the whole reason to create art, or anything, is not to make money or push a technological envelope — but to dive into what it’s like to be a human being. Any new development that strips all that away — that cleanly deletes the pain and emotion and all the messy stuff that binds us together as living creatures — cannot be considered an advance. 

He communicates this clearly, directly, and with such quiet vehemence that it took my breath away. It feels extraordinary to me, I guess, because I’m not accustomed to seeing people unironically standing up for the importance of encircling all kinds of human experience in our work. I’m not used to seeing such a clean and powerful depiction of what privilege looks like and how to blast through it it in the moment. 

See, at first, these poor clueless AI nerds can’t even fathom what Miyazaki is trying to tell them, so thoroughly have they allowed their privilege as smart, able-bodied men in a bubble of science and tech and “whoa isn’t this cool” to block out the rest of human experience. Their privilege stops them from seeing how their work trivializes human pain, how their offerings might look to people who have suffered in different ways … but they are not the only ones. 

The privilege that thin people have in this world makes it impossible to understand what it’s like to go through the world fat, trying to thrive in the face of a world that does not respect or make room for us. 

My privilege as a white person hides from me the facts regarding what people of color experience each day from individuals taught to devalue them and systems designed to exploit them from the start. 

That is the function of privilege in all its forms — it blocks those who have it from understanding and having empathy for what other people go through. This is indeed an insult against life itself. 

How do we get past it? The only way I know of it is to stop, consider, and listen. To always ask ourselves, “What am I missing here? Who am I leaving out in my broad proclamations about What Everybody Should Do or Be OK With?” To make room for considering this question in our decision-making processes, over and over again. And when others show us what we are missing, as Miyazaki does for his nerds, we need to take it in, hurtful though it can feel in the moment.

As we learn, we will fuck up, we will continue to make mistakes, and we will learn from those mistakes. But that is how the process works. That is how we individually grow, and that’s how we as a culture can grow, too. As the great educator Robin DiAngelo has reminded us in her work on white privilege specifically, we don’t have to be perfect; we just need to be coachable

Body positivity is not just about personally feeling less gross in our own imperfect bodies. 

It’s about liberating and caring for everyone on this planet. 

It’s about realizing that everybody deserves to be heard and considered and cared for — drug addicts, the mentally ill gentleman I saw on the street the other day, Miyazaki’s disabled friend, unhealthy people, fat people, trans people, people of color, old people, children. Me. You. We all deserve to be cared for and about. And as we learn to care for and embrace ourselves in all our imperfection, we learn how to do the same for others. 


I’m inspired by Miyazaki’s consideration for the people who have been left out of the concept of “progress,” including, in many ways, me. And I’m left thinking about how I can circle myself and all the other marginalized bodies back in. 

And it occurs to me that this is what the forward march of history looks like in real time — the constant, conscious effort to expand the circle of who we care about, and who we mean by “we.” 

Next Time You're Tempted to Offer a Fat Person Advice, Don't

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When you're fat, and you're hanging out with skinny people, there's always a feeling like it's only a matter of time before someone expresses concern or offers advice about your weight.

It's possible that cringy moment will never come, but the potential for it is always there, because people who have never struggled with their weight so often think that they know what we need to do in order to change our bodies. Underlying all of this is the unspoken and unquestionable assumption that we should WANT to change our bodies. 

I'm writing this post so that I always have a response to such misguided advice-giving and concern-trolling ready to go, and so that you do, too.

And here's my suggestion to folks who want to offer such advice and concern: don't. Instead, take a breath, and try to have some humility about the fact that you have no fuckin idea what you're talking about. 

Because here's the thing -- some stuff is easy for some of us, and hard for others, and the easy folks have no way of understanding the struggles of the hard folk without invoking some humility.

As an example, math has always come easily to me, and I've never had any fear about getting on stage in front of people (quite the contrary, in fact -- your girl is a bit of a ham). I didn't DO anything to earn this ease -- I was born with it. So how am I gonna offer someone advice on how to be better at math when I myself never had any problems getting it? What are my getting-over-stage-fright tips worth when I have never even had it? 

And, even more to the point, why should a person who is not natively good at math or at home on stage feel like they need to put in shit-tons of hard work to become just okay with something? Wouldn't that hard work be better used to become great at something else that comes a little easier to them?

And yet, skinny people feel most free to do this to fat people every damn day. They suggest diet plans or say ignorant shit like "Can't you just do some crunches and tighten things up a bit?" or just look at you in that way where you know they think they are concerned with your health but are actually just a little bit disgusted by you, or they are positive you could make different choices quite easily if only you weren't too lazy to try.

But there are two major fallacies here. MAJOR FALLACIES. 

First, contrary to what everybody thinks, there is no reliable medical protocol that leads to weight loss with healthy outcomes. When upwards of 95% of people who attempt intentional weight loss fail to lose weight and even end up gaining more weight over a longer timeframe, you'd think that folks would be able to admit that they don't know shit about how weight loss really works. You'd think we'd have some humility for all that we clearly don't know ... but ... nope. We still think we know everything. 

Beyond simply not knowing shit about how weight loss really works, there's two more interesting facts about fat people that should also be folded in to this conversation: 

  • Evolution chose us to survive, because we are more efficient at being able to store calories for lean times, and without that capacity human civilization might never have happened, so try a little gratitude in with your humility.
  • A higher-than-average number of us have experienced 4 or more Adverse Childhood Experiences, which spool out across the entirety of a human life in a way we are just starting to understand. So maybe be a little less quick to judge. 

Second is the idea that there is something wrong with us fatties, and we owe it to the world to do something about it. But this is bullshit in its entirety. We don't owe it to anyone to look a certain way or move a certain way or starve ourselves to achieve certain (dubious) health outcomes. Every person is deserving of respect and basic human dignity and choices in the clothes she wants to wear and proper medical care, even if she is fat as fuck. FATNESS DOES NOT INVALIDATE HUMAN RIGHTS. 

So, I guess this post is my nice way of saying "Bitch, who asked you?" to anyone who might feel compelled to offer me or any other fatty unsolicited advice on what we should do about our bodies, who thinks they know what we need to do in order to meet the bare minimum requirements for being treated like a human being, because 

1) No, you actually don't, and

2) No one owes it to you to be skinny. We get to decide what we want to do with our lives and our bodies, just like anyone else. 

In short, skinny folks, please work on developing a little humility, because what you think you know about weight loss is not true for everybody, and it's not your business anyway. 

Sex Isn't Soccer, and Women Are Not Pussy Goalies

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This Aziz Ansari situation is out of hand. HE acted in a brazenly disgusting manner, and yet most of what I’ve been seeing on social media is about all the mistakes that SHE made. She should have left sooner, she should have stood up and shouted STOP, she should have maybe worn a less slutty skirt.

I’ve also been reading many critiques of the Grace article itself. Why did you mention that he didn’t ask her what she wanted to drink? Why did you talk about her outfit? Don’t you know these details weaken the story and make it impossible to have the conversation we SHOULD have had? Oh, dear, ladies. You’ve really fucked it up now.

It’s so weird that so many of us are focusing on EVERYTHING about this story other than the fact that perfectly nice, even self-proclaimed feminist men act like Aziz Ansari did on this date, every day, in every town, all across America...

It’s almost like there’s some mysterious haze that makes the bad behavior of men invisible while highlighting every possibly questionable action a woman might take?

My friends, the haze is real and it is called MISOGYNY. And, as I wrote about racism last week, it’s not always virulent. It's not always full-on grab-them-by-the-pussy disgustingness.

Sometimes it’s just forgetting to ever consider anything from the woman’s point of view.

Sometimes it’s just seeing sex as points to be scored, and women not as people but as mere as pussy goalies.

When was the first time I realized I was but a pussy goalie, in the eyes of many men? Looking back, I can see that it started young, but I didn’t see it happening in real time, with my own eyes, until I briefly dated -- hmm, what should I call him? I guess I’ll call him Hold My Balls guy. You’ll see why later.

At the time I met HMB guy, I’d just been dumped, and HMB guy seemed really into me, and I thought that it might make a nice change to date someone really into me, so I went out with him a couple of times, casually. We had dinner and drinks and a few laughs, and it was all fine? Not amazing, but fine, I guess.

The only thing was, he kept asking me for sex, and I was ambivalent, but one night after a few drinks, I went ahead and slept with him and … ugh. It was bad. I mean, not Aziz Ansari bad? It was more useless than creepy. But, still bad. I was glad when he said he had to go home before work in the morning.

The next day, I got up and made a cup of tea and put on the latest DVRed episode of SNL while I tried to wake up. It was the “Dick In A Box” episode, and I could not stop cackling about it. But I remember getting weirdly steamed when I saw Andy Samberg shove a rose in Maya Rudolph’s face. In that moment, I realized I didn’t want to deal with anyone’s dick at the moment, least of all HMB guy, for whom I honestly felt little attraction.

So when he called me later and asked if he could come over, I said, sure. The least I could do was break up with him in person, right? Then he got there, and I went right into my prepared speech about how I needed more time by myself to get over the breakup, and he was a nice guy, and I wished him the best, and I thought that would be that. I was wrong.

What followed was an hour of the grossest and least sexy wheedling you can imagine.

“But we only did it once, give me another chance, it’ll be better this time!”

“But you and this guy broke up WEEKS ago, you should be over it by now! I can help you get over it!”

“Maybe we could just be fuckbuddies?”

Over and over, he kept on trying to negotiate a position from which he’d still have access to my body, even though I was pretty clear that I didn’t want that at all. But I tried to be kind as I held my ground. I mean, you don’t want to kick a guy when he’s down.

After awhile, I could see that he knew this was it, and I saw his eyes harden. And that was the moment I knew -- I was no longer Madge, this cute girl he was attracted to and wanted to spend time with, a human being with thoughts and desires and agency just like him.

Nope. Instead, I had become the Pussy Goalie, cruelly knocking back all his advances on the goal. I guess that means I was also the goal.

I was the Mean Mommy, denying him access to the only toy he wanted to play with. Which meant I was also the toy.

I was the gatekeeper, and also I was the gate, and he felt entitled and even duty-bound to keep trying to crash.

“Well, maybe, if you’re not gonna fuck me before I go, you could at LEAST hold my balls while I jack off.” And he went to open his zipper, and I lost my shit.

“JESUS CHRIST HOW DO YOU THINK THAT IS EVEN ON THE MENU RIGHT NOW? You need to go, dude. Immediately.”

Which he did. But, honestly? I’m still pissed off about this.

I’m still pissed off at how he felt entitled to get SOMETHING from me for his trouble, like a parting gift for a game show loser.

I’m still pissed off at how quickly I went from human being to goal / toy / gate in his eyes.

I’m still pissed off that he felt the need or the right to argue with me AT ALL when I told him I was done.

The issue at hand is not whether Grace should have left sooner, or whether she’s right in calling what happened with Aziz by the word “assault,” or whether I should have led HMB Guy on by sleeping with him, or any of that.

The issue at hand is the whole dehumanizing construction that women are nothing but pussies and pussy goalies, and every man has every right to keep trying to score as much as he wants to.

This right here is the mental construct that allows Aziz and countless other men to find arousal and satisfaction in encounters with unenthusiastic women.

This right here is the mental construct that allows Aziz and countless other men to say “I misread the situation” with plausible deniability, even when the women are clearly in distress.

This right here is the mental construct that allows the Republican party to punish women for being what they consider to be irresponsible pussy goalies.

This right here is the mental construct that causes people to continually say irrelevant shit like “Well, what did she expect, when she went up to his apartment with him?”

This right here is the mental construct of rape culture.

So, let me say this loud for the people in the back.

It is NOT ACCEPTABLE to treat having sex like winning a point from a woman, or sneaking something by her, or taking something from her.

It is NOT ACCEPTABLE to believe that male sexuality is such a powerful force that the women of the world have no other recourse than to twist ourselves into pretzel shapes to avoid being hurt by it.

It is NOT ACCEPTABLE to continue to beg, wheedle, whine, push, grab, or implement the Claw on a partner who has made it clear she’s not into it.

It is NOT ACCEPTABLE to assume that unless a woman is yelling no and pushing you away, then she’s down for whatever.

It is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

As my new favorite Jameela Jamil put it on her Tumblr:

Our society, the internet, and even our most mainstream media, constantly perpetuate the idea that men do not need to worry about what our needs and boundaries are. They just need technical consent, however that consent is acquired.

CONSENT SHOULDN’T BE THE GOLD STANDARD. That should be the basic foundation. Built upon that foundation should be fun, mutual passion, equal arousal, interest and enthusiasm. And it is any man or woman’s right at ANY time to stop, for whatever reason.

If you are angry or upset about anything else in Grace’s story, or in mine, then you’re angry about the wrong thing.

You Want A Revolution? Be Coachable

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Oprah got us all going this week, didn’t she? She got at least some of us hoping, too, that a new day really could be on the horizon. She practically called that new day into being, right when we needed her to. Such is the genius and the power of Oprah.

But hope and admiration quickly faded as the white people of the internet began clacking our opinions about whether she’s going to run for president and if she’d be any good. I even saw several tepid takes about how it would be as dumb to vote for Oprah as it was to vote for Trump. As if, because they are both TV personalities, Oprah=Trump. Asinine.

And I did my share of clacking, too -- not so much about whether Oprah would be a good president, but more about my feelings about her feelings about her weight. My feelings about what it would mean for the women of the world if she could get over it. My feelings.

A couple hours later, I was washing some dishes, thinking about my post and the lively conversation that sprang up underneath it, and I got a different feeling. A sinking, shit/oops feeling.

What did I just do?

  • First, did I really take an actual important event in the world -- Oprah’s beautiful outpouring of hope to a country starved for it -- and make it all about my completely unrelated feelings about her? Ayup, that’s exactly what I did.

  • Second, do I really think it was Oprah’s job to fix not only the shitshow that is American politics at present but also all of our body image issues as well? Why do I feel the need to criticize this woman for being only, like, 98% perfect?

  • Third, don’t I hate it when skinny young dudes try to tell me what I should do with my fat middle-aged lady body? Because they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about? Then why am I turning around and doing the same shit to Oprah now?

How can I possibly judge a person who has experienced the abuse and the racism that she has experienced? Where do I get off telling her how she should feel about her body? Where do I get off giving unsolicited advice to ANY black person? Especially when white people are the ones fucking almost everything up?

All these thoughts were swirling around my head when I got a notification from my friend Maria, popping up on my thread to be like, GIRL. What are you DOING. Sure, it would be great for feminism if Oprah could love her body at any size, and it would also be great if white people would do a GREAT MANY THINGS DIFFERENTLY, and yet ... here we are.

She reminded me, as she always does, that racism can be far more subtle than the conspicuously horrible Jefferson Beauregard Sessions variety. It can just be about living in a such a way that we don’t think about black people at all.

For instance, when I wrote my post the other day, I was just spilling my feelings out onto the screen. I didn’t consider how it might sound or feel to black people (I imagine it's similar to how I feel when dudes share their feelings about womankind with me).

Nor did I consider that, if I’m really as concerned about ending racism as I like to think I am, maybe there’s a more valuable way to spend my time besides tearing down a black woman?  

Now -- let me head off this question because I know it’s coming -- Am I really saying that Oprah and by extension all black people are beyond critique? No. I am positive that there are critiques to be made of Oprah and all black people because there are critiques to be made of all human beings.

But those particular critiques shouldn’t come from me.

Reasons I Am Not Qualified To Critique Oprah

  • Am I an expert on black women’s bodies or the way they are raised to see their physical selves or ideas about body image in black communities? No, I am not.

  • Do I know anything about what it means to have been horribly abused as a child and still find a way to make my life into a huge net positive for the world around me? No. Neither my abuse nor my contributions can be measured on the same scale as Oprah’s.

  • What do I know about racism from the pointy end? What experience do I have being black?

  • Finally, who the fuck asked me? Spoiler: No one.

So, I talked with Maria. She helped set me straight. And then I edited my post to reflect my changing thoughts. And hopefully this lesson -- don’t spew about shit you don’t understand! -- was reinforced a bit in my head. And we all moved on with our lives.

Why Am I Telling You This Story?

  • Because I thought it might be useful to walk through why what I did was racist in an oblivious liberal-white-lady kind of way, since this kind of racism often eludes the notice of many white people (including me, clearly)

  • Because of an exchange that I heard in a video by Robin DiAngelo, a researcher and teacher who coined the term “white fragility” and has studied it for decades. (The exchange starts around 18:20 in the linked video, but you should watch the whole 20 minutes if you can -- it's solid gold.)

DiAngelo says that in one of her workshops, she asked this question of a group of people of color:

“What would your daily life be like if you could simply give us (white people) feedback when we step in it, as we inevitably will, and have us receive that with grace, reflect, and seek to do something different?”

A black man in the room responded:  

“It would be revolutionary.”

REVOLUTIONARY.

I haven’t been able to get this exchange out of my head since I heard it. And I think it’s because even though I despise racism, sexism, and all forms of discrimination and bias, I have also been swimming in them since the moment I was born … which means that they are inside me and, in fact, all of us. Which is more than a little depressing.

But when I heard this little exchange, I saw a way out of this hopeless-feeling situation -- I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to BE COACHABLE and KEEP TRYING. When someone is brave enough to tell me I fucked up, I have to be brave enough to take the feedback with grace and try to do better.

It is a vulnerable feeling to be called out for acting out of bias, but having gone through it more than once now, I can tell you that

  • It’s honestly not that bad.
  • It’s absolutely nothing compared to the shit that people of color go through regularly.
  • And it is the only way we can learn how to dismantle and move beyond racist beliefs and institutions. 

White folks of my acquaintance, I hope you’ll join me in striving for coachability, so we can learn where we're fucking up, and do better.

The Hormone Monstress Wants What the Hormone Monstress Wants

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You ever been driving around and you see some crazy lady driving around crying and ranting and she's really going for it, but there's no one else in the car with her? Ever wonder who that lady is?

Sometimes, it's me ... under the influence of the Hormone Monstress. 

The Hormone Monstress is a character in Big Mouth, a very dirty and funny cartoon about the humiliating world of puberty. My favorite part about the show is how it distills the essence of hormone-fueled, non-rational behavior into a separate character, the Hormone Monstress, brilliantly played by Maya Rudolph. She is perfect, and horny and furious and world-weary and ready to burn it all down. See for yourself:

In addition to being a cartoon character, the Hormone Monstress is also me, every once in awhile, where "awhile" equals 19-39 days. (Thanks, perimenopause, for adding so many surprises to my life!) Normally I'm not so bad, maybe a little snippish at work, or extra inclined to lie on the couch and watch Sense and Sensibility again. Road rage, huge annoyance over tiny slights, tearing up at baby animal videos -- all of that is pretty typical, and none of it is all that bad. 

But every now and then, my hormones have a wild month, and when that overlaps with one more more real-life stressors, shit can get ugly. Like last week, when a super busy workday, added to some life issues that are stressful but honestly not THAT bad in the scheme of things, multiplied by Hormone Monstressness, led me to lose my damn mind.

In the moment, I knew I was not being rational. I knew I was leaning into an emotional impulse that was not entirely based on an accurate view of reality. Still, I leaned in. Instead of taking a step back and trying to calm myself, I kept ratcheting the level of drama UP. In the end, I lost about half a day to this emotional ketchup burst. And it took me a couple days to feel like myself again, and not the monstress version. 

I'm not in the business of beating myself up. At the same time, I do think it's worth it to look at this incident and, in the interest of reducing the duration and the severity in the future, do a little post-mortem to see how I might be able to respond differently when HM rises up in me the next time. Hormones are gonna hormone -- so what can I do to make my life a little easier when they do? 

1) Notice and name it. Part of the issue with hormonal rage is that I feel like I need to solve whatever caused it, in the moment of my rage. This clearly doesn't work at all. Instead of focusing on what I was upset about, I think it would have helped me to focus on how I was feeling. To name it. To say, "This is a storm, not a problem to be solved. I can't sort it out now, and I don't need to. I just need to weather the storm." 

2) Don't make big decisions. Don't have big talks. When I'm in this frame of mind, sometime my mind tells me that my entire life is shit and I need to take to the woods and start over. But that is almost never true. Whatever I'm upset about isn't even the major issue in these moments -- the major issue is that I feel hopeless and out of control. That's what I need to address and sort out. Repeat: "This is a storm. I just need to weather it." 

3) Distraction, not ranting. Sometimes talking about stuff to get it off my chest is a good thing. In these moments, it's definitely not. All it does is drag me further and further into the hopped-up, indignant, THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT place. What works better for me is major distraction. Going to the movies is perfect because it's an overwhelming sensory experience that leaves little brain space for ranting. The more explosions in the movie, the better! 

4) When it's all over, reflect. Because sometimes the thing I was so upset about is nothing, but other times it's real, and it really needs to be addressed! The hormone monstress can be a little over the top, sure, but that doesn't mean she's wrong about everything. As my hilarious old-lady gynecologist once asked me when I told her my birth control pills were making me crazy, "Hmm, is it the hormones making you crazy, or your boyfriend?" GOOD QUESTION. The time to sort all that out is after the freak-out, though, not during. 

5) Forgiveness. Forgiveness. More forgiveness. No one likes to be a monstress. At least I don't. But I am a human being, which means I am going to go through and even cause some wild shit in my life, and I categorically forgive myself for all of it. This is one of the gifts of being moderately old now -- I now realize that the only way to deal with myself is lovingly. If I need to change my behavior, if I need to examine my beliefs, if I need to take something on and deal with it -- the only way I'm ever going to be able to do that is from a place of love and encouragement, not from kicking myself in the ass.

6) The In Case of Crazy Kit. I built one of these way back before I wrote my first book, because I realized I was spending too much time hating on my body and I was tired of feeling that way about myself. So I made a little collection of funny notes and helpful suggestions and goofy/uplifting ephemera, so that when I felt myself starting to spin out of control, I could pull it out and look through it and remember that I also have times in my life when I am funny and cool and absolutely fine. Seems like it's time for me to get my kit out again and revamp it for addressing a new set of crazinesses! I think I will add a little portrait of the Hormone Monstress, because it really does help to see these wild impulses as a furry beast played by Maya Rudolph rather than the essence of my own crazy-ass soul. 

OK so ... how about you, gentle reader? Do your hormones sometimes overlap with real-life stressors in such a way as to make you want to burn down the entire fucking world? Come sit with me by the fire and let's discuss. 

Let's Talk About Being Humans Online, and Not Bots

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Last week I went through the worst Troll Attack of my life, and found myself having to defend myself against baseless charges of plagiarism. Even with all the facts on my side, still the trolls came for me in waves, yelling at me, calling me out for some shit I didn't do, and accusing me of the exact thing they were doing to me in the exact moment they were doing it. It was a positively Trumpian experience! 

As I hacked my way through the waves of trollery, my online friends hacking away by my side, taking down senseless arguments and standing up for ancient values like Reason and Words Having Meanings and Time Zone Math, I had a lot of Capital F Feelings about it all. 

The first was gratitude that my online squad rolls so deep and so fierce. Seriously, I had a couple dozen women standing up for me and my (relatively) good name, and their grasp on reality held me down when it felt like I must be taking crazy pills. 

The second was uncontrollable laughter at the absurdity of the situation. Because, seriously, two minutes of looking at the timestamps and language of both posts made it crystal clear that I couldn't have stolen anything, unless I had a Time Turner, which I don't have, but probably wouldn't tell you about even if I did. 

The last, and the one that stuck around the longest, was a deep feeling of sadness.

Because as I pictured the witches clacking away with their baseless arguments, and me and my friends clacking away in my defense, all I could see in my mind's eye was millions of people, isolated in our own homes, clacking away on our devices.

What are we clacking for? Is anything changing because of all this clacking?

Or have we unwittingly allowed ourselves to become bots in the dopamine-fueled online culture wars?

What I mean by becoming bots is that we repeat the same arguments, almost as if they were on a loop, without actually checking the facts behind what we say, and without acknowledging the truth that the folks we are clacking against are live, breathing human beings.

When the Australian witches decided to witch-hunt me, this is exactly what I saw. There were a few folks in that crew who took the time to look at the facts of what was going on, and saw that I was correct and their leader was not. But most of the witches just saw that someone they like online, someone they follow and trust, was upset with me, and accepted her incorrect take as truth.

And after they chose a side, they were completely resistant to facts. They hurled accusations with no proof to back it up. They insulted me and called me a shitty feminist, a grotesque thief of another woman's glory (as though going viral is a glorious experience -- HA!) Even when presented with screenshots that proved there was no way I could have done what I was accused of, they responded with insults rather than facts. 

In short, these witches became BOTS, and they mobilized against me on a scale much smaller but almost identical to how so many of us have become bots in political discussions. Once we choose a side, facts don't penetrate. We just want to clack away against the forces we've been told to clack away against.

And I'm not saying this from some elevated position outside of it. I have botted my way through many online discussions in my years on the internet -- trying to explain the concept of privilege to folks who reject it ... trying to get dudes to listen to what women are telling them about our experience when said dudes are still fully embedded in the misogynist Matrix that is our rapey culture ... trying to explain why Hillary Clinton doesn't deserve even a fraction of the hate that's been directed at her over the years.

Even though I know it's useless, and I try to be thoughtful in how I discuss stuff online, it's still something I find myself doing. Just drop me into a thread where someone is talking about how Hillary is a demon, or how Bernie is our savior, or how Donny Johnny "tells it like it is," and you will witness my heart starting to pound and my fingers starting to clack away almost before I even know what's happening.

Why is it bad? I think mostly because acting like a bot is literally dehumanizing -- to the clacker and to all the clackees. And it means that meaningful conversation isn't possible, because we're all just running our clacking programs and trying to score points and not listening. So much clack clack clack into the void. It's depressing, isn't it? 

And who benefits from this? It's certainly not me or you or the Australian witches or any of the millions of people clacking and being clacked at online. Facebook benefits, though. Twitter benefits. And the status quo in general benefits, because of the opportunity cost of all the energy we waste clacking away into the void. What else could we be doing with that time? Literally anything else is more productive than clacking. 

So, I am going to work on this. No more unconscious clacking. No more wandering around the internet like a bot with a twitchy trigger finger. Like any bad habit, it starts with NOTICING when I'm falling into bot mode. And then I have to make another choice. Because, seriously folks, with humans like us, who needs bots? Here's what I'm going to try instead. 

  • Take a breath before clacking. Am I mad? Am I high on self-righteousness? Am I about to pop off about some shit I don't fully understand? Are there facts I need to check first? And, if there are, do I feel like looking that stuff up and making a reasoned response? If I don't, that's a signal that I'm better off just letting it go and moving on with my life. As Luvvie Ajayi says, "Shutting the fuck up is free." 
  • No repetitive arguments. If I find myself clacking out some shit that I've said before? Using the same examples and language and everything? That is a good sign that I need to play my Shut the Fuck Up card. 
  • Be OK with everyone not agreeing 100% on everything. I mean, it's not like I LOVE that there are racist/sexist/horrible people walking around in the world, and I will make my points known to them for sure. But acting like a bot never convinces anyone anyway. So what I can do is this: make my points clearly and emphatically and with humanity, then stop. 
  • Reframe my goal from being RIGHT to being HUMAN. The best outcome that we can hope for in any online debate, I think, is to be able to listen to each other like human beings. I'm not going to be able to change everyone's minds, and they are not going to be able to change mine. The important thing is to plant a seed in a way that it might possibly grow. That means not salting the ground around it. 
  • "Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me like a reasonable human being." If being human is more important than being right, then we should acknowledge other folks when they engage like humans, and ignore folks who don't. I like this phrase because it allows that human beings can disagree about some stuff and still allow each other to live in the world.

All of these points are especially important, I think, when talking with people who see the world similarly but not the same. Because, you know, the Bernie Bros do have a point about money in politics. And Hillary Bitches like me have a point AND A HALF about misogyny, and also about how incremental change is way better than reverting to the 19th century. (This is part of what made the conflict with the Aussie witches so extra stupid -- because I'm sure over a beer, them witches and I agree on like 99% of reality.)

Anyway, how about you? Do you ever find yourself acting like a bot and not a human? Do you see a couple of keywords in a paragraph and immediately fly into a rage without even reading the words around them? Do you have a tendency toward salting the ground so nothing will ever grow there again? Does it make you feel hopeless about the world, or at least gross about your online interactions? 

I hope you will join me in trying to break down the calcified pattern of uninformed, habitual clacking that's taken hold in so many of us, and endeavor to be human instead. 

My Facebook Post Went Viral and All I Got Were These Lousy Australian Witches Threatening to Hex Me

Been a pretty crazy week round here at Be Less Crazy HQ and YOU KNOW HOW I HATE THAT SHIT!

It started innocently enough. I wrote this post on my Facebook page on Monday, just before 3 pm Mountain time:

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Little did I know how my carelessly tossed-off and honestly not-that-well-written little post would strike a chord! By my best estimates now, it's been shared more than 100,000 times on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, and Lord knows where else.

Most of the responses were positive -- after all, people don't tend to share posts unless they are in agreement. I did get some pushback, to be expected, that fell into the following camps for the most part.

  • This isn't about gender. Spacey faced consequences because he owned up to it and apologized (um, no he didn't -- he invoked the Erkel defense: "Did I do that?")
  • You are pitting male victims of sexual assault against female victims of sexual assault (um, no -- unless you have poor reading comprehension skills)
  • You are a cunt who plagiarized your post from this OTHER post and I AM GOING TO HEX YOU

Hahaha! No, seriously! I'm not kidding! Apparently an Australian woman posted something with a similar sentiment in her own group, which I'm not a member of, then got it published in the Sydney Morning Herald. AFTER her post was published by the SMH (haha, perfect acronym in this case, no?) she then saw my post being shared around, and got mad about it.

So she posted to her community of 20,000-some alleged "feminist witches" and conjured among them the desire for an ACTUAL WITCH HUNT. Of me. A person who does not know or read her. For writing a 100 word post on Facebook. 

Only thing is, she was wrong. In many, many ways:

  • First, I could not have copied her, because both of her posts -- the one in her group and the one in the SMH -- came out AFTER mine did. And I am pretty awesome, it's true, but I'm not quite so proficient of a witch to be able to time travel ... not yet anyway.
  • Second, though we expressed a similar sentiment, my language shared nothing with hers other than the mention of several famous sexual assaulters (Spacey, Weinstein, Cosby, Trump).
  • Third, I got literally no benefit from this post going viral. All I DID get were a lot of random criticisms and accusations, which I'd be glad to share with this other writer if she really wants them.
  • Fourth, she never stopped to consider the SUPERTHICK IRONY of NOT BELIEVING A WOMAN on a post that was all about WHAT IF WE BELIEVED WOMEN? 
  • Fifth, she's bad at math and delusional and it's not my fault I came up with a pithier and easier-to-share post on this topic than she did. 

I'm not linking to her, because FUCK HER. But I do have the receipts. She lied about me, and I'm not having it, and I hope she dies mad about it. And her little dog, too! 

Moral of the story kids -- going viral is not all it's cracked up to be! The only thing I got out of it is an even deeper appreciation for the fact that I am part of a badass community of fierce women who stood up for me as all this ridiculous shit went down. 

The Only Opinion About Your Body That Matters Is Yours

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What do you do when someone you dearly love (a woman) tells you that someone else you dearly love (her partner, a dude) recently took her to task for allowing her ass to get too big, and you have a lot of Feelings about it? If you are me, you write this blog post ... 

Because, you know, I have it so good in the people-shutting-the-fuck-up-about-my-body department that I sometimes forget that not all husbands are kind and not all women have assimilated the Be Less Crazy About Your Body point of view.

What is that? Well, thanks for asking. It's basically boils down to understanding that

  • Your body is yours. You get to decide how you feel about it.
  • Hating on our bodies for whatever reason is a habit instilled in us by our patriarchal culture, and it's neither required nor advisable.
  • We can learn to let go of these self-defeating habits and instead appreciate our bodies for what they are -- vehicles that allow us to experience and contribute to this world. Nothing more and nothing less. 

But none of this is what we are taught, and unless we choose to change our minds, most of us will be stuck with our culture's default settings ...

  • What your body is for is to please and serve other people. To cause and alleviate boners. 
  • Your value as a human has a great deal to do with how many boners you are able to cause. 
  • Other people should make themselves free to comment on your body, because how else will you know how much you are worth? 

Even typing that out fills me with white-hot rage, because this way of seeing women including ourselves holds us back in about a million ways. It means that men and women alike feel entitled to assess us based on our looks, throughout our entire lives.

Even grosser, it means that we get used to these assessments, even seeking them out for validation that we are worth something. We learn to see our value as approximately equal to the sum of what other people think about the way we look. We learn to sit outside ourselves and endlessly critique, trying to imagine what other people see. Instead of learning to fully inhabit and make use of these vehicles which we totally and completely own, we hand over the keys to anyone who has an opinion about them.

It is heartbreaking. But it is NOT DESTINY. These are simply shitty emotional habits that we learned from a culture that does not value our personhood, and these habits can be changed. Each of us can learn to see ourselves in a fuller, kinder, more accurate, and more useful way. 

And as we do that, we can also draw boundaries about how we will allow ourselves to be spoken to.

When your husband tells you your ass is looking fat in those jeans, you can be like, "Bitch, who asked you?"

When a well-meaning but irritating relative offers diet advice, you can tell them, "I'm not interested in talking about that."

When someone you don't even know offers any kind of opinion on your body that you don't care to hear, you can tell them, "I honestly could not care any less about your opinion on my body."

Because, friends, even though these kinds of comments are as common as deranged tweets from our president, they are still completely fucked. They are all about trying to control you. They are all about others feeling entitled to dictate how you feel about yourself. And they are certainly all reflections of how these people see themselves. 

Personally, I'm kind of a bitch, so I shut this kind of shit down instinctively quite a while ago. But if you are nicer than me (which you probably are), you may need some practice. I suggest calling upon memories of when people made unsolicited comments about your appearance to get hyped up, and speaking these phrases out loud. 

"That's not a topic I'm interested in talking about with you."

"Hahaha, I'm not that fussed about it. MOVING ON ..."

"Diet talk again? Ugh, can we not?"

"I can't imagine why you think I care about your opinion."

"My body is not up for discussion."

And then you hold the line. If they double back on what they were trying to say, you walk away. You protect your brainspace like a lioness protects her baby lions. You be, and stay, less crazy.

You also help the hapless opinion-sharer, because, honestly? Someone should tell them how deeply no one cares what they think.

It's not the easiest thing to do, but it's not that hard, either. And when you let go of the habit of hating on your body, you gain so much freedom. It's like Konmari-ing your brain. So much light and empty space! 

If your loved ones don't get it right away, that's OK. You just hold the line, and they eventually will change their thinking ... or at least they will shut up about it. I used a simple and loving version of this script with my grandma when she'd continually bring up the topic of my weight -- "I'm not interested in taking about that" -- and it didn't take her long to get it. 

I leave it to you to decide who deserves a "Bitch, who asked you?" and who deserves a simple "I don't want to talk about that." But I do really hope that you (and my beloved person) will commit to holding the line on behalf of your own personhood and bodily integrity.

The only opinion about your body that matters is yours, so focus on getting that straight, and let everyone else's thoughts go. 

Be Less Crazy By Getting Some Frickin Sleep Already

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Ahhhh, delicious, nutritious sleep. It has always been one of my favorite activities in life -- my grandma told me that I was the only toddler she ever knew who would ask to be put to bed! And through most of my life, I've been a champion sleeper.

For me, sleeping feels like a bath for my brain, a safe cocoon of darkness where I can lose myself for a while. A good night's sleep feels literally like magic. 

And when I can't get sleep? Well, it's kind of the worst. I've only gone through a few insomniac times in my life --  a few years as an 80s kid terrified of nuclear war, a few months last spring when I kept having anxiety attacks for no apparent reason (my therapist and I concluded that it was deferred grief plus the adjustment to living in a higher-altitude climate). 

And now, there's the last two weeks in Paris, where I'm staying for a month ... and it's gorgeous and wonderful in every way except that sleep has been, let's say, elusive. Before I arrived, I had plans of walking along the Seine at dawn, drinking coffee and writing in cafes until time to work at noon ... but almost none of that has happened. Instead, most nights I have tossed and turned until finally drifting off around 5 am, then waking up groggy at 10 or 11, and drinking tea until I'm able to think semi-straight again. 

It's not good for me, I know -- I'm not one of those people who can power through and function even when exhausted. So I value sleep very highly, and am more than happy to spend 1/3 of my life sleeping, and when I can't, I get bummed about it very quickly.

I've noticed that I'm in the minority on this, though ... most people I know would rather watch TV or hang out with their families or even get some work done than go the fuck to bed. But they aren't really doing themselves any favors -- research shows that folks who get less than the recommended 7-9 hours have a much higher risk of all kinds of gnarly stuff, from Alzheimer's and cancer to car accidents and early death

So if we know sleep is vital to human life, why do we continue to de-prioritize it? There are many reasons, and sleep researcher Matthew Walker goes through many of them in this recent excellent article in the Guardian -- electric lights disrupt our natural light-based rhythms, and changes in the way we work and commute that eat up more free time which we're then tempted to steal from sleeptime. 

But the last reason he mentions is the one that resonates most deeply for me: culturally, we see sleeping as wasted time, and we see prioritizing sleep as laziness.

Clearly this is false -- my own experience tells me it's false -- because when I'm well-rested, my whole day goes better. I'm smarter, faster, more emotionally resilient. I have much more to offer the people around me. I'm able to make healthier choices in terms of what I'm going to eat and how I'm going to spend my time. 

When I'm exhausted, by contrast, I crave low-quality, easy-to-digest foods -- donuts, cheesy sandwiches, french fries -- because I need the hit of energy and will to live. I'm more snappish about everyday annoyances. I'm less willing to cut my fellow humans a break. In short, being tired makes me live the opposite of what Oprah calls "my best life."

And I wonder, do other folks not notice this? I think that many of us don't. In fact it seems like so many of us are so sleep-deprived that we don't even know what it feels like to be fully rested anymore. Which is a crying shame! And leads to untold misery, all the worse because it's entirely unnecessary. 

That also means that we have an opportunity, though -- if we can prioritize sleeping more in our own lives, we can experience huge change. We can become more forgiving with each other, because we're not already at the razor's edge of not being able to function. We can more easily take good care of ourselves, because we have the energy to put into self-care. We become more willing to listen, and to walk in each others' shoes, because we're not too tired to see straight.

Imagine what could come out of solving our culture's chronic sleep deprivation problem! We could eradicate road rage, improve our schools and workplaces, even find the collective will to tackle our biggest problems -- from systemic bias to climate change. We could be more creative. We could be more human. 

So, how? Like all cultural change, it has to involve each of us changing our own priorities so that we get our eight hours as often as we possibly can -- maybe even nine! Aim high! 

There are many wonderful resources on the internet to help each of us find the tools that will help us more sleep. Here are some of the common threads among these guides:

1) Keep consistent hours.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. I'm not super great as this one -- I travel a lot and don't even keep regular hours at home -- but when I make an effort, I do notice better quality of sleep.

2) Set an alarm to remind you when it's time to start winding down.

We set alarms to wake up, but Walker says that if you need an alarm to get up in the morning, that means for SURE you're not getting enough sleep. He suggests instead setting an alarm for bedtime -- working backwards from when you need to get up, and adding 8 hours to sleep and 30-60 minutes to prepare for sleep.

3) Establish a bedtime routine. 

This is something my therapist helped me with last spring when I was struggling to get any good sleep. Previous to establishing a real routine, bedtime looked like "go lie down whenever you feel like you're about to fall off the perch." When I started adding steps like "do 5 minutes of gentle yoga" and "brush your teeth" and "read a book for 10 or 15 minutes," I found that it really did get my mind ready to drift off more consistently. 

4) Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and free of crap.

This one especially applies to all my peri-menopausal ladies out there -- HOLLA! The last few years I find my temperature running a lot hotter than it ever did before, so I started sleeping with a fan on most nights, and using a sleeping mask as well. Blackout curtains can also help if a sleeping mask doesn't work for you. 

And try to save your bedroom just for sleeping and other bed-related activities. The idea is that you want it to feel peaceful in there, like a special place where nothing is required of you other than rest. Keep computers and clutter out of there. Reserve this space just for your own care. 

5) Pay attention to your own unrestful triggers.

Even though I love to have coffee at the end of a meal, I don't anymore, because it keeps me up. Red wine can sometimes raise my body temperature so that I'm not able to drift off, so I watch that, too. Pay attention to what makes it hard for you to get to sleep, and remind yourself that sleep is almost always more important. 

6) Right before bedtime, make it a goal to not get hepped up.

Things not to do right before going to bed: watch Daenarys lose her dragon to the Night King. Listen to Harry Potter fighting for his life against Voldemort. Get into a political fight online.

Do nice chill things instead. Watch soothing videos, like people painting or fish swimming. Listen to Jane Austen or some nice soothing music. Read from a paper book. Make a list of all the to-do items floating around your brain so they have a place to rest, too. Try the Yoga Nidra meditation on the Insight Timer app -- it's so good! Take it easy and let your mind slow down.  

7) Get some exercise during the day.

Any exercise will help -- exercise outside in the fresh air helps most of all. 

8) Stop looking at sleeping as a lazy activity and start looking at it as a gift. 

Sleep is beautiful. Sleep is glorious. Sleep transforms your life for the better every single day, which is kind of miraculous if you think about it. Almost nothing is more important than getting enough of it. 

If you're one of these people that equates needing a full night of sleep with laziness or weakness or shame, make a point of shifting your thoughts about it. Look at making space for sleep as a way of actively loving yourself, and teach your children to do the same. When other folks make jokes or jabs equating sleep with sloth, correct them, because this bias we have against sleep is literally killing people, and we need to flip it. 

What are your thoughts about sleep? Do you feel like you give it a high enough priority in your life, or is it something that you are willing to sacrifice for other goals? I want to hear all about it!