Jonathan Chait’s “Not A Very P.C. Thing To Say” In a Nutshell

27 Jan

Today in New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait discusses how hard it is to be a white man these days. In case you don’t have the time or moral energy to read his 5,000 word opus of angst, here’s a brief rundown.

1. If this article seems familiar, it’s because you’ve read it before. Not only that, but you’ve experienced it in various iterations both online and in real life. This article is that guy from the philosophy class you took ten years, the one who Kool-Aid mans his way into every Facebook discussion about feminism to tell you why he’s actually a humanist. This article is that sweaty, overbearing man at a party who corners you and aggressively questions you about socialism in what he thinks is a charming way, but when you try to respond to him he just talks over you. This article is every guy who thinks he’s the first one brave enough to ask if political correctness has just gone too far. This article is the Sad Progressive White Dude Manifesto.

You don’t even need to read the article. You already know what it’s going to say.

2. One time in the 90s there was a pretty fantastic-sounding art exhibit documenting the lives of sex workers. Some SWERFs tried to shut it down. This event that happened twenty years ago is very relevant to this essay because it shows how feminists are always trying to ruin people’s happy fun time parties.

Never mind that many feminists are sex worker-inclusive. Never mind that SWERF ideas are widely considered to be outdated and harmful. You don’t need to know any of that, because it’s not relevant to this essay.

3. Chait mentions both the #JeSuisCharlie and #JeNeSuisPasCharlie hashtags but conveniently forgets to mention #KillAllMuslims, because we’re not here to talk about the actual real-life consequences of posting offensive content, we’re just here to sound the oft-rung death knell of Free Speech.

4. Chait does not understand how trigger warnings work or what microaggressions are, but he’s pretty sure he doesn’t like it when people use those terms.

Writes Chait:

At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate “microaggressions,” or small social slights that might cause searing trauma.”

And:

Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering.

Rather than understand how trauma works, or recognize that trigger warnings are, in fact, about giving people the choice when and where to engage with potentially upsetting content, Chait prefers to patronizingly pooh-pooh the whole idea. Instead of recognizing that most people use trigger warnings as a way to facilitate the “controlled exposure” to trauma experts recommend – because, again, trigger warnings give readers the choice to make sure that they are in a safe space and a healthy mindset before engaging with potentially triggering content – he prefers to believe that anyone who asks for a content warning is a mewling infant who should just get over it already.

How nice that Chait has never found any content upsetting enough to require a trigger warning; one supposes that makes him an expert on the subject.

5. Here are some complaints about microaggressions that Chait, your uncle who sometimes uses racial slurs when he drinks too much but it’s ok because he has a Black friend, is complaining about:

“Stanford recently canceled a performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson after protests by Native American students.”

Yes, it’s completely baffling why anyone of Indigenous ancestry would be upset by a “rock musical” (whose tagline is “history just got all sexypants”) about the man who tried to eradicate their people with a genocidal fervour. Gosh, kids these days are just so sensitive!

UCLA students staged a sit-in to protest microaggressions such as when a professor corrected a student’s decision to spell the word indigenous with an uppercase I.”

Because it’s not like literally every other culture and ethnic group is afforded a capital letter.

Because there’s no history of erasure of Indigenous people on this continent.

Because white academia has always been such a friendly and welcoming space to people of colour and as such deserves the benefit of the doubt, always.

A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas.”

There are so many reasons to boycott The Vagina Monologues – transphobia is only one of them. Instead of weeping that an outdated and non-inclusive play is no longer being staged, why not encourage people to write something better?

6. Chait – who is literally milking the cash cow of “HAS OUR CULTURE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE TOO FAR????” – thinks that creating content about racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc., is a total money-grab. How he, a white dude writing the billionth think-piece on People Are Too Sensitive These Days, does not see the irony in this statement is completely astounding.

7. Jonathan Chait is a white man, and he’s tired of you calling him out on his mansplaining. Why are you so mean to him? He’s not here to offend; he’s just trying to patiently explain how the real world works, sweetie.

Chait, in his five thousand word essay that appeared in a major publication, is tired of people using the term “mansplaining” to shut him down.

The truth is that these days men like Chait just don’t have access to enormous platforms from which to bleat their every thought and feeling.

Chait would like to sing you the song of his people, a keening lament about the plight of the Nice White Guy.

8. According to Chait, secret opt-in Facebook group that women are free to quit at any time is like a “virtual mental prison.” Much like a real-life prison, people are asked to be sensitive to each others’ feelings and if they can’t manage that are welcome to leave at their leisure. Feminism: it’s just like the Prison Industrial Complex but with more pictures of kittens.

Also if you are a woman sharing posts with a dude from what is supposed to be a safe space for women, I’m sorry but you are being shitty. You are not allowed in our clubhouse anymore.

9. Blah blah neo-Marxism blah correcting a misattributed Voltaire quote blah Chait is a smart dude who knows lots of big words blah

10. Writes Chait:

‘These ideas have more than theoretical power. Last March at University of ­California–Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a “free-speech zone,” a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.

Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had “triggered” her and violated her “personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” A Facebook group called “UCSB Microaggressions” declared themselves “in solidarity” with Miller-Young and urged the campus “to provide as much support as possible.”’

I’m just going to put this out there: if you find yourself aligning with the anti-choice folks waving around signs with graphic images of aborted fetuses on them, it might be time to check yourself. You are not progressive. You are on the side of people who want to limit women’s rights. This is not an issue of free speech; the government was not trying to censor these protestors. This is an issue of one individual reacting to content that was meant to provoke and upset.

Do I think Miller-Young should have shoved one of the protestors? No. Do I think she has a right to go to work without looking at dead fetuses? Hell yeah I do. This isn’t censorship – this is human decency. Literally people should be able to walk around without having pictures of mangled fetuses shoved in their faces. Is that really so hard to understand.

And are we really arguing about “destruction of property” here? If that’s the case, I will happily mail five dollars to the Short sisters so that they can go buy another yardstick and print out some more dead fetus posters at Kinkos.

11. SCENE:

A DARK PIT

JONATHAN CHAIT, a Nice White Guy in a polo and casual slacks, kneels in a pile of rubble. His arms are raised imploringly to his captors, the FEMINIST CABAL. They poke him with sticks and cackle. It is basically MacBeth Redux, except the witches are more diverse.

JONATHAN CHAIT

Won’t you please argue with me?

FEMINIST CABAL

(Ignore him)

JONATHAN CHAIT

I said argue with me, damnit! I’m here in good faith!

FEMINIST CABAL

(laughs)

JONATHAN CHAIT

(howling into the darkness)

ARGUE WITH MEEEEE!!!

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If You Buy a Harry Potter Engagement Ring You Are Probably Awesome

22 Jan

A brief response to Kelly Conaboy’s post on Gawker, “If You Buy a Harry Potter Engagement Ring You Should Not Get Married“:

1. There are some very excellent reasons that people should not get married. They include such things as “the couple is too young to legally marry,” or “the couple believes marriage is an outdated patriarchal institution based on the premise that women are property,” or, especially, “the couple does not wish to get married.” However, nowhere on that list of reasons why two loving, consenting adults should not marry is “because they both like Harry Potter-themed jewellery.” No matter what your opinion of the oeuvre of J.K. Rowling, the fact that two grown-ass people who love each other also love her books does not mean they are somehow too immature to wed.

2. How about just being happy that people who share the same passions and interests have found each other and apparently delight in each other’s company? No one is making you, Kelly Conaboy, marry someone who likes to read intelligent social commentary disguised as fiction about teenage wizards. I fail to understand how it somehow impacts you that someone else who is completely separate from your life loves Quidditch enough to want to own this ring:

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3. I’m sorry, but no one who had to google the words “Golden Snitch” is fit to write about a ring that represents the Golden Snitch.

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That’s like asking me, the person whose idea of haute cuisine is dumping a can of Campbell’s into a dented old pot, to write a column about cooking. Also, the fact that Conaboy twice implies that she didn’t know what a Golden Snitch was reeks  of performative ignorance.

We get it, Kelly, you are too cool and grownup for Harry Potter. Do you have any other points you wish to make.

4. Writes Conaboy:

‘Imagine this scenario: The adult female on whom you have spent the past seven years of your life takes you to the top of a mountain. She pulls out a ring. “Is that?” “Yes—the Golden Snitch,” she says. She has proposed to you with a ring you recognize as the smallest ball—the name of which both of you know—used in the broomstick game child wizard Harry Potter plays during his downtime. Two adults standing on top of a mountain with a ring from a series of young adult novels neither of whom were, even at the time of publishing, the correct age to read. A Harry Potter engagement ring.’

While I get that she’s trying to be pithy and clever, there are a few issues here.

First of all, Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone was published in 1997. Assuming the “correct age” to read that book is the same age as the protagonists – eleven years old – those readers would now be 28, which is a decade above the legal marriageable age in most states and provinces.

Second of all, there is no correct age to read Harry Potter books because they are great books.

Third of all, while we’re imagining things, imagine this: EVERYONE MINDS THEIR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS AND DOESN’T POLICE WHAT KIND OF ENGAGEMENT RINGS CONSENTING ADULTS CHOOSE TO GIVE EACH OTHER. IS THAT ACTUALLY SO HARD.

If you need a refresher on the deep and complicated theory behind this last point, might I direct you to Nicole Cliffe’s fantastic piece On Subcultures. Specifically, you should read this part:

‘There are people who respond to other people having fun in ways that are alien to them with inexplicable rage and contempt. This is, honestly, one of the worst things you can do to yourself as a person of something resembling character. I kind of do it around things like Burning Man, which is silly. Obviously, if people really love Burning Man then they should just burn their little hearts out with great joy and abandon. And we should remember that other people probably feel this way about things we like. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, and you’ve ever tried to show someone an episode of Doctor Who, and it’s been a dismal failure, and they’ve tried to get YOU to align yourself with their vaguely snide amusement by saying things like “so, I assume the special effects are deliberately bad on purpose, right?” or “wait, how many of these have you SEEN?” or, worst of all “how does anyone stand the Doctor?” then you should know better. Perhaps the single greatest summation of this concept being “don’t yuck on someone else’s yums.”‘

Everyone likes different things. Some people like things you think are stupid or boring or pretentious – and you are entitled to that opinion! That being said, it’s pretty crummy to use your opinion as a way to make other people feel small. Also, your personal taste in books or television or leisure activities are not the official determinant of who’s allowed to get married.

6. I would be way, way more concerned about adults buying each other rings that reference something like Atlas Shrugged, a book that is purportedly for adults but, in my experience, is mostly beloved by neo-Libertarian fifteen year olds. But you know what? Even Ayn Rand fans need love (and jewellery) too.

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Now You Are Four

21 Jan

Dear Theo,

Saturday was your fourth birthday. You are four years old now. It doesn’t matter how many times I repeat those words to myself, that shit is still blowing my mind. You are four – in just a few months you will be starting what you refer to as “big kid school.” You’re practically in college, doing a double major in Kicking Ass and Taking Names.

I want to tell you a bit about who you are right now as a person. First of all, you are hilarious, often intentionally. You’ll play just about anything for a laugh, especially if you think it will get you out of trouble. You have the cheekiest grin I’ve ever seen. Best (or maybe worst) of all, you seem to have a preternatural gift for sarcasm. I often share your bon mots on Twitter and Facebook, and honestly, there are times when I’m pretty sure you’re more popular than I am.

You’re still the type of person who just rolls with whatever comes your way. We’ve had some pretty stressful times in our family this year, but you’ve been so happy-go-lucky through it all. Your daycare teacher mentioned a few months ago how remarkable it was that you always seem to be in a good mood, and it’s true – no matter what’s going on, no matter how little sleep you’ve had, your disposition is pretty much always sunny side up.

Speaking of sleep, I should probably mention that you still hate it. Your bedtime-delaying tactics are impressive – just another glass of milk, just another cuddle, you just need to tell me something, you don’t want your nightlight, no wait now you do want your nightlight, nope actually you don’t want your nightlight and you have to make two trips to give it to me because the first time you forgot to bring the charging cord that was still plugged into the wall. You also hate sleeping in your bed, and for some reason seem to prefer the floor – especially “the crack,” a space that you create by pulling your bed away from the wall.

Why did I waste my money on a bed, though

Why did I waste my money on a bed, though

One of the things I treasure the most about you is how compassionate and empathetic you are. You take the time to consider what other people are feeling; if someone is sick or hurt, you like to go check in on them to see how they’re doing. When you go to the park, you always like to bring two toys, so that you can share one if you happen to make a friend. If you’re eating something, you always like to offer everyone around you a taste. You have your moments of complete self-centredness of course – I mean, you’re only four after all – but in general you try to be aware of everyone else around you, and I love that.

This past year saw you gaining more awareness about social issues, both on larger and smaller scales. You came with me to the local Take Back the Night rally in the summer, and more recently we went to the Black Lives Matter protest. You accept the fact that girls can love girls and boys can love boys as a matter of course, and you’re better about trans issues than some of the grownups I know (“Mom, a boy can have a penis or a vagina, and a girl can have a vagina or a penis, right?”). We talk a lot about gender and race, and you’re very enthusiastic about the idea of equality. I’m excited to see what new social justice mountains we’ll scale this year.

Really into the whole "holding a fiery candle" thing at the Black Lives Matter protest

Really into the whole “holding a fiery candle” thing at the Black Lives Matter protest

Three was a big year for you in terms of milestones. For example, you finally learned how to use the toilet, much to the delight of everyone who has spent the past few years changing your diapers. You also weaned, quietly and very much on your own schedule, this past summer. You learned how to write your own name – both backwards and forwards, which I suspect means you are a witch – and you’re starting to sound out words. You still suck at drawing and have no interest in creating pictures of actual things, but hey, illustration isn’t for everyone I guess. You seem to prefer making sculptures, most of which are variations on the theme of “space shuttle.” You’re like the Claude Monet of space shuttles.

Your interests these days cover a spectrum from “emergency vehicles” all the way to “multicoloured anthropomorphic ponies.” You love doing puzzles – you’ll do the same one over and over until you’ve perfected your technique and can put all the pieces in place without much effort. Your current favourite toy is the Playmobil ambulance you got for your birthday, and I can’t get enough of hearing you prattle on about “emergency services.” You’re still obsessed with space, and you recently wondered aloud if the fact that Jupiter and Saturn were gas giants meant that Earth was a “gas baby.” Your current favourite show is My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and I am absolutely delighted because a) it’s way less annoying than pretty much anything else you like to watch and b) IT ACTUALLY HAS FEMALE CHARACTERS WHO AREN’T REDUCED TO ANNOYING PINK-N-PIGTAILS STEREOTYPES.

Your favourite pony is Rainbow Dash, and you are over the moon about the Rainbow Dash hat we got you for Christmas.

You found this flag and said "look, a Rainbow Dash flag!"

You found this flag and said “look, a Rainbow Dash flag!”

You’ve been asking for a baby brother for the past few months, and lately you’ve really amped up your campaign. You approach the subject like a Reasonable White Dude on twitter who just won’t stop trying to logic his way into being right. To wit:

Theo: If you just have two more boys and then a girl, that’s only four kids in this family! Four is a very small number. And then if you just have one more baby, that’s only five kids!

Me: What would I even do with five kids.

Theo: We could all watch shows together!

Or:

Theo: We need more boys in this family. We don’t have enough boys.

Me: But we already have more boys than girls! If anything, we need more girls.

Theo: Um… I think your two cats are girls?

Or:

Theo, completely in earnest: You’re going to have a baby soon. Two babies, actually.

Me: You can’t just state things as facts and hope that makes them true.

Your apparent investment in the Baby Industrial Complex is admirable, but unfortunately it’s just not going to happen anytime soon. Take comfort in the fact that you would probably really hate sharing me with a tiny, screaming bundle of poopy diapers.

You are such a great kid. I don’t think you’re objectively any more amazing than the average four year old, but in my subjective opinion you are the best thing that’s happened since sliced anything. To use your own words, I love you to Mercury and back and that’s a very, very long way. You make me so happy. I am incredibly stoked to see what the next year brings for you, and to continue watching you grow into the amazing human you’re bound to become.

Love beyond all reason,

Mama

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FRIENDS: Where Are They Now

5 Jan

Friends first aired just over 20 years ago. To celebrate its recent release on Netflix, let’s take some time to speculate where might be now. Rachel, the youngest of the group, would be 43. Ross and Phoebe, the oldest, would be 46. What has everyone been up to?

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Rachel Green

Obviously Ross and Rachel are divorced. Their split started out amicably enough, with promises about always staying friends and being good co-parents for Emma’s sake, but things went downhill pretty quickly after Rachel accepted another job in Paris and Ross accused her of resenting him for begging her to stay the last time she’d tried to move overseas. Sick of Ross’ unending sob circus, Rachel bluntly told him that yes, she did resent him, not just for Paris but for all the other times he held her back career-wise. Rachel then asked Ross to give her some space, but he continued to send her a barrage of texts and messages until she finally blocked his number and email address. They now only communicate through their lawyers.

After returning to New York in 2011, Rachel started her business as a “sartorial curator” (her term). She specializes in revamping the wardrobes of recently divorced women, and has gained a strong reputation as the It Girl of that niche market. She’s absolutely merciless when it comes to throwing out old pieces that are either outdated or the wrong size or have bad memories associated with them, and is a genius at filling in the gaps with new items perfectly suited to her clients. Socialite Tinsley Mortimer recently said that she has no idea how she would have made it intact through her split from Topper without Rachel’s help.

Two years ago Ross’ son Ben, then in his late teens, reached out to Rachel, saying that he wanted to get to know his half sister. Since then, Rachel has become very close with Carol and Susan, and they’ve been a huge help in raising Emma. Saturday night often finds Carol, Susan and Rachel drinking wine and laughing about how terrible Ross is. Sometimes Emily skypes in from England (she and Rachel reconnected while Rachel was living in Paris). It seems funny to them that such an amazing friendship was born out of the ashes of three terrible relationships (“like beautiful flowers growing out of a pile of manure,” Carol said once), but they can’t help being grateful for the strange circumstances that brought them all together.

Rachel can quote most of Sex and the City from memory.

Ross Geller

Ross is still at New York University, in spite of being widely known as one of the worst professors there. He has dated several of his students and each time has manipulated them into not telling the university administration about their relationship by saying that if he gets fired, he won’t be able to pay child support and his children will starve. Because of this, no formal complaints have ever been made against him, although he does have a reputation on campus as a whiny womanizer. Female first year students are often warned not to go to his office after hours unless they want to be coerced into pity makeouts.

In 2012, Ross published a book called The Science Behind Jurassic Park, which spent a remarkable twelve weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He and Neil deGrasse Tyson began a friendship on twitter, which then progressed to email and finally meeting in person. Phoebe recently bumped into Ross and Neil while they were out for coffee together, and although Ross was dismissive and condescending to Phoebe, Neil was completely charmed by her. Ross doesn’t know that Phoebe and Neil have met twice since then for herbal tea.

When the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones aired, Ross posted a lengthy Facebook status shaming people who hadn’t read the book before watching the show (and gleefully pointing out every discrepancy between the two).

Ross worries on a daily basis that George R.R. Martin will die before finishing his next book.

Phoebe Buffay

Phoebe is still married to Mike, and they are happily childless. Phoebe has come up with a variety of hilarious responses when people ask her why she doesn’t have children, but the truth is that she just doesn’t want to. People kept telling her “Wait until you’re older, you’ll change your mind,” but she’s 46 now and still has no interest in having her own kids. She prefers being the cool aunt to her brother’s triplets and often lets them stay over at her place when Frank and Alice need a break.

With Mike’s encouragement, Phoebe went back to school in her late thirties and became a social worker. She now counsels homeless teenagers through a youth outreach project. She tells herself that if she can help at least one kid get back on their feet then she’ll have repaid her karmic debt, but the truth is that she’s almost certainly done more for those kids than she’ll ever realize. On top of everything else, the teens all especially love the fact that their counsellor actually knows what it’s like to live on the streets.

Phoebe continues to work as a masseuse, although only on weekends, and only with animal clients. She recently developed a combination of essential oils that combats even the strongest pet odours. She markets it under the name Smelly Cat, and it’s available at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Phoebe still does not own a smart phone, and swears that she never will.

Joey Tribbiani

Joey spent a few years in pretty dire straits, with all of his acting jobs drying up and few other sources of income. He spent some time living in Chandler and Monica’s basement, trading babysitting for room and board. It turns out he’s pretty good with kids, and he was thinking of starting his own nannying business when his big break came in 2013.

Just weeks after dropping his critically-acclaimed album Nothing Was The Same, singer Drake tweeted “Shout out to Drake Ramoray, the inspiration for my name.” The character Drake Ramoray instantly became a wildly popular internet meme, and  Joey was suddenly flooded with job offers. As he made guest appearances on popular sitcoms and charmed his way through the talk show circuit, his popularity only increased. He most recently collaborated on a soap opera buddy comedy with Seth Rogen, and is currently working on a memoir called From Ramoray, With Love.

Embracing the medium of twitter after Drake’s now-infamous tweet, Joey was soon turned onto hashtag activism. He uses it to promote ideas about enthusiastic consent, a concept that’s been important to him before he even knew there was a specific term for it. Joey considers himself to be a sex-positive feminist, although he’s still not entirely sure what “feminist” means.

Monica Geller

Combining her love of food with the emotional scars left from a lifetime of her parents’ bullying and fat jokes, Monica became a body-positive nutritionist. A fierce advocate of Healthy At Any Size, Monica works primarily with teenage girls, encouraging them to love and care for their bodies.

With Chandler’s help, Monica recently started a public awareness campaign called Stunning At Any Size; the campaign showcases bodies of all sizes, ages, races and ethnicities, and though Monica has received a lot of flak for it from various fat-phobic jerks, it is generally considered to be a resounding success.

Monica does not allow anyone to use the term “obesity epidemic” in her presence.

When Monica’s parents visit, they only ever talk about Ross’ career, especially his book. By this point, Monica actually prefers it that way. Her father once refer to Stunning At Any Size as “your little thing with the pictures of the fat women,” and Monica politely but firmly told him to leave her house. He hasn’t mentioned it since.

Monica loves Taylor Swift.

Chandler Bing

After years of fighting his attraction to men, Chandler finally gave in and had an affair with a hot young coworker. After lying to Monica, his children and everyone else for months, Chandler had a breakdown over Thanksgiving Dinner (of course). This led to a brief hospitalization, and after his release and weeks of intensive therapy, Chandler was able to admit to Monica that what frightened him the most was the idea of turning into his father and abandoning his family.

Monica told Chandler that she loved him but didn’t want to stay together with him just for the kids, especially if he wasn’t attracted to her. He insisted that he was, in fact, attracted to her and still very much in love with her, but that he also wanted to sleep with men. After a few false starts and some stumbling along the way, Monica and Chandler now have a loving and supportive non-monogamous relationship. Monica did initially have a hard time with Chandler dating other people, but seeing how happy he was made it easier for her. Last year, Monica reconnected with Richard, and the two have been an item ever since. Monica now channels all of her controlling tendencies into her carefully-maintained Google calendar, which she uses to schedule plenty of time with both Chandler and Richard, and also to make sure she gets the kids to soccer practice on time.

Monica and Chandler are doing their best to raise Erica and Jack in a healthy, loving household. Monica makes sure never to make comments about their weight or how much they’re eating, and Chandler spends quality time with them by taking them out to Broadway musicals and his queer parenting drop in group. Monica, Chandler and the kids attend Pride every year, and it’s become a family tradition. Erica and Jack attend an alternative school, and plenty of their classmates have non-traditional families. They have lots of friends and love telling people that Thanksgiving turned their dad gay.

Resolutions for a (Mentally) Healthier New Year

2 Jan

TW: talk of suicide, body size, dieting

It’s the beginning of a new year, which means that I’ve been seeing lots of posts on social media about resolutions for 2015 and, as always, one of the dominant themes is health. I’ve seen a lot of promises to bike to work, to eat healthier, to get a gym membership, and so on and so forth. I used to make resolutions like these, although mine were almost always unhealthy and centred around weight loss. I would frame them as “feeling better in my body,” but really what I meant was, “exercise and withhold foods I love until my body is a size that makes me feel good about myself.” Turns out that magical just-beyond-the-horizon body size doesn’t actually exist, and the methods I used to try to get there were dangerous, unsustainable, and made me feel like garbage.

I’m not saying that making resolutions about your own body is wrong; I’m just saying that they aren’t positive for me, personally. So this year instead of having goals for my physical health, I’m going to make goals for my mental health. After all, that aspect of my well-being needs more attention these days than my body itself; I’m also hoping that focussing more on my mental state will help me to be kinder to my body. Hopefully it’ll be a win for all the players of Team Thériault!

So here are my resolutions for 2015:

1. Take my medication every day, no excuses

I take what sometimes seems like a lot of meds – prescription iron pills for my buzz-kill anemia, Zoloft for anxiety, a tiny dose of Seroquel as an adjunct mood booster and Imovane, the tiny blue angel that floats me off to dream country every night. Now, naturally I’m GREAT at remembering to take my sleepy time pills at the end of the day because a) they make me feel good and b) I’m a hot insomniac mess without them. I’m less amazing when it comes to consistently taking the rest of my drugs. I really have no excuse NOT to be amazing about the Zoloft and the iron pills, because I own at least two fancy pill boxes: an elegant-lady-who-takes-Xanax-with-her-tea style box from my friend Audra, and a box with a Russian cosmonaut theme from my friend CJ. In 2015, I will travel with these boxes fully stocked at all times. I will also remember to use my full spectrum lamp every day – again, I have no good excuse not to use it, since I can set it up anywhere and get some work done while it beams sunshine deep into my cold, briny soul.

2. Be more consistent about therapy

I mean, I always go to my therapist’s office, but I don’t always go to therapy, if that makes sense. I phone it in a lot of the time – as someone who can talk forever about the most unimportant subjects, I’m really good at making my therapy sessions all filler and no killer, and often when we start to edge into scary feelings territory, I bail hard. This makes me feel like I’m doing this tepid sort of I’m-working-through-my-stuff-but-not-really dance, one where I spend more time balking and shying away than actually confronting my shit. This year I want to learn to how to better work through the balking so that I can get to the stuff that matters.

3. Check in more often with the people I love (and who love me)

I need to be better about checking with my friends and family – even if it’s just sending little text messages telling them that I love them and value them. When things start to go sideways mental health-wise, one of the first things I do is sequester myself from the people around me, which of course only amplifies the misery I’m feeling. It’s a vicious cycle – I feel awful and think I’m a terrible person, and I don’t want to subject others to my terribleness so I stop talking to them, and then this social isolation just confirms everything bad I believe about myself. This year I’m going to make more of a conscious effort to check in with the people I care about, both because it will make me a more awesome friend and also because it’s a healthier way for me to be.

4. Ask for help when I need it

Whenever my depression is bad, and especially once i’ve hit the slippery slope of suicidal ideation, I get to a place where I just can’t do it on my own anymore. Which is a very human thing, because humans are social creatures, and there’s a reason cave men lived in packs or whatever – we’ve evolved to need each other and rely on each other. The problem is that I really, really hate asking for help – not because I’m a noble solitary warrior or anything like that, but because I’m afraid that no one will care enough about me to help, or else that I’ll be taking advantage of my friends, or, worst of all, that people will help and I’ll still feel just as bad as ever. I know that none of it is rational, but when I get to a state of bone-gnawing sadness all reason goes out the window. Which is why I need to make plans and change my behaviour now, while I’m feeling relatively stable, instead of waiting until things are the Absolute Worst before trying to fix my life.

One thing on this front that I’ve found really useful has been asking for specific types of help – help with childcare, help with cleaning, help with food preparation, or even just help in the form of pep talks or hugs to keep me going when the going gets tough. I’ve also learned that it helps to be clear about what I want/need when I’m feeling down about something – sometimes I’m not in a place to process advice, and clarifying for my friends that I’m looking for comfort and commiseration only means that we all avoid frustrating interactions.

5. Learn to say no

See also: learn to budget my time better, learn to better estimate how long a given task will take, learn to set firm interpersonal and professional boundaries, and learn not to take on every writing gig that comes my way.

I seem to have this weird belief that Corey Mason‘s dad was right and there are, in fact, 24 usable hours in ever day (even though when Corey tried to follow this advice she wound up becoming a speed addict, but I digress), so I stupidly keep adding stuff to my calendar until I barely have time to breathe. I think I’m worried that if I start turning down opportunities, then no one will ever ask me to do anything ever again, but that’s just not true. I’m going to practice saying no in the politest, firmest, most I’m-incredibly-flattered-you-asked-me-but-I’m-super-busy, let’s-do-this-another-month-instead-of-tomorrow sort of way.

In a similar vein, I’m going to try to only take on paid writing gigs this year. I’m not going to write for “exposure” anymore, and if I do something for free it will be because it’s a cause I believe in, and to which I really want to lend my voice. My time is valuable, my thoughts are valuable, and my landlord won’t accept “exposure” in lieu of a rent cheque.

6. Be more consistent about applying skills I learned in cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy was the SHIT. I took away more concrete skills from the handful of months I spent in the CBT program at CAMH than probably any other therapy I’ve ever had in my life. When I can manage to breathe deeply, evaluate what I’m thinking/feeling and ask myself if it’s a logical reflection of what I’m actually experiencing, it becomes much easier to  squelch an oncoming meltdown. Of course, I don’t always remember/feel capable of using my CBT skills when I’m mid panic-attack. What I need to do is start practicing these mind-tricks when things are less critical, so that implementing them becomes a habit and feels less like a mental workout.

7. Learn to better live in my body and not just with my body

I have this habit of treating my body like a mostly useless bipedal meat vehicle for my brain, by which I mean there’s a part of me that honestly believes that my body only exists to transport my beautiful mind from place to place. This can lead to me feeling like I’m not so much living in my body as I am grimly tolerating my body. This year I’m going to try to actually love my body – the way it looks, how it moves, the rad things it does – rather than treating it as if its only value lies in its utility. Because not only is that view pretty unkind to myself, it’s also very ableist. Bodies aren’t just good because they can do things – they’re good because they exist, and they’re us, and we have value as people.

8. Become better at identifying my mental state

Identifying my breathless, sobbing, oh-god-the-world-is-ending meltdowns as actually being panic attacks was a huge turning point for me in 2014. I went from thinking that I am just this bad person who can’t control their emotions to recognizing that this is an actual thing that is happening, a thing that has a name and has been described by other people and is generally recognized by doctors and lay-folk alike. This gave my panicked weeping on public transit a sort of validity that it had been lacking, and made it seem more like a solvable problem and less like a huge personal flaw. I’m not saying that this is something that will help everybody, and I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong having meltdowns on buses that aren’t panic attacks, but for me, personally, this has been really useful.

I also think that in general I need to be better at identifying what I’m feeling and, if applicable, why. Sometimes even just naming things makes them easier to handle, you know?

9. Practice self-care

I pay a lot of lip service to self-care, but I’m not always the greatest at practicing it myself. This year I’m going to make sure I have more downtime, more comforting rituals, and more ways of recharging. My friend Audra has a self-care chalkboard that reminds her to do things she enjoys and that are good for her specific body – stuff like swimming, hula hooping, and drinking tea – and I think I’m going to steal her idea. I need to remember to use my me-time for stuff that I love and that rejuvenates me, rather than wasting it refreshing my Facebook page 50,000 times in a row.

10. Be kinder to myself

This is definitely the hardest one, because my natural inclination is to treat myself like garbage. I’m the type of person who’s always ready with a laundry list of all my worst qualities, and my ability for negative self-talk is unparalleled. I don’t just sell myself short – I’ll argue with you about why and how I’m a complete waste of money, time and space. But this year, that’s going to start changing.

My goal for 2015 is to give myself as much love, patience and understanding as I would lavish on the folks I care about. If I can treat other people decently, then surely I can do the same thing to myself? This is going to be the year of giving myself the benefit of the doubt, going easy on myself when I fuck up, and giving myself more space to breathe.

Happy 2015, y’all

Looking forward to the new year with a cool head and a clear eye

Looking forward to the new year with a cool head and a clear eye

Leigh Anne Tuohy Update: One Of The Teens Responds

19 Dec

One of the two teens involved in Leigh Anne Tuohy’s recent social media stunt has spoken out on Instagram (his name has been blurred out for privacy):

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Person One aka Teen Leigh Anne Tuohy approached at KFC:

Yeah people don’t know what really happened because I actually had money I have a job and have had one for over a year I was gonna pay for my brother the other guy in the picture but he was insisting on waiting on his uncle but his phone was dying so we were charging it which is the reason we were in KFC in the first place.and the game was only a 3 min walk up the street I don’t see why she said bus fare that kinda ticked me off a little but the way she worded it is making us sound less fortunate and that isn’t the case at all & when she came over to us she never mentioned her initial reason was because of her friends comment im just now finding that out

Person Two:

May I ask how she asked for the photo?

Person One:

Yeah she never actually asked for it as she was handing us the money she was like “hey you know what I think this would be a great picture” and everyone with her was yeah totally so we just kinda went along with the situation like sure why not your Michael Oher’s mom but the whole time I was thinking you know why’d she come up to us in the first place I was still clueless up until she posted the picture on social media and stated “the person with me said I bet they’re up to no good.”

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a Black teenager, especially a boy, just trying to exist in a public space. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to constantly wonder what white people might find threatening about you, and try to adjust your appearance and behaviour accordingly. There’s no right answer, of course – there’s no actual magic formula that Black people can apply in order to not trigger a racist reaction from a white person. It’s like trying to hit a moving target – once you think you’ve got things figured out, the earth shifts again under you and you have to add yet another must-not-do to the extensive you already have. Ijeoma Oluo recently catalogued 25 things Black People Shouldn’t Do Around Cops, and I know that this list is by no means exhaustive (nor does it just apply to cops). It seems like every day there’s something new to add to it – apparently the most recent one is “don’t charge your cell phone in KFC.”

For anyone defending Leigh Anne Tuohy, I want you to consider how absolutely mortifying this must be for those kids. Think about what it would be like to have some white woman come up and pepper you with questions about who and what you are while you’re just sitting there trying to mind your own damn business, and then think about what it would be like to wake up the next day to find your picture being used by a quasi-celebrity as some kind of race parable. Not only that, but in the picture you are being misrepresented – instead of a middle class kid trying to charge his phone, you’re a have-not case, taking charity bus fare to get to a basketball game. And now think about all the comments you get to read from racist white folks making assumptions about where you got your necklace from and why you were loitering in a KFC in the first place and you were probably just going to use that money to buy drugs like every other Black kid and look, honey, here’s a perfect example of what’s wrong with Black people today, they’re always hanging around wanting hand-outs.

All of this because you dared to be Black in public.

In response to all of the uproar, Tuohy took the haters-gonna-hate route and shared the following image on Instagram:

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I’m not here to disagree with any great Greek philosophers or anything, but I’m willing to bet that even Aristotle would have a few words to say about the value of criticism. Criticism isn’t fun, but it’s what helps us grow and learn – it challenges us to change our perspective and be better people. I’m not saying that all criticism is valid, and of course it can be challenging to figure out how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to people calling you out, but it’s incredibly vital that we learn how to do so. In this case, I would really encourage Leigh Anne Tuohy to take a hot second a listen to all of the Black people explaining why her actions and words have been hurtful. Because if your end goal is racial equality, then a good starting point is treating People of Colour as equals who deserve to be heard and not just objects in need of your gracious white help.

The Bronomicon

19 Dec

Do you often find yourself in need of the perfect portmanbro – that is to say, a portmanteau created by combining an existing word with the word bro? If so, I present you with the bronomicon* – a lexicon containing a selection of perfect bro terms. A lesson in brocution, if you will. Please feel free to add your own brophemisms in the comments.

Bro-down – A type of bro folk dance, or an event that has many bros in attendance.

Bro-Choice, Bro-Life – Bros who value the lives and well-being of other bros over literally everything else.

Brocrastination – Avoiding work by engaging in aggressively bro-like activities, such as cat-calling or shot-gunning a beer.

Broetry – The style of poetry composed by bros. Defined by Monica Lita Storss as “a gorgeous male tribalism that reaches deep through shared history and experience, to a place beyond the snap of a hot August cross-breeze and tilted beers.” (via @meghanlbell)

Brofessional – a bro that has pupated into a Suit (via @MaraWritesStuff)

Brogrammers – Computer programming bros; often seen tweeting stupid shit about ethics in games journalism.

Brogressives, Brocialists and Manarchists – the keffiyeh and horned rim glasses wearing bros who like to get involved with any and all social justice movements, if by “get involved” you mean “try their damnedest to take over”

Brohemians – Trust fund bros slumming it in cheap incense-stinking apartments, smoking weed and writing bad prose. Brohemians are often (though not always) white dudes with dreadlocks. (via @JonahPMix)

Brojolais – A bro’s favourite wine (via @oytamarind)

Broletariat – The horde of working class bros; can be shortened to “broles.”

Broligarchy – A form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of bros, most often distinguished by the power of their bro-ness. (via @theskyisblack)

Bro-magnon – An un-evolved bro. A brototype of a bro. (via @RonArsenault)

Bromance – A beautiful romance between bros; not necessarily sexual, often just a meeting of the bro minds.

Bromarillion – An extensive, gratingly pretentious narrative about the origin of bros. (via @nataliezed)

Bromosexual – A bro who is exclusively attracted to other bros, whether he’s willing to admit it or not.

Bropocalypse – When the bros finally bring about the end times. Think Walking Dead, but with less zombies and more bros. (via @quaintmagazine)

Bropossum – An opossum who also happens to be a bro. The “bro” is silent. (via @theschwasound)

Brotesque – An adjective often used to describe something both horrible and bro-like. (via @SofiaSamatar)

Brotocracy – A political philosophy which holds that power should be invested in individuals almost exclusively according to their bro-ness. For example, the indie literary scene is a total brotocracy.

Brotographer – A sensitive bro with an eye for composition. Spends all of his money on film equipment; will lecture you for hours about what lenses he uses to achieve various effects. Boring as fuck. (via @OpheliaInWaders)

Brotox – A term for the form of toxic masculinity experienced by bros. (via @thesuncannon)

Broverdose – When you’ve had to endure too many bros. (via @LadySnarksalot)

Higgs Broson – Otherwise known as the “bro particle,” it is the elementary particle that proves the existence of a bro. (via @mgpcoe)

MacBook Bro – The preferred computer of the bro nation. (via @bicyclecomics)

Mangst – A special kind of angst specific to the modern white male; widely believed by modern white males to be the worst, most gnawing type of anxiety. (via @macomeau)

Famous bros:

Broseph Stalin

Napoleon Bronaparte

Brover Cleveland

Theodore Broosevelt

Manlet and Brophelia

Brometheus

*The term bronomicon is via @aproposnothing

3-The-Overly-Manly-Bro

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