Sticks & Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” As so many of us are, I was raised on this popular adage. I used it as more of a retort than a deeply felt mantra. Had I actually believed these words, they would have done wonders for my psychological health.

In the last year, I have thought a lot about words. The sway so many words have over so many people. How groups want to “reclaim” words. What certain words have meant to me and how those meanings have morphed.

Let’s focus on cunt. When I was in my early twenties, this was (what I was led to believe) the WORST possible insult for a woman to be called. A nasty, demeaning insult. It was the name my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend screamed at me as he knocked over my dresser on his way out of our apartment. 

My next notable encounter with cunt was in college. I discovered the Vagina Monologues! What a glorious play wherein there is an act entitled “Reclaiming Cunt.” The actress exclaims, “cunt!!!” over and over and we (women) are encouraged to think about taking cunt back as a positive word.

My most recent encounters with cunt have been in friendly, loving environments. You see, my friends call each other cunts. “Ya fekkin cunt!” can be heard, most days, bellowed from one friend to another. The first time I heard them talk as such, I cringed. How could someone use such a derogatory term so lightly? Like it didn’t even matter. 

It didn’t matter. As I thought more and more about words, it really didn’t matter. Did I want to be the type of person who everytime some word came up, I’d holler that I was offended? Or did I want to be the type of person who laughed at the absurdity of it all? I’ll take the latter. Because words are just words. The only power they hold, is the power we give them.

What matters is how things are said, what the intent is behind it. There have been times when seemingly innocuous words have been flung around as insults: yellow, mouth-breather, turkey, cow, brown-noser, the list goes on. But why care? 

Let us pretend. With all the vehemence you can muster, you scream at me that I’m a stupid little cunt. Ok, I know I’m not stupid. I do happen to be pretty little. And you’ve called me an archaic word for vagina. So what? My blood pressure doesn’t rise; I don’t retaliate; the situation doesn’t escalate. Perhaps you’re having a bad day. Perhaps you’re hangry and you need some chow.

 There are a million factors that could go into why you yelled at me. The point is, I choose not to be offended. You can choose to walk around getting upset everytime certain “trigger words” pop up. Or you can choose to carry on. And not give a fuck. Cause why would you want to let words hurt you?

How I Learn About Love

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Five years ago, I moved to California. To me, it seemed like a land with all the opportunities one could desire. It also seemed far enough away from my ex that we would not be magnetically pulled together, as had happened so often in the previous 10 years.

I took my first time away from home as time for myself. Time to challenge myself, learn about myself, and to learn about love. What better place to learn about love than an Amtrak station in the central valley? One fine day, I asked a stranger, “what do you think makes a good relationship?” She would answer in the way that so many do: trust and communication.

Trust. What did I know about trust? I knew that I’d been cheated on at an early age. I knew that my high school object of lust didn’t want a relationship with me because, you know, “there are a lot of beautiful women in the world.” I guess he needed to experience them.

Communication. In a relationship, I knew how to get frustrated and have an emotional response but I didn’t know how to vocalize my needs or wants before I had gotten upset. I seemed to be upset often.

Fast forward to 2016. I’d done a lot of traveling, taken many a journey. I searched coast to coast. Where was love? I found pockets of it, but not the kind I was searching for. Where are you love?? Oh! I found it on the interwebs. A new relationship. And yet, the frustration of trying to communicate and express with a new human rose again. I was at a loss for what to do.

In passing, I had seen a friend post on Facebook about self-love. I had seen she’d started a group and added me to it. I’d one-eye-squint at the posts, gloss over them, and move on.

Until I thought about what a friend and my partner had told me…that it didn’t seem like I really loved myself.  I hadn’t considered it before. Did I love myself? Or was my aura of self-love a projection and not a deeply felt conviction? Maybe some work on self-love was truly what I needed.

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So I reached out. Both skeptical and open, I knew I had to do something, get advice from outside of my circling and self-belittling brain. What the hell was self-love anyway?

Definition Self love

With help, I realized that I wasn’t even trusting and communicating with myself. I wasn’t checking in with me to see how I felt or what my wants/needs were. How could I effectively communicate with a partner, if I did not know what was on the inside of me?

A couple of months ago, I set hesitant feet down upon the self-love path. I’m not here to tell you that I now have all the answers or that I love myself in each and every moment. I will tell you that it feels damn good to realize 1) I am not alone, 2) creating new pathways in my brain is entirely within my reach, and 3) taking care of myself, knowing myself, and loving myself helps all the things in life.

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Using the Unloved

Rhubarb. Prolific. It grows where people don’t want it to grow. It bursts forth ready to take in that sweet sunlight with its erect petioles terminating in huge leaves. Such an eager plant to be so heartily distained by so many.

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A couple of months ago, I noticed rhubarb growing in our weedy little garden and thought, “What can I do with this? It’s food, so I should eat it.” I remembered a recipe a friend had given me many, many moons ago. Too many. It’s time to make rhubarb cake!

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This recipe turned out so well! The rhubarb cake was light and fluffy, and highlighted the rhubarb’s flavor without being overly sweet.

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A week later, my friend’s birthday was coming up. What better to do than make her a rhubarb dish? Nothing. So I hacked some spears down and set out to try another recipe: Rhubarb Custard Bars. These were fantastic. The custard was delicious; the cream cheese frosting was incredible. Needless to say, my friend was super stoked to get them for her birthday.

 

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/rhubarb-custard-bars?trckid=ampviewdirections

 

Recipe #3! Rhubarb Lemon Muffins. Many recipes combine rhubarb and lemon. I can taste why. Muffins emit such a lovely aroma and these were a big hit at my house. I tweaked the recipe and added a little bit more buttermilk and a few fresh raspberries. Again, my favorite thing was that this recipe was not overly sweet.

 

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/rhubarb-lemon-muffins?trckid=ampviewdirections

 

Recipe #4! All the recipes were a great time for a super adulty adult, such as myself, who had not done a lot of cooking in her life. But this one was especially fun: Lemon Rhubarb Syrup. So simple and so tasty.

As I was making the syrup, I decided to tweak the recipe a bit. Slowly, I stirred two cups of regular sugar into the hot syrup. I tasted it and it was already very sweet. The unsure cook that I am, I ran downstairs and asked my partner what I should do. Do I add the third cup? Will the lemon juice at the end add that much sour flavor? Following my partner’s suggestion, I then added 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 Tbsp of molasses. Much success.

 

http://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/ruby-rhubarb-syrup-sauce

Cooking brings me such joy. The internet has been my favorite friend when it comes to trying new recipes. So embrace those crazy plants growing in your yard and try out some new recipes!

A Time for Blood

blood_sea.jpgI distinctly remember being in 5th grade on that scary and magical day when everyone was to get “the talk” on deodorant, tampons, and all things puberty. However, I did not go. My mother wrote me a note excusing me from the talk. Thus, I sat in the library, reading and coloring, while my classmates received top-secret information.

The trouble was, my mother didn’t supplement that missing info. Deodorant and hair in strange places were kind of  self-explanatory. But menstruation? What’s a girl to do?! I sought out my more developed friend, you know, the one with boobs, and asked her about tampons. How do you insert them? Does it hurt? Secretly, I wondered whether tampon insertion affected my vagina’s virgin status.

Locked into the tiny framework of what I knew, I used tampons for many years. Tampons were seen as “clean” and pads were seen as “dirty.” TSS was a constant concern though. Had I left my tampon in too long? Was I using the perfect absorbency rate for my flow? I’d jolt awake in the middle of the night to change my tampon.

When I decided to cut some worry out of my already worry-laden life, I switched to pads. These plasticy, swishy, smelly, diaper-like appendages were less than ideal. Yet, after the switch, I stopped getting cramps. I slept better, though there was still the concern of flowing over, creating an ocean of blood that would inevitably engulf my bed. This was life now, since pads and tampons were the only options for handling my monthly blood.

Or were they? Brave, new world of unknown period accoutrements! About 6 months ago, my partner introduced me to menstrual cups. At first it was a bit awkward trying to maneuver a tiny silicone cup into my vagina. See diagram: divacup8.jpg

Now, I have all the freedom. I don’t worry about TSS. I don’t worry about overflow (a menstrual cup can fit 1oz. of blood). I don’t worry about all the paper and plastic waste my periods make. I don’t worry about going to the pool (ladies, you know what I’m talking about). It’s so freeing to have a little cup sitting inside me, hanging out, doing its thing.

Sometimes “its thing” means having a mind of its own and not wanting to sit just right. For a day I might switch back to pads. Overall, I’ve been super duper stoked on my Diva Cup. (www.divacup.com)

The one thing that does worry me are leaks. If you don’t insert the cup right, you can have leakage. But by golly if there isn’t a fantastic invention for that: period panties. Panties with the capability of holding 1 1/2 tampons worth of blood. Panties that feel a little like swim bikini bottoms but are cute, fun, and “anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, absorbent, and leak-resistant.”

And yes, they really are. I’ve only used them a few times so far but they’ve been working great. In 90 degree heat the rest of my body is hot and sweaty but my lady bits feel just fine.

I owe that to Thinx. After much research, I decided to try the company out. When I ordered, I thought my booty was a little bigger than it is and ordered the wrong size. I went to exchange them and they let me keep them plus sent me my correct size (for free!). Check them out: http://www.shethinx.com.

If you’re a lady or you have some ladies in your life, I hope this might be a little illuminating. If you’re already among the illuminated, good on ya mate! Share that knowledge. Cause sharing is caring. Especially when it comes to blood.

Freedom, to me

Independence Day for America. I guess this is important to a lot of people. What’s more important to me? Emotional and mental independence. Freedom from the barriers and constraints American society have insidiously impregnated my mind with.

Slowly, ever so slowly, as only a human can be slow, I have worked to free myself from unnecessary constraints. My favorite one this year? I have freed myself from my hair! For 20 years, I went to the same hairstylist; I got the same exact haircut. There was safety in this. There was familiarity in this. And there was boredom. There was a lack of ever thinking outside the box of who I thought I was.

“How am I not myself?” A favorite movie line of mine. It turns out, my hair is not me. I do not need long, healthy hair to show I am a docile, desirable female. I do not need beautiful hair to prove to the world that I am a safe and beautiful human. No, I am a ridiculously silly, awkward and, often, panicky little woman. So I cut my hair. The hairstylists didn’t want me to go through with it. Like cutting a regenerating thing like hair is truly the end of the world.

Today, I feel a little more myself. I feel a little less cognitive dissonance. To me, that is freedom.

Freedom, to me

Independence Day for America. I guess this is important to a lot of people. What’s more important to me? Emotional and mental independence. Freedom from the barriers and constraints American society have insidiously impregnated my mind with.

Slowly, ever so slowly, as only a human can be slow, I have worked to free myself from unnecessary constraints. My favorite one this year? I have freed myself from my hair! For 20 years, I went to the same hairstylist; I got the same exact haircut. There was safety in this. There was familiarity in this. And there was boredom. There was a lack of ever thinking outside the box of who I thought I was.

“How am I not myself?” A favorite movie line of mine. It turns out, my hair is not me. I do not need long, healthy hair to show I am a docile, desirable female. I do not need beautiful hair to prove to the world that I am a safe and beautiful human. No, I am a ridiculously silly, awkward and, often, panicky little woman. So I cut my hair. The hairstylists didn’t want me to go through with it. Like cutting a regenerating thing like hair is truly the end of the world.

Today, I feel a little more myself. I feel a little less cognitive dissonance. To me, that is freedom.