Theses, writing, weight-loss, and sweet metaphors

Today in class, my new American Studies thesis students were challenged to answer this question, how will doing a thesis change me as a person and affect my life?

They came up with a  lot of good answers. They talked about confidence, work ethic, intellectual achievement, playing to their strengths, and managing their time. When it came to me to tell them what I believe the answer is, I told them something like this:

The thesis is a learning experience on a large scale. It’s yours, you own it entirely. You are the captain of your own ship, and as a result your successes will be yours and so will your failures. The way the thesis will change you is that when you are presented with a seemingly insurmountable task, whether it’s related to career, personal life, family life, romance, projects, or journeys, you will be able to look at it as a whole and know that you are capable of doing the work to get where you need to be. You won’t doubt yourself. When you’re presented with something that, at the outset, seems near impossible, you will push forward. You will know to break it into manageable pieces, work on it everyday, slowly and steadily. Even when you’re tired, and fed up, you will always see the forest beyond the trees and you will always trust that you will get there. The thesis will teach you that you have every bit of will, and grit, and motivation you need to do whatever you set out to do.

Large scale research and writing is very difficult. There’s a reason why not a lot of students sign up for majors that require work of this nature when they’re undergraduates, and there’s a reason why the students who do are exceptional. There’s a reason why when they write this thesis, which is, for many, their first major research and writing project, that they work closely with TAs, professors, advisors, and each other. Part of what makes this a valuable experience is knowing that they can fall, they usually don’t. But if they get lost, or need a hand – one will be there. We joke about this – “help will always be given in thesis class to those who ask for it.”

I did my first large scale (or it looked large at the time) writing project in IB2 (12th grade). It was called an Extended Essay and it’s basically a miniature version of an undergraduate thesis. I then wrote an undergraduate thesis, and capped it off with a master’s thesis. While I was doing that I started helping other people write. I love helping other people write.

Research driven academic writing might seem dry and sad to a lot of people, but I believe it provides one of the most poignant, useful metaphors for getting through life I have ever encountered, which brings me to my point.

As of today I have lost 80lbs. When I started losing weight the idea that I would ever get to 80lbs down seemed impossible. Even from my current vantage point, there is still so far to go. Starting a weight loss project where I decided to set about losing 200lbs (half my starting weight) was scary, it was scary because I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I had the physical capacity or, perhaps more importantly, the emotional and psychological wherewithal. I knew all the data about dieting and about massive weight loss, that it often doesn’t work, and many dieters don’t make it past 10%, many people never reach their goal, and many people end up gaining to weigh more than they did at the beginning. Losing weight is socially, emotionally, and culturally stressful. At the outset, in the first 20lbs (which came off quick, but were invisible) I interrogated my choices a lot, I questioned whether my motivation was good enough, whether my choices were noble rather than being selfish or, perhaps, not even mine.

However, in the last 60lbs, I’ve learned so much about myself, and my motivations. I’ve learned that my motivations are complicated and are in a perpetual flux. I’ve learned that this is a project, it is a large, seemingly daunting project, and I’ve learned that in order to get where I want, and achieve what I set out for I have to be committed. While there are days were I don’t count calories so closely (or count them but don’t worry about them) every day is in service of the larger project. Not only the physical elements of weight loss (the eating, the working out) but the emotional and psychological parts. In order to get up everyday and want to keep doing this, I have to know that I am capable.

Losing large amounts of weight is so much like writing. It’s so much like writing that everyday gets easier because I realize more and more that this difficult thing is just like the difficult things I’ve done before. The difference between success and failure is patience, commitment, grit, and knowing that no matter what happens as you go, it is the process that is valuable. When you’ve finished a thesis, and smack it down with the familiar thump of a 100 pages, when you hold it for the first time as it finishes printing and it’s warm and smells like toner, it’s finished and and while it still needs to be graded, and (you hope) read – your relationship with it is finished. Everyday, every mile, every pound I lose feels like a page of a thesis. Meeting a micro-goal is like finding that book you really need, or writing a literature review that you don’t fucking hate.* Weight loss for me is a writing process, it’s a story about my body that I am wholly in control of, it requires my dedication and motivation, and requires that I not let other people derail my ideas, or hijack my work. This isn’t about other people’s ideas, this is my project and I’m writing it with my body. Every success is my success and while I undeniably have excellent people around me to support me, when it comes down to it, it’s mine. When my feet hurt so much I can barely walk, when I’m so bored of eating the same weird foods, and when all I want is just not think about it, I’m the person who has to. And I do because I’ve written, I’ve written long, complicated things, I’ve watched students follow wild trains of thought to magnificent conclusions, and because the body follows the brain.

Writing a thesis changes you in that you learn that if you need to write, if you want to write, you sit down and you write.
It affects your life because you learn that if you want to do something, you look at it as a whole, you think about what’s it’s really made of; the research, the skills, the time, the process, and you make a plan and you follow through with that plan.

*Unclear that this is even possible.

Sex Ed.

Some months ago I took on a new job at a little sex shop in Alexandria. Now, firstly, this was “some months” ago, and if one is going to blog about a new job, it’s probably a good idea to get on and do that. Also, if one is going to start a blog, allowing it to languish as long as I’ve allowed this one to languish is pretty criminal. That said, it’s about time I dusted off my blog and put this puppy back to work.

The little sex shop is Lotus Blooms . It’s open 7 days a week on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, and it’s a very special little place. Lotus Blooms is different from ordinary sex shops. [Let’s take a second to imagine what sex shops are like; dark, intimidating, chock full o’ pornos.] There’s nothing wrong with sex shops of any sort, however, this particularly one is extraordinarily interested in sex ed. It’s as much about helping people get the most of out of their bodies, their sex lives, and their relationships as it is about selling intimidatingly huge plastic dongs [note: we don’t have any intimidatingly huge plastic dongs, but if that was your bag, we could order you one.]. The other very special thing about Lotus Blooms is that the vast majority of products are body safe and body friendly. No nasty chemicals, no weird toxins you can’t even pronounce, and no plastics which will steadily leach chemicals into your body.

Turns out the FDA does not monitor, or regulate the production of lubricants or sex toys. This means that the bottle of KY in your local CVS is not monitored by any regulatory body (and some of that stuff heats up – I think it’s safe to assume that a chemical compound that heats up can be describes the same way as Diet Soda and fat free cream, it’s a “chemical shit show”). The people who manufacture sex toys and intimate products can put anything they want in there, whatever is cheap and effective. I think in 2013, we’re all starting to realize that cheap and effective isn’t what we want in our mouths, and by extension, any of our other orifices. [The question of why the fuck the FDA doesn’t regulate sex toys is a sticky one, perhaps it’s because this is a sexually oppressive government who refuses to acknowledge sex as a part of the consumer market.]

Beyond the safe products, you can also take classes at Lotus Blooms. That’s right, you can come down to King Street, go to dinner, and at 7pm settle in comfortably and learn all about BDSM, or blow jobs, or anal sex, or a myriad of other things. Classes are usually $15 or $25 and you can find a schedule here! Now, so far this may seem like a shameless plug for the cute place I work, but what I’m really here to write about is my first class.

Last week Friday I taught 6 total strangers how to have anal sex. There’s a moment in your life when you’ve said “sphincter” like 15 times in 4 minutes where you really wonder how you got yourself into such a situation. Before I taught the class, I nervously told my friends, and many people asked, “what’s that all about?”. The answer is simple. It’s about preventing people from hurting each other during sex. That was the long and short of it, I drew a diagram, discussed a bunch of misconceptions, some anatomy (it’s like an obstacle course of sphincters in there.) and answered some very intimate questions. While that was scary, because people in a class are relying on their teacher to give good at advice, it was also edifying. It was a good feeling to be able to look a total stranger in the eye and make them feel confident about something which can often be overwhelming. That’s what teaching is really all about.

Good Girl Gina, I like where your head is at…

As I was making my usual rounds down my Facebook newsfeed today, I noticed that several of my friends had posted or linked to this article on Jezebel. It’s listed in the sub-section, “Sexism” and is titled: “Good Girl Gina Loves Anal, Cooking Pot Roasts, and Watching Her Man Play Video Games.” It’s about the feminine version of Good Guy Greg (in which a cheery looking fellow is praised for doing nice things) known as Good Girl Gina. The article addresses some dubious “research,” in which a redditor decided to gather the quickmeme reddit outpours of Good Girl Gina and examine just how terribly offensive they are, and then Jezebel used that to make some sweet, sweeping generalizations about men.

Now, I’m pretty much grossly offended by Jezebel daily (between the hyperbole, the defensive attitude, the inconsistency (“we’re so much better than everyone else, look at us fawn of consumerist celebrity culture”), and the fucking terrible writing…) so all I know is that this article means that it’s a day of the week ending in y. However, this one struck a chord.

A few issues:

1. Reddit? Really, reddit? I always like to make my social observations in a room full of bored teenage boys. That’s a really amazing space to gather social research with which to condemn men and their clearly articulated desires. Y’know, Jezebel, use reddit to determine what ‘men’ are like, and then get yourself over to CraigsList and see what ‘women’ are like…oh, no, wait. You wouldn’t do that because CraigsList makes all women out to be easy, vapid whores and we don’t make generalizations about what women are like.

2. Let’s break down this title, shall we?

“Good Girl Gina Loves Anal” – Why, o’ website so centered on female agency, is this bad? Why is anal sex a marker of a woman being “basically being a Real Doll, but alive”? What’s more interesting is the comment where Good Girl Gina’s desire for sex (and I assume this is unromantic sex) is mentioned first in the listings of offensiveness. As if to say that heterosexual women are allowed to desire  sex, perform non-reproductive sexual acts, and articulate their desires aggressively (I am unclear if Jezebel thinks this, everything seems to point to women desiring sex being fuck-puppets for sexist men.) but men are not allowed to find that attractive. Ok. It’s like the gals at Jezebel want to feel the agency of desire, they want their desire for sex to pushed against, they want men to want them to be wives and mothers – they want “slutty behavior” (like enjoying anal sex?) to be condemned in order to be angry about that.

“Good Girl Gina Loves Cooking Pot Roasts” – I don’t know why any man would be particularly invested in the pot roast, but I also don’t dig this idea that women who enjoy cooking are demonstrating their oppression. I feel like cooking is really even between the sexes at this moment in our culture. I understand that once upon a time women cooked in the home, and men cooked in the expensive restaurant, however, we now live in the Age of The Food Network (do not even get me started on how I feel about “food porn”) where men and women cook publicly and passionately. What’s interesting is that Good Girl Gina’s Man isn’t mentioned in her love of cooking pot roasts, it’s not “loves cooking men pot roasts.” But I guess the damage of the past is such that women desiring to perform tasks once confined to our gender in a sexist fashion cannot be undone. Pardon me, while I torch all this yarn…

“Good Girl Gina Loves Watching Her Man Play Video Games” – This is where it becomes readily apparent that Jezebel somehow selected these three terrible, sexist behaviors for Good Girl Gina to perform. Whether the cultural iconoclasts of reddit think women should enjoy watching men play video games or perhaps play with them or just be able to not be doing something together all the time is unclear. What is clear is that Jezebel thinks a woman who would love watching ‘her man’ (some possessive language here…) play video games is indicative of her failure as a feminist, I just don’t feel like I can buy that.

3. I’m going to come full circle here, and look at the “more than depressing” findings from reddit.  Some of these entries are concerned with things that just don’t make sense: for years feminists have rallied on about how terrible it is that men condemn women who desire sex, “slut shaming”. Good Girl Gina clearly is a bit of a slut, she’s having anal sex, oral sex, she’s doing it without being asked, she’s very sexually self-possessed. She’s the kind of woman who would usually be condemned as being ungirlfriendable, a whore, cheap – but she’s not, she’s incredibly desirable. And my favorite of these is “She Isn’t A Stereotype” – part of the problem with this is men articulating desire for women who violate their own previous sexist constructions about what women are like?

I understand that some of these are deplorable, but this is the Internet, not an even sample. Frankly, the condemnation of Good Girl Gina memes makes little sense.

Finally, the summation of all this is the tongue-in-cheek conclusion; “”So what can we glean from all this? If someone wants to be a Good Girl, then reddit already has it figured out. A Good Girl is an object to be lusted after. A Good Girl makes sure you’re sexually satisfied, either by her or someone else,” LaTex_fetish added. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go barf.” It’s all in the language, I’m clearly reading these results very differently:

It seems to me that Good Girl Gina is a “good girl” not because she’s “an object to be lusted after” but because she’s possessed of clear sexual desire and able to articulate it without feeling shameful. Not because she makes sure  “you’re sexually satisfied, either by her or someone else” but because sex is a two way street for her, and god forbid, she might want to engage in non-normative activities like group sex or anal sex.

Your negativity is a self-defeating mess, Jezebel.

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Place On The Internet

It’s a well known fact that I am in love with the Internet. However, beyond and over all places, I love one website most. I love it more than Facebook, Pinterest, Netflix, or Etsy. More than Vogue.com, The New York Times, Gilt Groupe or Twitter, I love it even more than the website where I play hours of Tetris.

I love Chubby Bunnies best.

Chubby Bunnies is a body positive Tumblr blog run and administered by a woman named Bec who lives in Australia. Bec is the kind of warm, supportive person who reaches out, offers comfort and advice, she’s non-judging, caring and smart. Her personal blog, and Chubby Bunnies are opinionated, well-informed, and welcoming. She’s the kind of person one aspires to be, someone who offers a kind of real love to people for no reason except that it’s right.

Chubby Bunnies is part of an ever-growing network of body positive Tumblrs and websites. As the name would suggest, Chubby Bunnies is fat positive. Striving to create a safe space for fat people, particularly fat girls (there is a Chubby Bunny Boys blog too.) to express themselves, articulate their struggles, their happiness, and in many cases the sexuality that fat people are denied.

It runs on submissions, thousands of women from all over the world submit pictures. Faces, bums, boobs, tummies, and often personally ground-breaking full body shots. Pictures of girls in every state and style of clothing to complete undress. Each picture tells a story, each one, with or without commentary offers a window into the personal life of someone living in a body that they are told to hate every single day, and yet refuse to.

It’s an incredibly inspiring place. Firstly, because Bec doesn’t hesitate to reblog important content, regarding sex advocacy, women’s rights, queer and gender issues, and human rights. Secondly, because every single person I’ve seen on the blog is beautiful. Every photograph is an exercise in bravery, in confidence, in standing up for something. Chubby Bunnies is a space where the fat woman’s body becomes political. What aesthetically, society demands be hidden, the sexuality it pretends does not exist, the confidence that, frankly, scares everyone else flows forth freely and powerfully.

We spend a lot of our lives looking at images of women. For a fat girl these images can be incredibly painful; models, actresses, diagrams in textbooks which look nothing like us. A skinny, slim ideal held up as the only way to be healthy, sexy, desirable, confident, even acceptable. I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at other fat women I see around, trying to look at their bodies and rationalize my own. Chubby Bunnies allows this, it allows me to look at bodies like mine, girls of similar shapes, with similar thighs, rolls, and tubby little knees and see myself reflected. It’s not the reflection we’re lead to believe looks back at a fat person; these women are not disgusting, lazy, dirty or gross. They’re beautiful, powerful, individual and sexy. Their bodies are appealing, the wide hips, soft stomaches and arms, all speak to an aesthetic we are culturally denied.

Frequently, girls write in on their pictures that the blog has improves their self-confidence. It’s unsurprising, seeing something we’ve never been allowed to look at changes the way we feel, changes the way we feel about ourselves. It’s remarkable, profound and important. So, if you’re game for seeing some beautiful, awesome, empowered fat girls this is the place to go.

And that is why, Chubby Bunnies is my favorite place on the Internet.

 

The Most Beautiful Girl

Once upon a time in 1993, I was on holiday in Europe with my mother and father. It was their habit to fly into London, spend just under a week in the great metropolis and then tour off to some part of the Continent for a more traditional holiday – usually Portugal for two weeks of beach-going on the Algarve. London was always my favorite part of these trips. Growing up in African cities, nothing impressed me like London (even now, after 8 years in Washington D.C. and a lot of global traveling, still, nothing impresses me like London.) At the time, I was just so overwhelmed by the magnificence of the City that I didn’t stop to think about why I was so fond of it. Now, as a grown-up I realize it all comes down to the trip in ’93 when I was 7.

One of the best things about London, and one of my favorite things in life is the Underground. I adore the Underground. Fascinated by it’s labyrinthine structures, elaborate history, relationship to culture, advertising, tourism, crime and engineering – it is a public transit system like no other. I’ve loved riding the Tube as long as I can remember. However, in terms of formative moments in my life, the London Underground plays host to one of the most important.

The event takes place either on the Circle or District line going from High Street Kensington to Bayswater, my little family was returning from dinner and an evening out on a warm night. Standing in the train I remember perfectly seeing the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She couldn’t have been older than 20 or 21, was neither remarkably tall or short. Her hair was partially shaved on one size, bleached to the spiky roots and what wasn’t shaved was a shock of electric green. Her clothes where black, tight, adorned with patches, chains and studs. She wore a ring in her nose, her eyebrow, and many more up her ears. There was a black tattoo visible emerging from the dark sleeve of her shirt that in my childhood imagination covered everything I couldn’t see, from collar (which was plunging) to the soles of her Doc Martens. She had large, oddly translucent blue eyes, surrounded by a forest of heavily made-up lashes, pale (somewhat unhealthy) skin and no less than 3 or 4 rings through her lower lip. She was gazing into the middle distance and drinking a beer. Out of a can. Through a straw.

I could not tear my eyes off this girl, she was amazing. Compelling, beautiful, shocking and somehow wise, cool, perceptive. Little girls are shown a constant slew of hopeful role-models, ideal representatives – this was the one that stayed with me. I later asked my mother why the girl had been using the straw, my mother said she assumed it was because the rings in her lip make it difficult to drink from a can (I learned this lesson for myself later on, but it’s only difficult when the peircings are fresh, at least one of those was new.)

Don’t get me wrong, there are probably millions of beautiful, stylish, inspiring women in London at any given moment, I can credit a terrific proportion of my path into adulthood to these women, but the punk rock girl drinking a beer through a straw on the Underground stayed with me for the rest of my life. She was an icon, she remains one of the most powerful visual influences in my life.

The difference between the girl on the Underground, the women I watched in London over the next 6 years (I was absorbent until I was 13, and then I started projecting.) and other people was that women in London were cool. They dressed smartly – whether they were mainstream or counterculture, they carry themselves with an air of defiance and confidence. Their aggressive self-definition and black ensembles left an indelible mark on me (Some of my most vivid memories involve my father talking about how girls in London look good in all black outfits, “they always look very stylish in all black”. No prizes for identifying the contents of my closet today.)

The message was clear, even to a 7 year old – make yourself. Make yourself. Make yourself cool, make yourself stand out, make yourself beautiful – the way you see it, by your standards. Make yourself something to see, someone to respect, command attention, shock, admiration, horror. Fear not the petty sideways glances of the masses, rise above and define yourself. It was powerful and intoxicating, and as I wrestled my way to adulthood, often embarrassed, still at odds with a body that grew too quickly to understand (I was 5’7 at the age of 10, 6′ by the time I was 15.) the image of the girl on the Underground was a beacon, a light I would follow. The idea of this remarkable young woman, probably unrecognizable today from her old self (she may well be in her early 40s now) demonstrated by the power of self-definition, the power of the different.

It is not enough in life to exist, to plod from day to day, event to event – it is essential, particularly for young women in this exact cultural moment, to grasp onto something. To shake off the desires of similarity, and to recognize that the people who have the power to do something, affect change, command attention are people who do what they want, not what they are expected to do. It is not enough to think interesting thoughts, life requires that we articulate. Triumph demands that one reject the rules of others, the limiting narratives of mass identification and instead take a deep breath, hold one’s head high and just be cool.

Hmm, feminism.

There are a few things in life that are expected of women, a lot of the things are mundane stereotypes that no one really expects, the one that chiefly concerns me is that we’re expected to be feminists.

Feminism is peddled to preteen girls, and then to young women, and once you get to college, it’s being unceremoniously rammed down your throat and if you head off to graduate school, prepare for the fire storm if you dare utter the words, “I’m not a feminist.” Feminists are the door-to-door salespeople of ideology.

Are you sure you don’t need some liberation? No, thank you. I’m fine. Are you certain you aren’t feeling repressed by men? Um, yeah, but I feel okay and I still feel productive, thanks. No, you aren’t, you need to embrace your womanhood and fight against the Man! Well, I agree there some pretty serious issues with authoratative nature of patriarchcal society but I still feel as if there’s important and productive thinking around and against it, that um, isn’t yours. And I feel fine about it. 

I understand feminism. I understand why it’s important, it’s first and second waves, where it came from and how it’s been valuable to our culture. I understand that equal rights among men and women is important and that feminism forms an important building block for the queer and gender studies to follow – but I do not want that word floating over my head and stapled to me.

I am not a feminist. 

*gasp* How dare I?!

I know most people will, at this point, nervously crack their knuckles and tell me that I’m a sex positive feminist or a modified feminist. Usually, I just accept these things and move on, because the idea of a liberal, educated woman in her twenties rejecting feminism is truly unfathomable.

Why, I wonder? Is it because we’re supposed to be feminists?

I’ve been very lucky and have had the opportunity to read a lot about feminism, the formative texts and the important writers, the voices that defined and invigorated this ideaology. To be frank, at it’s core, as a theoretical construct moving through post-structalism and postmodernism it is completely acceptable. I mean, who doesn’t love a handy-dandy feminist lens?! However, in the greater culture, the one I live in, it’s a monster. It’s fundamentally painted as a rejection, maybe even an alternative to patriarchy, but because of the profoundly binary nature of rejection, it becomes like a form of mimicry, a reductive opposition based on something that it can neither outdo or outwit. It ends up being condemning, pleasure-denying and fundamentally unproductive.

Feminism is fabulous, interesting and engaging, in theory. Watching the various and sundry iterations of that theory attempt application is another matter all together. I guess I should make clear, I’m not talking about Irigaray here, but rather that feminism  that has been sold to me, making me a basic ideological consumer, in need of this way of thought in order to function as a woman, because second wave feminism happened and we’re all still gasping for air, and failing to find our feet and the results are treacherously conformist.

 

Going to the bar…

The moment I turned 25 it became apparent to me that pretty much everyone around me, particularly in Arlington was also about 25. Now, assuming that this is true, then when I was 18, everyone was 18 – but then I was on a college campus, so of course they were. Now, I live in an apartment building, in a neighborhood, where people live voluntarily, and they are all around the same age. What’s more, I’m really able to spot people in my age range easily now. This brings me to my next point, in an environment with a relatively large age-group, of about 25 – specific behaviors and habits emerge in the population.

People of this age group in Arlington have three highly dependent, key pursuits:
– Jogging/working out.
– Eating at restaurants.
– Going to bars.

While I have some pretty worthy opinions about the jogging (the headbands, hopping on the spot, defying the traffic) it is the “going to bars” which chiefly interests me. Now, in my understanding one goes to the bar in order to drink alcohol, to the have the potential to drink a lot of alcohol in an environment where this is authorized and accepted. Furthermore, to engage in the kind of amusing tomfoolery that comes from being around a lot of people your age and consuming a lot of alcohol. That would be dancing, the bars are invariably filled with popular, danceable music, talking to each other – particularly to members of the opposite sex, and the bonding that follows – whether this is the exchange of phone numbers (and zillions of texts following) or the exchange of body fluids, at various levels of intensity.

What I’ve really noticed about going to bars is that the air is filled with a kind of profound desperation. Not to say that everyone there is desperate in the traditional sense, but that they usually have a strong underlying goal: to meet someone, a dance partner, someone to make-out with, a one-night stand, a lover, a significant other, a future mate. Now, not to be crass, but a great deal of this population in the bar is “looking to score” (or at least trying to look like they’re looking to score – but that is another issue.) A lot of people will tell me that this isn’t the case, that they are out with their friends, to dance and have a good time. This will upset people, but I do not believe that for a single second. If that’s what you wanted, you would get drunk cheaply at home and go to a dance club.

Now, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re aware that I am not someone who goes to the bar all the much, if at all. It is “not my scene”. The reasons for this are varied. Firstly, I find the overwhelming gender performance of the bars here pretty unsettling. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s like being at a cattle market. Gratuitous displays of flesh and bravado. “Peacocking” (bars are uncannily straight places in Arlington, which may be part of my issue queer spaces are usually a little more dynamic.) preening and performing as if to say to the opposite sex, “Look at me, I look normal, I might be willing to let you do some of what you want with me before the dawn.” (There’s a lot of subtext too.)

Secondly,  all of this contributes to the re-enforcement of often troublesome gender norms. Men behave like primal hunter-gatherers, while women stand around batting their eyelashes and waiting for attention, or alternatively throw themselves against the bar, drink and then sling onto the dance floor to gyrate provocatively. The problem with this is that women often behave like sluts in bars. Now, I have no problem with anyone behaving like a slut, being a slut, in fact, I am 100% on board with that. In fact, I’ll use the term with gusto, because you know what, I can do that. Just like its derogatory brethren before it, like “cunt” and “bitch”, I’d like to see “slut” taken back. The problem is that these same women will be condemned for this behavior and condemn each other. This is a sanctioned space full of caveats.

Thirdly, it’s not cost effective. Going to a bar is the least cost effective way of getting laid, for anyone. For a man, he’ll invest money in a woman, buying her drinks, possibly fries (depending on how much she needs to sober up before he can take her home without worrying about a myriad of serious problems, like consent.) and he has no guarantee at all, that she’ll sleep with him. While she might be dressed like Snookie and making “come hither” eyes at him, she may well just be behaving like a slut, and in reality may have all sorts of rules and personal standards, and she has every right to them and he mustn’t assume anything. So there’s his $ possibly down the drain. For women, she might spend money on getting ready, she might pay for her own drinks, and even have to buy her friend some fries if things get really out of hand, and she has no guarantee that the stars will align and she’ll find a man she deems acceptable, and that he’ll respond in course. In reality, most people go home from the bar $100 poorer, and wake up with no one but a coy hangover, who will call, all day long.

Finally, interacting in this way in a bar depends on various factors. It depends on competition between women, it depends on being able to communicate without speaking (the vodka flowing and the bass pumping, chances are your ideas about Proust aren’t going to make it into conversation, if you make it into conversation at all.) So, to be successful at a bar, for a woman you have to look hot (and I’ll assert, right here, right now, looking hot and being hot are NOT the same.) for a man, you have to be aggressive.

There are lots and lots of people in the population who aren’t into this, who can’t play on these fields. I am one such person. If I’m in a crowded bar with 70-some girls wearing outfits from Forever21 and in their sky-high heels skimming 5’8, I don’t stand a snowball’s hope in Hell. It doesn’t matter how smart I am, it doesn’t matter how funny, or even pretty, or even how willing, engaging and slutty I might be, it just doesn’t matter, because the playing field, which is built on a foundation of normative beauty standards and archaic perceptions of masculinity, is badly skewed.

Being in such a situation can be a dark and hateful experience if you aren’t properly equipped. In fact, I would describe it like a kind of slow social suicide. One which works by chipping away at self-esteem. Sure and fucking steady.

All I really have to say in recourse to all this, though, is thank goodness for the Internet. To be successful with your desired gender in a bar, you have to look hot, to do well on the Internet, you have to be hot.

 

(You also have to say what you mean, and mean what you say on the Internet, but that is another story…)