Archive | not funny shit RSS feed for this section

Not Being Ok

31 Oct

I’ve been in a depression spiral since my last project was finished. I should have expected it–the post-show drop is real, and then my period happened, and that was kind of it. For a while I thought it was just a little bit of a spiral, but, I mean, no, it’s kind of not. I’m trying to work on a post about the joyful success of my return to the stage and the Kickstarter, about how AMAZING it is to be selling CDs, and about how much I love my life, but instead I’ve been spending a lot of time not sleeping, not eating, sabotaging my own health and budget and deadlines, and forgetting to wash my hair or change my clothes or do the dishes.

My goals for today:

  • have a fun Halloween with some of my most beloved friends
  • finish just two items for work
  • go to bed when mr. biscuit does, rather than at 4 in the morning
  • try to be OK with a couple of things:
    • needing some help or some sunshine or some water
    • where I am
    • not being OK

Because I’m not OK right now. I’m not anywhere near OK. That’s hard to admit, but I can feel it in my chest (like it’s full of concrete), my throat (breathing feels like too much work sometimes), my head (foggy), my wrists (they ache), my jaw (clenched).

I painted my nails and blow-dried my freshly-washed hair, and that helps. I ate some vegetables, and that helps. So I’ll achieve the first three of these goals, and that will help with the fourth.

I’m just trying to be OK with not being OK for a bit. It will swing around eventually. It will swing around sooner if I stop beating myself up.

Advertisements

My Brain is a Liar

27 May

Yesterday was a bad day.

The last few weeks have been full of change, and much of it has been excellent change. I picked up a freelance writing gig. I quit my job, which I’ve hated for a year and a half, and I did it a few months ahead of schedule because I picked up that freelance writing gig. I drank up the courage to debut a new ren faire act. I planned two albums and launched a Kickstarter with my singing partner of six years. And then I went on a short, cheap trip to Charleston, a city I like a lot, with mr. biscuit, who I also like a lot, and between a five hour drive and two hours struggling to get around an unfamiliar city all the anxiety that I had been struggling with bubbled over like poison, and after a day spent picking fights, I started crying on the streets of Charleston because we had accidentally walked two blocks in the wrong direction on a beautiful evening in a charming, walkable city.

My new writing gig has me doing a lot of bullet-point blogs, so let’s break all this down in a style I’m becoming used to.

  • I quit my job. This is an objectively positive thing. As soon as I made the decision, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. Giving my notice brought a similar feeling of relief. I’ve been so happy since.
    • As I said, I’ve hated this job for a year and a half of the two years I’ve been working there, and been trying to find a new job for almost as long. I had finally given up on the job search, because there are only so many Almosts that I could bring myself to tolerate, but had contemplated self-harm to get out of work. More than once.
    • mr. biscuit got a big promotion at work, which came with a substantial raise that was not quite enough to replace my lost income were I to quit, but we had decided that I would leave my job at the end of July anyway and we would make it work.
    • When a friend turned me on to a freelance writing gig at her company, which I could do from home without having to talk to customers or put on shoes, we decided to push that date up.
    • My last day at my full time job is June 1st, and I’m thrilled. Between graduation and summer classes starting, I have been yelled at half a dozen times over the last three weeks and cried at work four times. I’m done. I’m so done. This place has poisoned my mind for long enough. It is time to cast it into the fire.
    • I’m also crushingly nervous. Quitting means a pretty substantial decrease in our income. That really only means that we will have to limit our spending, which a) I am bad at and b) I do not enjoy, but we’re in no danger of starving on the street or not having shoes. We haven’t had time to sit down and hash out what the new budget will look like, though, which is increasing my sense of impending doom. Objectively I know that we will be fine. mr. biscuit is making more than he ever has before, and the less miserable I am the less incentive I have to try and spend my way out of misery.
    • But still.

20170527_110923

  • I launched a Kickstarter. I’ve been singing with a friend for six+ years under the name The Voices of Virtue, and for a majority of that time we’ve been saying “man, we need to record an album.” About a month ago she sent me an email saying essentially “Let’s do this shit.” And we are doing it.
    • This led to me finally getting my shit together and launching a new renaissance festival act: SERFs, Inc., starring Lilly Bragg, Village Protest Singer. I’ve been working on a peasant revolution since my first year as a faire performer, way back in 2004, and I finally get to start using jokes and songs I’ve been hanging onto for so long. It’s amazing. It’s exhilarating. I feel very strongly about protest music, songs of revolution and social justice and the like, and I’m learning to play the guitar, and I just love it all. It feels so important and so useful, and my God these songs are so good.
    • My partner’s character is named Prudence and at the time mine was named Esperanza, and we tend to bawdy songs, so our group name made a lot more sense at the time than it does now that I’ve officially begun performing under the name Lilly, but we still do a lot of bawdy stuff, so it works out. Just not as well.
    • Our Kickstarter is going really well. I don’t know how I imagined it would go so I can’t tell you it’s exceeding my expectations, but I do know that on day six of 18, we are almost 40% funded.
    • The idea that people want to hear music that I’m making is absolutely thrilling.
    • The idea that people want to hear music that I’m making is also absolutely terrifying. I’ve been making music my whole damn life and I’m still terrified. Every single time. The amount of nerves varies, but I have never not been nervous before a performance.
    • Not once.20170527_105355
  • I went to Charleston. mr. scone plays with a volunteer street band (and has a sedately great time doing it, as is his nature), and every year they paly a festival in Charleston. This is the first year he’s been free to go, and rather than hang out at home alone all weekend, I’ve tagged along. It’s heavily subsidized by the band, Charleston is beautiful, and the weather this weekend is pretty perfect (for me, anyway; I like it warm and sunny).
    • It’s a longer drive than I anticipated. I don’t like long car trips to begin with, but in the last year or so I’ve become prone to carsickness, which was never really a problem before. That means I can’t read in the car without danger of yakking on the side of the road anymore, and mr. biscuit isn’t a very chatty person, and though he tries, he was tired and hungry and also driving, so for a lot of the drive I was at the mercy of my brain, which has been behaving Very Badly lately.
    • We got here in decent time, but since this is a budget trip we are staying in College of Charleston dorms. They’re fine. They’re dorms. They’re…whatever, they’re fine. Getting to them was a giant pain in the ass. Check in was at one building, parking at another, the rooms at a third; there are streets closed everywhere; we have only been here once like six years ago; my phone was dead; mr. biscuit refuses to use nav apps on his phone; we left home about 1:30, got to Charleston about 7:30, finally finished unpacking and parking and got back to our lodging at 10:30.
    • I’m comfortable with who I am. I like my aesthetic. Do I wish things were different about my body/face? Sure. Do I need a haircut? Yes. But in general I’m aware I’m pretty great, even when my brain hates me. Charleston is a beautiful city. It’s also a very old, very Southern city. It’s a holiday weekend in the summer, and two major cultural festivals are going on downtown. There are wealthy, beautifully put-together women everywhere. They are wearing breezy coastal tops, soft pretty makeup. Their hair is perfect. They all look lovely, in that very particular way that wealthy white Southern women look in the summer. They are small and dainty almost to a woman. The streets last night were overrun with beautiful rich white Southern young women and drunk rich white Southern frat boys. By the time we got back to the room last night I felt like a giant hulking monster. A walking tree with none of the grace or majesty of trees. A bipedal cow crossed with a sheepdog, whose makeup is always going to be shitty, whose jawline will never be perfectly sculpted, whose jeans will always be out of style.

So last night I cried on the streets of a beautiful coastal city, and then rather than go to the (outstanding) free concert across the street, or even to dinner, I buried myself in the blankets of a college dorm bed, texted a friend about my self-pity, and fell asleep with my contacts on.

I sent mr. biscuit out to hang out with his friends in the band. He insisted on staying and cuddling me until I started to get sleepy, and he brought me back some dinner and made sure I took my contacts out when he returned, even though I was too deeply asleep to eat or even remember any of that, and even though he had worked a half day while I went to breakfast with one of my besties, had driven all day, and had objectively more reason to be tired and cranky. 20170527_110935

My friend texted me back to soothe my feelings of being out of place. “Honey,” she said. “Which bitch made you cry? It’s a jeans and t-shirt festival if that’s what you want to wear. And you could come home and we’ll go to tea and talk shit about people. The option is there.” It made me laugh, and then I fell asleep.

Today is better. Today is great. I slept super well, and we went next door to get breakfast at a dinosaur-themed coffee shop where I’m currently drinking my third iced mocha of the day (this one is decaf) while he plays a gig somewhere nearby. The weather is beautiful, the city is charming–we walked around a little bit between breakfast and getting him dressed for the gig, and all the shops are nonsense for the wealthy, but the sunshine and the ocean breeze are free, and this iced mocha is in budget. I’m sitting at the window in a dinosaur coffee shop, watching people walk, drive, and bicycle past.

I feel better today.

Sometimes I wonder why I think about myself in ways that I would never think about a friend. If someone I loved was having a particularly rough day during a long and stressful series of rough days, and I heard someone say my friend was being lazy/melodramatic/stupid/ungrateful/a horrible wife/a terrible bitch, I would punch that person in the face. Metaphorically speaking. I would punch them with my impressive range of profanity and carefully crafted bitch face. So why do I let me say those things about myself?

I’m in a weird place right now. On the one hand I’m optimistic as fuck: I’ve quit my job without much of a backup plan and launched an all-or-nothing crowdfunding plan for a fairly ambitious recording project. On the other hand I’m nauseous and tense all the time with the fear of failure, or even worse: the fear of success followed by failure. What if this funds but I fuck up these records? What if everyone realizes I’m a fraud? What if I never finish all the things I have left to do? What if I suck?

At the darkest points I am paralyzed by fear of disappointing everyone in the world. Literally. I named my peasant revolution character after Billy Bragg, and I had a nightmare that someone told him about the act and he called me a fauxgressive shilbot*, and then a bunch of women who were involved in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1318 came and told me I am an insult to their struggle.

I am terrified. All the time.

I’m enjoying today, though. The weather is beautiful, Charleston is pretty, those mochas were delicious. I’m sure all that whole milk will catch up with me in a bit, but for now I’m well. There’s a free girls’ choir performance tomorrow, and there’s also a beach. Things will work out.

Make no mistake: I’m creative. I’m smart. I’m funny. I am capable of producing some pretty great stuff. Other people know this. I know this. Anxiety doesn’t know this. Depression doesn’t know this.

Anxiety is a liar. Depression is a liar. For all its creative power, my brain is a liar.

I’m not doing any work today. I’m going to nourish the part of my brain that isn’t a liar with sunshine and walks. And another mocha.

*HMMM I wonder where this came from

20170527_105422

What I Owe

6 Jan

Sixth grade was a rough year for lots of people, and I’m not an exception. Nobody realized it at the time, but looking back I recognize the signs of my anxiety disorder–overwhelming dread, obsessive counting, forgetfulness, crippling inability to focus or make decisions, the total destruction of my fingertips. I still deal with this, but as an adult I understand what’s going on, and as a child I was just panicky and stressed all the time. It doesn’t help that I wasn’t just not popular–I was unpopular, in that I was the subject of active, organized, widespread teasing and bullying. That wasn’t new, but I was getting older, and I was starting to care more. That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots, because there were. I distinctly remember three: band, the couple of friends I had at school, and Robin McKinley.

Robin McKinley came into my life because my 10-year-old morality was sketchy at best: I picked up The Hero and the Crown from the shelf that my social studies teacher reserved for her homeroom students’ library books. I don’t know if I intended to give it back, but I do know that I never did, and the guy who had checked it out had to pay for it. I’m not sorry. He was a jerk. Anyway, I read that book over and over and over, until I could recite passages (I still can). I would finish it only to start again immediately, and I carried it with me everywhere like a talisman against evil. Or crushing lonliness. My memories of 6th grade can only be categorized in two ways: Being Miserable, or Reading The Hero and the Crown. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this book saved my life. Over the last two decades I have returned to it, and her other books, more times than I can count, in times of joy as well as sorrow, and each time I’ve read one of her books I’ve found all the perspective, validation, inspiration, entertainment, hope, comfort, and motherfucking great storytelling I could want.

Her partner of 23 years, Peter Dickinson, recently passed away. She was silent on social media for several months before reporting his second stroke; the next time we heard from her was today, when she posted the eulogy she delivered at his memorial service. It is heartfelt and well-crafted.

I’ve never met Robin McKinley, but she has been with me through some of the most difficult periods of my life, beginning in sixth grade and extending into my early 30s (so far). Her books shaped the woman and writer I am in too many ways to name. I owe her an unpayable debt, and I adore her. She is going through the unimaginable and I have nothing to offer her except empty words from a person she has never met.

She didn’t write her books for me, but they were a gift to me anyway. I’m going to go buy some more of Peter’s books, and I’m going to plant a tree for him, and for her, and I’m going to keep crying. And then I’m going to work on my novel, ok, because sometimes all you can do is take the gift someone gave you and try to give a gift to someone else.

On sewing successes

29 Jan

A little before Halloween 2011, my Gma (my mother’s mother) was diagnosed with brain cancer. I wrote about my her sewing machine shortly thereafter. Shortly before Christmas 2012, she died.

For a number of of the 14 months between her diagnosis and death, mr. biscuit and I cared for her while she went through treatment. She had a round and a half of radiation. The first was shortly after her diagnosis; the half, towards the end. She had monthly chemo, which she took in pill form. It never gave her any problems. Radiation made her progressively more tired and her scalp tender, but she reacted well to both treatments. To be perfectly accurate, the tumor reacted well. It didn’t do much changing for months and months, and even shrank a little, leaving her free to rebuild her strength and dexterity over and over again.

The tumor’s effects were progressive. Initially, it (probably) caused Gma to lose her balance, fall, and break her right hip. Since Gpa was already in a wheelchair due to a succession of knee injuries, this is when mr. biscuit and I entered the picture and became their caretakers. It was supposed to be a short-term thing, and indeed, Gma recovered quickly from her broken hip. She was walking again, and even driving, when something weird happened and she began to  lose control of her right foot. This was initially diagnosed as drop foot and chalked up to the back problems she’s always had, or her hip surgeries, or God know what, I don’t really remember, because it got progressively worse, traveling up her leg, and then it affected her right hand and arm. She started having painful, horrifying, seizure-like tremors in her leg that she couldn’t control or predict or stop. More than one night I wound up standing beside their bed, massaging the inside of her right leg with my big, strong hands because everybody was terrified and nobody had any idea what else we ought to be doing.

In my memory, this downturn happened within the blink of an eye. The space of a few weeks, at most. Is that true? I don’t know, and I haven’t the fortitude to dig through my social media records to more accurately reconstruct a timeline. It feels like a very short time had passed between the time she and Gpa went off for a drive on their own and the day I sat beside her at an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon that was supposed to be a routine followup, and he all of a sudden looked alarmed and said that her symptoms were indicative of something in the brain and sent us to the ER.

While we waited in the cold, very white ER, I entertained her. Impromptu jokes, clever wordplay, silly voices, teasing, riffing on the terrible night-time TV, literally whatever I could think of. No need to be modest: I was on fire. Gma, meanwhile, laughed at my antics, told me to stop making her laugh because laughing made her hip hurt, and flirted shamelessly with the young male nurse who asked her if she was warm enough (her response: “why don’t you come lay down with me and then I will be?”). I called her a shameless hussy and she seemed a proud of the label. Meanwhile, she got a CT scan. Her doctor ordered the scan to look for evidence of a stroke. Instead, they found a brain tumor. Ta-da!  And so she was transferred by ambulance to the bigger, urban hospital, about half an hour away. I followed in the car, but first I stopped at Sonic for my third dinner of the evening. I had chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, and 44 ounces of sweet tea. I wasn’t hungry, but I was starving.

From there, hospital visits and uncomfortable phone calls, MRIs, the entire family descending to sit in the waiting room for an early-morning brain surgery that revealed her brain tumor was the worst case scenario, my other grandmother succumbing to MS after fighting it to a stalemate for five decades. At some point, I bluescreened. Life became a constant battle against everything and everyone, including myself. I cried all the time. I swore even more than I usually do. I ate crap, and a ton of it, drank too much caffeine, picked fights with mr. biscuit. I also wrote like a demon, dashing out fiction in a desperate attempt to keep a grip on myself, but it’s all unreadable.

Gma got out of surgery, recovered in the hospital, went into rehab. She had lost the fine motor skills in her right hand, but worked like hell to get them back. She excelled in physical therapy and occupational therapy, perhaps because she was stubborn as hell and uninterested in her own weaknesses. By the time she left rehab, she could transfer into and out of the car and the wheelchair, write clearly enough to pay the bills out of the ancient hatbox where she kept them, tell when she was being bullshitted, all the usual.

Because I was so tired of failing, and so deeply weary, I never really posted about last spring’s struggle to construct my bodice. It was a long and terrible struggle. I tried to work with piping, I tried to do a trick with velcro to make it a back-lacing bodice I could get into by myself. It took me a solid month and three fully constructed failures to get it mostly right, and even then I wasn’t completely happy, just out of time. I finished it with 36 hours to spare before I had to perform at Scarborough. I did some corrective work before CRF this fall, and was a lot happier with the results, though I’m still not satisfied. Errors in the construction led to more wear and tear than should be showing after only two faires. The back is sloppy. The straps are either too short or too long. I don’t even like the style anymore–I want a doublet-style bodice. It’s just not right.

We left Gma and Gpa in the care of my cousin in August, after 13 months of caring for them. We were unemployed, but a friend had a spare room in a newly purchased townhome, so we we were able to get by with a little fudging, a bit of temping, and a lot of luck. The two of us hunkered down and tried to deal with the guilt, depression, poverty, and lingering emotional trauma of the past year. I hid in bed a lot. I cried a lot. I thought fixedly of nothing, and I did it a lot. Then, in October, our luck turned. I started at Carolina, where I did really well. Around Thanksgiving, the seventeen thousand applications and resumes mr. biscuit had sent out every week finally paid off, and he got a job. I also got a job–a steady one I actually enjoy, unlike the crappy, very sporadic temp work that had kept us afloat. We stopped hibernating. We started to feel like things were going to be ok.

Things were not going so well for Gma, When the family gathered for Thanksgiving, she had trouble with complete sentences and had all but lost her hard-won ability to transfer in and out of the car. From there, her decline was rapid. She couldn’t move much, even when she was uncomfortable. She couldn’t remember words. She couldn’t tell you what was wrong, or if indeed anything was wrong. The last time I saw her, in the nursing facility that I had long since come to love, despise, and fear, she spoke maybe twice, and that to say “mhm” for yes when I asked her very specific, easy questions. When she wanted to say “no,” she would give me a very pointed look and I would laugh and say “OK, OK.”

That last time we saw her, I brought her a selection of faire costumes I had made so she could see them and touch them. I had shown her pictures, but I wanted to really show her what I’d made with the two sewing machines she had given me over the years–the one she bought for me, and the one that had been hers.  A lot of what I brought her was new: the caul I made out of gold organza, black lace, and Swarovski crystals, the black velveteen and light yellow fleece cloak I’d finished only a couple of weeks before. I brought her my hat, and when I put it on her head she smiled a bit.

I also brought her my bodice.

When I picked my bodice up off the pile to show it to her, her intake of breath was audible. It had narrow gold sleeves (also new) still attached; the gold satin of the (old) hanging sleeves reflected the overhead lights. I helped her lift up her good hand so she could feel it, rub the velveteen and the satin between her fingers. mr. biscuit laced me into it so she could see how it looked on. As she held it, I talked a little bit about my struggles to make it, but eventually I ran out of things to say and just let her hold it.

She held onto it for a very long time.

The last time I saw my Gma, she was hugging mr. biscuit goodbye. She looked at me over his shoulder and waggled her eyebrows suggestively. She died about a week later, three days before Christmas.

Later, I learned from my mom that Gma had learned to sew from her mother. They made patterns out of newspaper for the suits, prom and wedding dresses, and various commissions that they made. Gma was, I’ve been told, an excellent seamstress. The only creation of hers that I know I’ve seen is my mother’s wedding gown. The last time I saw that gown I was in high school and had no idea what I was looking at, but in my memory, it looks bespoke. Which is to say, it is beautiful, elegantly constructed, and sturdy, and though far too small for me and sort of itchy with old lace, it was a pleasure to wear. I’ve never sewn with my Gma, or my mom; only with friends, whom I pity. I am a vicious hellbeast when sewing. I swear and cry and throw things and make a gigantic mess, and I hate every second of the whole stupid process. I thought, while I was making it, that stupid bodice was going to be the final straw that drovee me insane. It didn’t, but only just. And honestly, when I was done with it, it was fine. In the end, when I could put a little bit of distance between myself and the horrific events surrounding it and its constructions, I even made it better.

I didn’t think it was beautiful until it made Gma gasp.

bodice

gma me caitie big smiles

Costuming in Geekdom, or How Much Geekier Do I Have To Be?

30 Nov

When you were a little kid, did you play dress up?

Ever wear your Halloween costume on a day it wasn’t Halloween?

Ever run around in a cape and Superman underoos?

Ever slip your tiny child feet into your dad’s shoes and stomp around the house declaring yourself a very famous rock star and could someone please bring you a bowl of brown M & Ms?

Congratulations, my friend: you were, for that moment in time at least, behaving like a geek! Because playing dress up is a geeky thing to do.

I would have thought that was obvious. If a “geek” is someone who displays a lot of enthusiasm about a particular fandom (or many fandoms, or fandom in general), dressing up as someone/something from a fandom should be a pretty good indicator of geekery. If a Green Lantern t-shirt is a sign that you like Green Lantern, a Green Lantern costume is a giant billboard with arrows and flashing lights and choirs of angels. For the record (again), I hate the term “cosplay.” It has undertones of half-assed performance art and it makes me cringe. BUT! it’s the generally accepted term amongst fandom circles, so let’s use it here. Let me be perfectly clear: costuming, cosplay, dress up, whatever you want to call it, is just as geeky as more long-accepted pursuits. And, I would posit, unlike many of those pursuits, it’s actually difficult. I will see your several thousand dollars in carefully organized back issues of DC and raise you the time and energy to learn an actual skill.

Again, I would have thought that was obvious, but sometimes I expect too much of people. I’m a little late commenting on this, but apparently there are people–men, mostly–in the geek community who are just so, so mad at cosplayers. Female cosplayers, specifically.

furious tantrum

The argument being posited again and again is that women dressing up at cons aren’t “real geeks,” but rather attention-hungry posers looking to prey on hapless geeks, who are assumed/outright stated to be men and boys. How dare those bitches come in and be interested in geek stuff! They’re ruining everything! SOON THERE WILL BE BOOBS* EVERYWHERE WHAT DO WE DO.

Sane people were like “dudes, WTF, your misogyny is showing,” to which the dudes replied “nuh-uh I do TONS of shit to help women” (paraphrased only slightly). “Fake geeks,” they and many of their commenters keep insisting, are a real problem! And most of them just happen to be girls! Which makes those girls ATTENTION WHORES, because wanting attention for something awesome you made is totally not ok. Which is why all directors, writers, comic book artists, and actors are anonymous–oh. Wait.

pathetic whore

You know how many “fake geeks” I have met in my life? I have met people who were paid to be at geek conventions, and I have met people whose geeky interests were different from mine, and I knew people who were new to their particular interest, and I have met people who snuck into geek conventions just to look, but I have never ever ever met a person who had paid money to go to a goddamned geek convention without any interest whatsoever in the geeky goings on. Has this happened? I’m sure it has! There are jillions of people who go to cons, and doubtless some of them are just curious. I doubt very much that those people are cosplaying, though. And even if they are–so what? Everyone has to start somewhere. Geekdom isn’t a society of elites–it’s a club for people who like shit.

On the surface, a lot of the complaints are about promotion models–aka “booth babes”–who are usually pretty women hired by corporations to drive interest in their product. I don’t particularly relish this form of marketing at cons, because it turns women into a commodity and ignores the presence of straight women** in the geek community. That being said, do I think it’s appropriate to attack the models? WHY, NO. Women have to earn a living just like men, and models/actors just as much as engineers. If a particular marketing strategy is offensive to you, the reasonable thing to do is not spend money on the product being advertised. Slandering the employees with misogynistic insults is not reasonable.

But they’re not just talking about promotion models. The Idiot Nerd Girl meme (look it up, I’m not linking to it) is not about booth babes; it’s about people without sufficient “geek cred,” whatever the fuck that means. Geekery, apparently, is an elite society that you have to prove yourself worthy to join. Naturally, since ladies are the carriers of Original Sin and all, the bulk of this proving falls to women.

amirightladies

amirightladies2

Click for source, and follow, b/c it’s hilarious

The root of this problem is a hard thing to address because it’s upsetting. It makes me angry, and sad, and it hurts and I hate it, but it’s true: geek culture is chockablock full of misogyny.

Kind of like that, only not adorable

Kind of like that, only not cute

Cons, ren faires, gaming, TV, movies; all geekdom. All of it. Not all the geek people have been misogynistic jerkbags, but all of the geeky pursuits I’ve been involved in have had misogynistic jerkbags in them. And some of my geeky pursuits have been In this way, geekdom is a lot like mainstream society. As much as we would like to think/hope it is, geekdom isn’t a safe space for everyone. For every girl who’s found a finally found a place full of other people who are really into Mon Calamari ballet, there’s a girl getting harassed in a con elevator. Sometimes it’s the same girl. And that’s fucking horrible, but it’s par for the course in a culture that doesn’t respect women.

Because…no. Geekdom, at large, does not respect women. We’ve made enormous strides away from our intensely misogynistic roots, but we’re still treating Gor like it’s anything other than the fantasies of a mouthbreathing 15 year old. We’re still making fun of Twilight because it’s got sparkly vampires and not because it glorifies an abusive, controlling, relationship***. We’re still looking sideways at many other fandoms enjoyed mostly by women (at least until the dudes get into it, or the creator of the fandom wins a bunch of awards, and if the source material is anti-woman, well, so much the better!). And we’re still debating whether cosplay is a legit form of geekery, or just something that “attention whores” do. That’s why if you’re dressed as the Scarlet Witch, you had better know everything about her (including the seven million times she’s gone crazy) because some dude is going to demand you recount it before he introduces himself–which he will never do. Just, ya know, for example.

tumblr_mdmbwpfJA11qkpz0fo7_1280

Cosplay, costuming, dressing up–whatever you want to call it, this shit is geeky. And it is awesome. There is so much amazing work being done by cosplayers, costumers, and other professional/semi-professional dresser uppers. The Friday Night Costume Contest, in which awards are based on technique, is one of the highlights of Dragon*Con! The passion, talent, time, and money being spent on costuming in geekdom, to astounding results, should be celebrated, not discredited. But these are women-dominated pursuits, and to acknowledge that they are worthwhile, we might have to acknowledge that women are worthwhile as more than decoration. Aye, there’s the rub. Female geeks exist, and are, in fact, human beings, and deserve to be welcomed and respected. Just like male geeks.

Other people who have said this better than me:

The Mary Sue: On the “Fake” Geek Girl – “The Fake Geek Girl has been with me ever since I was eleven and found that I really liked Batman: The Animated Series, when my fear of being labeled a fake geek girl said that if I didn’t become an expert on Batman, the moment I made some kind of mistake or omission I’d be branded as “fake” by the person I was interacting with. Not a novice, a learner, someone who was worth teaching and bringing into the community, but a fake, a poser, somebody who deserved to be kicked out. Where was the “geeks in the mainstream” discussion fifteen years ago when I was getting into Batman? Right, it wasn’t there, because geeks were not getting into the mainstream at that time. But the Fake Geek Girl idea was there.” AND! “But who are you to say that a stranger, someone you’re never likely to meet, is not genuinely interested in the thing they appear to be interested in? Who are you? I just… what? I’m rendered incoherent. Here at the Mary Sue, when an actress goes on a talk show and describes her personal affection and involvement and enjoyment and FANDOM for geek properties, we take it at face value. Why? Because we don’t actually have a reason not to. Because the alternative breeds a closed community of paranoid, elitist jerks who lash out at anyone new.”

Who Gets To Ge A Geek? Anyone Who Wants To Be – “Geekdom is a nation with open borders.”

Nerds: Stop Hating Women, Please – “But the views Harris expresses aren’t just held by virulent misogynists – instead, they are depressingly common in “geek culture”. Too many nerds have basically internalised the stereotype of themselves as ugly, friendless losers and decided that anyone who doesn’t fit that stereotype – particularlywomen – is a “fake geek”, taking advantage of the fact that being a geek is now ‘cool’.”

The Great Geek Cosplay Debate – “We were all young and clueless once. It’s likely we’re all young and clueless now, compared to our future selves. Just because the person dressed as a lumberjack in front of you can’t quote any Monty Python aside from that one song doesn’t mean they have any less passion than you.”

Tiger Thighs Studio: My Two Cents on the Cosplay debate – “New fans bring new fandoms, and fresh blood to what would be an otherwise dying medium.”

*for the record, I hate this word. Especially when it’s used in Breast cancer research marketing.
**I’m torn on whether this erases the presence of gay/bi women. My instinct is that these companies are not hiring gorgeous ladies to bring in the lesbian market, because they don’t really acknowledge its existence. I’d love feedback.
***Twilight is bad. I won’t argue it’s not. But so is the original Battlestar Galactica, and a lot of trade paperback sci-fi/fantasy, and those are acceptable fandoms.
****Fuck you, Tony Harris

Memo to self

14 Apr

I will need to seriously prewash the rest of this birsdeye cotton like six times, because it is shrinking like a motherfucker and all the seams are pulling out WTFWTFWTF.

On sewing failures

29 Oct

WOW. So the post about racist costumes has been the most popular post by far on this blog. Part of me wants to try and repeat that success by posting more about the interplay of racism and costumes, but…I don’t have anything more to say about it at the moment. Curses! Once again I am foiled in my quest for page views. Instead, I’m going to talk about my sewing machine.

My sewing machine is a Singer CG-550. It’s two different shades of grey; I like to call the lighter one “gunmetal” and the darker “the dreaded ennui.” It’s supposed to have 10 different stitches, but I tend to only use the straight and zig-zag ones, because I’m not entirely sure what the others are for. Not to say I know what zig-zag stitches are for. I like them because they make me feel strong, like I’m sewing a really sturdy seam! Plus, they’re pretty.

My sewing machine was a gift from my grandmother. She had heard, possibly from my mom, that I had got into renaissance festivals and was having some trouble paying for costuming, so she bought me a machine of my own. She even paid for a short Introduction to Your Machine class, but unfortunately, I am a terrible student and promptly forgot everything they taught me.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about my machine. I still have the manual somewhere in one of my drawers of sewing stuff, but I only look at it when Things have gone Really Wrong. We had a very long, tumultuous courtship, during which I cried every time I had to re-raise the bobbin thread. Every single time. I literally could not do it! I don’t know why. It was very bad for a very long time. Years, people. Finally one day I went “oh. That’s it?” and my friend J., who was showing me yet again how to raise the bobbin thread, said “YES, biscuit, that’s it, my God.” All of a sudden it made sense! Lightbulbs, choirs of angels, etc. Since then we’ve had a good time, my sewing machine and I. We’ve made some terrible costumes and some surprisingly not terrible costumes, for faires, Halloween, and Dragon*Con. We’ve learned about stitch in the ditch and finishing seams, cried over curved seams, and backstitched approximately seventy five miles of fabric.

My sewing machine is sturdy. It’s big and heavy and can handle several layers of thick fabrics all at once, though it will complain about it. Sometimes the timing gets thrown off when I get frustrated and yank on said layers of fabric, but considering the amount of shit I put it through, it’s trucking along just fine.

My grandma is super proud of me. She tells all her friends about my costuming, and offers me good advice when I’m freaking out about projects that are not going well.  She’s an amazing lady.

During the first Desert Storm, she and her second husband worked for the US government in Saudi Arabia. I remember she sent me a t-shirt with a map of the war zone showing the location of various bombings. I was very young, and became convinced that she had bombed those sites personally (she hadn’t), perhaps in a hot air balloon (I was big into balloon then, I don’t know).

One time she spotted me 30 cents to cover my overdue book fees at the library so I could check something else out (which I would doubtless return late as well). She was super unimpressed with me for it, and gave me a Look and a stern “You owe me 30 cents.”

She has two awful cats that she adores. One of them is deaf and blind and so mean when he’s afraid the vet won’t examine him unless he’s sedated. The other one is a prissy little shit who hates everyone in the world except my grandma. She dotes on those cats.

When I graduated high school, she took me and a friend to New York City for a week. A bunch of her girlfriends came with us. They used to travel all over together, and they were a wild bunch of little old ladies. Couldn’t catch a taxi to save their collective life, though.

My grandma is a terrible flirt. When she first went to the ER three weeks ago, she invited a young male tech to come lay in bed with her, because she was cold and he looked tired. When I told her she was a shameless hussy, her reply was basically “Yes, I am.”

Her sewing machine is smaller and lighter than mine, and more delicate. If they got in a fight, for some reason involving breeches in the complex etiquette of Craft Implements, my sewing machine could take hers. It could carry hers on its back and not break a sweat. It could push her sewing machine around in a wheelchair and lift them both over a doorway, up some stairs, and around a sharp corner, and still have energy to help her sewing machine get into bed. For a grand finale, it could sew a thick warm blanket out of many layers of wool and fleece. Ta-da!

Her sewing machine is smarter than mine. It has more stitches, a lot of them very pretty decorative stitches (my favorite is the flowery one), and the automatic buttonhole business actually makes sense. It has all sorts of automatic features: besides the buttonhole maker, there’s a bobbin raiser and a needle threader. If I ever find the Automatic Sew Entire Garment function, I’ll be set for life. Hell, my grandma’s sewing machine is smarter than me.

My grandma can’t use her sewing machine anymore. Even when she regains movement in the right side of her body, she won’t have the strength. I assume she won’t, anyway; she didn’t before. She let me use it to finish my last project (a vaguely Elizabethan version of Jayna from the Wonder Twins, which, just no), when she was doing much better than she is now, and couldn’t lift it then.

Today I showed her my new patterns. She was so excited to see them, and so impressed that I would tackle a project like this. It was late and she was tired, but she listened while I showed her the options I was thinking about making, and how they would all fit together. She exclaimed over how extensive it was, and how she could never do something like that. I told her she was wrong, of course.

In the back of my mind has been the urge to make her something. Perhaps it’s a product of so much time imagining myself the hero of various works of fantasy literature, but I feel it is My Destiny to fix things. I’ve got to find the magic flower, dump the Ring of Power, and escort the Princess to the correct castle, because otherwise these things will not get done, the Big Bad will triumph, and all this suffering, all this pain and irritation and stress, will be for nothing. If my life were written by a Tolkein clone, I would speak to my Wise Mentor for Cryptic Advice which I would puzzle out with my Five-Person Band, and eventually everything would be fine. I’m pretty genre savvy, so I think I could get it done in a week. Maybe two, depending on the location of the materials needed for the McGuffin. I would pull out the sewing machine my grandma gave me, and, in a montage set to either Hans Zimmer or that song from The Last of the Mohicans, I would sew up The One Dress and all would be well, roll credits.

I seem to have stumbled into a George RR Martin book, though, or something by Cormac McCarthy, God help me, and the only thing my mentor is saying is that those who mourn shall be comforted. I always wanted to be Batman, and now I guess I am; I have nothing to do with all my awesome strength. My sewing machine is gathering dust in the corner. There is nothing for either of us to carry or stitch or mend or make.

I’m always saying I’m a terrible seamstress, so it will come as no surprise that I’ve concocted some pretty spectacular sewing failures in my life. Once I went an entire eight week ren faire season wearing a skirt held together by safety pins, because I did not know how to make a waistband. Another time I spent three weeks and countless dollars of velvet making what amounted to a pair of Ye Olde Assless Chaps. On several occasions, costumes I made have fallen apart before I even put them on. I’ve failed classes, too, and failed to do my taxes on time, failed to treat friends or boyfriends well, failed to eat healthful things, failed to get up on time, failed to clean the litterbox. My whole world right now is defined by my failure to fix this. Unlike all those other times, I would if I could, in a heartbeat, in the flashiest of flashes, but there is no magic fabric I can sew into the +5 Robe of Health.

I don’t even think I’m qualified to sew Epic Level garments.

I don’t know where this post is going anymore. It’s become a foggy sort of metaphor soup, and I never intended it to be so personal, so I think I ought to stop. Please insert an appropriate conclusion here, because I am physically and emotionally exhausted and have run out of words.

%d bloggers like this: