textualdeviance: (Can't Talk)
The Niblet hasn't yet decided to show up on his own, but there's an induction scheduled for tomorrow morning, so within the next ~24 hours or so, he'll finally be in my arms. Whoa.

I have a zillion and one feelings about this, of course, but the biggest is just being overwhelmed: So much to do, so much to learn, so much to think about now that I'm going to be responsible for the health and happiness of a tiny, helpless person. There's a chance that person may have some special needs down the road, too, so I need to be prepared for that as well (and am, mostly.) The house is close to baby-ready, the car seat is installed, we have plenty of supplies, and a go bag ready to take to the hospital. It's all going as it should. I think I can do this.

But one thing that's become clear in this is that the bandwidth I'm going to have available for anything other than my kid is going to be very, very small indeed for the foreseeable future. Obviously, M's going to be helping out early on, and the housekeeping and stuff will be managed. I also have some good local friends who can help in a pinch, and if all else fails, we'll find a way to afford a nanny or au pair to help here and there. But mentally and emotionally, my days of devoting a lot of energy to things outside my family are pretty much done for now. I'm going to keep writing, of course, and hope to find a way to sing again sometime, but most everything else will have to go by the wayside.

To that end, I've realized that I need to shrink my monkeysphere. It's something I've been thinking about for a while anyway, as I've felt increasingly overstretched, but now it's a lot more critical that I be careful about lending emotional energy to others when I'll have so little of it available.

FSM knows I love social media and fandom and knowing people all over the world, but one drawback to that is that I simply can't really be capital-F friends with all 200+ people I "know" from various places. I see their lives go past here or on FB, Tumblr or Twitter, and my instinct is to care about what's happening to them. The reality is that I can't, at least not in anything other than a truly superficial and therefore unsatisfying way. After years of trying to keep up, it's backfired: I now don't spend nearly enough energy on the people I'm closest to because it's getting sucked away by people I barely know. It's not a slight to those acquaintances, mind. They're perfectly nice people. But in order for me to be a good friend--and to have good friends of my own--I'm going to need to prune some folks from my everyday life.

This is frustrating, of course. I know so many lovely people I'd like to get to know better, but I'm just one person, with about 70% of the energy of an average one. I can't really keep up now. Keeping up when my life necessarily must revolve around my kid just isn't going to happen. I'm not, of course, going to be one of those diaper-brained Mommy sorts who has no life at all outside of her kid, but when I do have to make choices between him or other things, well, it's a damned easy choice to make.

So if I unfriend or stop following or don't acknowledge or respond to posts much for a while, please understand that it's not personal. Anyone who's kept up with me for long knows if I have a problem with someone, they hear about it. So it's not that at all. I just have to do some judicious editing in order to give the most important people and things in my life the attention they require. I'll still be posting somewhat here and there, of course. Hell, folks are probably going to get sick of my blathering on about my kid. But I'll basically be in broadcast mode, rather than interactive mode, except for the people I'm closest to. I need to focus on quality over quantity for now.

And mostly, I need to focus on my son, whom I am absolutely dying to finally meet.
textualdeviance: (Default)
This piece about unflattering photos feels especially relevant to me today, as I'm sorting through vacay pix to find some I feel comfortable posting.

As is the case with most of our travel pics, I'm behind the camera, and 90% of the photos are of landscapes, buildings, etc., with M in a few of them. The majority of our travel photosets don't have me in them at all. It's almost like I wasn't even there, since there's no telling who was wielding the camera. There are plenty of pics of me on Flickr, but most are carefully edited and chosen shots I did myself. No candids. No photos of me actually doing something or being somewhere. And almost none of them are fully public--friends/family only. I avoid being photographed so much it's like I'm attempting to erase myself from my own life.

When I bought photo shoot tickets for Collectormania, I did so because I wasn't sure whether there would be a proper chance for an autograph or any other one-on-one contact with the folks in question, not because I actually wanted a photo of myself with them. They're so beautiful that it seemed like putting me in the pic with them would be somehow blasphemous. I got the photo anyway, largely because I promised someone I'd do a photo shout-out for her. The pic of me is decent, as that goes, but I still don't want to scan it in, because the contrast of how gorgeous they are with ... well ... me ... is just so stark.

As the person in the link above noted, though: I look like that. Flattering or no, and allowances for the odd physics of 2D stills considered, those images of me are more or less what people see when they see me in person. I've not yet become a complete hermit (though I seem to be aiming that way) so other people do see my physical existence regularly. But that's not really by choice. Who I am as a person is so detached from my concept of what I physically look like that they're entirely incongruous to me. Given the choice, I'd rather present myself in a way that reflects who I am, rather than what I look like.

But, some might argue, aren't those the same thing? Isn't what I look like part of who I am? Well, insomuch as it's influenced how I've developed as a person, yes. But that's not necessarily a good thing. My physical self has earned me so much horrific abuse that all I've built from it is a crapload of internal scar tissue. My desire, therefore, to ignore it as much as possible should be understandable. And when I tell people who try to encourage me to live in my own skin, and be more present physically to fuck the hell off, they need to understand why I say that. Only people who are chronically clueless or have been blessed enough by the genetic fairy that they don't get abused by strangers for how they look would think there's merit in that. You may as well tell someone with terrible allergies that they should get out and smell the flowers in spring.

I'm an odd duck: a vaguely post-modern realist. As I've argued about other things before, I recognize cultural and social constructs for what they are--malleable, changeable and in no way biologically essential--but I also acknowledge that just because a thing is built by humans rather than naturally grown doesn't mean it doesn't exist. A building is entirely a human construction, and just as it has been assembled where it is, so can it be dismantled. Yet it's still a very real thing, it still affects its environment, and it still changes, in ways both large and small, the people who encounter it.

The social constructs we have around gender and physical appearance aren't inherent and unchangeable, no matter how much quack evolutionary psychologists may like to argue otherwise. But that doesn't mean they don't exist, or that they don't have the power to do harm. Much as a well-meaning parent might try to teach a child that beauty is only skin-deep, and looks don't matter, and it's what's inside that counts, the reality of life in a gender-stratified environment in which appearance is commodified means that yes, looks DO matter, especially for girls and women. They shouldn't matter, and children should of course learn not to judge people on things over which they have no control, appearance among them, but they also should learn that other people WILL make those judgments. And that those judgments can, in some cases, do some fairly serious damage. If you want your kid to come out without too much of that damage, you help them learn how to avoid it. It's just like teaching a kid about crime. You teach them not to steal, and that stealing is a bad thing, but you also teach them to lock up their valuables, because other people steal whether they're supposed to or not. No, I don't want my kid living under a cloud of paranoia, and the onus of responsibility for abuse lies with the abuser, but I also have a responsibility to keep my kid safe as much as possible--and that includes teaching them how to avoid becoming a target for the world's awful people.

So, this is why I don't make many pics of myself public. I know my looks don't define who I am, but I also know other people will define me that way, and that most of the people who do will judge me a lesser creature, and someone worthy of torment, because of them. Anyone worth my time, energy and affection won't abuse me that way, of course, but as I can't live life surrounded entirely by only those people, I still have to make adjustments to avoid the jerks who will. I don't personally think that being fat or having an unattractive face makes me a bad person. I think I'm a very good person, in fact. But I'm not stupid. I know other people do think that, and that if they're given enough of an opportunity, they'll do anything they can to make my life miserable. It's a form of closeting, of course, but it's an essential one. Just as I wouldn't be stupid enough to out myself as queer in a rural town full of violence-prone holy rollers, neither am I going to go pasting my picture everywhere that the attack dogs of the intarweebs are going to see it. I've already been the victim of some pretty hardcore bullying, both online and off. Why on earth would I voluntarily open myself up to more of that? If other people want to martyr themselves like that, fair enough. I'm not going to be happy about pressure to do so myself.

So, no. I'm not going to post vacation pics of myself in public spaces, and when someone does post an unflattering pic of me, I'll ask them to untag it or otherwise make it less obvious who the person in the pic is. People who know me already will know my face, and know that's me. Strangers don't need to connect that face with my name, because far too many of them will use that knowledge to hurt me. I've been hurt enough already. Sue me if I'm trying to avoid suffering any more.
textualdeviance: (Default)
Am already failing in my promise to myself to not read comments, because the ones on this article about strange men approaching women? Made me want to scream. So, SO angry at the sense of entitlement from the guys there. (Side note: Was also grousing about entitlement in fandom over on Tumblr today.) Amazing how so many of them seemed to think they have some sort of inherent right to attempt social contact with everyone they see. Just. No. Merely being in meatspace is not a 10-foot-high neon sign that says "HAI, PLEAZE MAKE FRIENZ WITH ME" and no-one--not a single person--is obligated to be overtly social with others just to go about their daily business.

I think what bugged me the most from those guys was the insistence that if they weren't allowed to approach strangers, they'd never get a date. Which just ... OK, unclear on the concept doesn't even begin to cover it. It's kind of telling that these guys are clearly so socially stunted that they can't seem to find a date via other activities, and have to resort to desperately chatting up complete strangers. If you can't even hook up with someone you meet at church or a bowling league or a book club? You have far deeper problems than chicks on the street telling you to fuck off.

Now, of course there are many folks who are interested in hooking up with strangers for mostly-physical encounters. But virtually all of them go to places/do things that are conducive to that sort of activity. The vast, VAST majority of women, and even most men, who are just going about their business in meatspace aren't actually interested in hooking up with people they know nothing about, and--this is key--who know nothing about them. And this goes for friendships, too.

If a total stranger approaches me in meatspace, I assume they're either going to harrass me or try to scam me or sell me something. Why wouldn't I assume they're just friendly and want to get to know me better? Because they know jack shit about me based solely on what they can see of my physical self. I dunno about y'all, but I'd prefer to socialize with people who know at least a little more about me than the shape of my body, the color of my hair and what I happen to be wearing on a given day.

Contrary to the argument put forth by the jackass commenters over there, NO, this does not preclude socialization at all. Hardly. Every single friend I have I met through a common interest or activity of some sort. Fandom. Chorus. Gaming. Politics. Classes. Friend-of-a-friend. Hell, I met M on a BBS. I'm perfectly happy to chitchat with "strangers" in those situations because we already have a non-physical basis of interaction. If someone approaches me online, chances are they've read something I've written, participated in a discussion with me, know we share an interest in something. Likewise, if a fellow chorister or even someone at Pride or something talks to me, there's already something more there for us than just two bodies. THAT is what starts meaningful social relationships. Not someone babbling away at some poor, half-awake person in line at Starbucks.

I, like virtually every other woman on the planet, have been objectified my whole life. I have been told that my body is the most important thing about me--often the only thing about me that matters. I've been told that my relative attractiveness is cause alone to either adore me or hate me. And y'know what? I'm really not interested in giving any of my valuable time and energy to people who think that way. My body is part of me, not the sum total. And if you're someone whom I'd actually like, you're going to be someone who understands that, and who would therefore want to get to know me better than a chance meatspace encounter could possibly allow for.

Yes, of course I'm flattered when people are physically attracted to me--it's rare enough these days--but I'm really not interested in hooking up with someone who becomes interested in me only because of how I look. Physical attraction should be part of the whole package, not the entirety of it. If I just want to get off, there's a guy upstairs who's usually happy to help out, and a couple of electronic devices if he's not. I don't need that from some nameless person on the street who just wants to stuff their face in my tits.

Now, it could well be that not everyone who would approach me in generic meatspace is a shallow idiot, and I might miss out on a potential friend. But y'know? If it means I'll avoid being harrassed by the other 90% of the people who'd approach me thus, that's a risk I'm willing to take. I'm a very social person, and I'm always open to making new friends, and even open to the possibility of more than that. But only if they're going to be genuinely interested in me. And a person who thinks physical presence alone is enough of a commonality to approach me? Ain't that.

ETA: I think I can boil this whole thing down to this: No-one is entitled to other people. You don't get to demand attention, love or sex from anyone who isn't willing to give it voluntarily. And only when one is in a specifically social space should one assume that other people there will be open to social advances from strangers. You're at a singles/cruising bar? Sure, you can ask if you can buy someone a drink. You're at the grocery store? Not so much. You are entitled to pleasure in your life, sure. What you're not entitled to do is to take that pleasure from anyone you choose, regardless of whether they've made it clear they're up for that.
textualdeviance: (Default)
Thanks to a link from [livejournal.com profile] darkhorse_99, I took this empathy quiz, which is apparently related somewhat to ASDs. Got a 28--on the high side of low. For the record, I've taken similar quizzes before for Aspie markers, and scored in the "yeah, probably" range, so I can't say as it's surprising. But I also think, in my case at least, the results may be a little misleading.

First off, a lack of understanding nonverbal cues in communication isn't the same thing as a lack of understanding of emotion, and definitely not the same thing as lacking compassion. I'm actually incredibly sensitive to others' pain and joy, even if I'm not great at reading subtleties in individual situations. I get that some ASD folks are low-emotion to begin with, and therefore don't have a good point of reference to use for empathy, but that's definitely not the case for me. Hell, I'm a big ol' bleeding-heart progressive. Hardly someone who's incapable of caring for others who are experiencing a crisis, even if they're different from me and I don't know exactly what they're going through.

Secondly, preferring plain-spoken communication to passive, coded stuff doesn't make me a bad person. It just means I'm nowhere near fluent in Cisgendered American Woman. This often leads to major social weirdness when I'm with women who expect me to speak their language; I'm interpreted as cold or rude when I'm actually just communicating more like a guy.

Also, I'm perfectly fine with reading people so long as I'm just an observer. I'd even say I'm pretty good at it. It's only when you put me in the middle of it that that goes out the window. I get very wound up in trying to monitor my own feelings and behavior (given that I'm chronically un-self-aware) and then my ADD kicks in, and can't sort through the mountains of incoming data to get to the important bits. If I'm just doing chitchat/banter with someone who's good at it, I'm fine. Same with situations where I'm in a leadership position, and people are predisposed to listening to me babble (lectures, performing, answering questions, etc.) It's when I'm in a personal social situation and we get beyond initial small talk that things get weird for me, because I don't have a road map for that.

FWIW, if I'm with someone I know well, and am already familiar with their personal language (and they also know not to expect me to talk Girl), then I'm fine. Also helps that I'm less worried about major consequences if I screw something up. I figure if someone's been friends with me for at least a couple of years and haven't dumped me yet for something wonky that escaped my big mouth, then we're good. ;)

It is frustrating for me that this isn't easier. I'm such a social person that knowing I'm so bad at the intitial getting-to-know-you dance makes me want to scream sometimes. But I spose it's also an asshole filter, too. If people can get beyond the weirdness long enough to see that I have a good heart, it usually means they're good people.
textualdeviance: (skwirls)
Just finished a rewatch of the amazing In Her Skin, which is based on a true story of a murder in Australia. Watched it the first time since one of my Primeval actors plays the villainess in it, and it's easily one of my favorites, now.

Most of this comes down to the amazing work done in that role, and how familiar so much of her story feels to me. There are some scenes of her freakouts that honestly could have been me at various times of my life. I don't know what she was diagnosed with--I'm guessing bipolar, or some sort of personality disorder--but the mix of obsessiveness, self-loathing, rage, etc., is definitely something I can identify with.

So what made the difference? Why did this girl get so far gone that she ended up killing someone, and I'm now in relatively decent nick?

People who cared and the government funding that paid them )

I am, and always will be someone who has a mental illness, but thanks to people who cared, I can manage it basically on my own now. As long as I have access to my meds, a partner who loves me unconditionally and the tools I need (hi, Livejournal!) to work through the bad days when they happen, I'm functional.

I just wish the same could be said for the millions of others out there who are falling through the cracks. Not all of us will turn to murder, of course, but there's enough suffering of other kinds out there that it's unconscionable that a first-world country like the US isn't properly equipped to manage us. Millions of lives are lost to suicide and indirect self-harm. Millions more are affected by people who aren't getting the help they need. When are we going to realize that this is a major public health crisis, and do something about it?
Sep. 26th, 2011 12:54 am

Army of me

textualdeviance: (trapped)
Sometimes I wonder why, if so many things I want in my life are in place, or at least close to it, I'm still so unhappy much of the time.

Then I remember: There are still millions of people out there who would love to see me dead (or at least wouldn't care if I was) because I'm not the right kind of person, according to them. I still, pretty much every day, encounter at least one person who considers me less than human. Less deserving of basic respect. Less deserving of support, of success, of even breathing.

And what's awful is that there's no guarantee that even folks who'd support me on one aspect would support me on the others. I can't guarantee that fellow queer folk aren't fatphobic, for instance. Or that fellow fat folk wouldn't have a problem with me being atheist. Which means that I don't easily have a refuge--a safe haven--I can run to when I'm under attack. The person I trust to save my ass from $hater1 may actually be $hater2 when a different aspect shows up.

This is part of why I'm so obnoxiously out about my various oddities. I don't want to be closeted about any of them so I can more easily filter for the folks who'd be horrid about one bit of it or another. I don't trumpet these things because I think being an oddball makes me special and interesting or edgy or whatever. I do so because it's critically necessary asshole repellent. It's how I stay safe, and keep from getting close to people who might be inclined to hurt me.

Of course, everyone's hated by someone. There's always some crank out there who thinks you should die because you have attached earlobes or a three-syllable last name. But most people can disregard all that because they know that plenty of other people have their back. No need to be scared of one nitwit with a cap gun when you have a thousand-strong army behind you.

If I knew that--if I knew for sure that I'd be protected if I was under direct attack--I could get by. I could blow off those people who want to eliminate me because I'd know they had no chance of actually doing so. But I don't know that. And so even with all the other good things in my life, I can't ever fully rest and relax and enjoy what I have. Every morning's hope is always tempered with dread. I'm always looking over my shoulder, wondering when that bullet's going to fly.

But maybe that's the secret to unlocking my happiness: knowing that someday, that bullet will come. And instead of fighting it and fearing it and desperately looking around for that army I need to protect me from it, I can just know that when it comes, it'll come, and there's nothing I can do to change that.

I've never had a fear of flying. Not because I trust those tin cans to never fall out of the sky, but because if the one I'm in does happen to do so, there isn't a damned thing I would have done wrong to make that happen, nor could I do anything to stop it. Same goes for living in the shadow of a dormant volcano. Will it puke all over me someday? Maybe. Can I do anything about it? Nope. And anywhere else I'd move would have its own natural disaster risks, too. May as well live somewhere beautiful while I'm waiting for Mama Nature to do her thing.

My chances of suffering something terrible at the hands of someone who hates me are much higher than the average muggle (and I have, to be sure, suffered quite a lot already.) But it's not like I can just stop being who and what I am. It's not like hiding those things would keep me safe. And, I'm finding, it's not like I can easily drum up my own personal squadron of bodyguards, either. So, the best, smartest thing I can do, I suppose, is to accept that fate's going to get me at some point, and stop agonizing about it until then.

They say that terrorists win when we change our lives in fear of another attack. And the same is true of the social terrorists who have been bombing my life since I was a chubby little tomboy who got sick a lot. There are, undoubtedly, more bombs waiting for me. But holing up and refusing to live my life isn't going to help. They win when I die inside as well as out.
textualdeviance: (Can't Talk)
I consider myself a good, bleeding heart progressive. I genuinely care about people, especially people who have been handed a raw deal in life, and who need the help of others to get by. I have no problem paying taxes, supporting social services, education, etc. At some point, all of us need community support of some sort, and I'm happy to contribute to that.

But the one aspect of progressive social politics I can't stand is the pressure to squish myself in with other people. I don't like feeling pressured to use public transport, live in urban density, volunteer everywhere, etc. Folks who enjoy that sort of thing are welcome to it, and I'm heartily in favor of funding things like that for those who want to, because it's necessary to preserve shared resources. But it's just not my thing.

I will never again live in an apartment if I can possibly avoid it. I don't talk to my neighbors. I never take the bus. I only get on airplanes because there's no other way to get to some places quickly. I do 80% of my grocery shopping from home, and most every other kind of shopping during non-peak hours. I almost never go to movies on opening day. I travel during low season. I work an offset schedule to avoid rush hour. I rarely use the phone unless I have no other option or need immediate contact with someone.

In short: I hate dealing with strangers, and avoid it whenever humanly possible. It's not that I think there's something inherently wrong with other people, or that I'm better than the unwashed masses or whatever. There's no race or class or ego component to this at all. I just don't like being forced into close proximity with people I didn't choose to be around.

The weird part of this, of course, is that I'm actually an incredibly social person when I'm around people of my choice. I love being surrounded by friends, I'm a huge cuddle slut, and I generally like meeting new people if we have something major in common (queerness, geekery, etc.) But being surrounded by straight muggles in a situation I didn't choose? Puts me on the verge of panic.

So... Yeah. Really wish people would be more considerate of folks like me, and not assume that our desire to limit contact with strangers means we're selfish misanthropes or up to no good or whatever. People just plain stress me out, and if I am to function at all, I have to limit that stress whenever possible.
textualdeviance: (Cascadia)
Just got back from a terrific evening out celebrating [livejournal.com profile] heyokaboy's birthday with much of the gang. So good to see a bunch of people I haven't seen in ages.

I seriously need to get out more often--especially to roam my own city. It really is beautiful, and I spend so little time in the city proper these days. I haven't even been to the Market in probably four years. That needs to change. I generally like living where I do--we have a far nicer house than we would've been able to afford had we bought closer in at the time--but I do miss being more in the thick of things. We're not really trapped in suburbia--this isn't exactly Bellevue, after all--but it is kind of a trek to get out here, which limits how much city crawling--and socializing--we can do.

Still, I'm happy with what I can get--which is a lot more than when I was living in the Ham--and I'm in a much better mood than I have been in a few days.

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