Punked Again

March 25, 2022

When I was working in residential substance abuse treatment, I sometimes got outwitted by my patients, though I tried to stay one step ahead of them. Despite my best efforts, occasionally a resident would obtain something – a communication, an object, a privilege – that was contrary to his recovery or to the rights and needs of others. I didn’t get stressed about this, though I marveled at the dudgeon some of my co-workers would get into in these situations. I would chuckle to myself and say: Well, an addict got the better of me; not the first time and probably not the last.

But I’m not so philosophical about an incident that happened to me in a non-therapeutic setting. I realized yesterday that I had been badly punked by a narcissistic-sociopathic person a few months ago, and it has taken all this time for me to tumble to it. And then it was so obvious I was dumbstruck. The problem is that, not being a narcissistic-sociopath myself, I sometimes don’t recognize the behavior. It doesn’t occur to me that another woman is capable of such extreme harmful lying aiming to destroy another who has never harmed her, when there is no tangible benefit to her for doing so. I recognized the pathology in this woman long ago, but I still am challenged in recognizing her moves. I think one of the reasons I underestimated her is that she is so incompetent in so many areas. Yet narcissistic-sociopaths can be highly efficient in manipulation – or perhaps good people are challenged in recognizing the moves. I should have known.

One trap I’m not falling into is wondering why she did it. You learn quickly, as a cognitive-behavioral therapist, that “why” is not a useful question. “What” is always more important than “why.” I haven’t done anything to harm this woman, who is bent on destroying my life, and the screwy head-scratching reasons she gives for her behavior might even be the truth.

A film by John Waters, called Serial Mom, I find comforting in these situations. It’s a spoof on true-crime exposes, about a middle-aged female serial killer, that has a deceptively simple lesson: it doesn’t matter why. There is a reason she does what she does, but it’s not going to make sense to any sane person. The sociopathic justification might even be as ridiculous as punishing someone for wearing white shoes after labor day. It doesn’t matter why.

So recognize what evil people are capable of, but don’t bother asking yourself “why they do it”: when dealing with a narcissistic-sociopath, logic only gets in your way.

The Saga Continues

February 18, 2022

Okay, I’m only getting a new apartment and moving, but it’s challenging this time. Not just because there’s an acute housing shortage in the area at the moment: I haven’t moved in over 13 years.

For most of my adult life, I lived in a place for three years tops, and usually I moved every year. I don’t know why I’ve stayed here this long; I kept meaning to move on but never did. While living here I wrote five books, an idea for the next one taking hold on the heels of the last. I’m a process oriented person: I’m not interested in what I’ve written once it’s completed, so I’m a willing channel for the muse.

Creativity thrives in stability, routines, and predictability. Paradoxically, this is where originality blooms. Since finding out that I have to move, it’s been difficult to focus even on this blog. Thirteen years and change. I’m going through accumulated stuff that should have been dealt with years ago, thinking “Why haven’t I thrown away these cassette tapes?’ and “What was I thinking when I bought this dress?”

I still have to figure out what to do with all my unpublished and unpublishable writing. I’m tempted to ditch all of it, but that is a decision that doesn’t have to be made yet. There are arguments to be made either way.

Weeding through books may not be an option. Local used bookstores are not buying; thrift stores and libraries don’t want anything that isn’t new fiction. In the past, my old books were snapped up eagerly, but I don’t live in a particularly intellectual locale. Maybe I’m meant to hang on to them.

I won’t have a clear idea of everything I need to keep until I find another home. In the meantime, I can throw away crusty old spice jars and nearly empty tubes of ointments that have cluttered the bathroom for years. There’s a lot I have no problem letting go of.

Full of Surprises

February 11, 2022

So last week I got notice that I have to move out of the place where I’ve lived for the past 14 years. Did not see that coming. Housing in the area is tight now, so I’m putting serious effort into finding another home for me and the Temple of the Doves.

Hamster Apocalypse

January 28, 2022

Dealing with COVID-19 sometimes feels like being on a hamster wheel. We’re in the middle of another wave, and doesn’t it feel like we’ve been here before? And before…and before…

You may or may not have heard about the hamster culling going on in Hong Kong. COVID was detected in a hamster on the island, leading authorities to demand people relinquish all their pet hamsters for testing and extermination.

COVID brings to the forefront many truths about human behavior.

  1. Humans have a tendency to over-correct. After initially ignoring the threat of COVID, China has pursued a zero tolerance policy, that has had some success, albeit with costs.
  2. When a policy works, humans tend to employ it until it doesn’t work, ignoring signs that the environment is changing. Zero COVID is unlikely to be possible without allowing the more infectious variants to run their course. But governments will be slow to recognize this.

To the children of Hong Kong who have lost their furry little buddies: So sorry for your loss. I agree, adults can be mean.

Hair of the Blog

January 21, 2022

People sometimes ask me, Is that your natural hair color? Referring, of course, to my beautiful long red hair. In my opinion, this is one of the ruder hair questions out there. But for enquiring minds who have to know, the answer is “no” – at this point, there’s a lot of gray “naturally” in my hair.

My born-to hair color was hard to describe. Some people called it brown, some called it blond, a boy in the fifth grade who liked me called it “fawn brown.” I had to be careful with hair products because it had a tendency to take on an orangish hue my mother called “brassy.” It was an unusual multi-textured shade people often commented on, and I had no thought of changing it.

But I did use neutral henna to condition my hair. I fell into this habit when I lived on wimmin’s land. Wimmin’s land is a rural collective living arrangement for feminists that is closed to men. The wimmin’s land where I lived was in sourthern Arizona, and women on the wimmin’s land circuit flocked to this place in the winter. They would take this opportunity in their low-budget traveling lives to condition their hair with colorless henna, which could be purchased cheaply from the co-op in bulk, sunbathing naked in the desert sun except for the muddy goo wrapped in plastic film on their heads.

You probably know where this is going. Somehow the red henna got mixed up with the neutral henna at the co-op. Maybe somebody left a baggy laying around and it got poured back into the wrong jar. All I know is that I washed the conditioning henna out of my hair one afternoon and got the shock of my life. Nor was I the only one; the co-op heard from a number of angry women. One particularly incensed woman demanded that the co-op pay her restoration bill from the hair salon, which they promptly did.

Red henna in most hair only imparts a lustrous sheen that may appear slightly reddish in strong sunlight. In blond hair, or hair that has a tendency to take on orange highlights, it turns a bright rusty color. Usually this washes out in two to four weeks, making it too labor intensive for a hair dye, but for a lucky (or unlucky) few, the hair strands absorb and hang onto the color, and it will not wash out. The furious woman who went to the beauty parlor was still a strawberry blond six weeks later.

Myself, I decided I liked the effect, once the shock wore off. My friends asserted that it fit my personality, and I rather agreed. Since that time, I’ve treated myself to more henna as the roots grow out, using only packaged red henna from a reputable source, of course. I can tell from the roots that my hair is graying beautifully, as my grandmother’s did, so it sometimes seems a shame to be covering it up. But the red does seem more “me,” like a corrective action the Goddess herself decided to take. I was taught growing up that completely dyed hair on an older woman, like long hair on an older woman, is verboten. It doesn’t look natural, having young hair with an old face. But I’ve decided I don’t care. It is natural. It’s me.

Of bisexuals, lesbians, and “febfems”: Defining sexuality

January 7, 2022

I understand the impulse to apply a rigorous definition of “lesbian” in the current climate, with trans-identified men (transwomen) claiming to be lesbian. There should probably be a better definition for bisexual women in same-sex relationships. But there are a few thorny issues that need to be considered.

The old “political” definition of lesbian was a woman who had romantic/sexual relationships with women only. Thus “lesbian” was defined more by what you did than by what you were. In the last century, most “lesbians” were not so keen to scrutinize the motivations of women choosing to describe themselves as lesbian. That may have partly originated from the need to increase numbers in the fight against homophobia. Or maybe most women simply didn’t care. The male lesbian was a bad joke.

Lesbians who self-identified as political tended to be extremely critical of women who had sexual relationships with men. Women who had sex with men were supposedly lightweight in their political analysis, unable to scrutinize their oppression out of a need to appease male partners or potential partners. But (possibly political or possibly born-this-way) lesbian Adrienne Rich pointed out that mothers of sons face very strong incentive to accommodate patriarchy, regardless of their sexuality.

I have noticed some lesbians using their definition of lesbian to set boundaries against criticism of the lesbian community. A firm boundary can protect against self-reflection. Many political lesbians have been willing to speak out about unhealthy behaviors within lesbian communities, and there’s a lot of heteropatriarchy in lesbian communities to unpack. With strict but unverifiable definitions, Lesbians speaking out in unpopular ways can be dismissed by speculating that they secretly want to fuck a man are “political lesbians.”

Then there’s the whole issue of compulsory heterosexuality. Rich and other lesbians argued that ALL women are essentially lesbian, and that socialization creates sexual desire for men. That still leaves room to differentiate women who are attracted to men from women unattracted to men, but it’s difficult to reconcile compulsory heterosexuality with the born-this-way idea.

Another problem with strict definitions (and maybe it’s not a problem) is that Sappho herself would not qualify as lesbian (except on geographic grounds) if we’re defining it as never experiencing sexual desire for a man. Sappho preferred women but had at least one self-attested male flame. Rich was married and had two sons. So we’re going to weed out a lot of our lesbian sheroes if we insist on being very firm about boundaries. Yet at the same time, these firm boundaries, rooted in desire, are self-identified and thus impossible to verify. Maybe Rich never had an orgasm with her husband. How would we know? Do we even want to know?

But we’re dealing with 21st century politics and problems. Bisexual women who claim they are lesbian while being in relationships with male “lesbians” are undermining the whole lesbian community. If you never care about the sex of the people you socialize with, it’s no problem. If you’re looking for a true women’s community, it’s a big problem.

The word “febfem” has been proposed to refer to women who are essentially same-sex in their lifestyle but have felt sexually attracted to men at some point. It’s asserted that this word came from bisexual women, but I would like to see proof, because I see it promoted by lesbians who want lesbianism defined by an internal feeling rather than by actions. The sound of the word is nasty. It sticks in your throat. It sounds worse than “cis,” which also has an ugly sound to it, and it’s coming from the same place as “cis”: people forcing a definition onto another group to accommodate their own self-definition.

There might need to be a word for bisexual women, whether they are exclusively in same-sex relationships or not, because bisexual women are so different from bisexual men. Bisexual men do not face the possibility of pregnancy, for example. Bisexual men face oppression when in same-sex relationships, but do not face oppression based on their sex. Bisexual women are at a disadvantage when in relationship with a man, whether or not he is bisexual, so choosing a heterosexual relationship is not a way out of oppression for a woman, the way it is for a bisexual man. (This, by the way, was one of the biggest reasons 70s and 80s political lesbians tried to convince all women to become lesbian. The idea was that same-sex relationships, even considering the rampant homophobia of the time, were less harmful for women.)

I am not a separatist, in the sense of seeing it as imperitive to socially segretate from men at all times. But I do think women-only space is important, at least sometimes, and to have that space we have to define what a woman is. Fortunately, it’s not difficult. Adult human female. Everyone knows what that means. Other definitions are fuzzier. I think women have a right to make definitions and set boundaries, whatever those are, including kicking Sappho out of lesbian-only space. But I’m not necessarily endorsing or agreeing with these firm boundaries based on sexual identity.

In sum, I think there does need to be a word for bisexual women who prefer same-sex relationships. I think we need words for women’s sexualities that do not include men. Transwomen are not lesbians. Bisexual men and women inhabit very different spheres. I hate the word febfem. I hate the word and I hate the concept behind the word: that it is critical to definitively separate women from one another. I think what is most critical is to definitively separate women from men.

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2021

This marks the TENTH YEAR that I have been blogging. I have updated this site weekly, except for last week when I forgot. (?!) I was going to share my favorite Christmas movies. Now you’ll have to wait another year.

Wishing you a joyous, prosperous, and blessed year ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 22, 2021

I am grateful to you, my readers, for almost ten years of blogging!

Photo: Larry Smith

I once had a turkey challenge me to a race. I was cycling down a country road, and the turkey trotted along beside me. I started cycling faster, and then the turkey started racing me! The encounter ended at a draw when we reached a copse of trees and the turkey had to take wing.

Giants of the Northeast Woodlands

September 17, 2021

There have been persistent reports of large human or human-like beings who inhabit the woods in the northeastern United States and Canada. They are hairy and very shy. They reportedly like to throw sticks and rocks at cars, but otherwise are seldom seen.

A word for these beings used by Algonquian-speaking tribes is Yakwawi (plural: Yakwawiak). They are sometimes called Sasquatch, a word which comes from the American Pacific coast. The ubiquity of reports of these beings around the world has led some to speculate that they are not-too-distant cousins of homo sapiens, another offshoot of homo erectus. Natives of the northeast woodlands describe Yakwawi as a type of bear.

I have never seen a Yakwawi, although I have heard things hit my car a few times. I’m always interested in the reports of others.