I discussed religion in public life as well as abortion restrictions on PBS’ To The Contrary. Watch here:
Anger Management Issues Are Abuse. Just Say That.
I would like to decry, declaim, and holistically reject the frame of Anger Management Issues, a frame so clinical as to create its own pathology: our collective inability as a culture, still and after all these years, to name and shame abuse within our own relationships and those of our loved ones.
Anger Management Issues were invented as a mechanism for abusers to save face, to give them an out for which there is learning and functioning and the bland speak of corporatese. Anger Management Issues seem to be deployed as a couple’s issue just as much as an individual Yosemite Sam’s, for anger is often used within the context of multi-person concepts such as arguments and disagreements and rows.
But when a partner or family member is kicking the living crap out of you — whether physically, sexually, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and/or otherwise1 — it’s not an Anger Management Issue. It’s an abuse issue. And we hate to say that someone is being abused especially when others have known about the so-called Anger Management Issues for awhile, because then we are all, in some way, culpable for being part of a society or family or neighborhood that allows this Anger Management Issue to occur in plain sight, or at least behind closed (but porously loud) doors.
We hate to say that someone is being abused because too often the judgement of abuse is made, in part, by reviewing the actions or intentions or discernment (oh, please) of the person being subject to another person’s willful violence. “She’s a strong woman and we don’t need to worry.” Or: “She can hold her own,” they’ll say as he is clearly abusing her irrespective of the strength of her will as a person to not be subject to violence. Or “that would never happen to me because I respect myself too much to find myself in that situation,” the unhelpful “model strong woman” will say on the television on the ladies talk show or to her friends over a glass of wine.2
The reality is not really like that. I once purchased a book in hopes of helping someone deal with his Anger Management Issues, and together we sought couples therapy to address his Anger Management Issues. But they weren’t Anger Management Issues. They weren’t couples therapy issues. They were abuse issues that belonged to the person perpetrating the abuse.
What I want you to know is this: No one should yell at you and break you down to pieces. No one should whack at your self-esteem with a machete for sport. No one should break things or punch holes in walls or destroy your property in the hope of scaring you into submission. No one should force or guilt or coerce you to sex. No one should withhold money or health insurance from you, or try to cut you off from participating in the public square or relationships with other people. No one should break your spirit or punch your face or bend your hands back or burn cigarettes into your arm or do any manner of physical things.
If you hear that someone has Anger Management Issues, I ask that you slow down and start thinking really carefully about what behavior is being described, and that if you are the person dealing directly with that person that you develop a plan to get away safely, and if you are a person whom the target of the Anger Management Issues feels they can trust, that you make yourself available non-judgmentally to support them as they navigate their way out. As you go about your life, please question the use of the term Anger Management Issues, and start thinking in your head, is abuse actually what is being described? Even if we haven’t called this behavior abuse in the past, is that actually what it is? Give peace the benefit of the doubt, that peace is in the right on this on this question of what is abuse — the targeting of an individual — and what is a mere issue of executive functioning gone wrong — an inability to control one’s own emotion of anger.
1Please don’t ask the question if abuse is “physical” or “something else.” It is all horrible, and this question and hierarchy sets up a respectability for forms of abuse that can equally threaten (as well as lead to) physical destruction. I know you mean well. but please don’t ask this question as the answer is irrelevant to whether a person would benefit from no longer being subject to abuse.
2Is it always men doing abuse to women and girls? No. Women do abuse to men and boys. Women do abuse to women and girls. Men do abuse to men and boys. There is more than the gender binary and abuse happens in all ways and directions. Gen Z is leading on the ridiculousness and inapplicability of the gender assignment concept as a mandatory checkbox on the birth certificate, driver’s license, and estimate of life potential, and I tend to agree, gender itself is a made-up farce that systematically advantages some over others. I shun all relationship violence. And yet I am unable to resist using she and he as I did in the paragraph above to describe abuse because men are conditioned to expect subservience from women and men’s violence against women is an unavoidable pattern that goes on and on and on and on. Enough!
A Weird Thing I Do: Run Marathons By Myself
It is said that Pheidippides was the first marathon runner. That he ran from a battlefield in the town of Marathon to Athens to announce a battle victory. That he then collapsed and died. That this all happened in the BC times. That now people like myself run marathons, 26.2 miles, because of this. That is all quite strange.
I ran my first and second marathons in 2019. One was a big city race, the other a little city race. I loved them. A third, in 2020, was supposed to take place on my 40th birthday. It was a wonderful plan I had until COVID cancelled the race. Being the way things were in that time, I decided to stick with my training and run it myself. And a new tradition was born.
It is now 2023. I have run a total of eight marathons. Four have been solo. The solo marathons have turned into something I do each year around my birthday, to mark the passage of time and celebrate my health and well-being. As the years advance, I am finding that my health is becoming the bigger birthday deal than presents or parties or Chuck E. Cheese. However much I do continue to love Skee-ball, cake, and a jumbo mechanized rat.
Running a solo marathon is a completely different experience. At first they were harder than organized races, because there weren’t people or situations around to keep me pumped up. But then they became easier. There is something incredibly addictive about lacking excuses or external factors, and having to rely on one’s two feet.
When I run I am free. The bullshit generally falls away: in my brain, on the screens. I am not doing the screens. I am just moving.
It makes me proud that my daughter sees me doing this. That she is learning by example that hard work has a place, and after a period of time, it can become fun and relaxing. I’m going to keep doing this each year for as long as my body lets me.
Getting Older Out Loud
I’m turning 43 next week. What a delight, truly. To be alive on any fleeting day is a miracle.
It is a feminist act to embrace our age, to say it aloud. Age is the ultimate assertion of experience.
No matter who we have been, what we have become, where we have succeeded and failed, our age holds it all. It is amazing how we change so much and yet retain pieces of who we have always been.
I resent assertions and implications that women should not age. I’ve been training my whole life to be an eccentric old lady. Hell, my favorite show in elementary school was Murder She Wrote.
I’m old enough to have seen several peers die or sustain ongoing battles with any number of life-threatening conditions: cancer, abusive partners, mental health. As for me, it’s more against the odds than a really good Phil Collins song that I didn’t drop dead of anorexia at 17, 18, or 19, so hey, am I proud to be turning 43? You bet!
Aging is a privilege. It is a tragedy when people don’t get the opportunity to age. Often these tragedies are predictably related to systemic racial inequality, including wealth gaps, unequal access to health care, and the literal stress of racism, with people of color having lower life expectancies.
It is another type of sadness when people hate themselves for getting older. This seems to happen far more often with women, who have been soaked in messages since birth conflating our appearance and worth. A woman who embraces her age is a special threat to that order — in asserting our experience on the planet in the form of wisdom gained, we are disrupting systems that reward young women for being arm candy and demand obsolescence from older women.
The gray hairs are coming, here on my head. It’s all good. I’ve earned them.
March 2023 To The Contrary Appearance
I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and justice for transgender people:
January 2023 To The Contrary Appearance
I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed diversity and the Oscars, and Marjorie Taylor Greene angling to be the vice president on Trump’s ticket:
Dear Noom, I Am Respectfully Declining Your Eating Disorder In 2023
I would like you to know that New Year’s Day is my most hated day of the year. It is a day when I am expected to perform that there is something wrong with me — my body, my approach to life, and my mind. It is a day when I am supposed to declare that I will optimize my flawed self in the year ahead. This ‘new leaf’ is self-hatred as social contagion masquerading as ‘wellness’ and ‘inspiration.’ What is packaged as ‘doing something for me’ is in fact to the benefit of massive corporations like Noom, which generates hundreds of millions in revenue from individuals who are being taught to hate their bodies and ‘improve’ themselves. They are so profitable that investors dropped an additional $540 million on you last year.
This year your advertisements, which I long ago blocked and reported as scams on social media, are unavoidable on television. I would like to talk about them with you as someone who nearly died of anorexia because what you are doing is diabolical, blood-on-your-hands-quality stuff.
How DARE you label hunger and desire to eat as pathologies, “psychological triggers.” You know why people want to eat? Because we are wired to need food to survive. This does not make us greedy or sick or flawed. It makes us human. If I get hungry because I see someone else eating good food, it doesn’t mean I have FOMO. It means that my body needs nourishment.
How DARE you even use the word “trigger” the way you do. When I was in my worst days of anorexia, getting bruises from my mattress and no longer speaking much, skulking from room to room in silence because I had no energy and accepted I was likely to die of what I could no longer stop, I’ll be honest that message boards for people with eating disorders were a lifeline I needed. We used the word “trigger warning” to indicate content that might cause someone to engage in more self-harm. “Trigger” was a word we used to protect our brains from pro-dieting messages. “Trigger” in its common vernacular evolved out of feminist and trauma communities. Let me be honest, advertisements like Noom’s are proof that the need for feminism is alive and well in 2023.
What I know of your service is this — it mimics many of the behaviors I engaged in on my own and messages I told myself on my own that hurtled me toward my grave. I would like you to think carefully about that. But I know you don’t care. All of this garbage weight loss stuff has always been about money for companies like yours. No matter how much you try to package it as ‘wellness.’
I am respectfully declining adamant and invasive suggestions that I pursue an eating disorder with you in 2023. Hunger is not a mental pathology. Bodies exist and they need to eat.
Thank you and please go away now.
Women’s Work Is Work: Still Semi-Radical To Say Aloud, Still True In 2022
This holiday vacation, I’ve learned with horror what has always been true:
Almost all of my day naturally fills itself with caregiving, homemaking, and parenting work. It’s a real-life phenomenon and also a gendered one. To be a woman with children is to never catch a break.
The primary difference I’m finding between being on holiday vacation and not being on holiday vacation is that I have the time and energy to wash dishes immediately after meals, rather than seeing them pile up into frightening stacks in the sink and aggressively forming nation-states on the counter. I’m able to review my mail in a timely fashion, and twice I have even made the bed. The other most notable differences are that I’m blowdrying my hair after washing it rather than pulling it back and rushing to work most mornings, and most nights I watch a movie or television before bed, for which I rarely have energy (or time) after a work day.
Estimating conservatively, I have done at least 20 loads of laundry in the last week and a half. I continue to shuttle my daughter to school, activities, playdates. I remind her (gently, with acceleration) to clean her room, jumping in to help when the floor in fact becomes a fire hazard.
There are no novel sentiments or revelations here, but I must state that ‘women’s work’ is work — unpaid, under-appreciated, and rarely acknowledged. This work takes a boatload of time. It can fill the entire day. Granted there are incredible benefits and joys to parenting, and my holiday vacation has included those times, too. But still, the reality is that maintaining a home for growing children is work. I think the only thing that has changed in this regard since the 1970s is that to admit out loud the volume of homemaking in our lives means that a woman might be chased and chided for not creating a better ‘work-life balance,’ managing her time more effectively, or seeking and allowing for an egalitarian partnership, psht.
But these are not egalitarian times. Not at all.
Me And Britney Spears’ Instagram Account
It’s entirely very stupid, but it’s a real issue in my life, and I am overdue in holding myself accountable for it: my relationship with Britney Spears’ Instagram account.
So many things have been written about Britney Spears’ Instagram account. So many things.
This does not fit comfortably with most of them, but in this time of Hive Zuckerberg/Musk Brain and the edict to not conform using the exact appropriate non-conformist language, upon risk of cancellation by one’s algorithmically curated peers, I do not dare suggest I have original thoughts.
This is an essay about my addiction to Britney Spears’ Instagram account and what it means about me.
I repeat, for emphasis: This is not an essay about Britney the woman. Almost all of the essays about Britney the woman are not about Britney the woman. They are expressions of tribalism and one’s postured beliefs about a diverse slate of topics including gender, aging, madness, sexuality, celebrity cat fights, tiny furniture, ASMR, body image, working out, photo filters, nudes, controlling parents, fertility, oversharing, marriage, older women and younger men, roses, fan fiction, celebrity, captivity, wealth, the ’90s, and disability, to name a few, projected onto Britney.
My take on Britney is largely irrelevant, as is yours. Because I think you will stop reading if I don’t conform to the standard Britney essay format, I will state my genuine thrill she is no longer in the captivity of her father’s conservatorship. I will disclose my desire for her to express herself as she pleases, pursue the hobbies that give her joy, experience comfort and thrill in her body, and live her best life, whatever that means for her. You can now understand where I sit in the matrix of Britney Spears consumers online and move along to the real issue.
My relationship with Britney Spears’ Instagram is intensely problematic. I check it often, and recheck it, reviewing previous posts in light of new posts. I read the comments at a deep level, engaging with the tossed barbs and expressions of encouragement from no-name total strangers, clicking further to review the responses to the comments and assess the number of likes. I scroll through the thing itself as well as the think pieces and gossip columns about Britney Spears’ Instagram account at night in bed, my eyes straining to accommodate blue light that interferes with my ability to sleep correctly. (Based upon my reading as well as the language directly in Britney Spears’ posts, I fear she is also reading heaping quantities of this gunk — and on a human level, I don’t want her to be exposed to those assholes. But she is an adult making her own choices and I respect that.)
I am no longer able to count the number of times I have engaged in an extended form of show-and-tell with my husband about what is happening on Britney Spears’ Instagram account, reading lines from articles about her Instagram account, and showing him videos or photographs from Britney Spears’ Instagram account or other celebrities responding (or not responding) to Britney Spears’ Instagram account. My husband holds these conversations with me but I have to believe he holds resentment or, at minimum, concern. He used to grumble that I wouldn’t watch enough shows, that he wanted to share them with me. He has since given up, coming to bed with an iPad and headphones on, anticipating my retreat into my phone. There is undoubtedly additional sex I might have had without Britney Spears’ Instagram account, and possibly children.
But this absence can happen during the day, too. I get worked up about things online and fall into my phone, my body floating in a room, unable to participate meaningfully in conversation. As when I was a child and could play Tetris in my head without looking at the game itself, I know a good number of Britney Spears’ shirts, shorts, and sports bras from various posts by heart. I think I could assemble outfits for her without looking at her closet or a screen. To say nothing of how I know her dancing! I could choreograph the backup dancers for her next tour based on the copious examples she has provided of her moves and style. I think I could go to the bathroom mirror and give myself her eye makeup and hair immediately, even though I have little skill with eye makeup and hair. I find myself going to these imprints of Britney in my brain most at night when I cannot turn off my life stressors, and at points during the day when I can least afford to Go Britney, because there are already an unrealistic number of things expected to be accomplished by me in the realms of work, home, and my daughter’s education in the next hour. I have learned to retreat from things I don’t like in myself or moments of overwhelm by increasing the profitability of a platform and company I can’t stand. This actually has nothing to do with Britney. God bless you, Britney.
I struggle to type. Since my adoption of the iPhone in 2008, I have endured various repetitive use injuries in my hands. Thumbs have had to be bandaged up. At one point I got a headset and the program “Dragon Dictation” and I went to a physical therapist for several sessions with sonogram and electrotherapy stimulation. Currently my left pointer finger is causing me inexplicable problems. I tell myself this is crap and play all sorts of mental games to cut down telephone use of the Checking Britney Spears Instagram Account Variety, sometimes becoming very successful, and then falling off the wagon. I need an accountability partner. I have tried finding God, exercise, writing, nutrition, reducing alcohol. I continue to do these things and continue to have problems on which I slap the unfair label, Britney Spears Online.
I do not know if Britney wants us to look, or to see. I do not know her projection philosophy. I do not know how much of her profitability as an artist depends on engaging online. I do not know how much of her trauma is a going concern. For all I have memorized with my eyes, I do not know her at all. What I know is that when I see Britney Spears trapped in a screen and I think about her, what I am not seeing is me, trapped in a screen, and all of the things around me I am not thinking about. It is weird as fuck. Way weirder than any of the things y’all are saying about her.
September 2022 To The Contrary Appearance
I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed the post-pandemic workplace and juvenile justice reform: