Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Video vibrator review: Jopen's ultra-futuristic "Intensity"

Meet the Jopen Intensity vibrator: it's silicone! It's inflatable! It has a vibrating alien arm. It has muthafuckin' ELECTRODES!  It is the vibrator of the future! Unfortunately, the future of vibrator technology kind of sucks. :/

Watch the video review for more information:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bianca's real talk about bullying

This beautiful art piece on the nature of bullying had me weeping within seconds. I was one of those kids. Maybe it was because I was fat. Maybe it was because I was poor and white in schools with palpable racial tension, and I didn't fit in with the rich white kids who lived in the hills, but I was still white. Maybe it was because my teachers were my friends, and I got the best grades of anyone in my classes (I never understood why being smart made me despicable to my peers, but I refused to dumb myself down). My "friends" got annoyed with me because when we hung out I just wanted to read books together or watch French films with subtitles from the library. I liked books better than people. I wasn't normative, even then.

I was the picked-last kid. I was pricked with a pin sitting on the school bus to "see if I would pop." I was verbally and physically abused by my peers, humiliated for my poverty, and told to get over it by my teachers and my mother, who has since apologized for it. I was told to try harder to fit in. Maybe I was a weird, unlikeable kid, but I didn't deserve to be abused for that.

 I've never understood the idea that childhood is this innocent, idyllic time, and that junior high and high school were the "hard parts." For me, that happened in reverse. I found weird friends, I started a zine, I discovered punk and goth. I still faced the name calling, and once even got punched in the gut at age 13 for flipping off a boy who insulted me in the hallway. But it was just different then. I had the freedom to live a life more in line with my values, and there were people on my side.

I have no doubt that my formative experiences with bullying have really shaped who I've become as an adult, for better and for worst. For example, I've never been able to survive working in office environments that have a pecking order and dysfunctional politics. I cried in secret at age 26 at my first job in Chicago, after an "anonymous" coworker reported to HR that they didn't want me eating lunch in their section because I was a "noisy eater" (which no doubt was a thinly veiled form of bullying me for being fat). My "noisy eating" became a subject of office gossip and speculation, but never to my face. I had one good friend there who deliberately taped up my weekly columns in the Chicago Reader in the office kitchen a year after I left that job, proof that living well really is the best revenge.

I think one reason I'm scared to have kids is because I don't think I could emotionally as a parent watch my kid go through this without having a hell of a PTSD freakout.

I was made to feel like I was "taking the bullying too seriously" for so long, and if only I wasn't so goddam sensitive, blahblahblah, that when people recently started taking bullying seriously, my vulnerable kid self didn't quite know what to make of it. Like "Really? People are taking it seriously now?" We live in a culture where victim blaming is ok, where the bullied are supposed to deal with it while the bullies are consequence free, and this extends far beyond the school yard to almost every element of our lives. Racism, sexism, homophobia, body shaming, victim blaming, transphobia, classism, all forms of discrimination are all forms of institutionalized bullying. I'm just glad that there is finally some awareness and calling-out of the perpetrators happening.

On a more positive note, while I don't think bullying is ever a positive thing, there was growth that came out of it for me. I'm empathetic and emotionally sensitive to the needs of others who struggle. I'm highly intelligent as a result of years of hiding in the corner reading books and writing journals and stories as an outlet for my loneliness. I have a strong sense of self, little need to conform to oppressive social norms, and coping mechanisms in place for when shit gets real. I am no longer willing to quietly endure people and systems that treat me or others like we are worthless. I think this clip of Melissa McCarthy's Pep Talk in Bridesmaids nails it pretty well:
 Living well is the best revenge. But we still have to call out the bullshit as it happens, and do something about it, whether it's happening to you, or someone else.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Fighting Obesity:" Why Being the Token Fatty in Public Health is Exhausting

Feeling the love with my cohort buddies. They
know better than to talk about "fighting obesity" around me.
I didn't come to Public Health School to join the fight against obesity. I came here to do sexuality research in one of the best schools in the nation for sexuality research (Indiana University Bloomington: home of the Kinsey Institute, and the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. A bastion of sex positivity in the otherwise bleak state of Indiana. Well, up in the Ivory Tower, anyhow.)

For one of my classes we were asked to evaluate a local public health intervention. I chose a program where doctors prescribe exercise to patients with health issues that can be helped with exercise. I picked this program specifically because a. I think if you can manage a condition with exercise instead of a drug, that's fucking fantastic and b. It was one of the few programs on the list that didn't explicitly make a reference to "fighting obesity." I am so tired of thin people talking about "fighting obesity." It sounds scary and violent, and just makes me think they're going to be waiting for me in an alley after class, ready to kick my ass for being fat. One of the interesting things about the war on obesity is that "obese" people (such as myself, though I prefer to be called "fat," thank you) are almost never included in dialogues about the "obesity epidemic." To me, that's along the lines of having a bunch of white people get together to talk about what should be done about racism, without including the voices of people of color.

I made explicitly clear to my group and our community partner that I think this program is fantastic, but that it's important that physicians not frame it in the context of fat shaming or pressure to lose weight as opposed to actually improving health outcomes, because frankly, that doesn't work. Nevertheless, in a discussion about how to measure if the program is actually working, BMIs came up. We talked about how BMIs are a poor measure of health since they don't include muscle mass, and therefore many athletes are considered overweight or even obese as a result. 

"Nevertheless," our community partner said, "There has to be some cut-off point where it's just not possible to be healthy, like a BMI of 35 or 40."

"My BMI is 39," I replied. "I ran a 5K last fall, I exercise almost every day, and my bloodwork is perfect."

Her jaw dropped. "Well, um, maybe 50 then." Yes, because assigning an arbitrary weight cut-off point to "healthy" is totally productive. 

When I tell people that in spite of my obesity that I am active and eat what I consider a healthy diet (ie, minimally processed protein, healthy fats and fresh produce) they often say things like, "well, maybe that's true for you, but you have to admit that most obese people probably aren't like you." Fantastic, I'm the model minority for fat people. I think people are missing a much more important message here- regardless of the etiology of individual fatness, there is the potential to be fat and healthy, and it's standing right here in front of you. 

I've also had several people tell me that I'm "not fat" because I'm active and healthy. Wait, what? Do they even realize how invalidating that is? That's like telling someone that they're not gay because they don't "act gay." Even if I were thin, I wouldn't be any less bothered by the discrimination faced by people with non-thin bodies. 

I make people uncomfortable, every day. I refuse to shut up about weight discrimination and how the "war on obesity" is doing it wrong. I am sure my thin colleagues are sick of hearing about it, but at the same time I can see how I am forcing people to see things from the perspective of a fat person, and that's fucking important. It doesn't mean that I'm not exhausted or depressed by having to fight my own goddam war on obesity everyday, especially when it's not what I came here to do. (It's become what I came here to do, to some extent.) When I moved from Chicago I lost an amazing community of body-positive friends who made me feel good about myself just the way I am. I actually felt sort of "normal" there. I am one of maybe two fat people in my entire public health program, because this is not a field that is friendly to fat people. I don't have any close friends here who have experienced first-hand how fucking hard it is. I often feel invisible and isolated and undesirable here, and it's a miserable reminder of what a lot of the country is like for people who don't conform to body standards. 

Here is my public health suggestions for "fighting obesity" the right way:

1. Fix our food. Get rid of GMOs, factory farming, corn and soy subsidies, and subsidize small farms instead. Fund programs that teach people how to grow their own food, build community and school gardens. Promote the idea that vegetables can be fucking delicious instead of a chore to eat. Stop pushing ideas of nutrition that are fueled by corporate interests- people should not be eating more servings of grains than vegetables

2. Fix poverty. Seriously, this is maybe the biggest public health issue facing us today.

3. Stop equating weight with health. Stop fat shaming and fat discrimination. Fat people know they are fat, we don't need to have our food and bodies policed by "concerned" assholes who make assumptions about our health based on our bodies, and are surprisingly unworried by the lifestyles of sedentary thin people. Making us feel ashamed of our bodies, or to eat or exercise in public is contradictory to messages that we need to eat better and exercise more to "correct" our fatness. 

4. Increase access to inexpensive fruits and vegetables (the fruit stands that have been popping up around Chicago are a great idea) and a diverse variety of fun exercise that can be enjoyed by people of different fitness/ability levels.

5. Recognize that the stress related to the discrimination, bullying, and shaming of fat people might contribute to "obesity related health problems." In my classes I've learned that poverty, low social status, and being a minority are all serious risk factors for  health problems like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, which interestingly enough are diseases commonly considered to be caused by obesity. Furthermore, chronic stress is also related to weight gain. Funny how that works. The problem is, nobody is willing to admit that body-related discrimination happens, because fat people are "asking for it" by being fat. Despite the fact that studies have shown that fat kids have as bad or worse quality of life as kids with cancer. Obese children are 65% more likely to be bullied as "normal" weight kids, and often the solution presented is to put the kid on a diet instead of addressing the bullying itself. Is it surprising that this leads to negative health outcomes? 

Do I know how to make all these changes happen? Not really. Policy and activism I guess. But my point here if that telling fatty to put down the fork is not going to fix the complex and society-wide issues that underly the "obesity epidemic." And maybe we should consider if obesity itself really is the problem here. 

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to taking a break from public health next weekend, and going to dinner in Chicago with my ladypal Strick9, and being reminded that I'm not the only gorgeous, healthy, valuable fat person on earth. Because god, I miss that. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hoosier Daddy, or: The First Five Months of Grad School

Lunch at FarmBloomington. Definitely not Paleo. 
So, as you may already be aware, I started grad school at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana five months ago, to pursue a Masters of Public Health. It's been a pretty cool experience, and a nice change of pace to switch careers via a couple years of school, after years of working in draining bureaucratic environments. Here's some reflections on this experience, thusfar:

  • I took up running, which is simultaneously ridiculous and wonderful. I've also been doing a lot of yoga, both at local studios and online with Dr. Melissa West. She's got a ton of awesome free videos on youtube, and is great for newbies and folks who like down-to-earth yoga.
  • I started eating Paleo. Not 24/7, but it's how I cook when I'm at home, and I love it. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's worth it, especially as a person with hypoglycemia. The nice thing about living in Indiana is there's a lot of access to great local meat and vegetables, too. 
  • Studying Public Health has been interesting. A big part of why I came to IU is the amazing sex research that comes out of the school, and the work of my advisor Dr. Debby Herbenick. Although many of my classes are taught by sex researchers, the subject matter tends to have a broader focus, which has been good and bad. I find the way that obesity is discussed to be infuriating and ignorant, and as one of the few fat people in my cohort I tend to be very noisy about educating people about the importance of promoting health for bigger people, rather than weight loss. Nevertheless, I wound up digging my theory, statistics, and epidemiology classes more than I expected, and am stoked to work on research with my mentor this semester, who has sex toys scattered all over her office. It's great.
  • Grad school can lead to heavy drinking, depression, and oversleeping, but it's also kind of great. I like having so much variety in my schedule, learning things, constantly meeting new people. I also like that I still get to be a grown-up and live off campus in a cute little green duplex bungalow with cheap rent, a porch, and a back yard. And I'm also kind of glad that it's just for two years, instead of four, because I think I will be ready to go back to Chicago with my three letters in summer of 2014. 
  • Bloomington is a trip. This town is SO SMALL, but there's a lot here for the size. There's an amazing queer-friendly cafe owned and operated by a trans woman. There's a cookie delivery service. There's an authentic french restaurant. There's a chain of organic food co-ops, and a weekly farmers market. There's a burlesque troupe, and a tribal bellydancing troupe. You can bike everywhere, but the bus system kind of sucks. There's a gay bar that features male pole dancers. There are a couple fantastic hipster bars with cheap drinks, a skeeball machine, a photobooth, and cyborg deer taxidermy. There's the cutest little brunch place in a quaint house. There's a kink scene. There's a winery. There are at least five different yoga studios. It's so bourgeois and queer friendly and also kind of white, midwestern and suffocating at times. Trips to Chicago (4.5 hours by car) and Indianapolis (1 hour) have definitely kept me sane. I'm looking forward to visiting Louisville Kentucky too, since it's only two hours away and allegedly awesome.
  • You can't get good mexican food here, or pork shoulder with the skin still on it. I have to define "heteronormativity" and "cisgender" for people a lot here. I miss the diversity of Chicago neighborhoods. Bloomington feels less body-positive than Chicago.  Dating is a waste of time- the pool is too small for single genderqueer weirdos in their thirties, and if you hook up with the wrong person, you will potentially see them EVERYWHERE. There's nowhere to go clothing shopping other than target as a plus sized person. There's no Lush, no H&M, Trader Joes, not even Whole Foods. Well, maybe that's not a problem with my current salary.
  • My school looks like a medieval village, and it's sort of cool. 
There's much more I could talk about, but this is a pretty good start, I think. Here's to the new semester! 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Learning to Drive in Your 30s is Some Bullshit

This post also appears at If you learned to drive as a teenager, you are lucky. It's probably not a big deal to you, it's just another thing you do. Learning to drive at age 32, on the other hand, is a lesson in abject humiliation, as an otherwise competent and accomplished grown-assed person.

 I identify with this Arcade Fire song a lot, because it's all about not wanting to drive. Especially the part where she sings "I've been learning to drive my whole life." No kidding, the first time I got behind the wheel was my Grandma's stick shift when I was 14 years old, and I'm 32 now. Since then I've had five learners permits, one destroyed fence, some 30-odd hours of driving practice supervised by my parents and a 60 year old white rastafarian driving instructor, and two failed road tests. That makes almost two decades of "learning to drive."

 No song better captures my driving phobia than Radiohead's "Killer Cars," however:
Too hard on the brakes again   
What if these brakes just give in? 
What if they don't get out of the way? 
What if there's someone overtaking? 
I'm going out for a little drive 
And it could be the last time you see me alive 
There could be an idiot on the road 
The only kick in life is pumping his steel
Thom Yorke's elegantly expressed neurosis perfectly captures the phobia that has kept me driving for many years. What if I KILL somebody? I mean, what else do I do on a daily basis that has A VERY REAL POTENTIAL FOR ACCIDENTAL MURDER? I admit that I have been secretly hoping that we'd run out of fossil fuels by 2012 so I could put this ordeal off forever. But alas, tis not to be. Driving may be a disgusting, long-term unsustainable habit, but cars rule the rule for the foreseeable future.

I was raised by a single mom who did not have the time, money or resources to teach me as a teenager. I spent my twenties living in Tokyo and Chicago, big cities where driving was impractical, and the only feasible way to learn to drive would be to hire an instructor, which ain't cheap. I eventually went the driving school route last summer, which set me back about $500, but I was lucky enough to work with an amazing old rasta guy that made me listen to his Jah Metal band's CDs in the car, forcing me to drive up and down the Wilmette Ravines and  Devon St. (Little Bombay) to sharpen my defensive driving skills. I loved my teacher, and was stoked to take the test.

Unfortunately I was paired with a mean, condescending examiner, panicked, and was failed for driving less than 5 miles below the speed limit, even though I did everything else right. My instructor charged $120 to go to the driving test with me, and there was no way I could afford to take my chances a second time at that rate.  I cried inconsolably in the car ride home,  and my instructor felt so bad that he bought me chinese food for lunch, while insisting that my driving looked perfect and the examiner was just having a bad day. The ego stroking alone was probably worth the $120 I paid.

I decided to try again in California, and I've spent the better part of my winter break practicing with my parents. I took the test again Wednesday with a jovial elderly Black man who kept saying stuff like "Why are you so nervous? We're just going for a little drive!" He tried to be encouraging, but I was failed instantly because my wheel touched the curb while backing up.

I am not a great driver, but I am a competent driver, and given the idiots I've encountered on the road, I am not looking forward to possibly failing again in a week. It's exhausting. I am actually jealous of teenage drivers and their mandatory 50 hours of practice.  I wish I had that leisurely pace. It's not a big deal when you suck at driving as a teenager, because you're a teenager. Instead I feel like I'm rushing to pull it together, and being made to feel not good enough, over and over again. It's embarrassing that I'm not better at this. I speak fluent Japanese. I'm a grad student. I'm a generally successful and highly intelligent human being. Unfortunately driving is not one of those things I can effortlessly master in a week. Truly, impressively stupid people have drivers licenses (Snooki?) and I don't, and that's hard on my ego. I don't even really care about driving or owning a car, I just want the fucking license to prove that I am a fully functional "adult." The longer I wait, the more humiliating my deficiency becomes.

The thing about learning to drive in your thirties is it really makes you wonder why the fuck driving is considered a normative part of society in the first place. It's expensive, dangerous, and faintly barbaric. It's a huge waste of resources, especially when you consider the lengths the auto industry have gone to to shut down public transit initiatives. It's hard for me to imagine driving being fun when all I can envision is sudden death, dismemberment and losing control in horrible, bloody ways. But it's normal! They let teenagers do it!!!

My saving grace right now is that my best friend from high school is also learning to drive at age 32, and sends me lots of encouraging, sympathetic text messages that make me feel less alone in what is honestly a kind of incredibly isolating and shameful experience for me. I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I do. I know that someday driving will seem effortless, and maybe even pleasurable, but for now, I still feel like the 32 year old (driving) virgin. So, for now I'll practice more, and take the test again next Thursday. I'll leave you with a clip that actually sort of makes me feel excited about driving.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Sailor Suit Saga Continues!

So remember around Halloween I was all stoked to try this Sailor Suit from DreamGirl?

Anyway, I'm finally posting about how that went.

I'm wearing a bra underneath to keep things SFW.
Don't let the photo fool you, I assure you that this thing DID NOT FIT WORTH A DAMN. The sat came with a hat, a shrug, and the one piece dress shown above. And though I actually ordered it a size bigger than what I wear (to accommodate for boobage) the cups literally only covered the bottom third of my breasts. If I pulled it up to try to cover more, it became way too short. Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldnt expect lingerie to EVER fit my chest, but dammit, a lot of plus-sized women (and straight-size women too) are full-busted, and we deserve cute stuff too!

It wasn't just the dress- also the shrug- I don't know what it is, but shrugs never fit me. It was too big, or proportioned weird, or something- it wouldn't stay on my shoulders. And even the hat was too small for my head! There was no way I was wearing this in public. But being crafty, I was not going to let a $56 costume go to waste, either.

Step one: I cut open the back seam on the hat so it could stretch to fit my head. Looking a little weird in back, but whatever.

Step two: The shrug. I tried to safety pin it into submission, but it was a lost cause. I went with a pair of white fishnet gloves instead.

Step three: The damn dress! I wound up cutting it up so just the skirt remained:

And then paired that with a white top:

The outfit still looked unfinished though, but fortunately I have a really nice underbust corset that worked surprisingly well. I paired the outfit with a pair of white fishnets, a brass knuckles pendant, and some gold heels and voila, Halloween costume!

The final result wasn't too bad, though it had very little to do with the original costume. I'm keeping the skirt and the hat at any rate. I went and saw male pole dancers on Halloween and the drag queen emcee yelled "LOOK ITS A SLUTTY SAILOR!" as I walked into the gay bar, so mission accomplished!

I gotta say though, the Seven 'til Midnight fishnets thigh-highs I bought to wear with this costume were a pleasant surprise. I'm about 5'6" with thick legs, and sometimes stockings are short on me, but these came ALL THE WAY UP my legs, and even though they are meant to be worn with a garterbelt (no sticky stuff on the band), I was able to wear them over black tights pulled all the way up, and they stayed in place on their own. I liked them so much I got a second pair, and they look really cool layered over colored tights.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Free Hugs, Body Armoring, and the Somatic Impact of Urban Living

Hugging my sister from another mister Mim (
Some things you may or may not already know about me: I'm a big hippy, a tantrika/yoga nut, and I like hugging trees but am generally embarassed to do it in public. I am a very physically affectionate person, both with friends and in my relationships. I love hugging, cuddling, holding hands. But I'm also hyper aware that not all people like to be touched that way, especially if they don't know me well. I always take the time to ask consent before hugging someone. It's sometimes tricky to know when to hug someone, so I figure asking is always good practice, but of course there are the people who are always down for a hug, and that's nice too.

 I used to work on one of the busiest strips of Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and it put me in a near constant state of stress. The sheer human crush, the sirens from the nearby fire station, the tourists who lacked the basic skills to be aware of others while walking down the street or even cross the street at the right time. I also rode the train to and from work which was often extremely crowded and fraught with tension and occasional danger. My body was often tense, and my breathing tight or constricted, something that Nina Hartley (also a Berkeley native) described as "Body Armoring" in a recent Sex Nerd Sandra podcast. It was no way to live, and part of the reason why I relocated to a small midwestern town with to a house with a back yard and lots of trees, where I can sleep late and bike to class.

While the small town-ness of Bloomington fills me with despair and boredom at times (I was generally too exhausted in Chicago to experience boredom outside of work), I am a lot less tense in general because with the exception of walking down frat row on thirsty thursday, I feel pretty safe here. There are ways that I relate differently to the world WRT my body- I don't dress as flamboyantly in Bloomington most of the time, because of the intense reactions it tends to garner from people here. Even walking around naked in the gym locker room seems vaguely taboo here, though I attribute that to te modesty values of 18 year old girls from small Indiana towns vs. the dont give a fuck attitude of Chicago ladies.

Anyways, I was at Farmer's Market today where a lady was doing the "Free Hugs" thing. Back when I worked on Michigan Avenue there were often kids with "Free Hugs" signs outside Water Tower, and I just didn't feel comfortable hugging them- I was so stuck in shutting out the people around me on the street for my own safety/sanity. I don't think I could have relaxed enough to feel comfortable giving them hugs. Also there is something kind of nerve wracking about giving a hug to a total stranger, the fear that it will be awkward/inappropriate somehow. I am actually probably more comfortable getting a lap dance from a stripper because it's transactional, with clear boundaries (yes, there's a male poledancer night at the gay bar here, and it's FANTASTIC). How long and how hard should I hug? I usually find myself fleeing the embrace due to etiquette anxiety. I've never understood the appeal for the cuddle party trend that was going around a while back for that reason.

Anyway, since I've come to Bloomington, I've let down my guard enough to hug the Free Hugs people when I see them around. I actually kind of dig what they're doing, because it's brave and pretty taboo by American standards. Everyone kind of has unique hugging styles, and I am working on relaxing enough to just hug a stranger and enjoy it without it being weird. The lady I hugged today gave me a really nice, long slow hug that was not at all creepy, but really loving in a compassion for humanity sort of way. It reminds me of the way my Tantra teacher Petra hugs. She clearly wasn't uncomfortable or guarded in any way, there was no ulterior motive, just kindness. It made me aware of the lingering tension in my own body (it was before I had my coffee and I was feeling kind of out of it.) But it made me realize that I want to work on letting down my physical guard, being more physically present in my body, not just when I do yoga.

What's so scary about being in one's body anyway? And moreover, why is it so scary to be present in your body with another person? Some of us have very good reasons, like past trauma, but I think we all have to work on it to a degree. Part of why I'm into tantra. Anyway, in the immortal words of Fifty Cent, if you see me in the club, come give me a hug if you're into getting rubbed. I promise I won't rub you inappropriately unless you want me to. ;)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sailing....takes me away!

Maybe the best picture of me, ever.
Yes, it's that time of year again...When I have to get my butt in gear to put together a Halloween costume. Assuming I go out at all. (I don't think I even had a costume last year.)

I must say that while I greatly admire folks who go to great lengths to put together the perfect Halloween costume, and that I have done so in the past (like the year I spent hours decorating a white sweat suit with sharpies to be Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord), Midterms are eating way too much of my life for me to feel particularly creative this year. And I confess am enjoying perusing out the costume offerings at EdenFantasys this year in the hopes that something will catch my eye. This is what I'm thinking I'll go with this year:

This is the "plus sized" model. OK.
It's sexy, but it also provides enough coverage to be wearable in public. The nice thing about EdenFantasys is you can put a size filter when searching lingerie, which cuts out a lot of the guesswork. And the little number above, "Makin' Waves" goes up to size 3X/4X. YAY!

This pin-up sailor costume is also ridiculously cute, though it doesn't come in my size. And I might consider wearing the men's version too. (As a genderqueer person, I enjoy wearing slutty costumes for men and women alike. See the picture at the top of this post for proof.) There's also something sort of delightfully genderfucked about the tarted-up sailor suit, as opposed to nurse, maid or school girl costumes which are femme by definition.

I really love Nautical themed costumes, because they made me think of smutty seamen, and they've also got a retro, campy, queer appeal. An older butch dyke at a Drag King show offered me $20 for the sailor hat I'm wearing in the picture above, because it reminded her of some youthful rendezvous she'd had involving sailor hats. (And yes, I let her have it, because I'm a mensch.)

So, I'm looking forward to wearing this sailor gal costume out and about on Halloween this year! I promise to take pictures and give a full review once I've given it a try. And knowing me, I'll probably find non-halloween excuses to wear it, too. ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

There is no glory in being stressed out.

As you may already be aware, I'm in my first semester of a Master's Program right now. And I have one day off a week, with classes, work or other obligations six days a week. And frankly, it's wearing me out. It didn't have to be this way, and at least I have the knowledge that it WON'T be this way next semester. It's almost halfway over, at any rate.

When I talk to people about this, I've noticed a kind of disturbing response, which is "Grad Students don't get to have weekends." I get that a grad student's weekend might be full of things they need to do, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for two unstructured days a week, where I can choose to be productive....or not.

Perhaps downtime and adequate rest are privileges, but they're privileges the way that food, shelter, and healthcare are "privileges." I.e., they shouldn't be. Let's stop pretending they're optional luxuries.

I totally understand that there are people that don't get enough sleep or rest due to work, family, school, and a myriad of other reasons. This is pandemic in our country, and sometimes it can't be helped. What bugs me is when people start believing that they (or other people) don't deserve rest. That needing to rest is a sign of weakness or laziness. That "OH MY GOD I'M SO BUSY I ONLY SLEPT THREE HOURS LAST NIGHT" is a productive or positive thing. Being chronically tired and stressed doesn't make you a high functioning person.

I am guilty of taking on too much, and feeling bad when I have to scale back my commitments. But sometimes catching up on sleep is more important than this other, way more awesome/important seeming thing.  I have certain health issues where I can, and have, become very sick if I don't take care of myself well. I was chronically ill for seven months this year, and a lot of that was stress-related. There's nothing glorious about that. So why am I supposed to feel bad about wanting a weekend, again? Why exactly is it so decadent and scandalous that I want to take a nap? I sometimes feel like I have to apologize or hide that fact that I need or want to rest. And that's bogus, especially considering that I get much more done in my life when I'm not sick and exhausted all the time.

The message of this post (to myself, and to you), I suppose, is don't make it harder than it needs to be. You don't need to be on the go 24/7. You don't need to volunteer away every second of every day. (Don't get me started on the pressure for people who are already stretched way too thin financially and energetically to do volunteer work and unpaid internships to "prove themselves"). Expect a weekend, even if it's not Saturday and Sunday. Make adequate rest your top priority, and don't shame other people whose needs for rest may be different from your own. Accept that time is finite, and your lifetime is finite.

Stop perpetuating the harmful lie that burn-out is normal, and even desirable. It won't get better until we feel entitled to something better.

Update: a cohort-mate shared this incredibly awesome NYT blog that hits the nail on the head quite well. Read it! 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Product Review: Hathor Aphrodisia Lube and Massage Oil

I've been curious about the Hathor Aphrodisia products for a while, named for the Egyptian and Greek goddesses of Love, but the high price ($34 for a bottle of lube? Ouch) had deterred me. But I finally decided to bite the bullet and try two things- their "Lubricant Pure," and their "Exotic Love Oil" (massage oil). They also make a flavored lube called "Lubricant Lickeurs" in three flavors (caramel hazelnut, chocolate strawberry and coconut orange) but I don't really like flavored lubes, so decided to pass on that one. Here's my review of these two items

This stuff is not cheap. The 8 oz. lube is $33.99 at EdenFantasys. To be fair, it's a LOT of high quality lube for the price, but it might not be in everyone's budget. The massage oil is $24.99, comparable other high end massage products.

Really beautiful! The lube comes in a bronze colored squeeze tube with their unique logo that sort of looks like a heart/yoni with a flower in the middle being attacked by sperm. While the squeeze tube is not handy for travel, it's easy to use, and the 8 oz. size will keep you in lube for a good long time. The massage oil comes in a 4 oz. brown glass bottle with a similar bronze label/yoni image.

This is perhaps Hathor's main selling point. The lube is made from seven natural plant-based ingredients: De-ionized water, acacia gum, vegetable propylene glycol “Kosher*”, Jujube zizyphus, Siberian Ginseng, Horny Goat Weed and ascorbic acid. This makes the lube a good bet for  those who are allergic to glycerin and parabens, assuming you're not allergic to any of the exotic ingredients. Horny Goat Weed is supposed to be an aphrodisiac, but by the time I start using lube I'm usually already pretty turned on, so I can't vouch for its effectiveness.

The massage oil is also made with seven natural ingredients: a pecan-oil base with ylang ylang, geranium, cedarwood, cinnamon, ginger and vitamin E. Pecan oil is very nice quality and good for the skin, and the essential oils have a relaxing scent and are soothing and healing for mind and body alike.

The lube has probably the best texture of any glycerin and paraben free lubes I've ever tried (I am not allergic to these ingredients, I just like trying different lubes). It's medium consistency with a light texture, it stays wet for a long time without becoming sticky. It's probably not thick enough for anal play, but it's a great bet for masturbation or vaginal intercourse, plus it's safe to use with any kind of toy.

The massage oil is pecan-oil based, so it comes out of the bottle as a medium-consistency runny oil that can be rubbed into the skin. If you like giving massages with liquid oil, this is a good bet, though it can be a little messy compared to a massage bar. You could also chill the oil or heat it a little bit to experiment with temperature (heating also releases the scents of the essential oil). You could also use this as a body lotion or bath oil, as it's very good for your skin!

The lube is scentless. The massage oil smells most strongly of the Geranium oil, a kind of spicy/sharp/floral/botanical scent. While I don't mind the geranium smell, I'm not all that crazy about it, either. Fortunately it's not too strong once you've rubbed it in.

The lube has a slightly bitter/sweet taste, but it's not terrible. If you prefer a flavored lube, try the Lickeurs instead. Yes, I tasted the massage oil too. It doesn't have much flavor, but I don't think it's supposed to. It wouldn't kill you if you got it in your mouth, though.

Despite the high price tag, I would recommend the lube for anyone with chemical sensitivities, or who doesn't mind paying a little extra for a high-quality, environmentally-friendly lube. It really is the best glycerin/paraben lube I've tried thusfar.

I wasn't as crazy about the massage oil, mostly because I got sick of the geranium scent fairly quickly. I love pecan oil as a massage oil base, but I'd probably like this product better if it came in some different scents.