Garden of two goddesses

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Just us girls. Camping in the wilderness without the Seans. Two Seans. I have a Sean, and Alexa has a Sean. It just ended up that way. I told her when she was single that she didn’t necessarily need, but could use a Sean to keep her warm at night. It wasn’t hard to look. We all grew up in the same town a few miles away from each other on blocks named after trees. We’re good people. Or at least I like to think so.

But back to camping and rocking out in nature with our vags out. Not really. I mean, our vags are in our pants, but they’re as swampy as a bowl of French onion soup after hiking all day.

I built a fire for the first time ever, and we roasted seasoned vegetables over it. Mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, red peppers. Alexa used lemon and garlic powder to season the vegetables and slapped them down into a homemade tin foil bowl. She wrapped them up tight. She calls these things “hobo pockets,” which as a word is mildly offensive, but quite wonderful as a meal.

I feel full and toasted around the edges. My center is as mushy as the potatoes we gobbled up. We weren’t sure the potatoes were ever going to cook. But they turned out to be worth the wait.

I’m thinking about that phrase “having a friend at the end of the world.” I know there’s a movie with a similar title. But I’m not talking about the movie. I’m talking about Alexa and me. We’re two friends, and it’s not the end of the world, but if it was, I think I’d be okay on this melded, moss-freckled rock in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest.

Alexa came up with the idea to go camping without our doting, lovely boyfriends, so we hopped in her car and drove the five hours, just to say we set up camp and lived. And lived we did.

At first the ground was hard and refused our stakes. We forgot to bring a hammer. We used our hands, grunted with our entire bodies. Alexa used her car’s window scraper. And I used a wine bottle, which wasn’t the brightest idea. We dragged the tent farther into the campsite, and eventually we landed on a spot that would take.

Unfortunately, the only camp site that was available when we arrived was the one next to the outhouses. This is our luck. And so, the wind wafted the worst smell known to man, his own excrement, of course. Nothing hangs on the nose more than our own shit. It’s kind of funny, actually. Alexa and I like to think of ourselves as regular older poopers, and the campsite fits. And the thing about bad smells, as Alexa reminded me, is that you get used to them the longer you’re around them.

Alexa packed up a real feast: pita chips and hummus, buns, vegan sausages, and loads of vegetables. She bundled everything together in a basket like it was a Christmas package for us to unravel together. Complete the scene with an open fire.

I am overcome with gratitude and s’mores-layered love for my friend who always thinks ahead and crosses items off lists. This is a very true characteristic about her. She’s punctual, prepared, and sometimes a little anxious about how the future will play out.

As a whole, Alexa is one of those people who has a feeling but can’t quite put her finger on how genuinely beautiful of a person she is. She has had to grow up very fast in household with a single mother with severe untreated depression. In the beginning of our friendship, I recall a cynical, but loving Alexa who doted on her mother and her every whim.

Eventually, she loosened the string around such a tightly bound tangle. She, as an only child, did this much later than some. But like all of us, there comes a time when we have to let go of our parents’ hands for their sake and our own. I know this from Alexa and myself, and well, a lot of people.

I realize as we roam the Garden of the Gods wilderness — dry, dusty, and laundered in long, thick brush —  that I’m proud of my friend and myself for getting along in world we define as our own.

Last night, we ventured down the gravel road leading away from our campsite. We let our heavy heads sag from our necks as we surveyed the stars that were so close to our faces they could stick to our flesh. We were standing on the inside of a purple marble. The stars blinked. And some of the blinking stars turned out to be planes.

I peered into the pitch black road. I was suddenly cold and hyperaware of the darkness, but held onto the lantern, the stars and planes, and the length of time it took for me to realize that I couldn’t possibly die alone in that moment standing next to Alexa. She would be there to help testify the life I lived and the life she played a significant role in.

(Alexa. Wearing a checkered hoodie and green rain boots, about to walk her her golden retriever in the rain. It’s the image I’ve come to associate with her more than anything else.)

But this trip has given me so many more images to preserve like jam. There was a moment last night when we were talking. We had a bit of wine, and all of a sudden Alexa broke out in a sweat and laid her head on the picnic table. She told me she was scared she would pass out. I was overcome with a sick, frozen fear, and my mind raced. We were after all in the middle of nowhere and without cell phone service. How smart of us, I criticized in my head.

I ratcheted back and forth to conclusions. Food poisoning. Altitude sickness. Some wild bacteria. I finally reached the conclusion where I would be no where and nothing without her. I asked her if she needed me to run for help. But she assured me she just needed to rest her head for a while.

I thought maybe it had been my fault. I had been telling her about my family and struggles. Maybe it was too much to hear. That noise makes me dizzy too. Sometimes I feel I say too much and the weight of words fall on Alexa, who takes the brunt of my conscious fears and levels of distrust. I said nothing and wondered if I was too heavy of a friend, and then Alexa lifted her head, and said, “WHOO, I think I just needed a good sweat. I feel better.”

She felt better, and I felt drunken relief and sober joy.

In the morning, we finagled out of our tent and drank cold coffee. We decided to drive down to a gas station where we’d have service and could call our boyfriends to tell them we were alive. Alexa drove, and we kept cracking jokes to cover up the wrong turns. But soon enough, we both admitted to each other we were lost.

“I don’t remember that barn, do you?” we asked each other. We drove alongside rows and rows of Illinois’ finest fucking corn that started to look like a blurry sea.

Alexa and I have a habit of getting lost together. One time, we almost got locked in a forest preserve, another one in rural Illinois, past dark. We saw a deer on our wrong way back to the car. And Alexa couldn’t getting over me calling it “a total deer.” In most cases, our wrong turns tend to be worth it.

As suburb folk, so much of Illinois is beyond our reach. Barrels of hay, windmills, and busted down barns. Driveways that run deep into low hanging greenery. Dusty, desolate towns. Men on tractors and underneath cars, covered in the grime of work. Women sitting in lawn chairs, smoking. Kids waddling around in diapers. We drove through one town that was completely dedicated to something called “Mule Days.” Signs with mules are displayed on lawns across the town of Enfield, Illinois.

Alexa, a vegan, made quick, painful eye contact with the cows we passed in trucks. I could tell she was also getting nervous about being lost, and told her that we always find our way.

2 and a half hours later, we eventually found our way back. We didn’t waste any time on our embarrassment as we threw water and snacks into Alexa’s back pack. She let me carry the camera, and I let it dangle on its strap from my shoulder.

We climbed jagged steps and grabbed hold of tree trunks to help us along the trails. Our calves began to scream, and perspiration clung to our lower backs. The stones, which were formed millions of years ago, have lizard skin. The red and silver patterns swirl and twist and shine like molten lava. Some stones reminded me of layered paper flowers. The largest boulders could each be their own landmark. They sit on top of each other in clumsy, yet sturdy ways. Leaning, bowing, bending, rolling stones piled and piled one on top of the next.

I didn’t know what I was doing, really, but I snapped picture after picture. We ran into a group of people who were resting next to their horses. I asked to take a picture of this man and his horse. Alexa laughed and told me it was like I had never seen a horse before. I’m pretty much this way in every new setting. It’s all context.

A small creek kept us company while we ate lunch — peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I paced back and forth to prevent the flies from getting too cosy on me.

By the time we arrived to the campsite, we were stumbling underneath the weight of our exhaustion.

Right now we’re sitting next to each other on rocks and writing. I’m sipping wine from a coffee mug, drinking away my body’s aches. It’s getting darker, and after the taste of the stars last night, I’m hungry for more. They could be dessert.

This is the land of the gods, and we’re two awkward, but strong goddesses keeping a close eye on our steps.

Mary Ann

The gas station attendant wasn’t moving fast enough. A man in front of me huffed as the attendant scurried about the store fixing things, moving with a slight limp on her left side. She was all of sudden aware that there were people at her door, so she started rushing to please us guests. The man was irritated in an airy, hot headed in summer way. He left with a half-grunt when she told him to enjoy the rest of his day.

When it was my turn at the register, I asked why she apologized so much, and she said it’s something she does (and she was sorry that she was sorry). I do it a lot too, and I tried to tell her with my face and leaning in language. She wore glasses, gray, stringy hair that hung in her face, and heavy wrinkles that sagged on her cheeks. She had to be at least in her 60s. I don’t know; I can only really tell age by how worn-in a soul is. Hers was a broken in mitt, an old tune that everyone remembers the words to when the melody starts to really pick up.

My eyes were hungry for her smile. And then it happened, proud and tooth-heavy. I asked if she could break a five-dollar bill for me, and she made a ripping movement with her hands. I cackled at her joke.

We held up the line talking. Five people were soon standing behind me as I asked her questions about her life, which seemed to revolve around being a gas station attendant. I joked about rushing and time. With a crooked smile, I glanced at the fake watch wrapped around my wrist. She laughed. When she laughed it wasn’t scratchy. It was gurgly and girlish in the way that girls get when they think no one is looking.

Her name is Mary Ann, and she’s alive and limping but well in Empire, Michigan. If you run into to her, hold up the line and make each other laugh. It will carve out the browning parts of your insides.

My quest for porn that doesn’t make me feel like shit

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I’m pretty selective when it comes to watching porn. First of all, the timing has to be just right. I usually wait until I can’t take it anymore, and I just want to get it over with — watch it and relieve myself, that is. The feeling usually swims inside me when I’m alone, and my femininity is pounding at the floodgates.

I guess I wait because masturbation is not at the top of my priorities. It was at one point, but then I started coming up with excuses not to enjoy my body, and instead wear it down with despair and worry. Plus, I have a boyfriend. (“Isn’t that, like, his job?” I’ll internally complain.)

Anyway, it’s always a light bulb reaction. Like watching porn is the smartest idea I’ve ever come up with. And I skip around my room, brimming with excitement. I check to see if the coast is clear, then open up the laptop and type “porn” into Google quickly and secretly, like it’s my social security number. I click on the first link that pops up, which I’m sure a good majority of people know is Pornhub. I scan the first page or two, check the percentages of enjoyment and hover my mouse over anything that especially catches my attention, which is usually nothing.

I go to my default category — gangbang or orgy — because I like a lot of people and parts in my porn. Or at least that’s what I thought I like.

I browse for a good 15 minutes. My eyes catch the featured video clip in the sidebar, some light speed fuck fest or something else. (Today, it was a giggly blonde woman wriggling out of a frilly thong.) I scroll through no more than two pages, trying to stay clear of things that say, “Dirty whore takes two cocks…” and instead looking for titles like “Two friends share…” as if the more gentle of wording makes a difference.

I can get nitpicky. I check to see if a woman is wearing any sort of oversized jewelry or distracting platform shoes. If she is sweating her eyeliner. If there’s a questionable looking mole or formation on a dude’s ball sack. If the faces are scrunched up too tightly, I’m gone. If the moaning is distracting, NEXT. If it looks like the woman is in any amount of physical pain, forget it. If the guy bellows dumb shit like “aw, yeah take it, you bitch,” consider me a ghost.

When I finally land on something, I skip to the penetration. I usually mow right through the oral sex. The choking sounds and gagging make me uncomfortable. I watch for a couple of minutes just to make sure that there’s a good amount of fucking going on. Because the worst thing of all is climaxing while they’re adjusting or swapping out ponies in the show.

Once I come, I don’t want anything to do with what I’m watching. I can’t stomach to think about watching any of this stuff without being remotely turned on. I slam the computer shut and pretend that it never happened.

If you can tell by now, I don’t like to really like the porn I watch, or the tacky, poorly scripted, not-true-to life fucking the Internet calls real sex. I just read David Foster Wallace’s “Big Red Son” for the first time, which is a true account of the adult film industry, and it’s pretty spot-on how put-on everything is. The essay pokes fun at the grubbiness of it all, the money it generates, and its denigration of real life sex. It is one of the funniest and most heavily researched essays I’ve ever read. If you haven’t gotten the chance to read it, please do.

I bring up Wallace’s essay because it confirms the shiver I get every time I watch porn on the Internet, or on rare occasions, splurge and purchase one on Comcast. And it points  to the need for real time sex and love and hunger and humanity and all that inside the relationship and beyond. Because let’s face it, humans like to watch each other have sex. And I’m not above that.

I guess I’m just complaining that there’s no real artistic version of porn. Or at least I haven’t been brave enough to go looking for it. Until today.

So let’s talk about today. I go through the motions. Shut the blinds. Hit up Pornhub. Scroll and scroll. And then I stop. I backtrack. I type into Google: “porn for women.”

The first thing that pops up is a Refinery29 article, “Porn that’s Good for Women,” and I roll my eyes because I’m not interested in reading. Where da porn at, I think. But I read through the article. It gives a shout out to progressive adult filmmaker Erika Lust and her take on adult entertainment for women.

I read on. Lust has made 10 films so far. Her ultimate goal is to create porn that illustrates “all the intimacy, beauty, and joy of sex,” featuring people who “truly enjoy themselves.” Lust goes on in the article to say that the enjoyment will not be “at the expense of women.”

Lust captures some of the same thoughts and modes of shame I’ve had about porn since I started watching it when I was 13. “Part of me was like, ‘Yeah, it’s somewhat of a turn-on,’ but another side of me thought, ‘What the hell is this sexist bullshit?’” says Lust in the Refinery29 article.

Needless to say, I’m more than a little intrigued looking into Lust’s films. The one I choose to watch is “Female Fantasy,” which looks and feels like an Indie flick.

It’s about a woman masturbating to her own fantasy. The first thing I think about doing is skipping to the part with all the dicks. But I don’t because no part like that exists in the film.

The film starts out with a man at a bus stop. He’s sitting alone and smoking a cigarette. He has an angular jaw and a pair of icicle blues. He musses his shaggy hair. A woman walks by. She sits down next to the man. She smiles, but not directly at him. Their legs touch for a couple of seconds. Before she gets on the bus, she squeezes his bare leg.

On the bus, the woman begins touching herself over her clothes. She puts her leg up on her seat to conceal what she’s doing. She looks around.

This woman arrives home and slinks into her bed. Her hair is tangled, and she’s braless. She rolls off her socks and peels off her skirt, throwing them to the floor. She begins pleasuring herself. She’s wearing gray underwear, and her pubic hair leaks from the sides. She has a small bruise on her left thigh and a gap between her teeth. The filming is different from anything I’ve ever seen. Instead of focusing on solely the vagina and breasts, it captures other things. Like the woman’s throat. You can visibly see the rotations, the pulsating knots of pleasure moving around in her throat. And you can hear her. She’s breathing in uneven breaths.

It switches to her fantasy. The woman is straddling the man on the bus stop bench. She grabs his hips and lifts his shorts. They kiss each other deeply.

And this is how it continues, toggling between the fantasizer and the fantasy. And the fantasy escalates. The man licks the woman over her underwear, which forms a dark spot from his saliva. He doesn’t go underneath with his tongue. He’s gentle and focused. She runs her hands through his hair. The couple begins to fuck at the bus stop in broad daylight — faded passersby in the background. The sounds are amazing. There’s no talking. You can hear the slapping of skin, the wetness. Faint, airy strings play. The sound of a heartbeat fades in and out. And then they come. No screams. No contrived moans. Only quick breathing, anticipant and then resolved.

I’ve never watched any porn the whole way through before this. At the end, the girl is alone at the bus stop. She is panting, and she has this look on her face like she can’t fucking believe what just happened. She smiles. Then she looks directly into the camera with a smoldering stare. Pure contentment.

I shut my computer. I lift up my shirt and pull off my pants. I grab for my vibrator, my purple best friend. Outside my window, the wind sputters and the sun pours into my room, warming my face. I smile at the sunshine, and feel myself loosen. I begin to create this scene in my head about being alone and naked underneath the willows outside my house.

 

 

 

 

I need tampons: A true list of things

Ready, set, being productive on my lunch break. Yeah!

•My eyebrows were officially touching in the middle, so I decided to throw in the towel and get them waxed so my boss doesn’t stare at them when she addresses me anymore.

•Coffee. Dunkin Donuts. Duh. Sarah lives on Dunkin. Not Starbucks. Starbucks can be quiet now.

•Call Sean. Complain about how fun it is to ask people direct questions and not receive answers. Oh who knows? People in business don’t want to admit when they don’t know things or they don’t care to know things. It’s unprofessional, so let’s keep everyone guessing and questioning themselves.

It’s like that game… where the fuck is Waldo? Waldo’s not here. Waldo is on vacation (again). Can I transfer you to Waldo’s voicemail?

Sean’s wiring a water purification trailer that will be shipped off to an oil field in Nebraska, or wherever this one is going. His job is monotonous and draining, but he’s doing okay today. Most days, he has this gift of mental separation when he works. I’m envious. I need like 10 Ted Talks to even get me moving in the morning. Okay, 10 is a little obscene. TED Talks are good, but they can feel a little like organized religion if you consume too many at once.

I tell Sean there’s this delicious melon that I cut up and put into the fridge. I can’t remember the name of the melon. But if cantaloupe and honeydew had sex, this melon would be its baby. Sean’s excited to taste. I’m excited he’s excited to taste.

Whoever gets home first is making the Tilapia tonight. I hope it’s Sean. He’s a better cook, and I can’t follow basic instructions. I stick metal forks into toasters. Not always, but sometimes.

•Box of tampons from Jewel. And why yes, as a matter of a fact, I will take two. What a delightful little sale. Even though how expensive tampons are makes me die a little inside whenever I’m forced to purchase them. If it was up to me I would bleed all over the place. Women’s rights? Too soon?

Get up to the counter and the two boxes go flying in opposite directions. The guy wearing dark sunglasses in front of me hands me a box. The cashier snorts into her shoulder. I basically threw the other one at her. I apologize and tell her that I go all Hulk on my period sometimes. She says she does too. I chortle. The sunglasses guy laughs nervously to amuse us, and then he stops. He looks out the window like he has somewhere to be. I feel like giving him a nudge in the ribs. Some guys are afraid to get in on period humor.

Last night I told Sean that he better cuddle with me or I would slit his throat. See? Hilarious. Or at least I remember him laughing.

How indifference to differences can get a little… weird

I know that this sounds like the first half of a joke, but seriously, what’s up with people not seeing things like color, gender, or weight?

Let me repeat: what’s up with people not SEEING color, gender, or weight? It’s nice to know that people are beginning to treat others equally, or at least claim such, but don’t pretend that differences aren’t there entirely. It makes you look like you’re hiding something. Or you’re just insufferably awkward.

If someone is black, someone is black. There doesn’t have to be attachments or undertones to that statement. People try to step around or gurgle “black” because acknowledging and saying the actual word “black” is supposed to be racist or something. It’s not. It’s a fact.

Stop defying sound, natural observations because you are uncomfortable for some unsaid or said reason. And it’s also not a matter of juggling political correctness. It’s a matter of being plain weird.

I have some examples. One is in real life. And another from popular culture.

So, my boyfriend and I watch the show Louie. We don’t have FX, so it’s excruciating, but worth it to buy the new episodes off Netflix. Actor Louis C.K. writes, directs, and is the star of his own show. It’s one of my favorite things I can get my grubby fingers on when it comes to television. I wish I had a t-shirt with Louis C.K.’s face on it, that’s how much I love him.

If you know anything about C.K., you know he’s a realist and tells things like they are. There is no place C.K. doesn’t go—from farts and jacking off to divorce, depressive tendencies, and class differences—nothing is truly off limits for him. Sometimes, his honesty is painful to look at or so unfortunately true, you can’t help but laugh. Even when he’s being distasteful, it’s done tastefully, which makes for a genius of a comedian.

There’s an episode off the most recent season in which Louie (Louis C.K.) goes on a date with Vanessa (played by actress Sarah Baker), a fat girl—a hilarious, charming, intelligent, and cute fat girl at that.

But she’s still a fat girl. Thus, it takes a lot of work for Vanessa to score a date with Louie, himself a round fellow who runs into rejection a lot. But she still has to court his favor because like the majority of people still stuck in the physical portion of first impression mode, Louie isn’t interested.

Louie determines that she is undateable, which is not to be confused with unfuckable. Sure Louie would fuck her, she points out, but he would have a harder time with getting to know her a on relationship level because she’s fat. And when she calls herself fat, Louie says “no, you’re not fat” because he is uncomfortable, and that’s what uncomfortable people say. That’s a lie, and she calls him out on it. She’s disappointed in him because the lie contradicts what he stands for, or what she thought to be true about him, one of the reasons she was attracted to him in the first place.

See scene for yourself. Awesome stuff.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8KiRrqrlZc

This is what makes this show brilliant, not to mention gut-bustingly funny. It calls human nature out on its bullshit when it thinks it’s being completely transparent.

…which is why I’m confused about something very pertinent to the show. It’s not an episode at all. It’s a casting decision.

So here’s my question: why is Louie’s ex-wife, Janet (played by Susan Kelechi Watson) on the show black? Or the reverse question: why are Louie’s children on the show not interracial? I’m not mad. I’m not pulling a racist card on Louis C.K. But on a logical level, why is this not so?

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The show is good. The writing is good. The acting is good. But still, the discrepancy is distracting. It pulls me out of the viewer/story experience, and the plausibility of a character(s) in a show that aims to be as raw real life as possible.

I’m not the first person to ask this question or its opposite. I sure as hell know everyone is thinking it, but they either don’t care or are afraid to address it, just on the off chance it’s racist, which it’s not.

Actually, the topic was publically addressed in a Jimmy Kimmel Live interview. When asked why he chose a black actress to play the mother of his white children, C.K. responded, “If the character works for the show, I don’t care about the racial.” This in my opinion is the equivalent to “I do what I want.” And that’s cool; it IS his show.

But I don’t buy that. C.K. is a keen observer, a more careful creator than that. I believe his casting choice to be a social experiment on viewers. Maybe he is daring viewers to see past color.

And this is great on a wider cultural, social level, but doesn’t add up on the basic 1+1 level. It’s weird, and it doesn’t make sense. It’s common for C.K. to be weird, but he usually somehow explains his weirdness. So… I feel like I’m missing something.

My follow-up question is: if you could use a fat girl to convey a message, why can’t you use a black woman to convey a message, too? Or an interracial family? Those would not only make more basic sense, but could be used to address real color issues THAT STILL EXIST. I feel like the show is missing out on these elements that could make it that much better.

A second example has to do with a webinar I attended for work recently. I won’t go into any specifics because I’d like to keep my job and feed my family (my boyfriend, my bird, and myself). The host of the webinar works for a company in the industry I work in and for. The topic was on attracting and retaining women in an industry that is predominately male. The people attending the webinar, keep in mind, were WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY. Also, keep in mind “Women in Industry” was in the title and description. He didn’t miss the literal memo.

So, I was confused when he spent the majority of his interview sweating to be politically correct about gender. I felt that it was distracting and defeated the whole purpose of the presentation. He continued to clarify himself after every question, which all began with something like: “What do you think women in the industry…”

Basically the host reinforced that there is no difference between male and female employees. He cleared his throat and bumbled over the actual word “women.” Over and over again. I began to feel bad for the guy.

I thought, okay… that’s great that you are at the point of acceptance, at least for rhetoric’s sake, but the reality of it is that women are asking questions on behalf of themselves and other women so they may further themselves in the workplace. They are the target audience here, so you don’t have to tiptoe around the fact that they are clearly women.

Another fact: there still is inequality between men and women in the workplace because women are still paid less and are still less likely to hold positions of power, particularly at an executive level.

If we want to promote women in the workplace we have to first simply acknowledge that they are indeed women (not men) and also accept that they need more of a boost. Being a woman in a male dominated industry should be taken as an advantage. I’m not saying we should throw a parade every time a woman gets hired in this industry, but still some acknowledgement on the strides and tangible examples of excelling professional women would be helpful in bringing more women in (the objective).

Going into deeper meaning of things: not seeing in color, gender, or weight (for example) may sound ideal, but in my humble opinion, it actually does more harm than good. It takes away from the whole uniqueness, diversity, and celebration aspect. It makes us seem like we’re all the same when we are clearly not (and that’s a good thing!).

It also says “We are now wiping our hands clean of isms or ists because, guess what, those things no longer exist. We’re good now. Everyone is on the same page about equality.” Nope, this is simply not true.

Denying differences may pave a smoother road for more passive forms of isms.  These forms are not blatantly aggressive or hurtful, but they still always stick out like a sore thumb. I just don’t think it will do us good to waltz around differences, ignore them, or pretend they don’t exist. Maybe I’m just being a pain in the ass, but I remember when it was cool to embrace our own and each other’s differences.