Saturday, September 29, 2012

Not just a frivolity

Anne of Green Gables was hands down my favorite book growing up, and I was enraptured by the whole series.  Every time I was sick, Anne was the first book I reached for… rereading it worked nearly as well as any medicine to make me feel better.  The Anne books were also some of the few that I was allowed to read on Sundays… my parents agreed they were all right since god was brought up in a positive light.  It’s hard to tell now if the forming of my character was highly influenced by a subconscious desire to be like Anne, or if I loved her so much because I could identify with her in so many ways.

I, like Anne, possessed an overactive imagination, a love of books and poetry, a deep love of beauty (I KNOW the thrill that Anne was always talking about… when things are so lovely that they hurt), a desire for a bosom friend, and in spite of my own horribly unfashionable clothes I also knew how important fashion was.
One passage in particular always stuck with me.  It’s when Matthew is plotting to get Anne a dressed with puffed sleeves for Christmas, and he goes to Mrs. Lynde for help.  Mrs. Lynde was all too happy to be part of the scheme to get Anne something fashionable and says to herself, “I suppose [Marilla] is trying to cultivate a spirit of humility in Anne by dressing her as she does; but it’s more likely to cultivate envy and discontent.”

“Yes” I thought every time I read that.  Yes to n-th degree.  

I had a bone-deep longing to look like the other girls I saw out and about.  I hated that all my clothes were hand-me-downs or homemade or from the thrift shop and I really hated always having to wear skirts out in public.  At the very least however, I was NOT going to look like many of the other homeschoolers we knew who wore jean skirts with sneakers.  That, I had some measure of control over, and though jean skirts were definitely part of my life I can proudly say that I never EVER paired them with sneakers.  

When I started earning money as a teenager (from babysitting and later on from giving music lessons), the first thing I did was start to buy my own clothes.  Nothing too crazy or too “immodest”, but at least my clothes could be new and looking like they came from that decade.

After all, like Anne said, “It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

A breath of the past

Recently I was going through a box of old items I had left behind in my parents’ basement when I moved away, and discovered something very interesting.

A mason jar, with paper pasted around it so that the inside was hidden, and emblazed with the words, “Do not open until 2010”.  It was a time capsule I had put together when I was about fourteen, with little ‘treasures’ and a letter to myself at the far off age of twenty-four.  Apparently, I was a weak-willed teenager, since there were also another couple letters stuck inside from my sixteen and eighteen year-old selves as well.  But in the intervening time since then, the time capsule had completely slipped my mind, and now, at the ripe old age of twenty-six, it seemed fair to open the thing for good and see what sort of creature I was in days of yore.

The original letter was rolled up, fastened with a Victorian sticker, and held inside a glass cigar tube (the closest thing to a glass vial I could find at the time… such a thing seemed romantic and necessary).  The whole thing was written on screamingly pink Lisa Frank stationary and has bits of glitter still sticking to it.

“Dear older me,
Here I am, not quite fourteen, and you?  You the twenty-three year old me, what are you like?  Do you have a good job or a good husband?  Oh, I hope it’s the latter.  I wrote to Sarah today (childhood BFF who moved across the country).  I hope you are still friends with her (does facebook count? No?).  I love going to band, let’s hope you enjoy the clarinet still.  Have you mastered all the woodwinds yet, not forgetting the French horn? (hahaha!  No.  Haven't touched a clarinet since I started college.  It's all about the piano and guitar now.)  You must still like sewing, I (you) must be really good at it now!  J and R (my brother and sister) just had a crash on their bikes.  J wasn’t looking where he was going.  I hope he has gained some sense by this time.  I’m not sure how to write to me.  I need to do more sewing for Samantha.  I have a lovely outfit all planned out to make for her, it is a caterpillar dress.  Did I ever make it?  I wish I could see what you, the older myself, is like.  Misty (my cat) had better be alive still.  I love him so.  Well, I must say goodbye.  This touch of former you.
With airy kisses,
Your old self”

At least I got one thing right… I am really good at sewing now!  At the time I never would have guessed that it would become my profession.

It’s also clear from the ‘good job or good husband’ sentence that my worldview was heavily skewed by the Victorian novels which were (perforce) my main source of entertainment.  I had no idea how the 21st century actually functioned and that it was not only possible, but socially permissible, to have both.  It was ingrained into me that adult life without a husband was a bleak and desolate existence, and that once married it wouldn’t be practical or desirable to be out in the work place.

However, having parents who idolized the Puritans and the 17th century made the Victorian era look positively liberal in comparison.  To my thirteen-year-old self, the suffrage movement was pretty radical, and the late 19th century mentality was a huge step forward from the Puritans.  Anne Shirley and Jo March were my ultimate heroes, and actually shaped my personality far more than all the Bible reading which was daily drilling into us all.

As one can see, in spite of the high level of biblical indoctrination I received since infancy, the letter is completely devoid of any mention of ‘the Lord’ or ‘God’s will’ or any of the evangelical catch phrases I was constantly surrounded by.  What a rebellious teenager…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Part of any well-rounded vocabulary

(because pictures of Bill Kaulitz make everything better)

For quite a while now, one of my favorite you-tube videos has been the one of Stephen Fry on the joys of swearing.  I'll re-watch it every now and then when I need a dose of sanity; and am in love with the passionate and highly articulate defense of swearing which so wonderfully refutes all the anti-swearing arguments I grew up with.

It's only in the last few years that I've become comfortable swearing outside of my own head (although when I talk with my parents a very, very heavy filter still goes up), and the freedom to express myself with any words I choose is still glorious.

Growing up, swearing was strictly forbidden.  Anything coming CLOSE to swearing was strictly forbidden.

We whispered in horror to each other when we overheard someone 'taking the Lord's name in vain', and when my cousin's ex-wife referred to him as an "asshole" I was almost too embarrassed to write the word it in my diary and so wrote it with the tiniest letters possible.

"Geez" wasn't allowed.  "Shut up" wasn't allowed.  In the homeschool group we were part of, one of the boys got in big trouble for having said that a soccer team "sucked".

It's amusing now to remember the look of shock and horror on my mother's face when I dropped a heavy jar of salsa on my foot and yelped "Damn it!"  I was a senior in college at the time, and she had never before heard me utter a swear word in my life.

When I first started college, it took a while to adjust to hearing swear words as a casual, sometimes even affectionate, part of conversation, and it took even longer to start feeling comfortable using those words myself.  Now, putting on the 'parent language filter' feels strange and unnatural.  And yesterday when I dropped my ipod on the hard tile floor at work and cracked the surface, I don't think any words would have expressed my feelings more succinctly than "Fuck!  Really?!  Oh, fucking hell..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sad, but not surprising

There’s been a huge bru-ha-ha in the media and blogosphere this week about the now in-famous Todd Akin and his horribly ignorant and offensive statement regarding pregnancy and rape.  It would be redundant to talk about the ludicrousy of “legitimate rape” when so many people have already thoroughly addressed the point.

Naturally, the link to abortion and anti-choice lobbyists was made immediately.  It seemed to come as a surprise to many people on the left (and in the center) that many Republicans are opposed to abortion even in the cases of rape and incest without holding to Todd Akin’s fairytale reality in which rape doesn’t create pregnancy. Many were shocked at how unfeeling and uncompassionate the republican right is when it comes to raped women and forcing them to carry and give birth against their will.

It IS unfeeling and uncompassionate, but what the appropriately appalled media and bloggers all failed to realize is that to someone on the religious, republican right it all makes perfect sense.  The stance is horrific, but it IS internally logical.

As someone who once held those opinions and was entirely brought up in that culture, I understand where these totally anti-choice people are coming from.

It starts with the belief in the infallibility of the bible and the concept of having an immortal soul.  This soul supposedly comes into being at the beginning of the creation of the body, ie:  conception.  So, if the soul enters the body at conception, then that makes the product a person.  (the root of the vile ‘Personhood’ amendments).  Most people on the left understand this, but fail to understand why this cancels out the needs and cares of the women in question.

The people who believe in ‘Personhood’ typically also believe that everything which happens in life is part of god’s infallible and perfect plan.  If something horrific happens, like rape, that is still part of god’s plan.  The woman must accept what happened as part of god’s plan for her life, and if pregnancy is a result, must also accept that child as part of the “plan”.  Depression and suicidal tendencies as a result of the rape/pregnancy?  Not allowed!  Depression is really just a spiritual matter.  If one had a proper relationship with god, then they wouldn’t BE depressed.  Just have more faith and more trust… besides, children are a blessing from the lord, and it shouldn’t matter where they come from.  Be happy to have the child.  After all, the highest calling a woman can hope to achieve is that of ‘Mother’… here’s your chance to be one!  

Besides, the question can really be solved by converting everyone everywhere to Christianity (though not that wishy-washy feel-good kind).  After all, Christian women would be joyous in their tribulation and suffering and they wouldn’t have to suffer much anyway, since Christian men would never abuse or rape them…

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adequately adorned

This passage from Tertullian (an early church writer) was taped to our fridge growing up, to remind us every day what women should really be concerned with:

"Obtain your whiteness from simplicity.
Get your ruddy hue from the blush of modesty.
Paint your eyes with meekness and your mouth with silence.
Implant the word of God in your ears.
Array your neck with the yoke of Christ.
Submit your head to your husband, and you will be adequately adorned."

It had a little fancy border around it, and hung on the fridge so long that the paper turned murky yellow and the edges were tattered and torn.  Even though I hated every word, it was literally in my face each day, and I was able to type the words into google to double-check accuracy without hesitating.

Apparently being as invisible and de-humanized as possible was/is an adequate substitute for make-up and jewelry.  But you know what?  Being silent is never easy or fun when you're always full of opinions, and jewelry will never stop sparkling. 

I LOVE make-up and jewelry.  Love love love.

I'm too distracted by family stuff and worry and general craziness at work to break this passage apart or to give an academic discourse on how attitudes haven't changed between the year 150 and now... so I'll just say this.  Fuck Tertullian.  Fuck him, and the horse he rode in on. And fuck everyone who still thinks he's got it going.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Saved by the grace of Fanfiction

There are two large back-stories to the wonderfully positive influence of fanfiction in my life, both of which will require long, future posts of their own.  For now let’s suffice to say that,

A.    My parents were, and are, extremely homophobic, and did their utmost to pass that attitude on to their children.
B.   Reading the Harry Potter series was the height of my Great Teenage Rebellion.  Perhaps due in part to its forbidden nature I fell head over heels in love with the series.

I first got hooked on fanfiction shortly after the 5th Harry Potter book had been released and I simply could NOT wait for the 6th book to find out what would happen next.  I’d stumbled across the fanfiction section on my favorite HP website, and swiftly became enraptured with the imaginings of other fans equally desperate for a fix while they waited.

Once the 6th book came out, I found that fanfiction still had a strong draw, and started to branch out a little in the sorts of stories I read.  I knew that slash existed ( 'slash' is a term which refers to same sex pairings within a story... due to the standard facfic practice of listing pairings as two names with a slash between.  "Harry/Draco" or "Sherlock/John" for example. All parings, het and otherwise are listed this way, but the word "slash" only refers to same sex couples.) but had no interest in reading any sort of homosexual romance.

And then, the summer after my sophomore year at college, I stumbled across The Shoebox Project.
What started out as an incredibly funny and well-written story about the Marauders’ (Harry’s father and his friends) time at Hogwarts, slipped into slash territory.  It did it softly and cunningly, without warning… two boys stumbling into love with each other wasn’t the main point of the story, and nor was it treated in any remarkable manner.  It just was.  Since I was already hooked by the characters and the aforementioned wonderful writing style, I decided to keep on reading even though Sirius and Remus were now snogging.

After reading The Shoebox Project I figured that other slash stories might be just as entertaining, and could be worth a try.  Eventually, I was reading almost nothing BUT slash, and try as I might, I couldn’t find anything that was wrong with it.

These characters were gay, but still normal.  They had the same struggles and triumphs as any other characters might, and fell in love the exact same way.

I’d never been around any openly gay people in real life, and these literary versions were my first introduction to the notion that being homosexual didn’t mean anything other than that a person would fall in love with someone of their own gender.  Just that simple.  It didn’t take long for me to start to wonder why if it wasn’t at all wrong for fictional people to be gay, why was it wrong for people to be gay in reality.

Suddenly, it didn’t make any sense to condemn someone for who they fell in love with…
And slowly, very slowly, I started to wonder if just maybe the draw I felt to other girls might actually mean something.

Monday, July 16, 2012


It’s hard to know where to begin.

Blogging is nothing new for me, as I’ve maintained several over the years, mostly devoted to my costuming, art and fashion.  I’m no huge name in the blogosphere, but I have a decent number of followers and friends online and am part of a fairly large costume community. 
The average reader of my costume/art blog has no idea whatsoever of the sort of background I come from, and I’ve only just recently started talking about it a little bit on my more private livejournal.  Going on about my past doesn’t really fit with the tone or theme of my main blog though, not to mention my mother knows about and reads my current blog and the public posts on my livejournal, and I have NO desire for her to read this.
In many ways, I’m still not ready to have the very difficult conversations with my parents that talking about the past would involve.  And things get even more depressing when I think about the worst conversation of all which I’ll probably have to have with them at some point.  Namely, coming out to my very fundamental, puritanical parents.
I don’t use the word “puritan” lightly here.  My parents viewed the Puritans as heroes, and held their doctrines and writings on nearly the same level of infallibility as the bible itself.  My sister described their religious point of view in her blog here, which sums it up pretty well.  Looking at things broadly, the sole word “crazy” works equally well.
So.  Before I delve into introspection and religion and fundamentalism and homeschooling and patriarchy and family and… everything, I should probably set the stage a bit.
 Female.  Twenty-six years old.  Living on my own in Virginia where I work in the costume shop of a major living history museum.   Currently single, though not looking for romance as I plan/hope to move abroad next year and don’t want to be tied to anything here.  Have my BFA degree (majored in Illustration) and am applying to grad schools in the UK and Germany.  Am hoping to end up in Germany.  Homeschooled K-12.  Four siblings, an older sister and two younger brothers.  Very much the middle child.  Not exactly an atheist, I’d consider myself a “tooth-fairy agnostic” (google it).  Reincarnation makes sense to me, as does karma on a cosmic scale.
Okay then.  That done, it’s time to get cracking on actual content.  There’ll be a lot of looking back as I deal with the effects of my upbringing… though I imagine a fair amount of current struggles and hopes for the future will creep in.  Hopefully this blog will be a good thing, and will help me move on and gain perspective.  Guess we’ll see!