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Pitching and writing and impostor syndrome, oh my!

How pitching an article works.

Step 1: Have a thought.

Oh! That would make a really good blog entry or article or something. Let me make a note of that to myself for later.

Step 2: Evaluate that thought.

What’s this note? Huh. I thought that was a good idea? I guess it’s OK. I’ll come back to it.

Step 3: Research.

Didn’t someone else write a thing about this? Let me check. Quick! To the Googlemobile!

Step 4: Outline? Maybe? Mostly just sitting on it.

I should start off talking about the beginning. Or maybe I’ll just play a video game. Yea, let’s do that.

Step 5: Fight with impostor syndrome.

Ugh. What was I thinking? This idea is terrible. Everyone else has better thoughts and words and ideas and notions than I do. What made me think that I could get anyone to read this? What a boob I was back one or two days ago. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Step 6: Pitch work somewhere while impostor syndrome is distracted.

Fuck you, impostor syndrome. This idea is pretty great and I just emailed it out! Muahaha! Take that!

Step 7: Become overcome with impostor syndrome once again.

It’s like it somehow knows that I snuck an idea out past it. The uncertainty! The suffering! Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Step 8a: Pitch accepted.

Oh. I guess I was right. It was a pretty great idea.

Step 8b: Pitch rejected.

Resume process from step 5.

Next time: The tyranny of the blank page.

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On Vouching for Bastards

A few weeks ago I was at a party. While there, I settled into a deep conversation with a young woman I had just met about her dating history. She told me that she was in therapy and that her previous partners had been varying levels of abusive, with the latest one (who we’ll call Brad) being a drug addict that had, among other things, stolen thousands of dollars from her in order to purchase pills. She told me she was struggling with issues of worthiness. And that the whole thing was really hard. I listened. I commiserated. I affirmed that she was, in fact, worthy. And that I thought it was really great that she was going to therapy and also being open about it.

Later in the evening, I heard Brad’s name cross the name of another member of the group. The man in question was saying how Brad was super cool and they had a lot of fun together.

I interjected, “Brad? Her Brad?”

“Yea,” partygoer guy said. “He’s a really cool guy.”

“I’m sorry, are you aware of his history? That he’s a drug addict who steals from the people who love him?”

“Well yea,” he said, looking sheepish. “But he’s super fun to be around, this one time-”

“No. I don’t want to hear about how fun he is. Why the fuck would you endorse him as the sort of person that one should hang out and have fun with if you know what he’s done in the past?”

He blubbered, then, and said that he understood what I was saying and that he probably shouldn’t do that. I told him that no, he shouldn’t. And then continued with my evening.

Then another guy at the party started going on and on about Brad. I confronted him, too, this time with Brad’s ex in tow. His response to my queries?

“Well, he’s not that bad. He always looks me in the eye when I shake his hand.”

My actual response in the moment was something along the lines of: “That’s not exactly the litmus test of whether or not someone is a decent person, though.” He eventually acceded to my and her joint points and moved on.

But what I wanted to say was this:

OH! He looks you in the EYES, does he? Well then that turns everything on it’s head. Forget his history of drug abuse and stealing from his girlfriend. Forget all of that. He must be a good guy if he can look you in the face. A warm handshake means that all the well-meaning, intelligent women in your life should feel right as rain going on a date with him. Forget that he’s also emotionally abusive and manipulative. He knows how to interact with another human being, so all’s well!

I bit my tongue on that rant, for obvious reasons.

A few days after the party, I sat down with my brother for birthday drinks after seeing a play and brought up all of the above.

“Why, in male culture, is it OK for men to vouch for bastards? Why do they act like they’re nice guys when they’re not?” I asked him.

“Well,” he responded, “would you have called our uncle a nice guy?”

Our uncle was a heroin addict who also stole from family and friends to support his habit.

“No.” I said. “I wouldn’t. Because calling him a nice guy tells the people around me that they should trust him, and I don’t want anyone to trust him. Vouching for someone by asserting their niceness is basically putting the seal of approval onto the idea of friendship with that person.”

We talked about it for a while after that. My uncle and Brad and the way that society seems to call people nice as if that means anything at all. Nice has become this word that we all just toss around to mean that we like people or that they’re OK to hang out with or that they make a good key lime pie or whatever.

But nice means something. When you say that someone is a nice person what you’re saying is that you vouch for them. You think that the person you’re talking to should spend time with them or buy them a beer. But if you know that person is problematic, why would you give another person the idea that trusting them is a sound notion?

I’m not saying that you should spend all of your time running around extolling the horrible minutiae of the personalities of everyone you don’t like to everyone you meet. That would make you look like a dick. But maybe don’t act like someone’s cool to be around when they’re not. And maybe don’t be afraid to tell people that someone might be problematic. If someone asks your opinion about another person who find problematic, you could just say:

I won’t speak more on this without being asked, but I would be careful with Brad if I were you, based on what I know of his history.

That way you can warn the person off without going into terrible detail, but still leaves them room to take or leave your advice. Honestly, I tend to err on the side of being super direct when people ask me what I think of someone. I’ll usually just say that I don’t like them very much. There’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t like a person. If the person talking to you trusts your judgment, they can go ahead and ask for more details. If they don’t, no harm done!

I think the important thing when it comes to dealing with people whose behavior is problematic is that you don’t have to be seen as the type of person who likes and gets along with everyone. In fact, it may be better to be seen as the type of person who tells it like it is, when push comes to shove.

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Moving. Doorways. Exhaustion.

Frankie and I are getting ready to move. Moving is always a really strange feeling. The uncertainty of it. The odd, liminal feeling of being between places. Of having one foot in a solid, real-feeling space and the other in a dream. The whole process fills me with anxiety.

What if there isn’t enough water pressure?
What if the utilities cost a fortune?
What if the neighbors are homophobic?

There is an element of throwing oneself into the unknown. Of leaping and hoping to be caught.

It’s also exciting. You start to plan out what your life will look like. To fantasize about where you will put your things. About walking home. About the things that you fell in love with about your new space. I get lost in daydreams about no longer dealing with the things that frustrate me about my current apartment. It’s such a good feeling, knowing you will be free.

The whole process is exhausting in the extreme. Boxing up your life and preparing to take it to a new place is stressful and time-consuming. There are so many things I am going to want to do in the next month that I’m not going to be able to.

All this is to say that I’m super excited about the move and all the possibilities and opportunities that it opens up, but I am also going to be totally wiped over the next month or so and ask you all to bear with me.

Good things are coming!

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What I learned from going viral on Twitter

Content Advisory: Suicide, graphic images, harassment.

I don’t really tweet all that much. I’ve had my Twitter account for years, but it hasn’t been something I’ve been really interested in until very recently. And even recently, it’s not a huge priority to me. I tweet sporadically, contributing to hashtags or commiserating with friends on occasion. I don’t even have 300 followers as of this posting.

Ten days ago I posted the following to Twitter in an effort to support the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag. I posted other things to, but, as you can see, this one got just a little more attention.

Pretty much immediately after posting it, I was inundated with tweets from trolls and internet abusers. And I wasn’t the only person to receive abuse over this. The originator of the hashtag, Amelia Bonow, was forced to go into hiding after the hashtag went viral. Which I guess just goes to show that the “pro life” set really is more “pro-birth” than pro actual human life.

At any rate, the first abuse that I saw was an image of a man holding severed heads sent to me by Twitter user @TwerkingSpider [GRAPHIC original tweet behind hyperlink]. I immediately reported and blocked him. I have since been told by Twitter that his message was “not in violation of the Twitter Rules.” Which I just… don’t get. Their rules specifically say you cannot threaten people, and I’m not sure how sending someone a picture of decapitated heads does not constitute a “threat.” But maybe I’m just being over-sensitive, right? There’s such a thing as a friendly beheading, right? Right?

Of course, it didn’t end there. There were other tweets telling me I was basically an ugly dude and that I should kill myself. Which, coming from supposedly “pro-life” people was just… confusing and enraging.

There were loads more. Luckily, I went on vacation and missed a lot of it. I also had cool people around me who told me about how to block the majority of the yuckiness.

I learned a lot in the few days that my tweet exploded. I learned that people on the internet do not know how to use basic logic when it conflicts with their opinions. I learned that the ease of tweeting lends itself to all manner of repulsive insults and hurtful words being slung about. And I learned that answering those people with ridiculous questions and comments like “ARE YOU A RIDDLE?” and “LEARN LOGIC.” brought me no small measure of joy.

There were two big things that the people arguing with me seem to have trouble dealing with.

  1. Bodily autonomy: fetuses are not more valuable than adults.
    • I know it’s hard to grasp, but a fetus does not have a right to live at the expense of the body of another person any more than a fully grown human does. If I have cancer and the only thing that can save me is your bone marrow, you cannot be compelled to give it to me. No matter how sick I am.
      I think the fact that fetuses cannot speak for themselves is the thing that gets a lot of people with this one. And I get it, you want to speak for the silent masses of developing blastocysts or whatever. That’s fine. But the fact of the matter is, even if they could talk, they would not have any more of a right to life than I would, dying of cancer because you didn’t want to give me your bone marrow.
  2. Abortion has always existed. And will always exist. Because sex is fun.
    • Sex is super fun. It’s true. People have been banging for the fun of it for ages and ages. Hell, the Romans drove silphium to extinction with their need for birth control to manage family size. This isn’t new information. It’s not a shockingly revolutionary societal development like lolcats or something. Society didn’t wake up one day and become this loose moral ground where people can bang whoever they want. People have always banged whoever they want. Acting like it’s a surprise just makes you sound like a totally disconnected idealist who doesn’t get how the world works. Or, you know, genitals.
      Since sex for funsies has always existed, so has birth control, and so has abortion. The difference between abortion now and abortion at the beginning of human civilization is that, not unlike childbirth, women have a better chance of surviving it now.

For the most part, I don’t have many friends who will argue with the rightness of a woman’s right to choose for herself whether to continue with a pregnancy. But I’d like to take a moment for the one friend who I had before the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag went up that did, apparently, stand in the opposing camp.

She’s religious, of course. And she has an issue with abortion. The strange thing for me is that, years ago, before she got married, she and I had a conversation about abortion, the end result of which was her stating that she was, in fact, “pro-choice.” Because even if she wouldn’t get one herself, she wasn’t the sort of person to stand in front of the rights of other women to a safe and healthy medical procedure that was perfectly legal.

Now, though, things have changed. I don’t know if she was merely paying lip service to me before, or if being married to someone who works for the Archdiocese changed her viewpoints. I can’t say either way. Needless to say, we got into a long conversation about my tweet and her views on abortion. I’m going to take the main thrust of our discussion and spin it out here for you.

In my original tweet, I re-posted an image talking about bodily autonomy, which is my chief reasoning behind my stance as pro-choice, as well as one of my core principles generally. The reason I say that I “had” this friend before we had this debate is that, during it, she called the autonomy argument “silly.” I have a couple of problems with that. The first of which being that the right of everyone on this planet to control what happens to their body is at the core of my system of beliefs about the world. The second of which is that, legally, our bodily autonomy is very important. It’s one of the things that makes rape illegal. Or assault. Consent and all of it’s trappings are important and valuable components of our legal system.

All in all, the conversation did not go well. But it made me think. And it made me realize that, if you do not value the autonomy of others and their ability to make the medical choices that are right for them and follow through with them safely, I can’t really be friends with you. That’s a line in the sand that I am more than willing to draw. And one that will happily stand by.

So #ShoutYourAbortion, my loves. Shout because it is nothing you should be ashamed of. Shout because you made the right decision. Shout because one day, the act of you shouting will not be something to be frightened of.

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How to Apologize Like an Adult

In light of the recent mistakes made by people I respect or at least expected better of, I thought I would publish a blog on how to properly apologize. Because it’s obvious to me that this is not something many people know how to do properly or effectively.

I hope this helps some of you out there to become better at apologizing. And that it is a resource for those of you who are trying to talk to others about how to apologize correctly to explain how this stuff works and how vitally important it is.

Step One: Listen.

The first step in any apology is to listen to what the person(s) you have hurt are telling you. If someone says that you did something that hurt them (directly or indirectly), then it’s time to apologize. Listen carefully to what you did and decide whether you care enough about the people involved and the situation to apologize.

This is the step wherin you decide whether or not you are going to apologize at all. Not apologizing is always an option. But if you decide not to apologize, disengage here and tell the person(s) involved that you will not be apologizing. There is no need to drag people through insincerity in order to fulfill some bizarre social cue. If you don’t care to apologize: don’t.

Step Two: Apologize Sincerely.

An apology is not something you just do in the moment to get people off your back. It is not a way to stop an argument. An apology is the first part of a promise that you make to another person or group of people. That promise is that you see that you upset them, see why you upset them, and will endeavor not to upset them in the future.

I know I already said this, but it’s important: If you have no desire to deliver a sincere apology, then do not deliver one. There is nothing worse than an insincere apology. It doesn’t solve anything. And it doesn’t do anything other than erode your relationships by proving to the people around you that you do not care enough about them to really apologize when you have done something wrong.

So, if you are not willing to do the work that is inherent in making an apology, you don’t need to! There will be consequences for that, but some things are not worth working for. I don’t say that to be cruel. That’s OK! Being able to recognize when you are not willing to do a thing is an important part of being a human being. The important thing to remember is that no apology at all is better all around than an apology that is simply lip service.

But if you do decide to apologize, realize that that apology is a part of a larger set of behaviors that you are tying yourself into which include making changes to things you have done in order to ensure the fulfilling of a promise to another person.

Step Three: Apologize for the right thing.

This goes back to the listening step. Were you really listening? Did you hear what the person(s) you hurt were saying about why they were upset? Remember that what you think you did wrong and what they are asking that you apologize for may not be the same thing.

Here’s an example.

Bobby and Suzie just started dating. One night, Bobby goes out with Suzie and her friends. He doesn’t know anyone else at the outing. During the evening, Suzie spends a lot of time talking to John, which leaves Bobby at loose ends and uncomfortable for most of the evening. When they leave the group, Bobby says that he is upset that Suzie left him hanging the entire night with no one to talk to while she talked to John. Suzie realizes that Bobby wants an apology, but instead of apologizing for abandoning Bobby with a bunch of strangers, she infers that he is being jealous and says that she is sorry if he was jealous about her spending time with John.

That is not what Bobby was upset about, it’s what Suzie is reading into the situation. What Suzie needed to do was really listen to what Bobby was saying and apologize for what he told her he was upset about, not what she felt was “really the issue.”

This is a mistake that a lot of people make when apologizing. It’s easy to apologize for what we think the problem is rather than what the person is actively communicating. Don’t fall into this trap.

Step Four: Never say “but.”

Or any other type of qualifying language, really. When you qualify an apology with an explanation, it weakens the apology. Apologize unreservedly. Here’s an example based on our story above of the correct way to apologize:

Suzie: I’m sorry that I left you alone with people. I didn’t realize it would upset you so badly. I apologize.

Here is that apology with a but:

Suzie: I’m sorry that I left you alone with people, but it’s not like you couldn’t have interjected at any point. My friends are nice. You should have made an effort.

Do you see how apology one is much more meaningful and actually reads like an apology?

When you qualify your apology with a “but” at the end, you minimize the impact of the apology tremendously. Doing that can also make it seem to the person you are giving your apology that their actions are somehow to blame for your behavior. In short, it makes it seem like you don’t really care about your apology, which means you don’t care about the feelings of the person you hurt.

Step Five: Do not make the apology about you.

Of course the apology is about you. A little. But it’s not about you, if you get my meaning.

When you are apologizing, address your behavior succinctly and with clarity. Do not do the following:

Suzie: Well I’m sorry I’m not perfect! I’m sorry I can’t seem to give you enough attention so that you feel good about yourself. I’m sorry I suck.

This kind of thing is really unfair to the person you are apologizing to. When you make the apology about you and get upset as a response to another person being hurt by your actions, the other person is put in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with your upset. Which can lead to them comforting you rather than having their needs met. Which is not the goal of any good apology.

If feelings about yourself are brought up during the course of your apology, feel free to address them with the person later on, after a little time and distance have allowed the other person to get into a place where they can support you without compromising their own needs.

Step Six: Follow up.

Sometimes when you apologize, it will be necessary for you to follow up with some changes to your behavior or discussion of how to do things better. This is an excellent part of an apology, because it shows that you are willing to follow through on your promises. An apology is, at it’s root, a promise to examine your behavior and attempt to ensure that you do not repeat behavior that the people around you have found damaging.

So let’s use our above example to show how the follow up to an apology might go:

Suzie: Is there a way that I can ensure in the future that you are more socially comfortable? Would you like to bring a friend of yours to outings? Would a smaller group help? Do you just require more attention from me?

See how Suzie is trying to solve the problem in the future so that she can be more aware of Bobby’s emotional well-being? That’s quality apologizing right there.

Remember that, when a follow-up is needed, it doesn’t always have to happen right then. You can have space between the apology and the follow up. Sometimes that space is needed! When tempers are running high, as they are wont to be when an apology enters the mix, it is not always the best time to calmly discuss solutions to problems. Let everyone cool off a bit if you need to and do the follow-up when you are more relaxed and able to look at the situation from distance.

Step Seven: Follow through.

Remember how I said that an apology is a promise? Well here’s the part where you fulfill that promise. All of the things that we have gone over up until this point mean absolutely nothing if, when the situation that caused strife before comes up again, you repeat the bad behaviors when interacting with the people to whom you have previously apologized.

If Suzie takes Bobby out again and leaves him alone all night? That’s breaking her promise. And all the work that she did during her apology goes out the window when she proves to Bobby that she cannot live up to the things that she promises him when she apologizes.

If, however, Suzie makes sure that Bobby’s needs are met in subsequent instances where the spend time with her friends? Then she has proven to Bobby that she is a person worthy of his trust. It is only at that point that her apology becomes wholly successful.

Step Eight: Enjoy.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of having people around you who like and trust you. If you demonstrate to them when you make mistakes that you are willing to make up for them, that will only increase their liking and trust for you. Enjoy the happy feelings that come from doing the work to make your relationships stronger and healthier through a properly crafted apology.

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On the Revisiting of Feelings

Every once in a while, someone from my past will creep up into my mind and I will find myself scouring the internet for references to them.

Where are you working now?

Who are you loving?

The question that I always want to answer is a simple one.

Did I matter?

I find myself poring over the faces of people they have chosen in the years intervening. In the parenthetical space between knowing and unknowing. In the time it takes for a person to become emotional research rather than emotional expenditure.

There is a dusty old feeling to this motion. This knee jerk response. Something in my emotional DNA. Like whales migrating, I walk the pattern that is the cyclical absence and return of thoughts and feelings.

You come to mind.

I Google you.

I look at old pictures that show up. Sometimes I’m in them. I reflect on whatever masochism drew me to do this to myself.

I think about who I was when I was with you. I wonder who the people you are surrounded by are. What they are like. I wonder about the person you are loving the most. How they shift and change themselves to fit into the nooks and crannies of you that always need filling. How they pour themselves over the mold made of your flaws.

Do they thrill you?

Are you happy?

I worry my old loves like old wounds. Bruises that never get the chance to heal because of continual pressure. Blood that never dissipates. Scars that never lose their angry redness.

After I have looked at the last public picture. Perused the last blog entry or Facebook status, I sit back. I log out. And I let you fade.

Sometimes that makes the bruises look less angry. Sometimes the opening of old wounds relieves the tension.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

My questions never get answered, no matter the case. I want to know if I mattered. And I know it’s irrelevant. I know that, in the years that have passed between the first uttering of that question and this last riotous uprising, all the weight of whether I mattered has gone out of the question.

But I want to know.

So, when the mood strikes, I Google you. I search. And I find. And I wonder.

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White Feminism

Why We Need To Talk About White Feminism“The best thing any white feminist can do is educate herself, and listen and engage with the experiences of women of color without silencing them.”

Posted by HuffPost Women on Monday, August 10, 2015

This video was posted by HuffPost Women on last week. Since then, it has been shared over 9,000 times. It has popped up in my social media feed a whole lot and I’ve been tempted to share it each time. But I haven’t. Mostly because I feel like I need to do more than just share this video.

One of the things they say in the video is that being a white feminist does not mean that you are a bad person, it just means that you have a lot to learn. And that is very true. As a white woman and a feminist, I fell into the trap of white feminism early and often.

I can still remember some of my earliest failures as a feminist. In undergrad during one of my many women’s studies, I was chatting with a group of my fellow students on a break. We were talking about the beginnings of feminism and the roots of the movement. I quoted verbatim from a book that I had read about how the feminist movement began when women started to move out of the home and to take jobs in public space.

31 year old me looks back at that me and just puts her face in her hands. Because wow.

So I spout that to the people I’m with and a girl from my class says to me “But women of color were already working outside the home. In fact, a lot of them were balancing work and home life. What did feminism do for those women?”

I don’t even remember her name, but holy shit did I need that truth bomb dropped on me.

I stammered a lot and admitted that I hadn’t really thought of that. And that I clearly needed to. She recommended some books and articles that I should read and basically told me that I needed to shift my way of looking at things to include women of color when I talked about feminism.

She was so right.

The thing is, I’m sure that I had said white feministy stuff before that. And I’m sure I had done it in company. The people I was with just didn’t call me on it for whatever reason. I am so grateful to her for calling me out. For putting me on the spot. And I’m glad that, when she did, I was in a position to really hear her and process what she was saying rather than getting defensive.

Being called out is hard. And this isn’t the only time that it has happened to me, just my most vivid memory of it. I was embarrassed. And a little ashamed of myself. And honestly there was a spark of anger there at her calling me out. Because being called out is hard. Being wrong is hard. And being told that you are wrong in front of other people is embarrassing.

The fact of the matter is that it’s important that we allow people to tell us when we are wrong. And that we admit to ourselves and to the people around us that we don’t know everything. I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older how important it is to reveal our flaws and mistakes and pitfalls to the people around us. It lets other people know that they are not alone in not being perfect. It is deliriously easy to act as though we are somehow perfect. To present a face to the world that is blemish free. To edit our speech so that it is free from grammatical errors. But the projection of those things harms us. It makes us hold ourselves up to a standard of perfection to which we cannot possibly adhere. And it harms the people around us by making them think that, when they fall short, they should never admit it.

All of that is to say that I am far from a perfect feminist person. I have been guilty of white feminism. I have even been guilty of TERF-dom. These are not things that I am proud of. But they are things that, with time and education and good people calling me out, I have very much moved past. And if I don’t admit that to the world, then everyone who is guilty of those things will only ever see me as a person who does not make those mistakes. If I do not have empathy for people who are in the same position that I was in when I first started learning about feminism and social justice, then how can I expect them to listen to me?

So I say this to those of you out there who may be struggling with being called out and all the things that brings up for you: No one pops out of the womb full of perfect knowledge of how to walk the world. We are all walking and growing together. It’s OK to fuck up.

It’s how you learn.

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Wheaton’s Law: Dog Edition

Up until recently, I never really had a dog of my own. My dad trained dogs with the K-9 unit for the Philadelphia Police Department, so all of the dogs that I had growing up were police dogs. As such, they were city property and had to be handled with that in mind. They did not come on vacations with us. They did not sleep in our beds. They were lovely animals and good pets, but there were a lot of things that we were not allowed to do with them as a result of their role as my father’s partners first and foremost.

When we adopted Xena, I had no idea how much I would learn about dog ownership. I have learned a lot about training. About the bond. About how fucking strange my dog is.

But one thing that I keep realizing over and over again is just how much people don’t know about how to properly interact with dogs. So here’s my “Don’t Be A Dick” list for dog owners and dog fans.


Let’s start with my rules for dog fans who are not dog owners.

Rule #1: Ask permission.

This one may seem super simple, but I can’t tell you how many times someone has just walked up to my dog and started petting her without permission. And Xena is OK most of the time, but sometimes she just isn’t feeling human interaction that day and tries to merge with my legs. Sometimes the people making these advances are kids, which can be problematic considering that Xena has not been socialized with children extensively. Which brings me to the second rule!

Rule #2: Use your eyes.

A lot of dogs will send pretty clear signals when they don’t want to be touched or approached. Setting their ears back, hunching their shoulders, backing away, making themselves small, tucking their tail between their legs. Learn to read body language.

There are also signals that humans can send on behalf of their dogs. If you see a dog wearing a service vest, for example, that dog is not meant to be petted. That dog is working. Likewise dogs that are in service with a police officer. Additionally, dogs with yellow leashes or collars may be in need of space. As may dogs wearing muzzles.

Rule #3: Dog spaces are not human spaces.

Everyone loves the dog park. But it’s important to remember that the dog park is a place for dogs to be dogs. If you don’t have a dog, many of these spaces ask that you keep yourself out of them for a number of reasons, first among which is usually liability. One thing that most dog parks agree on is that children under a certain age (usually 12 or so) should not be allowed in dog parks. A lot of dogs are not necessarily child friendly and children can get hurt easily by simply being knocked over by a running dog.

Rule #4: Dogs are not toys.

As much as you love them, dogs are not toys made to entertain you. If an owner asks that you not pet their dog, that is well within their rights. Also, every dog on the street does not need your attention.

Rule #5: Respect the rules of the dog owner.

If a dog jumps up on you when you go to pet it, I know the instinctive reaction is to tell the owner “it’s fine” while they try to get the dog to get off of you, but if the owner reacts negatively to a dog’s behavior, it’s best that you not reinforce the negative behavior. Whether it’s not feeding dogs treats at the table, not petting dogs when they are working, or keeping dogs off the furniture, you are not the person who is most impacted by the decision to let the dog bend the rules: the owner is. So when a dog jumps up on you and the owner says “no!” the appropriate response is for you to go along with the owner and say “no!” too.


With those rules laid out, here’s my list of rules for dog owners.

Rule #1: Leave the leash on.

I cannot tell you how many times I have walked down the street in Philadelphia and run across dog owners with their dogs off leash. When you confront them about it, you will inevitably hear the same song and dance about how their dog is “fine” and they’re just out “for a second” and on and on and on. Let’s get real here, no one cares if your dog is “fine.” A lot of other dogs aren’t “fine,” for one thing. And being a dog on a leash while another dog is free to roam around can trigger aggression in the leashed dog who feels as though they can’t escape should they need to. Dog leashes are mandatory in places all over the world for good reason. They protect dogs and their owners and bystanders from the myriad things that can go wrong when dogs are allowed to wander freely.

For my part, it always freaks me out when dogs are allowed off leash. As an owner of a Staffordshire Terrier mix, the fact of the matter is that, should another dog attack my dog, prejudice regarding Xena’s breed could lead to her being put down. And that scares the hell out of me.

So yea, leash your fucking dog.

Rule #2: If your dog hates the dog park, don’t bring them there.

Related to the rule above about dog spaces being for dogs and not humans, this rule pertains to the people I have run into at the dog park who simply do not care that their dogs hate it there. They come for themselves and their dogs spend the entire time running around with their tails between their legs and begging to leave.

If your dog hates the dog park, don’t bring them. If you want to watch all the pretty dogs run around, go there by yourself and peer over the fence and enjoy the view. But don’t stress your dog out just so you can spend time in the dog park. It’s a seriously dick move.

Rule #3: Learn your dog’s body language.

I can’t stress enough how important this is. Your dog can’t talk to you. The way that your dog communicates with you is through their body. Even a basic understanding of your dog’s body language can help you to meet their needs in a bunch of ways. One great example of this is when your dog is playing with other dogs. I know that Xena is a loud dog when she plays. She barks and play bows and barks some more to signal that she is having fun. Her tail may not always wag, but as long as her ears are up and her hackles down, I know that she is in good shape. As soon as her ears go back I know it’s time for her to take a break. If her hackles come up, doubly so. Knowing those things helps me to ensure that she and other dogs have a good time when they play and that neither dog gets stressed out.

Rule #4: Train your dog.

Look, I know we’re all busy. But if you get a dog, you have to be willing to put in work on the basics at the very least. Sit, stay, come, no, down, heel, and leave it are all really good basic commands that will help your dog interact with the world effectively.

Remember, the only thing your dog wants is to know that they are doing what they need to do. They want a place in the pack. And they need you to make sure that they are safe and secure while they fulfill that role for you. So do yourself and your dog and the rest of us a favor and give them the training they crave so that they can be happy and well-behaved dogs.

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On Cause Comparison and Cecil the Lion

I mostly haven’t chimed in on this issue online, but it’s starting to really get to me, so I need to say something about it.

After Cecil the Lion was illegally hunted and killed, the internet exploded with outrage. People (read: white people) have vocally and repeatedly voiced their opinions on their respective social media platforms as well as the Yelp page of the dentist who killed him. They have called for justice for Cecil. For the extradition of his killer. Some have even said that the man who killed him should be skinned and decapitated as Cecil was. Which is undoubtedly extreme, but lets you know just how passionately people feel about this lion and his death.

As a response, many social justice advocates have remarked upon the outrage expressed over Cecil’s death. Particularly pointing out that, when black people are killed in this country, the only outrage we seem to see is from other social justice advocates and the victim’s families. But when Cecil died, people who had never even heard of him before were flocking to the feet of the Zimbabwean government to offer support for the punishment of the persons responsible.

Without fail, comments that I have seen from my social justice oriented friends on this phenomenon have been met with all manner of protest and equivocation from white people. They have felt the need to justify their pain in the face of a dead lion. They have said that they have a right to be upset and on and on and on.

Let me say this right now: No one gives a fuck if you care about that lion. I care about that lion. You’re allowed to care about that lion.

What social justice advocates have been remarking upon, if you would just stop being a defensive asshole and listen for a second, is the fact that your feed is silent whenever a black man is murdered in cold blood by a police officer in this country. Or when a native woman dies in her jail cell. Or a toddler gets burned and disfigured during an unnecessary police raid.

No one wants to hear that you care about this thing or that thing. That you give money to the NAACP. That your best friend is a lion and you feel for his loss. Whatever bullshit excuse you want to give. Your equivocation and justification for your lack of compassion and outrage when it comes to the struggles faced by people of color in this country is such an old song and dance that we all know the words. We even have bingo cards dedicated to seeing how many of the usual talking points people hit during conversations about social justice.

Do us all a favor and think about what you are doing when you are called out on it. Surprise us all by doing the decent thing. Being called out is hard. I know it is. I’ve been called out a bunch of times during my time talking about these issues, and even before I started speaking out. It sucks. It’s embarrassing. You don’t want people to think you’re racist. Or that you don’t care. But you have to look at the way that your behavior might say both of those things to the people around you.

The proper response when someone tells you that your behavior is problematic or indicative of a deeper problem in society is not to get defensive and put your back up. It’s to listen. And to examine yourself and why you think what you think and post what you post. Maybe when you do that you will find that turning some of your anger for a lion you never met over to the cause effecting the lives of your fellow human beings is a bit more relevant and rewarding of an experience.

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Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

This week marks me getting back on the horse of working out, which is bringing up all kinds of awkward and icky feelings with regard to my body that I thought I should just go ahead and tackle out loud rather than internalizing.

I’ve always been bigger. I was smaller for a little while, when I did martial arts back before high school. I remember distinctly and adult telling me that I would “balloon” if I quit fighting. I laughed it off at the time. I was 13.

By the time I was 14 I was bigger than a lot of the other girls I knew. And I was super self-conscious about it. I ate too much and didn’t really move around a lot and I hated my body with all the vehemence of a teenager hating a thing. So that wasn’t super healthy.

Over the years I have gone through health binges in fits and starts. Nothing really worked too well for me. My biggest success was with Weight Watchers. I started doing that when I crested over the 200 pound mark. I dropped down to 168, which is the lowest I have been in my adult life. But I didn’t feel good. I was hungry all the time. And I didn’t get into the habit of adding workouts to my routine so I could eat more.

Eventually, I quit. And my body put all the weight back on in record time, with an extra ten pounds for good measure. Because insult and injury are good friends.

When Frankie and I got together, our first date was actually her helping me work out. We did all kinds of fun workouts in the park and I sweated and ached and it felt really good. As our relationship developed, I started eating healthier and craving healthier meals that she would make. I would work out in fits and starts, but I felt like I was making progress, albeit slowly, on feeling healthier and stronger.

When we moved in together, I joined the PSC gym near our apartment and started going 4 times a week. I found that, if I was going to a class, I could make myself go. Working out alone was a misery. But the classes at the gym were good and scheduled at a convenient time so that I could get off work and hit the gym on my way home to avoid procrastinating. I felt good. I felt like I was getting stronger and healthier with every passing week.

Then one day I went into the gym and picked up the class schedule for the next month and felt my heart sink. All of the 5:30 classes had been moved to 6:30 or 7. The only classes left at 5:30 were yoga (which is great, but not the kind of cardio and weight training I was after) and a class with an insane guy that made me feel like I was going to throw up and die on his floor. I was crushed. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I was not capable of the type of motivation it would take to get me to the gym on time and put in a workout that would actually challenge me at that point.

I tried to stick with it. I went to the gym alone and tried to work out. I never felt as good or successful (or sore!) as I did when I was in a class. I tried waiting for the classes that were later in the day, but I would inevitably fail to get out of the house again once I was home with the dogs and in my comfy clothes.

So I fell off the wagon. As so many of us do.

Then I joined Sweat. And their classes have been great. And well scheduled. And for a while I was going every day. I felt better. I slept better. My skin cleared up. I even felt like less of a grumpy bear in the mornings. I swear, working out is like magic.

Of course, I fell off the wagon again. And now I’m getting back on.

It’s hard to keep doing this stuff. Even when it makes me feel really good. And I’ve tried talking to groups of people doing the same things, but I always find myself getting super defensive and upset when people try to have any type of dialogue with me about my weight or my health.

So I’m going to maybe write about this once a week here. Chronicle the things. Talk about what happens when I stop working out for whatever reason. Talk about when I’m successful. And just kind of feed this whole process into the ether of the internet in the hopes that it helps me and maybe some of you in our respective health journeys.