“Embrace Your Feminine Energy!”

Something has bothered me for a while, but I was never able to put it into words until recently. To be completely honest, I also never really spent that much time focused on it. While it’s harmful and destructive, it’s got a veil of empowerment and dignity and therefore is highly deceptive.

I’ll admit that people talking about “good/bad energy” and “good/bad vibes” and the like has often made me roll my eyes. I put these sentiments in the same category as belief in the power of crystals, astrology, and other New Age beliefs and pseudoscience. I hardly consider myself any more “spiritual” than I am religious, and I’m not religious.

Now that I’ve offered that caveat, it has often bothered me on a visceral level when I have heard people (often women, often feminists) say something along the lines of “embracing your feminine energy” or “unleashing your feminine goddess” or any of the other multitude variations in which I have read/heard this sentiment. Although I obviously believe in the empowerment and equality of women, I do not believe these sentiments achieve that. I also find this verbiage to be slightly condescending and patronizing. This can also be seen in statements such as “A real man never…” or “A real woman always…” In actuality, the only masculine and feminine traits are those that can be seen with the naked eye and/or measured, such as the differing genitals, pronounced breast tissue and wider hips on women, and greater muscle mass and amounts of hair in men. And even these are not always necessarily true in every case, without even touching on the subject of trans individuals.

Ideal feminine traits are often considered those that would inehrently be considered weak, while ideal masculine traits are those that most people would consider strong traits. For example, the following traits are often considered “feminine”: soft, forgiving, sweet, gentle, submissive, and humble. On the contrary, the following traits are often considered “masculine”: in control, confident, intelligent, assertive, strong, brave, and independent. If nothing else, a quick Google search can confirm this.

These are not simply descriptive words. They also serve prescriptive purposes, which make them much more sinister. And while after thousands of years of the patriarchy and misogyny being normalized and considered “simply the way things are supposed to be”, it is easy for many people (including women) to confuse certain longstanding social norms, expectations, standards, and roles as actually being natural or biological, “simply the way things are”. In a world dominated by the patriarchy, men who do not live up to these ideal masculine traits might be mocked or even shunned socially, whereas women who step outside these bounds can and do face consequences ranging from discrimination in the workplace all the way up to their lives being taken.

Although those who talk about “feminine energy” are almost always full of good intentions and attempting to uplift women, this verbiage instead ensures women continue to be shackled in the same chains misogynists put them in in the first place. Ideal traits for human beings should include traits such as self-love, empathy, bravery, self-awareness, honor, and discipline, among other attributes. As an outflow of the accepted current duality, when a man comes up with a solution, he is praised for being logical, while a woman might easily be criticized as being bossy for having done the same thing. When a woman is (even very understandably) upset, she is said to be “moody” or “hysterical”, when a man who was feeling the same way would much more likely have his concerns taken seriously and discussed. Only when we undo the system of gendered speech that hold the sexes to different standards can we free both women and men of limiting biases.

I understand that the prevailing belief is that both men and women have both feminine and masculine traits. However, this is still problematic, as we are still defining (and deeming) certain traits as ideal when found in a man and certain traits as ideal when found in a woman. The fact remains that traits accepted as being masculine are less self-debasing and “feminine” traits much more so. Instead of attempting to sell the belief that societally-engineered “female” traits are inspirational and should be embraced by women, let’s question the very assertion that certain traits are feminine and certain traits masculine.

Why I Prefer Smoothies to Juice

In a bid to get healthier and lose some weight, I have done a lot of both juicing and blending. I have found that I much prefer making smoothies to juicing.

Good quality juicers are much more expensive than a decent blender. If you go cheap with a juicer, you will most likley waste a lot of the fruit and the juicer will probably be a lot less powerful. Even expensive juicers will be more wasteful than blenders. Juicers expel the fiber, while blending uses the entire fruit. Due to this, smoothies are much more filling than juice. I can easily juice a dozen or two oranges and still not be full. Juicers are also much harder to clean due to having multiple parts, unlike a blender. There are more options with smoothies, because you can choose the base (juice, plain water, coconut water, dairy milk, plant milks, etc.) and include other additives impossible or unappealing with straight juice, such as peanut butter, yogurt, or oatmeal. Lastly, the fiber in a smoothie ensures that the high sugar content in the fruit does not spike glucose levels, unlike with juice.

I have found that I am much more likely to stick to healthier eating habits if I incorporate daily smoothies instead of daily fresh juice into my diet. In general, it is easier to do what is right when you make it easier for you to do what is right.

I am interested in hearing what others think about this. Please let me know if you have had similar or different experiences with juicing and blending.

“Karen” “Karen” “Karen”!!!

First, I am going to acknowledge I am years behind on this topic. However, unfortunately, it seems nearly 3/4 of the way through the year of our Lord 2022, it has not yet been made irrelevant *sigh* so here’s my contribution to what has already been written on the topic by people far more articulate than myself. And for clarification, I’ll be using “Karen” to mean the insult/moniker. Karen = person whose legal name is “Karen”.

I’m not sure exactly when controversial, mouthy women started being called “Karen”s. I wouldn’t be surprised if this phenomenon closely followed the Red Pill’s rise to infamy and Donald Trump’s taking of the White House in 2016. However, I really only started paying attention to it during the height of the pandemic. I was confused by why both women publicly advocating for folks to wear masks/take Covid seriously, as well as women publicly advocating for folks not to wear masks/not take Covid seriously (usually depending on which political side the respective women were on) were both hit with the moniker “Karen”. It struck me that, unlike the moniker “Negative Nancy”, which depends on a certain type of behavior and can be ascribed to anyone, “Karen” was simply the term society decided to attach to women who unabashedly and unapologetically speak their minds. Which doesn’t seem to be a problem when men do so — and they don’t get any nasty sex-based epithets thrown at them, either. Additionally, although the term is usually relegated to white, upper-middle class, middle-aged women, it can and has been used for other groups, as well, although they all have at least one trait in common: they are always women.

And then, like dominoes falling into place, another related question I had was answered simultaneously —

The reason there are no male “Karen”s is because “Karen” is synonymous with “male”. We don’t saddle men with a degrading, mocking term like “Karen”, because society deems it appropriate for men to speak their minds — a privilege we still rarely give women. Being loud, outspoken, and taking up space is something we have always allowed and even encouraged in men and something we have not allowed women until the past few decades (and even then with major caveats, implied and explicit threats, and social consequences).

While I don’t know any Karens in real life, I speak with the general public for my current job as a canvasser, and have spoken with a lot of Karens. Due to the unfair besmirching of their name I have been exposed to these last several years (and certainly not my own personal experience), I am always extra cautious when dealing with a Karen. One thing that has hit me is I do not think I have ever spoken with a Karen I would consider rude, condescending, or unpleasant.

Ashley? Lauren? Kayla? Dave? Tom? Conner? Etc, etc, etc. Sure.

However, we don’t denigrate or pre-judge them for their names.

Recently, I meant to email my professor about an assignment but accidentally ended up emailing someone else in my address book, someone with the same name as a certain misogynist/r@pist/sex trafficker/grifter, who has been in the news and all over social media a lot lately. He very graciously emailed me back to let me know of my mistake and wished me well in my class. And I thought, I bet he wouldn’t be happy with his name becoming an equivalent for a very bad person, just because he happens to share his name with a very bad person. Although it would make just as much sense as society’s acceptance of the name “Karen” being used as an insult.

The term “Karen” is now so entrenched in society hardly anyone considers the appropriateness of the term. I hear even well-meaning, otherwise progressive and empathetic people using it. I urge everyone reading this to re-consider the term, its unintended consequences, and help end the use of a trait that is ascribed at birth (a given name, in this case) as a pejorative.

Things to Consider Before Dating a Single Parent

Recently I’ve been thinking about the specific issues that can come up in a relationship where someone without children dates a single parent, especially if that “someone” doesn’t have kids, themself. To be clear, I believe everyone deserves a loving, romantic relationship, even if it didn’t work out with the mother(s)/father(s) of their children. However, this situation comes with some inherent issues that should not be ignored.

The first thing to realize is that in order to be a good parent, they must put their child(ren) before you. If they don’t, you are dating a bad parent, which brings their character into question. You will never be first in their lives, although they are most likely first in yours, which means there is an imbalance in the relationship right from the start.

You’ll most likely be pressed into service, especially if the kids are young. There is very little chance you will not be expected to help out with the kids, at least on the weeks that your partner has them in his/her care. The younger they are, the more dependent and helpless, the likelier it is you will be called upon. Whether it’s to pick them up from school or watch them until your partner gets home from work, it is bound to happen. You will also often be expected to engage in activities that include taking the kids along, so dates might be at Chuck E. Cheese instead of a nice steakhouse.

Spontaneity will be difficult, if not impossible. No more spur-of-the-moment trips out of town or changing of plans. Child care plans, exact itineraries, and tight schedules will need to be adhered to always. Consistency and stability are important for children, and, like previously stated, their needs and wellbeing must be prioritized.

The younger the kid, the redder the flag the parents are not still together. The most serious thing you can do with someone is to bring a child into the world. If they made this decision with someone and then within a year or two there was a breakdown in the relationship, it probably means something very serious and sudden happened to end the relationship (like infidelity being uncovered or abuse beginning) or that they got scared of the commitment they had made. This could mean far-reaching implications for your relationship with them. It could mean there are some less-than-ideal character or personality traits lying dormant within them that could prove problematic for you down the line.

If you become close with the children, a break-up will be that much more painful. It’s one thing to break up with a person, another to break up with an entire family. If you have become close to the children, maybe even taken a parental role in their lives, and then you break up with their parent, you have no legal rights to any further contact with the children. The sudden and complete severing can be traumatic, not only for you, but for the children, as well.

If the other parent is still in the picture and the relationship between both parents is not amicable, it could spell trouble for your relationship. Regardless of how much the other parent is disliked, making a baby with someone means you will always be linked to them. Even after the children are adults, there will continue to be weddings, birthday parties, funerals, family reunions, other get-togethers, and grandchildren. Even just the added stress from drama with the other parent could mean a lost relationship for you.

For those in a monogamous relationship, there is always the chance your partner will end up getting back into a relationship with the other parent or starting up a sexual relationship with them again. After all, regardless of how they might feel about them now, at one point they had a sexual relationship with them and even felt close enough to bring a child into the world. That creates a special, spiritual connection between the two that shouldn’t be downplayed.

I personally do not date men with children. However, this is a personal choice and is not meant to be prescriptive. I think, especially for those who cannot have kids or do not want to add to the human population but want kids, it can be wonderful to meet a built-in, ready-made family. Keeping the above considerations in mind can help in deciding whether you are comfortable dating a single parent and, if so, help you traverse the most common pitfalls that can jeopardize your relationship.

Mental Illness Masks Personality

Does anybody else struggling with mental illness feel like they don’t know themselves? Like they know the minds of other people more intimately than their own? With obsessive-compulsive traits, past trauma, severe depression, and anxiety, I am finding it nearly impossible to know myself, although I’ve reached my late 30’s. I attempt to reach way back in time to childhood in order to grasp the essence of myself, before I was changed by my world, by the version of the world that was shown to me, the only world I knew, before it had time to make its mark. Then I realize even as a young child my mental health issues had already started to present, as the daughter of one parent diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder with histrionic traits and another codependent, weak parent and severe depression, as well. I consider the possibility I have never been me, but instead always a character crafted by my circumstances, experiences, and genetics. Does that take away my humanity? Aren’t animals simply results of their instincts and past owners? Am I really shy and introverted? Or is that the anxiety and depression masking a confident, extraverted personality? Am I pensive and contemplative, nerdy and “book smart”, or is that the obsession with my thoughts? Would I be more flaky and carefree? Am I a “born leader” or is that me desperately attempting to control my own life as well as those around me? Am I a committed advocate for social change, a good progressive, or simply addiction to the negativity I have come to know and expect, similar to my current addiction to food which has caused me to blow up to over 300 pounds?

Anyway, just some thoughts.

What it Means to Be an Adult

I’ve been thinking lately about what exactly it means to be an adult anymore. I don’t mean physically, either. It wasn’t that long ago that soon after reaching legal adulthood, people would marry, move out of their parents’ house, get their own place, and start having babies. However, for someone like me who has gone back to school in her 30’s, doesn’t want marriage or kids, and is currently living with her mother, what does it mean to be an adult and how should that look in my life?

I’m hardly alone. More people now than ever are going back to school later in life, choosing against marriage and kids (or doing those things later), and moving back in with family. I think it can be chalked up to more jobs requiring education past high school, inflation, stagnant wages, globalization, women enjoying more rights, and people having more freedom to travel and gain experiences before settling down.

Beyond this question, though, I ask myself why I feel I need to know these markers of adulthood. Am I uncomfortable there’s no measuring stick? Am I insecure in my lack of knowledge as to whether I meet some arbitrary (and currently unknown to me) societal standard? Am I judging myself? Is anybody else feeling this specific type of floatiness and drift and trying to feel the metaphorical bottom with their feet right now?

Using a Waterpik Changed My Life

I started using a Waterpik waterflosser a little over a year ago. I wanted to help ensure my gums were strong and not solely rely on flossing after going to the dentist and having it recommended to me. For the past 12 years or so I have had some gum recession on my upper gums along each side (like where vampire fangs would be), presumably from brushing too hard. It was especially bad on the right side. It was ugly, the exposed root was yellow, it was sensitive, and food would caught every time I ate. But I did not expect the Waterpik to fix that. To my shock, after 6-12 months of using it every day, I saw that my gum recession had all but disappeared. I wasn’t getting food stuck, and I wasn’t embarrassed of my appearance. Hardly any recession remained. Thought I’d write a post about it in case anyone wants to try this. I honestly had thought that at some point I’d have to pay for expensive skin grafting If I ever wanted to fix it. However, a $35 cordless Waterpik did the trick. Hope this helps someone!

The Internet is Radicalizing Us

As a kid of the 90’s, I often heard the adults around me (especially relatives) discussing politics and often not agreeing with each other on every single point. They were still able to respect each other and be together without hard feelings. Thanksgiving was tense. Attitude polarization, where group members’ attitudes tend to become more radical after speaking with likeminded people about the issue, and group polarization, where groups tend to become more radical in response to the specific inclinations of their members, are two related effects that can often be seen today. The ultimate goal, whether conscious or not, is groupthink, where the group thinks as a whole in order not to allow for any critical or skeptical voices. Logic and facts are often discarded if they do not line up with the group’s belief systems. Belief in conspiracy theories are common.

One example are incels. Men have always chased women and seen it as a boon or bruise to their ego depending upon women’s responses to them. There is nothing new about this, and a much lighter attitude used to be taken about the matter, with many romcoms being made about the subject. However, the incel movement, begun and strengthened online, is something much more sinister. Men who feel they have not gotten the attention from women they deserve claim they are “involuntarily celibate” and as a result, resentment towards women has grown. Where in the past, a man might have sought to improve himself in order to appeal to the opposite sex, the narrative has been changed to one that bashes and dehumanizes women. There have even been violent attacks carried out by those who proudly wear the “incel” title.

Another example are my parents, lifelong conservative Republicans. They have never been anti-vax. I got all of my vaccines growing up. And vaccines were not considered controversial (other than by a very few on the fringes), or even as political in nature. Vaccines save lives. We got vaccinated. No more thought than that was put into the issue. However, with the rise of Trump and anti-science rhetoric in general, my parents (my dad being a physician) have both decried the Covid shot. My mom, who already is in ill health, has decided to forgo getting it at all. She spends a lot of time on Facebook and follows many conservative pages and has many conservative “friends” posting anti-vax propaganda for her to read. In a different, earlier life she would have rejected all of it and chalked them up to being crazies. In this new world, where even adults are now subject to peer pressure via the internet and where anything in typed form is inherently imbued with legitimacy, the lines are much blurrier. Facts have been reduced to opinions, which can be rejected by will, and opinions have risen to the position facts used to hold.

Although I realize the two-party system is not ideal, I remember a time when there were only small differences between Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, those days are long past. Now each seems to have more radicalized fringes, and those fringes seem to be much more heavily populated. Bipartisanship is never the goal anymore, with those who even mention it being seen as soft and vacillatory.

Even I have been the victim (participant?) of radicalization. I find it harder and more uncomfortable than ever to teeter between two extremes or even to recognize extremes. I have to constantly question myself. Does this make sense? Is it backed by facts and logic, or simply emotion? Do I really believe this, or do I just want to feel completely aligned with those who do? If I stop believing this or start believing something different, am I scared I will lose something or somebody?

Your Life Purpose Might Not Be a Paying One

Something I try to remember is that my life purpose/calling might not be a paying venture. And when I say life purpose, I don’t mean the societally-created purpose you’re supposed to find for yourself, the hidden reason you’re on the earth (that coincidentally is always financially profitable), the one you’re supposed to spend your teenage years/ young adulthood searching for if you ever want fulfillment or satisfaction (or a consistent roof over your head). No, I’m talking the purpose you create for yourself based on your intimate self-knowledge, self-love, and self-understanding. I’m learning what excites, motivates, and stirs me might not pay me. What I’m the best at, where my strengths and abilities lie, might not be considered marketable, and therefore won’t pay me. I’m learning the millennia-old spark that magnifies purpose and belonging in each person’s heart is completely separate from the few-hundred-years’ old concept of capitalism. So if what I do for pay doesn’t necessarily speak to who I am, it’s all right. It’s not meant to speak to who I am or reflect who I am. Its purpose is much more humble.

Books I Read and Loved in 2021

Here are my favorite books I read in 2021, in no specific order. Please let me know if you’ve read any from my list and if you read any good books in 2021!

Fiction:

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Nonfiction:

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Humans by Brandon Stanton

Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales

Think Again by Adam Grant

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Olga Mecking

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport