Sad-face: Depression and Anxiety in Perspective

“Just snap out of it”

“At least you don’t have a ‘real’ disease”

“The medicine you’re taking is probably keeping you from getting better”

“You’re just using it as an excuse so you don’t have to work as hard as everyone else”

“Just another person with a ‘victim’ mentality”

“You didn’t even experience that much trauma, just get over it already”

“You should just smile and you’ll feel better”

It may be surprising to some people that all of these thoughts (and worse) come from my own autocannibalistic brain. Occasionally I read/hear disparaging statements about mental health issues from other sources, but the most damaging and destructive opinions are self-generated.

And the denial! I am constantly amazed that after 10 years of this shit I can still convince myself that nothing is wrong (while absolutely disintegrating mentally and withdrawing from any and all social contact).

Go ahead, ask me what’s wrong.

My answer: Nothing. Everything is great! (Raise eyebrows, keep eye contact, smile).

Lists seem to be a popular thing on the internet so I came up with one, and in order to make it more universally appealing I will work from the assumption that more than one person experiences the things I experience!* Plus I came up with a super catchy name for my list:

A list of things you might not know about depression and anxiety that your friend, partner, or family member may be dealing with on their own:

1. Depression is not “sadness.” Depression is all the negative emotions you can possibly imagine (sorrow, grief, anger, frustration, desolation, loneliness, incompetence, hopelessness, and despair) all morphed into a giant sucking void that drowns out all other thoughts and feelings and has an overall effect of creating an EMPTY shell of tired useless human husk.

This shit is no joke. When my husband asks me, “What’s wrong?” (so he can try to fix whatever is making me curl up in a ball on the floor) what can I say? “I am sad” doesn’t really convey the black hole of agonizing misery residing in the center of my chest.

Your brain literally feels like it doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, that no one wants anything to do with you, and why (really) WHY haven’t you driven off a bridge already? Continue reading

The War on Drugs: Racism, Profits, and More Profits

In my previous post I explored two myths about illegal drugs in the US:

  1. Illegal drugs are more dangerous than legal drugs
  2. Drug use is linked to higher rates of criminal violence

After looking at the death rates related to illegal and legal substances, we were able to substantiate that most illegal drugs pose very little risk to public health when compared to their legal counterparts (alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals). We also established that illegal drug use by individuals is not a public safety issue. Drug use and violence aren’t inherently linked, and most violent crimes are not drug-related.

The first two myths are propagated on a grand scale to enforce the concept of moral policing. If we (society) think an activity is dangerous to the public, we tend to view that activity as immoral. The activity may not, in fact, be dangerous to anyone other than the person doing it (think skateboarding, skydiving, mountain climbing, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, eating McDonalds) but if it’s widely accepted that the activity is wrong, it matters not that the person doing it isn’t actually hurting anyone else at all. Stigmas associated with imprisonment and addiction further the ideology that drug use is fundamentally immoral, and populations that are associated with illegal drug use are forced outside societal norms and grouped together with people who actually do cause harm to others. Therefore, we’re gradually and systematically less injured to the idea that people in possession of small amounts of illegal substances can be sentenced to over 10 years in prison (or in this man’s case, life in prison) when rapists and murderers serve comparable sentences.

Race and Incarceration

After bombarding you with numbers in Part 1, I decided a chart was in order to really communicate the disparities for minorities in the criminal justice system. The data from the chart below was found from two sources: Bureau for Justice Statistics and the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.

Drug use and incarceration rates chart

African Americans make up only 12% of illicit drug users, yet represent over 40% of those imprisoned for drug use.

While African Americans make up only 12% of people who use illegal drugs, they comprise over 40% of people incarcerated for drug use. This alone should be alarming. Why are minorities being arrested and convicted at higher rates for using the same illegal drugs as White people? And not only are conviction rates higher for African Americans -the sentences are also longer. According to The Sentencing Project:

“A study published in 2000 found that blacks in Kansas City received sentences that were 14.09 months longer for drug offense convictions and 6.57 months longer for property crime convictions than sentences given to similarly situated whites.”

And a 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal reported that sentences for Black men are on average 20% longer than for White men who commit similar crimes.1

WTF, America?

Additionally, users of crack cocaine face much harsher criminal penalties than those who use its almost molecularly identical powder version, the regular (rich white people) cocaine. There is quite literally no difference between the two except for the addition of baking soda to crack cocaine, which lowers the melting temperature, allowing the user to melt and smoke it instead of snorting it up their nose. But as you saw from the mandatory minimums in the last post, you’d have to be hauling around over 5 kilograms of Cocaine (powder) in order to get the same minimum 10 years to life sentence you’d get for possessing 280 grams (about 10 ounces) of Cocaine base (crack).

Decriminalizing illegal drugs won’t fix social injustice in our justice system, but it will help narrow that HUGE sentencing gap that is massively racist and classist and just all-around fucked up.

The Privatization of Prisons

Whenever there is an institutional resistance to rational change, there’s usually a financial motive driving that resistance. The war against drugs is no different. There is big money for a select few in maintaining the status quo, to the tune of $79 billion dollars. Factor in phone companies, commissary companies, prison uniform companies, toiletry companies, the prison construction industry… and well, you’ll be hard pressed to find an industry that doesn’t have an interest in the business of incarceration. Even some of our nation’s public school employee pension plans are investing in private prisons.

What does this mean? It means that in order for these companies to continue making money, people need to keep getting arrested and sentenced to prison. And that equals lobbies and political manipulation.

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) maintains a presence in 66 privately run prisons in the U.S and has spent almost $2 million in political donations and over $17 million in lobby expenses over the last nine years, reporting a total revenue of $1.7 billion for 2011. The second largest prison corporation, The Geo Group, Inc. has comparable numbers, and both companies’ CEOs make a combined 9.4 million dollars per year.

By securing contracts with State governments guaranteeing 90+% occupancy rates, CCA is placing those same governments in the position of having to arrest a minimum number of people. CCA has publicly lobbied against relaxed penalties for minor drug possession, reporting in 2010 “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws.” CCA and The Geo Group advocate mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws, and Arizona’s recently passed controversial immigration law.

Private prisons tout their cost savings as a selling point, but their performance records (violence in the prisons, falsified staff records, substandard living conditions, abusive treatment of inmates)2 and the fact that their cost estimates do not include housing inmates with mental or physical health issues (of whom state-run prisons are housing in substantial numbers) mask substantial hidden expenses. In AZ, private prisons aren’t even required to provide cost comparisons to state-run facilities anymore, thanks to AZ legislation pushed by Representative John Kavanaugh and Governor Jan Brewer, both huge proponents of the private prison industry. AND, according to Daily KOS, Brewer’s “Chief of Staff, Paul Senseman, is a former lobbyist for the Corrections Corporation of America.”

That’s some scary shit. The pressure on local police departments to deliver an appropriate number of bodies to the prisons is driving an increase in arrests for minor drug crimes that are of no threat to public health or safety. People are being traded for money. People are losing their freedom and their families for years, sometimes decades, and capital lost from unemployment and urban decay is being sucked out of our lower income communities and funneled into the pockets of the prison industry.

The Liquor (and Pharmaceutical) Lobbies want you to Keep Drinking (duh)

To recap from the first post, the vast majority of illegal substances are no more dangerous or harmful to your health than legal drugs sold to us today (either for recreational use or over the counter prescriptions). Alcohol and tobacco, along with pharmaceutical opioids, are excessively bad for your health and responsible for millions of deaths per year, yet there are millions of dollars in political lobby contributions to make sure you’re led to believe that these substances are somehow safer than illegal substances. And because the liquor, pharmaceutical, prison, and tobacco lobbies want to keep making money, the war on drugs is still a thing and regular people are being sent to prison for possession at higher rates each year.

Cost of incarceration

It costs an average of $28,000 per year to house an inmate in a federal prison. In California, it costs around $49,000. That doesn’t include the cost to arrest, process, and convict an individual, nor does it take into account the personnel hours of law enforcement to patrol, arrest, interview, and process evidence. In most states, the cost to keep an adult locked up exceeds the number of dollars spent to educate students in elementary and secondary school. Look at this graph – it’s crazy. Nationally, excluding municipal and county jails, the cost adds up to $79 billion per year.

Treatment programs, by comparison, cost about $4000-$6000 PER YEAR per individual, and in states where treatment programs are already in place, they demonstrate higher success rates in reducing recidivism – up to 67% in Brooklyn’s DTAP (Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison) program (and isn’t that the whole point?). Additionally, the people receiving treatment continue to work and pay taxes, especially when they are able to avoid the massive stigma of a felony conviction.

What are other countries doing?

Portugal – Decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2000

Brazil – Users are not sent to jail, those in possession of small amounts of drugs are not imprisoned.

Uruguay – Legalized marijuana in 2013 and does not impose jail sentences for use and possession of small amounts of other drugs

Czech Republic – Possession of small amounts of marijuana, ecstasy, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, mushrooms, and hashish is not a criminal offense. Legislation to legalize marijuana is pending.

Spain – Drug consumption is not a crime in Spain.

Denmark – Provides state-sanctioned “drug rooms” where users can consume small quantities of heroin and cocaine.

Find more information on international drug law reform here:


1For further reading on racial disparities in sentencing, visit these sites:

2Some States are taking over management of private prisons now after years of reports detailing appalling conditions, high turnover, undertrained staff, and increased levels of violence.

DARE to Stop Buying into Drug War Propaganda

I don’t want to lose you so I’ll start slow:

The Federal Government should legalize all illegal drugs.

Whoa- sorry. That just popped out. I was going to start with some statistics, walk you down the path that led me to make that very controversial statement. My bad.

Let’s start over.

You know, I think most people find the idea of doing meth distasteful. Same goes for heroin and crack cocaine. We shake our heads in dismay at the physical toll it takes on the body. We worry about our children and the choices they’ll make when they encounter illegal drugs.

I was first introduced to the concept of decriminalization1 in 2008 by a neighbor of mine in Colorado. He said the most shocking thing: “We should decriminalize all drugs.” And I freaked out. Freaked. Out. (Because: A. I’m a product of the D.A.R.E. generation; and B. At the time, I worked as a Corrections Officer at the county jail and a large number of inmates were obvious meth users and had sad, scary lives.)

My two main impressions about illegal drugs (and these are probably concerns shared by many other Americans) were these:

  1. Illegal drugs are worse for your health and more dangerous than legal drugs
  2. Illegal drug use is linked to higher rates of criminal violence

“What about heroin!? What about coke? And crack and meth!!! And…well, won’t it be dangerous for kids!?” I asked.

“Isn’t alcohol dangerous for kids? And cigarettes? And bleach? And riding in cars? And guns? And swimming? All of those things are legal.”

He was sort of flip and tended to disparage government services and regulation in general (he once told me we should eliminate speed limits and that driving drunk should be legal so long as you didn’t kill anyone), so I dropped the subject and wrote him off as one of those sovereign citizen types.

Health Concerns

But then I moved to Washington, and in 2012 it was one of two states to legalize recreational marijuana possession. I started doing some research about the actual safety and health concerns related to cannabis and came up with   … nothing. Really. In the history of all recorded causes of death ever, not one single person has died of marijuana overdose2. Not one.

Additionally, there are no long-term health effects (other than lung-related ailments if one is a long-term smoker of weed, and alternative methods of consumption eliminate this health risk).

Even the DEA and CDC fact sheets on LSD, “magic mushrooms” and mescaline were surprisingly benign (the exact words were “Deaths exclusively from acute overdose of LSD magic mushrooms, and mescaline are extremely rare.”) Yes, heroin and meth are more dangerous, and the instances of overdose are more common.3 But did you know that in 2010 more people in the US died of prescription drug overdose (22,134) than all other illegal drugs combined (17,000)?4 And even that number is peanuts when you look at the number of deaths caused by alcohol in the US alone: 88,000. In the world: 2.5 million.

Globally, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year. In the US, more than 440,000 people die every year from cigarette smoking (including second-hand smoke related fatalities). Yet smoking and drinking are legal, regulated, and taxed. And we know from experience that alcohol prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking or curb the distribution of alcohol (rather, it made drinking more dangerous than it is now due to unsafe manufacturing processes and unregulated alcohol content, not to mention the illegal enterprises that sprouted up to make money on the black market).

It’s clear that the most common illegal drugs are hardly a public health risk when compared to legal substances, so what are some of the other arguments against legalizing or decriminalizing illegal drugs?

Crime and Criminals

Along with concerns about the health effects of illegal drugs, my other immediate reaction to the idea of decriminalization involved public safety and crime related to drug use, trafficking, and dealing. Weren’t people who used and dealt drugs also violent? That’s why they go to prison, right? Wrong.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 3.9% of homicides are drug-related5.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom and popular myth, alcohol is more tightly linked with more violent crimes than crack, cocaine, heroin or any other illegal drug. In state prisons, 21 percent of inmates in prison for violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol–and no other substance–when they committed their crime; in contrast, at the time of their crimes, only three percent of violent offenders were under the influence of cocaine or crack alone, only one percent under the influence of heroin alone.”  – Joseph Califano, Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population

In 2007, more than 14 million arrests were made in the US. Of those, drug abuse violations came in at #1 with over 1.8 million people arrested for possession, trafficking, manufacturing, and distribution of illegal substances. According to the same BJS report, more than 4/5 of those arrests were for possession. And while the number of arrests for sale or manufacture of drugs has stayed static at about 300,000 annually since the late 80s, the number of arrests for possession has tripled from around 500,000 per year to over 1.5 million arrests per year.

And when these people are arrested, they’re very often convicted and sent to prison. Federal mandatory minimums, truth in sentencing laws, and three-strikes laws have all played extensive roles in the prison population explosion in the last 20 years. Not only are people going to prison for non-violent crimes, they’re often going away for a very, very long time. Federal mandatory minimums outline the sentencing ranges for different amounts of illegal substances:

Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A) and 960(b)(1), a statutory range of ten years to life applies to offenses involving at least:

1 kilogram of Heroin

5 kilograms of Cocaine (powder)

280 grams of Cocaine base

1,000 kilograms of Marijuana or 1,000 plants

50 grams of actual Methamphetamine or 500 grams of mixture or substance

Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(B) and 960(b)(2), a statutory range of 5 to 40 years applies to offenses involving at least:

100 grams of Heroin

500 grams of Cocaine (powder)

28 grams of Cocaine base

100 kilograms of Marijuana or 100 plants

5 grams of actual Methamphetamine or 50 grams of mixture or substance

Enhanced Penalties. Sections 841(b) and 960(b) include enhancement provisions based on the defendant’s prior record, which are only applicable if the government provides notice pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851 (Proceedings to establish previous convictions). A qualifying prior conviction increases a 5- to 40-year range to a range of 10 years to life. A qualifying prior conviction increases a 10-year mandatory minimum to a 20-year mandatory minimum (the maximum remains life); a second qualifying prior conviction increases a 10-year mandatory minimum to mandatory life.

That’s a lot of numbers so I’ll take a break for now. What I want to point out here is that millions of people (including a vastly disproportionate number of Black and Latino/a Americans) are going to prison and staying in prison for a long time simply for possessing and using substances that are comparable to legal drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and acetaminophen.


There are a number of reasons why the war on drugs is still a viable platform for our politicians – too many reasons to discuss in detail today – But we’ve looked at two of the most successfully propagated myths (public health and crime prevention) and in my next post I plan to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system as well as examine the financial motivations in the war on drugs (like private prisons and the liquor lobby).

The fundamental question is this: Do people who choose to use drugs deserve to go to prison for doing so? Really think about that. And if your answer is still “Yes,” ask yourself if people who drink alcohol deserve to go to prison, or if people who use prescription drugs should be locked up? After prohibition failed miserably in the US, the US Government adjusted its approach. Rather than make the alcohol illegal, it was regulated and taxed. And those activities that presented a true public health or safety risk were made illegal (driving while intoxicated, contributing to a minor, etc.) So now that I’ve thrown some statistics at you, I’ll reframe my original statement: The war on drugs isn’t slowing drug use or reducing violent crime. It’s time to decriminalize all illegal drug use and possession.




————–This is Part 1 of a two-part series————-


1The difference between “legal” and “decriminalized” varies by state. While Washington State has “legalized” possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, there are still a significant number of regulations restricting how it will be grown, processed, and sold. So, it’s legal in the state of Washington to carry and consume specified amounts of marijuana, but much like alcohol and tobacco there are laws to regulate the sale and manufacture of cannabis goods, as well as laws that detail enforcement and sentencing for selling to a minor, driving under the influence, and public consumption. “Decriminalization,” on the other hand, often simply involves a local or state convening authority declaring that certain activities will no longer be prosecutable offenses, or that those activities will now be considered misdemeanors or civil infractions punishable only by fines rather than felony offenses. In 2010, prior to I-502 (the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in WA state) the Seattle City Council voted to reclassify possession of small amounts of marijuana as a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor, and the Mayor instructed the police department to make arrests and searches for cannabis the department’s lowest priority. This was essentially decriminalization. There were no laws explicitly authorizing possession of cannabis, but sanctions for violations were much more lenient, if/when they were enforced at all.

If it seems that I’m using these terms interchangeably throughout this post, it’s because I am. Decriminalization is the more likely than legalization for the majority of presently illegal substances.  I’ll take either one (or both).

2In contrast, according to, over 1500 people died from acetaminophen poisoning between 2001 and 2010. That’s about 150 people per year.

346 people died of heroin overdoses in Minneapolis in 2011 – by comparison 204 people died in the same city during 2011 in motor vehicle accidents

417,000 deaths attributed to illegal drugs, including those deaths caused by vehicle accidents, HIV infections, and hepatitis

5 Victims of violent crimes who chose to participate in the BJS victim perception survey reported that just 4.9% of offenders were on drugs when they committed their violent crime. Alcohol, however, was reported by to be a factor in over 15% of violent crimes. 28.8% reported the perpetrator was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and 44.2% reported they didn’t know.

Stop holding your breath. Writing is breathing for your brain.

It’s a relatively recent development: I am obsessed with documenting stuff. I take thousands of pictures of random shit, and aside from the pictures of my kids hardly any of it is significant subject matter (think trees and clouds and more trees). I recently had to go through and make some tough decisions and cull/transfer a few hundred photos of vegetation and other random stuff after I filled up my 120 GB hard drive. It made me sad because I am like Gollum and hoard files, books, and music like treasure.

I have the same compulsion about writing and over the past few years I have squirreled away bits and pieces of poems, essays, the fledgling beginnings of a memoir (it’s gonna be a best seller, I just know it) (←haha), and even some fiction in various cloud storage accounts and hard drives. Fortunately text files take up virtually no space so I can keep amassing my collection of words without worrying too much about consolidating or streamlining. Unlike my photography obsession, the compulsion to write is less documentation and more exploration. I fixate on certain snapshots of conversations or events and look at those in the larger context of the world around me. When something hooks my attention I consciously place a bookmark in my brain so I can revisit it later. If I’m distracted or driving (or almost asleep) and I fail to purposefully remember (meaning, I forget to say to myself: Hey self, make sure you remember this so you can write it down later), I practically mourn those fleeting thoughts and ideas that pass through my consciousness, their perfect shape and essence disintegrated into fragments of nothing. I just know [xyz idea] would have made the best short story or poem but now I can’t remember a goddam thing…

Then there are those thoughts and moments that (whether I like it or not) stay stuck, fixed in my brain on a loop until I release them in composition. Until the words are out of my head I’m held hostage by my own brain, unable to fully focus on anything else. I had one pestering me this morning, a sharp, clear recollection from Christmas day:


Pre-dawn Christmas morning.

The sky was dark; the sun wouldn’t be up until 7 or so. Still foggy from sleep, I was dressing in the master bathroom and listening to the lilting tones of my children through the walls that separated me from the living room. The sound of their voices traveled uninterrupted but there was a fluffy quilt wrapped quality about their words making them incomprehensible. Most were questions, I assumed, because of the upturn at the end of their muffled phrases. Their father would answer in low gentle tones, occasionally interrupted by the higher voices. I paused and just listened for a minute to the waves of low and high tones like a beautiful song with no pattern.

This was the sound of my home. This was the sound of my family and they were happy. We are happy.

Even though this was not a bad memory to have hijacking my thoughts, after getting that little gem out of my head I felt all limber and comfortable in my brain – once I captured it “on paper” I could move on to other stuff – because the thing is – I just can’t focus on anything else when my mind is otherwise preoccupied drafting prose.

But unlike my beautiful Christmas memory in that paragraph up there, sometimes the memories and thoughts aren’t so nice. Before I realized I could write stuff down and feel better doing it, I spent years with bad memories and terrifying and angry thoughts, to the extent that I couldn’t even remember (or enjoy) the beautiful things anymore.

When I first started dealing with symptoms of what has since been diagnosed as post-traumatic stress, the social worker at the VA hospital recommended journaling. Journaling! I thought it was a giant crock of shit (yes, humble pie is very delicious). Four years ago I couldn’t even look at the silent horror show that was running in the background of my mind and relentlessly skirting the peripheral of my thoughts – so how the hell was I supposed to write about it?

But my anger became all-consuming. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was drowning in rage and sorrow. I screamed at my children, I screamed at my husband. I collapsed on the bathroom floor more times than I can count, unable to do anything but muffle my racking sobs with my legs as I sat curled up against the wall. I started drinking to dull the sharp edge of my pain. It helped quell my anger for the most part but made the depression more pronounced. I would imagine all the different ways I could end this overwhelming sadness, envisioning just the slightest turn of the steering wheel to guide my car off the side of an overpass or into oncoming traffic. Or I’d picture a quiet end in my sleep, never thinking death but always seeing it and wishing for it.

I finally started to write my pain because there wasn’t anything else I could do. And it hurt so much. I thought I was making it worse at first, because bringing all the scary shit to the forefront seemed to be making my nightmares more intense, my startle reaction more pronounced. But then I started to re-read my own words and re-write so that it was more and more descriptive and narrative [rather than me vomiting my emotions into half-formed phrases], and I realized that I gained power over those memories when I typed them out on my screen. They loosened their hold on me and the vise in my chest began to ease. So I started writing more. I wrote stream of consciousness, I wrote poetry, I wrote short stories and essays. I incorporated all those bad memories into stories about my life, about the things I had witnessed and experienced, and what do you know? I started remembering the good stuff too. Buried in my anger and depression, those good memories began to seep into my writing – just a little bit at first, and then more so as I pushed forward – and slowly, steadily balanced out the anger and fear that had taken over my life.

Now it’s no longer simply catharsis. Writing is my primary mode of creative, emotional, and political expression. It’s how I connect with the world around me, and how I archive my experiences, both bad and good. It’s how my brain breathes.


No mini-skirts after 30.

A little cleavage is okay- whoa, not that much.

Don’t wear heels if you’re tall.

Flats aren’t sexy.

Don’t have sex on the first date.

Don’t call him, he’ll call you.

Stop being so pushy.


Always wear mascara.

He’s an ass-man. He’s a breast-man.

Don’t be emotional. Don’t be needy. Don’t be a nag.

Make him treat you like the princess you are.

If you lose just five pounds…


Lie about your age.

Lie about your weight.

Cover those grays!

Long hair is sexy.

Pubic hair is not.



Go from night to day with this must-have nail color!

Don’t be aggressive.

White teeth are sexy. Age spots are not.

Panty lines are gross.

Get a pedicure.

Cover up those flabby upper arms.

Stop being so sensitive.

Men are better drivers.

Don’t act like a man.

Tick-tock. That’s the sound of your biological clock.

Stretch-mark removal cream. Anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, anti-turkey neck, dark circles spot scar hair remover.

Come-fuck-me shoes. Booty call. Walk of shame. Hag. Witch. Bitch. Slut. Whore.

Christmas in Iraq, 2003

We were relatively comfortable by December. We had a roof over our heads and cots cushioned with mini mattresses purchased through our local ice-man.* Next to my cot I had a few packages from my family that I was saving for Christmas morning. 


Yes I’m painting my toenails. And that’s a cast I acquired after some douchebag picked me up (without my consent) and then dropped me on my ankle after he realized I’m no 120 pound snowflake. Lamest. Story. Ever.

The daily grind, running operations in our little indoor ops corner, was bearable. Although punctuated by other platoon operations, illness, or injuries, we’d worked out a system in the squad that amounted to 8 hour shifts for each of us, leaving considerable “free time” to wallow in our holiday blues and chain-smoke like 3 packs a day… I think by that time we may have even had access to email. Conditions were much, much better than when we first arrived. 


I’m the goofy-looking one in the middle.

Our 3-person squad was attached to a 2nd Brigade support battalion in Mosul. I want to say we got there in May but my memories are patchy so it could have been late April. I do remember we were in this weird limbo status between our assigned location with the support battalion and our attachment to Bravo Company which was located elsewhere in the city.**

We had established our “home” in one of the many courtyard complexes scattered throughout the partially blown-up Iraqi military compound. It was a low U-shaped building with 2 or 3 individual rooms (with entrances facing the interior courtyard) on each of the three sides. All the windows were shattered, some of the shards still jutting out from the frames, the rest of the glass was in piles inside and outside the building. A theater (or what I assumed was a theater) across the street offered a possible explanation for the broken windows; the blackened front entrance, debris scattered outward, and more damage visible at the top of the structure indicated a recent explosion or fire (my guess was it got blown the fuck up – sort of, since it was still standing). At our courtyard building all the doors were also missing, but here they were ripped off their hinges, and the rooms on the opposite side of the courtyard were littered with spent munitions casings and rocket tubes, some possibly Russian (Soviet era?) We left those rooms undisturbed after we heard that some of the rounds might still be live but unstable and, more alarming, potentially depleted uranium rounds.


That’s shit burning in the background. Some of it is mine.

The engineers dug a huge pit in the middle of the courtyard so we could burn our garbage, and over the next 8 months we worked with the local Iraqis to make additional improvements to our site. After a few months we scored 2 gravity-fed flushing toilets to replace the seat-less chair and plastic bag system we were using before (we no longer had to burn our shit in an oil drum! Very awesome).

We also got a gravity-fed shower to go with the toilets, and it was the most amazing day ever.*** I’m pretty sure I got some 1.5 degree burns from attempting showers in the late summer afternoons after the sun had been heating the water in the tank to near boiling temperatures – morning time was better, not so risky. We also had the broken windows replaced by a local glazier and he used weird squishy caulk that never stopped being squishy (if those windows are still there, my thumbnail marks in the squishy window caulk are probably still there too, unless they’ve been squished and replaced by the thumbnail marks of other morose soldiers over the last ten years), And finally, we worked with a local electrician to have a power outlet installed so we could bring our equipment inside rather than keeping our vehicle constantly running.

So it wasn’t awful (by shitty-Iraq standards) – we were pretty lucky with our set-up. There were still soldiers living outside with no toilets – not even seat-less chairs, and there were others living in crowded tents with no access to their own awesome ice-man.

But overall, it still really sucked. There were still explosions from mortars and IEDs, still people getting shot, still people shooting at us, still stupid Army politics and bullshit sexism, groping, and fear of getting raped by our own people. In short, we were still in a combat zone and we still weren’t entirely sure when we would get to go home. During that pretty abysmal and lonely holiday season (by most non-shitty-Iraq standards), I received a letter from a wonderful woman who wanted to sponsor me for Christmas. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I was shocked at how amazing it made me feel to read kind words from this stranger and know that she and her family were using their time and money to do something special for someone they didn’t even know. I was surprised when I felt tears well up in my eyes; I hadn’t even realized how much I needed this beautiful and generous gift.

They sent me cards and photos. Her kids drew little pictures for me and they sent a stocking stuffed with amazing things like candy and lotion and fun little Christmas toys. I felt connected to home through them. I hung the stocking over my M-249 rifle on the dirty, pitted wall next to my Kevlar helmet and vest.

On Christmas day I woke up feeling sort of empty and flat. I opened my packages in the morning and we had turkey for lunch at the chow hall. Later that evening I re-read all my cards and letters, and maybe it was because I didn’t know this family so I couldn’t miss them but when I read their letters, the yearning to be home wasn’t a sharp stabbing pain, it was more of a dull ache, and I felt included and recognized and valued without the overwhelming wave of sorrow that seemed to always accompany letters from my family.

I heard a story on NPR the other day about melancholy Christmas songs and it made so much sense. Many of the mournful tunes like “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Blue Christmas” were written during WWII, when war was all encompassing and it was probably pretty difficult to be festive when you missed your loved ones.  Although it was written later, “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas always evokes for me that same feeling of thankfulness and acceptance, lined with the homesickness and sadness that I experienced in Iraq.


* The ice-man’s name was Mahmoud, and he started out bringing us huge blocks of ice in the summer but soon he was procuring all sorts of stuff for us, including the mattresses and delicious homemade baba ghanoush.

** Additionally, because our platoon was actually part of Delta Company back in Fort Campbell, KY, the leadership at Bravo Company weren’t exactly throwing their arms open to welcome us. So when we were at the support battalion location we were on our own, isolated organizationally from the rest of the soldiers around us, and when we were at B Co headquarters there was a strong feeling that we didn’t belong there either.

*** Before the most amazing day ever, we were fortunate to have a field shower maintained by the support battalion. The field shower, set up shortly after we arrived in Mosul, was a vast improvement over our previous “facilities” (someone else holding up a poncho while you dump water over your head from a plastic water bottle) but as the weather warmed, venturing into the steamy, jungle-like atmosphere of the dark green shower tent became an effort in futility. I’m pretty sure I was sweating while I was taking a shower, and it continued as I attempted to towel off, resulting in a sweat-drenched Stephanie stumbling out of the dark oppressive heat of the tent into the blinding oppressive heat of the day, Was I cleaner? Yes. Did I feel clean? Meh.

Being an Atheist at Christmas

“Merry CHRISTMAS,” I am greeted by my coworker with a very emphatic Christmas greeting when I walk into my office.

“Um, Merry Christmas to you as well. Why the militant Christmas greeting this morning?”

“I’m just so TIRED of getting all these “Happy Holidays” cards. It’s CHRISTMAS. That’s what we’re celebrating, right?”

“That’s what you’re celebrating.” I shot back with a wink, letting him know I was being intentionally obnoxious, and not just my regular humorless* godless self.

“Yeah, yeah- I know other people are celebrating other holidays.” He sounds the tiniest bit apologetic.

*My coworkers are sort of assholes when it comes to their religious beliefs. I rarely talk about my (lack of) beliefs because these guys are pretty PRO GOD. I said “Holiday Party” when referring to our department’s annual “Holiday Party” last year (because that’s what it’s called) and the old man almost lost his shit. IT’S CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS, GODDAMMIT!” And then he called me a heathen and a pagan (I know, I didn’t even bother) for months until I told him I was going to go to HR if he didn’t knock it off.

“There isn’t really a war on Christmas, you know,” I’m totally being more obnoxious than necessary. My coworker watches Fox news and occasionally we talk about how ridiculous some of their stories are, but for the most part he seems to find their coverage “fair and balanced.”

“I KNOW there isn’t a war on Christmas!” Now he sounds defensive. (Muhahaha, JUSTICE)

I pour my coffee and sit down at my desk. “Chill out dude. We “celebrate” Christmas at our house and we aren’t even Christian.”

And we do celebrate the holiday. We have a tree. We do gifts and cards and Christmas lunch. Pretty much the whole shebang without the Jesus part.

However, growing up Catholic, Jesus was a central figure in my childhood Christmas celebrations. Pageants and Advent and midnight Mass were all annual traditions that put Jesus front and center, not just on Christmas morning but also for weeks before and after the holiday.

My move away from the church began when I opted out of confirmation at the age of 16, and I stopped going to Mass altogether when I joined the Army at the age of 17. After I came home from Iraq, I wasn’t quite an atheist, but I certainly wasn’t Catholic anymore. My “nuclear” family is very secular: My husband identifies as an atheist, and while I don’t typically define my lack of religious beliefs as atheism, for simplicity I’ve done so here.

Sometimes I feel a deep nostalgia for the parts we leave out of our Christmas celebrations now, and I miss the traditions that made the holiday meaningful to me as a child. The advent wreath that used to take up residence on our dining room table four weeks prior marked the beginning of my restless and impatient anticipation of Christmas morning. During the four weeks preceding the 25th we would light a candle marking each week. The first week, we lit just a single purple candle, the second week, two purple candles, the third, three candles (one pink and two purple), and the last Sunday before Christmas we would light all four. On Christmas day we would light a snow white candle placed in the center of the wreath.


Around the same time we put out the advent wreath my mom would always set up her nativity scene, sans baby Jesus and the three kings- those figures would make their appearance on Christmas morning. Infant Jesus would appear in his manger, his little plastic hands and feet so tiny and perfect; the three kings would turn up near the kitchen, the starting point of their 12-day journey across the living room. The star on top of our tree was the star they followed to see the newborn king. I would wake up and make sure the little plastic baby was in his place, sometimes before I even looked under the tree. Baby Jesus in his little manger and the glow from all five candles on the wreath made it feel real.

Now I wake up on Christmas morning and feel like I’m just going through the motions. I’m happy to be with my family but there are some gaps; the way I celebrated as a child felt like it had purpose and meaning. Now that I no longer believe the story behind the traditions, the day rings a little hollow. But as much as I miss my childhood traditions, repeating them now would feel dishonest. Much of my melancholy stems from knowing I can never be in that place again, that place of pure belief and faith that everything is as it should be and that all the stories you are told are true.

My boys are 7 and 8 years old this year. We have our own traditions, and maybe it feels just as real to them as it did to me when I was their age because this is what they know. What I know is that they’ll find religion (or not) on their own terms and repeat (or not) the traditions of their childhood because they want to, not because those traditions are all wrapped up in religious dogma,

I’m not slamming the dogma- I get it. My love of the traditions of the Church and my identity as an Irish Catholic operated as a security blanket and insulated me against my own unspoken doubts for a very long time. I felt that my identity as a Catholic was inexorably wrapped up in who I was as a person and it wasn’t until I spent a year in Iraq, in some very extreme and isolated conditions away from the warmth of religious tradition and repetition, that I felt brave enough to face those questions and doubts.

I don’t talk to many people about why they are atheist or agnostic, (or why they used to be Christian but chose to leave their church) but I imagine it wasn’t a decision made lightly. And it probably wasn’t because 45 people said “Happy Holidays” to them instead of “Merry Christmas.”


$t!ck$ @nd $t%ne$: Why I Swear SO F#%king MUCH

Notice: SO MUCH profanity here. Seriously- a whole mess of it.

“It’s think it’s sort of vulgar,” she said delicately. Even talking about it over the phone seemed to make her uncomfortable.

Apparently I was having a conversation with my mother about my excessive use of the word “fuck” in my writing (and my use of profanity in general). I had asked her about a recent piece I’d written a few days prior and she was being sort of cagey. I was presently trying to tease it out of her- and I knew there was something bothering her when she started off by saying, “Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings…”

She carefully continued after I needled her some more.

“Oh… well, you use bad words a lot in your writing. It’s something that your grandmother, an English Literature major, might have said was ‘in poor taste’ but she always held writing as an elevated, somewhat superior form of communication.” (At this point we both agreed that my grandmother would probably also not be reading my blog in the first place considering the profanity on the front page.)

My mom admitted to me that whenever she reads the word “fuck,” she tends to feel alienated, pushed away, and her brain automatically jumps to the most scandalous definition of the word: to penetrate someone with a penis/phallus (typically without emotion or care for the person being penetrated).

“Huh. That’s funny,” I say.

For my mom to admit to me she finds the word vulgar, well that made me rethink why and how often I use the word myself. In fact, because I say “fuck” so frequently, and almost never in the way that my mother was describing, I often don’t even realize I’m saying it. For me, it’s an emphasis, a way to emotionally punctuate my thoughts and ideas.

For example, the way I use the word is typically as an adjective or exclamation. Like, “I hate my fucking commute so much” or “FUCK! I hate my commute so much.”  Occasionally I’ll use it in verb form: “Fuck you, I-5 corridor. FUCK you, you fucking douchebag interstate that sucks so fucking much. If you were a person I would fucking punch you in your fucking face.”

I do not speak this way all the time. As a general rule I do not use the word “fuck” in the following situations:

  • Parent teacher conferences
  • During business meetings (mostly)
  • When speaking to individuals over the age of 60 (ok, maybe more like 70?)
  • At other people’s kid’s birthday parties (they’re SO stuffy!)
  • During job interviews
  • When making dental or medical appointments When talking to strangers over the phone.

However – I want to be aggressively alienating sometimes. And “uncouth” and “inappropriate” when I feel it’s necessary.

I’ve been chastised for my language in the past by well-meaning people who probably believed I was going to end up hooking on the streets for crack:

  • “You’re supposed to be ladylike”
  • “You should speak politely and not raise your voice”
  • “Women should be more civilized than men”

“Supposed to,” “ought to,” and “should” are enemies of truth.

Who says I’m a lady, and why should I act like one (however it is all “ladies” act)? And if I do “act like a lady”, what’s in it for me? NOTHING. A whole lotta the same-same bull shit.

And polite is just another word for passive.

I am civil and I respect other people’s boundaries. That is probably a good rule of thumb for most people (not just the “ladies”).

I think another part of why I’m so liberal with my profanity is an individual effort to offset the violent and negative ways words are often used to hurt others online. Much of this vitriol is targeted toward women who choose to speak against the status quo in the public sphere. Nasty words and rape threats are flung at women journalists, authors, and activists in the comment threads where anonymous commenters use fear and hate-fueled expletives to put these women back in their place. If  When women do something to threaten the worldview of these faceless commenters, the jerk-faces strike back! They call women “fucking whores” “fat bitches” or “stupid cunts” or some other equally graphic epithet reducing women to objects (genitals or otherwise).They call these women names.  

Big. Fucking. Deal.

To call someone a “cunt” is the worst, yeah? Well, what if we say it isn’t. Graphic words such as “fuck” and “bitch” “whore” and “cunt” carry weight because of the value we assign them.

We all gasp (-gasp-) when we see “inappropriate” comments; those words hit home, am I right? It’s a punch in the gut the first time someone calls us a cunt – because we are taught to think that the person doing the name-calling matters and that because being called a cunt is the absolute worst thing someone can say to a woman, we must have done something really bad to deserve it. And we are supposed to be afraid.

Well, I’m appropriating all your inappropriate words, jerk-faces.

Name-calling and anonymous threats of rape are a last ditch effort, a desperate grasping at the power the anonymous commenter believes is slipping away from him. A. Guess what, it’s not going anywhere- women are simply recouping the equal share we were supposed to have all along- thanks for keeping it warm, and B. Stop being a big fucking baby.


Quick note:

I am not advocating that people go out and start calling each other cunts and bitches, Fuck yeah! No I am not.


Please continue to report instances of hate speech and threats of violence when you see them. There are still millions of kids out there who internalize the hateful, hurtful words they encounter online and it’s important that they know we do NOT approve and that it is completely unacceptable. Hopefully we can get to a place where even the nastiest words are considered weak and childish in the future- (like “jerk-face”).


The Equality Filter: Legitimizing Civil Rights through Militarization

America is in the business of conflict. Since WWII, the US has been engaged in war, conflict, or police action for 66 of the last 72 years, and for 216 of the 237 years we’ve been a country our military has been fighting, killing, occupying, or threatening with nuclear weapons. “Terrorism” is now a ubiquitous and tired threat that induces a persistent low-level fear and passivity, which in turn secures consistent funding for the military and defense contracts.  The deployment of “precision military strikes,” drones, and soldiers overseas is premised on delivering justice or securing democracy, but in reality the U.S. Administration is usually dealing with the fallout of poor past policy decisions.

And yet… there have been some significant civil rights developments that were expedited through the war-making apparatus. Desegregation in the military preceded the ruling of 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka by several years. The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) headed the repeal of DOMA, and the DOD has already surpassed the Federal government in providing universal benefits to the same-sex spouses of Active Duty military and retired veterans. After lifting the career-restrictive combat exclusion policy in January 2013, Congress and the Pentagon also recently announced the creation of gender-neutral standards for men and women serving in combat units will be signed into law. This is an enormous milestone for military women and their families, not to mention the greater implications of employment equality in other sectors.

So how can one reconcile the desire for a more just and equitable society while at the same time acknowledging that the recognition of individual and group civil rights has been, to a certain degree, facilitated by the military institution?

I face this dilemma having come from a family where military service is almost a family business (my mother, step-father, father, grandfather, uncles, and my husband have all served). I say this having served five years in the US Army myself.

While the military has been a bellwether of civil rights advancement in the U.S., it has more often facilitated America’s oppression of marginalized persons both here and abroad. Hazing, sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault, racist practices, war crimes, extended occupations, “collateral damage,” indefinite detentions, and torturous interrogation techniques have been imprinted on the American psyche, normalized to a certain degree through media and pop culture glorification of war. The widespread deployment of the United States Armed Forces has made military occupation seem common place. The international opinion of America’s obsession with defense isn’t complimentary, but domestically the military culture is a very successfully propagated ideology. Support the troops! Patriotism! Sacrifice! Honor! America! Oh, and Bud light, football, and whatever other corporate interests latch onto the pro-military bandwagon to make some dollars.

Although specific military policies like the combat exclusion for women and DADT may seem to accelerate civil rights action in America when they are lifted or repealed, these policies may play a more harmful role in their very existence in the first place. Rather than acting as a mirror of society, simply reflecting the current national social temperament, the military institution is acting as the definer of civil rights and citizenship in broader American society. Presently, a significant argument to reform immigration is leaning heavily on the fact that many immigrants choose military service as a path to citizenship. Even undocumented family members of military members may avoid deportation because of their relationship to the service member, and there is also a campaign² to allow certain undocumented immigrants to enlist in the service. Military service establishes value in citizenship in otherwise disqualified individuals; military service compensates for other lacking characteristics. Conversely, groups prohibited from military service are diminished as citizens. Individuals in these groups are viewed as “less than” as long as they are defined so by the military institution, for those who aren’t permitted to participate fully in the military aren’t “real” citizens.

Legitimization of citizenship through military service is a troubling model: in order for a group’s rights to be widely recognized and accepted by society, they must first be filtered through the military institution. Definition of acceptable conduct in the military determines acceptable conduct in the greater civilian society. For example, the very concept of DADT was designed to allow gay women and men to serve in the military while “protecting” them from abuse or harassment (by placing a prohibition on homosexual activities or individual identification) but in fact DADT likely led to higher levels of abuse, isolation, and disenfranchisement because individuals were unable to report mistreatment without risking disclosure of their sexual orientation, and subsequently losing their jobs¹. This reinforced existing anti-gay prejudices, and legitimized the broader view that gay and lesbian Americans weren’t justified to equal rights or protections in the civilian sector. Similarly, the combat exclusion (which in recent years was largely disregarded) that “protected” female soldiers by prohibiting them from serving in combat roles acted instead as a method to reduce access to benefits and acknowledgement as legitimate troops. The policy also made it difficult for women who had served their country in the same combat zones as their male counterparts to obtain recognition and proper care and disability ratings when recovering from the same mental health issues. Again, this policy, along with the current selective service requirements, has had a larger impact outside of the military where women were not (are not) recognized as full citizens.

Transgendered individuals are facing enormous obstacles gaining social and legal equity; this is compounded by the fact that they are prohibited from serving in the military at all if they have had any surgical genital modifications, or if they disclose their transgender identity prior to or after enlisting. So unlike women and gay service members, transgendered individuals are granted no legitimacy as citizens whatsoever as defined by military. And for other populations that will never meet restrictive military service requirements (individuals with reduced physical or cognitive abilities, certain religious practices, advanced age, or mental illness), American society’s propensity for viewing citizenship through the lens of military normative characteristics may place those populations forever outside the reach of full citizenship.

It is past time that advances for gay soldiers and women are taking place in the military, and it’s certainly time to examine how best to integrate transgendered individuals into the service as well; the successful elimination of DADT and the positive progression for women in the service have both demonstrated that transgendered individuals should not be restricted from work as service members (or any other profession) based solely on their gender identification. The “right” to serve in the military should not be read as the “right” to full citizenship, nor should the military be able to establish service requirements that interfere with individual or group civil rights except with regard to mission readinessHowever, the rights of an individual should be recognized not through or because of the military institution, but as inalienable rights regardless of any institution.

1.A Federal court in California ruled that DADT was unconstitutional a full year before it was officially repealed.


What is the American Ideal?

When I went to work at McDonalds in 1998 I was 16. Young, white, and female, I’d barely finished my application before I was offered a job by the manager. “We would love to have a more “American” looking young lady like you working at the front of the store.”

She even told me I’d be making a dollar and a half more than most of the other employees, but asked me to keep that confidential in order to avoid any “conflict”. I was pretty naive, and had no idea what she meant by “American looking” until I started my shift a few days later. She meant “white.”

Some of the employees working in the back spoke very little English, but those who were obviously American but apparently not “American looking” told me they’d been asking for months to be on front register or drive-through, only to see their manager hire white people for the positions instead.

So this manager’s idea of “American” was white. Her racist euphemism for preferring white faces to brown faces was “American.” Similarly, we hear words like “traditional” and “good old fashioned family values” to describe a certain “American” ideal: White, heterosexual, and Christian.

Naturalized Identities are really successful at reinforcing ideology. If my main identity is American, that comes with it many concepts, assumptions, and expectations. It also can obstruct or rule out certain opportunities or life experiences based on what I think is “normal” behavior for people like me.


Everything I am is constructed. All the groups with whom I identify – all the titles and attributes I assign to myself – Every single thing is simply an idea, a front. My identity is wrapped up in what I think other people think I am. The same is true of you and everyone we know.

OK, now I sound like some off-the-wall woo-woo philosopher, right? But think about it- we’ll start with something basic.

I am White

C’mon. You can tell by looking at me that I’m white, right? How is that a ‘construct’?

What is “White” or “Black” if not an identity constructed based on someone assigning value to the color of a person’s skin? I am only “white” if someone else is not. Similarly, another person is only “black” or “white” or “brown” when they are named so. Stuart Hall discusses the concept of identity in his piece “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”

Cultural identity […] is a matter of ‘becoming’ as well as of ‘being’. It belongs to the future as much as to the past. It is not something which already exists, transcending place, time, history and culture. Cultural identities come from somewhere, have histories. But, like everything which is historical, they undergo constant transformation. Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous ‘play’ of history, culture and power. Far from being grounded in a mere ‘recovery’ of the past, which is waiting to be found, and which, when found, will secure our sense of ourselves into eternity, identities are the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past.

I am American.

I am American because a group of men decided that America is a nation; these dudes fought a war against another group of dudes who had claimed the land as their own colony by simply showing up, a declaration validated not by the inhabitants, but by a separate small nation across a great ocean. They drew arbitrary borders and kicked out/murdered/crushed the souls of the natives who were there already and called it America.

[To be clear- identifying with a culture isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you aren’t an asshole about it. You can be invested in your heritage and not be all “Oooh, I’m so much better than you because my pasty ancestors are from somewhere cold where other pasty people are from, and your brown ancestors are from some other place that is lame.” (or the other way ’round, duh)

Also, it’s super important to recognize the inherent benefits many have because they look like the majority of people in political and economic power (who think like the asshole example above), and consequently the obstacles many others face because they are different than the asshole example above (the aforementioned ‘not “American” looking’ Americans).]

  • My identity as a woman? Constructed.

“Woman” as an identity is more than just a description of my gender. It entails all sorts of behavioral expectations, restrictions, and beliefs about what makes me valuable as a human (my sex production, my child production, my domestic production, etc.)

  • My identity as a mother? Constructed.

“Mother” as an identity is much like “woman” in that there are specific expectations of me as a mother. I should engage with my children in specific ways, I should conceive my children in specific circumstances; I should give up certain aspects of my life in order to fulfil this identity “mother.”

  • My identity as a student, a wife, a veteran, a government employee, a middle-class suburbanite, a rape victim? Constructed.

That last “identity” was a touchy one, right? Rape victim as a construct? I’ll explain:

There is a specific expectation of how a person should act when they are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. It’s this “appropriate” behavior that demonstrates to men in positions of authority whether you are being truthful or not. As a “victim” you are expected to mourn the loss of your dignity/sense of agency/personal safety. You are expected to go through a process of recovery, where you work through the assault and recognize the magnitude of the personal violation to which you were subjected. You are expected to identify as a “victim” or “survivor” and incorporate that event into how you see yourself as a person, how you experience your life from that point forward. It is expected that you will feel less valuable (because you are seen as such, generally) because your self-worth is associated with your sexual reputation. You are supposed to fixate on the personal aspects of this violation so as not to look at the bigger picture, so as not to fixate on the epidemic of violence against women by men used as a social tool of control and domination.


There are a million social expectations and boundaries that define our everyday lives- much of that shit gets in the way of actual human connection. Expectations of what “motherhood” means totally gets in the way of how I want to live my life. I stayed home for the first three years after my kids were born and I literally almost committed suicide. It destroyed who I was and I HATED IT. Then I started working and began to feel like myself again, but I heard all sorts of trash about how my kids were missing out on being with their mother, and that I should just stay at home and let my husband take care of me. Yes. In 2007 people were telling me I was neglecting my children by working.

Also, I stopped wearing my wedding ring about a year ago. Is it because I don’t want to be married or because I stopped loving my husband? No way! I am more in love with him now than ever. He’s my best friend and my partner, the father of my obnoxious kids, and he picks up the dog shit in the yard.

What I didn’t like was this concept of rings and marriage defining what I realized was none of anyone else’s business. He knows we’re married, I know we’re married- who the fuck else needs to know we’re married besides us? Also, I don’t want to be defined by my marital status. I am a human being, not “married” or “single” and I don’t need a social signifier like a ring defining an aspect of my life that is not anyone else’s business (plus it smacks of property exchange from the [sort of] way-back and that’s gross).

What is the value in deconstructing identity? Why explode the very idea of who we are?

Because FREEDOM! Just kidding. Sort of.