My fabulous Bookwoman booty


In case you need some shopping inspiration, here's what I got:

*some tiny rainbow earrings to replace the ones I lost in the shower
*Carrie Newcomer's CD, Betty's Diner
*Girlyman's CD, Remember Who I Am
*a hand-collaged journal book
*Brick Lane by Monica Ali
*Those Bones are Not My Child by Toni Cade Bambara
*All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki
*One of these t-shirts in pink
*One of these t-shirts in red

Yeah, I went a little bit overboard, but that's OK, I'll just cut back in other areas. There were quite a few people in there this afternoon--maybe they have a chance.

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The following came across my email this afternoon:

Dear Friends and Supporters of BookWoman,

We are writing to ask your help. The still sluggish economy, our rising rent, and the difficulties of the construction project on Lamar Blvd. are all colliding to make this our most challenging summer ever. BookWoman is having a severe cash crisis! We are asking that you come shop at BookWoman right away and tell all your friends! If 160 people each spend $25 here in the next two weeks we would be able to pay our August rent on time. Why not start your holiday shopping now!

Or if you are able to give a small donation of $10, $25, or $50, it would be most gratefully and lovingly received. Although BookWoman is not traditional non-profit, we exist to serve all the women of Austin and all our diverse communities- both in the selection of the products that we carry and the in-store programming that we support and provide.We are actively looking for more economic digs...any leads will be welcome. It is really hard to believe, but we are nearing our 30th anniversary. It's a huge and humbling milestone. Hopefully we will be able to continue our work.

In Sisterhood: with love and gratitude for so many years of your support,

Susan, Kristen, Marla & Jennifer
918 W.12 St.
Austin, Texas 78703

First thing is first--if you have any spare money lying around and an inclination to help keep a really wonderful store in business, go on down there, if you are local, or go to and buy something, if you aren't.

Secondly, this is the third or fourth feminist book store in trouble I've heard about lately. There are no words for how much this pisses me off. It is ESSENTIAL that we keep these businesses going. Given the social and political climate around us, protecting our safe havens is more than a good idea, it's a necessity. These stores were some of the first places in the past few decades for women to gather, to be safe, to talk and laugh and cry and be together. They carry books, magazines, music that other stores won't touch, full of information that we need to have access to, as well as entertainment that makes our lives richer. This is a service to the feminist community, and it is one that doesn't pay for itself. If we don't get off our collective asses and support these stores, they won't be here much longer.

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Judy Chicago


I could totally be making this up, but I believe NPR told me this morning that today is Judy Chicago's birthday. Or maybe that was yesterday. At any rate, if you don't know of her already, check out some of her work. I think she is pretty famous, so everyone has probably already heard of her, but just in case.

My favorite thing she's done, I think, is Womanhouse, although that may be for more political than artistic reasons. The Dinner Party is truly amazing, and it's of a similar political bent. Also, for the Princess, check out Quilting Bee.

When I worked at the art museum, one of the things I did was helped out with the docent program. The average docent was a well-off white woman somewhere between 55 and 75. There were a couple hundred of them. And they came in once a week to hear lectures. One lecture was to be about women in art, so I excitedly sat in on it. The speaker showed the slide from Womanhouse of the "Menstruation Bathroom."

I was a lot more amused than some of them were, I think. And I was definitely more amused than the assistant curator who ran the program was. (Hi Sarah!)

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Sweat Equity


You know, I complain a lot. But nothing shuts me up faster than a gander at my new favorite blog, Sweat Equity. I know the folks who are blogging on Sweat Equity in real life, and I know they have real, honest-to-God, hard-work type jobs. After which they come home and do things like refinish floors and strip wallpaper at their new house.

And it's all I can do to do the dishes after sitting at a desk job all day.

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8 Ball Chicks


8 Ball Chicks book coverby Gini Sikes
Doubleday, December 1, 1996

Last night, I finished reading Gini Sikes' 8 Ball Chicks. The book is a study of female gang members in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, circa the mid-late 1990s. Sikes did a year of research, traveling around and talking to the girls themselves, their families, police, social workers, etc. Her level of involvement is amazing. She obviously cares about her "subjects" and her willingness to go into depth with them, and to examine herself as much as she is examining them, is truly inspirational. I will definitely look for other work she's done (I think she's a journalist and this is her only book, but I'm not certain).

The subject matter of the book is amazing and horrifying. I am totally aware that I grew up white and rural and privledged, but being aware of it in a vague way is different than reading these stories. The things some of these girls lived through before they were even in their late teens were truly worse than I could have imagined. And their cavalier attitudes about it all, the expectation that it wasn't going to go away and that was just the way life chilled me. The common threads in their stories--abusive parents, sexual abuse at a young age, poverty, violent
relationships with boyfriends, pregnancy early and often--are the stuff stereotypes are made of, but when you read about it happening to someone specific, Coco or Alicia or Sad Eyes, it becomes something totally different. I think that speaks really well of Sikes' work.

I don't know where I am really going with this...I haven't gathered my thoughts about the book enough to write anything resembling an actual critique of it. I guess I just wanted to recommend it (with a huge trigger warning, because it is HARD to read). It's making me think a little bit differently about feminism this week.

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I've been thinking and talking and writing a ton about money lately.
Saving, spending, debt, shopping. I'm reading books about it, too. It's
actually pretty crass, and I am getting sick enough of hearing myself
talk about it, so I definitely owe a debt (shit! another one!) of
gratitude to the folks who have been listening to me work throught it
and giving advice about it, particularly a certain Princess. I really
appreciate the willingness to give advice without judgement.

But the bottom line, of course, is that annoying everyone around me
with a subject most people would rather not talk about isn't going to
fix anything. I have to make my decisions myself and get myself through
this one. Reading and talking to other people has its place, but it's
no good trying to put the impetus on someone else, which is part of
what I do when I ask advice on questions that I really already know the
answers to.

One good thing the books I've been reading and
people I've been chatting with has given me is perspective. While I
think it's true that I spend too much, shop too much, save too little,
etc., I don't have credit card debt, a car loan, etc. My only debt is
student loans, which are huge, but I've never missed a payment on them
(aside from when they are deferred). I am also paying the interest on
the non-subsidized portion while I'm in school. This isn't to say that
I don't have a problem, just that it hasn't reached epic proportions
yet, so if I can get a handle on it now, I'll be much happier.

I am still deciding exactly what form that handle should take. I know
that I don't feel like depriving myself, and that stopping shopping
completely isn't a goal. I also know that it's going to feel great to
make large loan payments during this year of pulling in an income, and
that I have several savings goals to reach. So I'll figure it out. It's
trial and error, I suppose.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to shut up about it.

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Papa Gene


My grandfather would have been 75 today.

He's been gone 20 years.

As I was 4 when he died, I don't have a whole lot of substantial memories of him. The ones I do have are suspect--do I actually remember this stuff, or do I just think I remember it because I saw a picture or someone told me a story? I have to believe that some of them are mine, though, especially as they get dimmer over the years.

He bought me bags of jelly beans at Arlene's Cafe. They came in a ziploc bag and cost $1. Our deal was that he would eat the black ones, I would eat the rest. Still seems like a good deal to me. When I was in high school, I used to put black jelly beans on his grave.

I remember him being thin, so thin, and coughing. Sitting in an easy chair, coughing. He had lung cancer. Since he died when I was 4, he probably had cancer for most of my life.

It is completely possible to miss someone you never really knew. I still miss him to this day. I've lost six other grandparents and great-grandparents since he died, but I still feel his loss the most. And today, he would have been 75.

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Line judge wanted


Caveat to the non sports-minded: In a volleyball game, there are two referrees and two line judges. The sole purpose of the line judges is to stand at opposite corners of the court and judge whether balls fall in or out of bounds.

The sermon today was about sports, competition, etc. The second element of it was about abdicatin of responsibility. Where people used to say "no harm, no foul," meaning that even if there was technically a foul, if it didn't harm the flow of play, it was not worth stopping for, they could now say "no foul, no harm." No foul, no harm. That would mean that unless a foul was called, i.e. unless you got CAUGHT breaking the rules, no harm was done. You see this in football, where linemen are taught to hold without getting called on it, for example.

The minister was making a point about how the competitive nature of sports leads us to shrug off personal responsibility for following the rules. We do not call fouls on ourselves. If you step out of bounds making a touchdown and nobody notices, you sure as hell don't argue with them. If a mistake is made, then, it is the responsibility of the official, for not seeing it, rather than the player for doing it.

The point was that putting what is right and what is wrong in someone else's hands allows us to break rules without culpability. Which got me to thinking, what I need in my life isn't a referree, it's a line judge. I don't want someone else to make the calls--I am rather fond of being in charge--but I want someone else to stand at the corners and tell me when something is in bounds and when it is out of bounds. Then when someone argues with a call I've made, I can simply point to the line judge. She did it.
The expert opinion given to me was that was out, so I called it out. It's like the president blaming a bad war on the CIA.

But I don't get a line judge. I have to figure out for myself if the balls I am lobbing back and forth are landing within bounds or not. And I just can't see the whole court, so there's a lot of guesswork involved. Sometimes, I make the wrong call. Often, even. And ultimately, it's nobody's responsibility but mine.

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My So-Called Life


Last night I had the good fortune to run across an episode of My So-Called Life It was on Noggin, I think? Apparently they play it every Friday night. Anyway, I was thrilled to dig into the couch and reconnect with Angela and Rayanne and Rickie and (of course) Jordan Catalano.

As I was watching the espisode, though, something seemed strange and out of place to me. Almost...dated. At first I thought it was just that I am now a lot older than those characters were supposed to be (Claire Danes, who played Angela on the show, is the same age as I am in real life, so when I was 14 watching the show, she was 14 making it). Then I thought it must just be the age of the show--after all, it is ten years old.

The plot lines of high school dramas don't change all that much, though. Sure, MSCL was made before everyone had IM, so there is a fair amount of talking on the phone, but other than that the drama is pretty much the standard fare--sex, friendships, family, the future. So why did the characters on MSCL seem so archaic?

Then I figured it out. It was because they were covered up.

No, not their emotions. Those were pretty wide open. Their bodies. The difference was their clothes. Angela Chase almost never wore less than three layers, one of them generally being overalls and another nearly always made of flannel. And it wasn't just sexless Angela--the non-virginal characters weren't flaunting their stuff either. Rayanne, the supposed wild one, dressed in tights, boots, a big coat...even Sharon, the one who was actually supposed to be HAVING sex on the show, who had breasts, which much was made of in the first few epsiodes (if I remember correctly), never showed much skin. In fact, she sort of dressed like a kindergarden teacher.

If you compare this to current teen dramas--not just the shitty ones, but even endearing and offbeat ones like Joan of Arcadia, you will get an assault of midriffs, ass cracks, high heels and cleavage. Not to be a huge prude, but Angela looked a whole hell of a lot more comfortable in her overalls than Joan does in her lowriders.

It make me sad to think that there was a time only ten years ago where teenage girls on television weren't expected to be sexpots. Sure, part of it was the impervious nature of grunge culture at that time (thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Kurt Cobain), but I don't think that tells the whole story. After all, baggy "grungy" clothes stayed "in style" and available a lot longer for teenage guys than they did for girls. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, guys are still encouraged to wear baggy jeans and button-downs, even if they are supposed to be a little bit cleaner than Jordan Catalano's ever were. A teenage girl dressed like Angela Chase, though? There would be two names for her--dyke or bag lady.

For the first time, I realize that there was some luck in when I came of age. Sure, I'm part of the first generation who started having sex knowing about AIDS; sure, I graduated from high school into a dismal economy and graduated from college into a much worse one; I'll even admit that Converse All-Stars are not any more attractive than they were the first time around. But at least I had until my 20s before I had to start worrying about low-rise thongs and push-up bras. And at least, for that one sweet year, before Claire Daines got all sexxxeee and started dating Billy Crudup, I had Angela.

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Being a well-conditioned American girl, and especially being one who not only does not wear a size 2 but NEVER has (it's true--I skipped straight from kids clothes to an adult 6 over the course of one summer), I hate my body most of the time. Just like I was taught to do. Just like my mom does, just like her mom does, ecetera.

Once in awhile, though, I don't. Just now when I was walking to Starbucks to get my full-fat full-sugar Frappacino (yeah, I know, I suck), I caught sight of myself in a window.

I am SO beautiful.

I have thick, strong legs and a big ole butt. I have wide shoulders and a strong, straight back. Even my increasingly-heavy breasts look strong and capable. I have big-ass feet, but they carry me and give me foundation. I have big-ass hands, but that just means they can hold a lot and I have a firm handshake. Even my hair looks strong.

I have spent most of my life wanting to be small, petite, tiny. Wanting to take up less space and be less capable. And I've just gotten bigger and bigger. I'm bigger now than I've ever been before, probably carrying 20 or so extra pounds around and pushing 6'0". My hips and ass seem to be still growing, as to my breasts. My upper arms look more like my mom's every year, and my mom looks like a blacksmith.

And, today at least, I'm OK with that. Today I am glad there is so much here, I am glad I take up so much space, and I think I take it up well.

Thanks to whomever for that. I really appreciate it.

(Thanks to William, about whom I haven't thought it months, for the title.)

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April 2012

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