Friday, February 20, 2009

Nobody puts Baby on a stage, wrapped around a pole

Or, My First Strip Club.

Sorry I've not posted in a while, I've been busy with work and socializing-- there was a potential thang that probably isn't very potential anymore, so back to my lonely rule-cosseting. Anyway.

I'm friends with a few strippers, retired and active, and had been invited to visit one at work (as well as apply, but that's beside the point). I did not take the opportunity when first proffered, even though I've longed to go to a strip club for years. I lost her number when my phone died, and when I reconnected with Chelsea (her stage name) recently, I finally got up the nerve to actual do it, and visit. That night was last night, and I'm honestly still digesting my opinions on it.

First observation is that, when I don't know the dancers, it seems sad. Bored-looking girls writhing around on a stage, shoving various body parts in the faces of slack-jawed hoodlums and businessmen, hoping for a couple dollars. I was out the door at one point because it was so depressing, before a friend talked me back in-- Chelsea hadn't taken the stage yet.

Second realization is that all of my good-influence friends have left town. Sasha, a retired stripper friend who came with me last night (I was with a few other friends as well), is in particular a bad influence. I admire the way she exudes sexuality-- it is simultaneously classy and lascivious. She is my poster child for society's Madonna-Whore complex. I love her. And I also try to emulate her, apparently, especially when I have a margarita or few in me. So, following her example, I helped work the (somewhat meager) crowd in the dancers' favor-- sidling up to men and suggesting they drop a bit more money than they were planning. Smiling, suggesting without suggesting...

But two things came from that: one, the dancers may/must not have appreciated it, as though we thought they wouldn't do well enough on their own. And two-- I don't like myself like that. It was fun at the time, I don't regret it, but I didn't like the way the men there looked at me as it was, before behaving as though I worked there, or at least had a vested interest in the place. Which made me realize that, although I've toyed with the idea of stripping before, it truly is not something for me.

Live and learn.

The third major point of the night was this: though stripping often falls into the same occupational category as prostitution ("they wouldn't do it if they weren't driven to it", blah blah), when you know a dancer, and you know she truly loves what she's doing-- it is beautiful. I mean it. I'm not particularly hung up on women's bodies-- one of my favorite daydreams involves a line of well-formed men in towels. But to see my friends up there (Sasha came out of retirement for a song or two), and watching the sheer human beauty of their naked bodies as they moved... I wasn't turned on. I was appreciative, because it was art. The human body is a fascinating thing, and my friends helped me remember that. Sure, it was sexy as hell, but they were just so damned good, and loved it so much, you couldn't help but smile and feel happy.

So while part of me still aches at the objectification that most of the people there were participating in, part of me wants to open a strip club for people like me and the friends I brought with me, who want to watch beautiful bodies move without feeling shame or arousal-- or if arousal, then arousal with respect for the individual human people dancing, and not just their bodies. I want to have a place where to be naked is a beautiful thing, a casual thing, an artistic thing.

The former-potential-thang likes to tell what he calls "rockstar stories". I don't have those so much as... I don't know. My experiences aren't any particular type of story, I think, but they make for one hell of an interesting life. I have writer stories, maybe-- I seek out the things that suggest future retellings. I fully believe that part of the fun of living is the re-living, later.

We are beautiful creatures. Take a moment now to appreciate that fact.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Week In Congress

Also, note: the "This Week In Congress" e-mail kind of blew this week. Eli may choose to individually talk about it, but we probably won't discuss it together. With any luck I'll convince her we should be talking about Rihanna and Aasiya Zubair Hassan instead.
-- Lu

Drinking to drink to tell is a fairly well known website. It was the first website to offer the one deal per day set up. This means they sell only one item per day, often mocking the item in the description, and if it sells out, you're out of luck until the next day. It became hugely popular with everyone I knew while in college. Eventually they expanded to other sites including shirt.woot (a new t-shirt every day, but always for $10 and free shipping), sellout.woot (an affliation with Yahoo!) and wine.woot. This entry is actually about wine.woot. originally had one offer a week. It soon became popular enough to do two offers a week -- one on Monday and one on Thursday. They also figured one of the best ways to sell wine on a website, even with a loyal following, was through samples and education. The education over there is completely nifty. It just is. The wine-makers and -sellers often (read: almost always) visit the site while their offer is available and answer questions about the making and cellaring of the wine. When I started visiting wine.woot regularly, I was entirely of the opinion that wine was too expensive to ever really buy online and I was only going to visit for the educational properties as I was just starting to drink wine. But eventually the deals were too good, and I gave in and purchased.

I'm still pretty cheap when it comes to wine, so I read obsessively all the thoughts others offer on the wine before I decide to go in for it. It's got to be pretty skippy for me to be willing to try it out because when the wine isn't expensive, it usually comes in 4 - 6 packs. I don't want six bottles of crappy wine hanging about the place, you know? Anyway, this served me well and good until the mead showed up.

Last week, they offered up a bit of mead. Mead is delicious. It's great. So when I saw the mead for sale, I knew I wanted it. Especially as it was coming cheaper than I could get it locally and had been well reviewed before. I was also excited because knowing I wanted it so swiftly meant I would be able to participate in something that sets the site apart from anything I've ever heard of before. By making an early purchase, I was in the group eligible to "labrat". Every week wine.woot sends free bottles of wine to random purchasers to taste and report back on. They still get their full order later, but they also play a part in convincing other to buy or not to buy. You cannot, that I know of, cancel an order after tasting it.

Anyway, I wouldn't be telling this story if I didn't get a FedEx delivery on Friday of two bottles of mead: regular and raspberry. As I mentioned before, I really started hanging out there to learn more about wine, so I definitely don't have a super refined palate or dictionary of winese at my disposal. All I have are opinions and hopefully a coherent form of expressing them. (There are many people with both a refined palate and full mastery of wine-speak at wine.woot, I'm just not one of them.) I was, of course, ridiculously excited at the prospect of free booze and the chance to tell others about it and have them listen to me.

Friday night, I popped open those babies, tasted, and reported like a good rat. We tried the mead chilled. We tried it mulled. I say "we" because I got other opinions. I posted at night, I posted again in the morning. I probably took my duty waaaaaay too seriously. But it was all worth it for one comment I got:
Great report. While I(and probably many others) value the reports from the "pros" here, yours and those like yours are equally important... esp to non-pros like myself(rpm- lots of corks to pull, and remember the wines). Actually, I considered your report professional... just without some of the "winese" terms.
Be still my beating heart! I'm so easily taken in by flattery! I put my opinions out there and was rewarded! This experience has actually encouraged me to apply to do the same thing (put my opinions out there) in a category I'm a bit better with. As such, I've applied to review tea elsewhere. It's a bit odd how this one experience that was totally up to chance has completely given me confidence in the writing area.

It helped in pushing the "publish" button originally that, um, after enough mead you don't worry so much. And now it helps because I've got positive feedback.

-- Lu

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In response to Lu

My clinic is in one of the states that requires doctors to ask two questions at the ultrasound: "Do you want to see the ultrasound?" and "Would you like to know if it's twins?"

Only once have I seen this change a mind, but the woman with twins last week (who already had three children and a laid-off husband at home to support) wept in the recovery room. Did it change her mind? No. Did it make it harder for her? Absolutely. It is not only a kind of emotional blackmail, the requirements force women to make their choice, over and over again, even after they've decided. And each time, whatever their reasons, it makes it harder.

And you end up with situations like this, where all of our mandatory bullshit just frustrates people and makes the experience worse. There are so many hoops we have to jump through, and make our patients jump through. It makes me sick sometimes.

Then again, sometimes I appreciate portions of it-- and this is the part that I don't know that anyone but providers will understand.

As much as I love my job, and its mission, and the feeling that I'm helping women... sometimes I resent them. I know that a lot of the attitude I have to deal with comes from the fact they're dealing with the social stigma-- women are made to feel shitty about their choice, and they take it out on me. I understand that, but sometimes it pisses me off. And while I never lose professionalism in interactions, I know that my co-workers and I sometimes are... less than kind when we finish scheduling appointments for particular women, such as those who "don't like *that* word". It's just that, despite the stigma, we still need people to face the choice they're making.

In some way, that's what all the rigamarole does-- it makes women face their decision. I hate that it's made out to be such a huge decision, and I don't think any shame should be attached to it, but one of the things we're required to do in those mandatory counseling sessions is judge potential coping issues. And not being able to say the word "abortion" is one of those signs.

Alright, I'm going to close this here. I'm not necessarily sure I've said all I needed to, or as well as I could have, but it's what I needed to say.

...because getting an abortion isn't hard enough yet

Thank you, Jezebel for the heads up on this issue. I'll hope Eli is prepping her own post on this too.

The short version is this: the religious right isn't happy simply taking your right to choose away. While you can choose, they want you to choose life. We've known this for a while, but they are also trying to legislate things that will make it harder and harder to choose an abortion. In this case, various states are forming ultrasound laws -- that is laws that require health care providers to offer an ultrasound so you can see your speck before you definitely decide to abort it.

Abortion is already a hard decision for many. These laws simply exist to try and emotionally blackmail people. Regardless of the reasons for getting an abortion, this plays on someone in a hard situation's emotions in a way that I think is underhanded and dirty. Beyond that, the cost of the ultra-sound is just one more hoop making it more and more difficult to get on with your life. If you followed the link ("In this case") you saw that there's a law in the works in SC to force you to wait a full 24 hours post-ultrasound view to think about what you're going to do. Like getting sent to your room. That's another clinic visit. Which means another payment. Another scheduling. Another difficulty.

I have no doubt these laws will work to limit abortions -- those who were scraping together to afford them before will be even less able to afford them now. Those who were on the fence about going to the clinic, not because they want to keep the child, but for outside reasons, now have one more hoop (or possibly two in SC). The groups behind this will see it as a victory, fewer abortions. But I would rather see people freely able to make choices about their life and their body without a host of people they've never met getting involved.

Twelve Year Old Mistaken for Hooker Mistrialed

The trial against Dymond Milburn, the 12-year-old mistaken for a hooker, has been declared a mistrial. When Dymond was twelve years old, a circuit breaker flipped in her house, she went outside to fix it. Three men jumped out of a van and tackled her, she called for her father and fought them. They hurt her so badly, she had to go to the hospital. When she was released, she was arrested for assaulting police officers.

According to the Milburn family, the policemen did not announce themselves as such and jumped out of an unmarked vehicle. According to the police, they naturally did announce themselves. Either way, she was treated for head injuries at the hospital, then arrested three weeks later for not allowing three strange men to take her into a van. At the age of twelve.

I think this case falls into the crevice Jezebel has discussed before (there are better articles discussing it, but my cursory Google didn't return them): there is a specific demographic that you must fall into to garner national attention when you go missing (or in this case, get beaten for no real reason, then brought to trial for not peacefully getting taken from your home). If you aren't white, a lady, and a well thought of group (rich, middle class, or military), you probably aren't going to get a lot of national media attention-help. In this case, the girl is white (the complaint about hookers was about white hookers) but lives in a low-income area. Add to that, her case really got going in August of an election year and you have a recipe for total media dismissal. And that is dismal.

This girl's story should have been blasted across the nation so that parents everywhere could be outraged. Instead it was quietly reported a few places and then basically ignored.

Friday, February 6, 2009

2009 Officially Declared Shittiest Year

I have, for numerous personal and non-personal reasons, officially declared 2009 the shittiest year ever. However, I think as long as we get stories like this one on the news, we'll be okay. I regularly mock CNN for posting less-than-vital things in their breaking news videos. But given the way the economy is, my job is (or I guess, isn't as the case will soon be), and everything else, I'm glad to see it. It almost brought a tear to my eye and I am not a weepy girl. I think the humans are gonna make it.

Eli reminded me yesterday that I haven't written anything in a while (BLAWG! she said). Of course, I had the best comeback ever to that (so, my job's gone). Still, she was right. To some extent I gotta just write it out. Love the way she's really stepped up lately though.

So I think today is a post about how you can think you know who people are, but you really don't until you need them. I mean, most of the people I know are going through bad times right now (sister going back to Iraq, messy breakup with fiance, grandmother with cancer and grandfather with heart attack, unemployed, etc.) but no one has been like, "You think you got it bad??" when I tell them of my looming unemployment. Everyone has been very sympathetic, very nice. Like a community. Because that's what the Internet allows for. Even though I'm hear and hurting, my friends all around the country -- and world -- can be sympathetic and caring from wherever we are. It's one of the best parts of the Internet.

I mention it in part, because I also encountered one of the fouler parts this morning as someone trolled through a website I spend far too much time at. It was weird (it always is) to see someone troll through the site. Many of the people there care for the community greatly and trolls never last long, nor are they very effective. Everyone knows what is happening the moment it starts. They don't put up with it.

It's so amazing that we have this tool that we use for good and evil evenly, I think, that our parents didn't have and our grandparents certainly didn't have. And it makes this generation the first of its kind, in a way, we have far greater power to help or hurt anonymous, and it is going to be weird but cool to see how it changes the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A couple of things

Cats don't kill babies. Oh good, glad we got that cleared up.

Secondly, this is now my favorite video on the web, because not only do I love British guys, I love rugby players as well. Not only do I love those things, but I believe in getting regular medical screenings to keep yourself healthy.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that those boys are getting naked and showering together, then watching each other as they touch themselves.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This week in review

I've been lying in bed sorting through my bills, and decided to take some time out to recount some of the interesting news that has been presented to me this week. As Neil Gaiman would say, it's tab-closing time.

Lu and I were planning to do a weekly congressional review, but unfortunately's updates are for those bills first mentioned a while ago-- they just update their status instead of presenting the new fodder. I understand, though. Things don't happen that quickly in the Halls of Legislation.

Anyway, I would first like to point out this somewhat patronizing but pretty interesting set of interviews with NYC strippers. It is sometimes funny, sometimes sad-- the one that gets me the most is 19-year-old Shaleen:

So where did you go out before you were a hard-working mother?
Well, that was when I was a teenager. I was just going to teen parties.

Next up, Jezebel thinks there's a Notebook reference to this tale of old lovers dying mere hours apart, but I don't like Nicholas Sparks. I do, however, like Ben Folds, and prefer to think of the sweet story in terms of "The Luckiest". The last two sentences of the article, however, don't quite gel right.

Harper's Weekly Review, another fantastic source for worldwide news delivered to your inbox every Tuesday, alerted me to what I considered obvious: Cheerleading is a contact sport. Of course, that may not be obvious to any of you who did not grow up with an older sister who captained both the cheerleaders and the softball team, but for me it was like a report saying that winter would last until March.

On that note, Happy Belated Groundhog's Day, as well.

Finally, in what I find the most offensive bit of science reporting this week: Men, run from the strong-jawed woman, for verily I say unto you, the man-faced skank-ho will cheat! Granted, I could be biased becuase I myself have a rather strong jaw (though, I don't think, masculine), but... the way this article is written makes it sound as though people are beholden to their facial features. They point out two examples from popular society-- Her Grand Ho the Duchess of Cornwall, and Delicate Faithful Dream Woman Joanne Woodward. Surely those two examples prove that this is unilaterally true!

There is some basis in science here, kind of. A "masculine" jaw is caused by a surge in testosterone in utero, and a "high level of the hormone increases sexual assertiveness in a woman". Assertive women, those filthy cheating sluts. I should, I suppose, give the article credit for completely the just-quoted sentence with the phrase "a tendency more attributed to males", however I can't bring myself to do so. Because it smacks of gender bias and double-standards to me. Men can blame their cheating on testosterone, because they're MANLY MEN and it's biology! But women should be soft-jawed and faithful... or soft-brained and gutless.

This could have been an interesting article correlating levels of testosterone and sexual activity-- but that, of course, wouldn't be news. We all know that testosterone is a pretty sexy hormone. And god knows it's the Daily Mail, and I shouldn't be overly critical. But really, did the lede have to be: "If you think it’s obvious why some men don’t fancy women with large chins, think again."

Oh, those horsey, ugly bitches. And what's worse, they then try to justify it with "evolutionary science":

Psychologists believe the reaction against women with large chins is due to an evolutionary desire to have a partner who is faithful, so producing children for only one man.
Now, don't take my use of quotation marks to indicate skepticism of evolution-- I've no qualms with evolution. I'm down with Darwin. What I have a problem with is justifying bad behavior or self-interested mindsets with evolution. I constantly argue with a guy friend over this. Sure, we may have evolved from lower orders, but I'll be damned if we aren't equipped with reason these days, and the ability to sort right from wrong. We may have an animal part of our brain, but that is easily superceded by the rational mind.

And honestly, there was no actual evidence that large-chinned women cheated more. What the study found was that those women were more sexually active, while simultaneously being considered less attractive.

Which smacks of cognitive dissonance to me-- "the results showed that women with larger chins were more sexually active than those with softer chins – and that men found these women unattractive." But clearly they're not unattractive enough to not fuck. Which means they've got some degree of attractiveness going on.

Oh dear lord, sexual politics frustrates me so much. I've been a hobbyist observer for the past decade, and while I can sort so much of it out, I really wish it was more dictated by reason. Ah well.