A Mid-month Check-in/The Letter


Things aren’t going well.

I never set a target word count for April, instead intending to get a workable draft for a collection of short stories and poems, which on the surface seems like a much more forgiving goal. It’s not. Word count would have been so much easier; I wouldn’t be sitting here side-eyeing at every finished and unfinished piece wondering where I could find a campfire to chuck my laptop into.

Not including blog entries like “Bringing Unsexy Back,” (though technically that could fit my project specs), here’s a rough breakdown of what I’ve accomplished (or not) this month:

  • Words written: 7,846
  • Number of separate pieces: 23
  • Number of pieces I barely remember writing: 3
  • Number of those pieces I barely understood upon rereading: 1
  • Number of times sloppy handwriting made “cool” look like “cod”: 3
  • Number of times I shouldn’t have been using “cool” as an adjective: 3
  • Number of times cigarettes/beer/liquor are mentioned: 25
  • Pieces about men:  9
  • Pieces about women: 5
  • Pieces not specifically about either: 9
  • Seasons of TV shows binged while trying to write: 4
  • Number of times I listened to Saturnalia: 7
  • Number of times I listened to Abattoir Blues: 5
  • Number of times I listened to Grinderman: 6
  • Number of times I looked for something different and returned to one of the above: 1,763
  • Pleas to social media for new music: 3
  • Short stories read in hopes of inspiration striking: 15

the best first draft in the history of drafts

But here’s a draft of a short piece called “The Letter,” as proof I’m actually doing something. Incidentally it doesn’t reference cigarettes, beer, or liquor, nor was it written with any of the above referenced albums or TV series as a soundtrack.

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Bringing Unsexy Back

Somewhere in the midst of entering my thirties, I’ve unlearned how to be sexy. If men, the ever-present barometer of a woman’s attractiveness, are to be relied upon, I’ve still got the raw materials in place; the problem isn’t how juicy my butt looks in yoga pants (answer: the juiciest), but rather the extreme dumb bullshit that falls out of my mouth.

It’s a terrifying world for courtship, and I’m doing my part to perpetuate that. Here are times my shutdown game has been gold-medal strong, completely by accident.

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Systems Fail

I ran into some of my Nano writing buddies at the coffee shop today! They’re doing Camp Nanowrimo, which is lucky because it means a physical support network to judge me force my motivation through self-imposed friendly competition and my unwillingness to admit failure.

I’ve got about 2,000 words written so far in April, divided uselessly between the hundred open projects I’m pretending I’m progressing with (spoiler: not making any progress). In the interest of holding myself accountable, here’s what’s on my desk:

  • A collection of short stories and poetry of a vaguely smutty/sexy/unsettling nature. So far it includes an incredibly fucked up 29-page short, some loosely autobiographical funny/sexy vignettes (like one about fellatio in South Dakota!) in which names have been changed to keep exes from ever calling me again, a pile of weird and upsetting haikus, and a braindump full of disorganized notes*.
  • My gaslamp fantasy airship adventure story.  Every time I try to do a round of edits on it my brain just melts and quits, and I work on something else instead, like deep backstory for the fantasy world it’s set in. Hit a roadblock? Well what happened 40 years ago? SEEMS LEGIT.
  • A vampire story that might actually be a full-fledged thing by the time vampires are vogue again. Or it might continue its eternal, ageless death on my hard drive.
  • More genre fiction blather.

*I use Evernote for–get this–notes, and almost overwrote everything I’ve jotted down since January because I’m a fat-fingered idiot, but i managed to save it and avoid dying of shame and misery.

So that’s what’s on my desk, and here’s a couple little modern haikus.

to be young again
warm and resonating and
less full of secrets

“You’ll be fine,” she said
But i was filled with voices
from beyond the grave.

We’re the Walking Dead


This post title is part pandering and part fact; I spent fourteen hours on my couch yesterday doing The Walking Dead marathon leading up to last night’s finale, because I was THAT FAR behind in the season thanks to AMC’s terrible video on demand options and not having cable when the season began. I feel like a corpse today after so many consecutive hours idle.

That said I’ve missed you all and I’m happy to talk about the season if anyone wants my unique perspective, but I didn’t take any notes or anything so results may vary in both detail and accuracy.

Anyway, I’m going to try and do a blog a day for the month of April (coinciding with Camp Nano), to get back in the swing of doing things. I’m terrible at adhering to a schedule (anyone following this blog is painfully aware of that already), so I’ll be starting from scratch. Subject matter will mostly be process notes on a short story/poem collection I’m working on compiling, works in progress, excerpts etc, though it’s likely I’ll include some random bits about my self-portrait project as well.

If you enjoyed my Nanowrimo and writing posts, expect more of those. If you enjoyed The Fitbit Diaries, that’s over for now and you can thank David Sedaris for doing everything I do better.  If you enjoyed my TV recaps, let me know so I look super important to people looking to hire entertainment writers.

If you want some current movie reviews, my friends run Drunk at the Movies, and I might sneak the occasional post in there if I ever see something current.

The Fitbit Diaries: Day 16

I’ve hit a fitness plateau, where healthy eating and my typical levels of belligerent self-motivation don’t seem to be cutting it any longer. Maybe it’s turning the corner out of my twenties. Who knows? All I can say is that for some reason, the bright glowing numbers on an elliptical machine display at the gym motivate me like no other, so I got something to turn my daily activity into numbers.

Day 16

At the end of my previous post I mentioned two friends had bought fitbits of their own, inspired by my shining example. Initially both the fitbit and the company of friends seemed like it would be a simple way to keep me honest regarding my activity level, but it turns out it’s offering so much more.

If you dress us up, we STILL look like incomparable assholes!

If you dress us up, we STILL look like incomparable assholes!

These two, whether they like to face the facts or not, are kinda best friends. They’ve been living together for years now, go on food safaris together, have adorable nicknames, and fight like an old married couple. If I’m being completely honest, it’s that last one that’s given me so much joy over the last five days.

Because one of these guys is used to being the fit one and one is used to being the fat one, and that’s not what the activity numbers are showing.

photo 2 (2)

Evidence for the world to enjoy

Cameron is losing his shit.

I get to hang out like a platonic spectator in the world’s lamest Spy vs. Spy, while the pair of them engage in athletic one-up-manship, and it’s amazing. My fitbit has paid for itself in entertainment value alone, like a $100 price of admission to the world’s best ego-flattening.  Inspired by numbers that only account for time spent waking (or running, who does that), we have become manipulative, sabotaging, unsupportive assholes.

The other night I forced Cameron to eat a plate of onion rings covered in sour cream and cheese.

Shawn walked to the grocery store and back today just to get his steps over Cameron’s.

Cameron is positive Shawn is cheating, but can’t figure out how.

Shawn is gleefully taunting Cameron by not in fact cheating, but just being more active than Cameron anticipated–our dogs are the real winners here, because what better excuse to walk?

I send Cameron screengrabs of the leaderboard every time Shawn is in front of him.

I also told Shawn about a new cheesecake bakery walking distance from his house, staffed by a very cute girl and brought him samples (I’m an equal-opportunity saboteur).

One of these men might be on the verge of a psychotic break

One of these men might be on the verge of a psychotic break

I also sent both of them taunting photos of me enjoying beer and bacon at Prism for Philly Beer Week.

I also sent both of them taunting photos of me enjoying beer and bacon at Prism for Philly Beer Week.

Because these are clearly the attitudes of mature, healthy individuals in mature, healthy, and supportive friendships.

You're right, Fitbit. My god, you're so right.

You’re right, Fitbit. My god, you’re so right.

The Fitbit Diaries: Day 11

I’ve hit a fitness plateau, where healthy eating and my typical levels of belligerent self-motivation don’t seem to be cutting it any longer. Maybe it’s turning the corner out of my twenties. Who knows? All I can say is that for some reason, the bright glowing numbers on an elliptical machine display at the gym motivate me like no other, so I got something to turn my daily activity into numbers.

Day 11

I got almost exactly a week from my first battery charge. It’s more than advertised (I think they say four days), and I’ve worn my wristband every moment I wasn’t in the bathtub. After tinkering around on the website, which has vastly more information than the clean and simple iphone app, I changed my sleep tracker to “sensitive,” then immediately changed it back when my sleeping habits went from looking reasonable to insane.

Regular sensitivity:

Above: sober sleep Below: drunk sleep

Above: sober sleep
Below: drunk sleep




Maybe it’s so sensitive it’s tracking my restlessness and Brian’s! (Note to self: test theory by adding third person to bed)


I’ve also received my first weekly summary email, and to be honest it was a mixed bag:

Thanks, JUDGY

Thanks, JUDGY

First, I’d like to confess that my most active day was because we walked to (and then from) dinner (then to and from the bar). Does exercise really count if it’s instantly negated by a goddamned shake shack hamburger?


Still, this sets a pretty nice benchmark for "active" day when your lifestyle is "sedentary"

Sets a pretty nice benchmark for an “active” day when your lifestyle is “sedentary”

I’ll be over here, pretending the remainder of my week (not nearly as active) was to give myself a control group, a baseline of activity for those days I just sloth around the house in the world’s rattiest pair of sweatpants and watch AMC. Apparently in addition to numbers, I’m motivated by grilled meats and expensive beers. I regret nothing (except my waistline), and I deserve a goddamned reward for the little “Nailed it!” icon above, because that means I didn’t reward myself with a coffee malt milkshake.

On the subject of rewards, the people at fitbit ought to give me a prize or a job or some swag, because two friends have already gone out and purchased fitbits as well. I am such a trendsetter.

Gotta go practice my taunting. I think it goes something like this: I have lost 1.7 pounds so far.

This Post is About All Men

I’ve been reading, trying to digest everything that’s being said in the wake of this Elliot Rodgers mess. I had to explain it to my dad, that a man killed some women for not having sex with him, and that other men on the internet thought he had the right idea. I had to see his face as he connected the dots about the world his daughter is living in. Then I had to explain the “not all men,” the ones who refuse to see what’s really happening because they’re too busy trying to exonerate themselves.

The “not all men” defense is a man’s plea for you to tell him that he’s “one of the good ones,” absolving him of his own questionable behavior, asserting that his nice guy-ness gets a pass, and reassuring him he still deserves the entitlement fantasy. It’s the “Some of my best friends are black” card in the misogyny debate–the guilty conscience sleight-of-hand meant to draw attention away from whatever very real and harmful actions one is committing.

I picked two movies at random to watch on Netflix last night. One was Paranoia with Liam Hemsworth, the other The Frozen Ground with John Cusack and Nick Cage. This pair of 2013 releases accurately portrays both ends of the male entitlement spectrum–Paranoia features an ambitious young man willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, including breaking the law and betraying family and friends. By engaging in bold (and illegal!) acts of corporate espionage and deceiving the woman he comes to love, he wins a successful career, a happy family life and gets the girl, in spite of the fact that he spends the majority of the movie lying to her face. In The Frozen Ground, John Cusack plays a middle-aged white male with a family and successful business. He is well-liked in his community, but feels emasculated and threatened by women, so he kidnaps, rapes, and kills approximately 17 women and girls in a twisted display of his own power. The kicker one of these is based on a true story.

So go ahead and tell me that “not all men” are misogynists, and “not all men” are serial killers; I’ve met men and lived to tell about it, so I already know that.

Don't worry, strawman, you'll always be one of the good ones.

Don’t worry, strawman, you’ll always be one of the good ones.

Why is it not helpful to say “not all men are like that”? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don’t need you to tell them. Second, it’s defensive. When people are defensive, they aren’t listening to the other person; they’re busy thinking of ways to defend themselves. —Phil Plait

I shouldn’t have to justify my credibility in this debate with anecdotes about the time a guy followed me to my car in an empty parking lot at 3am (even though I parked under the only light-post like I was taught), or about the guy who licked my tattoo because it looks like it has some visible vagina action, or about every time I get called a bitch or slut for ignoring catcalls in the street (they’re compliments, slut! How else can you interpret, “I’d like to shove my dick in that juicy ass”?), or about how I can’t simply say I’m not interested when a guy is too forward at a bar–he won’t back off until he hears I’m married, someone else’s property (“It’s a shame you have a husband.” It is?). Or how about the time a guy offered to let me taste his beer three different times, all while not drinking from it himself (probably not roofies!)? Or times I had to call my husband because I felt unsafe and wanted to be on the phone with him as I walked to wherever I was going? And these are just a sampling of my own encounters, and I’m just one of billions of women dealing with these issues.

Obviously not all men are serial rapists and murderers. Obviously not all men dehumanize women and treat them like objects or commodities. But the fact that some do irreparably tarnishes male interactions with me, and with the majority of other women. This is in your control, “not all men.” If you don’t want to be lumped in with misogynists and crazies, take a stand against them. Start by acknowledging that they exist and are very real threat to the women that you know and love, or want to know and love. Your voice matters. Using it to say that not all men are dangerous is a waste. Use it to make certain, otherwise your voice is just one more in a string of defenses that don’t make women feel any safer walking to our cars at night.

“Not all men” isn’t just hostility against women, either–it’s hostility against men too. By trying to flaunt “Alpha male” superiority and being unable to acknowledge the value of other men, these OKCupid-level nice guys are demonstrating explosive vulnerability. It’s not the kind that leads to intimacy, but rather the kind that leads to hostility, like a cornered animal lashing out.

In less tangible but still damaging instances, this can take the form of rants about the “Friendzone,” suggesting that once a man finds out a lady isn’t going to sleep with him, it retroactively makes all the time spent being friends a waste of his time. The implication  is his time holds more value than hers, because she has time to make friends just for the sake of friendship. It also clearly defines that what’s of value in women isn’t their personality or companionship (things we’re supposed to salivate over in “nice guys”), but rather their ability to provide sex on demand. Because he’s been her shoulder to cry on every time “some asshole” hurt her, the self-anointed “nice guy” has proven his worth, and when it turns out basic human decency isn’t the coin of the vaginal realm, he grows angry at the dumb sluts who reject him, and the stupid assholes she’s fucking instead.

In rarer but more severe cases, we end up with Elliot Rodgers, taking it a step further by deciding these men and women deserve to die at his hand for failing to recognize and fulfill his entitlement.

The fact that it’s necessary to include the risk of hostility against other men in order to get men to care about the situation is a big part of the problem. I’ve been confused for years about whether your garden-variety men have wives or daughters or sisters or mothers–any woman in their life that they have ever cared about on a nonsexual level. How can so many not see this affects us all.

It’s oversimplifying to say that men lashing out must have a bad family life, or no good male or female role models in their homes; with school and larger social environments, the opportunity for culture to shape behavior is prevalent. We need to ask what that culture is telling young men and young women. The movies I referenced earlier reinforce the same problematic messages: men, it’s okay to lie to a woman and pretend to be someone you’re not in order to be successful, because she’ll forgive you in the end. Be persistent, and you’ll get the girl. When she says she’s not interested, she’s just playing hard to get. If she doesn’t honor your entitlement, move to a small town in Alaska, where the cops will defend you as a standup guy while you rape and kill to your heart’s content (because it’s not like you can rape prostitutes anyway!).

Overhauling media tropes is a long-term project, so in the interim change falls to us. Women need to keep having uncomfortable conversations with the men on our lives. Men need to hold each other accountable for their behavior, because sexism isn’t cute or funny or manly. #yesallwomen deserve to be safe; we are independent people deserving of respect and dignity and the right to live in safety.

Some further reading, by other people saying it better than I am: