27 June 2010

C Is For...


Captivating. Conscientiousness. Casual. Conversation. Courtney. Crazy. Contest. Communication.


Well, I promised I'd write about "the c-word" at one point or another, since I am a big fan after all, so I figured that there was no time like the present. I like the word cunt, though I will try to keep my use of it in this post to a reasonable level, since repeating anything too many times, aside from potentially offensive, is just plain tedious. In some ways, I love the word.

Allow me to slpain.

"Cunt" is, for all intents and purposes, one of the oldest words used to describe, well, female genitalia. Shakespeare used it. There's a street in London called Gropecunt Lane (uh, yeah. I wonder what business was going on there...). The etymology of the word is one that goes back centuries to early Middle English, and may come from Germanic, Latin, and even Greek roots. It was in common, daily use from about the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century. Then, somehow, it became a taboo all its own. Honestly, though, who cares?

When it comes down to it, "cunt" is a bad word, one that is derisive and vulgar and helped make George Carlin (may he rest in peace) one of the most memorable (not to mention effective and progressive) comedians in history. You know the bit:

At any rate, I like the word cunt because, for all its culturally imposed vulgarity, it's a damn fine word. I don't see any reason why the corner on the market of "strong and offensive" words needs to belong solely to male genitalia. Think about it for a second. The following words are strong and offensive: cock, prick, dick, schmuck, shaft (as in "to shaft"). To put in frankly, these relate to penises. Yay for men and their fantastically strong (albeit awkwardly placed and funny looking - sorry guys) genitals. Seriously. You won. Or at least, your anatomy and our culture made sure you did.

ON THE OTHER HAND, think of these words when used in the offensive sense: pussy, douche(bag), vagina, twat. The weak sibilant Ss of "pussy," the sense of being unclean that comes with "douche" (for the record, douche means "shower" in French). The fact that even the anatomically correct term can be used as a power-sapping insult is maddening. How did that happen? In the words of Mr. Carlin, "We fucked it up."

To bring in another comedian, Hal Sparks, I would like you to watch this:

The vagina is the tougher of the two genitals, damn it. And we have only one word that conveys this toughness: cunt.

Why do I beleive this? Based solely on the pronunciation of the word, it is strong, forceful, direct. Not unlike "fuck," the hard c sound snaps and forces you to pay attention. The taboo that our culture has attached to it has made it all the more effective. If you're really mad, if you really dislike someone, you call them a cunt.

Cunt is so effective in its vulgarity that it can be like a slap to the face. You're not going to get that effect with a word like "dick." And while some may argue that "bitch" is another strong word, reserved mainly for women, it is still disempowering. It references animals, weakness, subjugation. Fuck that noise.

Cunt is an old word. It is an effective word. And it is a powerful word. One could say it's the most offensive word in the English language. And I love it. It so succinctly and directly conveys what is so often missing in insulting discourse (I use "discourse" lightly): strong femininity. 

So, if you're going to insult me, if you're going to call me anything, call me a cunt. I have one and I am one on occasion, and I'm almost always proud of it.

25 June 2010

It's A Judgment Call

Or Moral Relativism Will Drive Me Insane
photo from this blog

This is not a "blog post." This is an incoherent rant that wanders and back-tracks and generally just makes no sense. (But neither does moral relativism.)

I just got off the phone with my boyfriend. We talked for nearly two hours. He happened to be at work, but that's another issue altogether. We argued.

Adam and I have been arguing quite a bit lately, about lots of different things, though we've certainly been able to stay away from petty spats. Our arguments have been about our families and our perceived incompatibilities therein, and life choices that we need to come to grips with. In part, our frequent disagreements are because we've reached that point in a relationship where everyone stops being on their best behavior and starts to let humanity eek out again. You know, the point where every foible stops being cute, and you stop for a second and think, "ya know, it really isn't adorable when she..." Not that this changes how I feel about the man, he is without a doubt, amazing. Patient and kind and understanding and intelligent, Adam is the guy I never saw myself with before but can't picture my life without now. My mother can't get over how dissimilar we are, but I imagine that will eventually change. And the arguments, regardless of their mere existence, are infrequent in general, and overall surmountable. But I realized just now, I am a judgmental bitch.

We were arguing this time about environmental responsibility. Adam made a conjecture about how "it costs more to be 'Green.'" I promptly lost my shit, but that's not the point. I am self-aware enough to know that I closely align an environmentally responsible life with a morally sound one. My stance on politics is no different. Regardless of the so-called liberal attitude that morals and ethics are moving targets, so to speak, and ignoring my often extremely liberal stances, morality is not and should not be a grey area. 

Capice? Listen, people, there is a right and wrong. Execution of one's ethics differs, but morality is overarching. There is right and wrong. You could be utilitarian in your ethics, or Kantian, or Aristotelian, or fucking John B. Doeian for all I care, but ultimately, one comes to the conclusion that A is right and B is wrong, even if both have elements of the other in it. Wait, I'm getting off my point. 

My point? Judgment happens. All the time. You can call me Judgy McJudgerson all you want, it's just how it goes (and look at yourself, count the value-judgments you make in a day.) My judgments about others tend to stem from my own Kantian tendencies - belief in the categorical imperative. Perhaps I should just refer to my own behavior as Cuntian, since that's usually the outcome, but I digress... (I apologize to my aunts who I know read this for using the c-word, but I like it, and someday I will explain why, but that's another post for another day.)

Okay, here's the deal, Adam said to me, "You're such a non-judgmental person on so much, but when it comes to this, you take judgment to the extreme."

His assessment is not wrong. At all. It annoyed me a little at first for it to be so blatantly put out there, but the thing is, he's 100% right. I'm as socially liberal as they come, I think it's right to allow people to marry if they love one another. I think it's right to do what we can to help those in need, form providing unemployment benefits, to nationally subsidized healthcare. And why do I think these things? Because morally, they are sound and justifiable stances. We must consistently afford others the benefits that we ourselves would like should we need them. Morality does not come form the pages of a book of any sort, mind you, but from and understanding of basic human decency - the right for each person to live life as they see if so long as it does not challenge the agency of another. And I'm wandering again...

So as per Adam's assessment, I've spent the last 45 minutes trying to decide why I get so judgmental and angry about people who are blatantly environmentally or socially irresponsible. The people whose opinions differ from mine are one thing; so long as you can logically support your position, go for it. It's the other type that get to me. (And no, people don't fall into one of just two categories, but bear with me here).

The bottom line is, my judgments come from my disgust over willful ignorance; I am revolted by those who choose not to know. Or worse, by those who clearly know and choose to act in the opposite way for whatever reason. Laziness? Selfishness? Downright-Asshole-who-doesn't-give-a-shitness? 
Allow me to provide an example of this: choosing not to use reusable bags (or whatever description) at the grocery. store. What the fuck. Seriously. It's not HARD, it saves you money, and it's better for the environment. Many stores give them away for free. Why wouldn't you choose to do this? GIMME A REASON. Justify your behavior; I'm the goddamned karma police.

Honestly, this doesn't justify it, but at least I'm aware that I can be a self-righteous asshole. Yet, this self-awareness doesn't mean I will change, either.

I'm tired of moral ambiguity. I'm tired of people choosing not to do what is clearly and intrinsically right because of ignorance. It's difficult for me to discuss ethics without delving into the semantics of it, because our language is built with judgment words, but I will try hard not to write a dissertation here. Just think of how subversive political discourse is, and how this semantic abuse has increased recently. Calling someone a "socialist" is the new "communist." "Feminist" is a bad word. These are judgment-laden words which have not always been so, but through intentional semantic use (or abuse) have become such. 

Semantics aside, I reserve my right to judge. Often, I will have the common sense and social decency to keep my damn mouth shut when it comes to making a judgment. 

The bottom line, however, is that we cannot live in a world of moral relativity. Moral relativity in a socially liberal sense breeds a fear of offending others, even when what they are doing is wrong. It means The Daily Show censors itself regarding lampooning insane behavior from religious fundamentalists of various sorts. It means a book - published in the US! - about cartoons that got a Dutch man killed does not include the cartoons in question. It means we learned nothing from Salman Rushdie or the death murder of Dr. George Tiller. 

And moral relativism allows for willful ignorance. I give you one of the most idiotic statements every thought: "It's right because it's right to me."

This can be said for many things, mind you, and be perfectly acceptable. If it relates strictly to your personal autonomy, go for it. If you decide to forego logic and evidentiary support for something such as organized religion, you are perfectly welcome to do so, so long as you're not going to start proselytizing. The thing is, something such as environmental or social responsibility doesn't just affect you. It just doesn't. I realize not everyone can afford, or has the resources, to be "green." (But fuck it, even Kermit the Frog had a safe assessment on that - it's not easy being green.) 

I have a significant amount of trouble focusing on one argument. My ability to articulate that which really boils my potatoes becomes an issue because so much of our illiberal, stagnant society does is intertwined in a way that creates roadblocks when trying to unpack an assumption or disengage prejudices from argument. Hence this meandering "argument" that spanned from judgmental behavior to Emmanuel Kant and onward to Kermit the Frog. 

The problem is not that we perpetuate our own judgmental foibles or that many people just haven't been provided with an understanding of the absurdities of moral relativism (or Constitutional Originalism, for that matter. I'm looking at you, Justice Scalia. Ahem.), or given a lens through which to view life beyond their experiences. 

Please, take a moment and unpack your assumptions, divest yourself of your beliefs and examine them from the outside. You may find that you are, uncomfortably at first, filled to the brim with prejudices and misunderstandings that until you can study them in yourself, will never understand in others.

I don't know if any of this makes sense. I know I haven't provided cohesive or coercive arguments in their entirety, but I have written this because, well, we're all chock full of bullshit, and I'm no exception. At the very least, I try to be honest.

04 June 2010


Service is the rent you pay for having room on Earth.
(okay, that was cheesy, but whatever.)

Shortly after being laid off, while reading the local paper, I came across a call for volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels in my hometown. Knowing I'd be free most (okay, all) days around lunchtime, coupled with a newfound affection for our older citizens as well as an itchy sense of abject uselessness, I called and signed up. 

I must say, my volunteering is not entirely selfless. After all, I'm satisfying a very personal need to be needed. Ultimately, I think that's what most people want in terms of employment or volunteering, or some may say even parenthood. Sure, I help my parents around the house (I spent what seemed like an eternity painting the interior doors recently, for example), and I like to cook for my family and friends, but it's not the same as feeling like a truly contributory member of society. I volunteered for Meals on Wheels because I needed to feel useful. I needed to feel needed. And, truth be told, I needed to feel appreciated. There's little so disheartening as collecting unemployment checks while at the same time living with your parents and not exactly struggling to get by. Strange as it sounds, sometimes I think that if I were struggling, I'd be better off mentally, but I won't get into that now. 

I had to go to the town hall and fill out an absurd amount of paperwork. They asked for references, contact information, emergency information, my SSN, and a urine sample. (I made that last one up. They wanted a blood test.) It was quite the lengthy process, considering I'd be simply dropping food off at senior citizens' homes and scampering off. All the same, I can understand it. After all, these seniors are essentially opening their doors to complete strangers - who knows what shady folk would take advantage if they could, ya know? It's a pretty sick world we live in to think that such people exist, but so it goes...

I was supposed to start deliveries in April, but as it turned out, one of the regular volunteers was sick twice in March and I was called to fill in. There are two routes in my town for deliveries. I tend to choose the one closest to my home, as I'm more familiar with the little neighborhoods and all that, but I've delivered to both routes. One of them is considerably harder than the other to deliver to, and not just because it has more recipients on the list. 

The second route is much longer, with homes farther apart. That is all well and good. What really gets to me is the difference in MOW recipients from one route to the next. The ones on Route 1 are house-bound, sure, but generally speaking, they don't seem to be suffering. They chat a little, and one guy showed me all the wood carving he'd done in his front room (I went in to say hello despite knowing it was against the rules. These people need visitors!) 

The recipients on Route 2, well, they're a different story. Many are in wheelchairs. One woman is so house-bound that she leaves her door unlocked so that the delivery person can walk right in. One woman had a stroke so severe, she can no longer talk. And then there's Mr. L.

This man reminded me so much of my grandfather that I could barely stand it. He came to the door of his condo, shuffling slowly. He wore a flannel over-shirt and dockers, clearly cold from the March rain. His Parkinson's was so severe that the people who pack his MOW have to open a corner of his hot meal so he can get into it. I wanted to hug him and bring him cake, because, let's be honest, MOW food isn't exactly gourmet.

I delivered to Mr. L about halfway through my route. And I cried for the rest of my deliveries. I'd sort myself out before going to the rest of the deliveries from then on, but my heart was breaking. Maybe I was especially soft-hearted that day. Maybe it was the cold, persistent rain that soaked through my sweatshirt. Maybe it was the overwhelming smell of the food that turned my stomach and made me prone to upset. Or maybe because delivering Meals on Wheels is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

I haven't selected to deliver to Route 2 since. I just can't bring myself to do it. I discovered recently that Route 1 has its own set of difficulties. I delivered to Route 1 about once a week since April. One of my favorite people to see was Gerald, an adorable, awesome dude who, the first time I met him, informed me it was going to be is 92nd birthday in a week. He lived on his own, as so many of these people do, but seemed to have a really good handle on things. His house was clean, he was always neatly dressed, and always always in a good mood. Whenever I asked how he was that day, his response was always positive and sweet.

Two weeks ago, he was no longer on the list of deliveries and hasn't been added back since. I have almost successfully convinced myself he has gone to live in an assisted care facility, or that his family has built him an in-law apartment and sees him every day. 

They warn you not to get attached to the people you deliver to. And honestly, I didn't think the 5 or 10 minutes I spend chatting with these folks would indicate attachment. I guess I was wrong.

I won't stop going, though. I really do enjoy it. My face usually hurts after my hour or so of deliveries from smiling so much. There is never any question that these people are happy to see me. Really, it's not about the food at all. Of course, it is about the food, due to their finances and mobility, many of these people wouldn't eat three square meals a day if it weren't for MOW. However, there is no doubt that it's the brief visit that really makes it worthwhile for them.

Recently, Ms. T has been added to my list. Or rather, I've recently met her. Before, a nurse or family member would answer the door, but I suspect she's on the mend, and has been recovering nicely in her in-law apartment. She is always so excited to see me I feel like a rock star. Every time I come to the door, she mentions how adorable and sweet I am, highlighting how young I am (most volunteers with MOW are a bit older). The other day, she invited me in for a chat, conspiratorially.

"How are you today, Ms. T?" I asked. 

"Oh, pretty good!" says she. "Aren't you the sweetest thing? You're just lovely!"

"Oh, thank you," I responded. "Can I help you bring them in?"

"No, no," she said, then paused and looked at me sideways, smiling crookedly. "Unless you'd like to come in for a chat..." she almost whispered with a giggle, knowing what I'd say.

Of course, I couldn't. I had more deliveries to make, and I am not supposed to go in to their homes as per MOW rules. I politely declined and wished her a lovely day. I realized I had a goofy grin on my face when I got to my car. Ms. T just cracks me up. I have a sneaking suspicion she wants to set me up with her grandson, too, but that's another issue altogether. I'm guessing in a few more deliveries, I'll get that invitation, too. 

And I know I shouldn't get attached to Ms. T, just like I shouldn't have gotten attached to Gerald, but I really can't help it. These people are really cool, just a little less fast-moving as the rest of the world. As such, I feel like we have all passed them by, and unfairly so. I will keep delivering MOW until I get a job, since deliveries take place in the middle of the day. 

When I was younger, elderly people kind of freaked me out. I think a lot of younger people feel this way, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the slower pace, or the need to shout and then listen soooo intently at the same time that makes us uncomfortable. But really, I think it's the underlying understanding that we, too, will end up old one day. The bullshit "live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse" adage makes us think that old can never equal beautiful. 

I have lost all of my grandparents, and I have made friends with the people on my delivery route, I can tell you, I can think of no people more beautiful.

03 June 2010

Hypochondria 101

Comic from nataliedee.com

As far as I can recall (though my older brother will probably disagree), I haven't ever really been sickly, or prone to complaining about my ailments. Recently, all of this has changed.

I'm not sure if it's my recent and strange array of minor health issues or purely boredom of mind, but I'm pretty sure I'm dying. And beyond that, I'm probably dying of something weird that only Dr. House could fix in a stunning display of assholery. But Dr. House is fictional! This will not help me! Maybe I should just start stalking Hugh Laurie.

I think WebMD was my gateway drug to hypochondria. WebMD really can be a great resource. Without a doubt, it offers useful and complete information about a wide variety of health issues, treatments, and medication. I was able to use the website several times to self-diagnose problems, make an appointment with my doctor, and go in with all the appropriate questions and get solid answers. 

That damned website needs to come with a warning label.

Honestly, have you ever tried their "Symptom Checker" application? Enter any minor discomforts you're having, for instance: a headache, lower abdominal cramping, and back ache. Instead of just telling you: "STFU you've got PMS, dumbass!" it will tell you that, sure, you might have PMS, but you could also have metastasized uterine cancer and you'd better have written your will five minutes ago, sicko. And, since it's not actually an MD, despite its totally deceptive address, WebMD slaps a "when to call your doctor" addendum on everything. I could go on there looking for the best way to remove a splinter, and it would instruct me to contact my doctor anyway.

Let me tell you, my doctor is a wonderful man who I am quite sure is getting sick of my phone calls. 

At the risk of sharing way too much information (aw, hell, who am I kidding here? I have no filter anyway), I recently got an IUD (as I mentioned before). Now, let's just put this out there: I have a foreign object implanted in my body - intentionally! And not by aliens!  Understandably, this takes one's body some time to get used to. My uterus occasionally throws temper tantrums these days, and every time it happens, I kind of freak out. Keeping in mind that I have a T-shaped piece of plastic wrapped in copper inside my uterus, I can't help but think that the worst possible outcome is on its way. IUDs have some pretty scary risks associated with them (perforated uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease, sterility), but they are so rare that they're pretty much unheard of, and considering the benefits (no babies! no crazy hormones!) they're well worth the risk for me. 

That being said, I'm pretty sure my IUD is migrating its way to my spleen or something, on an Hannibal-esque march to conquer other organs now that it has presumably beaten the crap out of my reproductive system. WebMD routinely confirms these fears and works very hard to instill others.

Reading WebMD is the first step toward becoming a reclusive germaphobe and hypochondriac. Look at today's front page:

You got me, WebMD! You're right, I don't sleep well. I have two tattoos! I have bi-polar, and that includes sometimes depression! When I drink something before bed, I have to wake up to pee! I'M DYING.

WebMD is like a constant barrage of the scare tactics from your local news stations. You know, the ones where you'll get a teaser from these damned rinky-dink "news" outlets during How I Met Your Mother or Fringe that say things like, "What common household object is killing your babies? Find out at 11!" and "Tune in at ten to find out how you're slowly murdering your spouse without knowing it!"

Mind you, I do think WebMD can be quite helpful, but DAMN. What isn't killing me these days? Or what isn't making me want to kill myself?

And all of this is occurring without taking into account the things that are secretly killing all of us. Global warming! Pesticides! Genetically manipulated foods in my grocery store! Scientologists!

Okay, so maybe since I'm aware that I've come down with a raging case of hypochondria, that's not what it really is (though some close to me might differ). Honestly, I think it's a symptom of a brain left to its own devices. The bottom line is, I need a job, if only for my health.