Gender.

I was recently listening to the Witch Wave podcast where the host Pam Grossman interviews Neko Case. It’s the season 5 premiere episode, #76 Neko Case, Sovereign Songstress. In the episode, Pam asks Neko:

I love the way that you write about gender or just write gender. I’m thinking about a song you have called “Man.” I’m thinking about that great lyric you have, “I’ve fucked every man I’ve wanted to be.” I’m thinking about your Twitter profile where in your gender, where you identify your pronouns, you cheekily wrote, “she/sir.” And so I’m wondering how you think about gender these days? … Do you find gender even a useful construct anymore?

Neko responds:

Well, gender’s a useful construct if you’re looking at what needs to heal; what were you forced into that didn’t really fit. … I don’t think I would identify as a woman if I were 20 years younger … I think I would be nonbinary. I feel probably slightly more masculine than I do feminine and I even have issues with being toxically masculine at times … The gifts that the younger generations have given us of just saying these things out loud and pointing out that gender is a spectrum are very valuable. And I feel that the generation that I’m a part of can heal thanks to that … I definitely also feel that I’ve fought so many battles as a “she” that I can’t leave now. We are so hated. Women are so hated that I will not abandon it now.

It made me realize: I identify as a woman as a political statement.

I’ve struggled with my gender identity for I think a very long time. When I was a child, I used to think that they made a mistake when I was a baby at the hospital and that I was a boy, and now, I thought I was a boy being raised as a girl.

I went through a period of not really thinking about it in high school, instead I was more focused on trying to be a “perfect” female. I think I started thinking about gender again when I was in college, after I shaved my head. I talked about when I shaved my head in this post from a mental health perspective, and it was definitely a freeing experience. Speaking of Britney, though, that song, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman,” I definitely felt that. I’m too old to feel between those worlds, but do I feel like a woman?

I’ve never spent time listening to Neko Case, though now I feel like I might want to. When Pam quoted her lyrics, “I’ve fucked every man I’ve wanted to be,” my ears perked. After struggling with figuring out my sexuality, I realized that I did this. I would choose who I wanted to have sex with based on wanting to be them, not really wanting to be with them. In terms of my sexuality, I identify as “gay” rather than as “lesbian,” and I never really knew why, just that that word felt better to me.

The other day I was online and read about a gender dysphoria test. I didn’t take it, but I read the questions and I don’t think I have gender dysphoria, but I would say “yes” to a few of the questions. On the one hand, I don’t hate my body. I love my voice, for example, and would hate if it changed due to hormones. But on the other hand, yes, I do wish people in my life would treat me the way they treat males. As a person, I tend to be more assertive (male) or aggressive (female). I’ve had coworkers that presented as male, were assertive in a similar way to me, and were well loved. I would be “talked to” by my manager. In fact, I think that my assertive/aggressive nature, and my coworker’s interpretation of it, caused a workplace conflict that would have been avoided if I were male. This is because, in our culture, men are allowed, nay, expected to be assertive and courageous leaders while women are expected to be sensitive and gentle followers. Unfortunately for me, I was born into a female body and a conservative home.

I also think that it took until college for me to really think about my gender because of that upbringing I had.

Neko Case and I are of different generations, I don’t agree that I would identify as nonbinary if I were younger. However, if I lived in a non-gendered society, I probably would.

However, we do live in a gendered society. These younger/more progressive people Case is talking about have taught me a lot, too. I realized that I don’t fully identify as male OR female, but not enough on either side to do anything drastic about it. This thinking outside the binary has allowed me to accept my female-gendered body, and my political bent has allowed me to to use my body as a feminine product of society. And, thanks to the understanding I have of this, that gender isn’t just nonbinary, but is also a cultural construct, I personally feel like I can be in whatever body I already have and at the same time have whatever gender expression I wish, and I do.

I do want to clarify one thing, though. I am not trans so I don’t really understand what that experience is like. However, I think the spectrum theory of gender has made it harder for me to understand. Do I wish I had a penius? Sometimes, sure! But I was born into this body, gender isn’t a binary, so I can dress this body however I want. I have a disconnect there and I don’t know how to get past it.

In the end, given my masculine personality and my feminine appearance, it is a truly political statement to continue to identify as a woman in this society.

Love, Madeleine

P.S. Don’t forget to support my Quilted Tarot Kickstarter!

Kickstarter.

I am so excited to let you all know about my Kickstarter project, Quilted Tarot!

Quilted Tarot is a project where I’ll be making a wall-hanging quilt for each of the major arcana cards, photographing them, and turning them into physical decks.

If you don’t know much about tarot, or if you’re a tarot purist, many people use and create major arcana-only decks. There are many spreads you can use with only the major arcana, which will be included in the guidebook I’m writing to go along with the deck.

If you’re not into tarot and are only into quilting, this could be an interesting project to support from an artistic standpoint. The beautiful thing about quilting is that there is so much that can go into it – there’s the design of the piecing, the fabric, and the quilting itself that can all have deep and important symbolism for each card.

I’ve officially finished designing all the quilts for the major arcana! If you interested in this project, please take a look and support! If you know of anyone who is into tarot or quilting, it could be a great gift or just letting them know about it would be so great.

Here’s a video I made of all the designs except for the World, which is below, as I had finished it later.

The World card design

Thank you so much for taking a look! I’m really excited about this project. Kickstarter selected this project as a Project We Love, which I feel so honored by and I hope this gets funded.

Please follow this link to Quilted Tarot, or watch the video for the project, below.

Quilted Tarot on Kickstarter

Thank you again. I love you.

Love, Madeleine

Gay pride: Part 2.

In honor of Pride month, let’s make a lesbian pride flag!

Lesbian flag: the goal
Lesbian flag: the top
Lesbian flag: the result

I did this using scraps I had on hand, but you just need 3.5″ strips of purple, pink, white, orange, and red that are about 26″ long.

When the strips come together, it’ll measure 15.25″ ish. Therefore, the backing should be 15.25″ x 26″.

I didn’t make a quilt technically, there’s no batting or quilting.

To secure the flag to the fence, I sewed velcro to the backing and used double sided tape on the fence. Now, if I need to take it down or if I make something else I want to put up, I just have to put some Velcro on it!

What are you making for pride month?

Love, Madeleine

Gay pride: Part 1.

Lesbian Flag

As a cis-gender, queer woman, my experience of my sexuality has always been complicated. I alternatively thought I was straight and gay growing up. I remember the fear of feeling gay and the relief of feeling straight. It took me a long time before I realized I was, in a way, both and neither. The structure of our society dictates that one must choose a side. 

I don’t know how other little kids play house or doctor, but for me it usually ended up being sexual in some way. I remember being about 5-years-old and playing house with my friend Thea. Maybe it was from TV or movies, but I somehow knew that I as the husband and she as the wife must have sex in order for it to be “real”. One day, I aggressively tried to make out with Thea. When she didn’t want to I was so confused. But this is the way it is! I don’t remember much after I tried to put my tongue in her mouth and her being very upset by it, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t hang out much after that.

When I was a little bit older by a few years, I would hang out with my friend Brenna. Brenna and I were best friends for a time, even though she would piss me off all the time. We were mostly best friends because our moms were. But even with this person who I would regularly call my mom to pick me up from her house because we got into a fight, we would play very physical and personal games. That is, we would play doctor. The way we played doctor mostly involved putting instruments into each other’s vaginas. There was a time when my mom had come to pick me up but I couldn’t leave until I let Brenna put the pencil we were using into my vagina. I had done it to her, so it was only fair. I remember it was pretty painful and I was nervous because our parents could come in at any second. I was old enough to know that what we were doing was not ok by adult standards.

Even with my Barbies, the stories ended up being sexual. I would make my normally-sized Barbies have sex, sure, but when my younger sister got a My-Sized Barbie for Christmas one year, it changed the game. When I was alone with that My-Sized Barbie I would act out sex on it. In those situations, I was never the man, I was always a girl and that Barbie was a girl, too.

During middle school, I knew girls who identified as bisexual, but behind their backs the other kids would call them sluts. I didn’t think I was a slut, so I must have been straight. I thought this all the while having a crush on my best friend, a girl named Renee. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first real crush I’d ever had beyond randomly choosing someone to “like” because everyone else had crushes, why didn’t I?  But growing up Catholic meant that I couldn’t be gay, I must be straight, so I was.

One night in middle school, I was talking with my family about Renee. My sisters and brothers started teasing me about being in love with her. I remember feeling so naked. I felt caught. I of course vehemently denied being in love with her, which made them tease me more. I wanted my family to love and accept me and it didn’t seem that being gay was a part of that equation. I viscerally pushed those feelings down. I knew when they said it, it was true, but I also knew it needed to go away.

Around this same time, I had seen Cruel Intentions, Roger Kumble’s 1999 film about a bisexual woman who tricks another woman into fooling around with her so that she can “practice” for when she kisses a man. Obviously, this is only one small part of the movie, but it gave me an idea. During a sleepover with Renee, I very casually mentioned how some girls practice kissing on each other. My intention was to very casually make out with her while being able to pretend I was still straight as the purpose is to practice for a dude. It was the perfect plan. I was deeply in love with this girl. She was so captivating not only because she was beautiful and smart and funny and talented, but because she made me feel like I was, too. 

She was not into it. 

She said, “that’s disgusting!” and I quickly agreed, all the while my heart was breaking. My first heartbreak. But I knew by this time that my feelings weren’t ok, so my heartbreak was secret and I told no one. My first love rejected me in a mobile home in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

This rejection combined with the night my family teased me for being in love with Renee shoved me into the closet I was poking my toe out of. Those experiences locked the closet for a long time for me. I felt shame and fear and that closet was the only way to stay safe. And at a time I was so vulnerable as it was. Middle school, puberty, crushes, finding yourself, vulnerability, body changes, all of it is the worst time to feel that kind of shame and fear, but it’s also why it’s generally agreed that that time in life is excruciating to live though.

I continued to ignore these feelings throughout most of high school. I had desperate crushes on boys. I unconsciously saw these boys that I had a crush on as saviors. I felt more than thought that if I could win one of them, I would have the love and validation I craved as a child. You could say I was boy crazy, but it was less about my sexual urges and more about my emotional ones. Maybe I knew on some level that I wasn’t really attracted to these boys; maybe I knew on some level that my attraction to them was more about power. My own power being mixed with and heightened by theirs, as males in a patriarchal society. What I saw and learned was that boys are smarter, more physically able, and more laid back. I wanted to be those things more than I wanted to have sex with them. And after that first heartbreak I needed that power.

I eventually ended up breaking up with Renee. When you stop being friends with someone you are in love with, it’s not just growing apart. It’s a break up.

This break up was caused by nothing less than a guy. The entire time Renee and I had been friends up until the end, she had been dating a boy named Misha. When they broke up, she was able to quickly move on to other guys, a skill I’ve never been able to master. One of these guys was a very popular and tall senior named Lowell. He rode a motorcycle; he was in musical theater. He was very cool. She and he had been hooking up for a bit before I met him in the musical I was a chorus girl for toward the end of my freshman year. We were doing “The Princess and the Pea” and it was one of the best experiences of my high school career. I made some great friends and deepened friendships I already had, as one part of being in a high school production is that everyone spends so much time together. At Los Alamos High School, our musical theater program was a big deal. Everyone in town would see these annual musicals and the students in them were actually rather talented. As a singer, this was especially important to me. At this time, I still saw myself becoming famous for my acting or singing abilities.

I don’t remember what role Lowell played in the musical, but I believe it was a role with lines, which only made him that much more appealing to me. He was a cool senior who rode a motorcycle and he had a role with lines in the yearly musical. That, plus he was hooking up with Renee. It was a combination I couldn’t pass on.

Renee and Lowell weren’t “together,” so I didn’t think my hooking up with him would be an issue. That’s what I told myself, anyway. Of course, it was.

Lowell and I had been spending a lot of time together not only because of the musical, but because we actually liked each other. I don’t think he was a creep. He was a 17-year-old Mormon boy who liked all the attention he was getting from these girls. When he and I hooked up, I wanted to have sex (even though I had never done it before) and he said no. He was saving himself for marriage. Other than this time, Lowell and I only hooked up one other time. A friend Megan, Lowell, and I left the after-party when the musical was over to have a three-way kiss session. Megan and I started it off by kissing each other, which I rather enjoyed, but when Lowell got involved it turned into a mess. I had saliva all over my face. It was not sexy.

Before the three-way kiss but after our first time hooking up, Renee confronted me about it over AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). She was obviously pissed but trying to play it cool, which was her style. I was apologizing and then said something that stopped our friendship dead in its tracks. I told Renee directly that part of the reason I hooked up with Lowell was to try to get closer to her. Even at the time, I had that self-awareness. She responded by laughing. I will never know if she really laughed, but that “lol” stabbed me straight in the heart. I cried for my previous heartbreak and the end of our friendship in an ugly way. I walked away from that conversation without my best friend, the one who I had for years, who shaped my sense of humor and self-confidence at the most vulnerable time in my life. That was a very lonely night.

When you grow up in a small town, people come in and out of your life. You know these people from elementary school through high school. Sometimes you’re best friends and sometimes you don’t even acknowledge each other in the hall. After the era of Renee, my friendship with Kathleen re-blossomed. I didn’t deserve her friendship as I had hurt her by “kicking her out” of our middle school group previously, but she forgave me and so we were best friends again.

In my perspective, my hurting her previously created a toxic relationship right from the get. She might disagree, but while we were best friends she put me down on a regular basis and in front of other people. I don’t blame her; I’m sure she held onto the hurt I caused her for a long time. But this was how our friendship functioned.

I knew I was in love with Renee, there’s no denying that, but with Kathleen it was different. I loved her, but I wasn’t in love with her. I do wonder if she was in love with me, though. When she was dating Pat, she told me with glee that he asked her if she and I were in a relationship because of the way we were with each other and the way she talked about me. She was so happy and told me with such joy that her boyfriend thought she was cheating on him with her best friend. 

Another reason I think she might have been in love with me was the time she grinded on me. We were very touchy-feely with each other, so cuddling wasn’t out of the picture for us. Our friend Bryant, Kathleen, and I were at my house and were watching Napoleon Dynamite in my living room. Bryant was sitting on the couch and for some reason there was a mattress on the floor that Kathleen and I were spooning on. Part way through the movie, I felt Kathleen moving around but I ignored it. I ignored it for a long time. Looking back I know what it was. I had pushed this attraction and love between women down so aggressively that I couldn’t comprehend that Kathleen might have been attracted to me in a non-platonic way. I do wonder if I hadn’t been shamed before, if I had accepted that I was attracted to women, would things between Kathleen and I have been different?

I dated a guy my last two years of high school. This guy, Eric, was what one might call metrosexual. He was a pretty feminine guy and most people thought he was gay until they would meet me and confusion would cover their faces. I didn’t really think anyone was gay, and I don’t think he is, so this never crossed my mind. This, despite being in the Gay/Straight Alliance in high school. Our relationship was fine. He was a young boy who sometimes said mean things to me because he didn’t know any better. I was a young girl who said mean things back. He became my best friend.

The day before I had sex with him for the first time, I was talking to Kathleen about Eric. I thought for sure I would break up with him; it just didn’t feel right. The next night we had sex and I changed my mind. Maybe it was the hormones, but that changed everything. That night, I connected acceptance with sex and that connection put a haze over my college years and the relationships I had within that time.

Eric and I broke up when he went to college. Then, during breaks, we would be together and hook-up secretly, though I’m pretty sure everyone knew. We spent one and a half years officially together and one and a half years pretending we weren’t together. I finally broke up with him permanently when I was a freshman. He came to visit from Chicago and we were laying in my bed in my dorm. He was looking at me so lovingly and I just felt off. I felt gross. This didn’t feel right and I knew it wasn’t. He left the next day and wouldn’t give me a hug goodbye. 

I want to be able to say I felt guilty or hurt. The truth is, I know why he didn’t want to hug me at the airport or talk to me for a long time after that. I didn’t feel guilty or hurt because I knew there was something off about our relationship. At the time, I thought it was because we had hurt each other so much so often, exiting the relationship was the only healthy option. There’s some truth to that.

I didn’t admit to myself that I had feelings toward anyone other than men until college, but I was still so afraid of those feelings that I cried thinking about it. I called myself bisexual to my friends, but I never really believed it. I thought I was secretly gay and was just using bisexuality as a transition into homosexuality, because as I learned in middle school, bisexuality doesn’t exist. Calling girls who identify as bisexual sluts in middle school, Catholicism, having a boyfriend in high school erased bisexuality for me. I had to choose between gay and straight. During college, I was sure I was gay, I just didn’t want anyone to know it yet. I only dated men. Well, I dated a couple of men and had sex with them and a few others. The acceptance/sex connection I had made in high school played out in me trying to hook up with the guys I thought were cooler than me. I used my body as a vehicle for acceptance and validation. I wouldn’t say I had more sex than was safe but it wasn’t a healthy amount for me, that is, had I had sex in a healthier mindset it would have been.

One of the guys I would hook up with in college was named Cameron. He seemed to be popular amongst the punk and alternative crowd I wanted to be my friends, so I was happy to have sex with him. At lunch one day, a kid I knew from one of my classes was sitting at the table with me and my friends and it came up somehow that we both knew Cameron. He said, “Yeah, Cameron told me you’re weird.” The way he said it made my skin crawl. He had this little smirk on his face that made me want to punch him, but I didn’t. I didn’t even acknowledge what he meant. I just pretended like everything was fine, as I continued to do with Cameron.

We had a very awkward hook-up one day that ended our affair. It was during the day on my bright blue blow-up mattress because I hadn’t gotten a proper one yet. It didn’t have any sheets on it and it was the summer in Las Cruces, so it was hot. The mattress was slowly deflating while we were fooling around and I was ready to have sex – I tended to want to get sex overwith in those days, so we probably had been making out for about 5 minutes. When I reached down to start the process, I was shocked. He wasn’t ready, and I started to worry. I have always been able to talk about anything, so I asked him if he was alright. He was fine, it’s just that I needed to touch it. It. His penis. I never touched his penis and the excitement of our hooking up was wearing off and now he wanted me to touch it. I was mortified and just couldn’t do it. I shut down and he must have left. I had never had that issue before, what had changed? From this day until the last time I had sex with a man, I haven’t been able to touch penises. 

When I thought I was straight, this was much more concerning. It still is concerning to me, though not for the same reasons. Originally, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to please a man. Now, I wonder how this aversion came to be. It wasn’t an issue for me with Eric or Andrew, a guy I dated for a bit before I ever met Cameron. I think it came about when I was with David.

After I graduated from college, I eventually came out to my family as a gay woman. This came years after college, years after living as a gay woman. The extent of which I lived as a gay woman was to call myself gay to friends and on dating websites and MeetUp.com and in my head. I made gay friends. I was single and gay and when same-sex marriage became legal on the federal level, it was time for my family to know. One of my brothers called me when he got my letter and we had a long conversation; the best conversation I had with him that I can remember. But that was it. One of my sisters mentioned it once when I started dating a guy (“But I thought you were gay?”) but otherwise, it hadn’t been mentioned. Honestly, I believe my mother threw away the letter without telling my dad and was relieved when I met my boyfriend in Portland.

Meeting Andrzej was hard. At this point I knew sexuality is fluid, but I still identified as gay. The letter I sent to each of my family members was out there. Now, I had to be gay because I had a great conversation with my brother! There’s no way they would understand! They would think, I was sure, that I was lying to get a rise out of them and I wouldn’t doubt some of them still think that is what I did. But I met him and we fell in love quickly and that was that. I had to have the hard conversation that I’m actually bisexual, I guess. But I grew up not believing bisexuality existed, why would my family believe that I am?  Women who say they are bisexual are confused or are sluts.

However, after having identified as gay for so long, I knew I wasn’t straight. There was no going back at this point just because I was with a man.

As a cis-gender, queer woman, my experience of my sexuality has always been complicated. I haven’t ever felt there was a place for me in the conversation. Sure, I have dated men in the past, but I’m also attracted to women and straight women don’t think about other women in that way. My experience has been complicated because my sexuality is both silenced and sexualized.

Weird mood.

I was having a hard time at work today. I kept messing up in obviously wrong ways and I started to get shaky. I went outside during my break and I thought to myself: ‘I’m in a weird mood today.’

Was I in a weird mood? Perhaps. Or I was in a reasonable mood for the situation.

Yesterday, Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts of killing George Floyd. Yesterday, the cops in Columbus, OH, my new home, killed a 16-year-old Black girl. It hit me all today.

I woke up this morning to a message from a friend, saying, “Please don’t go to the protests that I’m sure are going to happen for that teenage girl! It’s not worth it. It’s too dangerous.” I trust this friend, I think she would know what is and isn’t safe and why.

To further expound upon her warning, I came upon this article, titled “Ohio county where girl, 16, was killed is state’s deadliest for police shootings” by Adam Gabbatt. I moved to the county where the police shoot and kill the most people in Ohio and is the 18th most deadly county in the country. But this is not for me. I’m white.

Earlier, when I was thinking about how weird I was feeling, I also felt like I was going to cry. It could have gone either way. Either I cried and felt better or I didn’t, so I didn’t. If any of my coworkers saw me crying I would have to tell them through those tears that this is about me and my feelings. If I were to have cried my mostly Black co-workers would have to console the white girl they work with and barely know while people in their community are being murdered at rates higher than anywhere else in the state.

There’s nothing wrong with crying in itself, and maybe I will later when I can be alone, but this isn’t about me and my feelings. We’re all feeling like shit right now, yes, but we also can’t take the stage when people are literally dying.

This pandemic has been weird because so many people are dying, it’s a public health crisis. Black people are also dying at alarming rates, it is also a public health crisis. The most frustrating thing about these two things is that I live in a country that takes my taxes and does nothing to stop this death but only uses them to continue with more and more death. Yes, the military budget is way too bloated and we cause disgusting amounts of death in other countries, but we are funding this public health crisis here. I hate that my money is going toward paying the officer that killed Ma’Khia Bryant. I hate that my money is going toward giving police officers more military toys and trainings that only teach them to shoot first, everyone is a threat. I hate that my money is going toward a system that allows officers to kill other humans for no reason and get away with it.

There was no justice yesterday. Smarter people than me have pointed out that Justice would be that George Floyd and Ma’Khia Bryant (etc.) are still alive. What happened yesterday was accountability at best, and a small amount of accountability at that. We have just been trained to think this is Justice because we never get accountability.

What now? We know there’s this crisis and we know the problem. In fact, we know the solution. How do we get there?

Days like today, I hate this country. I called myself a Patriot for a long time, trying to take the word back from far right-wing nutjobs. I decided that I’m a citizen and cannot easily leave, and therefore I want to make this place my home. I want to make my home better. I don’t know if I want to call myself that any longer. I still want to make this country better and I will support others fighting and fight to do so myself, but I am not a Patriot.

Love, Madeleine

Hair and Britney.

Classy for the 90s – Ms. Britney Spears, everyone

The first time I shaved my head I was 19-years-old. It was a few months after my birthday and a friend Brian and I raised $600.00 for St. Baldricks, a nonprofit that funds children’s cancer research. I wanted to understand my relationship with my hair, my beauty, and my body, thought maybe not consciously. We went to an event where people who had raised money for the organization were having their heads shaved on a stage. My mom came and at one point yelled to the volunteers, “She can sing!” As if to let them know, “if you need entertainment, here’s my daughter!”  Whatever experience I was having to that point was very interrupted. But I have to say, it was one of the first times I felt how proud she was of me, and in that way, it was wonderful.

Later, on the drive back to Las Cruces from Albuquerque, Brian had teased me about looking like I was going to cry when the volunteer started shaving. I denied it. But the truth is I was about to cry on that stage. I didn’t know it at the time, but my hair didn’t just represent feminine youth to me. My hair represented my father’s love, my first boyfriend, and all the positive, and negative, attention I had from men my entire life. But it also represented how I saw myself in relation to other people. And I was able to start fresh.

Since that day, I’ve shaved my head two more times, each time during a time in my life I needed a fresh start.  The second time was when I moved away from New Mexico, my home, for the first time. I had lived in other places for short amounts of time, but New Mexico had always been home. Moving to Portland, Oregon felt different somehow, and has ended up being such.

The third time I shaved my head was when I was just tired of my bleached hair. By this time, I had realized my relationship with my hair is different than society’s expectations of my relationship; it’s even different than how I previously saw it. I now see my hair as an extension of my physical body – it’s not perfect, but it’s mine and I both will use it to achieve goals and attempt to love it as much as I can.

Britney Spears shaved her head in 2007, two years before I did, and this cultural moment was still very much top of mind for me when I shaved my head. I was afraid that people would talk about me the way they talked about her – people who think I was “crazy” and “having a mental breakdown.” I was afraid of this, but I also wanted it.

It’s Britney, Bitch.

I was raised with Britney and in many ways, I was raised like Britney. …Baby One More Time was the first CD I ever bought when I was 10. I loved her; she seemed perfect to me. She seemed to embody the independence and beauty I craved as a child. Plus, her music bopped.

Being raised in the 1990s meant being told primarily by men that my value was in my appearance from an early age and I believed until too late in life that if only I were prettier, people would like me more. No one flat told me, “no one cares about you if your aren’t pretty,” but I got the message. I shaved my head for what I think is a parallel reason to Britney – I wanted more control over my life and I wanted more control over how others see me and how I see myself. I don’t know her personally or anything, but when she shaved her head it felt like a desperate cry for control rather than a cry for help to me.

Britney inspired me to shave my head for that reason.

I was very depressed in college. I think shaving my head was a way to tell the world and myself that I’m not for you and to gain that control for the first time. I didn’t want help and I don’t think Britney was asking for that either. Maybe I did need the help, but shaving my head had little to do with that.

After a few years when I discovered metal music in middle school, I stopped being so die hard about Britney, but she will always be a integral part of my childhood and young adult experience. I still love her and wish her the best. #FreeBritney absolutely.

Comment below about your experiences with your hair and with Britney. How has your relationship with your hair or Britney changed over time? Are they connected for you like they are for me?

Love, Madeleine

Why I cried.

Happiest Season (2020)

I was really excited about Happiest Season. A lesbian romantic comedy Christmas movie? Yes, please! And it definitely made me cry, but I don’t think I cried for the reasons it wanted me to.

This post contains spoilers.

Get Out (2017)

I recently decided to watch Get Out again. For one, it’s an amazing movie and for two, I’m all about that horror. As I was watching it, though, I realized that the central, inciting situation and central relationship have parallels to Happiest Season in a hilarious and disturbing way. Frankly and in short, Get Out does it better.

In both movies, our protagonist is going home to meet their girlfriend’s parents. They’re both supposedly happy couples who are in love and quirky things happen. In both cases, the girlfriend hasn’t told her family about a key part of their relationship – in one, she hadn’t told her family her boyfriend is Black. In the other, she hadn’t told her family that her girlfriend is her girlfriend. Not only that, she lied to Kristen Stewart that she had told them! The Girls actress in Get Out might have been able to fain not knowing it would have been a mess, as she does. Kristen Stewart’s girlfriend can’t.

Get Out is a genuinely funny movie. I had only seen it when it was in theaters until this rewatch and it truly is a perfect movie. It’s funny and scary and a damned masterpiece.

Happiest Season is only funny when Aubrey Plaza is on the screen, and even then it’s more charming than funny. It’s disappointing. All of the potentially funny parts are overshadowed by the emotionally abusive way Kristen Stewart’s girlfriend treats her.

The fact that Get Out’s relationship is better and healthier in the beginning than at any point in Happiest Season is depressing. Not only because the one that gets it right is a horror movie where the girlfriend tried to kill him in the end, but also because it’s supposed to be a gay movie with a happy ending. The Get Out Girlfriend (GOG) seems to be genuinely concerned about the feelings of the protagonist. The Happiest Season Girlfriend (HSG) couldn’t give less of a shit about Kristen Stewart’s feelings or opinions or mental health. And yet, they end up together in the end and the audience is supposed to be glad about that.

Happiest Season wanted me, their target gay viewer, to cry because I finally have a trash movie about a lesbian love story that ends happily. They wanted me to feel seen and consume the movie like candy. This is not why I cried.

I cried because my story is so similar but does not have a happy ending. I didn’t wait to get outed to come out to my conservative family, though that would be a good reason to cry. I came out because I wanted to. My family wasn’t forced to deal with it; they didn’t deal with it at all. I cried because this movie shoved that trauma in my face and from what I hear, this is the reason most LGBTQ+ people don’t like this movie. For some reason, people don’t like light being made of their trauma.

So, while GOG is literally a sadistic murdering crazy person, HSG is an emotionally abusive manipulator and the Get Out couple still seems healthier for much more of the movie. In fact, they did such a good job in Get Out that it’s a twist that GOG is what she is. HSG is abusive from the get. From scene one, HSG disregards Kristen Stewart’s boundaries then proceeds to try to uninvite her to her parents’ house after inviting her the night before, clearly disappointed that Kristen Stewart decided to go. Then we find out that she lied to her about a very major thing at a point where Kristen Stewart can’t bail. Red flags all the way down.

Following these scenes where the loving relationship is supposed to be established is more abuse and manipulation. Watching, I found myself rooting for Kristen Stewart to get with Aubrey Plaza because even though they don’t know each other, at least they aren’t awful to each other.

And Get Out is a better movie.

What did you think of Happiest Season? Comment below with your thoughts.

Love, Madeleine

Both sides.

In case you somehow missed it, here are some of my thoughts on the attempted coup on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 and a few articles so start it off.

‘Hashtags come to life’: How online extremists fueled Wednesday’s Capitol Hill insurrection

Inside the Capitol: A Photographer’s View of American Exceptionalism Under Siege

EXPLAINER: Breaking down the uncertainty after Capitol siege

I’m so frustrated because the person who said the both sides comment to me doesn’t understand that it’s much more complicated than that.

The way I see it, there are at least six sides in the US right now and that’s probably leaving out some. But the average FoxNews-watching classical republican only sees two sides. The attempted coup was a bad thing Republicans who lost their civility did and the protests over the summer were a bad thing democrats did, according to this person. This thought process isn’t understanding the state of the country at all. It’s not understanding the republican or democrat parties. The republican party is now fully a white supremacist party and the democrats are what the republicans were in the 70s maybe. We further left than that have almost no representation in government.

What happened over the summer was protesting violence. What happened yesterday was acting out violence. I’m proud of the summer BLM protests. Is this Trump supporter proud of what happened yesterday? No, but it shows a basic lack of understanding. We aren’t just in different worlds in the US. There is a basic lack of communication and education happening on the right that doesn’t take into consideration the nuances of the country’s politics.

The person who said this to me isn’t a QAnon person. He’s what I would consider an average republican. Or maybe, he’s an old-school republican. We have views that we disagree on, to the point I try not to talk politics at all with him. But I don’t think he’s irrational. FoxNews and conservative media generally has done a great disservice to our country.

For example, at the beginning of Trump’s administration, I was the one who had to tell him about the horrible EPA and environmental shit the administration was undergoing. As an old-school republican, he thought everyone wants a healthy and safe environment, right? Well, no. Your party has changed. And you probably have more in common with the democrats now than the republicans… But of course, we don’t talk politics so anything is possible.

I’m frustrated.

On a podcast I was listening to, they were saying that this opened up people’s eyes and it must be a rude awakening. This couldn’t be further from the truth based on my conversation with this person.

This person either simply doesn’t understand what is going on or refuses to understand. A group of armed fascists tried to not only steal an election but there is evidence that they were planning on either taking hostages or straight murdering elected officials. And still he said “both sides.”

I don’t think the average person in the US wants this, I’m not even sure the average Trumper wants this, but it is happening and not becoming informed and refusing to see the reality isn’t making it go away.

That is, unless I’m wrong and the average Trumper does want this after all.

Surrender.

How do you experience surrender?

On one of my favorite, all be it frequently emotionally difficult, podcasts, Anna Venezuela (@annavisfun) and Dave Yates (@yatescomedy) interview people about recovery. On Spotify, they explain:

12Q Pod is an in depth look at 12 step recovery culture and an exploration of the world outside of the rooms from the 12 Step perspective. We believe that Recovery isn’t just for Clean and Sober people. Each week Anna Valenzuela and Dave Yates ask interesting people 12 questions about their journey through life.

This post will be the first in a series where I will answer the 12 questions posed on this podcast.


The first question they pose to their guest, who is sometimes anonymous, is: “How do you experience surrender?” My first instinct is: “No. I don’t experience surrender because I’m in control all the time!” I’m terrible with surrender. The more thought I’ve given this, the more I realize this is true.

When I think of surrender, I think of “surrendering to…”. What do I need or want to surrender to? In the 12 steps, the first step is about honesty. It says, “We admitted we were powerless over [substance] – that our lives had become unmanageable.” This is acceptance, sure, but it’s also surrender. Surrender to powerlessness. Surrender to the fact of an addiction. Surrender to vulnerability.

For example, I have a terribly difficult time falling asleep whether it’s for a nap or for the night. When I lie down, all I can do is think about how productive I could be if only I got up. I’ve started telling myself: “It’s ok to rest.” This is only partially helpful. The second I’m finished thinking the word “rest,” I immediately go into thoughts of all the other things I need to do. The thing is, to sleep is to be the most vulnerable and powerless a person can be. It’s all about safety when it really comes down to it.

I do think I’ll get better at resting in time. A method in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is to switch the thought. So, when I’m focusing on how much I need to get up when I lie down and switch the thought to it being ok to rest, it should become easier to believe that rest isn’t only fine, but good. The other switch I make is: “I’m safe.” I remind myself where I am and that I’m safe both physically and emotionally. I need to believe that resting is good, yes, but I also need to believe that I’m safe. An animal that doesn’t feel safe from predators in the wild wouldn’t sleep either.

As I’ve been more aware of this, I’ve seen that this resistance to surrender carries over into other parts of my life. I have a very hard time doing something I don’t want to do. Most of the quilts I’ve made I’ve hand quilted and there’s always a point toward the end of the process where I just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s a problem. I just can’t will myself to surrender to the process or the time it takes.

One cannot even mention vulnerability these days without conjuring Brene Brown. If you haven’t watched Brene’s TEDxHouston Talk called The power of vulnerability yet, please do. She is funny and charming and you’ll learn a lot.

In her talk, Brene talks about shame and vulnerability. Basically, everyone experiences shame for what they think are their faults and people who are “wholehearted” and who therefore are more vulnerable feel less shame. She found that these wholehearted people believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.

People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging.

Brene Brown

I also highly recommend Brene’s podcast Unlocking Us. At the end, during the rapid-fire questions she asks her guests to finish: “Vulnerability is…” Most people say, “hard.” And damned if I don’t agree.

Vulnerability is hard. Vulnerability is admitting I was wrong and taking criticism. Vulnerability is the lump in the back of my throat and the twist in my stomach. Do I have a difficult time with vulnerability because I’m not wholehearted? Is it because I don’t believe I am worthy?

So, I experience surrender (i.e. vulnerability and powerlessness) with difficulty. I don’t want to surrender and eventually I have no choice. I do think that practicing mindfulness and other skills of DBT will come in handy in this journey, but most importantly is learning to love myself. I think that surrender will become easier for me once I believe that I am worthy of love and belonging and vulnerability will become easier, too.

Comment below on how you experience surrender. Is it as difficult for you as it is for me? What have you done that has helped you experience surrender more easily?

Love, Madeleine