Not That You Asked: My Thoughts Since Charleston

Monday morning I was up from 3 -5 am thinking about writing this.

Bear with me as I try to muddle through the many thoughts that came into my head in those early morning hours and my mostly bad and awkward attempt at sorting out some of these things.

Today marks one week since the shooting in Charleston and like many of us, I’ve had a lot to chew on.

Someone posted an article on Facebook about how even babies discriminate. (I was going to link them to this because I think they are awesome, but decided they may not want to be connected to this ramble.)

It was an interesting and frustrating read, as it gave a lot of attention to what doesn’t work when it comes to talking about race with your children and no clear advice on exactly what to say.

One thing that struck me in particular was that desegregating schools actually seemed to make segregation worse, as schools with a more diverse student body saw kids align themselves with the people that looked like them. There were pretty damning statistics that showed children pretty much stuck with their own kind, especially their closest friends.

I lived outside of St. Louis, Missouri between the ages of seven and twelve in a middle – upper class area of West County. The school I attended had an initiative to bring inner city kids into the classroom. While this seemed like a noble and kind gesture, it was a disaster. With no direction on how integration was just going to magically happen, everyone went about their business as if ALLOWING these city kids through their doors was doing them a favor and lets just leave it at that.

[It’s also worth noting that I lived in Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in the country, where things like gentrification are discussed and debated constantly.]

I believe very much this was the start of becoming aware of my race and understanding what race meant in general. In class, I saw the white kids were treated better than the black kids. I was also treated the same as the white kids, at least by my teachers. But not always from the other kids. I was different to both of them.

My growing brain was quick to pick up on these nuances.

It was better to be lumped in with the whites than the blacks.

This would continue with me throughout my young life, often being one of few minorities and even fewer Asians.

Here is an excerpt from Dylann Roof’s manifesto:

East Asians

I have great respent for the East Asian races. Even if we were to go extinct they could carry something on. They are by nature very racist and could be great allies of the White race. I am not opposed at all to allies with the Northeast Asian races.

Am I glad the racist guy with a gun has no beef with me? Yes. Yes I am.

I always had large groups of white friends, though I was reminded every now and again that I wasn’t actually one of them. Someone would always be there to pull their eyelids or call me a “chink” or on a more minor level, compliment my English and ask where I was from.

I’ve always wondered and feared that my track record for dating white guys had a greater, darker meaning. That I was one of those Asian women people talked about who worshipped white men and wanted their attention because they knew who had the power. I think I’ve mostly been able to disregard these theories based on my friendships in Chicago. When I moved into the city, I hoped to meet non-white people, specifically other Asians. And I did. I even joined a bowling team that my grandfather had been on right after the war, a Japanese American men’s league. There I met a Chinese American guy who was connected to a lot of other Asians, many who were artists, musicians and filmmakers. As a twenty year old young adult, I was completely taken with the late night Korean barbecue, even later night private karaoke rooms and above else, an entire group of people who looked JUST LIKE ME. But this facade didn’t last long, and eventually I learned that not only did looking the same not mean very much, each of us had very diverse backgrounds and experiences that made us likable, or unlikeable, people. My being a Japanese American in Chicago meant very different things than a first generation Filipino or a Korean adoptee, though perhaps imperceptible from an outsider’s view.

To this day, I don’t have a true understanding of Japanese American internment, though my living family experienced it and amazing people like George Takei are trying to keep the story alive. It’s truly uncomfortable to know that thousands of American citizens, like my grandparents, were stripped of their possessions, land, money and homes and incarcerated for their Japanese ancestry not even a hundred years ago.

So yes, I take issue with some white people. And it feels good to commiserate with other brown and black people about our disdain for some of them. If you’ve ever been the target of racism, it’s easy to identify those feelings when someone else experiences them.

But that’s where the similarities end. Each individual has a deep history and personal account for their lives and what being a certain race has meant for them. I dare not compare the trials and tribulations of “my people” to any other.

That leaves me feeling a bit lost on how to handle things like Charleston and inevitably, what can *I* do to make this situation better even if in the tiniest way.

And the only way I think I can do this is through my son.

But how.

How?

I’ve always had a really hard time with patriotism. Mostly because I think there are many, many elements about living in America which I find ridiculous, cruel and unsatisfactory. And yes, I acknowledge that there are plenty of other places worse than here. But I have a feeling they probably don’t drone on and on about how great they are, how superior they are to the rest of the world, all the while lacking statistically in things like education, healthcare, economy and quality of life.

I believe the true root of America’s problem with racism and our inability to have meaningful conversations about it comes from the fact that we absolutely do not talk about what we did to Native Americans when we were freeing ourselves from the ever so oppressive Brits.

That we captured and kidnapped people from other continents and enslaved them in order to build our country to be what we wanted. 

On top of that, we looked down upon other immigrants who came here looking for similar opportunities, and exploited them to again, fulfill our hopes and dreams all the while making it impossible for them to achieve their own.

We are still doing this.

That is America, folks. Yet the stories we tell our children about Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are fairytales that indoctrinate them into believing we came here to be free and that everyone supposedly has this right as well, that there weren’t hundreds of thousands of casualties as a result of this freedom.

I’m sick of hearing about the American Dream. The American Dream is total bullshit. People who talk about it as if it’s an actual thing have got it all wrong. They think it’s about everyone’s “equal” opportunity to make money, buy a house and say whatever they want to say while bearing their arms.

And yes, I believe most immigrants come here to make a better life for their children and maybe themselves. There probably are more chances to do so in terms of making and keeping their own money. Perhaps they’ve found better housing, more access to essential things like clean water and healthy food.

Maybe they’ve even achieved great success, wealth and recognition, their children have attended ivy league schools, they’ve retired at the age of 50, they own three houses across the country.

And yet.

And yet, if they don’t have white faces, they can still be knocked down by one ethnic slur, one racist joke, one off color remark. Economic equality IS directly linked with ethnicity, but in more ways than the obvious ones. Money and power can only take you so far in this country. Look no further than President Obama if you need an example. Not to mention, do you really think we all start from the same place and are given the same chance to succeed? I’m not talking about work ethic. I’m talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need.

My partner (who is white) and I were talking about the origins of derogatory words to describe white people, like “honky” and “cracker”. It seems “poor white trash” is the meanest thing you could say and really it’s more about money than anything else. Just as there aren’t really terrible things to call men, but plenty of words to degrade women, those in power can’t be brought down by a name. They create words to describe those below them to keep them there.

A true Dream would be a place where we treat each other with decency. Human decency. And that can’t be found in America, my friends. Too many people are dying unnecessarily for us to believe we’ve come very far.

So where does that leave us? Where does that leave those of us who want to make a change, who want to create a generation better than our own?

How do I talk to my son about race?

I’m not totally sure. It’s what kept me up for two hours the other morning. I’m overcome with the task of figuring out a way to explain that yes we are all different, sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes because of the color of our skin. That BECAUSE of the color of our skin, we are treated a certain way and then become a certain person because of it.

All I could come up with is this: Children need to be exposed to it all, as much of it as possible, every color, every background, every experience. They need to be in contact with a huge variety of humans to understand that we are all worthy of getting at least one chance to be known beyond the color of our skin and all of the assumptions that go along with that burden. Be it white or brown or black.

We need to be able to talk about why that doesn’t happen already and what we can do to change that.

Maybe I’ll create a book of photos with a different face on each page and underneath it simply write “Person”.

-Carly

Meet Our Readers

Orgasms are like seashells. To quote the unnamed author of SeashellWorld.com, who will be no doubt confused and perhaps dismayed at being referenced in this post, “A shell formation can produce new structural elements (folds or tubercles), and as growth continues these irregularities can produce what is known as an ornament or sculpture on the upper surface of the shell.” Likewise, what happens between your ears and legs often spirals up to the surface, shaping the external in unpredictable ways.

And like seashells, no two are exactly alike. Swim through the ocean that is Chicago summer this Wednesday and find the distinct ridges and whorls that make up our readers’ experiences.

Kim Schultz

kimschultzKim is a recent transplant to Chicago via New York City. She is an actor/writer/improv corporate trainer and runs off to Mexico once or twice a year to run an artist residency on the Caribbean. Tough life. She has performed on many local and national stages, has written two solo shows, published several articles, one book and is trying to publish a second book about falling in love with an Iraqi refugee called Three Days in Damascus. Kim loves stories and how they shape our memories and lives. She blogs, tweets and and can be generally found at www.kimschultz.net, as well as Twitter and her blog.

Lesley Pearl

lesleypearlA former newspaper reporter, Lesley Pearl found her pen and her voice in 2012 following a nearly 15-year hiatus from writing. She shares stories of love, loss and life after divorce in the popular blog “A Wandering Jewess” (www.awanderingjewess.com) and at live lit events around Chicago.

She is a mad thrifter, an excellent parallel parker, and has an unnatural fear of raccoons. She also tends to lead on the dance floor.

Lesley is relocating to Madrid in July 2015 to teach English, learn Spanish and eat churros con chocolate. She may even take in a bull fight.

Jess Krista Merighi

jesskristaBorn and raised in the burbs of Boston, Jess arrived to the great city of Chicago with $3,000 in savings, 2 suitcases, a month long sublet, and no job. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. She now resides in the Ukrainian Village, and runs the customer service department of a growing company in the West Loop. A poet by trade, Jess is looking to expand her literary lexicon by writing more stories and essays. In her free time she enjoys biking, beering, and being an overall heathen. You can find more of her work at jesskristamerighi.com.

 

 

Kim Nelson

kimKim Nelson is a writer, performer, and retired roller derby skater from Chicago. She is a regular contributor and co-editor at the literary blog Drinkers with Writing Problems. According to Buzzfeed, her spirit animal is a dog wearing sunglasses. You can follow her on Twitter @ponytailup.

 

 

Meg Grunewald

meg_grunewaldGrowing up in the city of Chicago, Meg Grunewald would listen to books and spoken word on tape to drown out the sirens and noises of city life as she drifted off to sleep. She loved the way tone and inflections could change the whole meaning of a story. Always willing to read aloud in class and bitten by the acting bug at a young age, Meg has always loved performing, of any kind. She’s currently an ensemble member at ComedySportz Chicago, where she plays several times a month. Meg also has 90+ original characters on her vine channel (Meg Grunewald), where she holds over 19k followers. Meg lives in Lincoln Square with her two cats, Squiggy and Weezy. She also avidly loves the “Golden Girls”, particularly Dorothy Zbornak.

Look Better

Last night, I was near an Ulta and had randomly clipped the $3.50 off $10 coupon from Sunday’s paper and had it in my wallet.

I figured I could easily find something I “needed” there and rather than purchase it at Target for full prices, get it there with a bit of a discount.

That was a huge mistake.

I should never walk into a store without a general idea of what I’m looking for, especially when I’m pinching pennies and trying to utilize a coupon.

I decided I’d just replace the Cover Girl powder I was running low on only to realize the only reason they even make this anymore (though they are down to only three different shades now) is for OLD, OUTDATED people, like MYSELF who have been using the same sorry ass make-up for years.

I’ll have these wake up calls every now and again, like when I realize what a horrible dresser I am or when your roommate tells you everything in your closet looks like it came from Old Navy (and maybe it does?).

But yesterday was eye opening.

Ulta used to seem like an awesome store filled with fun things that smelled good. A candy store of beauty products for mostly affordable prices.

Instead, I was bombarded by an overwhelming sense that I should be doing more to make myself look better.

Seriously, there are nineteen different things I should be putting on my face to not only cover up how gross I am but to also alter my appearance so I no longer look like me.

I didn’t even know you could invent more products beyond foundation and powder, but I was clearly living in a world where BB cream, tinted moisturizer, bronzer, “true match” base and primer were only things professional people used.

I could understand how a woman might fall down the rabbit hole of thinking they needed all of these things in order to be pretty and desirable.

Is it wrong to not want to put on a whole new face everyday? I mean, I get how much better I would probably look, but aside from all of the time and work it would take, wouldn’t my regular old make-up less face feel like some horrifying piece of garbage unworthy of seeing the light of day?

Maybe my problem is that along with having no sense of style, I have no idea which eye shadow shade works best with my eye color (no matter how many times I Google this), or how to apply eyeliner correctly, or which bold lipstick I can pull off.

So it could be that I have to tear down the whole idea of Ulta because I’m just a clueless woman in a world where not being good at this kind of thing makes you look dumb. And possibly unattractive.

-Carly

Quiz: Are You the Right Kind of 30?

Remember how fun it was to take quizzes in Seventeen? A series of questions with pictures of your sultry, scowling contemporaries designed to help you figure out those pressing concerns: Am I okay? Am I doing the right thing? Am I good? I always changed my answers so I came off even and nice, brain racing too hard to answer anything honestly but pretty good at predicting that too many points made you a bitch. Choosing a lot of A’s meant a lot of 3’s, better throw a few B’s in there to balance it out and compensate for the crushing sense of inadequacy that plagues every waking moment. Man, adolescence was the best.

Remember how I’m being weird about turning 30? Let me remind you with this quiz from xoJane: 9 Thoughtless Phrases to Stop Saying To Women Turning 30. I don’t think it’s actually a quiz, but I’m definitely taking it.

1. “You look so young!”

I am young. And vain. Vain enough to override the implications behind that comment. Thank you. Tell me again.

2. “Do you want to have kids yet?”

Did you want to have them that young? Or that old? Let me judge your life choices.

3. “You’ll meet the right person soon.”

I’m in one of those long-term relationships so no one asks me this. Replace it with something about getting married.

4. “It’s all downhill from here.”

I have a ton of bullshit about aging, but I know it’s bullshit. The only thing worse than my pitiful flailing about my life being over that I know isn’t true is someone who actually believes their life is over.

5. “Do you feel sad about turning 30?”

Yup.

6. “You’re all grown up now!”

I’m only cool with this if you’re a female relative over 50. My Aunt Louise can tell me I’m a woman now and I find it lovely and charming. It makes me feel warm inside. Same thing with being called Rosie. Are you a) related to me or might as well be, b) over 50, and c) know the meaning of sheyna punim? Bzzzzt.

7. “NOW you’re in your sexual prime!”

What.

8. “It’s a good thing you did so much in your twenties!”

This is a weird slam, like “You did so much, that’s great because now you can’t do anything because you’re older and everything sucks”. It’s kind of backhanded and confusing. Also, I spent the first half of my 20s obsessing over dudes and putting substances in my face, so I don’t think I did so much, so much as accomplished very little. Whatever. This is passive-aggressive and weak.

9. “Do you feel like a woman now?”

See #6. But for real, as much as I see 22-year-olds and think oh my god you are tiny babies, you are women and should be treated as such, even though sometimes I get kind of bemused by you and try to hide it because I hated that shit when I was your age. I’m not more legit just because I’m older. I’m legit because I don’t quit.

-Rose

Home Is Where

I always assumed I’d be clamoring to get back into the city after being out in the burbs for a few months.

But lately, I don’t know where I want to be.

The ideal combination of things seems impossible to have all in one place.

While Chicago seems logical in terms of distance to people I know and love, familiarity and lots of things to do and see, it’s also expensive and once the baby is old enough for school, not known for it’s education system (because of bureaucracy, not lack of good teachers.)

I can’t help but envision being in a building with noisy neighbors or an outside laundry room or $250 heating bills. Or crime. Or no parking. Or not close to a grocery store. Or no pets allowed (we’d love to get a dog.)

Or rent that is more than half of my income.

Not to mention, there’s no nature. And this isn’t something I cared all that much about until I met someone who had a true appreciation for the outdoors and had a kid who could probably use fresh air.

I love Chicago, don’t get me wrong. But single, childless me was a much better fit for it.

I absolutely do NOT want to end up in a suburb, no matter where we go. I’d rather live in a small city, on a farm, in a camper or build a tiny house in the woods. Nothing against the convenience and relative safety of where we are now. But it’s hard not to feel like a bland, faceless person in a sea of commercial chains that stretch down the road only to repeat themselves in the next town.

I’d also love to live on a body of water or super close to the ocean.

But then it’s back to figuring out if we know anyone in these kinds of places and whether or not they’re a good place to raise a kid.

Not to mention, I need cultural diversity, as does my son, who I don’t want to be the only minority around. Though in order for him to be amongst other Asian Americans, we’d probably have to move to California.

I know we’re going to figure out this out. There’s also no urgency.

Sometimes it just feels overwhelming to settle on a place. Probably because I’m not the only one being affected by the decision.

-Carly

I Think Your Diet is Stupid (But I Get It)

I really like to make fun of paleo. Sorry not sorry, it’s bullshit. Unless you have a real allergy or Celiac (as in you have been diagnosed by a doctor), you have no hard and fast, logical reason not to eat bread. Wheat is a solid energy source, processed food isn’t always bad, and a move to an agrarian society is responsible for a lot of human civilization getting where it is today. Humans have survived eating a varied diet for hundreds of years. Most people can eat most foods and they will probably be fine. It’s expensive and impractical, less a health choice and more a way to muddle up a basic and delightful human activity. Here are some articles by people smarter than me explaining why paleo is peak Caucasity foolishness.

I feel that way about most other diets, too. From veganism to Atkins to Ornish, I’ve yet to hear of one that sounds reasonable and sustainable. I don’t see the point in doing something you can’t keep up for, well, the rest of your life, and doesn’t leave room for beer and french fries. Heavily restricting what goes into your face is exhausting, and unless you have a medical reason I don’t get it.

The only concept that makes sense to me is lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of lean protein, easy on carbs and dairy and sugar. This seems reasonable and flexible. This makes sense. This isn’t easy. I want to eat pizza and funnel cake until I pass out in a sugar-cheese coma. Mmmm.

And I lied, I do get it. I really get it. You want to lose weight. You want to be healthy, aka live forever. You want to be attractive and therefore good and okay. I get it because I feel that way sometimes too – except for maybe the live forever part, we are all living on borrowed time and we’re all going to die which is terrible but very inevitable.

But I get it. It is near-impossible to be a woman and not feel intense pressure to control and portion and measure and try and do the right food and exercise thing, because if you are right about food that makes you a better, more worthy person. If I choose carrots instead of chips, I am morally superior. If I use coconut oil instead of butter, my skin will look magazine-pretty. If I run five miles instead of watching Game of Thrones, my waist will be smaller and men will like me and therefore I’m capable of being loved. If I choose a salad over a cheeseburger every single time without fail, my colon will shine with the glory of a thousand suns, it will be intestinal Khaleesi but instead of dragons I’l have the fiery power of slightly lower blood pressure. If I feed myself some bullshit unscientific theory about eating like cavemen, I will be healthier, skinnier, radiating goodness and light.

I can’t let go of paleo. I love pasta and hate pseudoscience.

Where I’m going with this, aside from House Targaryen-butt metaphors, is I think paleo’s ridiculous but it makes sense. From childhood you’re bombarded with images and words from the media, loved ones, and strangers that pretty is good and very important. And pretty means white, thin, young, symmetrical. If you’re fed that psychological food and drink for years and years, reaching for a fad diet that promises live well, live longer, gluten is the root of all evils and p.s. your acne will go away…it makes sense.

It is hard to accept that there is no catch-all solution. In a state of desperation, people (myself included) like to glom onto something that promises to stop the psychological hemorrhaging, an idea that gives you something to work towards. It’s harder to think that maybe there may not be an end goal to work towards, that you are okay the way you are right now, that eating better and exercising is a series of small and incremental changes that take place over time and are an ongoing thing. That being thin and conventionally hot, or even healthy, will not solve all your problems.

I’m a 20-something female-identified cis white lady with an okay face and average body. I am playing Appearance Donkey Kong on the lowest difficulty setting. And what this means is a lot, from small to the horrific: Clothing is a pain in the ass but not a waking nightmare. My size is right there on the rack. And when I’m out there looking for clothing that will probably fit me fine if not flatteringly, I’m not going to get followed in the store, or otherwise suspected of criminal acts. Society may not find me beautiful, but it will probably find me acceptable. I feel shitty about the way I look sometimes, recoiling from the mirror when a waistband is too tight. This is from Level One. As much as I mock having a case of the wheat-crazies, the urge to change yourself feels so familiar it hurts.

Paleo is a fad diet. Like most fad diets, it will pass. But denying yourself a tasty, affordable, and potentially nutritious food group to fit into an idea of what is okay is strange at best, ugly at worst. You are demonizing something neutral, packing fear and self-loathing into an innocuous little grain. Wheat is one thing. Grains don’t feel pain. But it is not a stretch to apply this misplaced disgust to something with more consequences, like another human.

Also, pancakes are delicious.

-Rose

Ex is X

I’m jealous of my partner’s ex-wife.

Because she’s still in contact with him from time to time.

And that makes me wish I could have contact with my Ex.

After all of these years, there is still a part of me that hopes I can have a casual conversation with him some day.

Back when we were actually attempting this, that wasn’t enough for me. I needed more. I needed face time. I needed large pieces of what we’d had in our relationship, which if we looked at it honestly, was more of a friendship than anything else.

I kept trying to claw my way back in. Somehow. Some way.

I haven’t been able to let it go. But the way I feel about it has changed. The time I spend thinking about it has lessened to a passing curiosity; intense, but short lived. We move on because that’s all there’s left to do. Whether or not we meet someone else, we’re faced with another tomorrow, no matter how much we think we’d prefer to redo the past.

One love does not eclipse another. Current events don’t erase memories.

But The Person After is not an understudy. Holes can be closed, gaps can be filled. Happiness is achievable at any time, for any reason.

Am I someone new? Not really. I came into my current relationship with anxiety and depression and baggage. But I also had a little bit of wisdom and enough (not so great) experiences to decide that regardless of my imperfections, I was not going to settle. I was still looking for that same something I thought I’d found eleven years ago. Connection. Honesty. Realness.

I’m different only in the way that we are moving beings covered in double sided tape, picking up things along the way. New jobs. New extra curricular activities. New titles. New outlooks. New attitudes.

Maybe most importantly, new people who make our lives whole again.

In this age of social media, where everyone’s everything is aired out in public fashion, it feels like I’ve been banished from having even the smallest bits of information about my Ex. And yeah, those things are totally none of my business.

It’s just that they used to be. While it may seem wrong or weird to still care, I do.

I want to know how the cat is doing. I want to know how his art is going. I want to know how his family is.

I want to know if he is doing well.

I want to know that wanting to know is not one-sided.

-Carly

Year One

Our first year of shows is now available for your listening pleasure! Giant special thanks to Sarah and Chris for making this all possible. Here’s how you can get to them:

Listen, enjoy, tell your friends.

-Rose

BFF

Here’s a recording of our April 2015 show. The theme was BFF. Readers included Lauren Hooberman, Naomi Huffman, Catherine Eves, Tori Szekeres, and Danette Chavez.

-Rose

Booty Call

Here’s a recording of our March 2015 show. The theme was Booty Call. Readers included Meryl Williams, Cara Brigandi, Kelly Bolton, and Tamara Mathews.

-Rose

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