Found this little gem in my website stats yesterday. I love this so much; you have no idea. Someone told me today that “The Mad Scientist” is a very masculine term. Hell yes, let’s subvert that shit!
The Mad Scientist
Is ageism really a thing? Or have we really just ventured so far into the Land of the Politically Correct as a culture that everything is now accompanied by its own -ism? Is it just a word that the young make up for when they don’t feel they’re being taken as seriously as they’d like? I don’t know.
But there was this lady on the bus today, trying to get onto an already jam-packed bus with a cart brimming full with things. An older woman helped her pull her cart into the bus, and she said, “You helped me even though you’re probably a senior citizen yourself. There are so many able-bodied around who didn’t help.”
“They are all caught in their own cocoons,” said the other woman, by way of apology for my generation.
No, woman, I wanted to say. We are all tired here. I have been on my feet for ten hours, and I’m not the only one.
And, woman, this bus is crowded.
She isn’t the only one who would have helped. She just got to you first.
Guys, I am trying to work through my thoughts on rape culture and apologetics. It’s hard to chew on and even harder to have constructive dialogue about it. I get emotional, talking about this stuff. I get all worked up. I can’t help it that my brain keeps howling, “NO. WRONG,” when victim-blaming comes up (and it comes up way too fucking often). It’s hard not to have a visceral reaction to something that seems so fundamentally wrong to me, on such a basic level.
I want to have constructive dialogue about this stuff, guys.
I want to find the words. I want to research. I want to be able to articulate exactly how and why it is never a victim’s fault. I want to be able to say it in a way that will make people actually reconsider their point of view.
Gender equality. Why does this still need talking about? Why aren’t we there yet?
And rape culture. Why, as a woman, is this still something that I can see so clearly, and yet some people refuse to admit it exists? Am I talking into a vacuum?
It’s something that seems so basic, and yet, I get it. People mean well when they say these things that go screeching in the opposite direction of everything that I believe is right. When people say things like, “Well, of course a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants, but the fact of the matter is, when she wears X, Y, or Z, she’s putting herself in danger,” I know they mean well.
But oh dear god, what the fuck? How do I even talk about how wrong I find this? Why is the onus on the woman to avoid being raped? Why is rape still compared to theft? We are people, and the body is not a thing. In what other scenario does it seem sane to talk to a victim this way? Would you tell a nine-year-old to avoid their abusive parent? Would you subtly tell him that this is his fault? That’s the language abusers use, and that is the language of a culture that perpetuates abuse.
And yet this is the culture we live in, and I’m interested in talking about it. I want to take it apart like the inside of a remote, look at it and figure out what makes it tick; I want to put it back together better than it was before. All I have is my incredulity, my visceral gut reaction, but I’ve always been a words person.
Let me tell you, I have a lot of reading to do.
I had another post I was going to write, about something else entirely. But, I just read a post on a high school friend’s blog that was deeply nostalgic for me. So bear with me for a second: When I was younger, I was obsessed with the idea of “growing up,” or the lack thereof. I wanted to be Peter Pan in a magic kingdom; I didn’t want to grow up. I saw around me an adult world of bills, 9-to-5′s, and not much joy, and I swore that would never be me. I would be Other, I would do something else.
That hasn’t exactly happened. Surprise, surprise, I’m not Peter Pan (damn it). But as it turns out, I take a lot of joy in my 9-to-5. I enjoy the company it puts me in and the challenge of mastery of an art. I’ve always been such a marshmallow, such a soft, fragile girl. I cry at everything. Professional kitchens, though? Kitchens aren’t like that. Kitchens are hard and hot, sweaty and fast. I like my work because I like proving to myself, every day, that I can be that person. That I can rise to the occasion and get that shit done.
Kitchens are also vulgar and the opposite of “precious”, and I like that too. I like the sense of balance that it adds to my life, the order and chaos that it imposes on me.
Most days I even take joy from getting my bills paid on time, because it means I have a handle on this life. It means that I am sustaining myself. Living with depression is like living with a slightly feral, senile old dog that won’t ever seem to die. That is to say, sometimes it feels like it could eat a girl alive. So understand that I think it’s awesome that I am surviving and still doing what I love in this world of adults.
The older I get, the less I see “growing up” as a destination. It’s not becoming more or becoming less, but becoming Other. Other than you were, different in ways great and small. Joy and pain temper us.
I’ve looked heartbreak and loss-of-life in the face, and they’ve stared back and blinked their eyes at me. And then I’ve moved on. I’ll meet them again, and I’m not the only one. We make up platitudes to make sense of it, to make ourselves feel better, but it’s all still the same in the end. Ashes to ashes, baby.
How did Henry Rollins put it? “I’m trying to survive America.”
I got some stickers printed up, and they’re finally here! I am psyched. Here’s a little peek at the design:
I’ve got a lot of these little guys (and I mean a lot), and in the interest of sharing the Mad Scientist love, I’m looking to give some away. They’re about 4″x1.5″, nice quality vinyl, and pretty darn waterproof. If anyone wants a few, give me a holler, and I’ll mail some your way free of charge.
Hello, sweet reader, I’m glad you’re here with me.
I’m sure by now you’ve noticed the cryptic “Who is the Mad Scientist?” banner on the front of this website. So… who is the Mad Scientist? Someone out of myth and memory, the deadly lady… the star of my novel.
That’s right, I’m writing a novel. It’s my second attempt, and let me just say: writing a novel is hard. I’m not going to quit, but sweet reader, I’m bogged down in the middle of my novel. I made the mistake of going back and re-reading, and now my internal editor won’t shut the hell up. I see plot holes a mile wide. I am stuck. I’m wading into the deep waters with nothing but a pen and half of an outline clutched in my fists. I’ve also got a cold, and in sitting down here to write to you, I’ve even misplaced my coffee. I am a mess today, gentle reader.
Complaining about deep-seated fears and airing self-doubt is so easy, isn’t it?
And conversely, self-promotion can be so hard.
This is how it used to go: People I haven’t seen in a while would ask what I’ve been up to lately, and I’d chirp, “Oh, nothing much! Work, same as ever! How are you?” in this neurotically enthusiastic tone of voice. Whew, uncomfortably honest conversation deflected. It’s only recently that I’ve become comfortable looking people straight in the eye, giving them a smile, and saying, “I’ve been working on my novel.”
It stems from that fear, I think, that got instilled in some of us when we were small, and someone asked, “Who do you think you are?” or, “Oh, you think you’re special?” in that nasty tone of voice. (Barbara Sher wrote an excellent chapter on this in her book, Wishcraft. I highly recommend it.) Some days, that voice makes me afraid of telling people, “I am working on a novel. I have been submitting my short stories and poems to paying publications. I am working on becoming a published author.” Because god forbid someone thinks that I think that I’m special.
What the fuck? If I don’t think I’m at least a little bit special, a little bit great, then why should anyone else? If I don’t think I can accomplish these things, then I probably never will. So fuck that, and here’s to a little bit of shameless self-promotion.
And here’s to me actually getting a new chapter of this freaking novel written today. You go do something great too, sweet reader, gentle Brother-in-arms. I know you can.
I keep meeting the nicest people these days. I don’t know that I believe in fate. I don’t think I believe that good will necessarily always win out, because of some blind idea of predestination…
But I do believe in the inherent goodness of people, and I keep meeting the nicest people these days. Sometimes we’re bad, but mostly we want to be good, if you’ll let us.
I lost my bike a week ago. (People have been telling me to get in touch with AC transit, but if there’s one thing I definitely don’t have faith in, it’s the goodness of beaurocracy. Even that phrase is a laugh-riot to me.)
Determined not to be wheel-less for long, I got in touch with a seller on craislist last night. He was advertising a fairly cheap bike in my size. I’m a small girl, and bikes are generally taller than what I can handle, so I leapt at it. An hour later, I was pleasantly surprised to get a phone call from this person, only to realize I was talking to a friend who used to fix my bikes, whose phone number I lost while doing the new-phone shuffle.
So today I took a walk over to his workshop. He let me test drive a few bikes, and I picked out a sweet little newly-built hybrid that rides like a dream. He gave me a great price for it.
He also invited me to stay for tea. Usually, I wouldn’t say yes, but I was jonesing for some company, so I took him up on it. The new year has been worming its way into my consciousness, making me want to say “yes” to experiences.
Next thing I know, he’s brought out a suspicious-looking, milky, crusty saucepan of tea, out of which he served up sweet, bitter yerba mate filled with herbaceous sediment and raw honey.
We stood in the parking lot chatting about Christmas specials, technology, family, and the radioactive fallout from Fukushima. I met his dog when she woke up from a nap, and some guy on the street tried to sell me fake diamonds. Then, refreshed by tea and good conversation, I set off with my new bike back in the direction of my old life.
Later that evening, a nice, dark-skinned man with impressive, gravity-defying hair and a diamond eyebrow ring walked up to me in a cafe. He offered to buy me a drink. I declined politely and went back to typing. An hour from then, upon realizing I was taken, he apologized to my boyfriend and I. “For what?” we asked. “You weren’t being creepy or weird.”
We talked over cigarettes, and he told my boyfriend that if he got into the merchant marine business, he could buy me a nice diamond ring.
“Nah, I don’t need that,” I said.
He said, “Don’t say that. You deserve nice things. We all do.”
I saw you
and I know you saw me
We don’t talk anymore
I don’t regret it
I didn’t choose you, it’s true
Instead, I chose this happy life
filled with so many good things
that aren’t you
Dear fine lady or upstanding gentleman who took my bike off the bus at Dwight and Telegraph,
I’m sure you’re not a bad person. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe you are particularly hard up for cash right now. Maybe you’re hungry and needed to take my bike to have enough money to buy food. Maybe you’re about to get kicked out of your apartment. Maybe you’re just a dumb college kid who did it for the shits and giggles.
Whatever your reason, Brother, Sister, I feel you. It’s okay, I get it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m majorly bummed out. I really liked that bike. It was a good bike. It was a little trooper who’s seen me through hundreds of miles through the years. I am going to miss that bike.
But at the end of the day, it’s a thing, and you, darling Brother, dearest Sister, are a living, breathing human being. I get it, and I forgive you. I’m not in your shoes, so I’m not fit to judge.
Let me just say, though, that we’re all struggling. Oakland is not a rich city. Save for a select few in the hills, we are all just struggling to get by. I work hard for the money I earn to pay my bills, to eat, to sleep under a warm, dry roof.
But the fact stands that I can afford those things. I am privileged, and blessed. Maybe you, my family member of the human race, can’t afford those things. How can I judge? I can even afford to replace that bike, even if it’ll hurt my wallet. So I won’t be able to go out for drinks for a while. It’s alright.
If I could ask one favor of you, though, please don’t scrap my little blue bike for parts. She’s a good bike, a loyal bike. Please ride her, or sell her to someone who will. She deserves to keep on trucking.
Yours, in love and solidarity,
I have this habit (and I think it’s not an uncommon one) of thinking that I could accomplish so much more if only I had certain “stuff.”
It’s this particular brand of thinking that’s led me to acquire a gym membership that I’ve used once, two dremel tools still in the box (they were both gifts), more yarn than I will probably ever knit, and a tablet/keyboard set that I barely ever use.
To be fair, the tablet is invaluable to me, and I use it to type up drafts of the novel I’ve been working on for the last few months.
Maybe the problem, if you can call it one, is that I am a simple girl at heart. I do some of my best thinking with good old fashioned ballpoint pen to paper. I’m irrevocably drawn to tangible paperback books, despite the e-book revolution.
I’m hardly a luddite, but maybe my adoption of newfangled, wild and wonderful technology is just slower than most, regardless of my membership in the Millennial generation.
God knows it took me long enough to give in and buy a smartphone.
I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this year, I think I might start. So without further ado, here we go:
Resolutions for 2014
- Finish and edit my novel
- Drink more green smoothies
- Get my driver’s license
- Go to the gym at least twice a week
- Drink more water
- Blog everyday
- Cultivate a professional presence on the internet
I’ve got high hopes for this year. Let’s see how I do!