Monday, May 11, 2015

In Praise of Weird Moms.

Everyone has fallen in love with the trope of eccentric, old blue-haired ladies, decked out in gold lamé jackets, sheer stockings, and large chunky antique costume jewelry. In their blood pumps a curious mixture of piss, vinegar, and glitter. Their filter is long since broken; they'll say anything they damn-well feel like saying, and more often than not it's beautiful, sparkle-encrusted wisdom slapped with a whip-smart cadence. They're honest, they're the tellers of brutal truth, they're relics. Valued to the utmost amongst those of us who are younger-yeared strange beauties, we mourn their deaths the hardest of all humans we aren't related to. They're treasures. We all know this.

But what was life for them as young women? As mothers of small children? Were they treasured then? Or ostracised and discarded? Did people hem and haw over every choice they made, each one rubbing the status quo harder against the grain? Were they haunted by being the voice of dissent? Did they care as little about the opinions of others in their formative years?

As mothers who are different than most others, even while we celebrate the joy of our babies growing inside of us, we are gripped with a powerful fear: as we make the journey into motherhood, we start to consider whether or not it's a descent. Will we morph into the Soccer Mom who lobbies with all their might to reach Tipper Gore approved levels of censorship in art? Will a slow fog rumble over our lives, sucking out of us every last breath of creativity in our bones? These sorts of considerations stop a great many women from procreation.

We've all seen it: tenacious and spectacular women, those whom Kerouac would call The Mad Ones, rounding their edges after their children were born, getting lost in chasing small beasts around with rags and screaming their burning questions about the status of little hands; are they washed or not?! Settling over them, a dull cloud. They lose their sexuality, then they suppress or weaponize their feelings, and finally they start wearing fanny packs and crocs. They lose the identities they previously had, all absorbed into The Mother. Getting drunk on pragmatically-priced box wine while their children are asleep is the highlight of their life. They grow bitter, mean, judgmental. They cry when no one is watching, lost somewhere between never thinking their shit is together and never being able to get their shit together. They throw themselves into making their families look Facebook-beautiful and desperately trying to keep guests out of their house because it has the presence of children in it. There is nothing more devastating than the sheer agony of seeming like a failure.

Society also poignantly dispels the notion that one can be the comfortable opposite. How often are women who choose their career, pets, or husband over the raising of children demonized into awful words: spinster! hag! barren! Collectively, the childless are judged as selfish. Hordes of people wait for the news of women who resolutely refuse to birth children that they are pregnant. On bated breath they wait for these announcements. Conversely, a portion of the Childfree sigh big angry breaths. There goes our mascot! What everyone seems to forget is that in each of these announcements, or lack thereof, there is an individual human being who wishes to make their own choices and not be judged by a mass of other humans that aren't even directly involved in their lives.

Those of us who occupy the role of Weird Mom have a very difficult job cut out for us. We bring our children to places that aren't illegal, but are also not acceptable: art shows, concerts, festivals, gatherings, rituals. Places that enrich the lives of adults who are already mostly fully-formed. Why is there a possibility that children would not benefit from these humanities even more? There may be artistic nudity, recreational drug use, loud music, strange occurrences, and everything that makes life beautiful. We give them bizarre names, teach them about cultures across the world, look at their upbringing as an anthropological experiment, see what makes them better. Showing them a glimpse of life not lived as normal is paramount. We give them the lives we'd imagine our favorite artists to have lived, even when most of them actually didn't.

They have transsexual aunts and drag king uncles, performer friends; they live in poetry readings and book lectures. They eat exotic foods and taste things before (according to the American Pediatrics Association's recommendations) they're supposed to. They listen to instruments most adults couldn't identify by sound. They are schooled at home either in the beginning or for their whole lives. They see breasts and penises splashed across canvases. Body hair becomes a normal sight rather than an abhorrent one. Radical self-love can be safely practiced. Injustice and sadness are explained to them, as conversations about the art they witness in their formative years. This is all okay. This is all okay. This is all okay.

It doesn't make us Awful Human Beings to expose our children to the beauty and pain people express through their art. It doesn't ruin children to travel around the country numerous times. No children were harmed from learning to use a microscope before they learned to ride a bike or hit a ball. Boys don't have to be confined to blue, and girls don't have to be confined to pink. Here's a secret: they don't even have to be confined to "boy" or "girl."

I tell you this for two reasons. First, because when I took my six month old baby Escher and my eight year old "baby" Dahlia to the Amanda Palmer concert earlier this week, Amanda expressed to me that I gave her hope. She explained that she was glad she could see that we as mothers don't have to lie down and die after we give birth. And second, because I know firsthand that it isn't easy to be a Weird Mom. Kimya Dawson makes it look easy, but she makes everything look easy and that isn't fair to those of us who weren't born with Superhero status. So I'd like to give all the other Weird Moms this level of hope.

As the children of Weird Moms mature into adulthood, they will ask questions. They will ideally view each newly acquired bit of information as a glimpse into the past life of a rare gem. They can appreciate the knowledge that their mother was an interesting and gorgeous creature. It will be something they hold dear to their hearts, giving them a bolstered sense of what they can accomplish in their own life. Inspiration will reel through their bodies. But, make no mistake: mothers who decide to "just" raise their children without any outside focus should not be subject to criticism. As long as one feels liberated by, rather than confined to, their role as a mother, they will do an incredible job. Everyone has a method. In such a seemingly thankless position lasting through many years, we the Weird Moms just appreciate getting our own (often scarce) applause too. If you encounter one of us, even smiling is an amazing gesture. If nothing else, smile at our children and acknowledge that we are building open-minded, intelligent, interesting, and accepting kids that will benefit future generations even after you mourn our fiesty-blue-haired-old-lady-in-gold-lamé-and-chunky-jewelry demise.

My Wee Widdle Weirdos.

Widdle Weirdo #1 in her Native Habitat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Discrimination - Kenneth Rexroth

I don’t mind the human race.
I’ve got pretty used to them
In these past twenty-five years.
I don’t mind if they sit next
To me on streetcars, or eat
In the same restaurants, if
It’s not at the same table.
However, I don’t approve
Of a woman I respect
Dancing with one of them. I’ve
Tried asking them to my home
Without success. I shouldn’t
Care to see my own sister
Marry one. Even if she
Loved him, think of the children.
Their art is interesting,
But certainly barbarous.
I’m sure, if given a chance,
They’d kill us all in our beds.
And you must admit, they smell.

** Kenneth Rexroth is my spirit animal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birth Announcement for Escher! (uhm, only 9 days late, no big deal).

Escher Aemilius Keorkunian-Rivers burst forth (quite literally) from my body at 7:46AM on November 2nd, 2014. He weighed 6lbs 14oz, and was 21" long. He was purple, covered in vernix (goop), and silent. This caused his normally very stoic father to damn near panic, as he considered the possibility Escher didn't make it through the birth process. I forgot to mention to him that babies are sometimes a cute little lilac color when they come out, and they don't immediately scream, as he wasn't present for Dahlia's actual birth.

The birth process started at Midnight on Halloween - well, actually, I had my membrane stripped a few days prior to birth, so that allegedly started the process, but for the purpose of inducing me, that started at 12AM on 10/31. I was sure we were going to have a Halloween baby on our hands, but he decided to wait 57 hours to be officially born. At 1:30AM on Day 1, I had a cervical softener (prostaglandin) put in place. After waiting 12 hours with no discernible progress, they inserted a cervical squeezer (one balloon full of saline in my uterus, one balloon full of saline outside of my cervix) to try to dilate me further. That started the contractions, but did not do much to dilate. Pitocin was added at this point, which made the contractions even stronger. Somewhere between 24 and 48 hours in, I caved and got an epidural (95% because Escher's heart rate was getting in the danger-zone every time I got a contraction, and 5% because the contractions were exhausting and seemed like they would never yield a higher dilation, only tiring pain). Ironically, this was the most painful part of the delivery, and in fact, I ended up crying, which is incredibly unlike me, as I am usually the bared-teeth warrior birther - but... I felt the needle scraping against my spine as it went in. The local anasthetic wasn't very helpful (or maybe it would have been even worse?). Apparently I was sitting crooked, which didn't make the process any easier. I joke the the worst part of birth is the IV and epidural, but, uhh, it's really not that much of a joke. I fucking hate IVs, and the actual procedure of being epidural'd. Contractions are bad, but if they weren't so long-lasting and exhausting to the point of not being able to push properly, I'd do birth au naturelle. I did get a catheter, though, which I love. Having to pee in a hospital is no easy task, dragging long IV carts along to the bathroom, navigating around wires and whatnot... it's all obnoxious and fragile. Not to mention the possibility of banging my IV port on random crap on the way to the water closet, which I did twice. Even recalling the IV-banging incident NOW is enough to make me shudder. I cannot express enough how much I hate IVs.

As I got closer to the birth point, they popped my water. There wasn't much to report, but I was in a haze and Rick was getting food so I don't recall exactly what they said about it. The epidural started to get weaker, and I started to feel every contraction again, which caused Escher's heart rate to become dangerously high - so they started to check my progress more carefully at the end. I was also fitted with an oxygen mask, which ironically made me feel like I was being very slowly suffocated. Since I had been in labor for a long time, they felt the need to add more water to my uterus, as I had gotten another dose of epidural fluid, so Escher's heart rate started to dip into the 90s. They figured the added fluid would help him (which it seemed to). The only problem with it, was that the fluid never leaked out of the catheter tube, so it just pooled in my uterus, on the bottom left side, and felt so intensely painful that I was sure my uterus was doomed to rupture.

About an hour and a half before Escher catapulted out of my vagina, I was asked to start pushing, just to see if I'd get further dilated from 8 to 10. Not much happened, so the doctor briefly left. She came back half an hour later, and announced I should start pushing. So, I did. Ten seconds of pushing, one intake breath, ten more seconds of pushing, one intake breath, ten final seconds of pushing. I had to remove the oxygen mask at one point, because I literally could not get enough breath to sustain my consciousness (the O2 wasn't being pumped into the mask fast enough for how I was breathing). For about twenty minutes, I had my legs up in the stirrups, but then my doctor informed me that I should drop my legs down and lay on my side. So I actually gave birth out of stirrups, keeled over to the left. Nurses held my legs, Rick held my hand, and Dr. Bernardo held my baby. An hour after the pushing began, Escher exploded out of me in a gush of amniotic replacement fluid, blood, and general gross. I pushed out the placenta shortly after, while he was receiving an APGAR score, and I was informed that I was one of the best, most patient patients ever. I'd never seen my husband look so afraid, but once it was established that the baby was healthy and fine, he was quite relieved.

And with that, Escher was born!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Running Away to a Commune!

Okay, that was a joke title. More like "diligently researching and carefully selecting what will hopefully be an appropriate commune."

You see, my son will be born soon. I want him to grow up in an atmosphere that I've always wanted to be a part of, growing up; people and children co-existing and interacting in a loving, supportive environment. I've always wished for a place to belong. A sense of community - family. A place of peace and comfort. Where communication is abundant and screaming is rare. Knowing and negotiating expectations, mitigating disappointments. A place of dancing, musicality, and joy. Where people don't feel excessively bound to cultural norms to the point of sacrificing their own dreams or desires to do what's merely expected of them, but they can flourish. I hope it is a growing experience for me, and I know my husband will learn quite a bit. Dahlia has been in a basic state of pure excitement, more or less, since I told her I was pregnant. Since she's 7, and happy about new things, I'm sure the transition will be much easier than some of the other ones we've been through, and there will be kids on the other side of this one. I have favored communal living since I was a child, and in fact, I've lived in a couple of them along the way (either hackerspace-type anarchist communes in Chicago - with the likes of Jeremy Hammond and his twin, Jason, or in the shared estates/homes of relatives). Always temporarily, as I was just "too busy" to make the commitment to moving there for a longer stay. I like the idea of working in a collective - doing new and strange, difficult and bizarre things.  I've always just joined up in things and made stuff happen, rather than swimming through the bureaucracy of the corporate world in its current iteration - and then left when the projects ended. But I'm ready for the longer haul, now. And more than willing.

I don't consider myself a hippie, at all. Despite this, I am hopelessly in love with drum circles, festivals, being barefoot, incense, tie-dye, henna, hemp products as viable building materials, being a vegetarian for the love of animals, making jewelry, moon cups, camping, homeschooling, essential oils (especially coconut, which is in all of my company's products!), occult stores, DIY-ing as much as possible, basically everything except free love and pot - but if you engage in that, cool. I'm not bothered; it's just not my thing.

Probably the main reason I cannot, in good conscience, give myself a title from Hippiedom, is because of my political alignment. I'm an anarchist, right, but not that kind. I'm the free market variety - the black sheep of the anarchist movement. I think monetary exchange for both the management and production of goods and services, as well as the purchasing of those products by consumers as a pretty cool option. I'm not saying it always works perfectly, or that it's The Best System Forever, but I'm just saying I support the idea (in a stateless society, of course!). But, before you start making assumptions, I would like to inform you of three things about myself, all of which are true:

  • 1. I do not support Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, or anything Tea Party related. 
  • 2. I do not believe in a system that supports the eradication of any type of anarchist (or other system of choice), anarcho-communists or -syndicalists, -socialists or anything of the sort. However, I've heard other sorts of anarchists wishing they could ban my ideology, which kind of hurts my feelings, actually. I believe in the freedom to choose your own community, based on your desires and shared ideals, if that is what you want, regardless of setup. People should be free to make their own choices, even "bad" ones.
  • 3. While I am fine with libertarian brutalists (though not a fan), I would not personally practice or adhere to basically anything they believe, in a "versus humanitarian libertarian" way. 
So how can a proponent of capitalism or similar adjacent system possibly be okay within a socialist commune? Easy. I like sharing, and finding common ground. My common ground is that I like to live among people, I love farming and/or gardening, production, business, sustainability, and creating good times. So do the socialists of the communes. As long as we're not quibbling over possible details of a far-off stateless society, we'll get along brilliantly. I don't usually like to quibble. The only brand I enjoy is gentle volleying with my ulra-utilitarian husband over the merits and importance of aesthetic beauty and art in the lives of every human being. He's science. I'm art. Sometimes, like over MC Escher, we meet in the middle!

So I'm checking out a bunch of communes now, mostly in Missouri (though I haven't discounted other places), and hopefully I'll be able to find one that's great for our family. I'm kind of nervous about the embarkation process, but I'm starting to view it as a similar sort of thing my ancestors went through in coming to America from Jordan/Jerusalem/Czechoslovakia/Moravia/Austria (depending on the line). A whole new world, a whole new life. That sort of thing. Cross your fingers for us!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hookin' Ain't Easy.

At 19:56, Thaddeus Russell starts discussing prostitutes. Here I begin to realize something: it strikes me as strange that sex workers are considered "lower class" by most american women, either as a "last resort" profession, or a "pre-med profession" - either way at the expense of (or a prelude to) doing something "more worthwhile"... but historically prostitutes and brothel-owning women were walking firecrackers who would kick anyone's ass that tried to hold them to an unfair moral standard. The idea that a woman who owned herself and her body could make a profit from the products or services involving it was revolutionary. These brave women endured such hardship and turmoil, and now people have the audacity to trivialize their role in the turn of history in favor of women. I find it supremely ironic when women who dress in a revealing fashion (cleavage everywhere and short everything) will complain about prostitutes taking the "easy" job - and they're being "just whores." These hypocritical ladies, too, capitalize on their body's attributes - but do not charge a premium for it, and then dog the wise ladies who do make such a decision. I am not personally a prostitute, if you're wondering, I choose to be in a monogamous relationship with my husband - but I come from two generations of "street-walkers" on one side of my family and never understood the stigma. I've worked for and been involved with both the NCSF and SWOP-Chicago. I have written scathing articles about the johns registry in Chicago, and I've worked extensively with sex workers to try to ease up some of the unfair treatment they suffer at the hands of "well-meaning" law enforcement (who do more harm than good). In the end, if you are a consenting adult and someone wishes to buy a sexual experience from you, that is nobody's business but the two people in the transaction, and nobody should say anything about it. Period!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rape Culture is REAL: except as how it's portrayed.

The thing I've been hearing lately is the debate over whether or not Rape Culture is actually a thing. I contend that it IS a thing, just not in the way it's being portrayed. When reading an article on the American Humanist Association's website (found here), I happened upon a few comments underneath, most of which were rebuttals of the existence of rape culture in its current iteration. And with some of the comments, I agree... the AHA's article was entirely one-sided and left out an ENTIRE GENDER'S WORTH of people who experience rape. I was awestruck how terribly narrow the feminist scope of rape culture was. My comment was the following:
"Rape culture DOES exist, but this article systematically leaves out an ENTIRE gender that experiences rape - and it's just as trivialized, just as acceptable, just as yuk-yuk-yuk worthy. If my husband went into a police station and told them I raped him, he wouldn't be asked what he was wearing, because it wouldn't get that far; he'd be laughed out of the police station. THAT is rape culture.  
The fact that BOTH SEXES, all gender expressions, and all accounts of rape are so thoroughly scrutinized (or ignored entirely, depending on the plumbing of the victim), and the abusers are excused for their crimes is insane. 
If my house was broken into, and I was asked why there wasn't a forced entry - so I admitted to having left the door unlocked, the assailant wouldn't be denied criminal charges. They would still be convicted. Because that's a question of invitation, someone enters the threshold of my home, uninvited - they are automatically charged with a crime. If they enter the threshold of my vagina, uninvited, they are charged with a crime only under certain conditions. Invitation, not access, is the "consent" of both situations - but in practice, this is not true for rape. THAT is rape culture.

This is NOT and SHOULD NOT BE an issue for feminists, it should be an issue for ALL proponents of a peaceful society wherein sexual crimes are held in seriousness, as they would a home invasion, regardless of sex, gender expression, orientation, anything. If you don't have a right to bodily autonomy, under all circumstances, you don't have any freedom whatsoever."
And I absolutely stand by my comment. Male on male rape is another example, the "trope" of altar boy jokes and other sorts of justifications, excuses, and minimizing of the magnitude of sex crimes is rampant. Sex is almost never a crime unless it's a man in the bushes hiding to get a woman. But is it a crime when it's a sexually repressed priest entrusted with the care of young boys, or an angry housewife manually stimulating her husband's genitals against his will? What if the female teacher is hot? What if the lady was just baby-crazy? How often is rape downplayed as an inevitable result of the culmination of factors, rather than met with horror and punishment? THAT is rape culture, ladies and gentleman.

Where women may feel as if they're weighed down by a barrage of body-image issues thrown at us from every conceivable direction, objectified, and treated as sex toys - men may also feel compelled to be emotionless tools for society to use. For every "she could lose some weight" you hear "he sucks at oral sex" - and for every "god, what a slut" you hear "be a man and do it." Men are not easily allowed the ability to be creatures of empathy, vulnerability, compassion, communication. They are told at every turn to "man up" and "deal with it" and that their emotions will scare women off because they will hate the idea of "mothering" their boyfriend. Despite the fact that they are also expected to listen to a battery of feelings from their girlfriends, conveniently without that idiotic "fathering" counterpart. Men are disposable army guys, stoic heroes, protectors of everyone who isn't male - and they can't ask for help. If a man is ever raped, the question of whether or not you can rape someone who is "always willing" comes up. Men are PURELY sexual creatures, right? Always wanting sex from everything, even apple pies! Uhh, if that's not rape culture, nothing is.

So, in essence, you cannot view rape simply in the scope of male-on-female-at-gunpoint, complaining about misogyny and objectification, without taking into account that this sort of thing happens to men as well - otherwise you're just pitting the sexes against each other. You're saying "YOU MEN ARE AT FAULT, AND WOMEN COULD NEVER RAPE," and that isn't helping anyone. Rape culture is not blind to genitals, and that is the problem. If we could all work together for a more gentle society, wherein rape is looked at as a heinous crime NO MATTER THE TERMS (other than lack of consent), perhaps rape culture could become a thing of the past.