Cultural Appropriation is Like Crashing a Party?

Before I begin… This metaphor might be too lighthearted for a serious subject matter. It is my privilege* to be able to talk “lightly” of cultural appropriation. I intend to leverage my privilege (for justice, I hope!) in this instance; I have the emotional energy to write on this subject without deep personal distress and I can offer a blog post that is easy enough to read and a might be place to get the conversation started with newbies, etc.

Still, since I’m always thinking about partying and I also “sometimes” think about important social issues, I thought to myself: Cultural Appropriation Is Like Crashing A Party…!

This birb of Australian descent appropriates "Christian" culture which originally appropriated pagan culture..?

This birb of Australian descent appropriates “Christian” culture which originally appropriated pagan culture..?

Maybe this makes sense to me because of the almost holy respect I have for crashing parties the right way. It is an honor to be a stranger at someone else’s party (and an honor I certainly don’t want to fuck up by being an asshole). Some party crashers choose the “nothing to lose” mentality and swoop on all the drinks and food with no consideration for their hosts, and to them I say, you are ungrateful and terrible. Let’s pretend we don’t want to be ungrateful and terrible, and move on to being appreciative and thoughtful…

How do you know you are crashing a party? Easy, you were not invited. How do you know you’re crashing a culture? Same answer. Is it always bad to crash parties? No, there’s some situations where it’s acceptable, or even welcome. Is it always bad to borrow from other cultures? Refer to previous.

Imagine I’ve crashed a party. My senses are heightened. I observe the local party customs. Do people freely reach into the cooler, or do they ask around before opening a beer that might not be theirs? Where are cigarettes smoked? Who’s allowed to change the music? Since I’m not invited, what extra etiquette precautions must I take to demonstrate I am willing to be a respectful and easygoing guest?

This ordinary keffiyeh is worn for comfort and fashion and (as far as I can tell) is fine to borrow, as opposed to the Palestinian keffiyeh which holds significant political meaning and should probably be researched before choosing to wear.

This ordinary keffiyeh is worn for comfort and fashion and (as far as I can tell) is fine to borrow, as opposed to the Palestinian keffiyeh which holds significant political meaning and should probably be researched before choosing to wear.

Sometimes party etiquette is not about what you don’t do, but how you do participate. If I’m the only one not dancing, I might be making the dancers feel vulnerable, judged. Being a respectful party crasher means trying to defer to the way others do the party thing. You must find the appropriate spot on the spectrum between hot mess and party pooper. You can’t be the only drunken disaster, because you’re stepping all over someone else’s party (and being oppressive), but you also can’t be a total wallflower in a room full of rockstars because you’re going to come across as lazy or stifling or a cop or worse.

And you know what you do when you really don’t fit in at a party you’re crashing and you might be making others uncomfortable? You leave.

Here’s where I’m reaching, but I think cultural appropriation suffers from the same inappropriate levels of participation. People will put on a war bonnet (or a “feather headdress”) because they think it looks cool, but they won’t bother to learn about the meaning of the bonnet (low participation = disrespectful). Or, in the other direction, you might be invited to partake in a customary food, but then you go too far and put on all the makeup and try to lead the sermon (overbearing participation = oppressive).

I think borrowing from other cultures primarily begs one to ask, “Am I invited?” Or, more deeply, “In what ways am I invited (or not)?”

If you choose to ignore your lack of invitation, then how far are you willing to crash? To what consequences? Now, if the cultural item is religious, to what extent am I willing to apply my personal ideology that nothing is sacred? If I’m rebelling against an institution? What if my actions hurt someone’s feelings? What if I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about? Is it really that important to me to wear a white keffiyeh with a black fishnet pattern, or could I choose a more neutral gray one because I really have no personal connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

So, at the end of the day, I would ask my friends and others to remember that they might be culture crashers. Being actively aware that you’re crashing a party you weren’t invited to is the first step to being a better guest.


*As a white person & as a person comprised mostly of cultures that tend to do the appropriating rather than be appropriated from, I acknowledge my privilege and my lack of personal insight. My heritage is a bit Swedish, for example, of the Viking variety. Vikings pillaged and stole (and raped) so much that they are actually known for it. That’s pretty shitty, and it’s shitty that assumption tends to raise a hand to the mouth to stifle a yawn rather than red flags or even a single eyebrow.

I do subscribe to some aspects of “gay culture,” so I guess I have felt some stings of appropriation in that regard (Macklemore = pls stop). It’s an intersectional issue, for sure.

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My Curious Immunity

I sometimes exist in the eerie intersection between a man’s respect for my sexuality and his mistreatment of women. Sometimes I end up getting very friendly with a guy, only to be approached later by my (often closest) girl friends about the times he has acted inappropriately toward them. Wait, what? I totally gave him my stamp. How can this be?

curious-immunity

I hang out in interesting subcultures where it’s possible for someone to not have issues with acting homophobic, but still act in misogynistic ways.  Knowing I’m gay, the dudes will be kind to me, they won’t try to sleep with me, and they’ll even pay attention to what I have to say. I have found myself very close to people that other women prefer to avoid.

I imagine the whiplash I feel is similar to that of many guys out there who learn that their best bro friends are consent-violators. He treats them with respect, so it’s hard to believe he acts any differently to anyone else. I have to suppress my instinct to defend my guy friend who has acted inappropriately. After all, I know the friend telling me about his trespasses deserves just as much of my respect for her truth as I would give to him.

Then there are the times where I begin to feel the curious immunity slipping away. My friend’s vision begins to blur, he begins to see his enemy in my place. After lashing out, this Mr. Hyde slithers away to its dark corner. Or perhaps I sense a possessive charge burning underneath his eyes that I had not recognized before, and yet it fades away too quickly for me to say to myself that he has always seen me this way. In either case, these moments are less tangible than secrets.

And let me say, of course it is wrong for these guy friends to respect me more because I am not sexually available to them. Of course it is wrong that I am treated as an exception and not a rule. Of course it is wrong that they require a more powerful rejection in order to respect my boundaries, they need a rejection that gives them the security of blamelessness.

I see red flags, and I have unintentionally ignored them. A man will be too forward and touchy with me, and backs off only when I explain my sexuality (and not when I shirk away from his touch, or point-blank tell him I don’t like it). Or I have had the gut instinct he is being “creepy” with someone else, but because I feel like I can trust him, I assume I am wrong.

Recognizing this curious immunity, I feel a responsibility to use and learn from it. I am able to have empathy for these men, when other women (for their own safety and/or comfort) cannot. I am able to be an undercover operator in his world. Perhaps I could even be a positive influence. If he can treat me with respect, perhaps opening his eyes will help him to respect all women.

In the very least, I must do better to see my red flags and to figure out if a guy friend of mine is doing this before it comes down to another woman telling me he has hurt her. I owe it to all women.

2 Years of SD Survival Guide

February 6th, 2015 was the actual anniversary, but it wasn’t in my Google Calendar so it didn’t exist.

Luckily today is poop and I don’t feel like writing, so the annual recap is perfectttt.

Links, pics, and excerpts for your enjoyment!!!!!!!!!!!!  The exclamation points are how you know I am enthusiastic and not just boring and sad :D

Snapchat-20140131100329Last year’s recap… Also uses the word poop. I’ve worn a few 2-dimensional identities in my life — the kind people use when they’re trying to describe you to a friend. They’ve varied from “Anthony’s girlfriend,” to “redheaded lesbian” and at least one unpublishable moniker in-between. Slowly, over the past year, “writer” has been taking over.

IMAG0487_1Giving myself excuses to be mean lol. Also viddygames & feminism. I’d like to give you some insight into the spiraling self-doubt that occurs for me whenever I say something remotely divisive on these social media channels.

Paranoia in the digital age, snapchat, and hangovers. Hangover is a philosophy, a way of being, in which fears and anxieties are either muffled, too heavy with the poison in your blood to run rampant over you, or they are amplified with the urgency of vomit.

girlfriend-in-party-hatOne of my fav posts: Crashing parties in PB. I met an incoherent philosopher. He made us give him really long hugs, but they were more drunken than amorous so I was fine with that. Maybe because he shared so many gooey-ooey thoughts about humanity I stole one of Katelyn’s cigarettes and traded it with a stranger who wandered up to the back wall for a high five.

Bad-feminist-fuck-itFEMINISM WITH RAD PICTURES. I saw an article, “5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having,” by HuffPo and got excited to get my feminist morning-read on, but….what was I thinking this is HuffPo.

tutu rave fishnets furry legwarmersRavetastic adventure. Event page said: “dress like Bruce Lee, get in free” which is a dumb and impossible, but Katelyn confidently put me in a cheongsam-inspired top and a tutu and said it would count.

I insult you on the internet because I love you or something like that. The truth is, for me, I’m just obsessed with all of you sometimes. I want to know if it’s okay to write about you. Picasso’s girlfriend probably didn’t tell him to hide away the portraits he made of her saying, ‘baby, what? I look so ugly, do you really think my nose is that big? My eyes are that..awkwardly placed in relationship to the rest of my face parts, seriously they aren’t even pointing in the same direction…??’

Party-planning-guest-listI’ve been obsessed with parties since childhood look read my diary. Candyland was the obvious choice for my “Sweet Sixteen” but I have to admit I was most excited about making giant lollipops out of balloons and cellophane.

If you take out a notebook and write down what a person says to you, they will fall in love with you.

Being Artsy Fartsy because Sports Bars…?? Draw a puzzle piece that’s open on all sides. Explain these connections happen to you all the time, that you’re easy. Explain you understand it was special for him, but it was common for you. When you hug him goodbye, he will recite his phone number into your ear.

I love birds. All of my snapchats are of birds.

I am the worst at nerd so I write an essay on why nerd is boring and I don’t need to try. Check out these birds tho. I understand, I really do, that having a common lexicon is a short cut to establishing shared experiences. But if you go on and on about Naruto, and I don’t know jack about Naruto, what am I supposed to do?

wpid-wp-1397760228272.jpegGood weather in SF means I am cursed. Trust me this makes sense. San Diego perfect weather is relentless. San Francisco sunshine is just a little bit delirious. I know I can’t live here because in my heart of hearts I know how inconsolable I get on a “blustery” day. I know this, but the Curse tricked me into thinking I can do these things.

Snapchat-20140417115114LOL fuck I fucked up my leg. Turns out if there’s a lump sticking out of my shin a terrifying extra 1-inch, my reaction is mostly jovial. This is a battle wound. Also, I had taken 3 Ibuprofen before the concert in anticipation of wearing my improbable shoes.

My friend Alexis found a live scorpion when she unpacked her luggage in America.

Went to mexico. Killed scorpion. Temporary veganism ensues. They are giving their bodies nutrients instead of Taco Bell and are rewarded with endurance and energy. I was trapped in a vicious whiskey / crunchwrap / gatorade cycle just trying to survive ’til next Friday.

EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE.

infantino-squeeze-pouch-for-babies-holds-2-shotsLifehack put liquor in these things and then in your pants. Infantino makes a squeeze pouch “feeding line” (are they children or are they livestock??) so that yuppie parents can package up custom applesauces, vegetable purrée, and other goo for their toddlers to quaff. … I will demonstrate in pictures how to alter this fine product to smuggle liquor in your underwear.

Sami is sad maybe party help? 

Dude my parents are super cool. As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered the joys of combining alcohol with activities I once hated, such as camping, sports, weddings, and now, socializing with my parents. If it is at all possible for you, I recommend getting to the point where you can get blasted with the people who made you.

Yes I am wearing a bunch of beanie babies I hot glued together as a garment.

Confidence. Let’s break it down. I am (usually) good at empathizing.  This makes it easier to understand other people’s actions and motivations and avoid blaming myself for things that aren’t my fault.

Sexual Predators :(

…So obviously feminism.

…And more feminism.

Dafuq am I doing with this blog shit got serious all the sudden? I could form an elite group of partiers who would descend on events like glitter locusts and leave kickbacks sparkling with glaze of alcohol and shimmer of sex-sweat.

This is where my parents met. Well, that's what K'nB Wine Cellars believed for the longest time.

In case you didn’t know, there are real neato perks to drinking at the same place all of the time. Go on Mondays because you need a beer to recover from the trauma of restarting your work week. Go on Tuesdays because you wish you came with an appetite on Monday and really wanted to try those sliders but, tomorrow, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Hi, the weather is great today in San Diego and also I am not your girlfriend.

Back to feminism because I give the people what they want. In a world where, “I’m a lesbian,” works less than half as well as, “I have a boyfriend,” we need more people who are willing to make it obvious that it is simply valid for a girl to reject a man because she says so. No explanation needed.

Le Butcherettes are worth driving to Santa Ana to see, apparently. I saw her pulsate and shake in a way that defies sexually-charged gazes. I dare you to objectify me.

Remember the space koozie I was so proud of....?

Burning man.

More burning man.space koozie after

Also burning man.

dairy-drought-takes-a-lot-of-water-to-make-happy-cowCows are causing the drought, I decided. Also shrubbery. Forget just turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, the best thing to do is find alternatives to a lush green lawn. If your front yard looks like a sad, tawny shag of neglected responsibility, consider yourself the hero of this story.

Writing partyI’m writing a book!! I’ve started mentioning this wordy beast when people ask what I’m doing with my life. You know, because besides drinking, it’s all I’ve been doing with my life.

How do you speak up when it feels like it’s too late? I have been beating myself up recently for leaving things unsaid. Friends have said or done things that I was not okay with, and I pretended everything was okay and did not say anything.

Just when you think I’m done writing about festivals… I present this packing list. Things You Bring But Never Use: 4 extra friggin shirts; 2 extra friggin blue jeans; Book for “downtime” …

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 6.55.50 PMGoddamnit now this song is stuck in my head again. I “just don’t get” why the skinny shaming in Megan Trainor’s hit single is a big deal.

Unwanted sexual attention :c I often get some variation of, “If you weren’t gay, I would totally have tried to date you.”

Wanted sexual attention :) So, you think your lezfriend is smoldering hot. I’m guessing since you called her “lesbian friend” and not just “friend,” you’re either straight or bi/queer.

Resticles.Day.CloseUpHey look, burning man. And testicles.  Despite resembling hairy sacks of balls, they were very pretty.

matt-taylor-shirt-comet-landing-pensiveIn some ways it’s just a shirt, but really it’s so much more than that. This is what happens when an intelligent man is faced with his mistakes. He feels them more truly than those too defensive to see clearly. He sees the thousands of implications of his tiny, tiny, oh-not-so-tiny mistake.

Thanks drawingThanksgiving feels. I am imperfect. I am too afraid to join conversations when I imagine a response that will overwhelm me (Ferguson). I fantasized about posting a “cheat sheet” today for avoiding cultural appropriation, with cute drawings, timely for Thanksgiving, and posturing as if I have a clue.

Lost-panic-typewriter-drawing.jpgAt least some good writing comes out of my personal problems. I struggle with trigger-induced panic. Often, it is easiest to say I suffer from PTSD, though I haven’t been formally diagnosed and do not want to diminish the experiences of others who may have it worse than I do.

Jury duty made me miss my fun date to the Birch Aquarium so I sent her snapchats of "fish" all day.

JURY DUTY WAS A PARTY AND A HALF. And the prosecuting attorney was kind of adorable. He was soft-spoken, kept messing up what he was saying, and one time didn’t have his notes for a particular witness. “Uh, I’d like to request a sidebar..” he said when he realized he didn’t have them, “It’s kind of embarrassing…”

wpid-wp-1419367560968.jpegBeing quirky and mysterious is another way to avoid writing a serious blog post, lifehack. Go to the liquor store. Buy a cheap pair of sunglasses and an iced coffee. Go home. Drink half of the coffee. Write her name backwards in the the lenses of the sunglasses with a dry erase marker, and wear them.

I AM FROZEN I DON’T MEAN THE MOVIE. Friends of mine from places like Oregon *caughAlexDialcough* try to say that 44 degrees is not that cold. Relatively, no, it is not. But experientially, for us San Diegans, it is THE MOST TERRIBLE COLD WHYYYYYY

Creationism Museum Lol :D Proceed through the days of creation. Find animals. Exclaim, “Oh my god there is animals here!” Wonder if the docents have heard you take the lord’s name in vain.

Why do people treat me like a prostitute is it because I am a woman? *fake smile* kthanksbye North Park: Some guy will yell “How much?” at you from his car when you’re walking with your girlfriend to your car. It kind of ruins your night.

IMAG0150Inclusivity and cats. Recently I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I have a space and the agency to throw my own parties, so that’s added immediacy to my Responsible Friendshipping goals. I get to say who comes to the party and what the theme is! I’m also interested, however, in the bigger picture. Am I helping my friends move in a healthy direction in their communities?

Inviting people to parties the best way possible is something I think about a lot. Another strategy I’m considering experimenting with is masterminding a small groups rotation pattern. I will make it clear to friends that, to limit the size of the party, I will invite smaller portions of my larger friend base. If they are not invited to the current party, rest assured they will be invited to the next.

actually-happyGiving myself life advice on the internet and people liking, nice :) What better way to show I respect someone than to support their ideas? At times it verges on enabling, the way I cater to people’s fantasies, but I’d rather do that than be a source of discouragement for the people I love.

Wow, today is less poops. It was really lovely to remember that I’ve put all this content out there and that, for the most part, I’m pretty happy with it all. In other words, I’m rad and I deserve to feel rad :P

More importantly, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. It means so much to me when people mention reading my stuff. You make me feel heard :)

If any of you blog, please let me know! I’d like to start following more people this year.

*hugs*

sami

Responsible Friendshipping: Inclusion v. Exclusion

There are a lot of words in this post, so I will break them up with pictures of cats.

There are a lot of words in this post, so I will break them up with pictures of  my roommate’s cats.

I have the great fortune to have some influence on my social space(s). By blogging and participating in a lot of group conversations, I think I’ve tricked my friends into thinking I have a good moral compass. My primary externally-assigned adjective is migrating from “redhead” to “thoughtful.” Well, let me invite you into more of my thoughts, because I’m loving this.

This year, especially, I am deciding what to do with my influence. I’ve always liked to think of myself as an enabler, but perhaps now I’m really interested in “directed enabling.” Or, you know, leading.

Recently I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I have a space and the agency to throw my own parties, so that’s added immediacy to my Responsible Friendshipping goals. I get to say who comes to the party and what the theme is! I’m also interested, however, in the bigger picture. Am I helping my friends move in a healthy direction in their communities?

IMAG0276(1)My main issue right now: Inclusion v. Exclusion. Practically speaking, this is a result of figuring out how to maximize needs fulfillment. For parties, that need is primarily “fun.” For friendshipping, that need is feeling like you’re not all alone in the universe (sad face). On the inclusion axis are motivations to demonstrate to community members why they are included and why their inclusion is guaranteed. On the exclusion axis are motivations to just be damn efficient and not waste time supporting members who are really just going to bollocks up everything for everyone (or just be really boring).

The failure I’m seeing in my friend group right now is buying into the idea that gatekeeping (exclusion) also successfully supports safety. I get why they’re doing it, and it took me a long time before I stopped thinking this was the best idea. Keep the baddies out, welcome the goodies in, right? Anecdotally, it’s actually true that this strategy didn’t work (a long time friend hurt a lot of people, not some stranger), and yet we kept using it.

Kitteh says: don't exclude me I luffs youThe converse is not easy, either. Opposite of gatekeeping, you can promote safety with behavior policing. I mean, that’s how mainstream society does it — you know you can’t hurt people because the law will hurt you back, harder. Unfortunately, this strategy requires a lot of difficult things that we’re ideologically opposed to doing. We don’t want to dial-down a list of accepted behaviors, we don’t want to be tasked with enforcing these behaviors, we don’t want to create laws. Sure, if we could do those things, then we could know we are technically safe despite any member who might come or go. But we’re rebels! We’re lawless!

Behavior policing doesn’t have to be done with laws; it can be done with culture. Case-study: my dirtpunk/goth friends manage an open-door policy, for their parties at least, by cultivating a particular vibe. Their hard edge intimidates away the people who really probably shouldn’t roll with them, while reminding members there is a real threat for people who misbehave. (Misbehave is a relative term, as a fair amount of trainwrecking is tolerated. I mean, there’s a reason the sink is always stacked with dishes.) The benefit is that no one is sweating over if they got the invite (besides people who are intentionally banned) — they instead make the decision based on their own evaluation of whether or not they really belong. Of course, self-reliance is heavily required to survive in this kind of environment.

IMAG0271My core friends have been instead operating their friendship collective as a sort of “romantic relationship.” You choose the right person, you trust them to benefit you and you return the favor. And you do NOT need to invite the public into your private relationship space.

I’ve seen some good moves towards developing a healthy micro-culture in this context, but a lot of these efforts have been co-opted by the “relationship insecurities” in such an exclusive group. People are worried the friend-blob doesn’t find them sexy anymore, instead of knowing the friend-blob treats all people equally (doling out rewards and punishments for behaviors as needed).

There’s a loss of autonomy in this arrangement. I think we’re exceptionally inter-dependent. Decisions become bogged down by the requirement of having consensus with the rest of our relationship-organism. Some of this is exciting and good, but I think it stops recognizing the discrete individuals who make up our membership body (beyond their worthiness as members). Sometimes it feels like I’m in a cult, you know?

So, I think what I want to do is help my friends know there are more ways to curate the direction their friendships are headed than just maintaining a really sweet guest list. I want them to understand that they can grow a core group of friends and behaviors that will prepare us for multiple environments, and carry us through multiple adventures. Let’s let down the walls a little, and let people and new ideas pass through our kingdoms.

IMAG0167

 

How to go to the Creationism Museum in Santee

Wait until it is Tuesday (admission is free on Tuesdays). Obtain a beverage. A horchata is nice. I definitely did not do this, and neither should you put whiskey in your horchata, but it is surely something to think about…

horchata

Drive to the very end of Mission Gorge in Santee, where if you go much further you will be headed out to Lakeside (and there is never any reason to go there). Find the building fronted with authoritative, reflective black letters: “CREATION AND EARTH HISTORY MUSEUM.” You will also see a statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Walk inside. Bring your horchata. It’s totally chill.

creationist-museum-santee-san-diego-dinosaur Walk briskly through the gift shop and avoid eye contact with the cashier. Snort loudly, then cover your mouth, when the first thing you see is a cheesy light toy paired with solemn Psalms 22:1. Use the change from your horchata to amuse yourself with the coin funnel that is decorated with stickers of planets. Donate a total of 31 cents.

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Proceed through the days of creation. Find animals. Exclaim, “Oh my god there is animals here!” Wonder if the docents have heard you take the lord’s name in vain. Decide the turtle is secretly atheist, like you, but he’s not trying to make a big deal about it.

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Don’t forget, also, to stare for a long time at the mural of dead animals and dead animal parts. It is a work of art.

IMAG0199IMAG0201Listen to your friend make loud monkey noises in the other room. It is like Disneyland here. Although…a docent does emerge from a hidden hallway, after the shouting. Sip your horchata while your friends discuss topics ranging from skin color to the Tower of Babel with the docent. He will call you “secularists.”

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Don’t forget to try to put the round peg in the square hole.

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Wish you had a T-shirt of the sign that says NO RUNNING IN THE MUSEUM. It is so punk rock.

no-running-in-the-museum

Sit down a spell on the nice couch and listen to the man on the TV. He is in a very busy-looking room. Where is he? In front of a green screen? Chortle at a bad jump cut. You are almost done with your horchata. You are keeping it together. You are doing just fine.

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This is the part where the docent comes back and hands your friends brochures. He will give you the last one, and say, “You probably like dogs.” He is not wrong. Maybe God helps him to see these things.

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Consult your smartphone to check the spelling of “efficacy.” Wait. LOL “tratement.”

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Oh god. Oh god no…. Drop your horchata taking a picture of the fertilization sign. It will seem like it is ok at first, because it landed upright, but actually the bottom will bust open, spilling your remaining beverage in a sticky puddle. Take the horchata to the bathroom. Try to drink the rest of it over the sink, then chuck it in the trash. Wash your face. Use the toilet (it is very fancy). Look at the horchata in the trash and stomp it down with your boot. Maybe that helps? Come back to your spill with paper towels. Hear a little girl say, “Mommy, why does it smell like beer?” Oh god. God no. They know. Everyone totally knows.

IMAG0239Leave immediately. Go straight to the brewery across the street. Wish you could order something stiffer than beer (but the beer is pretty good anyway).

BNS Brewing and Distilling Co

How the Grinch Stole Facebook

grinch-who-stole-facebook

My goal here is not to insult my friends. I’ve refrained from writing private letters of direct criticism because giving unsolicited advice is for pretentious douchecanoes. I am not intending to create an anonymized naughty list for you to find your name in. I will remix attributes from several friends so that what you will see is an amalgamation, and if you find yourself in any of these descriptions it is only because these behaviors are universal — they sprout out of primal social needs.

But really, sometimes my friends piss me off.

Isolated from complex human subtlety by the frame of the screen, my Facebook friends become tiny caricatures of themselves, or a blown up facet or two of their personalities that, in real life, is much less clumsy. Because of this, it is quite possible to love — and I mean really love — a friend in real life, but hate what they become in my news feed.

First, stereotypes.

A buddy might be good company over a Lagunitas IPA… But, contextualized by an endless stream of Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and Jezebel posts, they become a loathsome stereotype. Their photo is a square sticker signature slapped onto readily-available asshole personalities. Facebook posters generally expect their friends to be kind and understanding. They do not realize that when they like some sexist meme or other, I don’t see someone who has a complicated appreciation for both feminism and its seedy counterpart, in an ironic sort of way. Bah! Humbug! There is nothing festive about misogyny! I am not amused.

There’s the trope of the gay guy who calls women bitches and thinks vaginas are gross.¹ It’s supposed to be cute because he’s non-threatening and mince-y.  In my newsfeed, I have seen a good friend use the c-word.  “Um,” I want to say, “just because you’re ostensibly lower on the privilege totem pole than straight women doesn’t mean you get to call them cunts.” I should assume this person is adopting the stereotype for the sake of humor, but on the sterile screen, the words echo hatred like an angry red zit.

If I don’t know the person too well, such breaches have me reaching for the “hide” or even “unfriend” buttons. Facebook only lets me see you in one-dimension, and the one you’re giving me is ugly.

today-i-feel-trite-cliche-meaninglessThen, there are my sad friends.

In real life, they are clever and strong. They match self-deprecation with wit and laughter. They feel terribly about themselves, but muster up bravery to face the night. We commiserate about our human weaknesses, and wash the bitter taste away with fun and alcohol.

On Facebook they are whiny children. “Help me” sad post follows help-me-sad-post and they cry into the little box that asks: “What’s on your mind?” I see selfies described with words like “ugly,” “awful,” “not cute.” A flurry of comments reject the insecurities. Fine, I won’t disparage fishing-for-compliments if it’s effective for you, but I’m still always turned off by delusional postings. As in, your selfie is hot, please don’t lie and say it’s not.

And, of course, the over-sharers, in both senses of the word.

I won’t delve too much into the TMI tribe, because I’m probably just the asshole here for not giving a feel when your boyfriend is borderline abusive (and you think it’s more appropriate to cyber-whine than dump him). But I will just say if “some people” did something and they “know who they are” I am pissed at you for not giving me the whole story.

How-to-catch-James-Woods-ooh-piece-of-candy-family-guy

The other over-sharers seem think if they create a trail of links to “funny” or “amazing” internet “articles,” we’ll be gobbling them up like James Woods a la Family Guy. I’m sorry, but your fluffy internet photoblogs about 18 Little Whatsits that Insert-Anthropomorphic-Verb-Here or yet another slapdash rant on how Celebrity Epitomizes Insert-Hyperbolic-Adjective-or-Trendy-Social-Activism-Phenomenon-Here don’t have me bending over exclaiming “Oooh! Piece of candy.” Go play show-and-tell in Reddit where you can at least learn from your downvotes.

I feel like the Facebook Grinch.

Every Who down in Whoville liked Bitstrips a lot
But the Grinch who lived just North of Whoville did not!

The Grinch hated HuffPost! The whole Facebook feed!
What’s the point of this insatiable, selfish human need?

It could be that Upworthy talks down to us, like we’re kids
Or that when I’m in a public place, I’m not trying to watch vids…

The crux of it all is that I’m guilty. I am at once in-narcissistic-love with my Facebook persona and sick with the shame of self-promotion. If I am cringing when my friends post pictures of their lunches, how annoying is my stream of blog links, proud-of-myself check-ins, and hungover affirmations that I have so much party in my life?

We are not professional content finders and writers. Our news feeds are not as carefully curated as The Electric Typewriter. Our editing tools are too basic and imprecise. Facebook filters out 90% of babies-doing-baby-things for me (thank you!), but still shows Upworthy posts on the mobile browser. I blocked it! I totally blocked it already!

We’re scrap-booking together living, breathing yearbooks of human experience, as best we can.

As sappy as it sounds, there is something beautiful about that. What, perhaps, is insane, is that we’re expected to create and consume in this way every day. I’ve always felt squicky about nostalgia. Perhaps I’d be more comfortable if Facebook news feed browsing was relegated to an annual tradition, like an actual yearbook. We could submit content year-long, but it would disappear into the void until it unlocked like a time-capsule. Hmmm….yes…

Fantasies aside, this Grinch’s heart grows three sizes when she thinks about what Facebook represents despite its limitations. Yes, it’s a little bit of amateur-hour. But this mixture of the anxious, the banal, uplifting hope beside crushing failures, daily life and life events — this mixture is as raw and snotty-nosed and breathing and shitting, laughing, sighing as “the real world.”  We’re creating human records and they are exactly that, human.

So, please acknowledge my posts when I please you and I’ll do the same for you. If I come across something I don’t “like,” I guess I’ll just keep on scrolling.


¹To be fair, there is a trope of the lesbian who hates men and says dicks are gross, and while I’m not that way, I’ve heard such sentiment out of the mouth of babes, and I didn’t put my clothes back on and drive away.

I love tourists

I love tourists. (And transplants.) Granted, sometimes it’s a “kids say the darnedest things” kind of affection. I used to work at SeaWorld, and I won’t repeat his words here, but let’s just say a man from a small town in Oregon who was overwhelmed by the “diversity” taught me there are racist words that I didn’t know about.

He’s not the kind of tourist I love. Nor the ones who unknowingly starred in my daily comedy show: I watched seagulls dive-bomb trays of french fries as soon as the hungry guests emerged from Mama Stella’s. No, I value the people who remind me what’s good about this place. I mean, besides the weather. This weekend I met a woman from Chicago who awed at the mountains, and yes they were very effective at blocking my cell reception but I stopped cursing T-mobile and also spun in a slow circle. Ok, yes, I’m looking at them. Wow.

And every place has its own brand of localism, but ours is particularly bullheaded. Families sit behind property taxes like they earned the right to live here, passing down houses for generations. What they don’t know is that the transplants are saving this town. Because while we’re the last idiotic stand against all that is good and liberal in California, we have an ironic patience for tourists. Newcomers are weirdos. But we’re oblivious, too complacent and courteous to offer anything but smiles and averted gazes.

It is when I’m at a writing night, or in a art group, that people are surprised that I’m a local, like I’m some kind of rarity. Locals might create these spaces, but the transplants flock to them. They are still hungry for controversy, they still remember what it’s like to wear galoshes because you need them, not because they are covered in zebra stripes and match your fuzzy animal print coat…. Waterproof shoes are rad, why did no one tell me this? I stood in a creek! And my feet didn’t get wet!

The kind of tourist I love shakes his head at me, asks me how I can be okay with this, reminds me there is a larger world out there. The kind of tourist I love tells me I can retire here but I need to get out at some point. The kind of tourist I love, though, has to admit the chaparral here could inspire Dr. Seuss and this place is pretty great, underneath it all. And it’s getting greater.

  1. Beer. Obviously.
  2. The food trucks are multiplying.
  3. So Say We All
  4. A new haunted house
  5. …and more of course!

P.S. yes, I know I missed my post last week. I was preparing for a large camping festival, and yes it was lovely, and no I won’t write about it in my public-facing blog. I love you tourists, but that one isn’t for you.