Thursday, December 25, 2008
Once upon a time I made a stupid mistake. When I was an undergraduate I met a very shy self-effacing guy who did me a huge favor. I didn’t know the guy but he assisted me by volunteering to participate in my research study. What a nice guy and he just happened to be there in the nick of time when I needed help. Later I bumped into him on campus and engaged him in light chitchat. Because he seemed polite and friendly I didn’t think much when he asked me for my phone number and soon we became good friends. BIG MISTAKE. I should have just walked away. I mean the guy was definitely a bit strange, but I decided to befriend him any way. Fast-forward two years later and out of some perverse form of schizophrenic neediness I entered into a relationship with this young man. Fast forward 6 month later and I was crying bitterly on my birthday, alone in a new community, broke, and broken up. Just like that it was and is and will remain over.
It’s dead without the possibility of resurrection and so is our once friendship.
Of all the things in the Bible the most difficult thing to do is to love your enemies and to be kind to those who intentionally do you harm. Up until this point I hadn’t done too bad of a job at that. Occasionally resentment would boil up inside of me but prayer and mediation and focusing on God’s love would always change how I felt around. But then there was HIM. Like a cancer that refuses to be cut out he clings to me in the worse way. I almost hate him.
Yeah I know that’s not Christian and I know I have a lot to answer for because I have harbored this resentment in my heart. I thought I was a big girl--that all was forgiven and that I had moved on. I even accepted his facebook friend request and engaged in light small talk with him via the net. Alas I am super Christian I have forgiven and moved on! Or so I thought. Then this Christmas morning I woke up to a missed call. It was HIM. No problem I’ll call him back later. After all I’m a big girl right. I did just that. I engaged him with some how are you’s, how the family, hows life etc. Ah this isn’t too bad I thought. This will be a cinch. After all I am so glad that I got over him. Or had I? I just had to ask a question. A question that should not have been asked because I did not like the answer.
Are you happy with your decision? By that I meant was he happy with that fact that his behavior had pushed away a wonderful young lady who at one point loved and cherished him. Did he have even that slightest regret that something that once had so much promise turned out so ugly? The answer: Not really.
See while I was crying my eyes out and missing him and praying for him every night…while I harbored the false hope that one day he would change and perhaps, just perhaps we could be friends again. While I agonized over the fact that he had betrayed me and thrown me away, he was happy about his life. Going on about things as if we’d never broken up. I meant no more to him than a used piece of toilet paper. Tactfully I hung up the phone after wishing him a good holiday and telling him to have a nice life. I did and said all the Christian things. I didn’t curse him out. I didn’t threaten to run him over with my Nissan. I didn’t tell him what an awful person he was. I didn’t plot his revenge. And you know what, I wish I had! But then there is a little voice inside of me that says “love your enemies.”
Even now I want to write all his secrets out on this blog. I want to tell his friends and colleagues all his dirt. I want to show him what I think he is, but I can’t. I am to love my enemies. Perhaps that’s the hardest thing the Christian faith teaches. Sure there is nothing wrong with being angry, but we are to be angry without sinning. After all even rapists and child molesters can love people who treat them with love, the challenge comes in loving those who have treated you like used toilet paper.
I know that I have been treated unfairly. I will never really understand why, but I know that your own Son was treated infinitely worse. Father even while they were driving nails through his sinless hands He never uttered one harsh would against them. Instead Jesus asked you to forgive them. Father please put that kind of love in my heart. Please help me to love those who have harmed me. Please heal me of this hurt and help me to move on. Grant me the strength to forgive. And Lord please bless the ex fill him with your love and your presence so that he will treat people as you would have him to.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
And so it is that another Valentines Day is upon us! This is the scariest pagan holiday of our year. A holiday of monsters, ghouls, and long departed souls. A celebration of all things evil and decaying. Yes, my friends, it’s time for us to go trick and treating, set fire to stuff, dress up as things we are not, and revisit haunting, long gone relationships of our past. Now that’s spooky!
Valentines day is a morbid day of cemetery walks, sugar rushes, and frightening romantic comedies at the box office, but unfortunately our modern society has turned this perfectly innocent day of death into a capitalistic enterprise. So tragic that this refreshingly sordid day should be turned into a day of consumerism and avarice. While we gorge ourselves with candy, it seems like every store is having some kind of holiday sale. Costumes for sale, candy for sale, pumpkins for sale, candy apples with razor blades inside of them for sale!! Oh what have we done to the depraved occult-centered festivity we now call Valentines Day!
Hold on a second. Some one leaning over my shoulder just told me that it’s not Valentines day!!! What!!! It appears I have mixed up my holidays again folks. I’m so sorry, but I just keep getting these two self-centered, meaningless, and mournful holidays all mixed up. C’mon you can’t blame me. Candy corns? Conversation hearts? Costumes? The façade of superficiality? Death? The destruction our relationships? Gaudy decorations? Watching your teeth rot or watching thoughtless, cheap flowers rot in a tacky vase? Will someone please explain to me the difference!
Or perhaps it doesn’t really matter what the difference is as our relationships are failing quicker than our stock market and so far there’s no marriage bailout plan. Narcissism reigns and we are lost in an orgy of our own cupidity. All around us things are dying, yet we feel the need to pay to watch death in every brutally gruesome form imaginable portrayed on the big screen. We adorn ourselves with skulls and crossbones, and then scream that we want to be free to live life. We concern ourselves with the rights of those not yet born but we are callously indifferent to the plight of our soldiers who die everyday. Any way I’m tired. This whole world is far too much for one cynical blogger. So happy Valentines Day or Halloween or whatever “hollow day” it is. Maybe we can get together and conjure up the long-forgotten spirits of morality and altruism.
Ha! No, I still don’t believe that.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I know the title isn't clever, but I wasn’t looking to be witty. I just wanted to get my point across. If you are one of the two people who read this blog you know that I am a broke graduate student who lives in a predominately white rural town. Any way buying black hair products has become an impossible feat, so you can imagine my enthusiasm when I came upon www.ebonyline.com, a beauty supply web outlet that sells everything from the latest wigs, weaves and extensions, to hair conditioners and treatments, fragrances, skin care products, and accessories and for very reasonable prices. Having compared this site to several of their competitors I decided to give them a try because they had the lowest prices and the most reasonable shipping. So I purchased a wig on September 6th, 2008 for $37.92 from them and waited excitedly for it to arrive.
The wig came just a few days later and I rushed to open the package. Surprise! The wig didn’t look like the one on the model. It looked a lot shorter and the hair color was not exactly what I expected. No problem, I thought, I’ll just try it on and if it doesn’t fit or doesn't look nice on me I’ll send it back. I checked to make sure ebonyline had a return/exchange policy before I forked over 40 bux of my hard earned money. I was careful when removing the wig from the packaging, taking special care to leave all of the original tags on it. I then placed a wig cap on (over my freshly washed hair) and tried the wig on. Just as I suspected, the wig did not look right on me. No big, deal. It’s not ebonyline’s fault that the wig doesn’t suit me. I’ll just send it back for an exchange.
As the site suggested I sent an email to their return services. A short while later I receive the following response.
You may return the item(s) as long as it is in its’ original sellable condition. Also, all exchanges or returns must be received within 10 days from the authorization date. We will give you 80% refund on your return due to restocking fee. Please note that wigs and other beauty accessories (e.g. irons, ponytails, half-wigs, etc.) can only be returned for an exchange or store credit. You will be responsible for any extra fees that might be required to process an exchange. Please notify as us soon as you sent the item back to us. Our return address is:
5639 W. Howard St.
Niles, IL 60714
Please make sure you check our return policy before taking any action:
Thank you for your cooperation.
An 80% refund or store credit didn’t seem that bad. Sides it was better than completely wasting my money on a product that didn’t suit me. So I followed the instructions, put the wig back in it’s original packaging with all of it’s tags and off I shipped it for $4.80. Then I sent an email back to the customer service rep stating that the wig was on it’s way. I receive this email back:
Thank you for your inquiry.
We will be able to process an exchange for your return if the return was properly processed by our return policy. We will calculate the difference and make charge to your credit card account you used to place an order with.
Thank you for choosing Ebonyline.com
So far so good. I’m still a happy camper at this point. Then two weeks later I receive this email.
Thank you for your return.
Unfortunately, we cannot accept your return for S-ALBA. The hair has very strong odor coming out of it. As the result, we concluded that the product is not in original condition. We can send the wig back to your address if you are willing to be responsible for the shipping cost. Otherwise, we have no choice but to dispose the item. Please reply back to us with your decision.
Thank you for your cooperation,
WHAT THE HECK!!!!! STRONG ODOR!!!!. So in other words yall aint given me my exchange or store credit and I STINK!!!!! And to top it all off yall are allegedly going to throw the wig away if I don’t pay yall more money to get the wig back!!!! At this point I’m pissed because I’ve already spent $42.72 and I still have no product and no exchange, and now I have to pay more money for a product I’m quite unhappy with. Now maybe $42.72 is no big deal to the rest of the world, but to a BROKE graduate student living off of a stipend that would make a McDonalds employee cry, it’s a BIG deal. So I sent the following unfriendly email back to customer service:
I am not satisfied with the service I have received from your company. I have spent approximately $40 dollars (including what I spent to ship the wig back) and now you are telling me that I am out of a product and I don't even get my money back. That's bad business. Is there someone I can speak with about this matter? Is there a customer service number I can call? I assure you that when I sent the wig back there was NO odor coming from it. All I did was take the wig out of it's original package examine it and determined that it DID NOT look like the wig on the model. So I sent it back in the same condition I got it in. Now you are telling me that unless I pay you MORE money I am out of the product and I don't get a credit or even an exchange. I'm sorry, but that just doesn't suffice. It seems very convenient and very suspicious that you all would get the returned wig and then accuse me of ruining it so that you all don't have to reimburse me or give me a product. Who can I take this matter up with?
I receive this response a little while later:
Thank you for your reply.
I have already spoke to my manager regarding your return and she also came up with conclusion that we cannot accept your return. As we state on our website, the return product must be returned in original sellable condition. You may contact us by calling:
Please be aware that the refusal on the return package is the final decision. You must decide if you wish to receive the item back by being responsible for the shipping cost or dispose the item from our side. Please reply back to us with your decision on the order.
Thank you for your cooperation,
So basically I’m screwed and I have to hurry up and make a decision about whether or not I want this wig and make it fast before I’m out of even more money! So I sent the following email back:
Thank you for your quick reply.
Because it seems I have no real choice in the matter, please ship the wig back to me. I will pay for the shipping. Please know and please tell your superiors that I am very dissatisfied with the treatment I have received. This is the first time I have ordered from your company and because of my experience it will be my last.
INHO they could have at least given me something—a discount on my next purchase, a coupon because I’m a first time customer, an offer to ship the wig back for free, but no they did not! Instead they charged $7.93 to my debit card to send the “STANK” wig back. That brings my total to $50.65. Swell.
So what’s the moral of the story? I’m just suggesting that there are many online retailers out there for those of us who must buy hair products from off the internet, but that Crystal Clear CANNOT recommend www.ebonyline.com. Shop there at your own risk, but remember you were warned by this blog. If you still insist on shopping there don’t expect to return any of the products you purchase. I spose if you purchase earrings from them they will send you a note back saying that there’s an odor coming from those too!!!!! You’ve been warned. And please send this to anyone you know who shops for beauty products online.
UPDATE: Today I got the wig back from ebonyline.com and guess what? It DOES NOT stink! The only odor coming from this wig is that of the box it was shipped in. Most things smell a little like cardboard if you ship them in, I don't know, CARDBOARD. But the wig smells just fine. That suggests to me that the whole "odor thing" was a BS story they made up so they would not have to give me my much deserved exchange. Congratulations Ebonyline, you just lost a very good customer, and potentially many more depending on how many people read this blog.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
To purchase the 4 part series check out www.hopevideo.com. These are powerful evangelism tools so please do not keep them to yourself. Please email them to someone you know who could use them. Also I don't usually ask people to do this, but if you do watch the series please write and tell me what you thought of them. You can email me or leave me a message. Thanks
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Those are powerful words. I remember watching Madea Goes to Jail shortly after I broke up with my ex. Those words helped to put things into perspective. See I thought the guy I had invested so much time and energy into was a root--someone who would support and nurture our relationship, someone who I could depend on. But when it came time for me to step out on him--when I really needed him--he broke and left me to fall hard. I sustained some massive injuries. I kept begging him to give me what I needed, but it just wasn't in him. He was a branch, only meant to hold for a short time before breaking.
Which brings me to my next point. When I have to face a decision where it's my self- preservation or someone else I have to instinctively pick me. If I don't how will I survive. My ex made a choice. He decided that temporary sexual indulgences were more important than his 'love' for me and his commitment to our relationship.It all boiled down to my staying and allowing myself to be disrespected, hurt, disregarded, and degraded or leaving. He chose computer images of people who could NEVER love him back over a woman who loved him immeasurably. Perhaps one day he will regret that decision. I don't know. I pray for him everyday. My regret is that I wish I had seen it coming.
Like Madea says, if someone is doing something that hurts you, and you confront them and tell them that what they are doing causes pain and they still continue to do it, that person DOES NOT really care for you. I don't care what they say. Actions speak volumes about a person. But if that person even tries to change a little don't throw them away. I would never toss anyone aside, but my ex boyfriend decided that he was not going to change, and he did not care at all how much his actions hurt me. How can you love a narcissist (someone who can only see their own perspective)? How can you commit to someone who only care about what they can get out of a situation, even if you suffer because of their self-centeredness? Doing so does not show love for that person, but hatred for self.
Every day is an attempt to move past the hurt and betrayal and to see the beauty in each day God has given me. I strive to have a close relationship with God. I work towards excellence in all that I do. Yet I am still haunted by the termination of that relationship. I am still suffering from the effects of confusing a branch with a root. But that's life. I don't have all the answers. But I am growing and learning. That's why I wanted to share this simple blog with you. I implore all of you to evaluate your relationships according to Madea's wisdom. Sometimes, even though it may break your heart, you have to let people go. Just let them go.
Monday, September 1, 2008
"Find me I'm falling
and fooling myself that it's flight
Imperfect I plummet
Pushed away on principle...
I searched your eyes for an answer
And shuddered at what I found there
As my skin shrunk away from conclusion
That you lack the strength to care
Walk away and I stare
Would you stand me up again?
Wonder if I've said too much
And we'll never speak again
This is the way it has to be
That you would turn your back on me
And you and I should walk away...
And we'll never speak again
--Mad At Gravity "Walk away"
So why? What happened? Weren't things going along so perfect? Weren't you two planning a future together? Well I'm not sure where to start or how to answer those questions. Life is complicated. People are complicated. They change. Perhaps one day I'll have the guts to talk about what happened. I suppose I will after I fully understand what happened. I did everything I could to try to make it work, but one cannot hold together a relationship by herself. It seems men aren't interested in doing what it takes to make it work. They don't believe in fighting for their relationships, they don't believe in sacrifice, they don't believe in the power of prayer to change things. Men as a species just DON'T. They lack depth and genuine empathy. They abhor morality and cling desparately to their vices. I'm much happier without them.
The worse part about the break up is that because of my ex's pathological self-centeredness we aren't even friends. I wash my hands of him. Even after a 2 1/2 year history you never really know a person. Everybody has a darkside, his was just more sick and twisted than most. It would be dangerous to my self-esteem as well as to any sense of intergrity I claim to possess to remain in any kind of relationship with him, especially when he is callously indifferent to the entire situation. He lacks the strength (if not the ability altogether) to care. In his own words he is just too immature to ever change. So to him it doesn't matter if his behavior hurts and exploits others even those he claims to love. To him it doesn't matter if he loses relationships, breaks hearts, lives a lie, or demolishes his already strained relationship with God. As long as he can hide behind his calulated subterfuge and play innocent--as long as he can comfortably sit in the church pews satuared in his abominable sins no one will ever discover what he really is. And you know what, I'm sorry I ever did. So my only choice, however painful and whatever the consquence, was to walk away.
Update 6/8/14 My ex moved back to Europe, but years later we were able to forge some kind of psuedo friendship. I have forgiven him and moved on. From time to time we skype and even exchange advice and bday cards. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
It has been so long since I have published a blog. I haven't forgotten about it. In fact, almost everyday I've thought about settling down and thinking up some new blog topics. I supposed I have a case of writer's block, mixed with lazy apathy, combined with just a tinge of work-alcoholism. I guess it's only fair that I update you on what has been happening in my life. Around the same time I wrote "Networking for Tits", I took a job working at a kosher restaurant in a Jewish neighborhood. The experience wasn't too bad. In fact, as jobs come, it was probably one of the best I've had. I worked almost all the time sometimes up to 12hours a day in order to save up for my big move. Yup, liberal, black, city-native me, moved to a strange conservative, predominately white, rural little place. This is probably the largest transition of my life. I now reside in the Land Of Ohio (northwest to be exact). For those of you who weren't aware, I got accepted into the Sociology Masters program at Bowling Green State University. If you say you've never heard of it you wouldn't be the first. But this school, unlike the other universities that I wasted my money applying to, accepted me, funded me, and even considered me one of there top recruits.
So what will I do with a Master's in sociology? Well for starters I'll have more reasons to stand a-top my soap box and impale people with the truth. I'll have more ammunition for my sardonic, yet brilliant social commentaries; and prayerfully, I'll be able to help more people think critically about our culture and our world. Stay tuned for more unapologetic and sometimes cynical, and lets not forget random musings.
P.S. In the mean time if you're just dying for a hot piece of political commentary you should read this article by my very astute friend Laila.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Its promoters call it a new form of social networking and online "community."
Its critics say it shows the extremes to which some women will go to mend a broken body image and fulfill a male fantasy of what a woman should look like.
But for a North Hills woman named JoAnne, who asked that her last name not be used, Myfreeimplants.com is merely a quick, convenient way to raise enough money to pay for surgery she's wanted since the eighth grade.
Since its launch two years ago, the Web site has become an increasingly popular venue for women to solicit donations from men -- who happen to be total strangers -- for breast implant surgery.
Besides being the latest manifestation of the American obsession with physical appearance, the site also illustrates how the Internet is transforming social relationships and creating bizarre new notions of "community" -- by distancing people from actual human contact and enabling them to indulge in activities they might never consider outside of cyberspace.
Some might call the site, with its cheesy graphics and suggestively posed women, pornography. JoAnne does not see it that way, and technically, she's right -- no nude photos are allowed.
"I know the feminists will be coming out of the woodwork and see it as demeaning, but it's been great for me. I've raised some money and I've had some great conversations with people," she said, adding that for her, breast implants carry no more psychological baggage than losing weight might for someone else.
Plus, she is in a committed relationship with her boyfriend, "who supports me whether I do this or not. I don't care about the women who may want to bash me for what is essentially my choice."
But Nili Sachs, a Minneapolis-based psychologist who specializes in human sexuality and couples counseling, said she found Myfreeimplants.com profoundly disturbing.
"When you first see the site, you can for a brief moment think, 'OK, this is all in the spirit of helping women feel better about themselves.' But take a closer look at the photos of the women and their blogs. They're all posing in very suggestive positions, and when a man pays money for that, it's pornography. For the women, it's a form of virtual prostitution."
The brainchild of two 29-year-old California software designers, the site allows women to chat with men online in the hope they can persuade them to pay for breast implants. Jason Gunstra, one of the founders, said he and his partner started the site as "a joke" after meeting a cocktail waitress at a bachelor party in Las Vegas who said she wished she could have the procedure.
For women, the service is free, and they can contact any man on the site. Men, on the other hand, must pay a small fee of $1.25 for each e-mail, or "message credit," with $1 going to the woman, and 25 cents to the Web site's owners.
At that point, though, all bets are off. E-mails between the two parties are unmonitored by the site, and JoAnne says she gotten plenty of requests for photos of herself in the buff, which she rejected out of hand, but was able to start and sustain online conversations with several men who ended up donating money -- $768, so far -- to an escrow account maintained by the site's owners. Once she's raised enough money, about $4,000 on average, the site will pay her surgeon for the procedure.
More than 20,000 women have signed up since its inception, said Mr. Gunstra, with 2,500 "active" members at any given time. To date, 35 women have raised enough money to pay for implants, he said.
He bristled at the suggestion that the site is in any way degrading or risky for women.
"MySpace.com is more dangerous," he said, noting his site's strict rules against women identifying themselves, while "really pushing the community aspect of the site and encouraging communication and friendships. Think online pen pals, with an added benefit of a bigger bust at the end of the journey."
With 17,000 men signed up on the site, "you end up messaging your fingers off" trying to talk them into donating, said Lindsay, of Columbus, Ohio, who raised $3,950 for her surgery from 10 different donors, out of about 2,000 she e-mailed, in August.
Lindsay asked that her last name not be used, and, in fact, on the site, women only post screen names, not actual names or addresses, to protect against stalkers.
While some men asked for sexually explicit photos, "I didn't do that," Lindsay said. "If a girl wants to make money that way, she can always just sell herself on the street."
It's that talk of "choice" and the linkage women make between implants and self-confidence that deeply concerns independent filmmaker Carol Ciancutti-Leyva , whose 2007 documentary, "Absolutely Safe," tracks two women -- one who was scheduled for implants and one who was having them removed because she believed they had made her sick.
While examining safety issues and the FDA's approval process for implants, the film also explores what motivates women to get them -- and what Ms. Ciancutti-Leyva believes is manipulation of the issue by manufacturers.
"I think the breast implant industry co-opted the feminist argument, making it about choice instead of safety," said Ms. Ciancutti-Leyva, who is based in New York but grew up in Penn Hills. "The discussion of safety is gone, it's obsolete, we don't talk about it anymore. The old prejudice was that a woman who got implants was the stereotypical 'bimbo,' but today it's your next-door-neighbor, your doctor, lawyer, your average woman."
Dr. Sachs maintains that the growing demand for breast implants isn't necessarily driven by sex -- at least for the woman -- as much as it is on a cultural and anthropological need for uniformity, fueled by advances in medicine and technology.
"The human body has continually been put to use as a medium for the expression of cultural, tribal or genealogical needs," she said. "Nations, tribes and other groups demand that their members reflect sameness in their physical appearance," although what they define as the ideal appearance varies from culture to culture.
In Asia, women aren't having breast implants; they're having their eyes altered to look more Western, she noted. "This drive for uniformity is about belonging to the desired class or species."
And you can get there without any of your friends or family knowing how you did -- by sitting alone at a computer.
"I am essentially a nameless face and body on a Web site," said JoAnne. "It's kind of impersonal for me. Disengaged is how I put it."
"You always have a mask on when you're on the Internet," added Lindsay. "Really, the site is all about conversation, about being friendly, and not boring, otherwise no one is going to talk to you. And in the end, it got me what I wanted, for free, while having fun. It was not degrading at all."
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Incidentally, I'm not the only one starting to see a correlation between the downward spiral of our relationships and the rapid growth of the multi-BILLION dollar porn industry. Many secular thinkers are now discovering (surprise) that watching people exploit their sexuality for cash, might actually be (gulp) bad! Here's what a secular writer is saying about porn. Enjoy the article, it's long but worth the read. Also for those of you who think I'm going to back down or that you are going to tell me what to write on my own blog, you are profoundly mistaken! Yeah, I SAID IT!.
Men and porn
Pornography is ubiquitous, more profitable, more acceptable than ever. We argue about the effects on women participants but scant attention is given to the millions of mainly male users. What does porn do to men? Edward Marriott investigatesThere's an episode of Friends - The One With The Free Porn - in which Chandler and Joey discover they have tuned into a porn channel. And it's free. They leave the TV on, afraid switching off will mean no more pornography. By the end of the episode, Chandler is seeing the world through porn-tinted spectacles. "I was just at the bank," he complains, "and the teller didn't ask me to go do it with her in the vault." Joey, bewildered, reports a similar reaction from the pizza-delivery girl. "You know what," decides Chandler, "we have to turn off the porn."
As a society, however, we are further from turning off the porn than we have ever been. Pornography is everywhere - it masquerades as "gentlemen's entertainment" in the form of clubs such as Spearmint Rhino, it infiltrates advertising and it will soon be available in our back pockets, thanks to a deal by adult entertainment giant Private Media Group to beam porn to UK mobile phones.
In its hardcore form, pornography is now accessed in the UK by an estimated 33% of all internet users. Since the British Board of Film Classification relaxed its guidelines in 2000, hardcore video pornography now makes up between 13% and 17% of censors' viewing, compared with just 1% three years ago, a rate of growth that is being cited as a causal factor in the recent bankruptcy of Penthouse, at one time the very apotheosis of porno chic but in recent years little more risqué than Loaded. In the US, with the pornography industry bringing in up to $15bn (£8.9bn) annually, people spend more on porn every year than they do on movie tickets and all the performing arts combined. Each year, in Los Angeles alone, more than 10,000 hardcore pornographic films are made, against an annual Hollywood average of just 400 movies.
Pornography is not only bigger business than ever before, it is also more acceptable, more fashionable, more of a statement of cool. From pieces "in praise of porn" in the normally sober Prospect magazine, to such programmes as Pornography: The Musical on Channel 4 last month, to Victoria Coren and Charlie Skelton's book, published last year, about making a porn film, to the news that Val Kilmer is to play the part of pornography actor John Holmes in a new mainstream movie, there is a widespread sense that anyone who suggests pornography might have any kind of adverse effect is laughably out of touch. Coren and Skelton, former Erotic Review film critics, focus on their flip comic narrative, scarcely troubling themselves with any deeper issues. "In all our years of watching porn," they write, in a rare moment of analysis that doesn't get developed any further, "we have never properly resolved what we think about how, why and whether it is degrading to women. We suspect that it might be. We suspect that pornography might be degrading to everybody."
With pornography, it seems as if the sheer scale of the phenomenon has, in time-honoured capitalist fashion, conferred its own respectability; as a result, serious analysis is hard to come by. Only occasionally, amid porn-disguised-as-documentary that distinguishes much of Channel 5's late-night output, is there broadcasting that gives any kind of insight. Channel 4's documentary Hardcore, shown two years ago, told the story of Felicity, a single mother from Essex who travelled to Los Angeles hoping to make a career in pornography. Arriving excited, and clear about what she would not do - anal sex, double-vaginal penetration - she ended up being coerced into playing a submissive role and agreeing to anal sex. Felicity - the vicissitudes of whose own troubled relationship with her father were mirrored by the cruelty of the men with whom she ended up working - eventually escaped back to the UK.
Hardcore offered a rare, unadorned look at the inside of the industry, as did Pornography: The Musical, albeit in a more surreal form, with actors interrupting sex to break into song. Yet what about the millions who consume pornography, the men - for they are, despite pornographers' claims about growing numbers of female fans, mostly men - who habitually use it? How are they affected? Is pornography, as most these days claim, a harmless masturbatory diversion? That episode of Friends, albeit with tongue in cheek, suggested a heavy diet of porn might encourage men inappropriately to expect sex. Is that true? And what about more profound effects? How does it affect relationships? Is it addictive? Does it encourage rape, paedophilia, sexual murder? Surely tough questions need to be asked.
First, though, some definitions. According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, the word "pornography" dates to 1864, when it described "the life, manners, etc of prostitutes or their patrons". More recently, it has come to signify material, in the words of Chambers, "intended to arouse sexual excitement". Its most common themes, however, are power and submission. By contrast, "erotica", which is pretty hard to find now, carries additional connotations of "amorousness" and is far less concerned with control and domination. No, it is pornography plain and simple, from teen magazines such as Front to venerable "wrist mags" such as Playboy, to the almost daily bombardment of teaser pornographic emails, that confronts all of us on a ceaseless basis.
The received wisdom, pushed hard by such mass-market magazines as Loaded and FHM, is that men derive a pretty uncomplicated enjoyment from pornography. That, certainly, is the argument put forward by such proponents as David Baddiel, AA Gill, who has directed his own pornographic film, and the musician Moby, who once said in an interview, "I like pornography - who doesn't? I don't really trust men who claim to not be interested in porn. We're biologically programmed to respond to the sight of people having sex." Danny Plunkett, then features editor of Loaded, takes an equally relaxed view: "We know that a lot of people enjoy it and take it with a pinch of salt. We certainly don't view it as dangerous."
But is it as simple as this? One of my best friends is a man for whom pornography has apparently never held even the slimmest interest. Moby may choose to distrust him, but his sex life otherwise has always seemed to me perfectly robust. He is, however, so much in the minority as to seem almost an oddity.
For most men, at some point in their lives, pornography has held a strong appeal and, before any examination of its effects, this fact has to be addressed. Like many men, I first saw pornography during puberty. At boarding school, dog-eared copies of Mayfair and Knave were stowed behind toilet cisterns; this borrow-and-return library system was considered absolutely normal, seldom commented upon and either never discovered by the masters or tacitly permitted. Long before my first sexual relationship, porn was my sex education.
No doubt (though we'd never have admitted it then) my friends and I were driven to use porn through loneliness: being away from home, we longed for love, closeness, unquestioning acceptance. The women over whom we masturbated - the surrogate mothers, if you like - seemed to be offering this but, of course, they were never going to provide it. The untruths it taught me on top of this disappointment - that women are always available, that sex is about what a man can do to a woman - I am only now, more than two decades on, finally succeeding in unlearning.
From men everywhere come similar stories. Nick Samuels, 46, an electrical contractor from Epping - now, with a wife and four children, the very image of respectable fatherhood - says he first discovered the power of pornographic images at the age of 16, when he found a copy of Mayfair in his father's garage. "I can even remember the picture. There was a woman walking topless past a building site and the builders were ogling her from the scaffolding. It was pretty soft stuff, but it heightened my senses and kicked off my interest in pornography. Before long, I was reading Whitehouse and then, through a friend at my squash club, I was introduced to hardcore videos."
Si Jones, a 39-year-old north London vicar who regularly counsels men trying to "come off" pornography, admits that, for him, too, it was his introduction to sex. "As a teenager, I watched porn films with my friends at the weekend. It was just what you did. It was cool, naughty and everyone was doing it." Set against today's habit of solitary internet masturbation, Jones's collegiate introduction to porn seems peculiarly sociable. Today, boys no longer clandestinely circulate magazines after school; nor do they need to rummage through their fathers' cupboards in search of titillating material. Access to internet pornography has never been easier, its users never younger, and the heaviest demand, according to research published in the New York Times, is for " 'deviant' material including paedophilia, bondage, sadomasochism and sex acts with various animals".
At its most basic level, pornography answers natural human curiosity. Adolescent boys want to know what sex is about, and porn certainly demonstrates the mechanics. David Morgan, consultant clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst at the Portman Clinic in London, which specialises in problems relating to sexuality and violence, describes this phase as "transitional, like a rehearsal for the real thing. The problem with pornography begins when, instead of being a temporary stop on the way to full sexual relations, it becomes a full-time place of residence." Morgan's experience of counselling men addicted to porn has convinced him that "the more time you spend in this fantasy world, the more difficult it becomes to make the transition to reality. Just like drugs, pornography provides a quick fix, a masturbatory universe people can get stuck in. This can result in their not being able to involve anyone else."
For most men, the way pornography objectifies sex strikes a visceral emotional chord. Psychotherapists Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon, in their book Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life Of Boys, suggest that objectification, for boys, starts early. "By adolescence, a boy wakes up most mornings with an erection. This can happen whether he is in a good or bad mood, whether it is a school day or a weekend ... Boys enjoy their own physical gadgetry. But the feeling isn't always, 'Look what I can do!' The feeling is often, 'Look what it can do!' - again, a reflection of the way a boy views his instrument of sexuality as just that: an object. What people might not realise when they justly criticise men for objectifying sex - viewing sex as something you do, rather than part of a relationship - is that the first experience of objectification of sexuality in a boy's life comes from his experience of his own body, having this penis that makes its own demands."
But the roots go back further still. Research has shown that boy babies are treated more harshly than their female counterparts and, as they grow up, boys are taught that success is achieved through competition. In order to deal with this harsh masculine world, boys can learn not to trust their own feelings and not to express their emotions. They become suspicious of other men, with whom they're in competition, after all, and as a result they often feel lonely and isolated.
Yet men, as much as women, hunger for intimacy. For many males, locked into a life in which self-esteem has grown intrinsically entwined with performance, sex assumes an almost unsustainable freight of demands and needs. Not only does the act itself become almost the only means through which many men can feel intimate and close, but it is also the way in which they find validation. And sex itself, of course, cannot possibly satisfy such demands.
It is into this troubled scenario that porn finds such easy access. For in pornography, unlike in real life, there is no criticism, real or imagined, of male performance. Women are always, in the words of the average internet site, "hot and ready", eager to please. In real life, by contrast, men find women are anything but: they have higher job status, they demand that they be sexually satisfied, and they are increasingly opting to combine career and motherhood.
Men, say psychologists, also feel threatened by the "emotional power" they perceive women wielding over them. Unable to feel alive except when in relationships with women, they are at the same time painfully aware that their only salvation from isolation comes in being sexually acceptable to women. This sense of neediness can provoke intense anger that, all too often, finds expression in porn. Unlike real life, the pornographic world is a place in which men find their authority unchallenged and in which women are their willing, even grateful servants. "The illusion is created," as one male writer on pornography puts it, "that women are really in their rightful place and that there is, after all, no real and serious challenge to male authority." Seen in this light, the patently ridiculous pornography scenario of the pretty female flat-hunter (or hitch-hiker, driver with broken-down car, or any number of similar such vulnerable roles) who is happy to let herself be gang-banged by a group of overweight, hairy-shouldered couch potatoes makes perfect psychological sense.
The porn industry, of course, dismisses such talk, yet occasionally comes a glimmer of authenticity. Bill Margold, one of the industry's longest-serving film performers, was interviewed in 1991 by psychoanalyst Robert Stoller for his book Porn: Myths For The Twentieth Century. Margold made no attempt to gloss over the realities. "My whole reason for being in this industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don't care much for women and want to see the men in my industry getting even with the women they couldn't have when they were growing up. So we come on a woman's face or brutalise her sexually: we're getting even for lost dreams."
As well as "eroticising male supremacy", in the words of anti-porn campaigner John Stoltenberg, pornography also attempts to assuage other male fears, in particular that of erection failure. According to psychoanalytical thinking, pornography answers men's fetishistic need for visual proof of phallic potency. Lynne Segal, professor of psychology and gender studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, writes: "Men's specific fears of impotence, feeding off infantile castration anxiety, generate hostility towards women. Through pornography, real women can be avoided, male anxiety soothed and delusions of phallic prowess indulged, by intimations of the rock-hard, larger-than-life male organ."
Pornography, in other words, is a lie. It peddles falsehoods about men, women and human relationships. In the name of titillation, it seduces vulnerable, lonely men - and a small number of women - with the promise of intimacy, and delivers only a transitory masturbatory fix. Increasingly, though, men are starting to be open about the effect pornography has had upon them. David McLeod, a marketing executive, explains the cycle: "I'm drawn to porn when I'm lonely, particularly when I'm single and sexually frustrated. But I can easily get disgusted with myself. After watching a video two or three times, I'll throw it away and vow never to watch another again. But my resolve never lasts very long." He has, he says, "seen pretty much everything. I've even seen pictures of men being buggered by a pig. But once you start going down that slope, you get very quickly jaded."
Like many men, McLeod is torn. Quick to claim that porn has "no harmful effects", he is also happy to acknowledge the contradictory fact that it is "deadening". Andy Philips, a Leeds art dealer and, at 38, a father for the first time, says there have been times when he has been "a very heavy user". His initial reaction, like that of many of the men to whom I spoke, is studiedly jokey: "I love porn." Yet, as he grows more contemplative, he admits: "I've always used it secretly, never as part of a relationship. It's always been like the other woman on the side. It's something to do with being naughty, I guess."
Again and again, despite now being married, he is drawn back. "You can easily get too much of it. It's deadening, nullifying, gratuitous, unsatisfying. At one point I was single for three years and I used a lot of porn then. After a while, it made me feel worse. I'd feel disgusted with myself and have a huge purge."
Extended exposure to pornography can have a whole raft of effects. By the time Nick Samuels had reached his mid-20s, it was altering his view of what he wanted from a sexual relationship. "I used to watch porn with one of my girlfriends, and I started to want to try things I'd seen in the films: anal sex, or threesomes." Sometimes, he says, this was OK - "She was an easy-going person." At other times, "it shocked her". Married for 15 years, he admits he has carried the same sexual expectations into the marital bedroom. "There's been real friction over this: my wife simply isn't that kind of person. And it's only now, after all these years, that I'm beginning to move on from it. Porn is like alcoholism: it clings to you like a leech."
Psychoanalyst Estela Welldon, author of the classic text Mother, Madonna, Whore, has treated couples for whom such scenarios spiralled out of control. "A lot of men involve their partners in the use of porn. Typically, they will say, 'Don't you want a better sex life?' I have seen cases in which first the woman has been subjected to porn and then they have used their own children for pornographic purposes." When couples use porn together - a growing trend, if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by - there is, says Welldon, "an illusory sense that they are getting closer together. Then they film themselves having sex and feel outside themselves. This dehumanising aspect is an important part of pornography. It dehumanises the other person, the relationship, and any intimacy."
Even when in a loving sexual relationship, men who have used porn say that, all too often, they see their partner through a kind of "pornographic filter". This effect is summed up eloquently by US sociologist Harry Brod, in Segal's essay Sweet Sorrows, Painful Pleasures: "There have been too many times when I have guiltily resorted to impersonal fantasy because the genuine love I felt for a woman wasn't enough to convert feelings into performance. And in those sorry, secret moments, I have resented deeply my lifelong indoctrination into the aesthetic of the centrefold."
Running like a watermark through all pornography use, according to Morgan at the Portman Clinic, is the desire for control. This need, he says, has its roots in early childhood. "A typical example might be a boy with fairly absent parents, either in emotional terms or in actual fact." The boy, wishing his parents were more present - more within his control, as it were - can grow up wishing "to find something over which he can have control. Pornography fills that space."
But the user of pornography is also psychologically on the run, Welldon adds. "People who use pornography feel dead inside, and they are trying to avoid being aware of that pain. There is a sense of liberation, which is temporary: that's why pornography is so repetitive - you have to go back again and again."
Lost in a world of pornographic fantasy, men can become less inclined, as well as increasingly less able, to form lasting relationships. In part, this is due to the underlying message of pornography. Ray Wyre, a specialist in sexual crime, says pornography "encourages transience, experimentation and moving between partners". Morgan goes further: "Pornography does damage," he says, "because it encourages people to make their home in shallow relationships."
Jan Woolf believes it might also prevent a relationship getting started. A former special needs teacher, she lasted only six months in the job of BBFC censor in 2001. During this time, she watched hundreds of hours of hardcore videos. At the time, she was single. "If I'd been in the early stages of a relationship, it would have been very difficult, because I'd have been watching what I might have been expected to be doing, except it would never have been like that." She left the job because the porn was starting to make her feel "depressed - I wanted my lively mind back".
The more powerful the sense of pre-existing internal distress, the more compelling becomes the pull towards pornography. For John-Paul Day, a 50-year-old Edinburgh architect in his first "non-addictive" sexual relationship, the experience of being a small boy with a dying mother drove him to seek solace in masturbation. He says he has been "addicted" to pornography his entire adult life. "The thing about it is that, unlike real life, it is incredibly safe," Day says. "I'm frightened of real sex, which is unscripted and unpredictable. And so I engage in pornography, which is totally under my control. But, of course, it also brings intense disappointment, precisely because it is not what I'm really searching for. It's rather like a hungry person standing outside the window of a restaurant, thinking that they're going to get fed."
Day, who has attended meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous for 12 years, says, "Pornography is central to my own sex addiction in as much as sex addiction has to do with the use of fantasy as a way of escaping from reality. Even in my fantasies about 'real' people, I am really transforming them into pieces of walking pornography. It is not the reality of who they are that I focus on, but the fantasy I project on to them."
Like drugs and drink, pornography - as Day has realised - is an addictive substance. Porn actor Kelly Cooke, one of the stars of Pornography: The Musical, says this applies on either side of the camera: "It got to the point where I considered having sex the way most people consider getting a hamburger. But when you try to give it up - that's when you realise how addictive it is, both for consumers and performers. It's a class A drug, and it's hell coming off it."
The cycle of addiction leads one way: towards ever harder material. Morgan believes "all pornography ends up with S&M". The now-infamous Carnegie Mellon study of porn on the internet found that images of hardcore sex were in far less demand than more extreme material. Images of women engaging in acts of bestiality were hugely popular, the most frequently downloaded being of a brunette with - in the pornographer's trusty lexicon - "a huge horse cock in her tight pussy".
The mechanics of the pornographic search - craving, discovery of the "right" image, masturbation, relief - makes it, says Morgan, work like "a sort of drug, an antidepressant". The myth about porn, as a witness told the 1983 Minneapolis city council public hearings on it, is that "it frees the libido and gives men an outlet for sexual expression. This is truly a myth. I have found pornography not only does not liberate men, but on the contrary is a source of bondage. Men masturbate to pornography only to become addicted to the fantasy. There is no liberation for men in pornography. [It] becomes a source of addiction, much like alcohol. There is no temporary relief. It is mood-altering. And reinforcing, ie, 'you want more' because 'you got relief'. It is this reinforcing characteristic that leads men to want the experience they have in pornographic fantasy to happen in real life."
In its most severe form, this can lead to sexual crime, though the links between the two remain controversial and much argued-over. Wyre, from his work with sex offenders, says, "It is impossible not to believe pornography plays a part in sexual violence. As we constantly confront sex offenders about their behaviour, they display a wide range of distorted views that they then use to excuse their behaviour, justify their actions, blame the victim and minimise the effect of their offending. They seek to make their own behaviour seem normal, and interpret the behaviour of the victim as consent, rather than a survival strategy. Pornography legitimises these views."
One of the most extreme examples of this is Ted Bundy, the US serial sexual murderer executed for his crimes in January 1989. The night before his death, he explained his addiction to pornography in a radio interview: "It happened in stages, gradually ... My experience with ... pornography that deals on a violent level with sexuality is that, once you become addicted to it, and I look at this as a kind of addiction like other kinds of addiction, I would keep looking for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder, harder, something which gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far ... It reaches that jumping-off point where you begin to wonder if, maybe, actually doing it will give you that which is beyond just reading about it or looking at it."
Bundy, as damaged as he was, stopped short of blaming pornography for his actions, though it was, he believed, an intrinsic part of the picture. "I tell you that I am not blaming pornography ... I take full responsibility for whatever I've done and all the things I've done ... I don't want to infer that I was some helpless kind of victim. And yet we're talking about an influence that is the influence of violent types of media and violent pornography, which was an indispensable link in the chain ... of events that led to behaviours, to the assaults, to the murders." In the understated words of Wyre, "The very least pornography does is make sexism sexy."
The average man, of course, whatever his consumption of pornography, is no Bundy. Yet for those who have become addicted, the road to a pornography-free life can be long and arduous. Si Jones advises accountability: "Make your computer accountable, let other people check what you've been looking at."
And the alternative to pornography, says Morgan, is not always easy. "Relationships are difficult. Intimacy, having a good relationship, loving your children, involves work. Pornography is fantasy in the place of reality. But it is just that: fantasy. Pornography is not real, and the only thing human beings get nourishment from is reality: real relationships. And, anyway, what do you want to say when you get to the end of your life? That you wish you'd spent more time wanking on the internet? I hardly think so."
Friday, March 21, 2008
The other day an associate of mine called me to ask a deep spiritual question (sarcasm). He asked if it were appropriate for him to eat chicken and fish during his Good Friday observance. My answer was that different denominations have different ways of honoring the Easter weekend, but that Biblically there was nothing wrong with it. After all there is nothing in scripture that mandates us to fast. Fasting should be voluntary as it helps us to build our relationship with Christ. I also suggested to him that if he felt convicted about the issue that he should simply abstain from eating it. One should never go against his convictions.
The most interesting thing about this situation is that this associate of mine is an avid porn watcher. I mean he has literallly gigabytes of his hard drive dedicated to the exploitation of God’s most precious creation for his sexual gratification. He has no problem heading out to the strip club or engaging in premarital sex, yet his concern is about chicken. Talk about screwed up priorities. I won’t take this time to go into a diatribe about why pornography is morally offensive, damaging to women, spiritually bankrupting, and unequivocally perverse, no I’ll save that for a later blog. I’m writing this to merely point out the day to day hypocrisy in which so-called Christians live. Sometimes I find my own religion overwhelmingly frustrating.
I believe a person should get his insides taken care of first and then work on the outward appearances. If someone is more concerned about his diet that his spiritual integrity then my humble opinion is just eat the chicken! After all such a person has bigger fish to fry! That's it for now. I'll revisit this topic in future posts.
Monday, March 10, 2008
This was my hair blown out back in September 07
This is my hair blown out now (March 08)
Black Hair ROCKS!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Oh it’s that time of year again. The time of candies, costumes, cavities, and nightmarish fun. Yes, Halloween is upon us, my friends! It comes every February 14th just like clockwork. What?.....What do you mean it’s not Halloween? Isn’t it the time of year where people dress up and pretend they are things they are not? Isn’t it the time of tricks and lies, and going from door to door begging for sexual favors? Okay, I must have my holidays crossed again. These holidays seem so similar to me. They are both phony, morbid, diabetes-inducing holidays of absolutely no meaning. But at least Halloween is a bit more all-inclusive. So let’s all go out donned in our masks of superficiality and eat candy until all of our teeth come out and then go worship the dead or something. That’s more exciting than conversation hearts and watching grocery store-bought flowers rot in a jar any way. Hey with all its obligatory balloons, flowers, teddy bears, and hearts Feb 14 is certainly more scary than any Halloween prank I could fall victim to. So séance at my place anyone? Maybe we can conjure up real love and resurrect meaningful relationships... No, I don’t really believe that either.
Happy Hollow-een everyone : )
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Extra Regular Dude: Hi. Nice to meet you
Applicant: Good to meet you too
Extra Regular Dude: So let’s get started. Tell me a little about yourself.
Applicant: Well I graduated from Harvard at the top 10% of my class with a degree in biology. I’m currently working on a master’s degree. During my free time I volunteer as a mentor to help underprivileged children. I go to church, believe in biblical principals, family, and hard work. I’m also a fun loving, social person who loves to have a good time.
Extra Regular Dude: Sounds good. Sounds good. So tell me, why are you applying for this position?
Applicant: As I’ve said I’m intelligent, strong, and hardworking. I figured you could use someone like me in your company. (Hesitates a little.) I think my curriculum vitae pretty much speaks for itself.
Extra Regular Dude: (Glances down at the resume. Clears throat.) I see. I see. (Pauses) You know I must be honest with you. I’m very impressed with your resume. The governor writing a letter on your behalf, references from the NIH, Rhodes scholar. It’s superb. But I’m afraid you’re not what we’re looking for at Me, Myself, and I Inc.
Applicant: Oh. What do you mean? I know I’m a very competitive applicant and that I am more that qualified for the position.
Extra Regular Dude: Let me tell you a little about Me, Myself, and I. We only want the best women--the cream of the crop.
Applicant: (interrupts) Yes sir, but if I may be blunt, you barely have an associates degree and your achievements pale in comparison to mine!
Extra Regular Dude: (gets a bit impatient) Look, I am a man and you know how hard it is to find a good man. I’ve not been arrested. I’m relatively well-spoken, don’t have too many addictions, and I only play video games a mere four hours a day. I also go to church on holidays and sometimes give a buck or two to the homeless guy who stands outside the subway. That makes me an exceptional man in this day and age! I’ve not killed anyone, raped any one, and I haven’t been that promiscuous. I’m pretty much the cream of the crop nowadays; I’m the best single guy on the market. So as you can imagine I only want the best of the best woman by my side. And perhaps once I find this super woman, after I’ve used her, abused her, and played tedious mind games with her, I may even put a ring on her finger and marry her. (Chuckles)
Applicant: But I am a driven and ambitious woman. Surely you can’t be the best offer on the table?
Extra Regular Dude: (yarns without covering his mouth and stretches). Yup. Sure am.
Applicant: But you’re not even that nice looking. And it says here that you still live at home with your parents!
Extra Regular Dude: Look it’s either me or a married guy or eternal singleness. So that means that for an average guy like me my value has tripled. I am now a commodity! And by the way, don’t forget that I am the one here calling the shots! I’m the one who invited you on this date! And to think I was even going to pay for the tip on this meal!
Applicant: (Stunned) But-but if I am not what you want what are you looking for?
Extra Regular Dude: Someone who looks a little more like Beyonce, who cooks like a 5 star chef, gives porn star sex, and who doesn’t talk back! I need someone educated, and savvy, successful and, of course, she needs to be able to pop out kids when I’m ready to have them and sacrifice her whole life to take care of them and me. You just don’t seem to fit the bill.
Applicant: (gets out of her seat abruptly) You’re right! I’m certainly not what you’re looking for!!!! (Storms out of the restaurant and back into the land of perpetual singleness.)
Extra Regular Dude: (Shrugs his shoulders, snaps his fingers and ask the waiter to bring in the next victim.)
The above story is my interpretation of the modern-day dating scene. In fact, it mirrors a relationship I had back in college. To put it mildly, this guy was trying to find wifey. He wanted a doormat chick who would have education, but who would sacrifice her opportunities to become a stay-at-home mom to the six children he wanted. (I am not making this up.) He, of course, would run the household and make all of the decisions. When I asked him what the wife would get out of this arrangement he replied ever so cavalierly, “me of course, and a good family.” My follow up question was what if she didn't want to have children, or disagreed on how many they should have. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “then that means she’s not the one for me.”
We were a match made in hell--I the evolving feminist/womanist type, he the chauvinistic-keep-em-barefoot-and-pregnant type. The thing exploded into a battle of the wills with even the most benign conversations boiling over into raging arguments. Needless to say, he had to go! The Guinness Book of World Records needs to put that down as the shortest dating relationship in history.
People usually point fingers at the woman when she ends up with cocky, sexists, selfish, immature, jerkazoids over and over again, but I am a bit more sympathetic. I understand that most men fit one or all of the above categories and so there’s really not much else to choose from. That frustrating lack of choice inspired the above narrative. Everything about the modern courtship ritual feels like a job interview, from the initial questions to the psychological games to the nit-picking scrutiny. The romance and companionship that most women seek in relationships seems like a Hollywood invention—a beautiful lie, but, nonetheless, still a lie.
More troubling to me is the imbalance of power in the courtship phase. From what I have seen it goes something like the above scenario with a sub-par man asking out brilliant goddess type, then grilling her to see if she is worth his time and respect. Don’t believe me? Well, in her book "Why Men Love Bitches?” Sherry Argov argues that men in general don’t see women as equals. Instead woman have to constantly prove, through their every action, that they are on the same level as the man. Men instinctively pick women apart upon meeting them and then establish a woman hierarchy with the best picks on top and the rest relegated to the “friend” or “friends with benefits” zone. Anything a woman says, does, or wears, can land her in one of those undesirable categories. Men know that they hold the power and therefore can be as picky as they please and also as noncommittal as they want without consequence. After all there is no social stigma for a man to live his whole life as a bachelor. Because he holds the strings, he can dismiss a woman over the most superficial nonsense, (e.g. he doesn't like her nail polish color). Suppose the relationship does not work? He merely shrugs apathetically and finds his next victim. When it comes to relationships, men simply have little to lose. Women, on the other hand, have everything to lose.
Women make the mistake of thinking that men are complicated creatures. Nothing could be further from the truth. They pretty much think the same way universally, with some variation in between. I have dated black, white, and Hispanic and each man pretty much operated on the same system. Does that mean the all men are evil? Not necessarily. That just means that women should not rack their brains trying to “figure” them out. I have stated before that there are some games I do not play. Just as I would not place a large amount of money on a gamble I knew I did not have a chance at, I won’t put a whole lot of stock into the relationship market simply because I think that it is a losing battle for me and most women. Just like our Applicant from my scenario who had perpetual singleness at stake after rejecting the “Extra Regular Dude” so it is with me and a lot of other women.
How can I write so candidly about the depressing topic of eternal singleness? Pure resignation! It is perhaps an unavoidable fate and I (and many women) need to come to grips with the facts. We live in a fallen world and relationships are not what God intended them to be. We have sullied His plan of marital bliss and egalitarian relationships.
On a personal level, at 23 I am wired differently than when I was a teenager. As we get older, we start to want more meaningful, substantial relationships with the male species, simply because of how God designed us. A while ago, I had to make the decision of dating Extra Regular Dude or having a self. I chose me. That’s great and feminist and wonderful, but the downside to having high standards and demanding respect is perpetual singleness. Today’s man just does not have enough integrity, self-control, and spirituality to fit the bill and I will not settle for a man who does not have a double dose of those qualities.
And so it is that women must face this great imbalance of relationship power, job interview-like dates, and monotonous scrutiny…If only our Extra Regular Dude had to face the same haunting fate. If only he had to contend with the reality of everlasting singleness...I have a feeling he would have treated women a whole lot more charitably.
*I will admit that one of the disadvantages of learning too much too soon about men and relationships is that it leaves you irreparably jaded. On the other hand knowledge is power.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Food for thought...
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Sunday, January 6, 2008
The above argument is absurd, but that’s exactly the line of thinking that some people employ to defend illegal immigration. The process of legally immigrating to the US is unfair, in that the United States gives preferential citizenship to persons of certain groups. The process is also lengthy and full of red-tape. Yes I have major criticisms of the process, just as I have valid criticisms of the graduate school application procedures, BUT I do understand that in a civilized society we have laws with the explicit expectation that those laws need to be obeyed; so when people break those laws there have to be consequences in order to maintain order. On the same token, I understand that many people who come to the US illegally do so because of oppressive situations and economic ruin in their own countries. Should not all people have access to freedom? Yes, but legally of course. Should not I have access to higher education that would solidify my future and provide greater job security? Yes, but only after I’ve followed the rules, gone through the application process and the university formally accepts me. Just as I should be kicked out and forced to drive back to Baltimore if I went down to Duke University and started taking classes as if I were student there, a person who comes here illegally and masquerades as a citizen should have to face consequences as well. In both examples a person is expecting to be treated like a student/citizen without having become one.
So let’s say that I succeed in driving down to Duke, and entering classes, and completing assignments, and lets say I do well in those classes (this is assuming I’m not thrown out of course) should the university award me the PhD even though I entered the university against their regulations? Most people would say no. But when some folk consider illegal immigration, they want to grant amnesty to those who have committed a wrong. How can we justifiably grant amnesty to over 11 MILLION people who live here and work here illegally? Sure illegal aliens want freedom (right thing), but they are going about it the wrong way. In my book doing the wrong thing for the right reason, is still wrong.
No, I’m not one of those hardnosed republicans. I can only describe my political views of late as “moderately liberal”, however my views on illegal immigration probably mesh better with those of the right wing than those of the left. Yet, while I adamantly disagree with Barack Obama’s stance that we pull out the welcome mat and give illegal aliens all drivers’ licenses, I don’t think that immigrations laws should be so punitive that they punish church workers and clergy who try to provide relief to illegal immigrants in need. Thus I realize that some bills like the harsh H.R. 4437 seem downright inhumane, while bills like Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act seem to encourage the thing it’s trying to deal with (and hopefully eliminate): illegal immigration. To use a little hyperbole, on the one hand the Senates comprehensive immigration plan is so soft it practically screams "come into this country illegally and we will reward your efforts. Thanks for breaking in!" On the other hand the HR4437 says come into this country illegally and we’ll hunt you down and shoot you and anyone associate with you, scumbag!" I think we need a happy medium between the two extremes.
Let’s first consider the preventive approach to the problem. First we want to deter people from coming into the country illegally. The best way to do that is to have tougher boarder patrol. Ports with the highest number of illegal boarder crossings need better security. In an age where terrorism continues to threaten this country, we desperately need to patrol our entry points if only to discourage those who wish to do harm to our people. In a post-911 society why is it so easy to come into the United States in the first place? This presents a significant security issue. Secondly, we need to make it easier for those who enter into this country in order to seek refuge to obtain a legal status. This means that we need to revamp our current (very discriminatory) immigration policy. After all, if we look back into this country’s history wasn’t America established by immigrants who sought basic liberties and religious freedoms? Thirdly, we need to set up consequences for those who come here illegally (but not until we address points one and two) and yes one of those consequences might include deportation, especially if the person has a criminal background or comes here and involves himself in criminal activity. We have more than enough American citizens engaged in crime, we really don’t need any additional help on that front.
So what should we do to deal with the 11 million people we already have here illegally? Should we grant automatic citizenship to those who have been here for over a certain period of time and send the rest packing? These are the controversial questions that the next president must address. I think we should deal with these issues on a case by case basis, but unfortunately it’s hard to do that with millions of people. Perhaps those who have come here, kept all of our laws, established families, and contributed positively to society should have the opportunity to obtain legal citizenship AFTER they have gone through a vigorous process, which would include gaining proficiency in the English language. Unfortunately, if we implement my ideas, some people will inevitably face deportation, and at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing.