Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Now I need to find some crayons

To whatever benevolent creature is responsible for the package I got today from a Quaker bookstore in Indiana:
That made my day! I'm going to go and grin uncontrollably through my class discussion on inner-city drug culture now. Thank you.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Becoming the default

Last night I went to a student dance concert - modern dance, which I've never been much good at deciphering. In trying to figure out what the dancers were supposed to symbolize I was looking at the colors of their costumes, the way they were grouped on the floor, etc. I didn't even consider their gender until I started wondering what non-Bryn Mawr students were making of it and realized that to them the dancers represented four women, and at most other schools they would have represented four women. To me they represented four people.

In a community where a given variable - in this case gender - doesn't vary, you start to ignore it in a way you never could otherwise. You speak in class without feeling that you're representing your group to outsiders, because everyone around you is part of the group. You never walk into a room or sit down at a lunch table where you're the only one of your kind. (Granted, I'm speaking purely for gender, and if I were of a different race or varied from society's defaults in some other way none of this would be true at Bryn Mawr.) We can pretend to be blind to gender or race or any other variable, but that's masking that on some level inequalities and problems exist. Nobody tells jokes about a woman who walks into a bar unless the joke hinges on the fact that she's a woman. It's always a guy walking into a bar. Men are the default, and anyone else is an exception. I don't know if four years of thinking of yourself as a human instead of a woman (or a black at an HBCU, or any other parallel) can give you a lasting power to think that way, but it sure feels good while it lasts.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

National assets

Listening to BBC radio announcers interview Americans is always embarassing. Not that all British accents are beautiful nor all American ones ugly, but the contrast between your average BBC broadcaster and your average American is just painful. NPR's saving grace is hearing Sylvia Poggioli pronounce her own name, although nothing can rival the days when Titilayo Ngwenya was in the credits every week for Sound and Spirit.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Swarthmore library has a Quaker coloring book in special collections! It's called "Color Me Quaker." While this makes me ridiculously happy, I must say I'm distressed at the idea of a coloring book existing in a library where it would clearly be forbidden for you to color in. It also begs the question: what color? Grey?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Someone bless these seeds I sow

My Quakerism professor said the greatest thing this week: "A lot of time when you see Quaker families, they're having a really good time together. It's because they can't physically punish their children, so they have to sort of seduce their children into the lifestyle." Sounds good to me.

Last week Katherine and I planted mint and basil and thyme in cold frames in the hall. I sang them the song my mother used to sing with me in our vegetable garden when I was a toddler: "Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow, all it takes is a rake and hoe and a piece of fertile ground . . ." This morning the seeds had sprouted, craning pale and green towards the window. Maybe it's weird, but I'm incredibly excited about having children and a bit of land so we can grow pumpkins and runner beans and sunflowers.


The other night at a discussion on black feminism I met the greatest couple. At the time they met, he was only having relationships with men and she was only having relationships with women. They said this gets them a lot of weird looks, but they're happily married. They were both Latino and yet the man had such stereotypically gay mannerisms that I had been wondering all night what the story was - had he been white I would have figured he was just raised unusually free of gender regulation, but being Latino I kept thinking "There's absolutely no way this guy is straight. There's no way he wouldn't have had that gesture beaten out of him by the age of twelve."

I once had to explain to Ricky what I'm surprised he hadn't figured out already: why straight women like gay men. In most cases, I think it's because they're safe. You have a defined relationship with them (friendship) and you know what's going to happen and what's not. It's the same reason I'm able to be friends with guys who are taken in some respect: I'm not spending my energy trying to keep boundaries between us. It's the same reason I like dancing with married men more than single ones. It's not that I don't like men - it's that I don't like the idea of them liking me.

But beyond that, I think I have an expectation of queer people that they'll have thought more about gender and be less trapped in it. I'm sure it's not always accurate, but in my experience it's held true. My friend Carter put it really well: "I know the rules, and I think they're crap. I could talk about T-and-A and football and drink like a fish and curse every other word. It's easy to come off as straight." All of the men I'm close to, straight or not, joke that they're bad at being "real men". Do they think I'd be close to them if they weren't?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

And be you blithe and bonny

I hope I never get bitter about Valentine's Day. I hope, no matter how single, I can always smile rather than grimace at other people wearing curlers in their ponytails to karate class or singing "Chapel of Love" in the bathroom.

I did well this year - and let me say I do a pretty amazing vegan chocolate-raspberry cake. I love holidays that give me a chance to feed people.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pre-party wondering

There's got to be an equation - or maybe a set of them - to determine how good I should make this bean dip so that it doesn't go
1) so fast we run out, or
2) so slowly I'm offended.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Nostalgia in a technical era

No matter how much time passes
The "I love you" you left instead of your name
Where you won at Snood on my computer
Will always stay,
Because I will never
(no matter how much time passes)
beat your high score
at Snood.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


I have a new life goal. The professor for the class I'm taking on the sociology of oppression told us to ask our families what they had been doing during the movements for social justice during the 50s and 60s and 70s - were they involved? Sympathetic? Hostile? I knew the answer already - my family was probably all neutral or at best, sympathetic but disengaged.

Years ago when I was starting to illustrate a retelling of the Persephone story, I was trying to figure out how to write and paint Demeter. I finally figured that she should simply be everything one would want in a mother - gentle, wise, strong, steady, loving, sure of herself. I decided this was a pretty good set of qualities for me to try to live up to, as well.

Now I've added to that. I don't just want to be someone I would be proud to have as a friend or a mother or whatever. I want to do things my children and grandchildren will be proud of. If someone asks them decades from now what their family was doing in 2006, I want them to be able to say that their grandmother was out there doing something for the good of their world.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Reason #42 I love Batten House

Discussions in the kitchen about dating anarchists:

"He wasn't well-dressed. I know that's really shallow of me, but..."
"You could give him your jacket. How was he in bed?"
"Oh, that was fine. Because he wouldn't talk, so he wasn't annoying anymore."
"And fashion was no longer an issue."
"Well, anarchists aren't always so bad - they usually really know their political facts, at least."
"Plus then you can argue politics beforehand and get hot before you get to it."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Coffeehouse pretention

There are few things sillier than white activist college students singing impassionedly about how they'd never cross a picket line. Well-intentioned, but Evan? Of course you won't ever cross a picket line. You went to Swarthmore. You're not ever going to have a job where you will be called upon to scab. Don't be ridiculous.