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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Just get off my back

Internet, I am being hounded.

I first saw this article three days ago being passed around a writers' group. Then I saw it again. And again. And now it's hit the general population with Jezebel picking it up, and I just want to say that I really think it's total bullshit.

Like women writers don't feel shitty enough about their work and themselves at every fucking turn. Like it's not hard enough for us to even send shit out time and again to fucking silence. Or worse, a patronizing pat on the head. We just want to eat, and we'd prefer to do it by practicing our craft, and if we use certain turns of phrases, could you just get off our backs?

I like just.

I like using it, I like writing it, I like the way it makes my fucking pushy as fuck pitches sound. It helps me.

I send out upwards of 15 pitches a week, and I send out double that in follow-ups, so excuse me if I'm just checking in, because, for fuck's sake, that is what I am doing.

I'm not FORWARDLY IN YOUR FACE CHECKING IN. I'm not checking in to see if you've read my awesome fucking idea you've probably already barfed on and laughed about with your coworkers. I'm just checking in on it in case by some miracle of faulty modern magic you missed the email that not only popped up at your desktop at work but probably pinged your phone and got automatically added to three different to-do lists of yours.

I'm just acknowledging that editors are busy as fuck and no, actually, I don't think I deserve a reply just because I had the metaphorical balls to pitch a thing, but just in case you happen to like the idea better today than you did two weeks ago, here is a polite motherfucking nudge.

Dudes, like, what if I just don't feel like being freaking assertive in a follow-up? Does it mean I have low self-esteem? Am I suddenly the next victim of impostor syndrome? No. What if it simply means I have respect for another person's job and life, and silence is generally regarded as a no, so if I'm going to push it, how about I just be freaking polite about something for one time in my life?

And if the answer is no, or more silence, I'm not crying in my goddamn cheese curls and beer about it. I'm sending it to the next editor to nope. Until it gets a yes. So excuse me while I make double sure my first-choice publication doesn't want it in a way that might leave the editor feeling kindly toward me as opposed to having them think, "damn, why does she think the sun shines out her ass? I didn't even like her 839654829672906702 shitty essays in WaPo and Time. Bitch."

You know what I would like people to judge women writers on? THEIR WORK (TM Brooke effin' Binkowski, who is a rockstar).

If some bro is chilling over at Big Publication Inc., and he doesn't go further than my pitch because I use the word "just" in it somewhere, but my clips are stellar, my idea sharp and timely and my turnaround fucking faster than a Palin can get pregnant (too far? probably too far. I'm sorry.), then who is losing out? Not me. I'm moving my pitch to the next bro in line, and dude who can't move beyond one word in the language that indicates respect for his position can just watch something else I do go viral from the sidelines. Whatevs.

I will write my goddamn emails the way I want to write them. I am so sick of these rules. It's like a 1993 romance up in here (anyone else remember that godawful book, The Rules? WHO IS WITH ME?)

I don't need to hear about what semantic bullshit I can pull to suddenly make my words shine off the page. I don't want to twist myself into a pretzel of "this guru tells women to do this to be more like men, and this guru tells women to do that to be true to themselves and this guru says fuck it all, you're a girl so good fucking luck, try not to cry on the way home as you stand on the subway to make room for my manspread junk."

I'm just tired, guys. I'm just so tired of it. What I want in this world is to write an email the way I want to fucking write it and have it be read and weighted by the merit of the content within, and the tone and cadence (of which just is a part), and have them get a feel for the type of writing and person they will be getting by working with me.

And I am a polite son-of-a-bitch. So, yes, I'll just be checking in whenever the fuck I want.

Just get off my back.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A privileged personal history of gay rights activism

When I was in high school in the late 1990s, a group of amazing students formed a club one day. They called it the GSA, or the Gay-Straight Alliance. Smalltown, Connecticut, offered an incredibly sheltered existence to all of us, back then. I went to school with literally fewer than 400 students in the 9-12 grade and graduated with something like 98 other kids. And they all looked and behaved just like me. Anyone who behaved even slightly differently, therefore, was subject to scrutiny and side-eye.

Now, we were fairly nice kids, and while a few of my more bullied friends could tell you war stories from that school that would make you shiver, from where I sat in seventh period World Cultures, we all seemed pretty open, honest, and kind. There was the immature name-calling every once in a while, the hallway fist fight once in a blue moon, a few people everyone whispered about for one reason or another. Many of us (and really I can only speak for myself, but I'm guessing many of us) did not understand the reality of oppression, of marginalization, because it truly did not affect us. We were white, straight, well off monetarily, and children. As such, we threw around the phrase "that's gay" very easily, and I distinctly remember at least twice when separate students were made to feel supremely uncomfortable because someone started a rumor that "they were gay." I have no idea how it must have felt to have to walk around with that label, true or not, particularly when they had not yet made a personal choice to share that private information. I do know that I saw red faces, tears, and students drawing into themselves. As if being gay were the absolute worst. Again, I say we didn't know any better, but someone did. Where were the adults?

All this to say my alliance with progressive causes did not start until well after I left high school, and even college. I literally did not understand oppression. I had no concept of it. So when the GSA came along, and quite a few of my friends were in it, I would hang out with them after school every once in a while, when it was convenient to me, mostly to chat with my friends. It may as well have been a sewing circle, or a club for frisbee golf for all I cared or paid attention, but it did spark just a sliver of awareness in me personally, that there was a group of people who felt ostracized enough that they needed a group to support them. And my childhood self did like the idea of equality. Even then I thought that people were people and we should all just let them be and let them love and treat them fairly. I just also thought that they were already treated pretty fairly. I truly had no idea. I was busy reading MacBeth and studying Elementary Functions and playing soccer, and singing in choir, and heading up the Environmental Team. I figured my life was full and complete and did not for one moment consider how incredibly selfish it was.

It's important to note that I didn't even think I knew any LGBT people. I really figured that every single time something like that was brought up, it was mean-spirited talk meant to segregate a person and find something not-normal about them so that they would be made fun of for like a week. I was a fairly smart kid...but I never put two and two together that if I thought being gay or a lesbian or bisexual or transgender was a huge insult meant to wreak havoc on teenage self-esteems, then perhaps I was part of the problem, even though I thought I was doing my diligent part by saying things like, "no, they're not!" I mean, really? So very little I understood in those days.

Turns out, at least two people I knew there were transgender, and many more gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, or without sexual orientation label, per their preference. And that it was okay for them to identify that way. That it wasn't necessarily a source of ridicule, but actually a legitimate identity to be protected, to be held sacred, much like my straight, white life was never questioned. I wish I had known that, then. I wish those students had been able to say with confidence, this is who I am, and I wish I, as a straight person, had known that the correct answer wasn't to immediately thrust the person back into "normality" but to venture to understand what life must be like having to hide from your earliest years. I wish I had known that a better answer than "no, they're not!" would have been, "and what the hell is wrong with that?"

But I didn't know. And for that I am sorry. Regardless, all this is to say that yesterday marked an official turning point in the nation, and the high school friends I still keep in touch with have grown in leaps and bounds since 1996, everyone celebrating, everyone understanding what an enormous weight has been lifted now that our government agrees that love is love and we should not police which gender people have the right to fall in love with.

This entry has been personal and whiny in the face of tremendous societal change for a reason, and that is to say this:

One of the collateral victories in this fight is that when my kids go to high school, they will already know that LGBT people are not a segregated flock of people there only to provide a petty comparison to what straight kids don't want to be. I've taught them from birth that "girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys" and now that we're living in Florida, I can tell you that they came home from kindergarten and first grade at least once a month telling me that so-and-so said I was a liar, or that so-and-so's mom said I was totally wrong and what I said was a sin.

That's not really going to happen anymore in a way I cannot defend. As they grow, I can point to this decision, and guide them in the knowledge that people who identify as LGBT are not only okay, but amazing because they fought for their rights and actually won a battle in our lifetime. When my kids go to high school, "gay" won't be used as an insult. It won't be interchangeable with "stupid" or "ridiculous" or "something I really fucking dislike right now". And that might be a very small thing, but a very good thing. And maybe it's not so small after all.

My children will grow up in a world where more people are treated as equals in the eyes of the law regardless of their personal choice of who to be and who to love. And if they decide they are part of the LGBT community, those who have fought together so hard in my lifetime while I was busy failing Home Economics have paved the way for them, not only personally, but legally, and rights will be afforded them that have been kept away from this group for so long. And I am eternally grateful.

Congratulations, everyone, and thank you. You did it. #lovewins

Friday, June 26, 2015

Celebrating Your Teenage Daughter’s Birthday

Whether you like it or not, it’s about to happen. Your little girl is about to turn thirteen. You wonder how this happened. You wonder where the years all went. And seriously, when did she start acting so grown up? You might not be able to answer those questions, but one thing is clear: when it comes to celebrating her birthday, you’re not getting away with a Dora the Explorer theme, a pony petting zoo, or a princess party.

Nope, you’re entering uncharted territory, and let’s face it, you need help. Because as grown up as she might look and act, there’s an emotionally volatile child in there. Throw her an embarrassing party for little girls or buy a present she wanted when she was eight and heads will roll! I think we know whose head we’re talking about, too.

Good thing we’re here for you. We’ve been there with our own teenage daughters and made every mistake in the book so you won’t have to. So, take a deep breath and read the following suggestions for celebrating your teen daughter’s birthday.

· Turn your backyard or living room into a dance party. It’s easy enough. Just hire a DJ for a few hours or do it on the cheap with an iPod and home stereo system. Rent a disco ball, a strobe light, maybe even a fog machine, then throw on a little T-Swift, and you’ve got yourself a makeshift nightclub—without the booze and older men! Your daughter and her friends will love the dancing, the presence of boys will make things seem a little bit adult and a little bit dangerous (you’ll be there, of course, if anyone gets fresh), and a good time will be had by all.

· Try a sleepover. Maybe dancing and boys aren’t exactly on your daughter’s radar yet. No problem. Perhaps a sleepover’s the thing for her. It’s a classic birthday solution. Load up on desserts and sugary coffee (because isn’t coffee very adult), rent a few scary movies or rom-coms and then let them talk into the night, which they will after all that sugar and caffeine.

· Pool party. Believe it or not, this works, even with a teenage daughter. You’ve just got to approach it differently than you might with a younger child. For instance, have it in the late afternoon and invite boys. Provide pizza, soda, chips, etc., and let the kids do their thing. Get some fun inflatable pool toys for them to use. Maybe some will lay out in the sun for a bit. Maybe others will get a game of water volleyball going. And maybe still others will relax in the hot tub while they talk. Once it starts to get dark, send the boys home and turn the pool party into a sleepover.

· Spa night. This one culminates in a sleepover, too. But instead of a pool party with boys to kick things off, make it a night for makeup tips and pampering. If you’re willing to spring for it, you can hire a nail professional to visit the house and do all the girls nails. If not, the girls can do each other’s nails and makeup. Maybe even turn it into a contest. Most talented beautician wins a Starbucks gift card. Once everyone’s all dolled up, take the girls out on the town for dinner or a movie.

· Pre-party with just the family. Parties are all well and good, but you’ve still got to squeeze in some special time on her birthday for just the family. Maybe take her out to her favorite breakfast spot, and while there give her one of her gifts. For teenage girls, remember it’s not all about materialistic things. Often sentimental, she’ll want something that touches her heart and shows how much she means to you. Maybe you can start a fun tradition and get birthday gifts for her like chocolate covered strawberries. Give her the same number of strawberries as the age she is turning, and give her an extra one every year. She’ll look forward to this special tradition year after year.

There you have it. Five ways to not only survive your teenage daughter’s birthday, but to really celebrate it and the young woman she is becoming. Taking the time to do it right will go a long way to building that loving bond we all want with our daughters as they journey through those tumultuous teen years.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recipe: Vegan French Toast -- Guest Post

Photo by PianissAmma

For years, I have been a fan of brunch. I love the idea of getting together with friends and family to commune with a tasty late morning meal. Perhaps a Belgian waffle, or a spicy potato quiche served up with juice and sunshine on a Saturday morning.

One dish I have loathed since becoming an adult however, is French toast. Restaurants often serve them too soggy with egg batter, or they’re much too dry and flavorless. Even one slice can be heavy enough to make me regret getting out of bed for the rest of the day.

This spring, I challenged myself to revisit the concept of French toast on my own terms. I wondered if it was possible to make the dish without eggs. I had already began removing eggs from many dishes with a bit of success. So would it work with a brunch staple like French toast? To my surprise, the answer was ‘yes.’

Now that we are facing another egg shortage in much of the United States courtesy of a particularly bad avian flu outbreak, I wanted to share this recipe.

Vegan French Toast


1 ripe banana
1/3 cup apple sauce (I used Mrs. Gooch’s, because there is no added sugar)
3/4 cup milk of your choice (I have plain soy, but I think oat milk would work well here too).
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
oil or margarine for griddle as needed (I use Earth Balance)
8-10 slices of stiff bread of your choice
Note: You can use fresh bread, but lightly toast it prior to dipping in batter

Ingredients used. Photo by PianissAmma


Preheat the griddle or skillet.

Beat or puree the fruit, milk, vanilla and cinnamon until it reaches the consistency of a smoothie. Add mixture to a plate or shallow bowl.

Dip the bread into the batter, soaking up to seconds per side. Don’t let the bread get too soggy.

Place on heated griddle or skillet, and cook until both sides are browned. This particular mixture takes a little longer to cook than it’s egg enriched counterpart. Allow for about five minutes on the griddle.

Serve as you like.


Jill Redding blogs at Pianissamma. You can find this recipe and many others there!


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