I could have been your woman of the road

12 08 2019

Allrighty, then: dmf asked in the comments if I differentiate between naming and defining. Good question! I don’t know!

I mean, I think I do: although the concepts are clearly linked, naming seems to be more about marking out the boundary lines and defining, filling in those lines? With the proviso that the filling can affect the lines? . . . maybe? To really make the case would require greater philosophical and linguistic chops than I possess; in any case, as I’m interested in the political dynamics of naming, I think I can fudge on this.

But I can’t ignore it completely. If I say, for example, that I am a woman (which I do, and I am), then I’m making a claim to at least of the qualities of “woman,” as well as claiming that some qualities that others might say are necessary, are not.

To bring this home: I am neither a wife nor a mother. I’ve been ambivalent about ever becoming the former, and pretty consistently set against the latter, but never have I felt that I am less of woman for lacking these qualities.

Why do I say I’m a woman? It’s a grab-bag: my body and its functions, my recognition of a continuity of female identity from childhood to adulthood, my willingness to answer to being called a girl, then a woman, my understanding that others view me as a woman, my irritation when others don’t recognize me as a woman, my clear sense that I am not a man, my insistence that my woman-ness makes me no less human.

There’s nothing particularly elegant in that identification: Some of the pieces are mostly relational and others, funneled through social categories; some are positive (I am this) and others, negative, (I am not that). I don’t say much about personality or temperament or affective attributes, mostly because I’m considering the social-political aspects, but, sure, there probably are additional qualities of my woman-ness which are psychological.

And I should point out something else: While I was a tomboy as a kid and have tended toward the androgynous as an adult, I’ve never questioned that I was a girl or a woman.

Okay, two something elses: The original is that I’ve had some difficulty coming to terms with what it means to be an adult. On the one hand, this is easy: I have more than enough years to qualify as an adult. I have jobs, I take on many of the usual tasks of adulthood, and, yeah, I more-or-less look my age, i.e., I and others recognize me as an adult.

On the other hand, I’m physically small, I live like a grad student, and those nonessential markers of womanhood? I’m neither wifed nor mothered, which are among the (nonessential, but pretty damned clear) markers of adulthood. I don’t own a home or a car and my work-life is cobbled-together, with only semi-regular hours. I still don’t know who I am.

The second else? Eh, I’ll save that for another post.

I’m straying from the original point—if there even was one—but I’m noting that while I am firm in my claim on womanhood, I’m kinda pro forma in claiming adulthood. I put myself inside of those lines, because, yeah, sure, I’m an adult, but I’m not sure I fill out the category all that well.

I don’t know how or that this helps me figure out political identity or political adversaries, but it might. Maybe there’s something about what is firm and what is uncertain, what I send out and what I protect, that will give me some sense of what others advance and defend.

Or maybe not. I claim no clear lines for any of this.


Take a chance

11 01 2015

Have I mentioned I’m lazy? I think I’ve mentioned I’m lazy.

Not in every aspect of my life, but certainly in too many. One of the more benign, yet highly irritating, forms is my middle-aged-onset laziness with regard to t.v. and movies: I don’t want to watch something in which I don’t know what happens.

This goes beyond not minding spoiler alerts into not wanting to endure uncertainty. I know something’s going to happen, and it about kills me not knowing the what and the when and the how.

I think that’s why I like procedurals: there’s such an established pattern with the plot that any anxiety over what-next is smoothed into mere waiting by the predictability of the genre: in Criminal Minds, for example, there’s the initial crime, then a second crime, then either the nabbing of a third victim (during which clock-ticking the team discovers something from the past) or a failed attempt that gives the team crucial information to identify the guy. Then they find the victim.

Bones had (has) its own pattern, as did Numbers, but they all had/have a pattern. I might roll my eyes at the predictability, but you betcha I rely on it.

That bothers me. Not that I like procedurals—who am I hurting?—but that I’m unwilling to try something else that I might like, might miss a movie which could move me, all because I get so wrapped up in not knowing the what-next that I can’t sit still for the what-is. And even when I am willing to try a new show—Flashpoint, Bletchley Circle, Lie to Me—what are they?


Pitiful. I used to watch so many different types of movies, read so many different types of novels, and while I might still read fiction, it’s not as much as I’d like. I used to enjoy, if not not-knowing, then at least, the getting-to-know or the finding-out. Not knowing was a chance, not a threat.

A little predictability isn’t the worst thing, but so much, too much, makes me feel small. I don’t always need to be big, but I miss the chance.

Welcome to the working week

31 07 2011

So I finally got some work. A real job.

Or real-ish job. I’m not sure.

A guy I know got me a job in shipping/receiving on a construction site. I’m fine, more than fine, with that: I’m old school enough to thrill to the sheer bluntness, there-ness, of steel and concrete. I’ve never wanted to be an engineer, but I am fascinated how to make something appear where there was nothing, before.

So the work is real.

And I’ve worked receiving previously, so while I don’t know the specific procedures of this work site, I at least have a grasp of the general process.

Still, there are bits about this offer that are sketchy. I don’t want to go into precisely, but let’s just say I’m a bit skeptical about the promises made.

This skepticism was small, at first; hell, at first I was thrilled at the prospect of replenishing my drought-ridden bank account. But since then my questions have multiplied, and I’m not at all sure I’m going to get good answers to them.

My reaction then swung from thrill to terror: What the hell am I getting myself into? Is the job (i.e., the conditions under which I’d do the work) even real?

I’ve since calmed myself by saying, Well, I’ll find out. I’m slated to start tomorrow, so tomorrow or by the end of the week, I should have some sense of what’s happening. If it’s solid, I’ll stick with it; if not, I won’t.

It sounds dumb, but I really did need to remind myself that this job offer isn’t a prison term: I get to say, No, this isn’t for me.

Once I remembered that I have that option, I was able to shrink my outsized suspicions—this all happened so, even too, quickly and informally—to a reasonable skepticism. Now, instead of being either thrilled or terrified, I am merely uncertain.

I don’t particularly like uncertainty when it comes to the requirements of a job, but, again, I remembered that I am always uncertain when I start something new. I am good at ending, but not so good at beginning.

That’s how it is; that’s how it always is.

So I have questions about this job, some of which I  might not have about other jobs which have been offered after a more considered process, others which attend any new venture. Instead of assuming the answers, however, I’ll show up and find out for real.

That’s how it is; that’s how it always is.

The planners get embarassed when the plans go wrong

14 04 2009

Do you remember the story ‘Harrison Bergeron’? A dystopian bit on an egalitarian future in which every, last, bit of life was planned and coordinated by, hm, I guess the government.

I think I read it for an undergrad pol sci class; I probably have the story stashed away somewhere in my files. (Yeah, I know: hanging on to undergrad files. Well, I did. Some of them. So fuck off.)

Twenty years, and that story stuck with me—perhaps because of the finale, in which our hero skittles a bucket of marbles across a crowded platform or sidewalk, disrupting what should have been an orderly commute.

At least that’s what I remember. Why bring it up now? Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con had a bit on ‘Nemesis Visions‘, i.e., a great anxiety about what could happen. He cribs from James Poulos (no, I dunno who he is), who states that To qualify for nemesis status, a vision must be coherent, compelling, and viable on a mass scale. Rod feared the rise of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (don’t ask, but if you want to know, check out Philip Rieff), and others worried over the loss of Absolute Truth or the triumph of Absolute Truth.

My Great Anxiety/Despair? I offered my worries over the closing of the society, that is, that unpredictability and uncertainty will fall to ever-greater administration and planning, and a sense of wonder or unfolding or just not knowing will be snuffed out.

As I noted, I’m not against planning for specific programs—hello, universal health care!—and I’m the kind of chica who, for example, created a list on tasks to finish before her spring break concludes. I like to be on time for appointments, carry a Swiss Army knife, and am the person who will always have band-aids, ibuprofen, acetominophen, and tampons on her, just in case.

Still, there’s a difference between trying to keep my shit together and, as I noted, a general ethic which requires that every aspect of life be managed. I try to keep my shit together precisely because I expect things to go to hell, and I want to be prepared. And while it’s annoying as hell to have one’s plans fly apart, it’s good to be reminded that just because one’s afternoon or whatever went off the rails, one’s life continues, unabated.

Or, to sum up all the wisdom that can be contained in a bumper sticker: Shit happens.

The general ethic of planning, however, is designed to forestall any kind of shit happening. In fact, a sense of moral wrongness attaches to not knowing exactly what is to happen next.

What are you going to do with your life/When are you going to get married/When will you settle down/What about a pension/What about kids/How are your kids spending the summer/What about building a resume/How will you ever get into college/What do you mean you don’t know/don’t care/it doesn’t matter. . . ?!!!!!

I hope you know that this will go down/on your permanent record/Oh yeah/Well don’t get so distressed/Did I happen to mention I’m unimpressed?

Yeah, I could have gone with a disquisition on Arendt, but I think the Violent Femmes struck exactly the right attitude.

There’s a longer post lurking within this one, on the melancholy proposition that, maybe, this long moment of openness, begun around the time of the Scientific Revolution, is coming to a close. And perhaps it is. But as long as there’s a world, there is possibility.

And marbles. Damn, I really should rifle my files for that story.