NFL: Going Woke or Broke?

It’s a few hours before the Super Bowl. Fans dressed in blue are pouring into sports bars; avocados are being mashed in kitchens across America; and all I can think about is whether the commercials will be woke.

Two weeks ago, Gilette released a short film entitiled “We Believe: The Best That Men Can Be,” which suffered a swift and mighty backlash. The crime? Promoting strong honorable ethics among men—treating women well, standing up to bullies, and being a good father and role model. Incels, MAGA losers, and other lonely men joined hands to decry the reverse racism and possible feminist infiltration of the company itself! These women and people of color simply don’t know their place. 

David Scwartz commented yesterday on the film, “Not only is this absolutely insulting to males but it is absolutely discriminatory. This ad employs the same method of targeting a specific group just as Hitler did to the Jews.” Matt Burkholder added, “Anyone else notice the flagrant Anti-White message in this ad?” 

Other comments presented valid concerns about false virtue signaling and the coopting of a social message by a multinational company accused of various abuses of power. Sure, this can be problematic, but I strongly believe that the merits of promoting social movements,  feminism, anti-racism, and other progressive messages outweigh the detriment.

These companies have large ad budgets and incredible reach. Why shouldn’t they be using that power to promote a positive message, even if they are doing it to make profit? What matters is that they use a position of wealth and influence to get the message out. Think about the alternative: should Gilette really just be selling tired cliches of well-groomed men scoring sexy chicks?

Nike, a company busted for using child labor in the 90s, decided to champion Colin Kaepernick as an athlete-activist and hero and I wholeheartedly applaud their decision. And today, Colin Kaepernick is the elephant in the stadium. He’s the reason the NFL can no longer book first-rate popstars like Rihanna, Usher, and Cardi B to perform on America’s biggest stage. He’s the reason Maroon 5 was struggling to find artists of color for their show to “improve the optics.”

Here’s the thing: as a sport with declining viewership and increased concerns about CTE, the NFL had better start changing with the times. The League can start by updating its rules to better protect players’ heads and bodies; by paying cheerleaders a fair wage and lifting the sexist, patronizing rules governing their etiquette outside of work; and by providing health insurance to retired players who sacrificed their bodies and brains for our entertainment.

I have boycotted the NFL since Kaep was blacklisted, but I’ll watch the commercials to celebrate companies who stand up for what’s right. And if they sell a couple more jerseys or razors because of it, who cares. What’s important is that the right message is out there.

Goodbye San Francisco, Hello Eugene

Why did you choose Eugene, Oregon?

When I share my Great American Road Trip idea with people, I get this question more than any other. The short version of my story is that my lover-turned-husband and I took a one-year road trip around the U.S. to discover the place we wanted to call home. 

Jon and I had burned out on living in San Francisco, where we had to sprint just to stay in the same place. Before leaving the city, he paid $1,600 per month for a single bedroom in a Fort Mason house in 2014. These days, it’s even worse and some of the world’s brightest people would gladly offer a pound of flesh to secure very basic accommodations in the area. 

Not too long after we met in SF, Jon and I moved to Argentina together for ten months. I had just started working remotely for Sechel Ventures, a tech company based in the Bay Area, and Jon decided to finally write his novel,All Starships Go to HEAVEn

After this experience living internationally, we knew we could thrive in a life on the road and we cooked up a dream: rather than letting our employment dictate where we would live, why not choose the city that felt right and go from there? What could be more important than loving where you spend your days?

We bought an orange Honda Fit, the “Fireball”  and drove east from California for a cousin’s wedding in Fort Collins, Colorado—our first stop.

Before our Great American Road Trip, Jon and I had envisioned the features of our dream city. We wanted:

  • A progressive college town with plenty of hiking and camping nearby
  • Ubiquitous bike lanes and ample bike parking
  • Nice, non-pretentious, diverse people
  • A cute downtown with murals and tangible artistic energy
  • A world-class craft beer scene
  • Local leadership we could trust to make decisions as we would, being thoughtful about new developments, supporting public education and health, making recycling a priority, and fostering a vibrant environment for creatives
  • A place that wasn’t quite on other people’s radar

In other words, we wanted a really great party before everyone had arrived.  We had our work cut out for us.

Gorgeous Mural By Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith in South Eugene

During our Great American Road Trip, we went through 25 states, hitting as many National Parks as possible and staying mainly in AirBnBs. While most hotels have the same predictable sterility, the most highly rated AirBnBs are created with pride and reflect specific tastes, hospitality, and culture. They’re a glimpse into a community’s way of seeing the world, and the amount of care these hosts put into their home’s amenities and local recommendations is moving—it reminds me that we all crave human connection and the opportunity to help others. The rewards of being a good person tickle our chests and bring a warm glow to our heads. And nowhere did our chests tickle and our heads glow more than in humble, magnificent Eugene, Oregon.

Since there weren’t many AirBnBs around, I’d found a three-week sublet on Craigslist in south Eugene. The tenant, Rachel, who had grown up  a few hours away in Hood River, was teaching English in Japan for the summer—coincidentally near Niigata, the city I’d lived in for over two years in my early 20s. She loved yoga, gardening, and something called “ecstatic dance.” 

Before we sent her our payment, she texted a considerate video message. She was wearing brightly colored athletic gear and a welcoming smile.

“Hi Jocelyn and Jon! I wanted to give you a feel for the place. Right now, there’s a bit of construction going on since the owners are building some new cottages.” 

She panned the camera over new concrete foundations and piles of dirt. 

“The workers don’t get started too early, but I just wanted to let you know there may be some noise. Thank you for reaching out and I hope this works for you!”

We arrived several days later to meet Rachel in person. Her cottage was spotless and had several Japanese tapestries adorning her walls.

One of the first things she said to us was, “I feel very comfortable having you in my space. I’m happy you contacted me.”

After giving us a brief tour, Rachel grabbed her bags and headed out toward her car.

“One more thing,” she said, handing us the keys with a smile. “The Saturday Market is downtown today. It’s a longstanding Eugene tradition and you should check it out. The bike path will take you most of the way there.”

She pointed to a paved treelined path, waved goodbye, and headed to Portland to catch her transpacific flight.

After unloading our backpacks, we removed our bikes from the back of the Fireball, unfolded them, and set off north toward downtown on a protected bike path far removed from any cars. 

After passing under a tunnel along a rushing creek, a large, grassy park  with a short fence emerged on our left with dozens of happy dogs chasing each other at full speed or cooling off in one of the four kiddie pools around the perimeter.

On our right, skateboarders ollied from the kicker of a large kidney bowl with colorful graphics. It was flanked by large trees and more grassy open space. We passed joggers in bright clothes and sunglasses as we rode by the Amazon Community Center and Pool. We continued along the smooth asphalt and the brand-new athletic fields of Roosevelt Middle School rose from the right. 

We got to our first road and cars on both sides stopped immediately to let us cross toward South Eugene High School—one of the best public schools in the state—with its football field, volleyball courts, modern architecture, and small parking lot surrounded by trees.

After nearly 14 blocks of a carless path straight out the door of the sublet, the road opened with a separate bike lane heading north on High Street, which would take us the last ten tree-covered blocks toward downtown. 

After years of biking aggressively through San Francisco, I noticed how patient Eugene drivers were. Pedestrians, runners, and cyclists seemed to rule the roads and nearly every street had a bike path and signage reminding cars to watch out for us.

Eugene was also the greenest town I’d ever seen. It’s surrounded by verdant Douglas firs, maples, pines, oaks, junipers, and alders. The city streets are lined with apple, plum, cherry, and chestnut trees. Almost everyone farms or gardens, and the saying goes you can throw seeds anywhere and they’ll just grow. The moisture, rich Willamette Valley soil, and healthy ecosystem support thousands of native (and non-native) plant species. 

Fern-filled Mount Pisgah Trail

When we hit downtown, we saw large crowds of people walking west toward an open marketplace with white canvas overhangs. There were bike racks everywhere, so we locked up and headed into the throng.

The countless stalls stretched out several blocks, overflowing with colorful pottery, jewelry, clothing, greeting cards, leather goods, and paintings, as well as fresh meat, local cheeses, fruits and vegetables, flowers, plant starts, and and a local brewery cart. The central courtyard hosted several ethnic food areas, bakeries, and coffee shops. A small stage in front of long, communal tables thrummed with psychedelic rock, as people of all ages bobbed their heads while dining on kabobs, burrito bowls, and Thai stir-fries.

The Eugene Saturday Market is held downtown every Saturday from April through November. It started in 1970, and now hosts around 150 vendors, who migrate indoors in December to the Lane Events Center—the annual “Holiday Market”—adding several artisans from around the state and country for full weekends. There’s one main rule: the people selling the goods must have harvested or made them. 

Our First Saturday Market in Downtown Eugene, 2015

I’d enjoyed plenty of farmers’ markets, craft fairs, and other non-traditional shopping experiences around the world, but I’d never seen anything quite like this. 

First of all, Eugenians looked very different than people from other cities. Most women wore their hair very short, very long, or asymmetrically. Bright colors mingled with earth tones, tattoos covered exposed skin, facial piercings abounded, and elaborate metalwork clung to the earlobes and collarbones of men and women alike. I noticed lots of hippie dandies, brown leather boots, Ducks gear, and neon athleto-leisure wear from North Face, REI, and Patagonia. 

The people also acted differently. There were no hurried, tunnel-visioned pedestrians wearing ear buds. Everyone’s gazes were up and their defenses were down. They were engaging with the flesh-and-blood world, acknowledging others in the present, seemingly unconcerned about the future.  The collective hive was positively mindful, which felt foreign and anachronistic. It was as if I’d unearthed a secret world of old-timey neighborliness, an impression that was confirmed when we rode our bikes back.

Unbeknownst to Jon and me,  Kathie and Eric Lundberg (the owners of the Amazon Cottages development where we were subletting) had sent an email blast to the community asking everyone to say hello and welcome us during our stay. Residents came to the cottage to introduce themselves with handwritten notes; bushels of fruits, veggies, and herbs from their gardens; and fresh-baked breads. 

Who does that? Like many twenty-first century city-dwellers, I’d never spent much time with my roommates—let alone my neighbors. Nobody in San Francisco seemed to forge relationships with people living on the same block. People were just too “busy.” This city is so goddamn neighborly that four-way stops frequently inspire an awkward dance of driver smiles and friendly hand-gestures.

For the following three weeks, we explored towering waterfalls, old lumber roads leading to stunning vistas, meadows of wildflowers, and the forested cliffs along the jagged Oregon coastline with its powerful surf. We enjoyed the U of O campus, live music, downtown art installations, world-class wineries, and family-friendly breweries.

Stunning Silver Falls State Park

Everything felt accessible, non-pretentious, affordable, creative, natural, and genuine. When we shared our story and mentioned that our next stop would be Bend, most locals told us we’d like it much more than Eugene.

Our last day in town, we rode our bikes across the Willamette River to the annual Art & Vineyard Festival, which attracts artisans and winemakers from all over the state. It was the Fourth of July and we happily discovered that fireworks laws are much looser in Oregon than in California. A rock band played 70s and 80s classics as Jon and I drifted between the craft stalls, beers in our hands.

Our mood was bittersweet. We’d enjoyed an unforgettable few weeks in Eugene and cooked dinner for Kathie and Eric Lundberg the night prior, finding them to be kindred spirits and people we’d love to call neighbors. They were among the people who believed Bend would be a better fit for us “big city” California folk with its art galleries, wealth, collection of fellow transplants, and most of all, its rumored 300 days of sunshine. 

The following morning, we left Eugene with open hearts and minds, excited to reconnect with my old college friend and his family, who had graciously offered to let us stay at their house along the Deschutes River while they took a summer trip.

The drive to Bend along the McKenzie River and through the winding Cascades is spectacular. The west side of the mountains is lush with ferns and small roadside waterfalls. It’s often raining until the zenith of mountain pass, which makes way to a much sunnier, drier landscape in the east. 

Bend was just as everyone had described it: manicured, naturally beautiful, and replete with wealthy young families—many of whom I’d wondered how they’d made their money. It reminded me of Aspen or Laguna Beach—nature- and outdoor sports-loving towns with well-heeled smiling white people. They had a carefree country club saunter and a zeal for new bistros and yoga studios. 

Bend is a lot of people’s idea of “making it,” but it wasn’t ours. Eugene is much rougher around the edges. For one, it has a serious homelessness problem and attracts a lot of runaway youth. Some are inspired by the city’s history of celebrating rebels and eccentrics. Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was from this area and his “Merry Pranksters”—many of whom still live in Eugene—were immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. 

The city also has a lot of support for people who have fallen on tough times, including a free luggage/backpack storage by the bus station and the White Bird Clinic’s medical, dental, and psychiatric services. Eugene even pioneered the CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Street) program—a mental health group dispatch used in place of the police when appropriate—which was recently celebrated in The Wall Street Journal for saving the city money and being more humane.

Eugene’s Immaculate Downtown Bus Station

Eugene emits love and compassion, and you can practically hear the city’s heart beat. People understand that taxes are integral to the future of their children’s education, their family’s healthcare, and their community’s infrastructure and culture. Similar to many Oregon towns, it’s fiercely protective of its forests, lakes, and rivers. Promoting a green economy, protecting endangered species, preventing overfishing, recycling, and sourcing food sustainably all rank highly among people’s civic priorities. People are unhurried and generous, and I can trust a majority of the city’s leaders to promote policies I support: a more humane criminal justice system, funds for the arts, and thoughtful land use, among many others.

In 2017, we bought a house in the Amazon cottages community where we first subleased, and last year, I married my lover at the local Sweet Cheeks Winery. 

We’d finally arrived.

Dr. Blasey Ford vs. Kava-NO

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will go down in history as an absolute hero. Facing today’s firing squad, she remained poised but nervous as any honest person would be. 

She was, after all, sharing her story of sexual assault with the world. Rachel Mitchell, the GOP’s female prosecutor—a mercenary the Republicans called in to avoid the “bad optics” of an all-white male panel—even believed Dr. Ford as any thinking/feeling person would.

Dr. Ford didn’t claim to have a perfect memory, but she recounted details that sent chills up the spine of our nation:

  • She described the laughter of two young men as she was pinned down on a bed.
  • Her screams were stifled by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s hand as he tried to remove her clothes, and she gasped for air.
  • She told us how she finally broke free and locked herself in the bathroom as this drunk young man and his friend Mark Judge “pin-balled” down the stairs.
  • Years later when Dr. Ford was remodeling her home with her husband, she requested a second front door added—an escape hatch from this deep-seated trauma which she lived with for years.

Like most women, she didn’t come forward immediately with any allegations for reasons that were patently clear during the second half of the hearing. Men of a certain type will never believe women. The all-white male Republican team did not even have the courage to confront Dr. Ford directly—again, bad “optics”—but they had no problem joining Brett Kavanaugh in his (dare I say) shrill pity party.

Let’s start with Kavanaugh’s bizarre opening statement: for 45 minutes, he wavered between rage and tears while detailing his fastidious calendar-keeping—throwing in a list of his academic and athletic accomplishments for good measure—and of course, reminding the world of the “binders full of women” in his life. It was an utter disaster.

If any woman or person of color had displayed this Kavanaugh-esque rambling anger, sweating and reaching for their water glass every 25 seconds, observers would have written them off as LIARS. But that’s not the way that some people view well-bred boys from Georgetown Prep; the Brock Turners of the world can commit sexual assault and the most pressing question on many Republican minds is, “Oh, but what about that bright young man’s future?” This was EXACTLY the animating concern of those GOP committee members who fester in bad faith:

  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “To my Republican colleagues: If you vote no, you are legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”
  • Ted Cruz (R-TX): “This has been one of the most shameful chapters in the United States Senate.”
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to Kavanaugh: “This is a national disgrace the way you’re being treated.”
  • Brett Kavanaugh: “This has destroyed my family and my good name….I’m never going to get my reputation back. My life is totally and permanently altered.”

I ask all Republicans this: while “Bart” O’Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were laughing at Christine Blasey’s terror in 1982, how do you think she felt? She was 15 years old. And how do you think she feels now with her two front doors—an architectural anomaly born of a fear Kavanaugh baked into her when he tried to stifle her screams? She’s already had to relocate her family twice these past few weeks and still is receiving death threats.

Kavanaugh, the “Renate Alumnius [sic],” may be denied a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, but does a man like that deserve to be confirmed? Absolutely not. His next appointment should be as a cautionary tale to other would-be sexual predators; Americans will never forget what he did to Dr. Ford, and his shameless lies are unforgivable—as is the partisan complicity of the GOP.

The One-Pill Solution to Changing your Life

Hello,

If you’re reading this, you were probably just browsing Facebook. Get off your computer; grab some people your love; go outside; and go live life so well that Death trembles to take you.

Tendered for your thoughtful consideration,

Joce xx

Uncle Sam Reads Sun Tzu

Glenn Ligon (2014); University of Oregon exhibit on artists responding to “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

[Note: I like this title, but I can’t promise that you’ll learn anything about the most famous Chinese military strategist in history. In fact, I just peppered my piece with two of his quotes because I believe that “The Art of War” guides more of our government’s policies than the Bible. Thank you for reading this far.]

Like most Americans, I’m afflicted by economic anxiety. For some, it stems from student debt, which is at an all-time high in this country. But for me, it’s worrying about the unforeseen, as if I’m walking a tightrope without a safety net. I may be bankrupted in a moment by a burst appendix or a root canal, despite the fact that I have both health and dental insurance. This gnawing unease prevents Americans from being productive, happy citizens whether we have coverage or not. And I’m one of the lucky ones: I have zero debt and zero dependents. I should feel financially secure but I have diminishing faith that the American government will safeguard healthcare, education, and the environment into our future.

“All warfare is based on deception.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Social security—a program I’ve paid into for all of my working life—might not exist when I retire and need it most. Aetna® and Dental Health Services® will take my money, yet they give me no reassurance that services won’t be massively upended when I need care in the future. At 32, I gladly pay my premiums to support those less fortunate but I question why our wealthy country won’t embrace a single payer system or a better subsidized public option. In 2015, my fiancé got into a serious bike accident in Buenos Aires. He rode an ambulance to the hospital and got stitches, services which would have cost him more than $3,000 in the US without insurance; in Argentina, it was all free.

This incident shows that we need to rethink who deserves the power in our American democracy. We’re supposed to have the power. The people. As it stands, there’s often disagreement between what’s best for the public and what’s best for companies. By illustration, if the profit incentive outweighs the costs:

  • An unregulated insurance company will terminate coverage for a 65-year-old with cancer
  • An unregulated weapons company will lobby congress to put more guns into the hands of American families
  • An unregulated drug company will try to convince someone that he has depression in a TV commercial to sell poorly tested pharmaceuticals
  • An unregulated company will pay academics who have fallen from the ivory tower to pretend that soda, cigarettes, or environmental pollutants are good for you
  • An unregulated company will try to defeat its competitors by any means necessary, even if the competitor does something better, cleaner, or more efficiently
  • An unregulated company feels at liberty to discriminate against women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community

The worst part is that the people who would benefit most from progressive ideas are those who voted for Trump. Red states typically take more federal money than they pay in, meaning that they’re subsidized by the “liberal elites” that they hate. I also believe that red states suffer precisely because their local governments have elevated corporate welfare over the public interest. For example, a Louisiana town recently found out that they have the highest cancer rate in the country due to pollution from the local DuPont neoprene factory. Ironically the Louisiana town is called St. John the Baptist Parish, which reminds me of my favorite line in The Usual Suspects: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” To the citizens of economically depressed areas in the South and Rust Belt: your Devil does exist, and it’s sure as hell not Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, or the EPA. The real Devil is slippery and here’s his secret: he has convinced people that what’s good for Wealth is good for everyone.

I argue that despite what we’ve been told, economic growth is not a real gauge of our progress. I’d always been taught that the best indicator of our country’s success was the growth of our economy. This is usually expressed as an inflation-adjusted percentage of our GDP. Many people don’t question the assumption that we should be striving for ever-higher economic growth—more businesses, more money changing hands, and more investments equals more sweet, greasy American progress. Presidents from both political parties focus squarely on GDP percentages to guide rhetoric, diplomacy, and policy. Like many Americans, I assumed that this figure somehow represented our national well-being, but this overlooks the most important consideration: what’s actually good for people?

We should be using our wealth to help the public meet its potential through investments in healthcare, education, infrastructure, and the environment. Instead, we enrich defense contractors and we’re in perpetual war because it’s good for business.

War.

Is.

Good.

For.

Business.

These days, Fox News and Breitbart incite just enough fear and xenophobia to make some Americans play along. The problem is that rather that doing what’s best for the people, the US is beholden to the interests of powerful corporations which control our government’s policies while channeling wealth into prisons or the military—already larger than the next eight nations combined.

“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

How do we fix this? I offer simple solutions:

  • Take money out of politics. Once companies can no longer bribe their way into looser regulations, generous tax breaks, or fat defense contracts, the American government will be more accountable to the people.
  • Shorten the election cycle. The US exhausts and overwhelms us during every election. Canada’s elections last three months at most. Let’s do that.
  • Make voting compulsory. If we want our leaders to reflect the views of the greatest number of citizens, all who are eligible should be voting.
  • Establish a single source where political candidates can weigh in on important issues. We need a bipartisan government website where voters can get their information about politicians’ records, including a user-friendly tool which matches us to leaders based on our views.
  • Stop assuming that unregulated business has the public’s interests in mind. Why don’t we see that we’re simultaneously drowning in products we don’t need and eating up natural resources at an unsustainable pace? High shareholder returns or GDP growth shouldn’t be achieved at the expense of what really matters.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that like many Americans, I’m continually on edge. I’m anxious for myself, my loved ones, and the future of our country’s children. Let’s stop scuffling over abortion, Planned Parenthood, and prayer in schools. Those are divide-and-conquer smokescreen issues which obscure the real problems facing us: healthcare, education, infrastructure, and protecting the environment.

Why I Resent Being Born a Woman

“Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” (New sculpture on Wall Street, 2017)

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. I participated in the “Day Without a Woman” protest by wearing red, spending money at exclusively female-owned businesses, and not working. I reflected on what it means to be a woman and how my life would be different if I’d been born a man. I’m grateful that now my female friends and I can vote and our career options aren’t limited to stenography or teaching (!!!), but as with any seismic shift in society, other less visible disadvantages of membership in Club Double X are still stifling our potential as humans.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but at my core, I resent being a woman:

  • I resent that being a wife and mother seems so much harder than being a husband and father.
  • I resent that women are led to believe their wedding day will be the “happiest day of their lives.”
  • I resent that unpaid domestic work—what UC Berkeley’s Arlie Hochschild called The Second Shift—still largely falls on women’s shoulders.
  • I resent that rich, white men are largely anti-regulation unless they have the opportunity to impose limits on women’s access to birth control or reproductive health services.
  • I resent that women’s and men’s ideas are treated so differently. JK Rowling’s publishers encouraged her to use her initials because they believed that boys wouldn’t be interested in a book written by a woman. In that vein, male authors don’t have the courage to publish under a female pseudonym unless they’re writing trashy romance novels. (I’d love to be proven wrong here.)
  • I resent that words coming out of a man’s mouth are perceived as more authoritative, persuasive, and intelligent than if they came from a woman (i.e., the Goldberg Paradigm).
  • I resent that female nonconformists throughout history have been seen as crazy or disobedient while many male nonconformists are left alone or celebrated.
  • I resent that women rarely occupy upper leadership positions in government, companies, and religious institutions.
  • I resent that traditionally female “caring occupations” are paid less than traditionally male “physical occupations,” especially when there’s no longer a single-income family wage (except for the richest Americans).
  • I resent that women pay more for health insurance, dry cleaning, toiletries, clothing, and more, all while earning lower salaries than men for the same work.
  • I resent that only 29 percent of protagonists in popular American films in 2016 were women. And that was an all-time high.
  • I resent that women are expected to have a “civilizing effect” on male family members. Women tolerate men’s anger, mood swings, and selfishness while men are still favorably stereotyped as the “more rational” sex. Riddle me this: a man might get angry at a bar, break a bottle, and stab someone in the neck to defend his honor. His honor. So which one is really the more rational sex?

Protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling (2016).

  • I resent that if a woman is not smiling, she’s often perceived as angry or upset.
  • I resent that society condemns steroid use among men while not caring whether women inject toxins into their faces or get non-necessary surgeries.
  • I resent that women’s assertiveness is misperceived as aggression or bossiness.
  • Worst of all, I resent my own biology. Why should I be less physically strong than a man? Why should I have to bleed every month? And despite what some women say, being pregnant looks supremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. Ok, so I can’t really change this one, although the US could do so much more by mandating paid time off for new mothers (as nearly all developed countries do), improving women’s access to family planning and healthcare, and ensuring that if an insurance company covers Rogaine or boner pills, IT ALSO covers female necessities such as birth control.

Iconic shot of Afghani Sharbat Gula, National Geographic (1985)

And I’m a privileged, white woman from the United States. My experience is just one person’s perspective and like so many women, I’ve never been able to fit the mold of the fairer sex. There’s been just enough social progress that thankfully, I don’t have to. I’m proud to be a feminist, and I hope that these disparities will someday be anachronistic, joining the same graveyard where our ancestors buried feudalism, buried Jim Crow laws, and (more recently) buried the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. The ghosts of longstanding discrimination still haunt us and public sentiment often changes more slowly than the law, especially as prejudice is passed down to those without the education to know better. I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on my own ghosts—those stomach-turning vestiges of legalized discrimination—even if the frigate of social progress is a slow-moving son-of-a-bitch.

My favorite photo of Georgia O’Keeffe. She was one of the most original modern artists of her time. Her (future) husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, showed intimate photos of her naked body without her permission to advance his own career at an art show during the 1920s. The media picked up on the scandal and humiliated her for it. This is why her incredible paintings weren’t discussed seriously as part of the canon of modern art at the time; instead, they were often disparaged and compared to vaginas. Now you know why her work still carries that stigma.

My Broody Little Doughboy Just Wasn’t That Into Me

I was dumped several times while I was living in San Francisco. To heal, I’d typically enjoy a few wine-drenched nights with friends and leap back into the dating scene with gusto. I’ve only suffered one real broken heart in my life.

It started with OkCupid. For those of you unfamiliar with the service, it beats the hell out of locking eyes with a stranger at the bar and taking several months to realize that the hottie you’re dating is an angry alcoholic or worse—a closeted Trump admirer.

OkCupid boasts several advantages over Tinder, which I hear is popular with the lusty kids these days. Both services offer several user pictures—Joe with arms outspread in the Grand Canyon (OUTDOORSY), Joe reading “War and Peace” under a tree (INTELLIGENT), Joe riding a four-by-four during a friend’s bachelor party (ADVENTUROUS), Joe in his hilarious Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” costume (FUNNY), Joe holding a baby human with the word “niece” or “nephew” in bold (NURTURING), Joe with a coterie of ethnic children where he volunteered for five days to build a school and get drunk with other do-gooders (SELFLESS), etc.—but OkCupid has the advantage of featuring lengthy profiles and questions which gauge people’s compatibility on multiple levels. In other words, the more questions someone answers, the more likely it is that they’ll get matched with people with similar morals, political leanings, personalities, interests, and other ingredients in the secret sauce of relationships.

In February 2011, I’d just been broken up with by a 23-year-old with the self-described “Belgian gift” (i.e., well-endowed), but I’d gotten back onto OkCupid within the week. Little did I know, user SFZinfandel would reach out and delight me with his wit. SFZinfandel had contacted me before I deactivated my account to enjoy the aforementioned Belgian gift, and apparently he’d held a candle for SFSwampDonkey (me) for all of that time! Let’s call my ex Richard, or “Dick” for short.

Dick and I agreed to meet at the Cafe Soleil in the Lower Haight. He chose the cafe because it was across one of the best Thai food joints in town—my favorite cuisine!—and he thought that if things were going well over beers, we could scoot over there for dinner. It was also just around the corner from his place, which accommodated his (initially endearing) lack of athleticism.

He worked DreamWorks—swoon circa 2011!—and was incredibly intelligent and funny. In addition to his mad computer engineering chops, he explored his sensitive side by writing songs and playing the guitar. He had blue-green eyes and tousled light brown hair. Apart from some minor tooth discoloration and a rather doughy programmer’s body (i.e, dad bod), he was very good-looking. We couldn’t stop talking and we ended up having a four-hour first date. (Note: If that’s not already a Tim Ferris book, it should be.) After an awesome night and a goodbye smooch, we decided pretty quickly to deactivate our OkCupid accounts and give this thing a shot.

Over the next couple of months, we spent nearly every night together. I lived in a shitty SRO studio in Russian Hill with one room and a small bathroom, which cost $1,200 per month. At least it had an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d usually cruise over his direction into the Lower Haight where he shared an awesome cornflower blue Victorian duplex above a classy marijuana dispensary. As we grew closer and started spending more time together, I grew very fond of watching Dick practice his original songs with a little Death Cab For Cutie thrown in for good measure. I’d lie on my stomach across his bed and stare adoringly into his eyes while he’d sing “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark” or practice Muse’s “Plug In Baby” guitar riff. He’d been in a men’s a cappella comedy troupe at UPenn and he had an incredible voice, although he’d break into a broody, feminine shriek when he’d reach his favorite parts of songs. But that was just his passion! He was an artist, dammit!

We’d attend every Tuesday night open mic at Red Devil Lounge, often staying out until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. I was working as an addiction specialist for Westside Community Services, where I started counseling patients at 7:00 am. Let’s just say that on Wednesday mornings in 2011, I wasn’t always at my finest or most attentive, but it was worth it!  I didn’t care. My boyfriend was a performer, and he was amazing! We’d always have a mini-crew of our friends at the RDL and enjoy an awesome night, tossing back cheap beers and well drinks until last call.

Our relationship progressed very quickly. His mom flew us out to Medford, OR where we spent a lovely weekend exploring wine country and kayaking down the Rogue River; we dropped L-bombs within a couple of months; we shared a bag of shrooms in Alamo Square Park and I helped him through a rough trip; I saved up my paltry counselor salary and treated him to a weekend in Carmel for wine-tasting and delicious food; he came to my family Thanksgiving in San Diego where all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents were in attendance. His mom and brother even joined us! I also had ditched my overpriced apartment in Russian Hill for an affordable room in the Lower Haight with some amazing roommates. I made the move so I wouldn’t have to traverse the city every evening to see Dick, sure, but I was also much closer to my work in Western Addition.

Things were going great. Romance. Poetry. Music. Watching Arrested Development in bed. At least I thought they were going great. We’d been achieving all of these milestones—plenty of family time, saying “I love you” constantly, spending nearly every day together—but I was in for a horrible awakening.

My mom and I have a tradition of taking an international trip every other Christmas. We’d decided to explore New Zealand for two weeks, and I was ecstatic to finally visit the Real-Life Shire where oenophiles and foodies mingled with marathon hikers and adrenaline junkies. We drank sauvignon blanc, ate green-lipped mussels, and explored the south island’s many lakes and world-class hiking. Halfway into my trip, I noticed that Dick had been weirdly incommunicado. I didn’t want any unsubstantiated worries to kill my NZ sauvignon blanc buzz, so I wrote a witty, affectionate email. His response was strangely detached as if a distant friend had written it.

Uh oh.

I decided to not let it ruin my trip because nothing was for sure, but I wasn’t really feeling myself by the time my mom and I got to Milford Sound. We were indulging in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, but I couldn’t quell the pit in my stomach and the feeling that something was really wrong in my relationship.

My mom and I flew back to California on December 30th. We had a grueling, multi-stop journey which we rather enjoyed because it was on Virgin. (Fog machines. Purple light. Plenty of movies. They’re the best.) For the last leg of my trip, I had to sprint from LAX’s Terminal 1 to 3 with my massive backpack to make my connecting flight to San Francisco. The Virgin America folks initially told me that I was shit-out-of-luck because the flight was leaving in 15 minutes and there was no way I’d make it through security. With a little smooth talking, I got the clerk’s manager to escort me personally through security to ensure that I could get back to SF and see my boyfriend for the first time in 16 days. Traveling with mom was great, but I was craving some lovemaking with my broody little doughboy. I was especially excited about the New Years Eve party at Dick’s house planned for the following night.

When I arrived in SFO, I turned on my phone and texted Dick immediately, “Hey! Barely made my last flight and can’t wait to see you, love! Where can we meet?” Several minutes later while I was on BART back into the city, I received a curt response: “Hey. Bro-face is in town. We’re hanging tonight.”

I’d been gone for 16 sexless days and he was opting to hang out with his brother during my heralded return to the city from an exotic kiwi adventure? What the fuck, Dick? That night, I spent time with friends who actually wanted to see me and hear about my trip. I began to suspect the worst, but nothing could really prepare me for what happened the following day.

Dick arranged to grab coffee with me on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. It was sunny and we walked to Duboce Park and watched ecstatic dogs frolic through the grassy knolls. The whole exchange took maybe 20 minutes. He broke up with me without offering a reason and gave me a small box. He was unable to articulate why he took a meat cleaver to my heart that day and left me there to ponder the news. I walked tearfully back to my house which was now three blocks away from his.

I unwrapped the small token of alimony from Dick—a late Christmas gift. It was his old iPhone box with an Apple gift card containing exactly the amount of money I’d need to upgrade my old, janky Blackberry to an iPhone 4S. (Suffice it to say I was a late tech adopter.)

Rather than attending the New Years party in Dick’s Lower Haight Victorian, I went to an awesome soiree with people who would become my best friends in the city. I slipped into the bathroom countless times to cry my eyes out. I looked like a drunk blond raccoon by the end of evening, but I’d survived the insult of a baseless breakup. I was going to move on! It was now 2012 and I was going to turn over a new leaf, recovering with the support of all of these wonderful people. With enough booze, cigarettes, dancing, and kind words from friends, I almost forgot what had happened to me. That was until I was slingshotted into despair the following day.

I woke up utterly hungover in the early afternoon of New Years Day. I started sobbing, remembering that Dick had broken up with me and I’d no longer get to feel his broody little doughboy body against mine. In an act of self-destruction, I decided to check Dick’s Facebook. I’d half-expected that in his abysmal grief, he’d skipped the NYE party at his own house to weep and look at pictures of us, and it comes as no shock that this was not the case. One of his best friends had posted countless pictures of Dick surrounded by beautiful women with a huge smile, looking like he had just won a Grammy or Bachelor of the Year. He looked thrilled and ecstatic, surrounded by the people I’d called friends for the previous ten months. I was absolutely crushed, and after ten days of drunk/stoned anguish, I thought that sending him a sweet, forgiving email would somehow bring me relief:

1/10/12, 8:13 am

Dick,

Your Christmas gift was very generous. The phone will make my life easier, more enjoyable and infinitely more stylish. It’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received and the orange case was a thoughtful touch. Thank you so much.

I’ve put a lot of thought into what happened, and from what I’ve gathered, you need time and space for personal and professional growth, and your decision to change careers in particular has been weighing heavily on you. When you stopped working in July, I was hoping that the fear, negativity and uncertainty wouldn’t spill over into other realms of your life and I wanted to support you through this transition. 

I celebrate many aspects of our time together: creating delectable dinners and brunches; gazing into each other’s dilated eyes; enjoying in-depth conversations; cuddling up and giggling to Arrested Development; toothpasting each other’s toothbrushes; connecting with each other’s friends; and the list goes on. I felt strongly that the relationship was moving in a positive direction since we had so much fun not just together, but also in the company of our family and friends. I reflect back on what I loved about our time and how I grew, all of the things you taught me, the music you played, the trips we took and the feel of your touch.

I know that what we have is real, and I wish with all my heart that our timing and communication could have been better, that we could have slowed things down. Because I love you, I forgive you and want you to know I’m here as a friend if you need anything during this difficult time.

You’re an incredible person. Never forget that.

Hee haw,

Jocelyn

Here’s how he responded:

1/10/12, 9:32 pm

You were endlessly supportive of me, unabashedly loving, unabatedly positive, and I was so confused why, with all the happy moments and all your devotion, I should continually feel lacking — not undeserving of your love, just… lacking, in my own right. It took a while to identify that feeling, and to understand why I felt it. Without the self actualization of identifying myself with a true occupation, I felt like I had no personal foundation on which to support my own self worth; and with my mind so consistently preoccupied with decidedly unsexy thoughts of bugs, algorithms, and software architecture, I felt incapable of the mental capacity I expect from myself in a meaningful relationship, in the kind of relationship I would want.

That’s what we call a San Francisco dump, engineer-speak for “I’m just not that into you.”

A few months after we broke up, he posted an intimate picture on Facebook. It was of him, his best friend “Ron,” and a fluffy white dog. It’s one of the most adorable and gayest pictures I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of when we were still together and I witnessed Dick and Ron in a playful sexual pantomime in their living room, an act which lingered a little longer than a joke. They enjoyed toeing the line of gay ambiguity, but I don’t think that was really it; he just wasn’t that into me. And that’s cool.

In any case, it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Being dumped hastily and unexpectedly on NYE after a two-week international trip followed by a large FB photo collection of my ex surrounded by gorgeous women at a party I was supposed to attend was CRUSHING. Did I mention that I developed a gnarly lung inflection from a mold in my new Lower Haight house, the one I’d moved into to be closer to Dick? I had a productive cough for months, which was so bad, it caused one of my coworkers at the clinic to complain that I might infect everyone. I was also managing a caseload of nearly 50 clients at various stages of recovery from heroin addiction. It was a supremely stressful, awful time.

So to the women and men out there who are unhappily single or in the midst of an awful breakup: fuuuuuck. I felt that pain for many miserable months. After five years, I’ve finally been able to write about it. And even laugh about it. My friends and I all remember the fateful day that we were playing volleyball in the Panhandle. Dick hit the ball up into his own face, and it was glorious. That’s how I’ll always remember him.

Girls Just Want to Have FUNdamental Rights

Thank you NY Times for capturing this image.

On November 15th, one week after Hillary gave her concession speech to the Flaming Ball of Id, I bought a plane ticket to attend the Million Women March in Washington DC. Sure, the presidential election served as a catalyst, but I had no idea that I’d be participating in the largest multinational protest in world history.

Let me qualify that: the media reported that the Women’s March might have been the largest US protest in history, but according to Wikipedia’s compendium of peaceful gatherings, it actually proved the largest multinational day of protest ever recorded. The better-attended events were typically funerals (e.g.,  Ayatollah, Khomeini, CN Annadurai), single-nation gatherings (e.g., the “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” in Istanbul, 2016), or celebrations in Southeast Asia welcoming the Pope, not to mention the incredible 5 million-person turnout for the Chicago Cubs World Series Parade. Therefore, the 4.7+ million people who marched across seven continents on January 21, 2017 produced the LARGEST MULTINATIONAL PROTEST IN WORLD HISTORY. I think that’s pretty damn exciting.

I was lucky enough to get a spot on top of a journalist’s black van at Independence and 4th Street in DC , one block away from the main stage while more than a half a million people stood in the vicinity. My partner and I were even featured in the NY Times.

We heard speeches from Dr. Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Kamala Harris, Ashley Judd, Madonna, Michael Moore, Scarlett Johansson, and Alicia Keys, among many others. I met an Iranian-American doctor who had attended the Civil Rights March on Washington as a child in 1963, and she mentioned that the Women’s March that day was still the most impressive show of activism she’d seen in her 50+ years living in DC. Above all, I learned that I wasn’t alone in my sense that all wasn’t right with the world in its treatment of women.

To be clear, people across the globe participated in the Women’s March for varying reasons; it wasn’t simply a display of people’s disgust with Trump, although I understand that sentiment; I can’t convey the indignity of having my own country’s president-elect brag about sexual assault. Not talk, but fucking BRAG about sexual assault. Some people don’t understand what it feels like when your eye contact with a man is treated as a sexual invitation, when you’re physically smaller than those who try to take advantage of you, and when all of it is no fault of your own. For me, the Women’s March helped remedy a longstanding ache in my gut that told me things would be easier for me if I’d been born a man. Here’s how I figure:

Women have only very recently earned legal rights and professional privileges I now take for granted. Women couldn’t serve on juries until 1973, get credit cards in their name until 1974, keep their jobs while pregnant until 1987, or legally refuse to have sex with their spouses until 1993. These restrictions continue to have sociopolitical consequences for women’s progress far beyond the scope of this piece. Just as the impact of slavery didn’t end with the 13th Amendment, we all know that that the legacy of injustice ripples outward affecting future generations long after a law has changed.

The Goldberg Paradigm holds that the exact same words coming out of a man’s mouth are perceived much differently coming from a woman. I’ve been frustrated throughout my life by this truism. A man’s assertiveness is my display of aggression; a man’s intelligence is my smugness; a man’s professional success is my anti-children stance; a man’s forgivable anger is my embarrassing emotional outburst; a man’s heroic, kind act is my default behavior as the “fairer sex.” And don’t get me started on my jokes which have fallen flat only to be repeated and adored when my ex-boyfriends cribbed my words and timing.

I should mention that I was raised by a badass, feminist, single mom. I can’t imagine a more fertile ground for this consciousness that helps me see the invaluable, under-appreciated role women play in society. Women have done more unpaid and unrecognized labor than any group in human history and in changing this disparity, there are excruciating growing pains. For every woman who’s grabbed by man with power, for every successful scientist who suffers sexism from her peers, and for all the moments in between: RESIST.

As for the carrot-hued catalyst of the Women’s March: all rational people see that the Trumpass is pointed in the wrong direction. In his first week in office, he’s implemented a racist ban on refugees and immigrants; pushed forward with the expensive and unnecessary Mexican Border Wall; and established fascist gag orders on several government agencies (e.g., EPA/NIH/NPS), to name the top three things that piss me off. (For the record, the “Mexico City Policy” withholding funding for women’s health organizations internationally is a ball that’s been volleyed between conservative and liberal administrations for the past 30 years. It’s nothing new.)

RESIST.

RESIST not only for women or blacks or Mexicans or immigrants or Muslims, but resist because it’s the right thing to do. We’re only as good as we let all people be, and an arrogant tyrant who cares for nobody but himself, his family, and small circle of wealthy cabinet appointees doesn’t have our best interests in mind.

RESIST.

RESIST by calling your senators and house representatives; RESIST by donating to Planned Parenthood; RESIST by correcting media-reporting errors through social media commentary; RESIST by shifting your money to a credit union away from the banks which stand to profit from the Goldman Sachs agenda; RESIST by enjoying peaceful protests and creating art; RESIST by teaching your daughters and sons that this administration is not normal and does not work in the interests of the American people.

RESIST.

Don’t Diet…RIOT!

I first saw ‘Don’t Diet…RIOT!’ scrawled on a bathroom stall at Laguna Beach High School. It stuck with me because at LBHS, there was immense pressure for girls to be thin, just like many schools today. This constant body-badgering is fed by fashion magazines, celebrity culture, and most recently, social media. In my day, at least my upward self-comparisons with the beautiful girls—almost all of them named Jessica—ended when I left school. For girls on Instagram these days, that’s not the case.

I can’t speak for other parts of the country, but for me, growing up in an environment with so many surgically remodeled mothers and proud size 0 classmates made me feel ugly and inadequate for most of my adolescence. I know my experience isn’t unique and I can’t deny the privileges I enjoyed at LBHS, but I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time fretting about my bad skin and love handles, counting calories, and gorging on products with artificial sweeteners. Most of all, I wish hadn’t bought so many stupid beauty products.

Beauty products. That 80 BILLION dollar industry in the US aimed squarely at making women feel unattractive and self-conscious. For the sake of our sanity, please help put some of these exploitative companies out of business and

STOP

BUYING

SO

MANY

BEAUTY

PRODUCTS

For the uninitiated, here are some of the modern things we women are taught we can’t live without:

  • Temptu Air (i.e., at-home airbrush kit) – $195.00
  • Shimmering Skin Perfector – $38.00
  • Kanebo Sensai Collection, The Lipstick – $40.00
  • Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate (for essential ‘contouring’ and ‘strobing’) – $80.00
  • La Prairie Skin Caviar Concealer Foundation – $220.00
  • Beautyblender Blotterazzi (i.e., sponges) – $20.00
  • Christian Louboutin Beauté Nail Colour in Louboutin Red – $50.00
  • Dr. Jart+ Water Replenishment Cotton Sheet Mask – $7.50 (what a steal!)
  • RéVive Peau Magnifique les Yeux Youth Recruit for Eyes – $750.00

I’m all for the free market, but the existence of this overpriced garbage highlights the toxic conflation of a woman’s beauty with her self-worth. Let me unpack that: why else would we justify spending $220 on caviar foundation unless it felt validating and essential to our well-being? What else could it be for? Certainly not to attract other people. Call me a plebe, but I doubt the majority of people can tell the difference between a contoured/strobed and a non-contoured/non-strobed feature on a person’s face. (Exception: my dear friends in the drag world. Derek and Robert, you totally know the difference and probably would disagree with every word in this piece. And can you actually strobe a feature? Am I even using that right? Hmm.)

And this year, L’Oréal is releasing a ‘smart hairbrush’ with a companion app to tell us all of the L’Oréal products we need to buy to treat our brush-detected hair issues. As if our socially imposed self-loathing will be fixed by a $200 hairbrush.

In sum, the damn beauty-socio-industrial complex employs a two-pronged strategy:

  1. Make women feel terrible about themselves.
  2. Develop expensive creams, masques, cleansers, lotions, elixirs, toners, and other junk while promising women a release from feeling terrible about themselves.

Makeup can be fun, sure, but a survey of the average woman’s  shower or cosmetics case is a real wake-up call. I want to end with a picture of the few products I use—simple, natural things I’ve never seen advertised anywhere:

  • Moisturizer: coconut oil
  • Hair care: Savannah Bee shampoo and conditioner
  • Makeup: Mineral Fusion foundation and mascara

I guess only time will tell if I end up looking like a leathery old crone at 40 because I didn’t throw down for that palmitoyl oligopeptide. Then again, the thousands of dollars I’ll spend instead on traveling & dining out & guitar lessons & sending boxes of dogshit to the White House once Trump assumes office will make me feel more alive & beautiful than anything I can buy at Sephora.

My Home Offline: Could You Live Without Wifi?

Our cottage near Amazon Park in Eugene, OR

[Written two hours ago from my cottage]

I’m sitting in a rocking chair by the glow of the fire, listening to the logs crackle and fingers tap-dancing across my laptop keys.  The living room window is flanked by a towering case of my favorite books and a Taylor guitar. I see thick snow clusters floating down outside into our garden. I sway my head gently to Macy Gray’s new album, her sensual voice an homage to her roots in jazz. I am utterly at peace because when I’m here at home in Eugene, OR, I’m unplugged from the world.

When I say ‘unplugged,’ let me be clear: not only do I lack internet and cable in the cottage, but I also haven’t had a cell phone plan since 2014. I’d dropped my carrier initially to move to Argentina for 10 months and I never found a reason to reactivate. My friends, family, and employer have long-since grown accustomed to not being able to reach me 24/7; they appreciate that I’ll respond once I’m online at a local cafe or a public library. And with wifi now ubiquitous throughout much of the world, it’s not difficult to find a connection when I need one.

From 2010 to 2014, I lived in San Francisco—ground zero for technological innovation. I loved the city, but I felt overwhelmed with my cell phone constantly at my side. Crushed by information and saturated with media. A gnawing feeling that my attention and time were never really mine to control and that I could be thrust forcibly into the infinite at any moment. The same feelings that people try to escape through digital detox camps and the like.

We’ve all been down that rabbit hole: the one that leads us from a text message to a Facebook vacation photo in Cambodia to a Google search for the name of that pink temple in Angkor to a Wikipedia article about the ancient stone making up the walls to a text message response, and so on. Seven minutes gone. With connectivity comes the possibility of continuous distraction—the pestering flak of text messages, pop-up notifications, electronic calendar reminders, and emails. Oh, the emails.

Constantly drowning in information without limits was taking its toll on me. I never seemed to have enough time to do the things I really wanted to do, the things I’d always included in my New Year’s resolutions: reading more books, playing the guitar, gardening, hiking, cooking for my friends, and writing for pleasure. Now when I come home, those are the only things in front of me, the welcome embrace of my chosen pastimes.

Free from text messages.

Free from checking email.

Free from pop-up notifications.

Free from Google news headlines.

Free from Twitter outrage.

Free from self-aggrandizing Instagram posts.

Free from Facebook check-ins.

Free from Netflix binges.

Free from self-promotion and distractions.

I can breathe again.

When people ask for my phone number, I have to explain that I don’t have one, which usually leads to a lengthier discussion about my lifestyle. Here are some answers to common questions I get about my disconnected home life:

How do you keep in touch with people?

The same way most people do: email, iMessage (for my fellow iPhone-users), WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Skype, Instagram, etc. I even write letters by hand. I learned that our modern means of communication are not only plentiful but redundant. As tech companies compete for greater market share, there’s never a shortage of cheap, convenient ways to communicate with other people. The difference is that I have access when I choose.

What if somebody is running late and needs to contact you?

I deal with this the same way we all did pre-smartphone: I wait, usually with a podcast downloaded for offline listening. I’ve also noticed that people tend to make more of an effort because they know I can’t be reached; in SF, friends would sometimes cancel at the last minute or text about being late, as if the ability to communicate instantly with me diminished their accountability. That never happens anymore.

What if you can’t find an internet connection?

When cafes and libraries can’t be found, there’s always a Starbucks or McDonalds nearby with open wifi access.

What about all of the useful apps?

When traveling, I’ll download offline Google Maps, Yelp recommendations, or Trip Advisor lists prior to setting out for my destination. I spent most of 2015 road-tripping across the US and had no problems with this strategy.

What about emergencies? What if there’s a global disaster?

If it’s something pertinent to my local community, one of my neighbors will certainly knock on my door. If it’s not, there’s probably nothing I can do about it and I’ll find out soon enough. Dwelling on crises doesn’t help anybody. Case in point: one of the best decisions I ever made was to spend the entire 2016 election day hiking to various waterfalls in central Oregon, totally off the grid. Would it have been better for me to watch the ill-fated polls all day? No way.

What about your work?

I’m managing editor of Sechel Ventures LLC under two fantastic mentors. I’m grateful to have worked for this company for two years. My bosses are aware that they can’t always reach me and have faith that my ability to recharge offline at home ultimately improves the quality of my work. Plus, if the French can pass a ‘right to disconnect’ law establishing off-duty employees’ power to ignore work emails, I’m sure a similar rule could benefit many overworked Americans as well. (Not that it would ever pass in this anti-labor/pro-business country which has yet to establish maternity leave protections, a decent minimum wage, or solid PTO laws.)

What about news stories and other online reading? 

I’ll load important reading onto my computer before heading back to the offline sanctuary. On a related note, I’ve always preferred periodicals to newspapers, films to cable TV series. When people take more time to produce something, it broadens the scope and improves the quality. Minute-by-minute media coverage is chewing gum for the brain.

What about Netflix?! What about other great TV shows?!

I get this question a lot, and yes, I’m probably missing out on some popular culture here, although for my must-sees like Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and South Park, I’ll stream them on my computer at the Bier Stein, a local beer bar within walking distance of my cottage with 26 rotating taps, delicious food, and fast wifi. There are worse ways to consume media.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and there are certainly times when I wished I had web or phone access and didn’t. But for me, these sporadic nuisances can’t outweigh the freedom to focus on what’s really important to me: the simplicity and peace of mind at home.