"You happy now, bitch?"

a rebuttal

Another typical unschooling-defamation piece makes its way into my Tweetstream. I was inspired to make a little something I will picture in my mind every time this happens. Call it my personal moment of Zen.

"You happy now, bitch?"

This little bit of Photoshoppery has nothing to do with unschooling. It has everything to do with being awesome. For instance how awesomely I LOL every time I read or hear some other persnickety, tired-out, anti-child, parent-dissing pearl-clutching screed recommending enforced child-class institutionalization.

***

In other news: I wrote a new post at UB, but it’s kinda grouchy, fair warning. I had a good day today though, honestly.

A cat named Mustache

a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives

The last few days I’ve thrown myself into new work with addicts and alcoholics, giving rides here and there, buying breakfast for the flat-out underemployed, caring for other people’s kids, teens and pets, taking a friend on a birthday date, and helping those who have a hard time making ends meet.

Plus all that other stuff of caring for my own kiddos and husband and pets and household as best I can. And having a bit of a social life, and a sewing life, to boot!

So, I am behind on both writing here, and responding to comments. I apologize.

One thing I want to point out is the few people I’ve helped recently, or a handful of them, have given me a valuable lesson. A friend I took a dozen eggs to yesterday because she didn’t have food money until today, the difference between she and I (back when we couldn’t afford food and utilities and our lifestyle, and were bouncing checks and igorning collection bills because it was all so overwhelming), is this friend asked for and accepted help. Asking for and accepting help, in appropriate ways and from appropriate parties, has been a new(-ish) cornerstone of my life. Let’s face it, without help I was flailing at best and often a Toxic Asshole either running from, or attempting to selfishly dominate, many of life’s challenges.

The Toxic Asshole part of me is still live and kicking and surfaces more often than I’m proud of, but there’s another presence within that I like a lot more. She’s like a Baby. Baby Awesomesauce. Baby Awesomesauce is growing up just fine, but things take time.

Of course giving back gives me immense rewards so it is in itself a selfish activity of sorts. One of the hardest things going right now is to know when to give freely to others, and knowing when if I were to do so, it would rob my family of something I should be giving them (time, groceries, mostly).

I put my faith in the path set before me and I know that one day I’ll look back and see with clarity where my life is heading, and why.

***

In lieu of Friday links I have two pieces of local interest:

First, Ralph and I put together a collection of my sewn pieces for sale at the On Track Art Walk tomorrow. I would love to earn money for my craft, to have my pieces find gleeful homes, and – most of all, to find a sewing community. If I had a dream it would be to be involved with a community center/studio where I could create, and help others do the same. I don’t have the resources to start this myself, but perhaps someone out there does. In any case, I’m ready to be Out There a bit more.

Second, our local town’s annual festival came out with their official t-shirt. Many HQX residents do not endorse the shirt and are taking actions, including boycotting, writing letters to the editor and City etc, and printing a better shirt and donating profits (you can read more about it here, if you have Facebook).

From my G+ post here are some of my thoughts:

“I love my town and I love my country. One thing I love about both is the right to protest ideas and products that are violent, offensive, and bad for children and grownups and probably even small puppy dogs. Yay local Jokay Daniel who’ll be selling the alternate shirt & donating profits; also J. for being instrumental in creating alternate shirts.”

Reading the comments in the Facebook group is pretty darn cool and makes me proud of my HQX peeps.

***

And finally, something to ponder:

A cat named Mustache

We cannot control the evil tongues of others; but a good life enables us to disregard them

Outdoors

I am not as strong spiritually as others may think. Case in point, it is still alarming for me to hear adults’ negative opinions of our lifestyle through the commentary of these grownups’ children. This can’t be avoided, really, for a lot of reasons – one of which is our lifestyle and parenting philosophies are different than many families – and many people respond to perceived challenges with attitudes and positions of fear, judgment, or anger. Also, many families struggle with a variety of issues and doubtless lash out; they are truly in some sense miserable enough to do so. I can understand this on a cognitive level, but try telling my heart it’s all Okay.

For me, who I am today, the friend or “friend” who is unsupportive or speaks ill of my family is a painful party to consider. Given my weakness, I would rather they just ignore me than shit-talk, back-talk, or judge. And this is made all the more odd as I have little or nothing to hide and life is good in our home. It’s something about others harboring Hate, however tiny, directed at myself (or perceived as such), that makes me feel about a quarter-inch tall. As I told a couple friends earlier tonight, its’ not the subject matter itself at all. When it comes to living without compulsory schooling, even the familiar and repetitive questions by strangers (“But what about socialization?”*) seem at least direct and (usually but not always) put forth in good faith. It’s something else to consider a friend actively holding a resentment.

But the occasional times I receive a negative bit of gossip, or hear our life and our parenting drug through the muck, my response shows me I haven’t yet learned the lesson – you know, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” And I note as well I’m not sure what special privilege I seem to think I deserve that I should be immune to people’s Assery.

Daily I evaluate the life we live: myself, our family, my friendships, my role as a citizen and friend to the world. I do the best I can with what I have. Pondering the pain I feel today, I am glad for something recent in my life: see, a while back it became obvious to me I needed to stop speaking ill of people, even when “safe” or near someone who would not dispute nor challenge this sort of behavior (or even someone who themselves would feel relief in a few moments of gossip, that delectable dish). This life is lived not to be “good”/”nice” nor to try to bargain karma, or even to be a good friend (although it does make me a better person), but to quit making myself Sick, because Sick indeed I have been. Even with my husband I counsel him to be cautious what we say, for our own sakes’ as well as that of our children who stand to learn our attitudes. Even in the privacy of our own home.

For much of my life I have not lived this way. Months ago I would not have thought this was a possible way to conduct myself, nor even relevant. But today it’s a major cornerstone of my life.

“Never speak disparagingly of others, but praise without distinction… Pollute not your tongues by speaking evil of another.”

I do take this seriously, as hard as I find to live it sometimes. I thank my life’s experience and my Higher Power for the lesson.

* More awesomesauce here.

a letter

Trigger warning for a link containing homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ageism, and disablist language.

“Look around – see any Mexicans? Nope. They’ll be here later for the cleanup.”

Editor, The Daily World and management, D&R Theatre:

Today I was shocked to see the D&R Theater had engaged comedian Gallagher for a performance on October 16th. Whatever you may remember from the 80s of gleeful watermelon-smashing, the man brings much more to the stage. His act is soaked in racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, and inappropriate sexual references to young girls (amongst other offensive content). In one example of many, this summer at the Admiral in Bremerton Gallagher poured a can of fruit cocktail into a tin plate, added a canned Asian-grocery supply vegetable, then yelled “This is the China people and queers!” before smashing the whole business. Other commentary on gays, Muslims, and Mexicans are not fit for print.

I could go on and on but I won’t; you can see more verbatim content in Lindy West’s article in the Theatre section of The Seattle Stranger, June 29th, 2010.

The D&R should have vetted this act but they didn’t.

I would encourage anyone who has purchased tickets to exercise caution, do not take children, and/or seek a refund if possible.

Kelly Hogaboom
Etc.

Do you know why it took a lot out of me to write this (even though the writing only took a few minutes)? To anticipate (if it gets published in the paper at all) those who will respond telling me I should figure out better things to do, or that it’s all just a joke, or that people are too sensitive these days, or that the Thought Police are going to make no one be able to say anything, or twatever completely incorrect and boring and painful responses I’ve heard – so many, many times. For some reason it never gets less depressing to hear it again. It always hurts a little. It always gives me that twinge of Why do I bother?

So if you in any way think this is important enough to warrant action, or if you like my letter, or if you support standing up against vile racism and homophobia, or if you think the world is getting too small to afford things we never should have tolerated in the first place – I could use some support. If you have the time. I know you’re busy! I know.

And you know, normally I’m kinda a balls-out activist in written form but reading that Stranger article, and seeing this act being supported here in my neighborhood, it really, really hurt.

P.S. No Grays Harbor/Aberdeen bashing. Go do that somewheres else.

safety

Trigger warning: this post contains discussion and links regarding bullying, homophobia, racism, and suicide.

I didn’t know the phrase “bullycide” before yesterday, but reading the stories of Asher Brown and Tyler Clementi I immediately understood what such a word meant. And I had never heard the phrase “ching-chonged” either but immediately “got it” while reading the Disgrasian piece on Asher Brown (and resultant comments) (h/t to Jim for sharing this via Twitter).

It is not easy nor trite for me to read and then write on these stories. They are devastating for me to consume. I feel such sorrow for these suicide victims and their families; I feel such sorrow for the other children who victimized these young people and now have to live with their role (if they even know enough to feel it); I feel such sorrow for the adults who could have done something to help and did not, figuring the problems were not that bad or not a big deal or just the typical stuff that happens amongst kids, or even thinking it is funny after all to make fun of a gay man for being, you know, gay, c’mon, admit it.

I feel some anger but mostly – a deep sadness. I think of my own children when I read stories like this.

Today Lesley at Fatshionista published a moving, at-times graphic personal account of bullying: “Sometimes we fight back by merely surviving: A missive for the bullied”. In fact if you’re pressed for time you should read this piece instead of mine as it’s probably better than anything I’ll have to say.

But if you’re here reading, still, and you do care what I think, I do have some ideas.

I am fortunate in that growing up I was not routinely or regularly bullied by adults and children. This is not to say people were not occasionally unkind, destructive, abusive, or wished me harm; this happened and some of these incidents are quite specific in my mind. And perhaps more relevant to my relatively privileged life, it isn’t so much that incidents felt isolated but that bully culture affected me very much; of course it did. It’s one thing to not be the target of focused or endemic efforts (like Asher was), but to know exactly the many behaviors or traits that might be used as fodder for violent or social reprisal, to also know the randomness in some bullying choices, to live in the fear of slipping up or being exposed or just being turned against by the alpha-whomever of the group?

Yeah. It affected me.

Bully culture changes those who don’t remember being afraid, although sometimes we’ve grown a nice thick skin over our past instead of coming to terms with it. Those of us who followed the influence of the ringleaders, or those who did not speak up when we saw it happening (I think we all have membership in this club) – this hurt us, too. We have the shame and sorrow and confusion of having participated – having made the jokes or written the cruel note or laughed into our hand in gym class while throwing glances and smirks at one another. We tell ourselves we just ignorant, or we didn’t really mean it, or the intended victim laughed it off. But we know deep down we committed wrongs.

All of this leaves a mark, sometimes an indelible one.

Most people reading here would claim and believe they are past all this. They do not support bullying behavior; they would never stick their head out of a car and yell at an Asian youth nor spit on a fat high school girl’s jacket. A denunciation of cruelty with a claim we are outside the Game is simply not good enough. We need to speak up, and we never know when we’ll see it next, and we will at times fail to do the right thing. Yeah, it is often not easy to speak up, not for most of us. Sorry, we don’t get a “pass” just because we don’t like to feel Awkward.

We need to grow our compassionate space. We need to re-gain touch with our empathy and understand many victims and perpetrators are damaged, hurt. We need to quit thinking – let alone saying – victims are “whining”. We need to stop reflexively giving them adjuncts to “get over it” or grandly offering our Smiley-Face Stories of the things we’ve gotten over. This is so profoundly wrong-headed and illogical and harmful in aggregate it almost fills me with despair to type it out, as I’ve seen it so much.

Bullying and abuse are not solved by our loud proselytizing of victim-charging stratagems like “turning the other cheek” or “walking away”. While I have employed both tactics successfully – and if you have too, good for you! – that cannot be our primary response and prescriptive to victims. Victims need to be heard, to be listened to; they need our presence and witness and compassion. We can do more active, loud, vocal work elsewhere. There’s lots of that to do out there, too.

It is our job, those who can do the work, to protect other people. It is our job to stand up for those who lack the strength or the resources to, or those who have internalized the messages already (as these two young men who eliminated themselves did), or those who tried to fight back once, or twice, and were beaten down so severely they have been traumatized (big or small, for five minutes or fifty years). It is our job – those who can – to protect these people even if they aren’t in the room in that moment. It is our job to address the bullies; starting with ourselves.

None of this is easy; if it were, we would not have these problems because (I do believe) most people want very much to do right. It’s hard to make change because we do-gooders, even we, are scared and unsure. Yet bullying and xenophobia are not problems relegated to small towns and they are not always coupled with overt, Afterschool Special music scores nor will we be guaranteed that “plucky” hero that sticks up for him/herself and then lives a life free of tormentors.

As if.

We need to stop thinking of bullying and aggression as outside our world, our families – as living somewhere else.

Have you apologized to those you bullied?

Have you apologized to those you did not protect?

Have you confessed to someone your mistakes, or admitted them to yourself, that you might move on instead of defending your past?

Have you made terms with your own fears, if you can?

Have you asked for help if you don’t feel strong, or safe?

Have you asked someone else if you can help them, if they seem scared, or unsure?

It’s rough out there sometimes. Like Warren Zevon said, “Life’ll kill ya.” But I don’t like thinking about death and destruction and torture all the time. I like to live, even joyfully when I can. Maybe we can help someone who needs us.

Maybe we can provide for them even a little bit more than we did yesterday.

i tried looking up quotes about failure but they were all depressingly bootstrappy

Today my many failures smirk from the corner of my ill-lit kitchen, leaned against the wall with arms crossed, sarcastically raising their eyebrows at my futile attempts to simply keep going. I’d been ignoring them for some time, primly folding fabric and wiping down counters and using my cheerful voice and washing and cutting up vegetables and all those typical things I do. I’d been thinking if I just kept working then pretty soon the failures wouldn’t seem so bad, and I’d have my little proofs at my competence and goodness and merit, and I’ll sweep these narratives out the gap like the dust from the back porch, close my door/mind and they will be gone.

Yet the failures stack up perfectly and make an airtight case. Many are small, incidental; some are large, oppressive. Perhaps no one wants to hear them enumerated here but I need them out of my mind, their crushing and entirely accurate little proclamations about my character and failings, their circular arguments that get louder and more tangled and mar my speech and thoughts while others around me have simply no idea how much I am preyed upon.

I’ve spent the last better part of a year ruminating on a particular encounter and unsatisfying and distressing conclusion with an acquaintance-friend. I have not given myself license to write about this freely here for fear of causing someone else pain or risking a reader taking my very vulnerable thoughts and using them against me with gossip and speculation. It is not that I assume the worst about people, it is that when I write or speak vulnerable words I do not wish to be re-traumatized by those who receive them. These are the very, very brief times I wish I had a private journal – the times I cannot synthesize my painful thoughts and speak in ways I that feel safe enough.

Yet the interaction is like a sore tooth, prodded, acutely painful, even months later. Before the final sundering took place I’d created a gift for this person. For months after dissolution I carried the gift and willed myself to send it – I believed like Thich Nhat Hanh instructs that when one is angry, one should give a (non-creepy or passive-aggressive) gift to this person, and the anger will dissolve and forgiveness ensue (this has worked for my relationships in the past), but I couldn’t bring myself to do this. I simply could not. I realized after a time I wasn’t Angry; I was (and am) Hurt.

I am hurt because at the close of our arrangement this person was a complete bully, yelling over my attempts to restore balance and discussion, bringing forth wrongs I’d committed that I’d had no concept were being experienced as such. Many of these sins brought against me were both unfair and inaccurate and at the end of this conversation the person admitted this (although did not offer apology nor attempt amends), but the words rang in my ears and are still rattling around all this time later. During our acquaintanceship this person had conducted themselves with a quiet uncomfortable evasion when I’d tried with every fiber of my being to be clear; in fact the exact misunderstanding I hoped to avoid is exactly what exploded forth in the end. This haunts me. I am not scared of bullies as a rule but when the person chooses to abuse me over the very thing I was scared might happen, my strength leaves my body and I have nothing, I am completely cowed and hurt and Done. They have Won in every sense of the word.

I know someone who must resort to bullying is a fearful person; either entirely damaged (as I do not believe in this case) or simply adhering to needs of Control and little depth of compassion. I know this. But it does not make me feel better.

Smaller and more exacting nonfulfillment on my part stares at me apace, even today while my hands busily handle my duties in false confidence.  I spent much of my Friday making foodstuffs for company (and many for storage, as we have quite the farm bounty) and in the end analysis I feel I first of all did not impress anyone unduly with my cuisine, and secondly although in my mind I realize my efforts to cook for family and friends and prepare good, whole food, these are wonderful exploits, I cannot stop the cynical voice in my ear saying I’m a silly person, a self-demeaned woman for standing at the sink and scrubbing and peeling and slicing and then sautéing and mixing and straining and gently stirring and setting aside and doing the little math in my head about feeding Ralph this or that or the children or family or company this exact thing I think they’ll love. And even though I know I feed not only my family but others, and so often (not always) my food is experienced as delicious and healing and restorative and nourishing, there’s this terrible voice telling me what I do is Nothing, it is Drudgery, it is unpaid and unmerited and not cared for. This voice makes little sense to me from a logical perspective but it has been powerful these last eight years I’ve been home doing the Work I do.

And this morning I’ve spent quite some time feeling terrible because I was requisitioned to do a sewing project and I failed. I did my best and worked hard and thought I’d done well but it turns out I’d done a few things wrong. While I tell myself Anyone Can Make Mistakes it would seem my mistakes are so much worse than others, the pain I cause others seems so much larger than I would ordinarily assume, I begin to wish I had not Tried at all, had not said Yes I Can Do This For You, had not tried something that wasn’t a guaranteed success, and I am reminded of how little my skills really are, in every way, and anything I’ve done before I was proud of recedes into a pathetically small pile, it is actually not real but rather Wishful Thinking, and every compliment others have delivered were only false platitudes, and I was a fool to enjoy them.

My previous experience of relatively rugged self-esteem was rather an attempt on my part to think I’m someone I’m Not.

I sat down to write this precisely after cooking breakfast for my daughter and before writing an overdue email to a friend. The breakfast preparations were necessary because no, not ONE MORE thing could I do incorrectly, I could do one thing right, if I was struck dead on the way back to my bedroom I would at least have fed my daughter.

The breakfast and the email are not much. But they are things I want to do, things I can do.

That will, in the end analysis, have to be good enough. Because it’s all there is.

inter-netz asshattery roundup

Here  you all thought I was only going to post sweet little stories about my family life and swimming and how awesome things are around here. But guess what? I have this other life, which is called Reading and Digesting and Writing about our culture, devouring feminist and womanist and rad fem and anti-racist and PWD blogs and… well, lots of stuff. I thought I’d post a little roundup of the variety of asshattery I’ve found in the last couple days so you could share in the fun!

(Warning for sexist language, child-hate, mother-hate, classism, and anti-homeschooling / unschooling sentiments)

***

So first: who can find the sexist language in this (otherwise quite interesting) article at WebEcoist on “bevshots”?

Didn’t find it?  Let me break it down for you with a quote:

“Beverage art is one way the more macho members of society can get in touch with their artistic side, and the unisex appeal of BevShots’ presentation makes it far more likely to be accepted by spouses who may balk at framed Budweiser posters hanging in their living rooms.”

Right. So, in no way should a man feel bad about being “macho” (i.e. objectifying women’s bodies) but he is free to augment his living room with artsy-fartsy. The whole “unisex”/”spouse” gibberish is also subtly coded heteronomrative, i.e. of anyone who might like a beer poster there are two sexes whom are straight and married. And I’ve saved the most glaring ass-tidbit for last: a heterosexual DUDE won’t have an objection to Budweiser girl posters (Duh! Why should he? Booooing!), it’s the spouse that won’t want it (eyeroll delivered to those sensitive wimmin folks, amirite?).

***

I’d stopped reading The-F Word.org although the title subjects – food, fat, and feminism – are passions of mine. No, I stopped reading because there are plenty of awesome FA sites that don’t pick on kids (which always, always translates to picking on mothers). Now the owner/author of this site has no children and wants to keep it that way which is great, because I support those without children (just like I support those with children!) and I specifically feel for people who don’t have children by choice (especially women), given they are constantly second-guessed and despised and sneered at (maybe someday I’ll link to some of those anti-childfree* nastiness examples to illuminate and analyze). But like so comments I read online (both from those with or without children), the anti-child sentiment is so prevalent on this site – and goes entirely unchecked within comments – it was just sapping my energy so I’ve concentrated on other FA locales.  However feeling amiable the other day I visited the site to discover the latest post, “Open Thread: Talking to kids about fat comments”. In it blog author Rachel posts a story about family and a child who made many direct and not-nice-sounding comments about her weight and size. Rachel put together an email to her family (which was a good email) so that was pretty cool.  But then… it started with the sentence, “I don’t have children (thankfully) and I can usually only take kids in small doses before they mentally and physically exhaust me” and went on from there. Most of the comments were pretty cool and offered sensible support: we should openly discuss this topic with our chlidren. But pretty soon the parent- and child-snark started, and it REALLY started when I (had the gall to!) put up my own perspective – that I thought Rachel’s email was fine, that Adult Privilege was showing in the comments, and that parents have an uphill battle in combating larger social norms and the attitudes of children’s peers.

Four comments weighed in calling my points “ridiculous”, the list a Parody, that I didn’t support or understand “manners” for children (strawman! especially considering I’d commended Rachel’s email), and that acknowledging Adult Privilege would result in children getting killed. I am too exhausted to take apart “Jackie’s” comment (I’ll bet you one MILLION dollars this person has no child, since she gave the longest prescriptive laundry-list of “THOU SHALT” to apply to ALL parents). Of course the only thing these people (one person posted twice) paid attention to was the posted Adult Privilege Checklist – none of my other points nor my support of Rachel’s email.  A little bonus bit of awesomeness, one commentor sneered at the APC author who clearly didn’t know how to raise a child, even though, sshhh! this author – and myself! are raising children!

One commentor posted: “Kelly, thanks so much for posting that link, and for giving me a term for the set of attitudes that has made me deeply uncomfortable on otherwise wonderful websites.” (Yay!)

(As a sidenote, it’s funny how unapologetic child-hate – which is often mother-hate – always, always involves the kid-screaming-in-restaurants HORROR. It’s almost comical how routinely this comes up – the trump card and TOTAL PROOF of how much kids and parents suck! And how parents and kids can’t have a bad or emotive day in public, or how we should parent in some Magical Way or according to Their Standards, or how kids should always be seen and not heard! And many literally think kids should not be in evidence at all! Because having them in school most their waking hours and then at home in bed for a third of their lives is NOT ENOUGH! No really many people still believe this!)

I’d love to talk about the Adult Privilege Checklist and soon because I think it is brilliant (Thanks, Anji!) and challenging to many if not most USians. Most who read it – the very fact of its newness in a time when privilege checklists are So hot right now! is telling – are definitely going to be challenged and splutter, “But, but, but!” and bring up points of Safety and how kids can’t raise themselves and then paint really gloriously well-rendered pictures of kids going all Lord of the Flies and Running (Ruining) Everything while their Lotus-Eating parents sit back and smile benevolently.

Of course I am in fact raising kids with the APC firmly in mind and it’s going well, and my kids are just fine and normal and pretty damned awesome (according not only to myself but to many we run across). Such tish-tosh beneath-notice detail escapes those who’d want to shriek about the implications of considering kids as People.

Because that’s the thing. Refusing to even consider how kids experience their own lives (which you note says NOTHING about how a particular parent/carer should handle a particular challenge nor the vast landscapes of other-care) perfectly illustrates just how subhuman people consider the class of “kids” (keep in mind, “KIDS” are from ages 0 months to emancipated 18 years, I guess they magically turn human after that).

Or as Twisty Faster at my beloved I Blame The Patriarchy (oh rad fem… is there anything you can’t do?) says:

“Kids” are a class of people around the discrimination, domination, indoctrination, and abuse of whom entire cultures, industries, pathologies, and oppressive social systems flourish. Youth is temporary for the individual, yes, but a youth class persists; there is a constant supply of replacement children to keep this class well-stocked with hapless victims. Furthermore, the damage inflicted by expertly administered adult oppression techniques hardly vanishes the moment a kid turns 18.

***

Finally, and I’ll keep this short: Homeschooling and Unschooling are being dissed in a recent Free Range Kids post, including Amy who says: “I fully support your right to ‘unschool’ your kids. After all, someone’s going to have to change my kids’ oil and make their burgers someday.” (Amy wins the Ass-Hat First Prize for brevity whilst displaying ignorance, classism, and good ol’ fashioned nastiness!). Donna conflates homeschooling with being uncool because it isn’t living in the inner city or something? and weighs in on the majority of intelligent, educated parents being terrible teachers for their children (aw how sweet! I must have missed that day she came in and audited us personally!).  Sky compares my personal expressed joy in unschooling to something about collard greens (I can’t tell if she’s supporting or insulting me, there).

***

Believe it or not it can be personally exhausting at times to take on the subjects of social justice in America (and seriously? Tonight we got to hear a loud, racist rant from a patron while out at dinner, and my husband almost physically engaged this man, which was more bonus). Being able to take a critical eye to random asshattery and bigotry and such is a skill – and it’s a skill earned by a commitment to the self-work and takes no small amount of my time. One thing I learn: the work – social and Self – is never done (as an example, a recent post at Native Appropriations entitled “The Potawatomis didn’t have a word for global business center”? exposed my ignorance regarding Native languages). I do it because I think it is right but also, even when it tires me out, I do like to do it.

To those who read here in good faith, thank you so much for joining me.

Fortunately I know my readers here are awesome, awesome people and going to Blow My Mind in the comments.**

* Both “childfree” and “childless” are terms others dislike or find offense with; I effort to say “people without children” but sometimes I use shorthand.

** I usually just put up my personal journal here; for more of my social issues stuff you can read Underbellie (once-weekly posts, just about) or follow me on Twitter at either kellyhogaboom or underbellie – the latter more skewed to activism and posts from activist sources.

balls. part deux. (also: trolls)

I got my first anonymous hater today:

Wow. So artfully self-aggrandizing and self-effacing, yet so ANGRY, defensive. Root emotion: anger = FEAR. What are you so afraid of? Your smart readers must do so only to shake their heads. So sad. I’ll be looking for your caustic, derisive response.

The person who wrote this formspring query had emailed me previously – a much more level-headed criticism – but apparently didn’t like my response. Instead of moving herself on to read other blogs, she felt she’d take me down a peg.

Not to be a downer on formspring, but I thought I would post this to let people know that anonymity can often foster hateful language. Those of us who write online – and attach our own names to our writing – get this sort of thing now and then.

Anecdotally: I’ve always thought the root emotion of anger is hurt, not fear. But I’m open to other opinions!

OK, of course, I know what several of you smarties are thinking: “That doesn’t deserve a response!” And goddamn it, you’re probably right!  And yet, this formspring flame is a timely one for me and is touching on something that’s been on my mind:

In the handful of months since I’ve opened comments on my blog, I have been receiving good comments fostering lively discussion – and, behind the scenes: private picking-at-me emails and, now, my first anonymous hate-mail (um, yay?).

This is truly incredible and I’d like to give you a minute to think about this.

People have been reaching out to talk to me since I’ve been blogging – six years.  Before I opened comments I received DMs, IMs, emails, Facebook responses, snail mail letters, people stopping me in the street and phone calls from across the country.  These communications have often been supportive, grateful, and complimentary;  many asked for my advice or my perspective.  Occasionally these communications directly challenged my assertions or writings (this is a sensitive-New-Age way of saying: people would argue with me).  And always, always these experiences have been worthwhile to engage in.  Every single one.

Things have changed.

Yes, I know who wrote the formspring snark*; if I chose, could email this person and say, “Hey dude, not cool”, or ignore this person or write them and their opinions off, or whatever (I do think a focused post about my ANGRY would be good – although of course, I pretty much happily trot the subject out often enough).  But let me stay on point for now:

I have a lot of readers at this point, a number that has grown over the years. I have many lurkers – that is, people who read and never comment, never email, never let me know they’re there (or who perhaps eventually reveal they’ve been there, for years). I figure it makes sense that eventually I’d get a couple readers who read me and discover they don’t like me, yet – and this is the icky part – keep reading.  I know this could be true, in part because I myself have hate-lurked on a blog, chewing myself up inside about someone whose life, for whatever reason, got on my tits because it was too preachy or too consumerist or too slutty or whatever.  I’m not proud that I did this or that I had these feelings.  I’ve moved on from reading specific publications because I realized it was toxic for me to stay; I was unable to engage the author in a productive, dialogue-inducing way and keep my mind open to who they are; I was both intolerant of and tormented by our differences.  Until I self-corrected I would hate, obsess, chew over why the person or author was wrong or gross or whatever.  I’ve never made a secret out of my own Hater tendencies, because they are a part of me.

What sucks for me is that I don’t publicize my blog as a prescriptive worldview nor a direct communication to specific parties. This is my journal.

So, for instance, my recent personal litany on what people so often say to me about having kids out of school was not a dogmatic denouncement of public or private schools for all parties; the social construction of education is one I am not well-versed in – yet – and I have not been asked to weigh in on by anyone, ever. (If you do wonder what I believe about the vast majority of standard education, and how my life fits into the world at large, I’d direct you to this jaw-droppingly amazing article by Eva Swindler; she’s an actual authority writing professional copy by the way).  I am a human being and you are seeing me in all my humanness; I keep very little private from this journal.

Yeah, I’m aware my thought processes challenge people.  Maybe, reader, you don’t feel particularly challenged, but I want to tell you I get told this all the time; in fact, I’ve often been told this is one of the best things about knowing me (other reasons: my compassion, my cooking, my breasts).  Seriously, in the last week this is what I’ve heard about my writing from about a half dozen parties: “amazing writer”, “on another level”, “hard to follow”, “witty and fast”, “jumps around a lot”, “perfection” (ego-zing! on that last one). Even being handed the shit-sandwich from formspring I know, in theory anyway, that someone who makes character attacks and says I’m “so sad” is, in fact, likely very threatened by what I say, which means hey, maybe I’m saying something worth saying.

Yet, of course, if anyone out there sets me up as Enlightened (or, alternatively, SO SAD AND ANGRY), they are using my very human expression against me to insist I’m not fully human.  This feels like infringement – in both cases.

Because I am not at some “level” of awesome (holy shit, do you even READ here?) or, alternatively, someone who is JUST a sad, frightened, judgy person (duh).  I am just as insecure and brittle and flawed and shitty as the next person.  Writing has been the sole tool I’ve used to know myself.

Oh my god, that reminds me: writing.  When some people say “such-and-such has saved my life”?  This is writing, for me.  And not writing some nicey-pants stuff nor trying-to-say-the-least-(or most!)-offensive-thing. Or like, “I saw my kids playing by the pond today and I realized, this is Life, like seeing a newborn kitten in a sunset” stuff.  I have been trying to say the Me, trying to express myself and I am getting pretty good at it.  Expressing myself.  My best ever writing is when I feel I have really told you who I am, what I think, how I behaved. And I know it’s not always pretty (although sometimes, it’s sublime).  In fact, I love keeping my journal so much I will never stop as long as I’m able.

So getting another I think you should be careful with your language because you are saying things I don’t like email, then a few “I don’t always agree with everything you say” prefaces (from people who asked me to open comments, but have never used the comment function), then “you’re sad, caustic, derisive” – well, it just starts feeling a bit frustrating.  And assy.  Because, you know, fuck off.  This is my diary.  It really is.  I am terribly sorry if at any point I gave the impression this is Life Lessons from Kelly Who-Gives-An-Arse Hogaboom (incidentally: this site is not my diary and would likely be the closest I’d come to claiming “professional” copy, although P.S., I don’t get paid for shit, ever).  Because, you know, it isn’t.

So, yeah, comments.  I know if I close comments things will shift back to where they are more comfortable for me; indeed, my closest loved ones have suggested this.  But the majority of the comments here on my blog have been edifying and delightful.  And I’m not sure I should do things to make myself more comfortable (although yes, I hear you – this really is my space to do whatever I want).

Oh and! Because seriously, everyone tells me I’m smart and intimidating and “rock-solid” and it seems nothing hurts me?  (No seriously, I have been told this three times by three different women this week).  Just to be clear: anonymous hate and snark directed at me, personally?

Yes, it hurts.  Like, upon reading the words on the screen my chest constricted and I felt flushed and Terrible as a Person and like I wanted to Make It Go Away, for several minutes.  I felt Wrong in everything I said and Hated and so pathetic and somehow it’s right I should be hated on, because I have a public blog and write about my life (of course, as a lady I really do “deserve it”), and I have opinions and show my ass and stuff.

Funny thing.  Writing this all out helped.  Huh.

* I’m not sure why people don’t know that first of all they use some of the same phraseology, grammatical errors, figures of speech, and the same tone; secondly, I can “see” people when they are online so thus when a query or comment pops up it isn’t as if I hadn’t seen their recent tweet, or IM status, or whatever; thirdly, that as popular as I am to read it is rare the EXACT ONE SUBJECT gets up the ass of two separate people in the same exact way, so if someone already emailed me then followed up with an anonymous formspring post, well. Yeah.  I know it’s you.

i’m an expert on stuff

I’m not an expert on anything. But I have a very busy brain (note I did not say “smart”, “productive”, or omit “frenetic”) and love writing! I love it so much! Today I am going public with my little co-op site Underbellie, which my girl Jasie and I are trying out. What you can expect: a focus on pointed rants rather than personal anecdotes and a Twitter feed that updates infrequently. And most importantly, more Kelly Hogaboom.

I am proud of today’s bit: a rejoinder to the recent Details magazine article, “Are You Raising a Douchebag?” (their answer: here’s some fun hate for hipster parents!). Daniel Bigler wrote a more culturally-informed (not to mention brief) response over at his blog. He’s a good egg, that Daniel.

I also have started a Formspring account. I asked my husband why it seemed it wasn’t catching on for more people. He said, “it seems kind of vain to me.” It’s true! Who gives a shit about anything I have to say, ever? And yet, if thee wish to ask me a question anon, have at it, I say.

i’m guessing their world is kind of like being on a hallucinogen

Ralph’s made a pile of 11″ by 17″ paper for the kids to draw on. It’s allowed them to expand their art to the edges of the paper. Nels draws elaborate botanical gardens and tall, thin houses with many vertical-lined fixtures; Sophie illustrates mermaid families, dragons, and some kind of a spiky weapon hurling above us all like a vicious sun.

Yesterday one of her many mermaid family drawings had been amended. Above the four of us it now read: “Chart of mean People” and then below that, “X’s are mean”). Ralph and I had two big X’s drawn through our faces. I’m not sure what we’d done to offend, but I do like our daughter was ready with an infographic regarding the character of our family.

We were a topless mermaid family, of course. My breasts looked like two adjoined capital “Y”s. Ralph sported an arrow over his right shoulder pointing to “nipls” (just in case you weren’t sure what those two milk-dud sized dots on his chest were); he was also annotated “(with a sweet stash)”, the “w” in the word “stash” (which meant mustache, of course) sporting it’s own mustache like a tilde.

Last night my mom took Sophie to pick up her van at the shop. While they waited they shopped at the Dollar Tree and my mother bought Sophie a tube of plastic lizards. My kids love plastic animals, Sophie most of all – especially dragons and reptiles. By that evening in the bath the kids had named the lizards:

Roadkill
Flattop
Paul
Paula
Blackie
Finny
Schuck
Flower

In the bath with my daughter I spent several minutes committing each lizard’s color and name to memory; this morning while putting away clothes I noticed she’d put each of the eight to bed in these wee baskets, each with their own pillow (cut from fabric scraps).

Very, very sweet. Until one of the lizards offends my daughter and she writes up a blistering exposé.