Unseemly Complaining

1.  I’m tired.

2.  I’m monumentally grouchy.

3.  My dad sent me photos they took on their vacation.  Some are of me.  And I’m pissed.

This is so stupid, but when I was little, I used to hate how my grandma seemed both so big and sturdy and yet also had this way of moving around with her whole body, but especially how she holds her hands and arms, that makes her seem so delicate.

How can something be both big and sturdy and seem also so delicate?  It’s just not right.  I assumed the delicacy was an affectation on her part, a way to make herself seem fragile, even though her size would never ordinarily make you think that about her.

And I really loathed that about her, that she would fake being weak and girly so as to make up for being fat.

But you know what, folks?  I hold myself the same god damn way.  It’s not conscious or intentional.  Shoot, I want to look like the kind of girl you should not try to pull any crap on, but I look like a girl who will giggle when you squeeze her (and I will!) and whose hands flit about her like excited pink birds. 

I’m convinced that life will eventually make you eat what you hate and so here I am learning the hard way that I’ve been wrongly hating something about my Grandma that a.) she couldn’t help and b.) that I do, too.

I feel kind of shitty.

And tired.

And grouchy. 

“A kind of neurotic oversharing”

Wow, KF’s got a really thought-provoking post about how one presents oneself on a blog and how such presentation might affect one’s professional presentation.  Those of you who think about blogs in a scholarly way for fun should go check it out.

Here’s been the little burr in my brain all day about it.  I was thinking about how, when I worked at the writing center, it used to bug the shit out of me that we were supposed to teach these kids the "right" way to write.  

 I hate that attitude–that the method of communication you use with your family and peers is inferior to proper English, which is, of course, not how anyone actually talks or writes or thinks or whatever.

I wanted to say to kids, "Listen, we’re a hugely diverse group of people in this country, let alone the whole English speaking world and these rules are made up so that the most people can understand each other with the least amount of confusion.  That doesn’t mean that how you talk or write or whatever is wrong; it just doesn’t have those goals.  And part of being educated is to learn this fake way of talking and writing that will allow the most people to understand you with the least amount of confusion."

I think that we forget that, though, how much of our lives are devoted to presenting ourselves (in language, appearance, job performance) in ways that most people can understand with the least amount of confusion.

Ha, no, I take that back.  I think a lot of our self presentation is devoted to reassuring the people in power that we understand how people with power present themselves and thus it is safe to give power to us.

But you know, that wears on a person, the dissonance between faking proper behavior and being who you are.

I’m all for resolving that dissonance through refusing to fake proper behavior.

I don’t blog about work.  I’m not unprofessional in that regard.

But I write unprofessionally here.

Some of you know me through work first and I’ll admit that, sometimes, I cringe when I think of you reading what I write here and worry about what opinions you must be forming of me.

But then, I’m not anyone here that I’m not at work.  I’m funny and charming and wildly insecure that I secretly suck and no one is telling me.

I think that, sometimes, the "professional behavior" we’re supposed to exhibit is not just to prove that we can handle a little power and responsibility, but also to reassure everyone else that we’re just like them (which is the same thing as the first part of that sentence, but from a different direction).

There’s this word–hegemony–which I normally hate because I think people throw it out there to mean a lot of different, though related, things and so it’s not very precise.  But when you use it to mean the way that the dominant group dictates how things go to the extent that how things go doesn’t seem contrived any more, but natural, god damn, it can be useful.

I think the hegemonic order* demands that everyone pretend to live similar lives.  Part of how that’s done is to disallow real talk of how people live, to draw a firm line between what is appropriate and what is not.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do think some topics, even here at Tiny Cat Pants, are inappropriate.  But they’re inappropriate because they might come back to bite me, not because "that’s no one’s business."

I think, when people respond with concern to the fact that academics are blogging, that there’s a hint in there of "Do you think it’s wise to remind people that you’re not just like them?"

That’s a legitimate question, but it’s also the biggest bullshit question.

If universities really want to promote ‘diversity,’ they should not be so afraid of the diversity of experience that blogging makes apparent. 


*Sorry folks, in for a dime, in for a dollar.  Jargon, jargon, jargon. 

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

In my head, I have these two ideas, which seem to be unrelated in real life, but feel to me connected at some basic level.

The First

There’s a great deal of glee in certain circles over the high price of gas.  Andrew Sullivan, for example, advocates a huge tax on gas so that it’s upwards of $5 per gallon so that people will be forced to find alternate, more environmentally, safe ways of getting around and so that car companies will feel the market pressure to make more fuel efficient cars for those of us who are still determined to have cars, even though, is this high-priced-gas world, miraculously, we would all live near plentiful and efficient public transportation.

This has always pissed me off because rural people often don’t live near their jobs or their jobs involve driving things for a living and so it seems like a way to punish non-urban people without too much cost to the urban folks.

There are other flaws, but that’s been my complaint.

I was thinking about the folks in New Orleans, though, who didn’t have cars to evacuate.  And I was thinking how funny(sad) it is that here they were living some environmentalists’ dream of urban public-transportation depending folks and how, when they really needed plentiful and efficient public transportation, it never came.

In other words, I think the "give up your car" movement overlooks the hard lesson we’ve learned that we cannot depend on our local, state, or federal government to give us help when we need it and we must, if we’re going to be as safe as possible, depend on ourselves and each other.

The Second

At lunch on Saturday, Coble and I were talking about a mutual acquaintance we have whose life has passed the point of "a series of unfortunate mishaps" into "I’m fucking myself up for reasons known only to me" and how this would be sad except that he’s managed to parlay his ability to make only the wrong decisions in any given circumstance into occasional free housing, lots of free meals, and lots of other good, cool stuff that any of the rest of us might like, but not only don’t we go around asking for them, we’d be embarrassed to ask others to provide them, and mortified to accept them, if someone figured out we might like, say, a car.

And I was thinking about how the libertarian ideal is that there won’t be any government hand-outs; people will just give charitably.  Previously, my objection to this has been that people’s money tends to go where their attention is.  You give to SIDS-related stuff one year because a co-worker’s sister lost a kid that way.  The next year you give that money to hurricane victims.  After that, it goes to the Humane Society.  This leaves non-profits scrambling for money, year after year.

But I’m seeing that the related idea–that your money goes where your attention is–is very exploitable by the squeaky wheel.  The person with the audacity to ask for things tends to get them, where the people who have been trained to suffer quietly or to make the best of circumstances, no matter how bleak, never pop up on the radar of people who are willing to help.

I don’t know.  Maybe these two ideas are related by the fact that it’s the people who are doing the right thing, who are doing the things we want to encourage, are the ones that get hurt. 

Most of us want to ease the suffering of our fellow community members (however we understand community), but figuring out how to do that without causing the suffering of others seems nearly impossible.

Mrs. Wigglebottom Calls for a Ban of German Shepherds, Before Something Bad Happens

You may recall the house on our walk where the mean-ass black dog lived, and how the owners just left the mean-ass black dog, its running buddy–the white dog; and the old dog who always barks so that the other dogs know you’re walking by.  And you may recall how terrified I was of that black dog, because it would often run right up to us barking and once tried to bite Mrs. Wigglebottom

And you may also recall how, over the past year, the black dog and the white dog have both disappeared (though the old dog has remained) and how the people in the house got an adorable German Shepherd puppy that the owner would walk around the neighborhood, while the old dog walked proudly behind them.

So, I will give you three guesses as to what puppy was standing unleashed in that front yard this morning when Mrs. Wigglebottom and I walked by.

Citizens of Earth, I ask you: How can this end well?

These aren’t people renowned for their ability to train up dogs to not be aggressive.  And this is a dog that’s going to be too large to kick in the head when it decides it doesn’t like everyone walking by the yard.

I’m not a big fan of tying up dogs and leaving them out in the yard.  I think it leaves them at a real disadvantage if they should have to defend themselves.

However, if you’re not going to fence up your yard and you’re still going to let your dogs outside unsupervised, put them on a fucking chain.

You know, I gather they got a big scary dog because they think our neighborhood’s not that great.  Funny how it is that our neighborhood’s not that great because someone lets their scary dogs run around unsupervised and unleashed.