Saturday, February 19, 2011

Confession: I Dye my Hair... at a SALON

Every few months, my inner (and most of the time outer) alternative, go local business, feminist, thrifty self finds my body walking into the last place on earth it would expect: A “beauty” salon. And not a hippie-ish, subcultural, green beauty salon, but a trendy, has a jewelry boutique, caters to upper class women of the San Fernando Valley beauty salon.
The first time I went, I felt very uncomfortable. Not only had I never done anything to my hair (but get it cut at Supercuts) but, as I walked into the door, I automatically felt underdressed and misplaced. I couldn’t afford the products on the wall, most of the stylists had on Gucci and wore knee high leather boots, and even the lighting fixtures looked like they should be a part of a museum. But, I had a gift certificate in my hand – and a large need for change – so, I entered through those strange doors and went with it.
To be fair, my stylist is awesome. Obviously. I have visited her every couple months for the past five years. From my first visit, she has made me feel comfortable – we share book recommendations, she’s heard stories of my various boyfriends and girlfriends, and puts up with me showing her pictures of Droidlet every time I come in. She is very good people and very talented at what she does.
But when I’m there, there are two things that I can’t help but notice:
  1. How much I do not fit into the salon culture and
  2. How flippin’ judgmental I can be of other women.
And it is the number two that bothers me the most. As I sit there, I make “tsks” and sighs in my head at all the women reading trashy celebrity magazines, sipping wine at eleven in the morning, and spending hours there in the promotion of vanity. And I think these things as I’m sitting with foils in my hair, in front of a mirror (not reading a trashy magazine, though; I always bring a book). Going to the salon always highlights the reverse classism I have – I look upon with disdain these other moms and women with money, with Prada dresses and coach purses, who (I briefly assume) are so unhappy in their personal life that they resort to spending time plucking, primping, and prepping their physical attributes.
Yet, I am sitting right there, too. Yes, I try to convince myself that dying my hair is part rebellion (I will not settle for my natural blonde!) and that I am, technically, supporting a local business (my stylist rents her chair space from the salon; she’s not a member of the business but an individual contractor) but the bare bones truth is that I pay (way too much) money for pampering and a new hair color every few months.
And it honestly makes me feel good. I love the consistent change I get from my hair having a different color. I love that I get offered coffee, tea, wine while I am there. I love the two to three hours of uninterrupted reading time under the flattering lights. Granted, there is a part of me that just says “Dye your hair with henna!” or “That money could have bought Droidlet’s next few months of food!” or “Rachael, you are giving in to the stereotype that women have to change their physical attributes to be attractive” or “Why are you focusing so much on your physical appearance, which sooo does not matter?!” yet I always return.
If anything, it reminds me not to be so judgmental of other people. I am constantly preaching tolerance, acceptance, and compassion yet, I turn around and judge others (generally, upper class, white, heterosexual men and women). The fact that I do this bothers me and every day I work on rectifying it. I would never want Droidlet saying he didn’t like someone or want to be friends with someone because that someone had more money than him; I would get angry with Funk if he told me he was bothered by someone just because that someone owned a nicer trumpet; I get angry with myself when I jump to conclusions about the women in the salon.
And sometimes, stereotypes are lived up to. I hear lots of complaining about husbands/babies’ daddies, lots of talk about weight loss, and lots of talk about cosmetic surgery and tanning booths.
And sometimes, stereotypes are broken when I also hear lots of talks about charity events, animal rescues, and world politics.
I need to remember to check my judgment at the door (and out of my life completely) and view my time in the salon as a social experiment – including the (sometimes) hypocritical me.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cold-Blooded: Or Why My Snake is Cooler than Your Dog

Okay, I do love dogs. However, dogs don’t really jive with our little drove of droids (or the apartment we live in) and both Funk and I have always had a love for all things Herpetology.
                When I was growing up, my dad always had iguanas (and our awesome cat, Lix, who is still kickin’ it strong at nineteen years old!) so, some of my childhood memories are of those awesome green creatures crawling up his wall-papered apartment walls and attending Cold-Blooded conventions where I got to pet Burmese Pythons and hold DuMeril’s Boas. I was probably one of the only girls not scared of our first grade class Rosy Boa and who had two fire-bellied toads at home named Yzerman and Federov (yes, those were Redwings players at the time).
                So, when Funk and I first started dating and I found out he had six (6!!!) snakes, I was elated; and earned awesome points for wanting to hold them. We’ve downsized to three (Jadzia, a Green Tree Python, Charlie, a Ball Python, and Cleo, a Grey-Banded King Snake) but have added three Bearded Dragons (Toothless, R.D., and Gronkle… all named after How to Train Your Dragon dragons). We are, officially, a reptile family. And yes, I think it’s rad.
                And no, none of the snakes are going to eat Droidlet.
                Here is why having reptiles rock:
                After initial set up, reptiles are semi low maintenance. Yes, there needs to be heat lamps and the right environment in their cages or tanks, but once all that’s set up, they get fed every two weeks and need watering every once in awhile. Other than that, the snakes just need to get handled occasionally (or all the time!) and sometimes need a little help shedding.
                Just like any other pet, they’ll teach Droidlet responsibility. He’s definitely going to be helping out with the Bearded Dragons. We bought them when we were pregnant and have called them Droidlet’s dragons since before he was born. As soon as he’s able, he’ll be helping clean their cages and feeding them their meal worms. Plus, how rad will that be for his friends who come over and maybe have never seen a reptile before?
                Reptiles can cuddle, too! Have you ever had a snake wrap around your arms or curl up in your lap and just rest in the warmth of your body? No, it’s not a death grip, the snake is smart, it knows it can’t eat you. Bearded dragons love chilling on your shoulder or chest. You’re sharing your body heat with a cold-blooded creature and getting to feel their way awesome skin.
                There are different options for feeding. I know a lot of people freak out about feeding the snakes live mice (and if you are on the whole animal cruelty or living the vegan lifestyle, obviously snakes aren’t for you). I totally understand. But there are options. Don’t mind the mice but aren’t cool with them being live? You can get frozen pinkies for your snakes! Also, there are some water-dwelling snakes that eat fish (if that’s easier for you). And don’t forget about the other reptiles out there – most turtles and tortoises are vegetarians, Bearded Dragons eat meal worms and crickets, and iguanas eat everything from lettuce to corn.
                Exotic things are pretty awesome. Our Green Tree Python looks like a mix between a dragon and the snake from The Jungle Book. She is gorgeous. It’s like having a piece of moving, living art in our living room.
                Plus, the more people that own snakes and other herps, the more education gets spread about how they aren’t “bad” animals. Snakes do bite. They strike when they’re hungry and they think food is in front of them. Sometimes the heat signal from a hand reaching in their cage, especially when they’re hungry, can be mistaken for a warm mouse squirming around. But dogs bite, too; cats scratch; birds nip. All animals come with some sort of “what if” situations. I think because of cultural mythology and a lot of hype, reptiles (especially snakes) get a bad name. However, like with any animal, it’s all about safe handling and good pet ownership practice.
                Long story short, I love my Funk and Droidlet, and our herp kids.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The "V" Word (no, not that one, the other one)

I know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of: here comes Rachael’s tirade about how commercialized Valentine’s Day is, how it doesn’t mean anything at all about love, how it was another holiday created by the capital-T They to help keep us oppressed, etc. etc. etc.
                And I almost did.
                But then I thought back to Super Bowl Sunday (this connects, I swear) and how Loren and I were joking the whole game about how professional sports has to be fixed, from professional baseball to the World Cup, poking fun at how the Black Eyed Peas seemed to have escaped Tron, and me feeling bad for how quickly Christina Aguilera gets blasted all over the internet within minutes of her performance ( I could write a whole blog post about how ridiculous I think all of that was, for one flubbed line. Sigh), and then our conversation turns back to our conspiracy theory about fixed sports when I look over at Droidlet. Our smiling, drooling little guy, watching us talk even though he has no idea what we are saying and I think:
                Our son is going to be so jaded.
                Which, of course, is an exaggeration. The thought was there, then it passed, and it didn’t come up again until I sat down to write my ohemgeevalentine’sdaysucks blog. Because I realized something. I’m actually going to be stoked when he comes home from school one day and wants to do Valentine’s Day crafts, or make homemade Star Wars valentines for his friends. And of course my heart is probably going to burst when he brings home his first valentine for Funk and I – the cheesy cut out lace doilies and lopsided hearts, or even macaroni noodles, or who knows, by the time Droidlet is in school maybe he will be designing it on Photoshop.
                So, I stopped myself. True, I think Valentine’s Day is completely over commercialized. True, I think that we should be showing the people that we love in our lives that we love them everyday – not just try and do something super duper special on one day out of the year. Yes, I believe that the “holiday” seems sort of arbitrary. And no, I don’t think down on anyone who does celebrate it. There was a time when I celebrated with roses and boxes of chocolates; there was a time where I always went to the pub with a bunch of friends, celebrating our “singleness.” In all honesty, even today I am bringing my class Blow Pops and chocolates.
                But Funk and I are going to have a normal night. We are going to cook dinner, hang out with our Droidlet, probably cuddle on the couch and continue to show each other how much we love each other. Just like we do every other day of the year. No presents, no giant heart-shaped cards. Just our little family. And maybe a little note that says “all my base are belong to you.”
                And man, I cannot wait for all of these jewelry commercials and internet ads about heart shaped diamond necklaces and “showing her you care” by buying blingy heart earrings to be gone…
                I mean, happy V word day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Small Delights: Light Sabers

I know I wrote a whole post on privacy and how I wouldn't post pictures of Droidlet on here. But I couldn't help it this time. Plus, my justification is that the person who made the light saber for him put the picture up on a knitting website to show off the pattern, so it's already gone viral. This means my small delight for today is my son as Darth Vader at five months old. Yup, he's a badass.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mom Jeans & The Sexuality of Motherhood

The other day, I was talking with a family member about the loss of sexuality for mothers – the societal stereotype that once a woman becomes a mother, she forfeits any aspect of her identity as a sexual being. This ties in with gender norms that tell women that when they become a mother, their life is only about their children and absolutely nothing else. I’ve written other posts on bisexuality and motherhood or just general musings on how to, as puts it, “integrate your pre-kid identity with your post-kid reality.”
                But it’s interesting to see the reactions, mostly from other women, when a mother is out with her children and looks put-together, or dare I say sexy. There seems to be the assumption that because a mother has makeup on or her hair done, she has neglected her child(ren) in some sort of way to make this happen. Or women who maintain a physically fit body get torn down about spending more time in the gym than with their children – but we don’t know their circumstances. Maybe three times a week is “grandma” time so mama squeezes in a jog, or maybe her and her baby do yoga together, or maybe she’s like me and squeezes in a little pilates floor workout while the baby is having tummy time (Droidlet actually laughs at me when I’m doing some of the moves. It’s awesome.). Maybe, the underlying issue is insecurity coming from other women because of our culture’s insiste nce on physical perfection, but it’s very hard to watch women, mothers, tear each other down for taking care of themselves.
                  In having this conversation with a family member, they reminded me of this old SNL skit:

Don’t get me wrong, I roll out to the grocery store in yoga pants and tank tops on the days where it’s just too much, but it’s also nice to shower during Droidlet’s morning nap and actually put on some eyeliner for a day. It makes me feel good, puts me in a better mood, and therefore, I’m an all around happier mama. For some women, they are most comfortable in their workout clothes or jeans and a sweatshirt and that is fine. This isn’t about fashion, but the underlying assumption that a woman can’t look good, or be sexy, when she is a mama because it means that she’s not fully taking care of her kids.
                               What ties into the physical perception is also the misperception that once a woman has a child they don’t want to have sex anymoreneveragainno. Quite frankly, the issue of sex in our culture is taboo to begin with and I think becomes moreso for a woman who has had a child. What’s funny is that what most people don’t talk about is sexual desire during pregnancy. Myself and many of my friends who have been pregnant had a huge horniness spike while pregnant. Most of us had sex up until the day we went into the hospital to give birth and for a majority of us (once the labor pains went away) have kept up that sexual libido. It’s so interesting to me that the thing that put the baby there in the first place becomes something that we are afraid to talk about. SEX IS AWESOME – before AND after having a baby.
                Being a mother does not mean the loss of the sexual self (in any form that it comes in for each individual) and it doesn’t mean giving up everything else in life – including personal grooming, if that’s your thing – to be a mama. The same battle of balance in sexuality is also fought for those mothers who, post-kid, choose to go back to work, or to continue their education, or retain their hobbies, or still go to Burning Man, or still go to music festivals… the list goes on and on. It’s really all about balance.

And speaking of balance, I have that thesis thing to write and should probably shower before class. Balance, balance, balance...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why Dads Don't Babysit

It’s always interesting when I am out without the Droidlet and people ask me “Oh, is Daddy babysitting today?” It almost makes me laugh every time because Funk is at home with the Droidlet, but Funk is most definitely not babysitting. I asked Funk one night if people ever ask him if I’m babysitting when he is out without us and his face scrunched up as if saying, “What kind of question is that?”
                When I honestly think about it, the question seems so ridiculous. Funk isn’t babysitting Droidlet. He’s not on some “temporary assignment.” They are spending time together, hanging out, just being. I’ll often reply (sexistly-) that they are having “boy time” or “father-son” time. But it’s strange that I even have to put it that way. I don’t think of it as “mother-son” time when I am alone with Droidlet. I’m a mama. I spend time with my babe. Funk is a papa. He spends time with his babe.
                Of course, this all has to do with gendered expectations. And although I think the idea of a stay at home dad is becoming more normalized, there still tends to be a double standard. A friend of mine made a really good point about the perception of a parent and child conduct. When a father and his children are out at a store and the kids throw a tantrum/start a rucus/are acting like monkeys, the sentiment is still “oh, you’re being such a supportive father! How great of you to be out with your kids!” However, if this happens when a mother is out, the mother receives dirty looks – the why-aren’t –you-controlling-your-children-looks looks.
                This is especially interesting for me because Funk and I try, as much as we can with him working full time and me working part time/being a student, to have equal parenting with the Droidlet. While Funk is at work, I have full reign of the Droidlet and home, but when he gets home, I work on my thesis or lesson plan, and Funk is more often than not the one who rocks Droidlet to bed and handles the nighttime feedings. On weekends, you’ll find both Funk and I doing various household chores and playing with the baby. Both Funk and I are equally involved in the physical, emotional, and life choices that we make for Droidlet. Since conception, Funk has been at EVERY single doctor’s appointment for Droidlet as well as every class dealing with childbirth/rearing (even the breastfeeding one! GO TEAM!).
                And all of this was just natural. We didn’t pre-plan it, it’s just the way our family works. I’m reminded daily that not many fathers do all of the things that Funk does for our Droidlet (and I believe there are more out there than let on). I’m saddened when I hear mother’s refer to their husbands/partners/boyfriends as “sperm donors” or “just the father” and wonder,  not only if men feel they can’t take on these roles, but if women don’t give them the chance to try.
                In our house, we joke that Funk has more of a “mothering instinct” than I do. The best part is, we’re setting an awesome example for Droidlet. We’re showing him that compassion, affection, and nurturing aren’t “feminine” or “women’s roles”  - something I think is important with all the “machisimo” and masculinity that is in the rhetoric of raising boys.  Instead, we’re showing him that he can love and kiss and hug and wrestle and dance and sing and play with both his parents and that both his parents play an active role in his life and the life of the family.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"As Long as He's Healthy": The PreConception of Able-Bodiness

After the whole "sex debacle" we had with Droidlet - "It's a girl!" and then nine days before her/his due date "It's a boy!" - the line we constantly heard from everyone in regards to our sex-switching baby was:

"Well, as long as the baby's healthy..."

Even before the in-utero sex change, many well wishers, after telling them we did find out the sex, would say something to the extent of "Well, as long as she has all her fingers and her toes!" For some reason, these statements always irked me and I could never pinpoint why.

Until now.

A friend of mine studies "Crip Theory" and we were talking the other day about how our society, on many different levels, favors able-bodiness. We brought up examples from our personal experiences of how people tend to ignore individuals with disabilities, be uncomfortable with their community integration, or desexualized and/or treat them as children. For example, I used to work with this awesome guy who has Down Syndrome. One day, when we were hanging out and getting an Iced Tea from The Habit, a woman walked up to me and told me how nice it was that I "took him out for a walk" but couldn't believe I had "brought him to such a public place." My friend looked at the woman and said, "I wanted an iced tea." Not only did she refer to him as if he were an animal, but apparently didn't want him in a public area. After his response, we sat down and chit-chatted while the woman watched on in amazement.

My friend has a quadriplegic friend and they have heard comments from "why would anyone want to date a woman in a wheelchair?" when seeing her with her boyfriend, to men approaching them in bars saying "I'd be all over you if you weren't in that chair" - as if she wouldn't have a choice in the matter either way.

This conversation helped me realize why those statements had set something off inside of me. Although it's not the explicit intention behind people saying, "as long as the baby's healthy," this statement does assume a predominance of able-bodiness. What is this statement assuming? That if my baby is in the NICU when he/she is born, I will love him/her less? That if I don't count all ten fingers and all ten toes that he/she is less of a baby? These statements had irked me because they assume that if there was a physical "lack" with my baby when he was born then he was less of a baby, less of a person, which is very much NOT true.

Of course, I know that the well wishers behind these statements were mostly saying they hoped everything was okay with the baby, that the baby didn't have complications. But, what does this say about our societal preferences? Why is it "heart breaking" for people to see a child or adult with a disability? Is there a big difference between saying "As long as he has all his toes!" and "Let's hope he's not gay!"?

What this boils down to, yet again, is taking a look at how our language can be exclusive. Yes, I wanted Droidlet to be a healthy baby without complications, but why and how do we define the term "healthy?"