the absurdity of sharing your bed

I remember the first night I ever slept alone in my first apartment in Portland. I lived in a little studio in NW, along a street that kept itself awake with the rattlings of shopping carts and the slow and steady beeping of the cash register. I laid down in my full bed and slipped myself against the flannel; the same flannel that had been pressed and pulled over the bed the very first time I slept in it.

I’d been sleeping in a twin bed up until that point, but it was my birthday, and my parents had gotten me a new mattress. They wanted it to be a surprise I think, but I was perpetually holed up in my room like a pack rat, downing cans of mountain dew and attending to the chorus of beeps on my computer. They told me to leave my room for a minute, a horror, and I watched them slide this new bed in and replace my old one. I knew the space in my bed would one day represent the person sleeping beside me. A teenage glorification of love. I had arrived. I was an adult. One more star on the board of growing up.

In Portland again, I slipped against those sheets. I looked against the wall and watched the light from down below cast shadows of figures throughout the room. And in the clanking, I fell asleep, alone.

Living with someone creates an invisible border down your bed, one that is guarded, one that is often trespassed. It is a peculiar thing. I had loaded my own faithful bed into a u-haul and moved my boyfriends slightly larger bed into my room. The difference between a full and a queen is essential when legs and arms flop around like hungry octopi.

He gets in bed early, a habit that I slowly took to myself. The other evening after eating dinner I crawled between the sheets and heard my phone ba-ding! An alert to remind me that Jeopardy would be on in five minutes. What had become of the night owl? Who, who, who was I?

I toss and turn, a stereotype that’s fairly true, I take the bed. I want to use the mattress as a torture device, strap my legs and arms outwards into a cross and pull, stretch out the joints, release all the tension from the day.

A bed isn’t just a place for sleep. It’s a place for decompression. It’s a place for letting it out. It’s a place for connecting. It’s a place for fucking. It’s a place for deep-eye gazing. It’s a place for love, and other things.

The other night I found myself laughing maniacally in my sleep and he woke up and turned on the light and stared at me like I might not be well. He asked me what I was saying and I said “I don’t understand” and then said something about feminism. I’m pretty sure he thought I might be possessed so he did a sweep of the house to check for demons and I spent the next hour or so contemplating in my serious state of lucidity whether or not I might be the devil.

It is certain that I much prefer sleeping with someone than sleeping by myself. A bed that fits two (or three, or four) fits just one like a single cookie on a cookie sheet. It’s just not right, it is too vast, it is alarming. When he is gone I craft a person from a pillow and wrap myself around it to fill the void. It is not the same as a kiss, a hug, or the straight to sleep thunk of a book hitting your forehead.

Sharing a bed can feel absurd at times, the entanglement of limbs, the night talking, the going to bed and the waking up, the alarms, the sun blasting through the window like a pervy neighbor. But it is something that I have come to put in my top five favorite parts of living with him – living together – cohabiting. Every evening I fall asleep, and every morning he is still there.

QOTD: Regarding Sterilization

In 1997, Barbara Harris started an organization called CRACK (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity, sic) in Anaheim, California, which gave women money to have sterilizations. Harris’s mission is to “save our welfare system and the world from the exorbitant cost to the taxpayer for each drug-addicted birth by offering effective preventative measures to reduce the tragedy of numerous drug-affected pregnancies.” Some of CRACK’s initial billboards read, “Don’t let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit.”

Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith, from the chapter “Better Dead Than Pregnant” p. 86

The Privilege of Four Year University?

Every Wednesday night I sit in class from 5pm-9pm and learn how to analyze as a feminist. This is an advanced course that is part of the curriculum for my newly added, and almost complete, Women’s Studies degree. If you’ve ever wanted to completely lose your mind, this if for you. All the individual sulci of my brain furrow their brows, flex and bend, constipate themselves and spit out mushed up versions of what they think they’ve heard.

Women’s Studies isn’t something you can jump into haphazardly – much in the same way that I would drown fast and furiously if I were to attempt a higher level math course with little or no preparation.

The difference is this: No one walks around pretending they know calculus. People do walk around pretending they know feminist analysis. 

This is because, of course, if you identify as a feminist you do come with an understanding of what it means to be a feminist, because you are one. Your ideas aren’t any less useful or valid, but they may be more difficult to explain or describe if you don’t have the ‘language extension pack’ installed automatically.

Last night we broke down some of the most difficult language I had ever been presented with:

  • denaturalize the body
  • regulating fiction and heterosexual coherence
  • embodied politics
  • us cultural imaginary
  • interpellates
  • writerly versus readerly texts

As a blogger and a feminist I am constantly trying to weigh what I learn in class with the acknowledgement that I’m basically speaking a language that is being invented as I learn it.

How can I break down “the social construction of the gender binary as a regulated fiction of heterosexual coherence” into language that makes sense, so that I might pass along useful ideas?

When someone says “today I’m dressed like this because I’m a feminist” is there a reasonable way in which I can analyze that statement from a feminist perspective while still appreciating that its really unfeminist too? (And is there such a thing as ‘un’ feminist?) How might language help me do that?

The more you know about analysis the more you can critique certain aspects of our world, but the more you know, the harder it is to explain to someone else.

For the next few months it will be a general goal of mine to try to approach difficult questions about women and men and gender and sexuality and use the complicated analyses I’m learning without sounding like a textbook. I want to break down things like why gender and sex are different in a way that is easily digestible. Not only for the people who read my blog, but for me, too.

If you can’t describe a confusing concept in a simple way, do you really understand it? (That’s an open question, I don’t know the answer.)

To top of this post, one last question.

How many ways are you privileged? 

They could be things like “I’m white” or “I’m middle class”  or “I’m able bodied” but you could break it all the way down to “I learned how to cook healthy meals as a child” or “I have access to fresh food” or “I have never had my gender presentation challenged.” I did this challenge myself and went totally crazy with it writing down silly things like “get to read the Lena Dunham book right after it came out” and “don’t feel guilty eating an extra cookie.”

Feel free to share, or not. I just think it’s an interesting way to be cognizant of yourself and your life. Point one: you’re all at least a little privileged to be reading this right now because it means you have access to electricity and the internet.

Coming Out Day: Post #39103 About My Sexuality

Four years ago I was really into the idea of coming out. I don’t know if four years of college has helped me understand more about that process or if it has totally disillusioned me.

2010 – Coming out is important because you should be proud of your sexuality! It’s okay, we’re here for you.

2011 – Tell me your stories! Share your wounds! I want to know who you are and why you’re that way! 

2012 – I guess it’s kind of hypocritical to tell everyone to come out when you’re privileged enough to live in Portland and live in a bubble where no one cares what your orientation is. 

2013 – I mean, we’re basically all sexually fluid anyways. Why do we need to come out as anything at all?

2014- Screw it. I’m tired. I’m getting a latte. Why am I still talking about this. 

I guess I’m tired because I’ve been coming out since I was sixteen. In some way or another, I’m always coming out. I’m coming out as sexually active or I’m coming out as heterosexual or I’m coming out as heteroflexible or I’m coming out as bisexual or I’m coming out as polyamorous or I’m coming out as sexually fluid or I’m coming out as monogamous or I’m coming out as queer. What an exhausting fucking process always having to analyze and come up with a pretty box for how I happen to feel about gender and sex all the god damn time. I’m lucky that I live in a place and am surrounded by people that allow me to do this with little friction.

I mean, it’s not like anyone is asking me these questions. I don’t have a steady stream of people coming up to me like “Hey, it’s a Wednesday and I’ve noticed you’re not behaving like the sexuality you had marked on your last form. Would you like to update your status?” 

Yet, somehow, I am still always aware of how my thoughts and actions fit into the schema around me. Maybe I do this to find guidance, or answers. Maybe it’s just my brain trying to make sense of who I am and why I am the way that I am.

I wish we lived in a place where sexuality wasn’t broken down into bits and pieces and people just were. Where coming out wasn’t necessary because no one cared and it had no influence on absolutely anything else in our lives. But… it does. Even without the politics of sexuality, sexuality is still a part of our identity in some way or another. And the more people who come out, the more we continue to strive for equality, and a greater understanding of what sexuality really is.

So I’m coming out. I dunno what I’m coming out as this year. But there you have it. Hello, I’m here. If you’re making a count of people who give a shit about things being fair and equal, make sure my names on the list!

I remember your sheets, but not your name.

In the next couple of weeks I have to memorize and recite a poem in front of my poetry class. Because of this, I’ve developed early onset FEFT (forget every fucking thing) that presents itself with lots of table flipping and swearing.

I heard once that no one is really bad at names, some people are just assholes. My feminist analysis professor makes us recite the names of everyone in our class at the start of each session. If that statement is true, I’m a big asshole, and I start every Wednesday evening with a firm reminder of it.

Who is in charge up in yonder cranium, of what we remember, and what we forget? I have always romanticized the idea that our memories are not really ours, but stories, filtered perceptions of what really happened. And it’s true. As soon as we see something we have already seen it in a unique way only WE could see it. And as soon as we “remember it” we fill in the blanks that we did not see, with things that make sense to us.

How is it that I can remember the color the sheets I had on my bed when I had sex for the first time but I can’t remember the name of the girl sitting next to me as she’s telling me what it is?

Pulling old memories feels like cheating. I can recite these stories flippantly and emotionally like they just happened. But it’s the new memories that are chunky. It’s new memories that require active lying. How many times have I had sex this week? When was I last angry? What was the last thing I did for my boyfriend? Because I haven’t had the time to put these things into context, I make something up. But two, three, four years ago, that stuff is cemented into my myth and easy to repeat on command.

I guess what I’m saying is my memory is shit, but so is yours, we’re just all super confident that our version of the lie is the right one.

Names and poems are hard to remember because they’re real. They’re truths. They’re never changing. Memories and things are flexible and always fluid, moving, changing. They’re easy to remember because they’re whatever you need them to be.

I Remember The First Time I Had Sex

I remember when I was in middle school and this guy asked me how many fingers I could fit and I said four because it seemed like a reasonable number and I had no idea what he was talking about.

I remember the first time I bought condoms and how I layered my basket with other essential items, like cosmopolitan magazine, so no one would see what I was buying.

I remember the first time I broke someones heart.

I remember when I used to think lubrication was anything that was wet and, by that logic, assumed water could do the trick.

I remember when my knowledge about sexuality became a set of contact lenses and I glanced across the room at my vibrating pens.

I remember the first time I saw the penis of a boy my age up close and personal. We were standing in my front yard burying some treasure. My hands were covered in dirt and my head was down. He said “look” – and I did. His pants were down and this little thumb of a flaccid penis was bouncing around like a deflated party balloon. I thought to myself, he should get that looked at.

I remember the first time I got my heart broken.

I remember thinking that I would get married and move into a little house and what all my furniture would look like and what I would name my children and how many pets I would have.

I remember the first time that someone told me “marriage is work” and “fifty percent of marriages end in divorce”

I remember the time I realized “fifty percent of marriage don’t end in divorce.”

I remember the first time I ever went to a swingers club and my nonchalant acceptance of public fucking.

I remember every single time I ever felt like I’d made the right decision after making the wrong one first.

I remember the time I asked a group of people if men orgasmed too and they laughed at me and I realized there was probably more to sexuality than cosmopolitan was letting on.

I remember the name and the face of the girl who explained sex to me for the first time. I remember how my room was arranged and the quiet way she whispered. I remember telling her to shhh anyways because the knowledge she was passing on was highly classified. I remember how she rubbed two barbies together and I nodded solemnly.

I remember all the brothers of all my friends I ever had crushes on.

I remember the first time I successfully made myself orgasm and how in my head time stopped and lightning cracked and dark clouds enveloped my house and I realized with great power comes great responsibility.

QOTD: Reproductive Health AKA Your Uterus is Overpopulating the World

Clearly, reproductive health is an extremely important part of medical care, but should it be the centerpiece of a woman’s health strategy? As Indian public health analyst Imrana Qadeer writes, the current concept of reproductive health “is not necessarily pro-women, only women-centered.” It puts too much focus on women as mothers and reproducers, neglecting the other aspects of their lives such as their health in childhood and old age and debilitating illnesses like malaria and tuberculosis. – “Changing Faces of Population Control” by Betsy Hartmann

This quote is from a reading in my Women, Activism, and Social Change course. The reading emphasizes the issues with using the term female empowerment as a sneaky way of saying you shouldn’t reproduce, here, have some birth control or some sterilization so your sexual freedoms don’t cause overpopulation and doom us all. (Anyone familiar with this issue will know there are several offshoots of this, like forced sterilization, the reality of population growth, intersections of race and sex, and the complexities of female health in general.)

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