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I had to give up my room today, which meant packing up all my stuff, storing my backpack downstairs in the left luggage room, and then going about my business, since check-in time at the hostel is 2pm. I looked online, and decided to go to Cork. I had missed the extremely early trains to Sligo (7am) but trains to and from Cork were every hour there and back, so why not.

But it was boring. It was Georgian and Victorian, which is nice -- up to a point. Yes, there were old Viking roots, and some medieval roots, but it had all been built over and developed, developed, developed.. Everywhere I looked, nothing but businesses. Cork, I realized, is a shopping city, and I'm not much of a shopper, especially traveling light. I don't particularly want to take anything this trip except pictures and leave with memories.

So I took the over-priced bus tour, passed over innumerable bridges because Cork was founded on a swamp, and had an okay time. I stayed perhaps three hours, maybe four, but was utterly uninspired by it all. What little art and museums they had were rather pedestrian -- a butter museum? Not all that interesting, and not at all worth a few Euro in admission. So I left. I'm back in Dublin now.

I got back on the LUAS, the tram system for Dublin, which is quite inexpensive and reasonable for getting around to various places here in the city and outskirts. This morning, it was great. This afternoon, not so much, but I held my own.

I got on the tram, and this guy who looked homeless, alcoholic, druggie, or all three, had his feet on a seat. I asked him to take them off. I turned around, and he had put his feet back up there. I said, can you PLEASE take your feet off the seat! He complied, very grudgingly, then started to talk shit at me. So I talked rather loudly back at him, using my very loud teacher voice.

He said something vaguely threatening, and I said, well, first you'd have to grow a penis for that, wouldn't you? I also said, very loudly, don't start with me; all I asked was for you to move your feet, and that's not too much to ask. Thank you for moving your feet. Now, don't start any shit with me, thank you, we're done. And I turned away from him and faced into the aisle.

He kept talking, but it occurred to me that he was the type of vicious little shit that simply HAD to get the last word in, that if I kept on engaging, he would want that. Withholding attention did make him shut up -- I could tell he was spoiling for a fight so I refused to give him one. And I absolutely refused to move. There were other seats available, but I did not want to give up my spot. Call it pride or stubbornness, but I wasn't allowing some two-bit, scrawny "male" to make me give up my spot. Call it territoriality and stubbornness. That's me, Badger Woman. I may look all cute and cuddly, but I have fangs, and I'm not afraid to bare them, or use them.

He stuck his tongue out at me as he got off; I smiled and waved. I wasn't scared the entire time he was sitting beside me, though, I'm proud to say. I was more than happy to mouth off to him, very loudly, so that everyone on the LUAS could hear. I saw a couple of guys a seat or so over from me laughing and I think I heard them say, wow, she really told him. But damn, really? Getting up in my face, calling me "cunt" and other muttered imprecations, all over having to move his feet? And then muttering about "Americans" making him lose his job? Whatever. I'm very glad I stayed put.

It's the irrationality of street harassment that just utterly befuddles me. It's so useless, so pointless. It's not about sex per se, although using sexual names and threats are part of the arsenal. What it's about is POWER and CONTROL. I still maintain that anyone who is a bully is deep down a craven coward, and just like with Larry Rodriguez the Borderline Personality Neighbor From Hell, once you stand up to them, they invariably back down, back off, and turn tail and run. And this guy did. But still: that deep-seated hatred, based on such deep, dark, unrecognized, undealt-with fear, just makes me wonder about these men, their families, and how horrible their relationships were with their mothers.

So what I did with this guy was assert my own power, and take control of the situation. I was assertive, only slightly aggressive, and then I backed off and refused to engage anymore, when I was done and had pronounced the whole thing settled. I am proud to say that I took his sexual threat, twisted it, and used it against him, utterly destroying any threat by making what he said look ridiculous.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Galway, and I can't wait. I scored a great deal: a three-star hotel for $55US a night. I'm really, really hoping that my room has a proper bathtub, not just a shower. I could do with a good soak to get all the road haze off me. I could do with a good leg-razoring, too, for that matter.

Right now, I just want a good meal. Then back to my hostel to check back in, lug my stuff up to another room, and do a slow fade, then get up and be off to the West Country in the morning. Conquering Dun Aengus is getting closer!

I actually thought I was done with this entry, but realized I needed and wanted to end on a positive note, and my two positive notes today were Bernie, a lovely Irish gran that I chatted with for two hours on the train from Dublin, and a nice older woman at the bus stop in Cork. Bernie today was my guardian angel, and such a delight. I do love talking to Irish people; they know how to chat, without being intrusive and without getting too personal. That, in America, is much needed. Bernie ushered me on the city bus to get into the city center; there we parted ways, her to see her various siblings and great-nieces and -nephews, and me to explore Cork. So yes, there was a highlight to today, and it was a white-haired, little old lady named Bernie. God love ya.

a lovely day out at Waterford

Today I went to Waterford. This post is going to be short because I'm tired and hungry, but I loved it. I went primarily to see Waterford Crystal, and it was well worth the trip. I went on the tour, and got to see the entire crystal making process from beginning to exquisite end. And of course I spent some money there!

Ireland is compact, so once I was done there (a little over an hour), I decided to explore. I went to the Medieval Museum, and learned a lot about Waterford's heritage, its fight to control what came into Ireland and thus money for the city, and about the Vikings who lived there. There was a Georgian Museum there, also, but I just didn't particularly feel into that. It's always the more distant past that really excites me.

From the shopping center, I walked back along the quay, and realized I could see the train station from where I stood, so I walked back. I cannot wait to see how many steps I did today, and today is not over. I realized late this afternoon that I'm not slated to go to Galway til Tuesday, so I extended my stay at my hostel for one more day, which means another day to go out and see. Tomorrow, who knows? I'll have to look on my Irish Rail app to see where I want to go.

It's so nice to be back in Ireland. Tomorrow if I get a better computer at the internet kiosk, I might try to fill in some of the gaps I missed. But for now, I'm signing off, going to get some food, and get horizontal pretty quickly. I love Waterford. I love Ireland!
The flight from LAX to ORD was only three and a half hours, so not bad at all. Then from ORD to DUB it was six and a half hours. We had a tail wind helping us along, but that meant that we got into Dublin Airport at 4.30am! There was nothing for it but to sit around and wait for a bus to show up. So I walked and walked, and walked some more.

I should back up here and say that my trainer J-- and I had a bit of a kerfuffle before I got off. He's in the process of playing a practical joke on one of his friends: he changed the friend's license plate holder to a rival team, and kept the guy's plate. And now I have it. I'm supposed to take pictures with it, proving how far it's traveled. I would have loved to have posed it with James Joyce, right here on upper Talbot Street, and will definitely take it by the Guinness Brewery. Tomorrow I'll probably go on the tour and actually hop on and hop off at several places and do it right, license plate holder in hand. What a great joke! And I intend to take pictures with the holder when I fly back through Chicago as well. But I met him Thursday afternoon, and he had forgotten the license plate holder! He went home, all the way from west L. A. into the Valley and brought it to me. This is some practical joke!

The bus, by this time around 6am, took me to my hostel where I'm staying, and I had a bit of trouble finding it, but got in and managed a few fitful hours of twilight sleep on their couch, since they said check in wasn't until 2pm. But it was no more than twilight sleep, because every five minutes, if not sooner, someone came in, someone left, someone made noise. I dozed off and must have slept at least a couple of hours, though, which really helped. And finally there was a massive group of young schoolchildren getting off on a field trip, and someone dropped something heavy on my head.

My Inner Sleep Nazi awoke with a vengeance. "OUCH! GODDAMN IT! SHIT!" Cursing, loud and profane, in front of school children. Such an ugly, loud American I was, but I now have a bruise on my head. I finally decided to get up then and go walk around Dublin, but I really couldn't do much; by this time the jet-lag was kicking in and I was shattered, simply shattered.

So I opted for the easy way: I took the Dublin tour bus, and realized all over again what a small, colonial city Dublin really is. (Unlike London, Dublin's bus ticket is good for two days; London's hop-on, hop-off is only good for 24 hours.) I also realized the last time I was here that I couldn't do much, weighing 120 pounds more then than I do now. I did, though, walk back to the Hotel St. George and ask about my bus driver, the wonderful guy who took me to Glendalough. Turns out he isn't driving anymore, but walking up and down O'Connell Street, stocking the hotels with brochures. I found out his last name, too: Merrick. The guys at the hotel, who must have also been drivers, referred to him as The Elephant Man, which he isn't remotely, but I thought it was amusing anyway. For that matter, I wonder if my asking after him generated gossip. And then I think I glimpsed him, striding up O'Connell Street, just a glimpse; I couldn't possibly be sure it was him, after all; Dublin is filled with hundreds of thousands of people. But Dublin is small, and O'Connell Street is small. So it could have been him after all.

I went on the tour, and had a good time, although as time went on, I felt more and more shattered with every hour. I hadn't realized just how vast the Guinness Brewery really is, taking up several dozen acres/hectares. I was tempted to get off at a few places, but just had no energy. I was waiting until 2pm until I could go back to my hostel and simply get checked in, then collapse, and that's what I did. A few hours of proper sleep in a proper bed with no worries of school children dropping heavy objects on my head.

Now I'm out and about, somewhat at loose ends. I might go to a movie; certainly I can't do much shopping around here as things tend to close up very early. Tomorrow, though, I'll be on Irish time properly, and I can't wait to go to Heuston Station and take a daytrip somewhere marvelous. I haven't even decided yet where I'll go, and that's the lovely part about being on holiday: I have the run of the country; I'm on my own, and I can decide precisely what I want to do. That's freedom, a type of freedom I do mostly have at home, but on holiday it's complete.

On a side-note, not terribly important, I've almost totally decided to buy a new jacket. The one I have is just too much jacket, too unwieldy, too bulky. I'm not decided yet; there's still Dun Aengus to deal with, and at this time of the year, it's very possible that the winds will be vicious, and I might regret abandoning this jacket too soon. I'll decide. There's a shop round the corner here called Guiney's, and I'll see if I can find something there for not too much.

I almost panicked this afternoon when I was unpacking; I thought I had forgotten my shower shoes, but I didn't. That would have been a mess. No, everything is there, and I'm an expert packer by now, with all the trips I've taken, but still, there is always the worry of what didn't I bring, what did I miss, what else could I have taken with me? The problem rather solves itself, though, because all I'm bringing with me is my backpack.

This time I opted to leave behind my Kindle; one more thing to lug around -- and as we all know the root word of luggage is LUG -- and one more thing to charge. I've got quite enough chargers on this trip. I bought a new charger today for my iPhone and for my UP band. (I'm slightly worried about my UP band; it's not recognizing my band, yet shows me as me, and all my teammates, and all my previous activity. Weird. I think I'll just keep wearing it and hope when I get back to the US that it syncs properly and does what it's supposed to do. If not, time to contact Jawbone again and get a new one. Bugger.)

Now I'm off on a quest for a proper dinner, perhaps a movie, perhaps some trad music, anything to pass time til around 8.30pm or later, when I can go to bed, sleep through the night, and wake up on European time. I leave early Monday morning to Galway, which I look immensely forward to, and to trying to conquer Dun Aengus on Inis Mor.

I still haven't heard from my Irish friend, and I wonder if he and I are going to meet at all. We've been talking online for over 10 years, and earlier this year he said he definitely wanted to meet me, but he's been absolutely radio silent for the past several weeks. First John not driving, now C-- not in touch with me. Two disappointments, not major, but still disappointments. Yes, I can go see Glendalough and Avoca and redo the trip and it'll still be pretty magical and mystical. And that memory with John that day was very special. But if I don't get to meet C-- this trip, I will be disappointed. No doubt I'll be back to Ireland another time; there's always more to explore. But if he gets cold feet, has to deal with care-giving for his parents, has other commitments, just forgot... yeah. I'll be disappointed. Nothing to do but wait and see, but I have low hopes.

However, this is Ireland; it's spring break, and life is pretty good. Off for now; write more later.
I don't mind friending former students on social media. It's good to keep up with them, see how they mature, what decisions they make, and see how their lives transform as they go from young teens to older teens to young adults. I have good friends online, and I'm glad of that.

But this young man was not going to be one of them.

I blogged about him incidentally last year; he was a part of that nasty, rude, lazy, ignorant, and rather stupid cohort last year. This was the group of kids who didn't know that they didn't know. They had no clue how ignorant they were, and when presented with evidence of an incomplete homework assignment, or a less-than-stellar attempt, just didn't know how to improve and sought ways to justify their ignorance. I am so glad they are in eighth grade and that I have only seventh grade this year. I am so glad they will be moving out and moving on in just a few months. And I'm glad in particular that this one young man -- let's call him Hiker -- got expelled last year and moved on before the year was over. It made my teaching year just a little bit easier and better, and for that I was grateful.

Hiker had issues. One of the out-of-classroom professionals I talked to said she possibly suspected that Hiker might have symptoms of psychopathy. I could see it in the lack of emotional stability, the constant need for peer pressure, the total lack of knowing himself from the inside, his being different every day, moodiness, changeability, and in his low, low, low verbal skills. There were times he could not understand the simplest directions. I felt as if he and I were staring at each other across an abyss, shouting and never hearing or comprehending the other. And then he wanted to befriend me on social media? Not having any of it.

This little asshole ripped out pages of his workbook and stuffed them in places that were sometimes difficult to find, and sometimes quite obvious, and this went way beyond the usual passive-aggressive resistance to work that some kids show. He fought people, fortunately outside of class, because the bigger, taller, cooler guy he looked up to was too much of a sissy, and this smaller guy wanted so badly to be accepted and thought cool, he got himself expelled, thus ensuring no one would accept or like him or even remember him.

But what I most remember about Hiker is the looks of sheer, unadulterated hate that emanated from him. I remember the fumbling attempts at making body-shaming, body-snarking remarks about my weight, which I successfully turned back on him and made him eat his words. Of course you didn't mean that, I'm sure, because only unfeeling, uncaring, rude, stupid jerks would say something like that, and that's now you, now, IS IT? No, of course it isn't. I also remember all the fumbling attempts at gaslighting he tried, and how pissed and yet confused he would look when I would see through and correct his fumbling, bumbling attempts to redefine reality. And the lies, oh God, all the lies he told, day in and day out, until nothing he said was remotely believable. And the looks, the constant looks, the accusations of why didn't I believe him? All the complaints and sighs and eye rolls. Hell fucking no I don't want to be friends with this little asshole on social media. Not after taking 3/4 of a year of all that. Ugh.

So I wrote him back and said sorry, we can't be friends. I remember all the looks of sheer hatred you gave me, all the papers ripped out and crumpled, all the remarks you made, and I can't deal with any of it. Have a nice life. And immediately, I felt a lot better, a lot freer. I never want to see Hiker again in my life. In 20+ years of teaching, I've never been afraid of any child, and I'm not exactly afraid of Hiker, but I'm leery. I'm leery of the psychopathic traits he seems to exhibit in his unending quest to be cool, liked, and accepted. I'm leery of the objectifying way he seems to see women, and I'm leery of the moodiness, which to me has always seemed an indication of internal instability.

I wish Hiker well in life, I truly do. If I could give him anything, I would want to give him MANY gifts, such as mental and emotional stability, freedom from moodiness, the ability to care about and connect with others, the ability to see women as peers, equals and friends, and the ability to read others' moods and respond appropriately. I always felt with Hiker that what I had to teach him could not come from books, and fundamentally could not be taught. He just seemed miserable, young, callow, unfeeling, selfish, self-involved, hurting, wanting to hurt others, and destructive toward himself and others.

I'm glad I don't ever have to see or talk to him again, so far as I can help it. I wish him well; he needs all the luck he can get.
A couple of years ago, well, probably more now, there was a trans-woman on Yahoo chat in the room I used to frequent. And things got bloody.

For the past several years I've been reading a LOT of feminist blogs. I've learned a lot more about LBGTQ people, intersectionality, human sexuality, and feminism. It's all been interesting, and worthwhile. But since the personal is political, I feel compelled to talk about Dahlia. That was her online name, at least. Things were BRUTAL online, and fault was on both sides. No one was innocent.

First of all, Dahlia made the big mistake of trying to take over the chat room. That never works, is bound to fail, and it did. I'm sure there was more than a bit of narcissism involved; Dahlia also liked to "DJ" in the room, and the room I hung out in was primarily about chat, not music, not one person taking over for a set amount of time and spinning tunes. Maybe it could have been worked out, but coming in and trying to take over, to IMPOSE your taste? Bound to fail.

And my God we were vicious to her, and she to us. Cue all the predictable, sad, angry, hurtful, body-shaming, ignorant things you could possibly say about anyone who was other than heteronormative, and we all said it. I said it, with intent to hurt. But Dahlia said quite a bit of shit to all of us in the chat room, too. And this is one of the VERY few times I'd ever align myself with others in that chat room; everyone, though, was aligned against Dahlia, and she did quite a bit to bring it on herself.

If she came in that room to be accepted, she did it absolutely ass-backwards. You cannot just come in and take over. You can't talk shit to others and expect them just to take it and never talk back. You can't body-shame others and expect them to thank you for your input. You can't impose your taste on others and expect them to accept you, or your taste or your reasons. None of us cared what she knew, because we knew how little she cared for us.

There was so much body-snarking, body-shaming, fat-shaming, food-policing. Dahlia clearly had massive, out of control body dysmorphia, and she projected like crazy. She constantly mentioned what she weighed, gave her height, her measurements, talked about food and dieting all the time. I, however, thought it was suspect. "Normal" women inculcated from birth into the body-shaming culture that we have absolutely never mention weight or measurements; cis-women often find this a marker of objectification. Indeed, other bloggers elsewhere have talked about feeling squicky and ill-at-ease online, especially when we start self-objectifying. Dahlia, though, reveled in self-objectification, more than likely borne from narcissism. The cis-females, I among them, found this revolting, disgusting, deeply wrong.

Dahlia highlights to me a corner of ignorance in myself. I'm learning more about LBGTQ people, but fundamentally I just don't get them, or rather, I don't get the psychology of it all. Doubtless I'm swimming in a sea of cis-woman heteronormative privilege, but I want to make the effort to understand. I guess that's what I do: I always want to understand those who are different, who have far different outlooks, beliefs, experiences than I do or ever can have.

I get that LBGTQ people can have "two spirits" as the Native Americans called them. I get that they are very much at risk for all kinds of violence, discrimination, and lack all kinds of privilege, and have to deal with that every hour of every day. But then when I see someone like Dahlia, who did all the wrong things with all the wrong intentions, and who tried to project all her undealt-with shit onto others, I have to wonder which comes first: are there fundamentally messed up people who transition to try to dull their inner, psychic, spiritual pain, or does that inner, psychic spiritual pain from having a brain one way and a body another, plus whatever issues a trans person has to deal with simply from being human, cause people to transition, or who knows, and it's as complex as humanity usually is? I'm sure it's all these reasons and more. I'm sure there are as many reasons for transitions as there are humans who are contemplating, transitioning, or have transitioned to the opposite gender.

Personally, if I never met another Dahlia again, it'd be too soon. I wish her well, and I hope she dealt with her inner shit, because dealing with her spewing it all out at us online was sheer hell. And she can stay the bloody hell in Canada, too.
I've been reading a lot lately online, from many and various feminist blogs, about the recent uptick in women being touched without consent.

And I have to say, I'm glad that hasn't happened to me... yet. It might. All of this is about power and control, not sex, sexiness, desire. It's cloaked in that language, but it's about privilege, and entitled men who feel they have a right to a woman's personal space, her time, conversation, her attention, and when it's not given, then almost invariably get hostile, abusive, and nasty. It's all about power and control, not desire, because they are objectifying women, and the moment their object turns out to have a mind of her own, and can and does speak her mind (not behaving like a pliant object should), they get enraged.

I'm prepared to enrage men, and that's going to make me very happy.

Because you see, I simply won't allow myself to be objectified, ever. I have too much pride in myself, too much individuality, too much self-determination, will, strength of mind and character, to let that happen, or let it pass.

And I've been noticing that whenever I read an article about some woman being groped or catcalled, it really triggers me. But why? It never used to happen. Why now? Because my body is becoming more "mainstream". I'm developing curves. I have a more normative body, and that brings with it problems, problems I initially tried to hide, skirt around, and evade by piling on the weight when young, until that caught up to me in the form of diabetes, slight high blood pressure. Not worth it. I'm proud to have slaved and made a partial reverse of diabetes, and hope to eliminate the symptoms altogether, the more weight I lose and muscle I gain.

I can honestly say I'm so grateful I wasn't brought up to be "nice". I wasn't socialized to go along with whatever others want. I got a huge pass by being the baby of the family, and from being born into a tolerant, loving, easy-going family that liked and appreciate me as a tomboy growing up.

So I never had to deal much at all with feeling less than, or put upon, or humiliated, angered, or bewildered. When someone did something to me, I let them know, growing up in the 70s and 80s, that wasn't okay. I don't like that. I don't appreciate it. Stop it now, or face consequences. I've never been afraid to stand my ground.

Now, coming into my own in my mid-40s, but with a significantly younger-looking face, and a continually improving body, I'm scared, again. And I have to admit I've always been scared, as any woman is, of abuse in any form, of sexual harassment. But this time around, I know I'm going to have to deal with the fear, face it down, name it, find creative and constructive ways to deal with it. There is no going back; there is no piling on the pounds and wanting to be invisible. These days, I'm visible, very much so. I walk with my head up, shoulders back, owning my body and my space.

This past semester, I *think* I may have been catcalled when I was walking on a sidewalk in East L. A., but I'm not sure. It was early morning; I was desperate for coffee. Someone told me, just walk to the end of the block, cross the street. There's a coffee shop there. Fantastic, I said. I'll be back in a few minutes, and went on a divine mission to get the golden cup of goodness. Walking back, coffee prize in hand, some male shouted, "YES!" in my general direction. Okay? Was it meant for me? Had he just won the lottery? received good news? gotten a promotion? or was I being generally approved of, in a rather shouty way, from this nameless, faceless male stranger in an ancient Ford truck? I guess a hearty "YES!" is more positive than a shouted "NO!" but it was a really random thing and I'm STILL not sure if it was meant for me or not. Anyway, I had my head down, watching my steps, not wanting to trip on any sidewalk cracks, and generally just thinking my own thoughts. I just can't be sure.

I also read something the other day that enlightened me a lot as to why I don't think I've ever dealt much with catcalling: I don't look vulnerable. Maybe it was somewhere online like Jezebel or XOJane, but a lot of women chimed in and said no matter their age, clothing, or any other variable, even sickness and looking like shit, they got catcalled and talked at when they looked vulnerable in public.

So maybe that's the key. I don't think I have "bitchy resting face", but I don't care if I do; in fact, it's a boon, a real blessing. I just don't look vulnerable in public. In 15 years of travel, I've gotten harassed twice, once by a homeless man who obviously had mental issues, so I don't really hold it against him, and once by some weird middle aged man who yelled at me in French, but I didn't move; I just held my ground, and didn't bother to respond to him. I had no clue what he was saying, and I'm glad. Clearly it wasn't worth understanding anyway if he thought he had to shout at me.

My ultimate point is, I don't care about being nice. I'm polite to people. I'm happy to answer a general question about travel, or where a store or street is located, no problem. But start talking *at* me when I don't want it, ever dare to touch me, come onto me in a creepy way, then you're asking for it. I will get attitude. I will cause a scene. I don't mind screaming. I don't mind acting completely irrational and insane. I don't mind shouting. I don't mind calling names, cussing someone out, or humiliating them. And if it ever comes to it, I don't mind hitting, punching, kicking, biting, and I wouldn't hesitate to hit a man in his balls.

Back when I was a girl, the boys in my fourth grade class did this thing where they would put their arms behind their head, and lean back. Maybe it was stretching, or cracking their backs, just taking a mini-break from classwork, but it interfered with my personal space. Looking back, what infuriated me about it all was they felt entitled to put their hands or arms, head, and neck over into my space, and treat it as if it was okay to infiltrate my space, force me to move or get knocked in the head, then go back to what they were doing. NOT okay. Not okay at all. So I took to grabbing their arms, pulling them back so much it hurt, and saying, "DO NOT lean back." The unspoken message was, "Do not lean back or I will force you to lean back so much it nearly breaks your back. Don't get into my space." And I kept doing it. This was fourth grade. Fourth grade kids in general can be pretty obnoxious. We're all at that age learning how to negotiate ourselves, each other, adults, the world. Fortunately I had sympathetic, not sexist, teachers, who were of the mind that eh, she's handling it, the boy got what he deserved, and that will teach him. And ultimately it worked. They learned not to lean back, or shift a bit, and lean over the side of their desk.

And I've written here before in this blog about standing up to my ex-husband and his controlling ways. I've written about the many encounters with Larry the Louche, our former bi-polar/schizoid/narcissistic neighbor who has now thankfully moved.

The more I read, the more I realize that having a more normative female body, with curves, will more than likely result in unwanted, unwelcome, unnecessary attention that I did not bring on myself, but rather is perpetuated by a slimy, greazy, scummy rape culture that enables men to think it's okay to talk *at* women, to catcall, harass, leer, and objectify. And if they ever try doing this to me, they've met their match. I'm going to continue losing weight. I'm going to continue to lift weights, and work on having more definition all over. (I'm proud to say I have a tiny bit of upper arm definition in my biceps. It's a start!) And I might garner this unwanted attention simply from being a world traveler who hauls around a female-oriented body.

Like that time in high school where I had just had ENOUGH of one boy saying stupid, ugly, mean shit to me, I never know quite what I'll say. I just know that one time with him and his last comment, I just SNAPPED. Without one curse word, I simply started hurling invective and insult and humiliation on him, until he started crying, in the cafeteria, in front of his friends and mine, right behind a table full of teachers. So I have no clue, no prepared speeches, no zingers, retorts, or come-backs to street harassment, jerks, idiots, or fools. I just know the words are always there, and I have no compunction about letting loose on someone who thinks they have a right to my time, my body, my space, my attention.

That's mine to bestow. Always.
I read an article today in a blog I look at sometimes, which was posted on Feministe. The blog is "Balancing Jane" and she wrote about being catcalled. I just have to respond.

From the blog: "Walking back to my house, deeply engrossed in the audiobook version of Doctor Sleep that has been keeping me company on these runs, I passed a man painting a fence on the sidewalk. For a moment, I was distracted from the book by thoughts about how nice it was to see the old fence (in front of what looked like an abandoned building) being renewed to a shine. He said something to me. I pulled my headphones off one ear, "What?"

'You don't look like you need to exercise to me.'

How does one respond to that? I kept walking, but I was still within his view, and it felt weird to say nothing. I'm running my response through my head. What he said wasn't menacing. It might have even been a compliment, though what the hell does that even mean? If I look fit (which--let's be honest--I really don't, especially if "fit" means "thin"), wouldn't you expect me to be running? I rambled off a response,

'Oh, I could still use a little exercise.' Polite chuckle.

'I'll work it off you.'

By then, I was four or five steps in front of where he was sitting on an overturned plastic bucket, hunched over the metal fence posts. I rolled my eyes, pulled my headphone back over my ear, and kept walking. But I didn't feel strong anymore. I could feel his eyes on me as I walked down the sidewalk. It felt like when you run through a spiderweb on a wooded path. You know it's not physically possible, but you can feel the web on you everywhere even after you pull it off, the stickiness making your skin crawl for several minutes."

First of all, I wouldn't have pulled off my headphones. It's fucking inconsiderate of anyone, male or female, to DEMAND interaction in the first place. I don't blame the blogger for wanting to be polite, but fuck polite. Polite has its very real limits, and out in the real world, if I have my headphones on and someone tries to interact with me, I simply don't allow it to happen, just because of shit like this.

Secondly, I'd have put a stop to the male-gaze nonsense when he made the remark about "not needing exercise to him". Please explain what you mean by that. I exercise for myself. Making all one's statements self-referential cuts male-gazers out of the loop, and makes it clear you're doing it for yourself, and moreover, that you don't really give a shit what they think. Their gaze is rendered meaningless, and that's the whole point.

Thirdly, his last comment was pure harassment. My response would have been, instantly, "You won't do anything to me." Confrontational? You bet. Said it before, will say it again, will keep saying it. Because it just sounds like "I'll work off whatever fat you THINK you have, you silly female, by fucking it off of you." And that implication deserves to be challenged just as aggressively. And maybe it's just the badger in me, but I can't run; my knees aren't made for it in this incarnation. My dad always said my mouth would get me in trouble, and it might yet one day, but by the time I'm THAT angry, I say bring it on. If you have been THAT foolish as to say something THAT harassing, you can expect attitude and aggression right back, and your only REAL face-saving choice is to back down, back off, and ideally apologize. I know hindsight is always 20/20 and I'm not blaming the blogger for reacting as she did. We can't be prepared for every eventuality, and anyway, going around locked and loaded for harassment isn't fun.

But I refuse to feel bad. I refuse to be invisible, because I can't be. That time is over. I have a body, and I take up space in the world, and from now on until I die, I won't apologize for having a body, being female, and having a non-normative body shape, just like billions of others out there in the world. I just don't have the time or energy to hate myself anymore. My instinct isn't to shrink into myself or become invisible. No, my instinct is to loom larger, to step up to someone, to demand explanations and clarifications. My first instinct is to not take shit. Over the years, I've tempered it. Being aggressive is time-consuming, stressful, and it takes a lot of energy. I've found that a well-placed sneer or shrug can be equally deadly, a total dismissal of the harasser, the words, the entire interaction.

Also from the same post: "...a group of men called to me from a porch. They were up hill from me, the brick wall of the porch and a steep incline between us. Again, I pulled my headphones off my ears, 'Huh?'

'Are you walking for cancer?'

The words didn't even make sense in my head. 'Sorry? What?'

'For cancer? Is that why you're walking?'

'No. For me.'

'Oh. I saw you when you headed that way earlier. Just wanted to tell you you're doing a great job.'

'Thanks.' I kept walking."

First of all, again, don't pull off the headphones. Don't engage. Turn the volume up. You're not missing anything, after all, especially if they start the nearly inevitable insults, which is a sure sign that harassers don't want to talk to YOU as a person; they just want to USE someone to bolster their perpetually sagging self-esteem... because they are harassers. One wonders, for those of us who think, how about simply not calling out harassing bullshit to women, and feel better about yourself for showing some respect, instead of calling out harassing bullshit to women, then inevitably feeling stupid AND a loser AND disrespected AND angry? Really, showing respect would give self-respect. One thinks this would be obvious, but I'm not sure that harassers even think in the first place; they run on the way-down, not-quite-human reptile brain. Pity.

I, on the other hand, if I thought it was worth it, would have just said no and kept going, offering no explanation, because it opens the door to interaction. While I don't have bitchy resting face -- or hell, maybe I do -- I just know that keeping answers short, simple, to the point, and never elaborating WILL kill all attempts to engage me in conversation. Works like a charm. Or I would have said, "No, I'm just walking," and after the idiot said that I was "doing a great job," I would have stopped, cocked my head to one side, and said, "I'm..... doing a great job of just walking? Really? Are you serious?" and let my confusion show, just to show what an asinine thing that was to say. And stared. Staring works wonders for letting people know, you just said something stupid, were you even aware? People back off and back down.

She continues: "A great job at what? Walking? He didn't see me running because this part of the path had been both my warm-up and my cool down.

The second man hadn't said anything insulting. Sure, it's weird to congratulate someone on walking on the sidewalk, but it's not necessarily sinister, but his words came so close behind the others that they still felt dirty. I felt dirty.

And that, finally, is what I'm left wondering. What was that painter's aim?

Did he know that he deflated me? Did he know that my walk home was a victory lap for someone who had strengthened a body that couldn't even run a mile in the recent past? Did he know that I was lost in my own thoughts, enjoying a book and the company of my own footsteps? Did he know that moments before I had been running along a smooth sidewalk, catching glimpses of myself in windows and feeling powerful and (dare I say it) even a little sexy?

And did he know that after his words (I'll work it off you), all I felt was a deep desire to fold inside myself, to vanish into thin air, to get his eyes off of me?

Or did he not think about what his words meant to me at all?"

I'm convinced they don't think. These people certainly aren't thinking of how their words might be taken, how a woman would feel being approached by a stranger. There's a real sense here of a power play, of sociopathy, of social retardation, or at the least, vastly different agendas. Again I say, just don't interact. It is by far the easier path. Turn the music up if they start hollering things at you. Take a picture with your phone, and post it all over every possible social media outlet, the better to shame them with. Include home addresses if they're foolish enough to catcall from their own residence. But confront, confront, and keep confronting. It's the only way some of these jackass moron douchecanoes will know they are out of line, not that it's EVER someone else's business to police other people's behavior, especially not a woman's place to "keep a man in line". But a little disrespect, some attitude, a lot of skepticism, questioning, and mouthiness go a long way in letting someone know they've been irredemably stupid and need to change, as in yesterday.
I was reading in Psychology Today, as I often do, and I came across an article about parenting a special-needs child. I'm always interested in other people's perspectives, special needs children, and different ways of life in general. But what I read astounded me. It totally explained my last difficult group of the day.

This was a group that haunted me, that haunts me still. I did NOT understand them, and they did not understand me. Their priorities were not my priorities. We did not speak the same language. I'm sure I vented here about how their idea of play was to start an argument, at which point I would simply walk away... over and over. They did not get the hint that this is not how you talk to a teacher and an adult; it was unpleasant; that I refused to participate. They just kept on doing it. And it got to the point where I would simply introduce the subject, lay out for them what they had to do, then answer questions individually only.

I had to answer questions individually because invariably, other kids would jump into the conversation. As an introvert, I cannot stand "jump in" conversations. Everyone invariably talks over me, talks louder than me, and suddenly it's one big party. But this Psychology Today article explains why they were like this. And it floored me. I've been thinking about this all week, and today I have some time, although I might have to finish this at home.

"...[special needs children] often require that you teach—and reteach and reteach—some of the same lessons until the children learn. What happens when the student doesn’t learn? The parent understandably feels frustrated. Parents need positive reinforcement to keep chugging along, but they don’t get the reinforcement they need if the child doesn’t learn the lessons. In this way, the parent’s experience leads to a sort of crisis of faith: Are my efforts making a difference? If not, where do I go from here?"

THIS. I felt like I was totally spinning my wheels, not only trying to teach them academic things like literature and the language of literature, but work habits as well. And they just didn't learn. They kept on jumping into conversations, asking off-topic questions, doing everything they could to stimulate their under-stimulated brains. And I had no clue that these children were not special-education kids per se, because there wasn't enough of any one disability to merit an official special ed diagnosis; they were simply parented nearly incompetently. Those early needs had not been met well or consistently, and I and all my colleagues were beginning to see the bitter fruits of such inadequate parenting.

From PT: "It’s a major strength in my son that he is so aware of some of his most primitive needs, and it’s an added strength that he verbally asserts himself. On the other hand, it can be extremely draining to meet emotional needs which—I’ll be honest—often feel bottomless. What’s more, many times when I go out of my way to please him or meet a need, he ends up angry or tearful, and I seem to fail him."

Again, this. But these particular students were NOT aware of their needs, and they were NOT verbally assertive. What they were was restless, hyperactive, and disorganized, words that the writer will use later. I could tell that they wanted something, so I tried to feed them on 90-minute periods, but what I offered, cheap dollar-store food, couldn't feed the inchoate longing inside of them for structure at home, and calm, peaceful lives which I doubt they had. Over and over last year, I urged my students to use their words and tell me what they wanted. But I don't think they knew themselves well enough to say what it is they wanted or needed. We were just often stuck staring at each other.

From PT: "In my almost 40 years on earth, I had never seen anger in a child the way I saw anger with my son. I was overwhelmed. I will never fully understand the depth of his anger because I have not had his life or lived inside his skin. I spent the first two years with him in a state of massive confusion, feeling as if there were landmines everywhere and that my son would try to start arguments because he liked it. The truth, of course, is that he doesn’t like it the way some people like, say, soccer or water polo, but he needs it. A therapist I started seeing a few months ago to help me navigate specific antagonistic situations with him said succinctly, 'There’s not enough aggression in your house for him.' In other words, he seeks out negative, antagonistic interactions because it is familiar and because I believe his brain—hyperactive, intense, disorganized—searches the environment for excessive stimulation. In a peaceful house, he often feels lost and confused, while his parents feel confused, too. In this way, the interpersonal dynamic between parent and SN child is jeopardized, because each person is trying to figure out the motives of the other. If everyone is looking over his or her shoulder, no one is able to really trust—and, in turn, relax. Everyone is on high-alert all the time."

This explains why they started arguments ALL THE TIME, with me and each other, and why any assertion was met with a contradictory statement: it was a method of stimulation. I totally withheld that stimulation from them. I would not argue. I would not be argued with. I would speak to them about the work, one at a time, quietly, and NO OTHER WAY. They started an argument, I would walk away and refuse to participate.

But it just didn't work. They would start arguments and contradict me and each other and other teachers, just to get into a slanging match in order to get stimulation. And I of course, would swoop in, and, trying not to yell, but sometimes having to yell over them, say, "We do not fight. We do not argue. You may work together and talk about the work, but you cannot argue. Work cooperatively or work apart." So many ultimatums. They were chess pieces; I was the chess player. I would not give them that negative stimulation, because it utterly stressed me out. And there we sat, both on high alert, them for any stimulation they could get at any cost, and me constantly putting out over-stimulation fires. It was a pitched battle that lasted all year. I did not give in or give up, but it wore me out. I was utterly frazzled all year.

From PT: "Another factor that makes life more complicated for parents of children with SN is that the special needs rarely get met by the end of childhood, meaning that many of these children have trouble managing into their adult life—and this continues to impact the parents. One interesting study by Fingerman (2010) investigated the effect on parents’ well-being of having a grown child who has experienced significant life problems (e.g., trouble with the law, a substance abuse problem). The researchers found that having even one grown child with a significant life problem had a negative impact on the parents' mental health."

I still see these kids this year; they come into my next-door neighbor teacher's class. Lucky deals with them this year. They seem to be more grown up, but she poked her head in my door last year and said they seem to be at least a year behind, on average. I said, yes, I agree: when I had them last year, they were barely functioning at a sixth grade level, and many were functioning at a mental and emotional age much younger than that. I pushed and pushed and pushed all year to get them to grow just half a year.

And of course I don't know what impact I had. I just know this year they seem a tad more grown up, but still disorganized. Like last year, I had to FORCE them to line up at the railing of my classroom every year. It was just a routine, a procedure, something we did every day... and yet I was still having to force them to line up right up until the last week of school. They didn't get routines. They didn't get procedures. They didn't get them because they probably had very few routines and procedures of their own at home. But I persisted. Hell, I persevered and perseverated for forty damn weeks. This year, my sixth period students, a happy, well-adjusted, easy-going bunch thank goodness, simply come and line up, with very little difficulty. My students from last year, Lucky's students this year? Still milling around, playing, barely inside the gate, some outside the gate. Not lined up. Disorganized. They don't get this simple routine and procedure. It's a fight every. single. day.

From another article in PT, I also observed this in my class last year: "The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias in which people perform poorly on a task, but lack the meta-cognitive capacity to properly evaluate their performance. As a result, such people remain unaware of their incompetence and accordingly fail to take any self-improvement measures that might rid them of their incompetence."

What this looked and sounded like is that I would assign work, they would do their version of the work too quickly and too glibly, then try to claim they were finished. I would look at the work, offer specific evidence that this was incomplete, that part was missing, this could be done better. The arguments and contradictions would then start (them trying to get stimulation). I would simply repeat and repeat and repeat, not arguing, not rising to the bait MOST times, going on broken-record mode, until they gave up, sat down, and did a bit more work. They would come to me again, and I would see that they had done perhaps 10-15% more. More, I would say, here, here, and here. This isn't complete; you could do a better job; this is not your best work. Round two would begin: complaints, arguments, justification, rationalization. Round two would begin for me of broken-record mode. And there were 26 in my class, most of whom acted like that, for 40 weeks. Infuriating. Stressful as hell. And they COULD NOT see how their work was sub-par, even when I pointed it out.

Some of this, I know, was simply kids being kids. But in a select few, the Dunning-Kruger effect was firmly established. They just couldn't get the larger picture. They could not see how their work was of poorer quality than another student's work; they did not see how they could improve, and even when I pointed out areas of improvement or areas which needed more explanation, they did not see why their glib, vague, ambiguous answer was not good enough. And that was where I felt I bloodied my head against a brick wall, or rather 26 brick walls.

It was a hell of a year last year. This year is far better. I am so grateful.
Sexism is rife in chat. Today was no exception, and I'm feeling a great urge to take a long break from chat. I just cannot deal with sexist men and women.

I cannot deal with sexist males who make unsolicited comments on my and other women's looks.

I cannot deal with the idea that women exist to look beautiful and should be praised for their beauty first and foremost. Accomplishments? That's nothing. CANNOT. DEAL. WITH. THAT. ATTITUDE!

I cannot deal with the sexist females who uphold sexism from males.

I cannot deal with the sexist females who give a pass to males because they are males, and who judge, sentence, and socially execute other females for speaking up. Just so wrong on so many levels, in so many ways.

And that's what happened today. I was in a chat room, and some guy started spewing crap. I hate it when they say, "Will you help me cum?" I mean seriously, WHAT THE FUCK? So I said in the room something on the order of, Where's the woman's pleasure? What's she supposed to get out of this? Or do you REALLY THINK that women were simply put on the earth to HELP men have orgasms, and get nothing in return, expect nothing, just HELP and AID and be ADJUNCT to men's sexuality because that's what God put us on earth for?

And at least one other woman in the room verbally applauded my sarcasm. Then the owner IMed me, said EVERYTHING I said was negative, tried to tell me my own intentions, called me names. And I called her out for pre-judging me, not asking my intentions but trying to tell me about myself and thus be blaming and accusatory. She called me a name, so I told her to have a nice day, and I wouldn't stoop to that level. (I really wanted to piss her off even more by taking the high road.)

So this is Yahoo, just under a different name. The booters here aren't people who have no other life and who've dedicated themselves of days, weeks, months learning code; it's just capricious, unstable, volatile admins and mods who don't like what you say and then boot you. I've been kicked out of all kind of rooms in Paltalk. No one ever explains why.

The woman who initially cheered me on for calling out the sexist creep tried to explain how Paltalk work. Her explanation sucked. Just ignore it, she said. Use your blocks to block the person from IMing you and ignore the person in the room. Yes, okay, it's easy enough to do that, per se, but it doesn't solve the problem, much less even ADDRESS the problem of the inherent ickiness, creepiness, and sliminess of the sexism that the person is spewing in the first place. "Just put up with it" doesn't cut it.

Then she said, well, this might be the wrong room for you. No, it isn't; I clearly chose it and knew precisely which one I was clicking. I simply expected not to have to put up with slimy, creepy, objectifying bullshit comments, which are inherently displeasing and downright enraging, and a total turn off. I'd like to be TURNED ON in a flirting room, not actively TURNED OFF and angered. That, apparently, is simply too much to ask. So the Dubai fucktard who made the sexist, dumbass comments about trying to get any female to "help him cum" wasn't given a talking to; wasn't red-dotted or silenced in the room; wasn't bounced for 24 hours; wasn't banned from the room. I, a female who speaks up against sexism and against creeps, WAS red-dotted, bounced, and banned. There's a fucking hell of a lot wrong with that situation, and it's repeated ad nauseam all over Paltalk.

I've even had to deal with private messaging being vilified and looked down upon and looked askance at. I've been told that the only people who PM or IM are soliciting for sex, which simply strikes me as insane. I'm sure some people do, but this just seems yet another clueless, ignorant extrovert reaction to get everyone talking in the room, where, when everyone talks in a chat room, it's more chaotic, and much less intelligent. Oh sure, let's all go for that option. No thanks, I don't want to have to compete for attention, never have a question answered, deal with random dumbasses making stupid comments about what I say, or be judged or shut down when I actually have something witty and/or wise to say. Room talk = lowered IQ. No one can tell me that's a "better" way of talking. Talking privately, one on one, is far superior.

My dad told me a few times that "your mouth will get you in trouble one of these days." Well, ya know what, I'm happy to be in trouble. I'd rather be bounced and banned for speaking up for what's right, and pissing off someone who's a covert or overt sexist, or an idiot, than keep quiet just to keep the peace. I'm proud to be mouthy, and I intend to keep on being mouthy. That's what happens: when someone else tries to take away choice and agency, choice and agency and exerting one's will become all-important. Allow my voice to be heard, and I wouldn't have made an issue of it. Now, you've made it an issue by being too domineering, too fault-finding, sexist, ridiculous, judgmental, and by being a child in an adult's body.

CANNOT. DEAL. WITH. ANY. OF. THOSE. ATTITUDES!
From Fugitivus, a new blog I recently discovered:

If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:

it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (“mean bitch”)
it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (“crazy bitch”)
it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (“stuck-up bitch”)
it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (“angry bitch”)
it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (“bitch got daddy issues”)
it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (“dyke bitch”)
it is not okay to raise your voice (“shrill bitch”)
it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)

So, for the record:

-- I set solid and distinct boundaries, and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed. And I don't give a shit if someone thinks I'm mean, a bitch, or both. Just don't cross my boundaries. Show some respect, and we're fine.

-- I occasionally appear distraught and/or emotional. And I don't give a shit if someone thinks I'm crazy and/or a bitch. Just deal with the fact that I'm human, and have emotions that run the gamut from happy, to sad, to upset, to angry, to indifferent, and a thousand other shades of nuance in between.

-- I make personal decisions that the adults and other peers in my life don't agree with, and I don't explain. I consult my own wisdom and knowledge first, and have been doing so pretty much all my life. I think stuff out first, and then and only then if I have a question or need some help, THEN I'll go to someone. Still doesn't mean I'll take their advice. They have to KNOW what they're talking about, AND their advice has to have been 90%+ helpful the last several times.

-- I regularly don't agree with people and keep on not agreeing. And I don't care if someone thinks I'm angry and/or a bitch just because I have my own well-thought-out opinion based on facts and research and experience. Convince me and persuade me that your thinking is right, and I'll change my mind, maybe, if all the facts and the the research and the experience line up. Otherwise, I have no reason to change my mind just because you're male and I'm female. You can't out-think or out-reason me. Don't even try.

-- I have and express fluid, experimental feelings about myself, my body, my sexuality, my desires, and my needs. I'm consistently inconsistent and predictably unpredictable. Deal with it. I'm human. I am a work in progress. I'm not a statue, my name isn't Galatea, and your name damn sure isn't Pygmalion... just Pig if you ever think any woman or any human being is unchanging and emotionally at a total standstill so long as they are breathing and thinking and having to interact with other human beings.

-- I use my physical strength, and my weight, to set physical boundaries. I don't care if someone thinks I'm a dyke and/or a bitch. I LIKE my personal space bubble, and get damned annoyed when someone gets too close. I've been known to oh-so-casually sling my arms about, so that someone else has to duck. I've even hit people a couple of times, and when they started getting outraged, I simply shrugged and said, well, don't sit so close. I move around. Or, I've been known to whirl around, twist, turn, get up, move around, so that someone has to pull a leg or foot in, or contract an arm more into his/her body. Arm's length. There's that's better for me, and for you too. Closeness is over-rated.

-- I raise my voice on a regular basis, and don't care if someone thinks I'm shrill and/or a bitch. I WILL be heard. I won't be silenced; I won't be talked over; I won't be interrupted. Just like that time I slammed out of my vehicle, started yelling immediately, and got up in the personal space of the neighbor-from-hell who was trying to get shitty over public parking space, you want a badger or a wolverine on your hands? Just try to silence me. That's when I get all kinds of loud, up in your face, up in your space, and simply will not shut up until I've had my say times five. Because if you hadn't tried to shut me up, I'd simply have had my say. Try to shut me up, it becomes a tirade, and I use that word VERY precisely.

-- I regularly and completely shut down males who TOO obviously like my looks. And I don't care if they then completely flip their shallow, misogynistic opinion and think that my disliking random comments on my looks from males who are total strangers suddenly makes me a mean dyke or a frigid bitch. No, I'll simply never get used to total strangers making comments on my looks. It's not a compliment; it's just harassment. The fact that namecalling from them would follow immediately after a so-called "compliment" makes the cycle of harassment complete. No, you don't get to judge my looks overtly and say so. No thanks to all of it. Keep your comments to yourself. Smile at me. Look at all ya want. But I don't want to hear any so-called "male" commenting on my looks, as if I were put here on earth to be pleasing to look at. I have more important things to do, like live my life and accomplish things.

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