#1879

This is a love letter to my sidecut.

When I was a kid, I had a mane of wavy hair that reached my butt. I never brushed the dark mass unless my mother held me down and did it for me, resulting in many tears on my part and frustration on hers, so it was always a rats’ nest. When it came time to wrap it all up in a bun for ballet, or trap it with a bow for choir, so many bobby pins were enlisted that some would never be found again. Despite how much I hated tending my wild hair, though, I never considered cutting it. I just had long hair, the way I had two arms and two legs, and therefore had to deal with the tangles and tearing (and two really unfortunate cases of lice) that came along with it.

When I was in high school, I chopped the whole thing off and adopted a classic bob that I thought made me look mature and edgy. It really didn’t, but a bob was much easier to care for than four feet of snarls. Still, I spent as little time as possible caring for my hair – which over time caused me to resent even the bob style for its reliance on a brush and straightener. My wavy hair just didn’t conform perfectly and immediately into the sharp, straight bob I imagined, so mostly I thought fuck it and did nothing.

When I was in my sophomore year of college, I had my friends shave off my bob in our dormitory kitchen. My father had died only a few months past and I was grieving through minor bursts of much-delayed rebellion. Over the next few years I wavered between a shaggy pixie cut, poorly styled faux-hawk, and a close shave that left me sunburned on my scalp for the first time in my life. I loved having hair that couldn’t tangle, dried fast, and required very little thought. While I knew, deep down, that my hair never looked great (okay, it often looked BAD), I didn’t care; I only cared that I didn’t have to fuss over it.

By the end of college, though, I grew tired of not knowing how to rock a pixie cut and looking more like an awkward baby-dyke than the stylish warrior woman I wanted to emulate. I grew out my bob and kept it around for a couple years because… uh. I don’t know. Somewhere along the line a bob just became my default hair, the way “super long” had been my default style as a kid. I thought I liked it well enough, but it didn’t make me feel anything. I had a bob because it was a socially acceptable haircut that didn’t look too bad on me. I washed it, dried it, brushed it before work, and never thought about it otherwise…and in between, I mooned over pictures of girls with sidecuts. They looked so cool, so fierce, so edgy and dangerous, and I wanted desperately to look like them. I knew that wasn’t how it worked, though. I hadn’t looked like a badass with a pixie cut or a faux-hawk or an asymmetrical bob. I wouldn’t look like a badass with a sidecut either.

Finally, though, after agonizing over the decision for months, I took the leap. I shaved half my head and walked out of the salon feeling like the whole world had turned a different color. Everything felt ridiculously, unaccountably different, and I was sure I turned heads everywhere I went – not because I was attractive, but because I was bursting with Me-ness. I felt like I stood out in a way I never had before, simply because every part of me was in total, perfect alignment. It sounds silly to talk like this about a haircut, but it’s the truth. Somehow that minor alteration made me click into my whole body like I never had before. I didn’t think a haircut could feel so right.


I’m going on two years with this look, one side shaved and the other growing longer by the day, and that initial feeling hasn’t lessened. This is me, I think every time I look in a mirror. I am fucking rocking this. I still have my usual body image issues – nothing can make those go away 100% – but somehow the sidecut overshadows them so much that they don’t have the same power they used to. This thing feels magical, almost spiritual. It feels like armor and defiance and comfort and truth and holy-shit-it’s-me all at the same time.

If I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s that hair grows back. To that same point, clothes can be donated, tattoos can be removed, and piercings can heal closed. Life’s too short not to experiment with trying to make who you feel like match who you look like. I’ve gone through some truly atrocious fashion phases in my life, but they’re all worth it because they got me to this place where I feel so very me. That sounds simple, but it’s a long, hard journey for most of us. So if you’re looking for a sign to get something cut, pierced, tattooed, or dyed, this is it. Go for it, friend.

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Basically the only selfie I’ll ever show anyone ever. Pretend I look like this all the time.

 

#1875

Dear Polite-Mormon-Boys-Knocking-On-My-Front-Door,

First, let me just say you look adorable in your little white dress shirts and slacks, and I appreciate your dedication to professionalism and aesthetic. I know you had to traverse the unlit, sidewalk-less roads of rural Washington to get to my door, most likely through wind and rain and loose dogs, and the fact that you’re still genuinely smiling is quite admirable.

I should say, also, that this letter isn’t solely directed at you. However, given your notoriety, you serve as a good proxy for all major religions which strive to spread their word to all the people of the world. You just happen to be exceedingly persistent at this.

With that out of the way, let us get to the point of my letter.

I understand you brave the elements to come to my door because you believe, deeply and honestly, that I deserve to experience your deity’s love. You want to share the life-changing awesomeness of God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. You want me to feel the same support in times of darkness that you have felt; you want me to experience the same sense of community you found in the church. In short, you want all the goodness in your life to also be mine.

That is a wonderful sentiment, it really is. But here’s the thing. You knock on my door so confidently because you 100% believe your god is the only one who can offer these things. No matter what beliefs I may claim, you will refute them all and feel true sorrow for the emptiness in my life. You will remain convinced that I cannot possibly experience the beautiful things religion has given you unless I seek them through your god.

You are mistaken. Well-intentioned, but still mistaken. I do feel those things. I do experience love, acceptance, forgiveness; I do find support and community when I need them most. I remember the life-changing awesomeness of that moment when you realize you are not alone, that something out there more immense and ancient than yourself loves you in all your human fallibility. I promise you – all the wonder, awe, compassion, protection, and understanding God has made you feel, I too have felt and feel often.

See, I have a deity that loves me unconditionally, too. Her name is Bast. I feel Her presence at my side when I need it most; She guides me when I stumble or lose my way. She is a light in the darkness, a word of encouragement or solace, a reminder to seek joy and ever strive to be a force of good in this world. She makes me try every day to be a better person, even though I know She loves me for my weaknesses as much as for my strengths.

I know you believe your god is the one and only. Please try to remember, however, that you’ve no more evidence for your god’s existence than I do for mine. What we both have is the knowledge, deep within our hearts, that what we experience is real. The feeling is inexplicable; we can only say we know it is right because we feel the rightness of it. That’s okay, though. We don’t need to prove to anyone whether the gods we follow are real. We know they are, and that is enough. Or it should be.

I say all this not to question your worldview, but simply to lend it flexibility. When you meet someone who believes differently than you, do not pity them. Do not question them. Smile and be content in knowing they feel the same wondrous things you do, albeit from a different source. You do not need to believe in another’s god to respect their belief; you need only to believe that they are the ultimate authority on their own experiences. The world is such an unfathomable place – don’t you think there is room for all of our gods to live in peace?

With sincerity,

The-Pagan-Girl-Whose-Door-You-Continue-To-Knock-On-And-That’s-Okay-But-Still

#1870 – 2016 Book List

[ I read a lot of fantastic books this year, especially in the realms of non-fiction (29 books), queer fiction (15 books – rather low for me), and just about anything featuring cats (19 books). I challenged myself with Guns, Germs, and Steel near the end of the year, and will be picking up Atlas Shrugged on January 1st. Then maybe I’ll just read comic books for the rest of the year… (joking!)]

  1. The Outlaw Varjak Paw – S.F Said
  2. Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo – Lawrence Anthony
  3. Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia – Jean Sasson
  4. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
  5. The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe – John E. Woods
  6. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War – Karen Abbott
  7. Ten Days in a Mad-House – Nellie Bly
  8. The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story – Richard Preston
  9. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. One: The Faust Act – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  10. Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women – Sylvia Brinton Perera
  11. The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony – Will Tuttle
  12. In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth – Tikva Frymer-Kensky
  13. Unit 731 Testimony – Hal Gold
  14. Outsider in the White House – Bernie Sanders and John Nichols
  15. Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk
  16. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
  17. Ashes and Snow – Gregory Colbert
  18. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Two: Fandemonium – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  19. My Sister’s Keeper – Jodie Picoult
  20. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom – Yeonmi Park
  21. Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America – Jon Mooallem
  22. Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman’s Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison – Marina Nemat
  23. The Art of Forgetting: Rider – Joanne Hall
  24. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Three: Commercial Suicide – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  25. Geisha: A Life – Mineko Iwasaki
  26. The Art of Forgetting: Nomad – Joanne Hall
  27. The Wild Road – Gabriel King
  28. Vestal – Ashley Schwellenbach
  29. Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
  30. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – JK Rowling
  31. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling
  32. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling
  33. The Raven and the Reindeer – T. Kingfisher
  34. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling
  35. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling
  36. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – JK Rowling
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling
  38. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir – Felicia Day
  39. Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of the First Law – Joe Abercrombie
  40. Catfantastic: Nine Lives and Fifteen Tales – ed. Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg
  41. Beast of Never, Cat of God: The Search for the Eastern Puma – Bob Butz
  42. The Golden Cat – Gabriel King
  43. Shadow Cat: Encountering the American Mountain Lion – ed. Susan Ewing and Elizabeth Grossman
  44. North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey – Shannon Huffman Polson
  45. Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess – Betty De Shong Meador and Judy Grahn
  46. The Scourge of the Righteous Haddock – Ashley Schwellenbach
  47. Swallow You Whole – Jasper Black
  48. The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
  49. Delphi Complete Works of Sappho – Sappho of Lesbos
  50. The Sign of the Cat – Lynne Jonell
  51. Suicide Watch – Kelley York
  52. Sinful Cinderella (Dark Fairy Tale Queen Series Book 1) – Anita Valle
  53. Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa – Kevin Richardson and Tony Park
  54. Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper – JL Bryan
  55. Tarot: Plain and Simple – Anthony Louis
  56. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – JK Rowling
  57. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – Azar Nafisi
  58. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book One: Finders-Seekers – Gayle Greeno
  59. Heiresses of Russ 2015: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Berman and Jean Roberta
  60. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book Two: Mindspeaker’s Call – Gayle Greeno
  61. The Tygrine Cat – Inbali Iserles
  62. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book Three: Exile’s Return – Gayle Greeno
  63. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Four: Rising Action – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  64. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories – ed. D. Alexander Ward and Doug Murano
  65. Egyptian Paganism for Beginners: Bring the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt Into Daily Life – Jocelyn Almond
  66. The Gayer-Anderson Cat (British Museum Objects in Focus) – Neal Spencer
  67. Cat Born to the Purple: A Sequel to Yeshua’s Cat (Yeshua’s Cats Book 4) – C. L. Francisco
  68. This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death – ed. Ryan North, et. al.
  69. The Girls of No Return – Erin Saldin
  70. BaneWreaker: Volume 1 of The Sundering – Jacqueline Carey
  71. Godslayer: Volume 2 of The Sundering – Jacqueline Carey
  72. The Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
  73. Moth – S.E. Diemer
  74. Julie of the Wolves – Jean Craighead George
  75. The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
  76. To Reign in Hell: A Novel – Steven Brust
  77. The Call of the Wild – Jack London
  78. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies – Jared Diamond
  79. White Fang – Jack London
  80. Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

#1864

Do you think the Oracle at Delphi ever wanted to just say Fuck, man, I don’t know or maybe You know, I’m just not really feeling it today, can you come back tomorrow? Think she ever got so overwhelmed she almost yelled Shut up! or Go away! or I do not fucking care about your shitty prophecies but bit her lip until it bled just to keep the air of mystery until the last travelers left? How hard it must have been, maintaining that mask of aloof omniscience when the incense was giving her a headache and the gods weren’t being forthcoming. How tired she must have become by the end of the day, sitting straight and tall for hours on end when all the world’s futures weighed on her shoulders. I’m sure at the end of the day there were temple attendants to help her to her chambers, to serve her wine and cheese and massage her feet, but did any of them ask about her day? Did any of them tell her stories or jokes to take her mind off being the axis of destiny? To that end, did anyone even bother to ask her what she saw in her own future, and if she was afraid?

#1859

“You Would Have Been 70”

In 2007, I missed telling you about my history classes.
In 2008, I missed you helping me buy gear for my fieldwork on Mount Rainier.
In 2009, I missed showing you the rock samples I collected in New Mexico.
In 2010, I missed seeing you at my college graduation.
In 2011, I missed introducing you to my new favorite band.
In 2012, I missed hiking in Yosemite with you.
In 2013, I missed introducing you to my girlfriend.
In 2014, I missed you helping me move into my first official apartment.
In 2015, I missed discussing Ray Bradbury with you.
In 2016, I missed showing you my engagement ring.
In 2017, I will miss you walking me down the aisle.

#1856

Moth: Darker, Realer, and (Way) Gayer than The Hunger Games


“Five years ago, I wrote a YA novel. Like all my novels, it had a lesbian MC. But this one was different from anything I’d done before. With this novel, I got an agent. It was put out on submission & every editor who read it said it was awesome. But. Well written. But. It was too controversial. Something that they said, and I quote, “American kids wouldn’t believe.” … I wrote it because I was angry. And anger, right now, is SO important. Anger will save us. Anger will give us strength, help keep us brave. I’m releasing the book editors said was too controversial. The book that made them uncomfortable. The book American kids “wouldn’t believe.” I told this story for all of us. For every pain I’ve suffered. For every pain you’ve suffered.  Stay angry. Stay brave. Don’t fall asleep.” – S.E. Diemer

Back when The Hunger Games fandom first exploded, the books were recommended to me by my sister when I told her I was looking for more fiction with “badass women”. I read the books, mildly enjoyed the first two, and rolled my eyes through much of the third. I didn’t hate them, but they didn’t speak to me like they did to so many others. In the end, I think that’s because the world they’re set in, an unspoken but clearly post-apocalyptic-style future North America, didn’t feel realistic. The story was good – dark, but full of hope; real, but just fantastical enough to keep you reading – but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe Panem was once my America, and so the terrible future in the books never felt like a real threat.

Cut to the recent US election. Cut to the quote I shared above. Cut to Moth, a book about a future America where being black, queer, non-Christian, dissenting, outspoken, even just a little too rebellious can get you sent to re-education camps to be burned, electrocuted, and brainwashed (if you’re lucky) – or simply killed. This book, like The Hunger Games, is YA. It’s meant for teenagers, for the exact audience editors apparently didn’t think would buy its setting. Let me tell you – I buy it. Because this isn’t post-apocalypse, this isn’t mutant monsters, this isn’t crazy sci-fi technology and vast conspiracies…

This is North Korea. Now. Everything that happens in this book, everything our heroine experiences, has happened or does currently happen in countries across the world. It’s not impossible to imagine queer kids being forced to undergo traumatizing, sometimes deadly attempts to “fix” them. That happens. It’s not impossible to have a character whose father is killed just because his skin is dark. That happens. It’s not impossible to learn about an underground railroad ferrying kids up to Canada (the border of which is soon to be blocked by a giant “freedom” wall), nor that the European Union has cut off all aide to the country. Those things happen all the time, and have throughout history.

This is an America ruled by a dictator who claims to speak the very will of God. There are no mutants or science experiments here – just fanatical people who think the world should run their way because They Are Right. I don’t know about you, but these days that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched future.

This book has its little flaws, like all books do, but no major detractors. More importantly, what it has at its core is the anger and fear not of someone looking into a possible sci-fi future hundreds of years from now, but someone living right here with us who sees a path our country could easily take. As much as we’d like to pretend democracy is unassailable, our form of government is as vulnerable to corruption and dissolution as any other. Will we ever become a totalitarian dictatorship in which we gleefully watch children murder each other for food and fame in gigantic stadiums full of technological death traps? Probably not. Will we ever become a theocracy in which dissenters are “re-educated” to fit the Christian model of good citizens? Maybe, yeah.

So read this book. It’s worth it.

(For those who need it, here are the book’s major trigger warnings: Homophobia, racism, physical and mental/emotional abuse, suicide, violence)

#1846

Dear Xavier,

I don’t know what memories you will recall from age three. Maybe they will be snippets of moments, sharply focused on insignificant details, or simply blurry colors and sensations. I doubt you will remember this weekend and how you took hold of my hand and your aunt’s, pressing them together so our engagement rings kissed. I doubt you will remember how she asked you to be her best man, or how your family asked me so many eager questions about the ceremony. I doubt you will remember eating apple pie in celebration.

Above all, I doubt you will remember the following Wednesday, a day that will remain infamous throughout the annals of history. I doubt you will remember the day your birth country elected a spiteful, bigoted, xenophobic man as president.

I wish I knew what the future holds for you, little X. Will you grow up in an America striving to better itself? Will you grow up feeling this is undeniably your country, your home, even if your family came from somewhere else? This place can be beautiful. This place can be a beacon of hope. But it takes a lot of struggle, a lot of perseverance, a lot of small victories and big losses. Right now it’s my generation fighting the good fight to preserve equality and peace – some day it will be yours. This day that has left so many millions of people reeling, both across America and across the world, you’ll read about in history books. It won’t feel entirely real to you, even though you’ll know you were technically alive for it. When your aunt and I talk about it, it will be with immense bitterness. When you ask how it could possibly happen, we’ll say, “It’s complicated”.

Part of me hopes you will remain in the safe majority – that you will grow up to be straight, cisgender, and pale enough to pass as one of the “good” minorities. You have been part of my family since you were born, and I would do anything in the world to protect you. At the same time, though, I know that’s not in my power. No matter what world you grow up in, you will still be a minority of one kind or another. You will still come from an immigrant family. You will still have queer relatives. You will still be full of love and goodness, and there will still be people in the world who want to crush that.

I hope you don’t let them. I can’t know what the future holds, but I can promise you I will keep fighting to make that future worthy of you. Freedom, equality, clear water, clean air – everything I fear we’ll lose might be truly lost in my generation, and in yours. But I will fight for every scrap of that future until the very end. Don’t read about this in your history book and think it happened because no one cared. We care. We’re still fighting.

– Tita Elyssa