Monday, June 17, 2013


1.  I'm glad that I lived with Steve's cat, Chicken, for a while, because it helped me to appreciate cats, of which I now have two. 2.  An ever-evolving sense of family. 3. Tower defense apps. 4. Old friends and so-bad-they're-good movies (I'm looking at you, Sandy.) 5. New connections, however tenuous.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On Vulnerability

 A friend of mine recently told me about a video that researcher/storyteller BrenĂ© Brown did as a TED talk.  It was pretty illuminating.  The central thing I took away was that we can't selectively numb emotions.  This seems obvious now that I've heard it spoken out loud, but I suspect it's something I'll have to remind myself of again and again.  The basic idea is:  We sometimes feel crappy feelings, but if we shut down around those feelings, we also shut out any actual and possible positive feelings. 

One critical example is the fear that comes from the vulnerability of getting to know somebody--I'm thinking about this in terms of new friendships, but it probably applies to any kind of relationships between individuals.  My experience of getting older is that it's more difficult to forge friendships; there are all kinds of reasons for this, but one central reason (for me) is that I am more afraid to reach out, to be vulnerable. Not sure why I'm more afraid, but likely it has something to do with patterns of behavior that started when I was young(er).  Part of me wants to say it's just that life has a kind of beat-down effect as you get older, if you let it. Feeling that fear, which feels icky, leads to me wanting to shut down that fear, which leads to me shutting down emotionally in general. Difficult to connect with people and build friendships when you're shut down. 

So one tool in the toolbox of solutions for this (I just typed "SOULutions"--any self-help writers are free to use that phrasing for your books on spirituality) for me is to recognize when I'm feeling crappy emotions, and to try to let myself feel them. Oh, I feel afraid today--ok. So I'm afraid. It's not really that bad, if I let myself feel it, generally.  Some days I might want/need to shut down anyway, because I'm overwhelmed by fear or something--those days it's also ok to just shut down for a bit, but I need to do it consciously, and also keep track of how much/how long I'm doing that. 

Part of me really, really HATES that I feel like I have to do all of this analizing of my own psyche--"normal" people don't do this, right? But I really do feel like I want to grow in this way. I want connections, and I want some of them to become deep, loving connections like I have enjoyed in my life up until now.  I'm cool with some of them being less deep--I've come to value myriad types of connection with folks as well--but it's one of the great joys of life to have a deep connection with other people, and I want to encourage that in whatever ways I can. 

This vulnerability stuff isn't for the weak. 

I also highly recommend this video, which is kind of a follow up, where she talks about what it was like to tell thousands of people she had a breakdown:

Thursday, June 06, 2013


1.  Friends who are trying to understand themselves, other people, and the world.  
2.  (relatedly) Brene Brown: (thanks, Josie!)
4.  D&D (otherwise I would have zero male friends, I think)
5.  Several drivers shared the road with me (on my bicycle) this morning.

Monday, June 03, 2013


1.  Seeing the different kinds of bodies folks have up at Harbin Hot Springs (nekkid people!).
2.  Buying Lauren "Noise Putty" (= Fart noises) at the toystore and having her joyfully use it in the checkout line. 
3.  Crazy dreams.
4.  Finding some middle ground.
5.  Time with an old friend. (Looking at you, Sandy.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Car = Normal?

I am in my 40s and have never married, and never wanted to. I have never wanted children.  I'm a feminist.  I have never really wanted to own my own home.  I'm nonmonogamous. I tend to date queer women.  I haven't owned a car for almost 20 years.

I've been thinking a bit about these things; there is a lot of social pressure, some of it invisible in the fish-don't-notice-water sort of ways, to act in certain ways. Hetero-normative ways. Consumer-culture ways. And I'm no rebel--I'm a white, middle class man, and as such I have benefitted from and participated in the dominant culture for 40 years, and will continue to do so to whatever degree.  But I have also been proud of the ways I have ducked a few kinds of normative pressure--I've been proudly childless and carless, for instance, for a while. I think folks who don't want kids shouldn't be pressured into having kids--most of the pressure is just general social pressure, though some folks have more obvious pressures put on them by their families. The general social pressure includes folks who say, "Well, you'd understand if you had kids." Sometimes this may be true, but it's often said in a way that implies that folks who don't want kids are somehow less mature than those who do, or those who have them.

And to a lesser extent, I feel the pressure of normativity almost every day--people ask me if I own my home, if I'm married, if I have kids, if I own a car, if I have a college degree, stuff like that, all the time. But mostly I kind of rail against that type of pressure, am kind of proud that I haven't "given in".  "I bike everywhere," I sometimes say, "though I do use zipcar from time to time," as if I were doing the world a favor.  But mostly I don't own a car because it's a pain in the ass--the payments, the upkeep; it's just too much for me, mostly. And when people find out I don't own a car, they sometimes look at me askance--just like they do when they find out I don't want kids, or don't want to own a home. But the difference is this: I kind of feel like I'm immature about not having a car.

I don't know why the car thing is different, but when I am driving my partner's car, I feel more like an adult. When she bought a new car, and I started driving it sometimes, I felt like I had somehow matured. I felt the gentle caress of approval from others that can come from doing the "things adults do"--people get these sorts of sentiments of approval when they get engaged, or get married, or buy a home; they get them when they have children.  They even kind of get them when they get divorced, as if that was yet another stage of adulthood.

I wouldn't feel more adult if I got married; neither would I feel more mature if I bought a house. But I do feel more adult driving around in a car that isn't even mine--which is weird. Not sure why it's different for me, but I sort of feel like, yeah, a person *should* own a car by the time he's 42--even though in the next moment I am proud that I bike (almost) everywhere. We now have a second car (briefly), while we decide what to do with my partner's old car, and I got really attached to the idea of having that car as mine, even though it's a bad idea in varous ways.  (For instance, it's bad for my health--within a couple of weeks of having it, I stopped riding to work, and gained a bunch of weight.)  It's odd, because the mature thing to do is to donate the car, and to continue mostly riding everywhere I go--but part of me thinks that I'm still being immature, imagining I can go through life without a car. 

Friday, February 08, 2013


1. Carrot juice.
2. Nyquil
3. Good books.
4. A partner who communicates well with me what's going on inside her head and heart.
5. Drivers who notice bikes, and behave accordingly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Restaurant Armageddon

Matt Bors is a God of Cartoonists
I think it would be a lot of work to own a restaurant.  I imagine this is even true when owning a franchise. And I suspect that, for a lot of individually-owned restaurants, labor costs are some of the highest costs.  And yet--it's hard not to notice that the owners often drive new BMWs while the workers take a bus or ride their bikes to work.

I work near a restaurant-supply grocery store, and it's open to the public, so I sometimes go there to buy some stuff for making lunches.  I see restaurant owners there--you can tell they are owners because they treat the folks who work at the grocery store like crap.  People who do service work for a living (who aren't also owners) generally treat other service workers at least moderately well.  And you can tell they are owners because they are putting their restaurant groceries into expensive SUVs, the payments for which they are undoubtedly writing off on their taxes. 

I know some restaurant owners are kind-hearted people who really want to treat their employees with respect, and would love to provide health care--but it is expensive. But I think (educate me if I'm wrong) these folks are the exception to the rule.  I work at a small company, and a huge part of my compensation are my health benefits.  I know it's expensive. But the folks I work for want to treat me like a human being who deserves health care. I really appreciate that, and it is part of what keeps me working here--not just the money that it represents, but the feeling behind it. Owners of companies who don't want to pay for health care because it cuts into their profits, but who still want to pretend they respect their workers while they themselves live in the Oakland hills and put their kids in private school and the like, these folks just don't make sense to me, and they make me angry.

My last job was at a corporate coffee shop. I had a regular customer who created restaurants and then "flipped" them for profit. He had already done so with a couple of restaurants when I met him. At the time, San Francisco had just voted to increase the minimum wage of any workers in the city, and he was talking restaurant Armageddon--he would go out of business, most restaurants in SF would go out of business, he said. I told him I doubted that. He said he knew, because he was in the biz. A year later I asked him about it, after he had sold another restaurant, and he shrugged it off. I suspect a lot of the hand-wringing around health care by corporate CEOs of chain restaurants is more of the same.