Matt and I now watch Glee together on the Internet.

If there were some kind of licensing agency for fucking, we'd have been on the do-not-fly list since birth.

give us this day our

From Tuesday to Friday this week I was home for America's beloved overeating holiday, that paradoxical celebration of all things vegetable.  Since all the libraries were closed, I had plenty of time to spend with my mother, who is well-known to be a lovely person.  This Thanksgiving, my mother (and my aunt) got up at 6 to head over to the First Congregational Church downtown and wake up the homeless people who sleep there once a week through arrangement with P.A.D.S.  Some weeks, my mom does their laundry, and dinner and a bag lunch are provided.  On holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, sometimes there are singing volunteers.  A lot of these people are bankrupt thanks to catastrophic illnesses for which they were uninsured or underinsured.  Thanks to the lovely church ladies of DuPage county, they are not necessarily either cold or hungry.

But my mother's concern for the genuinely hungry has an upsetting foil in her preoccupation with weight-- not just her own.  Which explains why I spent two nights of my visit home watching The Biggest Loser (via), a disturbing show if ever there was one.  It also explains why my last boyfriend eventually became uncomfortable visiting our home.  My mom kept trying to tell him about Weight Watchers.

Jill at Feministe points out that
The Biggest Loser puts fat people on display as moral failures — it suggests that people are fat simply because they are lazy, and if only they worked a little harder, they could lose the weight. In reality, the contestants are nearly killing themselves for the amusement of the viewing audience.
The fat-shaming and unhealthy rate of weight loss on the show are creepy even without the parts that have been cut out (they dehydrate themselves and one guy fasts until he actually urinates blood).  In the special on past contestants that my mother wanted to watch, people from past seasons-- many of whom had been "inspired" to become personal trainers and magically kept the weight off by continuing to work out like it's their job, since now it is-- repeated so often that they'd been "given a second chance at life" that it didn't take a cynic to wonder if they'd been asked to say so.

In one testimonial, a former contestant described her weight loss goal as treatment for PCOS-related infertility.  No one bothered to explain that, although weight loss is one possible treatment for PCOS, so are less disruptive measures such as birth control and diabetes or fertility medications.  Oh, and that obesity is actually a symptom of PCOS, meaning that no, the bad fat lady didn't make herself infertile.  Not that "careful not to eat yourself barren" isn't about as elegant as mutually-reinforcing gender expectations come.  Honorable mention: breastfeed like it's your job, look fuckable again in no time.

As our sensitive friends over at the New York Times might have suggested to you by now, though, gentle reader, Biggest Loser is hardly the most odious example of our society's treatment of fat people.  Like most people with some interest in human dignity, I have my own favorite example just from PETA.  You don't have to look far in most feminist blogs to find someone pointing out the dozens of flaws with the BMI, a measure of "health" that, as far as I can tell, is used primarily to make people feel bad without much investigation into their actual risk factors.  As Jill mentions in the link above, "thin" is a poor stand-in for "health," since many of the ways people attempt to lose weight-- not just on the show-- are terrible for you, and overweight people don't forfeit being healthy, anyway.

The silly association between weight and health also gives small people permission to be cruel to anyone whose body doesn't meet their standards.  If someone doesn't respect or value themselves enough to be "healthy," then why should you?  A person who can't or won't prioritize their own health must be personally lacking, right?  Strangers (and my mother) police your weight because they just care so much.

Of course, along with their health overweight people do not forfeit being beautiful, successful, or loved.  If they miss out on those things, it's because people like the producers of Biggest Loser take them away.

stranger things have

It's nearly December and I'm wondering why it seems like I've put another thing away.

In early summer, I cried a lot because I'm pretty sure our bodies aren't us (or at any rate that mine isn't me).  Right now I'm not sure what I think-- it feels a little irrelevant because lately I've been really enjoying having a physical form.  Maybe this is for a boring reason, like that I've been awake more or have a better body image.  Of course, I'm also thinking about assassinations and sham healthcare reform and I'm too busy being horrified at other people trying to use, or interfere with my own use of, my body to worry much about whether it's me or merely mine.

Anyway I've been really carried away with how beautiful bodies are, in general, and it seems natural to generalize that to include myself.  I feel bad when I can't really explain why I'm so attracted to Matt, which may have something to do with our real lack of a language to express male desirability.  But then, I also think that I like him the same way I like anyone, or he likes me: for no reason.  I'm not sure whether the more-available words about my appearance express anything "true" about why someone would be attracted to me.

I guess I could talk about my love for physicality in general, and my love for Matt, but I'm not sure where that leaves room for sex without love, which is something that I think is pretty great as long as everyone agrees on it.  Maybe I should leave it to science.

it's true

Even though I'm something of an old hand on the slut farm, I still sometimes read Scarleteen, learn a bit, and think about how much I love these people and want to give them all a giant hug.

Honorable mention: Deal With It! by the lovely folks at was my bible for everything in junior high and high school.

I'm tempted to say that resources like these are some of the most valuable things out there creating healthy, happy sexual people out of the nervous messes most of us were as adolescents-- and some feminists to boot!  But then, before I ever got Deal With It! I had the junior versions of matter-of-fact books on female anatomy and how to not freak out and cry when you grow weird hair and start bleeding (full disclosure: I cried).  My mom bought me those books.  So actually I'd really just like to thank my mom.

towards a new masculinity

Nudity after the jump.

there's no replacing you baby

So this is my third post and I'm already failing at blogging conventions, but I can't recall where I read this and I don't feel like looking it up right now. I have a point to make. Why yes, I am drinking.

But I have read-- and would I lie? to you, gentle reader?-- that four years is a common cutoff point for committed relationships. OK, maybe it was bullshit evo psych because the argument was that that's about how long it takes to get a kid to the "probably will survive" stage of its adorable, button-nose little life. After that, the resources contributed by some man become less vital. Actually, it must have been bullshit evo psych, because that assumes you get pregnant right away, or that 3 or 5 wouldn't also work pretty well. Remind me again of the ideal hip-to-waist ratio to hook the lizard brain of my ideal mate like the really nice heroin you can only get if cigarettes no longer suppress your appetite and your Vogue shoot is next week. Or low- to mid-grade Scotch.

How do I keep attracting men into bourbon? This is bullshit.

And now, gently glide with me down to a lower gear, an emotional gear, in which we discuss my compelling and novel personal life in a way that will allow you to actually think about your own personal life. Making it interesting. Imagine how that will work. Tell me about your relationship with your mother.

Anyway, the point was that four is actually the magic number, evidently, for my long-term relationships and Matt's youthful (but formative! and characterized by the meeting of two thoroughly awesome brands of awesome!) period of dating my former roommate. 6 months therefore feels comically short, like I should still be meeting him at Blind Pig and asking him how his classes are going.

It's trite of me, of course, to wonder if all of our work isn't actually self-portraiture and yet I do wonder it. I'd hoped to find a spot that acknowledges more gracefully a few different registers: that some things are utterly private and others are to be read, in a shouting voice, at the empty heavens. I don't really want to separate my personal and political and professional during my own free time or attempt to organize my own meanderings.

I've therefore decided that my personal is not really so personal: certainly it's not novel enough to count as secret. Rather than thinking about my own privacy, which isn't really such a big deal, I'd rather let the embarrassed silence of my vast public speak for itself.

sighing, preferentially.

Every college paper is "award-winning," apparently, but some days the Daily Illini's gap between credentials and performance makes me think it's a special case. A special case that desperately needs me to drive down there and kidnap their editorial staff before they further devalue my degree.

Jordan Harp, a senior in LAS (he's insulting not just my alma mater, but my division with his choady presence) presents today for your edification a piece titled Affirmative action for dudes. It discusses an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a publication with which you can be sure Mr. Harp has never before familiarized himself (and whose name he gets wrong), on sex-based affirmative action. As sex imbalances at many colleges become increasingly pronounced, the report suggests, some are extending preferential treatment to male applicants in an effort to keep their own campuses more representative. Young Jordan's response is predictable.
The irony here would be painful were it not so amusing. Affirmative action has enjoyed near universal support among feminist groups, in part because of their belief that preferences help women in getting admitted to college. Four years ago Michigan feminist organizations were unanimous in their opposition to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which would have eliminated admissions preferences on the basis of race or sex. But now the policy that they so vehemently support is hurting those that they claim to represent.

Ah, yes, from the misty heights of Daily Illini employment and near-completion of a liberal arts degree, Jordan Harp quaffs the delicious irony of women once again being excluded from higher education in spite of merit. It tastes like ambrosia, with a hint of pennies.

Far above the mere mortals whose days of submitting to college applications still lie before them, Jordan's experiences and opinions are, of course, a bit irrelevant. He's also hardly saying anything new about affirmative action:
It gets tiring sometimes to constantly argue against ridiculous progressive policies, so it is always good when they argue against themselves. The idea of affirmative action and making admissions decisions based upon how you look has proven to be an absurd idea, one that must end.

It's not Jordan's fault, of course: the complexities of including more than one variable in decision-making often aren't covered until graduate school. I'm just finding out about that myself.

But it is significant because it illustrates a problem that many, well, immature people come up against when they try to think about problems like racism or sexism. If racism amounts to preferring or punishing people based on their race, and that's bad, then it can be a personal failing (some people are racists, and they are bad people). It can also go both ways: "discriminating" against white people must be just as wrong as it would be in favor of them.

What this ignores, of course, is that discrimination against women (for example) is embedded in a history of systemic oppression that has no real analogue for men. Within this system, a person's intentions can be somewhat beside the point: good men have sexist beliefs, or take advantage of their privilege, all the time, with or without meaning to. Women who have been given all the legal advantages enjoyed by men still lack the personal experience or the tradition of female freedom and achievement. Preferences for historically oppressed groups redress wrongs, sure (and often even this is too much for people who'd rather not confront their guilt at benefiting from an unfair system, or admit they don't feel guilt that perhaps they ought to). But they also provide the kind of support schools offer anyone who is the first in their family to attend college: they recognize that some people's backgrounds, for whatever reason, do not provide them the same support that others have, but that those people possess merit and everybody benefits when they succeed.

I'm editing to add that Jordan's opus appears to have been taken down. is back up in all its glory! You can assure yourself that the relevant (?) sections have been reproduced, indirectly, by clicking around the Daily Illini's website and judging the intellectual firepower milling around there for yourself.

snow on your nose

About an hour ago I made some delicious eggs to read Provincializing Europe by. Like I told Matt, I've rehabilitated eggs, primarily by not putting milk in them, which is gross. Proper scrambled eggs are made by essentially fucking up an omelet. Leave them runny.

Anyway, I was standing over my bastard eggs and disturbing their surface periodically so they'd clot together with the uncooked parts left at the outside-- kind of like a giant egg!-- which prompted me to think some more about Carlo Ginzburg's The Cheese and the Worms. If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend it, and if you ever find yourself at a party talking to someone who likes history, they'll probably be excited to hear that you did.

In the book, Ginzburg examines the Inquisition records (not the Spanish Inquisition; there were lots of Inquisitions) of a sixteenth-century Italian miller (not that there was an Italy yet, but you knew that). The miller, Menocchio, believes that the universe was formed through a process analogous to putrefaction that's actually rather beautiful:
All was chaos, that is earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed-- just as cheese is made out of milk-- and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels.

This made me think about complex internal structures in general (is some amount of inner space implied? or is space/not-space an unnecessary distinction for a really excellent internal structure). Matt has architecture dreams that he tells me about and which usually make me imagine very high ceilings and, well, a lot of internal space. What's beautiful about these buildings is, in large measure, the way they manipulate space, and so it's space that has to impress you for these buildings to.

But my eggs around noon also had a complex internal structure (the one I created, at the delicious level; also, I assume, the one baby Jesus created, at the molecular level or something) that was beautiful to watch form. And the angel worms in the cheese seem, to Menocchio and anyone like me who stopped taking science as soon as it seemed viable, to come from nowhere. They're miraculous because it's unclear where they came from and where they even should have had room to appear in a dense mass.

Sometimes I wonder if studying historiography hasn't forced me to philosophize rather more than I like to, or more than my little brain is really equipped to do. But on another note, I think it's interesting that Menocchio's materialist peasant tradition, which treats religion as a worldly thing useful for governing one's relationships and behavior, got him tortured and killed by a Church in which you can be saved by works.

I also think it's interesting that Jesuit priests with Pill-sniffing dogs haven't burst into my Wednesday noon Russian class to drag me away from Loyola forever and make me work in the head shop downstairs or something, but that's a story for another day.