• Category Archives not ashamed
  • Not Ashamed: Sober

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Very early in my life, it became clear to me that I was inclined towards extremes and excesses. That I had a lot of emotional holes to fill or medicate away (depression, self-loathing, etc). That I was an all-or-nothing girl when it came to anything that I might be able to enjoy or use for escape. Thanks to friends and other social connections, I had access to any substance or vice I might have wanted from about age 13. I spent a lot of time trying not to make choices that would have been bad for me. Fortunately, these days, my main substance issue appears to be food. Which, as per previous posts, I’ve mostly got under control. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to get cocky or take a chance at all.

    Especially now that I’ve watched many a bright, capable, disciplined person fall off the wagon over and over. I’ve watched lives destroyed. Sometimes ended. I don’t want that. And I feel like I have a responsibility to use my talents, which would definitely be impaired by making a ruin of my life. I like myself and respect my talents too much.

    Please note that both those paragraphs are about me. They’re a reminder to myself about myself. If you see yourself there, that’s not on purpose. No judgements or whatever.

    Sobriety is a weird thing to be shamed or treated poorly over. Especially when…

    I don’t shame or avoid people who aren’t sober. I’ve hung out in bars and at parties with friends who are very not-sober. And I’ve willingly been the sober driver every time. I’ve had friends who were addicted to all sorts of things whilst we were friends (which is to say that I didn’t cut them out of my life, though there were some cases where I had to have limits…like only hanging out in their sober moments or in public, depending on the situation). I’ve spent my birthday (which is in early January) walking over a kilometre in the rain, dressed for dancing and not for weather, in the wee hours of the morning because a friend’s girlfriend (who had been pretty horrible to me) needed to be safely taken home and I was the sober one. And I did that without complaining. I’m not even complaining now.

    I’m a cheap date/celebratory dinner. (Drinks are expensive.) But you can also suggest we go out for drinks, cos I can have soda or cheap happy hour food. I’m not wearing beer goggles when you need a second opinion about that person you’ve been hitting on all night. And I’m enough not-boring sober that plenty of people have been surprised (at bars and parties) to discover that I was sober. “But you’re not boring!” You are correct; I’m not.

    Of course, the downside to that last one is that the stuff we were laughing at the night before when you were drunk or high? I was sober then…so it’s still funny to me in the morning and you no longer agree. I guess this is where I refer you to how I’m not ashamed of being silly

    So, I cost less and I can be counted on to be a voluntary sober driver and I’m not the stereotypical boring sober person and I’m not being judge-y at you when you aren’t sober. But, apparently, I should feel bad about being sober.

    People have told me that they won’t date me because they can’t share drinks with me. (I’d like to believe that those people were just grasping for excuses to not date me and felt like the truth was too hard.)

    Order a non-alcoholic beverage or not share the joint everyone’s smoking? Proof that I’m not cool or mature. (Look, I’ll totally admit that I don’t act like a total grown up, but you have stronger proofs against my maturity than the fact that I won’t drink or get high.)

    And then there’s just the general sneering that isn’t explained when I say, “No thanks,” to a drink or a drug. I admit that I might get a bit judgemental over people who do that. Because that feels very secondary school peer pressure to me. Anyway…

    I totally get why people drink and use drugs, whether recreationally or in addiction-related ways. But I don’t get why there should be any shame in me not doing that. (I know, I know…what sort of a rockstar am I?) The only thing my sobriety has ever negatively impacted was a server’s tip (cos no drinks means smaller bill…and I tip well, but not well enough to cover all the money I didn’t spend on drinks…sorry).

    So, I’m sorry that you won’t be making as much off me, servers. And, sure, on rough days falling into a bottle or getting off my face sounds tempting. But I’m not changing this one. I’m very much not ashamed of being sober. Not in the slightest.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Food Unrestricted

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    For you completionists, you might be interested in charting my ridiculous relationship with food as shown in my posts on anorexia, being a vegetarian, or imposing assorted food restrictions on myself for what I deemed health reasons.

    Last week’s food restriction-related post included some general notes about my relationship with food. It might also be a somewhat interesting contrast to today’s post. You see, after all that health-related food restricting, I now have only a couple things I restrict (corn syrup and linoleic acid), and even those are just when I’m doing my own shopping. Actually, there are times when what my body tells me it Needs includes a little of that and I go ahead and just eat it (like that time I ate only Lucky Charms cereal for a week, because my body was Very Clear about that, which means some vegetable oil—one of the main ways many of us take in linoleic acid).

    I wasn’t thriving on all that careful, clean eating I was doing. In fact, I was finding that some long-term issues I’d had were getting worse, even stuff that, per the persuasive web sites and my own ideas about what must surely be Right, ought to have been improving. Now, here is where my cool nutritional therapist comes up again.

    Before I started working with her, I assumed that she was going to insist I eat broiled, skinless chicken breasts and brown rice with a side of kale, that I ditch all red meat and bread and so forth. Fortunately, she’s the sort of sensible person who believes that all bodies are unique and, therefore, have unique needs. So, sure, some of what she started encouraging was the clean eating…But then she sent me an email one day, and she started by saying that she knew I’d be dubious, that she was hesitant but that it was something we hadn’t tried, so…

    Will Ferrel drinking milk. Text: What if soy milk is just regular milk introducing itself in Spanish?
    By not cutting dairy, she stopped me making this joke daily

    I read the stories first, the blog posts from people who’d tried this same thing and had success. And they seemed to have quite a lot of the same concerns I had.

    When I found that my knee-jerk distrust of anything but so-called clean eating had eased a little, I followed the stories through to http://180degreehealth.com. And I was kind of horrified at what the person wanted me to do. The site has been a bit reorganised, but, at least then, the blog posts gave you all this information for free, so at least I didn’t suspect he just wanted my money. And I was desperate.

    So I buried a lifetime of beliefs and I went to town on sugars, simple carbs, saturated fats (fortunately, paleo had already gotten me okay with that), and salt (okay, I’ve always gone to town on salt…mmmm…). That wasn’t the whole of it, but you can hunt down this guy’s essays on your own if you get curious (cos I know that even people who know me tend to have a horrified reaction like my own initial reaction when I tell them about the change). And, after I saw a number of positive health changes (plus, as verified by my doctor, I grew an inch taller), I shifted to mindful eating (which is basically what step 2 of this guy’s approach is). I only do a mediocre job at it…but I do pretty well at the part where I let my body tell me what it wants and I eat it, no shame.

    If I don’t fight the cravings but try to feed them immediately, and, if I pay attention as I do that, I usually only need a bite or two (but no worries if I need more) and the craving then buggers off. And stays away for much longer than usual. (My life used to feature daily, serious cravings.)

    sushi arranged to look like a military tank. punny text: fish tank
    Favourite weapon for fighting cravings…

    It took a while. After a lifetime of teaching myself that I couldn’t eat certain things or classes of things, I had to convince myself that I meant it. Had to prove to my body and brain that it really could have what it needed, what it asked for. The week of Lucky Charms appears to have been the last bit of that. (I was walking through Costco and passed the massive boxes of Lucky Charms and my body said, “NEED.” And I asked if it was sure, and it was. So I put a box in my cart and strolled through the rest of my shopping with a big grin on my face, feeling very cheeky.) I still start most days with a sweet, usually something from the UK or Europe or homemade (so generally no vegetable oils or corn syrup). That chocolate or biscuit appears to be enough to remind my body and brain that we still do what we need, and then I don’t generally have sweet cravings the rest the day.

    And the positive health effects have remained. And I didn’t have to buy a new wardrobe. But! I should note that there’s a genetic component here (one of my grandfathers was always rail thin and very warm and lived mainly on coffee and sweets) and that this is what my body wants and needs. Every body, in the long run, will have unique needs. And those needs will almost certainly change over time.

    Right now, I have no allergies and my body thrives on foods I used to avoid or look down on. Which means, now, I eat sugar and meat and simple carbs and dairy and whatever else my body wants.

    Which also means that all kinds of clean eaters look on me with pity, disdain. If they know I used to eat like them, it’s almost certainly more that they feel I should be very ashamed. After all, I obviously know better and have wilfully lost my way. And all kinds of vegetarians and vegans now just see me as another murderer. Even the ones who hear about how my doctor who was a vegetarian asked me to eat me still kind of see me as damaged goods. (I know not all of you folks in the clean or non-meat camps are that way, but plenty are, at least to me.)

    People used to look at me with respect. What a clean eater! What discipline! What healthy choices! And now, I have fallen from grace. Shame on me…

    But, like I said last week: I have to make the choices that I feel are me doing the right thing for my health. And, whilst I did actually feel ashamed at first…Now that I see how my body thrives (and my brain and my emotional health) and now that I’ve had time to really think about how silly (in my opinion) it is to eat a way that others admire to the detriment of my own health…I am so, so not ashamed.

    Sad looking cat. Text: Spent all day hunting for a delicious mouse. Human won't eat it.
    Not even if my food choices disappoint the cat

    That doesn’t mean I think everyone should just fall face first into all the junk food they can find. (I promise that I still eat fruits and vegetables and fish and so forth.) I believe that we need to eat the food that is right for us, which may leave room for treats. (It better…in my body, it sure does…because chocolate and pizza and crisps and chips and…yeah…I’m hungry now…) I also believe that introducing shame into matters of eating is detrimental. I think I’ve even read studies that showed that. So, let’s stop with the shame.

    I’m going to go eat a massive bowl of pasta (chicken and bacon borsetti with loads of parmesan and romano and salt). Maybe you can google those studies about how shame is detrimental to health or you can evaluate your own eating attitudes (I seriously recommend stuff like mindful eating and normal eating). Or just go have a meal of your own. Don’t forget dessert. (Shame never, ever counts as dessert. Or a side. And it makes a horrid sauce. Shame doesn’t belong at the table, lovely.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Food Restricted

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Last week, I posted about having been vegetarian. And there is a reason I’m actually covering food habits in three posts. (Third one coming up next week.) Actually, two reasons. The first being that there are different “shames” and motivations and such with each post. The second being that food is really, really important in my world.

    Technically, there are four food posts, because there’s that post on anorexia. See, one of the things tangled up with and coming out of my anorexia was this (very wrong) idea that there’s a Perfect Way To Eat, that I had to figure out The One Right Way. And I have spent ridiculous amounts of time reading and researching and thinking and planning and blah blah blah.

    And, when I’m not thinking about food that way, I’m thinking about preparing and eating food. I’m considering what would taste good, I’m fondly recalling food I previously ate, I’m trying to think how to not fill up my daily gratitude posts on social media (been doing them a couple years) with just food food food. And don’t even get me started on how susceptible to suggestion I am. I’d consider it a mercy if people on TV and in films weren’t allowed to eat food I like…

    When I first left home and started to think about how I would know I was “making it,” my whole measurement scheme for that was food-based. It went like this:

    • Eating daily.
    • Eating multiple times per day.
    • Eating three meals per day and maybe a snack.
    • Eating what I want, not just what I can afford, monthly. (At this point, I assume that at least a couple meals a year can be eaten at restaurants, not just home cooked…cos home cooked is cheaper. But not all the monthly meals I want would be eaten out; some would just involve not-cheap ingredients.)
    • Eating what I want weekly.
    • Eating what I want daily.
    • Eating what I want for every meal.

    As I lived on my own, there were other markers of “making it,” most of which continued to be food-based (food quality, organic animal products, etc). And, yes, I’m entirely serious. If I had to be honest, I’d say that, in the ever-noisy arena of my brain, at least one part of me is always thinking about food.

    cat licking a lolly
    This cat lives in my brain

    So, there’s the second reason that there are three or four of these label-related posts that are about food. Now, the first…

    As I said last week, being vegetarian started as an exercise in self-control and very quickly became about living up to what I felt was ethically right for me. There wasn’t any self-righteousness there. Well, very little. But, this week’s lot of food-based labels…They include paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, absolutely no sugar, and a few others.

    These were things that I tried because, for varying reasons, I thought they were the healthier option for my body. I thought that they were The One Right Way. I’ll let the “and a few others” stand at that, but the other four fall into two distinct groups.

    I was dairy-free and gluten-free because I had some health issues and, at different times, I thought that I was lactose intolerant or that I might have wheat intolerance or celiac. Dairy-free came back into play later when I had a friend who actually was lactose intolerant. That was the least lame of the two to live. Fortunately, there are plenty of dairy substitutes and ways to get things that are almost-right and are, on their own merit, sometimes quite tasty. The gluten-free…That was miserable. Even with the help of a partner who was quite capable in the kitchen, I never got satisfactory substitutes for foods I adored and missed.

    For others, both of these made me a pain. Not because I tried to be…Honestly, all it took was a polite, “Excuse me, can you tell me if this has dairy in it?” and I was suddenly just the worst person ever. I wasn’t asking for substitutions or anything like that…And these are things that, for those with actual issues (not just people trying to be trendy, trying to use dietary restrictions as a way to lose weight, using this as an excuse to avoid foods they dislike), are serious health concerns. Sometimes massively serious. I’m lucky; I don’t have celiac. I have friends who do, though, and I feel like both the people who lie about that (for reasons noted in the last parenthetical) and the people who are difficult about those with celiac disease trying not to end up with massive physical pain and mental issues…Yeah, both those types of people are jerks and can get in the sea. And you can bet, given I legitimately thought I had health issues that could be solved by it and that I was super polite about trying to avoid dairy and gluten, I’m not at all ashamed for having been dairy-free or gluten-free. (But I’m really glad that I didn’t need to stick with either of those dietary restrictions.)

    The second group of the food restriction labels is the paleo and going absolutely off sugar. These are things that were entirely about what I thought was The One Right Way to eat. And I got caught up in this idea of Eating Clean. And I kind of struggled with judging other people who didn’t see the Obvious Genius of these ways of eating.

    turtle trying to eat a tomato
    This turtle feels me…

    I swear I tried to be restrained about it, keep my mouth closed. Especially given that people were sufficiently nasty about me choosing those paths as well. But if you ever felt judged or pressured by me when I was doing any of that, I’m truly sorry for that bit of it. I could, and still can, get pretty caught up in whatever it is I think is the current Proper Food Philosophy for me. With this particular set, I was being cheered on by assorted zealous internet sources and, to some extent—though she certainly deserves no blame, by a concerned nutritional therapist.

    At the root of all this, of both groups of food restrictions, was a desire to treat my body The Right Way. And I tried to be polite about it, tried to keep the brunt of the efforts on me. So, again, I’m so sorry if I made you feel judged or went on a bit about it. But I’m definitely not ashamed. We all have to eat, and hopefully we are trying to do that in a way that contributes to our highest quality of life.

    But more on that next week…For now, I’m hungry…

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Vegetarian

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I was vegetarian for about a decade. It started as a way to make a point about my self-control, but, within only a few weeks, it became something that research had convinced me was the right choice for me in terms of ethics and health and the global good.

    During that time, briefly, there was another vegetarian in one of my social groups. I hadn’t understood people’s wariness about socialising with a vegetarian until someone told me that the way she, that other vegetarian, behaved was what they were used to from vegetarians. I had strong beliefs and opinions, as I do on many things, but I didn’t expect others to live their lives the way I lived mine. Other Vegetarian, though…she would loudly exclaim in disgust if anyone was preparing or eating meat, and she wouldn’t stop until she was out of their presence. Whole meals with mates were prepared and consumed with her as a chorus of revulsion, whilst I quietly enjoyed time with my mates and whatever non-meat thing I was putting in my mouth.

    Whilst I was vegetarian, every single non-vegetarian in my life—including people who were almost complete strangers—made sure to let me know that they thought I was foolish or wrong or stupid. Some even, I later learned, snuck meat into meals they made that we shared. (For the record, that is a breach of trust and a reprehensible thing to do. Not just for the trust issue, but also because many people who haven’t eaten meat in a while have severe stomach distress when they do eat meat again. Don’t do this. If you do this, you aren’t a true friend or truly loving family. You are just a twat. Even if you are well intentioned.) And every shared meal was a struggle…Was I sure that being vegetarian meant no chicken broth? Fish weren’t really meat, were they? Just a little meat is okay, right? Even asking a server at a restaurant whether the rice was cooked with water or meat broth got me unreliable answers or huge sighs, as if I were the worst for politely asking.

    Aside from Other Vegetarian, there were a few friends who, for brief moments, tried out vegetarianism. But, mostly, I was doing it solo. It wasn’t peer pressure…not even peer support.

    True story: I went to prom with a guy who asked if I had any opinions on a restaurant for dinner. I said the one thing I needed him to remember was that I was vegetarian. He chose a steak house and complained when all I ordered was salad. (It was a big salad. I had to ask them to hold the bacon. It was the only non-meat thing—aside from sides—on the menu.)

    Now, aside from the part of my vegetarian tenure that overlapped with the anorexia (and, let me tell you, people make it really easy to use vegetarianism as a reason not to eat anything they prepare), I tried to eat healthily. As my pennies allowed, I tried out meat substitutes. Even when completely skint, I loved all sorts of beans and cheeses and non-meat protein. In spite of that, around the time I was considering going full-on vegan, it became undeniable that there was something wrong with my health.

    Before all of you haters smugly nod and post comments about how unhealthy vegetarianism is, I want to point out that there are many, many healthy vegetarians and vegans in the world. That’s not just something I’ve heard; I’ve known them myself. I’ve seen their rosy glow and their high energy. Even the doctor and the yoga instructor in the next paragraph were (probably still are) vegetarians. So, y’know, get in the sea with your smugness.

    So, I went to my doctor. Her conclusion, her recommendation…She told me that some people actually need animal protein and she was sure I was one of those. She, my doctor who was a vegetarian, asked me to consider eating meat. To at least give it a try and see if it helped. I took this advice and my conflicted emotions and had a conversation with a yoga instructor I knew.

    A lot of serious yoga practitioners tend to be vegetarian because of the principle of ahimsa, which basically means “do no harm.” (How does my spellcheck know “ahimsa”? Weird…) Ahimsa was in line with reasons I had stayed vegetarian. But, as she wisely pointed out…an intertwined part of the true spirit of yoga is to be where you are in a pose. If you don’t already naturally get into a “perfect” form of a pose, you can push yourself a little, but you shouldn’t force yourself. To do so might cause injury, harm. I hadn’t thought about it, but here was ahimsa applied in every yoga session. And, if I truly cared about myself (which I did by this point), how was slowly killing myself via vegetarianism less a form of self harm than cutting or starving?

    I took some time to really consider it, and I decided to give meat a try. Here’s the thing…The whole time I was vegetarian, I had vivid dreams constantly of medium rare red meat. And when I finally ate meat again, on purpose this time, I didn’t get sick. (Just like I didn’t get sick when friends snuck meat into meals. Man, I’m glad I didn’t get sick, but I kind of wish I had so that I might have caught them and they could have felt really bad about making me sick.) And some of my health issues improved dramatically. And it didn’t take long for me to get over my guilt, so it’s not like I weep quietly these days with every burger. Unless maybe it’s weeping for joy over how tasty it is…Sorry, vege friends.

    But a lot of people didn’t know I’d ceased being vegetarian. Most people didn’t know for a long while, because the last thing I needed to top off all their harassment was their smugness that I’d been forced to give in. I decided to tackle my own guilt and to get my health less crappy before I had to deal with that. I’d even leave the office for lunch, every lunch, so that nobody there would see that the lunch I’d packed included meat. Work was miserable enough without adding their smugness. Go ahead and have a sad little mental image of me, sat in my car in all sorts of weather, furtively chowing down on a sandwich. (I’d like to say I was paranoid about how people would react. I was not. Very few people did not take at least a moment to be smugly pleased or give me an “I told you so” over it.)

    Now, history aside, I’ve got a couple of things that have stuck with me from the vegetarian times. Things I wouldn’t have expected.

    I learned that, if you make a big, negative deal over someone’s choices, they won’t come to you when they change their mind. That might seem obvious, but it sure seems like a lot of people forget that. Think someone is making a mistake? Are you close friends or a healthily loving family member or someone they came to for advice that’s relevant to their choice? If so, you get to politely express concern once. Or maybe once each time they end up in the hospital for their poor choices. If you’re not one of those three types of people, there’s a good chance you’re out of line. And if you take every opportunity to hammer at them or poke at them about that choice, it doesn’t matter who you are; it’s not going to help move them more in line with your opinion.

    I also got a little less judgemental when I was eating meat again. It’s years later, but I always feel a compulsion to share my story with vegetarians I meet. I want them to know that I’m on their side, that I’m not going to hassle them, that I’m empathetic to their probable plight (vis-à-vis the harassment of non-vege kids). But also…

    This will come up again next week, but I’ll say it now anyway. See, even those people who are most vocal about not judging others are happy to be just as vocal about people’s food choices. Not just the stereotypical obnoxious vegan (I know non-obnoxious ones, so no insult intended, vegans) or vegetarian types…not just the meat eaters who feel free to harass the vege kids…but anybody who has beliefs about how to eat…”How can she eat that?” Well, maybe she tried eating your way and she got sick.

    I won’t lie; I enjoy meat these days. Though I still try to remember to ask vege friends if they mind me ordering meat when we go out together. I try to be respectful. Also, I don’t want to accidentally learn that I’m eating with someone who plans to shame me with every bite. Ugh.

    And, whilst I avoid food waste in general, I try to make extra sure not to waste meat. Some animal died so that I could have the meat my body appears to need. Again, I try to be respectful.

    I was vegetarian and I’m glad I was. Not ashamed. And now, much to the pleasure of this odd body of mine, I’m not. And I’m not ashamed of that either. Just disappointed that this flesh of mine is so picky. Why can’t I just thrive on cheese pizza, crisps, chips, chocolate, and Vimto? Stupid, picky flesh of mine…

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Serious

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I guess I could have rolled this in with the intensity thing, but I don’t think that being intense and being serious are necessarily the same things. Intensity is, if you will, things turned up to maximum, or at least turned up higher than most people consider typical. But serious…You know, I have a pretty robust sense of humour. And a silly streak for which I’ve been shamed. But not everything is funny and some things shouldn’t be taken lightly. Or there’s a right time and place to take them lightly.

    I feel the weight of causality. The choices I make set off a string of events, and they build the future I have to live.

    I feel the weight of sacred things and of tender things. Someone once told me that, “if you want something to last forever, you treat it differently.” And there are things I want to hold above the lightness of daily talk or the scuffing of even my own careless shoes.

    There are pieces of me that I couldn’t see trusting to someone who couldn’t take them as seriously as I need. And, whilst I don’t expect others to be serious in the ways and about the things where my own seriousness is rooted, I am keenly aware that I there’s a degree of seriousness about the right things that is necessary for me to trust people.

    How much time can I take with my answer? You might want to get comfy…

    So, yeah, I can be quite serious. I’d say that the times I’ve been accused of being too serious, shamed for my seriousness, it was either due to things that deserve seriousness (so, no, I won’t feel ashamed of what I deem appropriate seriousness) or my brain being a bit scrambled for whatever reason (low blood sugar, sensory overwhelm, a run of bad experiences, etc) and I missed the joke. Even in the latter case, I’m sorry if my reaction was rude (as opposed to just not the reaction you wanted), but I’m not ashamed that life happened and momentarily ate my humour or that our senses of humour don’t align. Really, I feel sorry for me-at-that-time, not ashamed.

    The accusations (too intense! too serious! too silly) often come from the same people. Honestly, Goldilocks, it’s possible I’m just not the right bowl of porridge for you. (From experience, it seems I’ve got bites that are too hot and bites that are too cold and some that might be just right sometimes…Maybe just leave me for the bears if it bothers you as much as it seems to bother some people. It’s okay. There are bowls out there that will make your mouth happier than me, and bears who find me delightful.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: A Gamer

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Gaming is a weird thing when it comes to shame.

    Given no other details, there are loads of people who feel any gaming of the types I do is a waste of time. Shame on me!

    Given no details of which games I play, the fact that I’m a geek means plenty of normal people feel like I deserve mockery. (No joke: I’ve overheard dudes talking about a video game they played all night the night before, and then they immediately shift to mocking other players who are obviously just sad geeks…)

    Given no details, there are plenty of my fellow geeks who’d like to shame me for gaming just because I’m a girl. The fact that I happen to have a vagina is proof that I’m a fake gamer or means that certain games aren’t serious enough gaming so I dare not enjoy them. (Or non-geeks will think there’s extra shame here because it’s gaming and because it’s barely excusable when a boy does it. But a girl? Tsk tsk!)

    To make it “worse,” I’m not just talking video games. Oh, no. You see, for a variety of reasons, my access to video games was limited in my formative years. So, though even “normal” and “cool” people play video games now (and there was always some room in video games for people who wouldn’t be treated like their hobby was something to be ashamed of)….and though I do enjoy video games (I kind of suck, or at least I do compared to guys I know who’ve been video gaming their whole lives) and can lose days to them…

    All those hours as a square…

    The bulk of my gaming experiences didn’t involve screens of any kind. No TV, no arcade console, no gaming system.

    When I was three years old, in order to help me deal with some nightmares, my dad ran a D&D game for me. Yeah, that’s right, old school geek action at a tender, tender age. Dungeons and Dragons! (And I still have some of his old books and figurines. Plus my own small—compared to other friends—handful of dice that aren’t six-sided.)

    I grew up bugging him to run games for me. And happily gave up hours and hours every week to playing tabletop RPGs once I was older and found friends to play with. (In case the term is unfamiliar…RPG = roleplaying game. Basically, the players use rules of the game to create characters and, with the help of the game master—the person running the game—and some dice, they all weave an improvised story together. “Tabletop” comes because, as opposed to sitting in front of a screen, you’re usually sat around a table to roll those dice and create that story.)

    Rolling 20s! Talk about fictional stories…

    Even “worse,” and opening me to the mockery of other geeks (aye, even those who play tabletop RPGs), I’ve also happily given hours to LARPs. That, my friends, is live action roleplaying. Which is a bit like improv theatre. (It actually is. I’ve done both…And found LARPing more interesting and prone to creating better stories.) I have happily run around in public pretending to be someone else and weaving those shared stories. In fact, my favourite and longest running character was a 600 year-old vampire who, in the end, sacrificed herself to save Seattle. Yep.

    These are the only pictures I have of that character. So, I’m an actor (for real) playing a vampire who’s an actor and who’s performing a scene…

    …(with another actor playing a vampire who’s an actor) from Shakespeare’s Richard III. We practised hard and did a legit job and these tiny pics are all that remain of the night we performed.

    (Note: No, I didn’t believe I was actually a vampire or, outside the context of the game, pretend to be one. In fact, the people I knew who did do either of those thought they were too cool for gaming…)

    Now, I could stoop to drawing parallels with other theoretically more legitimate hobbies or to the behaviours of people who are most likely to be rude about what I enjoy. But, you know, I’m not going to sully my enjoyment with that or make this about reverse-shaming. (I’m just putting this paragraph here to make myself feel like I deserve a gold star for restraint.)

    I tend to be ridiculously busy these days. In order to live up to my commitments and the demands of my Muse, I don’t really have spare time. I haven’t really gotten to game in years. And certainly haven’t had enough reliable free time to commit to playing either tabletop RPGs or LARPs in even more years.

    I do love the things I give my time to now…But I kind of miss, at the end of a long work week, staying up all Friday night to eat and laugh and game with friends. Or, before a night out dancing, to get my sense of fun going by running around creating fictional drama. So, I might feel a little abashed because I get tired of the stigmas and teasing that come with such hobbies, but I am definitely not ashamed to be a gamer. Creative fun that’s harmless to others? Obviously awesome! Obviously not ashamed!

    (I did some pictures as part of a birthday surprise for a fellow geek and gamer friend earlier this year. Figured I’d get a little more use out of them. You’re welcome!)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Silly

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, my intensity is broken up by silliness. (Just as this post will be broken up by pictures of silliness on an outing with a friend.)

    It seems like, sometime around age 13, one is expected to grow out of silliness. Silliness is immature. Silliness isn’t cool. Silliness is taking you away from deep and important issues and ideas. (And they say that I’m too intense…get over it!)

    Just two space princesses duck-facing their way across the universe.

    And, whilst I’m not as broadly and publicly silly (I mean, it’s not gone…I have too many headbands with cat ears that I wear any time of the year or hats with ears and faces that I’ll giddily break out when winter hits…just as a couple examples), I’m just not going to ever fully let go. Never ever ever.

    I think it’s just that I love to laugh and enjoy myself (I’m not fun-motivated, but I’m also not a robot…that you know of…). I would assume we all do. I love the light and smile-inducing bubbles of pleasantness that silliness can lead to. And, as you’ve surely realised by now, I balk at most social conventions that limit what I can enjoy or do based on my age. Sure, I’m totally okay with not trying to hook up with someone who’s too young. And I can get behind restrictions on drinking or driving based on age. (And on a complete restriction to doing both at the same time, no matter your age.)

    Not even an alien can scare me straight!

    But I return to my old refrain: as long as I’m living up to my commitments and taking care of my people, I’m not going to let my age dictate my life.

    And the people in my life don’t have to match me in silliness, but you’re not going to find yourself in my inner circle unless you at least kind of find my silly quirks and moments endearing.

    If the main way you know me is through this series of writings, it might be hard to believe I’m silly. And, sure, my brain is full of difficult and deep thoughts. My fingers drip lyrics and poems that are full of my trickier emotions. The inhumane way that people treat each other and the planet and animals makes me sad and angry. Depression is a pretty constant reality of my life. And all that is exactly why silliness is important in my life. It’s a sweet, free breath when I feel like I’m drowning in all the heavy waters of this life.

    (When I was younger, I think the silliness shaming had more to do with the way that an adult life makes it hard to be patient with anything that doesn’t seem productive. And silliness and play rarely seem productive. So, so sad…)

    I need this in my flat…

    So, you feel free to be grown up. Really. I don’t need everyone else to be silly like me. But I’m going to keep singing silly songs to my cat. And I’m going to laugh every time I see fish balls or melon ballers. And so on and so forth. Cos I like some rainbow streaks in my little, black life!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Intense

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I think intensity has some complications. As with other things on my Not Ashamed list, I’m not claiming that the things are all easy or good or whatever.

    For instance, a good percentage of the people I’ve thought of as intense in my life have also turned out to be drama-magnets. Nay, not drama magnets, but massive drama generators. And the worst of my bad romantic relationships were with people whose intensity I found attractive, until it turned out that they were too easily inclined towards darker emotions (or “thrilling” behaviours like stalking or abuse).

    And I suppose that one reason I get accused of flirting when I’m definitely not is that people are just so used to those who aren’t intense. I don’t want to spend time on small talk (I really loathe it) or with someone who isn’t interesting. Which means I don’t tend to go for light topics, and I try to pay attention to the person I’m talking to (sometimes just because I’m trying to figure out if I want to keep talking). So, you find yourself in the eye of my intense storm and you wonder…But, for 99.99% of you, you really shouldn’t.

    But I think of my intensity as quality. Condensed goodness. Fuel for my art. Not just for my art, but it’s also fuelling the fires behind my emotions, my devotions.

    I guess, if you’re used to only those who aren’t intense, maybe that can be frightening.

    I guess, if you’ve only interacted with intense people who turned out to be manufacturers of drama and chaos and unpleasantness, any intense person can be frightening.

    I guess, if it makes you have to look deeper in yourself because maybe now you wonder if you might also, buried in your core, have such intense emotions…or you look and see you can’t match mine (in romance or friendship or bandmate-ing) and you’re afraid telling me will hurt my feelings or make me angry, maybe that can be frightening.

    And I’m not going to judge you for preferring…less (nor assume that, in an objective sense, that is the same as lesser). There’s a world full of people for you, and I hope that you find the best non-intense friends and romantic partners and so forth.

    But I’m never going to be ashamed of being intense, and I’m going to treasure those few who can dig on my intensity…and those who have some of their own without going mental on me.

    I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m a rather strong cup. But I’d drink me (and so would a few, delightful others).

    p.s. I balance out my intensi-tea with a propensity for silliness and an inclination to laugh. Call it my sugar, my milk, whatever it is makes your tea something more than bracing.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Precocious

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I was able to read at a bit of an early age. And one of the things that often happens to kids who read above their expected level is that their ability to read outstrips their vocabulary. Now, fortunately, I was able to figure out a lot of things from context. I quickly extended that skill to being able to figure what word likely meant when spoken, not just when printed.

    I used big words earlier than expected. I developed big thoughts earlier, and I was too young to know to keep my mouth shut (whether it was to protect someone’s pride or spare them a hard truth).

    So, little person…big thoughts without the usual, learned filters and social niceties…

    I heard the word “precocious” a lot. And I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but the tone and context let me know that it was a bad thing to be. And I was so used to working from context (and sort of loathing finding out what this horrible, shameful thing was that I was) that I didn’t bother to look the word up. I was going to just feel ashamed and try to figure out which thing I was doing that was “precocious” so that I could stop it. I could at least be smart enough to figure it out from context; that should balance out my shame, right? (Yeah, I know, pat wee-me on the head.)

    Just in case you have somehow never heard the word before, I’m just going to copy in a definition for you:

    precocious (adj.) unusually advanced or mature in development, especially mental development (example: a precocious child)

    Right. Do I even need to explain why I’m not at all ashamed of that label? If anything, I’m a bit ashamed that, in this adult world, I am certainly anything but precocious.

    And what I really want to say here is this: Yeah, a kid whose brainpower is ahead of their social skills (aka doesn’t know when not to speak smart truths that might upset adults) can be more difficult than your kid whose brain is like you’d expect. But don’t you ever shame them for that, not even just by saying “precocious” in a negative tone. Intelligence is a brilliant resource. You just help them develop the social skills or the sense to equal that brainpower.

    No worries, precocious kids. That brain could serve you well.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Verbose

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    That I am verbose should not be a surprise to you, dear reader. Nor is it something I imagine you’d be wont to dispute. And I could only keep a straight face whilst denying it because I’ve been known to do some acting.

    When I’m having a conversation, I really do try to keep a handle on my verbosity, because I don’t want it to overwhelm the conversation.

    When I’m speaking from notes or when I write, I don’t strive for verbosity, and I do edit things more than once. But I will use as many (or as few) words as I think necessary to say what I need to say. I am a writer. I have written both creatively and in assorted business contexts and have been paid to do it. I’ve been praised for that work. So, yes, I think I’m somewhat okay at sorting out how much needs to be said to express my ideas.

    I have turned in papers, when I was at Uni, that were far shorter than classmates’ papers because I felt I’d adequately fulfilled the assignment in fewer words. And high marks on those papers suggest I was right.

    But in a world where it seems everyone expects communication to be kept to 140 characters or fewer, the fact that I happily go on for paragraphs or pages is regularly ill-received. I might be frustrated, but I’m definitely not ashamed.

    Most of my few closest friends have, at some point or other, engaged in massive emails or chats with me. And I love that my friends love words. And it seems we’ve all felt those big word exchanges were an awesome part of the relationship.

    And I have a soft spot in my heart for my guitarist who, among other things, once told me (after another bandmate complained about how long my emails were) that he knew I was careful with words and only saying what I thought needed to be said. Bless.

    The bottom line is that I’m not likely to stop or to apologise for being verbose…and you probably want to find someone else to communicate with if that’s a problem.

    (Though I’d guess some people think I’m actually too brusque in certain situations. Can’t win. Not even going to try. Still not apologising. Still not ashamed.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).