Am I Alone In Wanting To Be Left Alone?

I was out running an errand tonight and decided to treat myself to some frozen yogurt. So I go into the shop and I’m headed toward the cups when I am accosted by the cashier.

First she welcomes me to the store. Yea, ok fine. I know you’re probably not nearly as cheery and happy as you sound because I also work in food service, but your boss probably requires you to greet the customers so whatever.

Then she asks if I’ve been there before. I had, and I told her that, but why even ask? Why does it matter at all if I’ve been there before?

Lastly, after learning that I’ve bought yogurt from this store before, she thanks me for coming back. Uh… you’re welcome?

Just leave me the hell alone and let me go about my business!! Seriously, am I the only person who actively dislikes all the stupid polite small talk shit that the owners and managers of retail and food service places require their employees to spew at their customers? When I go into a shop of any kind I just want to do my shopping and leave. If I have a question, I will ask.

I don’t need to be greeted, I know you don’t care how my day is and I know you aren’t nearly as happy to be there as you’re pretending to be. So can we just skip that completely pointless interaction? I honestly do not understand why the people who manage these stores seem to think it makes any difference to the customer whether they are greeted when they come in. I have never spoken to someone who was happy with their purchase but wasn’t going to go back to a place because no one said hello when they walked in the door.

I don’t need help. At least not the minute I enter your store. If you’re a retailer, I need to look for the thing I’m there to buy. If you’re a food service establishment, I need to decide what I want to eat. What I do not need is you bothering me before I’m ready to make my purchase. All you’re doing is wasting both our time. Go do something more productive until I’m either ready to leave or I actually do need your help.

I don’t like platitudes, polite small talk or attempts to sell me things. Just leave me alone and let me get what I came for. As long as you’re not rude to me when or if I engage you I will be happy.

Am I alone in this? Do other people actually care whether they’re greeted or like it when a sales person tries to give them a tour or spiel about the products in the store?

The Platypus Circa 2001

Until about 4 months ago I had been keeping a LiveJournal. I’m not going to link to it because it was in no way anonymous (which, incidentally is, in a way, the reason I no longer post there but that’s a story for another time), but I decided tonight to peruse a few of the earliest entries. These earliest entries are from way back in 2001 when I was 17 years old, and as you might imagine they do read a bit angsty and emo at times. But, to my surprise, they are also kind of… encouragingly self aware? I’m not sure if that’s quite the right turn of phrase, but I think it’s close. Anyhow, I read this paragraph from the end of an entry and it made me smile, so I wanted to re-post it here.

“I was reading a little of Beyond Good and Evil earlier tonight. It was talking about truth and why we strive to know the "truth". Is there really any reason for that? Striving to know the truth? Why do we seem to think there even is one all encompassing truth? It seems to me that if there were really any truth about the origins of humanity, we would be a little closer to it by now than we are. Maybe there is some huge truth about life, but since we can only look at it from a human perspective, we will never be able to truly see it. I think that’s probably what the truth is, that we will never be able to truly know the truth. In which case, we should just not strive for it. We should make up beliefs in our minds based on the fact that we know absolutely nothing. *sigh* It’s actually very comforting to know in your heart that you know nothing. It keeps all the possibilities in life open if you keep that one thought close to you.”

Burial Practices

I remember in high school, probably during a lecture that had something to do with decomposition and the organisms that take care of it, my Biology teacher explained that “traditional” burial practices are completely against the natural order and that when he died his preference would basically be for his body to be mulched and spread through a field somewhere with a little lime to keep the smell under control. He lamented the fact that this was probably completely illegal and would never, ever happen. I never was particularly interested in being mulched myself, but the idea of staying part of the natural cycle after my death did resonate with me. So I filed that thought away as something to start looking into when my death seemed a little more imminent.

Well, I don’t feel as though my death is all that much more imminent now than it was when I was in that high school Biology class, but I did come upon an article yesterday that made me think about it all again. Apparently it is becoming more and more common for people to choose “natural”, “green” burials. The idea here is that when someone dies they are encased in something biodegradable, such as plain wooden casket, a shroud or just some blankets the person loved while alive. Then their body is placed into the ground and covered over. No concrete vaults, no huge, elaborate, plush casket, and no chemicals. Just a body being allowed to decompose naturally and return its nutrients to the earth.

It’s not quite mulching, but I think it’ll do.

“40 Ways Men Fail in Bed” Deconstructed

I was reading through a group on FetLife (a kink and fetish social networking site, kinda like Facebook but for kink) a little while ago and found this list of “40 Ways Men Fail in Bed” which had been copy and pasted from a joke site. Now, I do realize that having been taken from a joke site this is meant to be a joke… but there were just WAAAY too many points I either personally disagreed with or could see how someone else might like them. So, for fun here is the list and my rebuttals/ opinions/ musings on each:

1) NOT KISSING FIRST. Avoiding her lips and diving straight for the erogenous zones makes her feel like you’re paying by the hour and trying to get your money’s worth by cutting out nonessentials. A properly passionate kiss is the ultimate form of foreplay.

I’m kind of on the fence about this one. On the one hand, I do love a good kiss. On the other, a “properly passionate kiss” very rarely gets me as wet as some other forms of foreplay I can think of, and there are some situations when kissing actually isn’t necessary for good sex. I can even think of one or two circumstances when kissing might actually be a turn off.

2) BLOWING TOO HARD IN HER EAR. Admit it, some kid at school told you girls love this. Well, there’s a difference between being erotic and blowing as if you’re trying to extinguish the candles on your 50th birthday cake. That hurts.

I am behind this 2000000%. Personally, my ears aren’t that much of an erogenous zone to begin with so I don’t really get much out of people doing things to them except on very rare occasions. But even if I liked having someone lick or suck on my earlobes and then blow lightly over the moist flesh, I would NOT want someone to blow directly into my ear canal. I had a boyfriend in highschool who did this once in a non-sexual setting and I started bawling like a baby. It didn’t even physically hurt all that much, though it did hurt a bit. Just something happened in my head between the physical pain and the sound and I just started crying uncontrollably. The fact that he kept fucking doing it over and over because he couldn’t fathom why I was reacting the way I was should have been all the evidence I needed to run away and never go back to him, but I was a teenager and teenagers are idiots sometimes… Point is, I know there are people who might really love their partner to do this to them, but I cannot stand it. I would advise that no man do this unless their partner (no matter what sex or gender their partner is) explcitly asks for it.

3) NOT SHAVING. You often forget you have a porcupine strapped to your chin which you rake repeatedly across your partner’s face and thighs. When she turns her head from side to side, it’s not passion, it’s avoidance.

This one is just bullshit. There are plenty of women who love facial hair on their men. There are also plenty who don’t. No one should base their appearance on what they think others are going to find attractive. Focus on what YOU think looks good and what makes YOU happy. It’s all good as long as you practice some basic hygiene.

4) SQUEEZING HER BREAST. Most men act like a housewife testing a melon for ripeness when they get their hands on a pair. Stroke, caress, and smooth them.

I don’t know about most people, but when I’m testing melons at the grocery store I knock on them. Like with my knuckles. I have never heard of or experienced any man KNOCKING on boobs. And even if you change the word “melon” to something that actually might happen, like “peaches” or “tomatoes”, it still doesn’t work because most people don’t get rough when checking such things for ripeness. That would just bruise and/or poke a hole in the fruit. If you’re going to make an analogy, at least make sure it makes sense.

As for the intent behind this one, I both agree and disagree. I don’t particularly like fingers digging into my breast. But I also don’t get anything whatsoever out of touches that are overly gentle. I need a nice firm grip, if anything. That said, there are women who like to have their breasts squeezed roughly with fingers digging in. This is another that I would suggest not doing unless she specifically asks for it. Or, if you have enough dexterity and control, apply very little pressure and increase it slowly until you find the pressure that makes whoever you’re with uncomfortable. Know that limit and stick to it.

5) BITING HER NIPPLES. Why do men fasten onto a woman’s nipples, then clamp down like they’re trying to deflate her body via her breasts? Nipples are highly sensitive. They can’t stand up to chewing. Lick and suck them gently. Flicking your tongue across them is good. Pretending they’re a doggie toy isn’t.

I hate this one. SOME nipples are highly sensitive. Some are not. Even with highly sensitive nipples, some people LOVE teeth on their nipples. Biting does not automatically equal puncturing, ripping or tearing. People have control of their jaws and can easily apply varying degrees of pressure. Again though, due to the ease with which you could cause a great deal of unwanted pain, either don’t do this without being asked or build it up until you find the line. It’s not a difficult thing to do.

6) TWIDDLING HER NIPPLES. Stop doing that thing where you twiddle the nipples between finger and thumb like you’re trying to find a radio station in a hilly area. Focus on the whole breasts, not just the exclamation points.

Everything I said about #5, plus some people get virtually nothing from the experience if you focus more on the whole breast. I can have small orgasms just from someone “twiddling” and biting my nipples if they know what they’re doing. Whereas I get almost nothing out of attention to the rest of my breast.

7) IGNORING THE OTHER PARTS OF HER BODY. A woman is not a highway with just three turnoffs: Breastville East and West, and the Midtown Tunnel. There are vast areas of her body which you’ve ignored far too often as you go bombing straight into downtown Vagina. So start paying them some attention.

Ok, this is true about 98% of the time. The other two percent are people who like consensual non-consent play, any time you’re having hot, frantic, I need you RIGHT FUCKING NOW sex, and quickies when you really don’t have a lot of time. If you have some time on your hands, use those hands to touch a few other places.

8) GETTING THE HAND TRAPPED. Poor manual dexterity in the underskirt region can result in tangled fingers and underpants. If you’re going to be that aggressive, just ask her to take the damn things off.

I don’t even understand this one. I don’t wear panties, and I haven’t pretty much since I first became sexually active, so I’ve never had this become a problem.

9) LEAVING HER A LITTLE PRESENT. Condom disposal is the man’s responsibility. You wore it, you store it.

I agree, but mostly from a practicality standpoint. In my experience, it doesn’t make any sense for the woman to take the condom off for the guy. The potential for the guy to twitch in some way unexpectedly and cause a mess as she’s pulling the condom off is high enough that it makes more sense for the guy to just do it. And if he’s taking it off there’s no reason he can’t throw it away.

10) ATTACKING THE CLITORIS. Direct pressure is very unpleasant, so gently rotate your fingers along side of the clitoris.

Some people really like pain. This is another that I wouldn’t do unless explicitly asked.

11) STOPPING FOR A BREAK. Women, unlike men, don’t pick up where they left off. If you stop, they plummet back to square one very fast. If you can tell she’s not there, keep going at all costs, numb jaw or not.

I don’t think this is just a women thing. I think this is an everyone (with a few non-standard exceptions) thing.

12) UNDRESSING HER AWKWARDLY. Women hate looking stupid, but stupid she will look when naked at the waist with a sweater stuck over her head. Unwrap her like an elegant present, not a kid’s toy.

There are women who get off on being humiliated. Though in general even for them I would agree with this point. Having your shirt stuck as you’re taking it off isn’t terribly humiliating, it’s just kind of silly. Though, that can be a good thing during sex. If you never, ever laugh during sex then you’re probably doing something wrong.

13) GIVING HER A WEDGIE DURING FOREPLAY. Stroking her gently through her panties can be very sexy. Pulling the material up between her thighs and yanking it back and forth is not.

Um, what? I am thoroughly confused.

14) BEING OBSESSED WITH THE VAGINA. Although most men can find the clitoris without maps, they still believe that the vagina is where it’s all at. No sooner is your hand down there than you’re trying to stuff stolen banknotes up a chimney. This is okay in principle, but if you’re not careful, it can hurt – so don’t get carried away. It’s best to pay more attention to her clitoris and the exterior of her vagina at first, then gently slip a finger inside her and see if she likes it.

I think for the vast majority of women in most situations this is true. We need time to get wet enough for penetration. If you don’t wait, it can be uncomfortable. If you really have to put your hand down there, focus on the outside until we’re wet enough for you to slip in with minimal friction.

15) MASSAGING TOO ROUGHLY. You’re attempting to give her a sensual, relaxing massage to get her in the mood. Hands and fingertips are okay; elbows and knees are not.

Do people who are not trained masseuses actually do this*? Regardless of whether it’s sensual or not, if you do this without training you can cause serious damage. Don’t. Just don’t.

*By “do this” I’m just talking about the elbows and knees thing, not massages in general.

16) UNDRESSING PREMATURELY. Don’t force the issue by stripping before she’s at least made some move toward getting your stuff off, even if it’s just undoing a couple of buttons.

I think I would agree with this from a consent standpoint with a new partner, but you don’t really have much to lose if you’re with someone you’ve been banging for a while. If they’re not in the mood to go quite that far and you know each other pretty well then all that will really happen is you’ll have to put your clothes back on.

17) TAKING YOUR PANTS OFF FIRST. A man in socks and underpants is the worst. Lose the socks fist.

Meh. Yea, this looks kinda silly… but how much do you want to bet there’s a fetish for this?

18) GOING TOO FAST. When you get to the penis-in-vagina situation, the worst thing you can do is pump away like an industrial power tool – she’ll soon feel like an assembly-line worker made obsolete by your technology. Build up slowly, with clean, straight, regular thrusts.

This is completely and totally subjective. Some girls might want to be pounded hard all the time, some might just like it sometimes, and some not at all. Learn about your partner and you’ll know when you should and shouldn’t do this.

19) GOING TOO HARD. If you bash your great triangular hip bones into her thigh or stomach, the pain is equal to two weeks of horseback riding concentrated into a few seconds.

I’ve had bruises, but never anything as severe as described here. Unless you’re REALLY, REALLY bony (or she is) you’re probably ok.

20) COMING TOO SOON. Every man’s fear. With reason. If you shoot before you see the whites of her eyes, make sure you have a backup plan to ensure her pleasure too.

Yes. Unless orgasm deprivation is an intentional part of your play, definitely make sure you do something to get her there, especially if she had been building up and was almost there and then you came and she didn’t.

21) NOT COMING SOON ENOUGH. It may appear to you that humping for an hour without climaxing is the mark of a sex god, but to her it’s more likely the mark of a numb vagina. At least buy some intriguing wall hangings, so she has something to hold her interest while you’re playing Marathon Man.

Again, yes. Just yes. And don’t you DARE get angry and petulant if she wants to stop before you’ve come. If it really takes you ages to come and she’s been trying to satisfy you and just can’t take it anymore, then finish yourself off. Don’t be an asshole.

22) ASKING IF SHE HAS COME. You really ought to be able to tell. Most women make noise. But if you really don’t know, don’t ask.

I agree, but I wouldn’t judge by noise. Noise can be faked, plus most women actually get quiet at the moment of orgasm. You know how some people will laugh so hard and long that eventually their laughs become silent? Orgasms can be a lot like that. However, muscle spasms and twitching should be a good indicator. Personally, I move and twitch during build up and then my body goes rigid except for a few muscles that spasm. And as for the last part about not asking if you really can’t tell, yea it’s highly likely that if you don’t know then it didn’t happen. If you don’t know, but she did have an orgasm what’s the worst that can happen? You just continue until you’re sure or she stops you. Simple.

23) PERFORMING ORAL SEX TOO GENTLY. Don’t act like a giant cat at a saucer of milk. Get your whole mouth down there, and concentrate on gently rotating or flicking your tongue on her clitoris.

Every girl is different, but I’d say this is probably good advice overall.

24) NUDGING HER HEAD DOWN. Men persist in doing this until she’s eyeball-to-penis, hoping that it will lead very swiftly to mouth-to-penis. All women hate this. It’s about three steps from being dragged to a cave by their hair. If you want her to use her mouth, use yours; try talking seductively to her.

Never, ever say that “all” of anyone hates something. There is ALWAYS an exception.

25) NOT WARNING HER BEFORE YOU CLIMAX. Sperm tastes like sea water mixed with egg white. Not everybody likes it. When she’s performing oral sex, warn her before you come so she can do what’s necessary.

I’m tempted to say that if men are expected to recognize when we’ve cum then we should be able to recognize when they’re cumming, but ejaculation and orgasm are not necessarily the same thing. Plus, even if they are there’s a difference between recognizing it as it happens and recognizing it before it happens. So, I’d say overall I agree with this one. Even if she likes the taste and intends to swallow before you even get started, it’s nice to have some notice so you can prepare.

26) MOVING AROUND DURING FELLATIO. Don’t thrust. She’ll do all the moving during fellatio. You just lie there. And don’t grab her head.

Again, subjective. Some girls like it when you fuck their face/throat. Just make sure you’re with one of them before you do this.

27) TAKING ETTIQUETTE ADVISE FROM PORN MOVIES. In X-rated movies, women seem to love it when men ejaculate over them. In real life, it just means more laundry to do.

More laundry to do? Really? You know what would fix that? Taking off your fucking shirt and bra for the blow job. In REAL life this particular sex act has almost nothing to do with laundry and everything to do with personal preferences. Some girls actually do like this. Just find out before you do it and you should be fine.

28) MAKING HER RIDE ON TOP FOR AGES. Asking her to be on top is fine. Lying there grunting while she does all the hard work is not. Caress her gently, so that she doesn’t feel quite so much like the captain of a schooner. And let her have a rest.

I mostly agree with this. Caress, hold, grab, squeeze, smack various parts of her anatomy, pinch and thrust up into her. Don’t just lie there unless you have some medical condition that won’t allow you to really participate. Like if you’re dead. Or paralyzed. Or unless she’s tied you up or otherwise indicated that you are not allowed to move.

29) ATTEMPTING ANAL SEX AND PRETENDING IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. This is how men earn a reputation for not being able to follow directions. If you want to put it there, ask her first. And don’t think that being drunk is an excuse.

Yes and no. Accidents DO happen. But if it happens more than a couple times, it’s going to be really annoying, even if she is ok with anal.

30) TAKING PICTURES. When a man says, "Can I take a photo of you?" she’ll hear the words "__to show my buddies." At least let her have custody of them.

Disagree. Yes, there are guys who are huge assholes, but I don’t think most of them make this request with the intent of showing others and I don’t think it should be assumed they are. If you don’t trust him not to show people, don’t let him take the picture. It has nothing to do with who has “custody”.

31) NOT BEING IMAGINATIVE ENOUGH. Imagination is anything from drawing patterns on her back to pouring honey on her and licking it off. Fruit, vegetables, ice and feathers are all handy props; hot candle wax and permanent dye are a no no.

NOTHING is a no no unless the SPECIFIC woman involved says so (well, except things like murder). Fuck you, discouraging hot wax. Just because it’s not YOUR preference does not mean it’s a “no no”.

32) SLAPPING YOUR STOMACH AGAINT HERS. There is no less erotic noise. It’s as sexy as a belching contest.

I don’t even understand this. Things happen during sex.

33) ARANGING HER IN STUPID POSES. If she wants to do advanced yoga in bed, fine, but unless she’s a Romanian gymnast, don’t get too ambitious. Ask yourself if you want a sexual partner with snapped hamstrings.

I’m not sure what being Romanian has to do with it, but mostly yea. Don’t automatically assume she’s flexible enough for that position you saw on the internet. Experiment, but take it slow the first time to make sure it will work.

34) LOOKING FOR HER PROSTATE. Read this carefully: Anal stimulation feels good for men because they have a prostate. Women don’t.

Which is not to say anal doesn’t feel good for women. It can. Just don’t go searching for something that doesn’t exist.

35) GIVING LOVE BITES. It is highly erotic to exert some gentle suction on the sides of the neck, if you do it carefully. No woman wants to have to wear turtlenecks and jaunty scarves for weeks on end.

Some women wouldn’t bother with the turtlenecks or “jaunty” scarves. If you’re a biter or sucker, just make sure beforehand that she’s into that and where she’s ok with having those marks.

36) BARKING INSTRUCTIONS. Don’t shout encouragement like a coach with a megaphone. It’s not a big turn-on.

Again, personal preference. This one doesn’t hurt anyone really, so if it’s your default go ahead and go with it. Just be conscientious enough to ask later if she’s cool with it.

37) TALKING DIRTY. It makes you sound like a lonely magazine editor calling a 1-900 line. If she likes nasty talk, she’ll let you know.

Yes and no. Some women aren’t comfortable enough with themselves to ask for stuff like this. If you want to test the waters, just start out light. Don’t do things like calling her names at first, give commands and/or describe what you’re going to do to her using dirty words. If she’s into that, wait till later and say she seemed into it and you don’t want to overstep your bounds so ask if you can use other words next time, if she’s ok with name calling etc.

38) NOT CARING WHETHER SHE COMES. You have to finish the job. Keep on trying until you get it right, and she might even do the same for you.

Overall, yes. There are times when both people don’t have to come. Sometimes some women will get you off just because they enjoy giving you pleasure, just like some men do, but overall, yea.

39) SQUASHING HER. Men generally weigh more than women, so if you lie on her a bit too heavily, she will turn blue.

Yes, and it has nothing to do with men generally weighing more. Even if she weighs more than you, you could conceivably impede her breathing.

40) THANKING HER. Never thank a woman for having sex with you. Your bedroom is not a soup kitchen.

Personally, I agree with this. I don’t adhere to it. I thank The Keeper, especially if he does something for me I know he’s not particularly fond of or if he does something with absolutely no intent of getting off himself. But most of the time I don’t really want to be thanked for sexual things. Other girls might like it though, so just don’t overdo it and if she says to stop, either stop or make it a very, very occasional thing.

And for pretty much the whole list, keep in mind communication is really the only key. If you communicate and learn each other’s preferences the sex can be amazing.

Oooh, and I just found a “40 Ways Women Fail in Bed” list. Maybe I can persuade The Keeper to make a post about that one? We’ll see.

The “Politeness” Argument

In any relationship there is bound to be at least one or two disagreements that stem from fundamental differences in each person’s upbringing and outlook on life. One topic on which The Keeper and I have one of these fundamental differences of opinion is “politeness”. More specifically, being polite to people in customer service type situations when we are the customer and the service has been extremely frustrating.

The first time we realized we weren’t in accord on what exactly it means to be polite in such situations was a little over a year ago. We were on our way to visit friends at Virginia Tech, and it just so happened that his sister (who was 18 at the time, but mentally about 12 or 13) was enrolled for a trial period at a sort of college/assisted living community for the developmentally challenged along our route called the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center. We decided to make a brief stop there on the way to check up on her and see how she was liking it.

Now, this place is in the middle of friggin nowhere.

Middle of Nowhere

And the day we were visiting must have been an off day for, like, 90% of the staff because there was nobody around. The Keeper’s dad had told us we would have to sign in when we got there, so we followed his directions and went to the main administrative building first. When we pulled up there were no other cars in the parking lot and the only other human being we could see was a gardener, but we went ahead to the building to try and sign in. When we got there the automatic doors opened just fine, but inside all we found was an empty reception desk and empty halls. Back on the doors was a sign with a cell phone number to call for assistance, but every time we called it just rang, there wasn’t even a voicemail.

At this point we were more worried than anything. We thought maybe we were in the wrong place or something. So we started driving around the campus, hoping we would see someone who could help us figure out where we needed to go. We drove around for half an hour without ever seeing a single person. No staff, no campus guards or police, none of the residents of the place- nothin. It was scary, and extremely frustrating.

Finally, we went back to the first building and decided to take a shot at asking the gardener. We didn’t have much hope that she would know anything, figuring she was just someone that was hired from a local landscaping company or something, but it turned out she did know where we needed to go and we finally got some directions. It turned out that we had actually already driven past where we needed to go and all the people that we weren’t seeing were in this little enclosed courtyard area that wasn’t visible from the road.

We asked one of the residents who was out in the courtyard where we needed to go and he pointed out a door, but when we got inside we, again, couldn’t find any staff. There were plenty of residents around though, so we asked one of them for directions again. He took us out the other side of the building we were in and pointed us toward another building. We walked over to the new building and finally found an office with someone in it who seemed to be working there. He had someone else in his office when we got there, so we waited patiently until he was done and then went in to ask where we needed to sign in. When we got in there it quickly became apparent that this man was a high functioning resident of this establishment, which was actually kind of cool. The Keeper very nicely explained our situation and what we were looking for and the guy walked us outside to point us in the right direction.

He pointed to the building we had JUST come from.

At that point we had been trying to find The Keeper’s sister for about 45 minutes to an hour. The main administrative building had been deserted. The only sign that had given any indication of what visitors should do if they couldn’t find a staff member had been the one with the phone number that no one answered. When we finally found the place we were supposed to be it was just as deserted of staff as the main building had been, and when we finally found someone who worked there he pointed us back at a building where we had seen no one but residents of this place. I felt that we had legitimate reason to be upset, so I ran through this list of grievances to the man, calmly but in an obviously annoyed tone. My tone did seem to bother him a little, but he agreed with me that there should have been signs for visitors and that someone should have picked up the one phone number that had been given. Then he directed us again to the other building and said that he would radio the people who were supposed to be there to sign in visitors to make sure they were there when we walked back over.

The Keeper was astounded by the way I’d treated this guy. He felt I had been incredibly rude, simply because I had made my agitation known in my tone of voice. This is that fundamental difference I was talking about. The Keeper believes that being polite means never, ever showing it if you’re annoyed, frustrated or angered by the service you’ve been given. He thinks that to be polite means you must be sweet as pie in any interactions you have, no matter what the other person or organization has done. And he finds it extremely embarrassing to do anything even slightly more aggressive than that.

I believe that one can be polite while at the same time making it clear that there is a problem, something has been done wrong, or whoever you’re speaking to has not done their job in a satisfactory manner. It is not rude to show displeasure unless you show it with personal attacks, yelling, screaming, cursing and the like. If you are calm, speak in a normal voice and you don’t attack the person you’re talking to or call them names or anything like that then I don’t see a problem.

Unfortunately, my perspective on this issue embarrasses The Keeper.

Fortunately, I very rarely find myself in situations where I feel it is necessary to react this way. In the two and a half years The Keeper and I have been together I can think of two instances where I have embarrassed him in this way. Considering how many entitled assholes there are out there who do worse than I do on an almost daily basis, I can’t bring myself to feel bad about using an annoyed tone once or twice a year.

Headquarters

I’ve been ruminating for a little while on a post The Organic Sister made a couple weeks ago. Something she mentioned in the first paragraph just kind of keeps popping into my thoughts.

“Possibly the most common reaction we meet when we talk about our lifestyle and the choices it took to get here is one of genuine interest and a serious longing. Travel has long been seen as our culture’s ultimate definition of freedom and luxury…the Dream Life. And after being out here for a few months, I can see why. It’s already been life-changing, paradigm-shifting and a kind of liberating you have to experience to understand.”

She says that one of the most common reactions they’ve gotten is one of “serious longing”. At first I completely understood that. When I think about what she and her family are doing I’ve also kind of thought in the back of my mind, “man, that would be very cool…”. But after reading that first paragraph of that post, for some reason I started giving the idea some more conscious thought. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t think I would want to travel full time the way they are.

And I don’t mean that as a judgment toward Tara and her family, not at all! I still think what they’re doing is impressive and very, very cool. I just don’t think I would enjoy it once the initial “holy shit, I’m doing this” feeling wore off.

Not that I don’t want to travel. I would love to travel. I would love to have the resources to flit about the world and visit this place or that place for a month at a time. But those would be trips to places in Europe, Asia, Africa. Far off, exotic places. Hell, there are even some places in not so far off or exotic Canada that I might want to spend a month. But the US? *shrug* Seen it. A week or two at a time in  just about any destination within the continental United States is enough for me. And no matter where I go, I always want a headquarters to come back to. A place with enough space that I can spread out and have all my books and arts and crafts supplies and art and tchotchkies. Somewhere that I can return from my travels and take a day or two and just relax before going back to whatever routine is normal for me.

Because when I travel I’m enjoying myself and I suppose in some circumstances I’m relaxed in a certain way, but it’s not the same kind of relaxed as when I’m back in my headquarters. And I just don’t think a mobile headquarters would provide the same kind of relaxation I need between adventures.

When I travel and I’m staying with family or friends I tend to start wishing for my comfortable furniture (how is it that no one else ever seems to have comfortable furniture?) and start getting mildly irritated at the differences in how their household functions as opposed to my own. If I were in a mobile headquarters, I think I’d be feeling that same longing for my comfy armchair and wishing that I could pee without The Keeper hearing me or that I could go to sleep while he stays up to play video games in another room. Without the stable, spacious place to return to and rest I can see myself just getting depressed and listless and not really enjoying the experience.

About The Third Year Harvard Law Student Being Accused Of Racism

So, I was looking at my Google Buzz and saw that Tony had posted an article about some Harvard student being racist. Normally I could care less because it seems to me that a lot of things that are labeled as "racist" or "sexist" should be labeled as "things that are funny and/or harmless, but offend the uptight and overly sensitive". For instance, people make jokes about how women are crazy and overly emotional. I’m a woman, I laugh at some of those jokes. Some women do not laugh, they get all bent out of shape and go off on feminist rants. Those women are overly sensitive. They are unable to understand and accept that stereotypes come from real world observations. But that’s not really the point. The point is, something about the headline for this news article grabbed me and I clicked the link. Then I clicked another link to an older article. Then I clicked a link that took me to a place where the supposedly racist email in question was posted in its entirety.

From reading the first two articles I was able to ascertain the following:

  • Third year Harvard law student Stephanie Grace went to a dinner party
  • At the dinner party the conversation touched upon something which prompted a comment from Stephanie regarding race and intelligence
  • After the dinner party Stephanie decided to clarify her comment in an email
  • That email was leaked, possibly by someone who shouldn’t have had access to it in the first place, to Harvard’s Black Law Students’ Association

Now, here is the text of the email:

"… I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don’t think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn’t mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.

I also don’t think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to “explain” away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.

In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case."

Now, I realize this isn’t going to be a popular interpretation, but I don’t think she’s necessarily being racist here. We don’t know what prompted the wording of this position. If the conversation at the dinner had nothing to do with race at all, then perhaps this suggests some racism. If the conversation was about intelligence and race, race being used as a general term with no race specified, then this email strongly suggests racism because of her specifying two particular races. However, if the conversation surrounding her at this dinner touched upon both intelligence and African Americans? Then no, I don’t see this email as racist at all. She is stating that she is open to the possibility that African Americans are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. Being open to something is different from believing it to be true. And a group being predisposed to something does not mean that everyone in that group conforms to the predisposition.

I think that this email got blown out of proportion once it was made public. I also think that situations like this where something harmless is blown up by the media do more harm to racial relations than good. We don’t need to stop people from stereotyping and having opinions about large groups of people. What we need is for people to stop letting those stereotypes and opinions influence their interactions with other individuals. There are a lot of generalities and stereotypes about women that I find unfavorable, but that doesn’t mean I assume any woman I meet fits them. I get to know people on an individual basis, generating opinions based on their words and actions. If enough people did that then there would be no more racism or sexism.