“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.” – Richard Adams

On grief, life lessons and a bold little kitty.

I haven’t taken the time to just sit and write in quite awhile. Life has gone a bit crazy. The world has gone a lot crazy. Some things that I had hoped wouldn’t come to pass have, both personally and at large.

I’ve had reason, the last couple of days, to realize and appreciate that I have the right people around me.

Not one person has said the words ‘It’s just a cat.’

WTFGus

Monday evening, I said goodbye to my 17 year old, sweet, lovely boy Gus (Copernicus), after he suddenly developed fluid in his belly. Tests proved that it was due either to cancer or heart failure. At his age and with his issues, treatments would only prolong his life enough for me to say goodbye, but he would suffer in the process. So I had to let him go from this life. I got to hold him in my lap, his favorite place in the world, and he fell asleep with his head in my hand.

He had been in my life since he was a six week old hellion cat and right off the bat I could tell he was special. And insane. And fearless.

BabyGus

He was goofy, loyal, curious, brave. He crossed the Atlantic twice, and lived in a foreign land. He charmed everyone he met, me most of all. He had every vet he ever met proclaim him so handsome and remarkably shiny for a cat his color/age/issues (right up until his last day). One vet kept asking if she could keep him. My landlord and friends in London adored him. Passersby on the street would stop below my window to admire him (and Leo).

He rarely purred…. except when he wanted to steal my food. Then the funniest little whirring sound would emanate from his lean, sleek body. Mostly he just curled up on my lap, insisting on it as soon as I was sitting down (and sometimes before I was completely settled). Usually he’d claw the crap out of my legs in the process, but I always slept better when he was there, curled up against my belly.

LapLove

He loved to climb. Many times I would hear an odd scrabbling noise and look over to see him clinging gleefully to something far higher than he logically ought to be – a table leg when he was wee and bitty, door frames as he got older. Once he clung to a door frame only long enough to drop on top of my other cat (Hal) walking beneath him.

DoorClimber

As a kitten he would burrow under my hair at night, at the back of my neck. As he got older he preferred to sleep against my belly or behind my knees. The last few weeks he occasionally slept on the pillow above my head.

PillowGus1

He had huge ears, big golden-orange eyes, a loud voice that only got louder as he went deaf later in his life. He had megaesophagus, which made him choke, and asthma, so he occasionally wheezed, sometimes coughed or gasped. But through all of it he maintained, he’d be calmer though one of his fits if I was with him.

His resilience was immense, it matched his personality, a thousand times greater than his physical being.

He was a mighty panther in his mind, this tiny house panther in my heart.

He was my child, furry and not of my body, but still mine, as I was his person. He was mine from infancy to his ripe old age, and it hurts so intensely that I will no longer feel that cat gravity bearing down on my legs, the fuzzy little face asleep on my knee, hear the imperious yowl demanding dinner at all hours, feel the gentle sniffing nose touching mine in affection.

17 years is a long time to build a bond of love and trust with anyone.

ForeheadBoop

I read something recently that people and animals come into our lives to teach us something, it’s up to us to grasp the lesson. It got me thinking what Gus taught me in our long yet still too brief time together.

This is what I’ve come up with:

He taught me to be brave, even when things are strange and a little (or a lot) scary.

He taught me to be curious and inquisitive, all the time.

He taught me it was ok to be friendly, to smile at strangers (but it’s ok to run away if things don’t seem right).

He taught me that sometimes things hurt, but that you can get through it.

He taught me trust, and that trust is a mighty thing.

He taught me that love is never wasted and can be found everywhere.

Life is precious. All life. Cherish the ones that cherish you in return, who treat you the way you should be treated, who trust you and demand the same, who love you with no expectations or conditions. People, animals, all things.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  – Mahatma Ghandi.

Love as if it’s the only lasting impression you ever make on the world. – Me. And Gus.

SoMuchLove

I had something of a Facebook rant-splosion today.

It started with this photo:

LockerRoomNope.jpg

My first response:

“Reminder: it is not ‘lewd words’ that is the problem here (have you MET me??) it is the implication and insinuation of sexual assault (a situation that has been proving the ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’ adage, between the numerous allegations from adult women AND THE CURRENT LAWSUIT REGARDING THE RAPE OF A 13 YEAR OLD GIRL).

Stop being fucking stupid and pretending this is ‘boys will be boys’ ‘locker room talk’ because if you’ve had conversations with ‘your boys’ that suggested you’d assault someone sexually, you might want to delete me from your friends list right fucking now.”

And then I was set off again by someone’s sniggering comment that Drumpf was just talking dirty and how can we not like that, 50-shades-of-nope sales yadda yadda:

“Another reminder: 50 Shades of Gray is (poorly written, if popular) erotic fan fiction. It does not present an accurate representation of the BDSM lifestyle.

Its sales numbers indicate people enjoy reading erotica (in many cases that they heard it was good and were probably disappointed).

What its popularity does NOT indicate is that women want to be sexually assaulted. Because it’s fiction.

Learn the goddamn differences before you share/giggle at stupid internet memes and share them like they’re fact.”

(*addendum: in 50 Shades the main characters enter a CONTRACT OF CONSENT, which suggests… you know… consent. Not assuming you can just grab a woman by her genitals or otherwise force  unwanted sexual attention on her as was suggested by this ‘locker room talk’).

And then this story crossed my feed (which I highly recommend reading):

Welcome to the Women’s Locker Room

So I was inclined to forward and add a little of my own story:

“All of this. I don’t generally talk about it, but I have in the past been assaulted, molested, groped on the street or in crowds, harassed and made to feel unsafe. And every single time it was a straight, white male. Every creepy, leering, unnecessary ‘I’m just being nice/paying you a compliment’ moment.. straight, white, male.

Last night I had a nightmare that I was sexually assaulted by a straight, white, male. I can still feel the pain and fear from it. This is why such things as trigger warnings exist, btw. Because those people who have such experiences will always be triggered by discussions, arguments and representations of their trauma.
 
You don’t want to be tarred by that brush. don’t sit back and tut-tut.. Speak. Up. Don’t let it just pass with a ‘meh, he doesn’t mean it’ or ‘meh, he’s just being dirty/a straights shooter/hilarious’. It’s not hilarious to me.”
It’s not funny. It’s not ‘dude talk’. It’s not ‘boys will be boys’. It’s assault. It’s either alluding to it, joking about it or condoning it.
And it is NOT OKAY.

Planning ahead.

So I spent my lunch hour yesterday and part of today working out a spreadsheet of cost of living vs. salary for my 3 target cities, going on averages and basic ideas of what things cost. Not counting tuition and fees for 2 years of study, that puts me waaa-haaa-haaay over what I could earn (going by VISA minimums).

It’s set up across the (now 5) potential Masters degrees I’m interested in so that I have an idea of what extra sort of funds I’d have to save, potential scholarships to go for and payment plans to potentially deal with.

Glasgow wins (barely). We shall see.

schoolplanning

The state of my country.

So I’ve mentioned I’m an American, and here in America we’re in the middle (nearing the end, actually) of an election year in which one candidate is shady, slightly ineffective in some policies but generally the most experienced and worthy politician currently in the race (comparatively speaking).

And the other is a cheeto-dusted, straw-headed misogynistic trash bag. Recent comments have come to light about him essentially admitting to sexually assaulting women, and saying he can get away with it because of his fame.

I wrote a thing on my facebook:

“A comment I just made on someone else’s FB, in response to a commenter comparing Trump’s victims to ‘groupies’ and bringing up Bill Clinton’s transgressions:

Groping (or attempting to grope) a woman without her consent is assault. Doing it repeatedly is still assault. Joking about women ‘letting him’ doesn’t make it not assault, it means the assaulter has a biased idea of the situation, and to compare them to ‘groupies’ is disrespectful and dismissive to them and whatever they’ve suffered.

Aside from Juanita Broaddrick (a situation which still has no clear resolution), Bill Clinton’s infidelities are not relevant here because HE is not running for President. Using his infidelities to cast aspersions on Hilary is at best a deflection from the atrocities of which Trump has repeatedly been accused (and has paid quite a bit to ‘make go away’ I’m sure) over the course of many years. At worst it make her responsible for his actions 20 or more years ago, deflecting guilt and blame.

In addition to this, accusations against Bill Clinton in no way reduce or remove the stain of misogyny or filth with which Trump has further tarnished himself or our country. His fame and popularity do not make any of this okay.”

Now to clarify: violence against anyone is not okay. Men on men, men on women, women on men, women on women. There is no configuration of genders,sexualities or power structure that makes violence, sexual or otherwise, okay to do.

I feel very strongly about this and about this election, more than anything I’ve ever felt before. The idea that someone like that could possibly be in charge of overseeing policy that dictates my actions, controls what I can or can’t do with my body and generally looks down on me as a lesser being because I have breasts and ovaries is fucking terrifying.

I’ve been seeing so many men online taking Drumpfs actions as a hall pass to treat women they way they want, with anger, violence, insults, dismissal. And the man hasn’t even been elected!

Oh but it gets worse. A couple of people I’ve known for years decided to either use this situation to trash Clinton (as if she’s got ANYthing to do with this situation) or actually attempt to defend him. Another status I posted was:

“I am not surprised at the cheeto-dusted trashbag’s appalling comments on women. I’m just sad and afraid that it will not only not change his supporter’s minds, it’ll give the violent ones validation for assaulting women.”

One of my people decided to post this in response:

somuchnope

I think my head may have fucking exploded.

This is a fallacy of comparison that assumes women want to be assaulted because they buy erotic fiction. One is a (badly written, but popular) Twilight fan fiction, with fictitious people in fictitious situations.

The other is a PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE talking about groping women without their consent, having several women corroborate his actions and assaults on them. This is not ‘naughty words’ this is an admission of guilt in perpetration of sexual assault.

NO. FUCKING. COMPARISON.

Y’all have a month. Vote. Vote vote vote. I implore you.You don’t have to vote Clinton if you’re so vehemently against her, but by all that you hold dear on this good earth… please do not vote that orange sack of shit into our country’s highest political office.

Autumn Rain

It’s finally autumn here, I’ve seen leaves falling today. This past summer has been impossible; hot, sticky and disgusting with little reprieve. We’ve had a drought locally, so the rain we’ve gotten in the last few days has been delightful.

Of course, when it rains (especially when the air is cool and I have nothing else to do), the urge to burrow under my blankets is strong. It’s this time that I feel the loneliest. I have no one to cuddle up to, listen to the rain and just be. I haven’t for a long time. I think the last time I was dating someone regularly in autumn was… 13 years ago. The last time I dated someone regularly at all was over 9 years ago.

The melancholy is strong with this one.

Silliness (though apparently a long post).

So I have hobbies and interests. Some are mainstream, like art and music, some are a little esoteric (I’m a medieval reenactor, and I cosplay steampunk). And some… well, I don’t like using the term ‘shameful secret’ because I’m not ashamed, but it’s certainly not something I put out in ‘about me’ profiles.

You see, I have a deep and abiding love of all things… wedding.

Now, to clarify… I’m not married. I’m not getting married (probably never?). I’m not engaged. I’m not even dating (my last boyfriend was in 2009, last actual date from early in that relationship, even). And I know that wedding =/= marriage. Even still.

Weddings fascinate me. I love the frippery, the personalization, the celebration of love that’s involved. That said, there are some things about wedding advertising, absurdity and targeted promotion from the Wedding Industrial Complex that baffle and irritate me.

Wedding advertising is simultaneously beautiful and hilarious. Beatific brides in flowing white gowns grace page upon page of magazines, websites and reality television, giggling and bounding through whatever inappropriate (or unlikely) situation seems to befall bridal advertising. It seems that so many brides tend to find themselves fully gowned, coifed and primped while up on ladders, changing light bulbs, in dusty old barns (not the lovely converted or cleaned & decorated ones in which they might actually marry, but decrepit, manky old run down wrecks), or leaning on walls (so much leaning). Brides and their bridesmaids are always smiling, laughing, with someone glancing come-hither at the audience. Roving packs of brides cluster together in empty houses, looking somewhere between lost and wistful.

Real Life Wedding headlines like ‘Barefooted Boho Bride Bonds with Bowtied Beau in Barn’ implore us with their alliteration to find the beauty, the novelty and the interest in someone else’s idea of perfection. And so many websites, interest boards and planning tools all too lovingly oblige us in our quest for mental and emotional recreation and gratification.

When it comes to dresses, modern wedding dress (and bridesmaid dress) shopping has become a circus of appalling proportions. And I do mean circus. If you are any kind of curvy and wear anything over a size 8 street size, you’re treated like a side show. Mocked, belittled, treated poorly, and generally made to feel like you belong in a giant tent. This, thankfully, isn’t standard in ALL shops (some of them work hard for all women), but there are websites and message boards dedicated to horror stories, better business bureau entries and urban myths that speak to the horrifying experiences that curvy and larger sized women have had in bridal shops. The utter humiliation that comes of being told your size is not your size, having monikers attached to you like ‘plus size’ (I’m not plus-sized, I’m just sized thank you very much), being treated as less than other women whose genetics happen to have gifted them with thinner (or taller) body types. You’ve never known humiliation or anger until some chirpy, oblivious (or malicious) salesperson asks you how much weight you intend to lose before someone agrees to marry you. Or tries to sell you on some sort of ‘bridal booty bootcamp’ exercise plan, because obviously you don’t want to try and squeeze your fat ass into a dress that’s sized in such a way that your street size number is actually 2 sizes smaller in Wedding World. So if you aren’t forewarned and you ask for your size, you receive a dress that makes you feel like you’ll never fit anything. And then the selection for women over a certain size is smaller and usually populated with the Dresses That Time Forgot. As women in general, we’re supposed to want to ‘earn our white gown’ (more on that momentarily) while dieting to suit the ‘bridal silhouette’ and fit into a dress that makes us look naked but for some feathers and spangles, that will make everyone gasp and maybe make our partner cry when s/he sees us approaching. That’s a lot of weight to put on a dress.

On the topic of the white dress specifically, this is one idea that puts my hackles up the most. So many brides on a certain southern-flavored dress show spout the words ‘I’ve earned my white dress!’ (Or worse, one of her parents will). Now, I’m all for making your own choices in terms of sexual partners and activities (or lack thereof). I support waiting until you’re absolutely ready AND understand there why’s, the wherefore’s, the how’s and (very importantly) knowing the who’s better than, say, a teenager might know a chosen partner. Do it for more reasons than ‘my hormones said so’. But I also believe you should do it for more reasons than  ‘I’m married now.’ because that road leads to disappointment (and possible abuse, also creepy and inappropriate topics). Historically, the white wedding dress, despite popular belief, does NOT denote a virgin bride. Up until Queen Victoria, a girl would marry in her best dress (and the middle and lower classes after Victoria would still do so). It wasn’t until Victoria decided she wanted a white dress to go with some special lace she’d received that a mimicry trend began. And even then, she didn’t do it BECAUSE she wanted to state she was virginal. (She was virginal at her wedding because it was her duty as royalty to produce heirs with a royal spouse that had no hint of illegitimacy, but that’s beside the point).

Television tells us brides have to be either rapturously ecstatic, shyly happy or full-on guano crazy. We’re meant to envy those women, to root for the hard luck cases, to wonder what the hell about the crazy ones and to maybe feel hope for ourselves with those ‘At Last’ stories. Magazines tell us we’re meant to have voluminous white gowns, giant diamond rings, exotic honeymoon plans and no other thought in your head except your checklist (which begins a year and a half before your wedding, because everyone has a long engagement and time to plan, right?)

We’re meant to remain cool and not be a ‘bridezilla’ (but if you are you’d better go full-bore, cake smashingly, dress tearingly, groom haranguingly crazy) all while planning every single tiny detail without assistance (because it’s YOUR special day, not yours and your partner’s, JUST YOU), multi-task, never complain and craft a specific and beautiful event without actually looking like you planned it that evokes a combination of byte-worthy words: bespoke! DIY! Rustic! Romantic! Upscale!

And when it comes down to it, it’s all just words. Everything you’re told as a girl from the time you can understand speech is that you’re a girl, you get married in a big white dress, with a ring that cost your husband 2 months’ salary, you want a big party that looks just so and you have to Fit The Mold.

 

Break the mold. Defy conventions Be yourself. Get married or don’t. Wear jeans. Wear a bikini. Wear a suit. Go naked (even if you’re not Betazoid, I don’t judge). Just be yourself. Do what you want with your life and don’t let any part of society tell you you HAVE to look/act/be a certain way, in any aspect of your life. You are a unique creation.

 

Now excuse me while I go bury myself in a Martha Stewart Weddings mag. Oooh, shiny!

This Scepter’d Isle

So I am an American. Born and raised in NYS (upstate, and no I don’t mean Westchester, Poughkeepsie or Albany). I lived in NY for the first 35 years of my life. I use the term ‘lived’ loosely. I existed. I ate (poorly), I slept (sort of), I worked (stress stress stress) and I went through life like I lived in a fog (in some cases in an actual mental fog, but that’s a tale for another day).

Until I decided to change my university major and pursue it on another continent.

In September of 2012 I picked up my entire life (not as easy as it sounds) and moved myself (and my cats! No, there wasn’t a quarantine) to London, UK. I decided if I was going to chase a degree in Museum & Gallery Studies and History of Art (and Design & Film) I wanted to do it someplace that had the best museums and sources of research. My choices were Florence, Paris or London, and of those three in only one I speak the language fluently.

I got into my first choice (unheard of in my life, I’ve never had first choice anything before!), got my ducks in a row (or herded my cats, as it were… sure as hell felt that way) and off we went.

I had a lot of adventures, but I guess this rambly post is mostly to do with feeling at home. I miss England and London, since I’ve been back in NY for over a year now, so much so it hurts. Every day. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere than I did in England (except Pennsic, but that only runs 2 weeks a year, so… 50 weeks of out of place). I’ve never felt and been more capable, self-sufficient, more ME than I was when I was there. Sure, I missed my friends and family (though they say it’s hard making friends once you’re over 30, I don’t find that to be the case) but in the internet age that’s less of an issue.

I’m hoping to move back, though I’m not sure if I’ll end up back in London. Edinburgh is looking VERY appealing right now, between affordability and graduate school options. (And if you’d asked me 5- 10 years ago if I’d be looking at graduate programs I’d have laughed at you and said ‘I don’t even have my bachelors and probably never will!’ Never say never, right?) By the by, if you know anyone in the arts and cultural realms in either city that’s hiring and willing to sponsor a VISA for a keen American, please do let me know. Or mention me.

 

Someone please hire me in my field. It’s my passion, and it took me years to find it so you know I’m absolutely certain of my path and choices.

Home is where the heart is. And mine is in a museum in the UK.