When Women Talk

There’s a reason we’re so often interrupted.

I just saw the most profoundly simple and yet the most intensely complex movie I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s a movie that could change us all if we let it.

It is based on the true story of a group of Mennonite women and children as young as 3 in Bolivia who have been tranquilized and brutally raped by their men and boys for years. I’ll have much more to say about this in my next blog post. First, though, let’s concentrate on this incredible movie, entitled Women Talking.

I know that discussions of this type of brutality can be triggering for some, and might make them want to avoid this movie. Let me reassure you that the abuses themselves are not shown. Just as the women in Bolivia did, the characters in this film wake up, confused, bruised, and bloody, knowing something horrible had happened, but not knowing exactly what.

For a long time, they are not believed. (The hysterical woman trope will plague us for centuries.) Then one night one of the rapists is caught, and he gives up the name of 8 others. Never having had to deal with such horrific crimes before, the colony leaders decide to give these criminals to the government for prosecution.

It appears that justice will be served. But based on their religious beliefs, the women in this colony know they will be expected to forgive these heinous acts if the men confess and repent. They are expected to look the other way and not speak of the violence that has washed over them in bloody waves. And they have a 2 day window in which they are expected to make this adjustment.

So, while the rest of the colony men are dragging the criminals into the city, many of the women and girls gather together in a hayloft to decide how to move forward. They are faced with three choices. Do nothing. Stay and Fight. Leave.

Soon, it becomes quite clear that they cannot do nothing. One woman points out that her 4-year-old daughter was one of the victims. What woman could stand by and do nothing under those circumstances? And the fact that domestic violence and incest run rampant in the community as well can no longer be ignored.

Do they want to stay and fight and build a colony that’s more equitable, that allows women to have a voice, that provides them with literacy and an education and gives them the opportunity to say no, or do they want leave everything they’ve ever known and go into a strange world plotted out only on maps that they have never even seen?

The debate becomes more complicated as the movie progresses. Do they raise their small boys in the shadows of their violent fathers, or do they teach them a new way? At what age do boys become potentially dangerous? 10? 13? 15? Is their freedom and the ability to keep their children safe more important to them than tradition and family and the comfort of the things that they’ve always known? How will they support themselves when they can’t even read?

In addition, until now they have never had the words to speak about their bodies and how they should be treated. Can they ever be silenced again? Many of these women have fallen pregnant due to these rapes. Will they be able to love these children?

I won’t further spoil the movie for you, but I urge you to see it. Even though these women live vastly different lives than most of us do, the movie’s themes will still resonate with most women. Especially the central theme, which is that women are discouraged from talking in general.

There’s a reason why we are so often interrupted, ignored, discounted, dismissed, overruled, and left out of the discussion entirely. Women talking, especially to one another, gives us strength, determination, knowledge, insight and courage. Women talking allows us to see possibilities that we’re often too busy or too undermined to contemplate on our own. Women talking equates to power, and many elements of society are very threatened when we access this power in any way.

Do you ever wonder why women make up approximately half the population of the world, and yet we are the oppressed minorities, to one degree or another, in every single country? In my opinion, it all boils down to two things: childbearing and communication. The powers that be actively work to take control of our reproductive rights, and more subtly, keep us separated as much as they can.

Some countries and religions would prefer that we have as many children as possible whether we like it or not. From their emotionless standpoint, children are valuable commodities, as they become our future workers, soldiers, and consumers. Our wombs are the factories in which these commodities are produced.

There’s also the societal “side benefit” that pregnancy, to a certain extent, incapacitates us for 9 months each time. Yes, it’s possible to still work and carry on with life in that condition, but let’s face it, most of us would not be running any marathons in the third trimester or building houses or winning any fights should we be forced to defend ourselves. And afterward, it’s really hard to become a captain of industry when you have a toddler in tow. Meanwhile, a scary percentage of men  don’t provide the child support that they should, which forces many women into a level of poverty that they should never have to endure.

Other societal factions go to the opposite extreme and attempt to prevent us from having children even when we want them. Perhaps they have concerns about overpopulation. Maybe they view certain women as being unfit to reproduce. Eugenics is alive and well, as is forced sterilization.

We don’t discuss any of these topics nearly as often as we should. Even so, most women know that the struggle with these issues is worldwide. It is the ultimate power play to make our voices go unheard.

We Americans are taught to believe that we have more freedom than any other people on earth, but that’s a lie. Our health care system is abysmal for starters, which undermines this country’s very foundation. And the illusion that women’s rights are taken seriously has been challenged by the fact that there is such an insane pay gap between genders, and to make matters worse, Roe vs. Wade has always been under threat and has now been overturned. We should not overlook the fact that men’s bodies are not restricted in any way by legislation, and they never will be.

I haven’t felt like an American citizen since that moment when my right to choose was stripped from me, and I doubt I ever will feel like one again. Women, in general, are only tolerated if they can be controlled. And what better way to restrict a woman than by taking control of a bodily function?

Keeping us from talking to one another is a part of that control. We don’t seem to notice it as much as the reproductive rights issue, but it’s still pervasive. Men still hang out. They go to bars, they watch sports. It’s much less accepted when women do those things. Instead, we’re kept so busy that we barely notice that we don’t get together very often. We’re expected to stay home and make sandwiches and change diapers. At work we are pitted against one another, fighting over what few breadcrumbs the men see fit to toss in our direction. This, too, is a form of control.

It is important for each one of us to think about the things that tie us down and the things that allow us to fly. We could fly a lot higher if we were more cohesive, but ultimately, each woman has to choose her own path and remember that as she does so, she is also forging a better path for the young women of the future. If things remain as they are, these changes will be so incremental that we’ll barely notice them in our lifetimes. And it’s quite obvious that we’re more than capable of backsliding. We must remain vigilant if we want to make any progress at all.

I won’t tell you what the women in the movie decide to do. You’ll have to see for yourself. I will tell you that the real life women in Bolivia have made entirely different choices. I’ll discuss that in the next post.

I urge you to see Women Talking. I was disappointed that it didn’t win an Oscar for best picture, but it was up against some stiff competition. As with life, timing can be everything.

I will leave you with this: The last sentence in the movie, spoken by a woman to an infant, is, “your story will be different from ours.” It is up to us to determine whether that will be good news or bad, but I’m choosing to look at it as cause for hope.

Three cheers for differences.

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How I Got a Grip on My Gaslighter

You have a right to your emotions!

For the first four decades of my life, give or take, someone who was a big part of my world worked quite hard to make me doubt myself. She succeeded. I am still dealing with the aftereffects of that gaslighting to this day.

In my 40’s, I accidentally stumbled upon a way to make the abuse stop, and rather abruptly, too. And I didn’t even have to resort to violence. I’m not a mental health professional, nor can I make you a promise that this particular gambit will work if you have a gaslighter in your life, but hey, it’s worth a try.

Based on the sources I’ll list below, I will discuss gaslighting in detail, but I’ll also draw upon my own personal experience to show you how I coped. (Again, your results may vary.)

Step One: Identify it.

First of all, just because you get into arguments with someone does not mean that that person is gaslighting you. Not all disagreements are gaslighting. Sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you learn something very beneficial from the disagreement and how you handle it.

Second, not all gaslighters are doing it consciously. They may have been taught by someone else that these toxic tactics are how one should behave. If that’s the case, feel sorry for them. They have led a miserable life. But do not use “intention” as your only yardstick to measure this form of emotional abuse. “He didn’t mean anything by it” is not a valid excuse. Especially since the very best gaslighters will convince you that that is the case. Gaslighting is never okay.

So, what makes a gaslighter? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Is this person invalidating your feelings? Do they say things like, “You are too sensitive.” “You are too insensitive.” “You are overreacting.” “You’re just saying that to get your way.” “You shouldn’t take it personally.” If this person is chipping away at your self-worth, identity, or perceptions, then she/he is very likely a gaslighter.

(Don’t even get me started on the “shouldn’t take it personally” thing. If it’s a criticism of you, it’s personal. If it’s a way to get you to do or think something you don’t want to do or think, it’s personal. If someone is trying to convince you that you don’t have a right to feel the way you feel, it’s personal. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO YOUR EMOTIONS!!!!)

Does this person act as if she or he knows you better than you do yourself? (For starters, ask yourself how that could even be possible. Then, remind yourself that this person cannot read your mind.)

Does this person try to define “normal” for you? Do they try to tell you how you should feel, react, think, or behave? Do they say things like, “You’re being overly dramatic” in an attempt to make you change your behavior?

Does this person deny the truth? If you are sure that something happened, or that something was said, trust your gut. Gaslighters will try to make you think your memory is unreliable by saying that the thing never happened, or that they never said what you are positive you heard. Occasionally that might be true. We all forget things from time to time, or have different memories of events. But when it seems to come up in every single argument, that’s a pattern with a goal: to cause you to second guess yourself and therefore be more apt to adopt their opinions.

Are you being made to believe that every single problem in your relationship is your fault? What are the odds of that? Do you find yourself apologizing even when you feel you’ve done nothing wrong?

Have you noticed that your self-esteem has lowered and/or your depression has increased since this person entered your life?

If any of the above resonates with you, there’s a good chance that you have got yourself a gaslighter. But just to be sure, perhaps read all the articles listed below.

I could go on for weeks or months, describing what my gaslighter did to me, but really, there’s no point. I’ll just pick one example. Any time I opened my mouth, her favorite response was, “You have really strong opinions.” She also had the condescending tone down pat.

Step Two: Question it.

Once you suspect someone is gaslighting you, the next step is to question what they’re trying to convince you of. Ask a trusted outside source for their perspective. Tell it to them straight. Don’t leave anything out. You’re not trying to “win”. You’re trying to gain insight. This person should be a friend or loved one who won’t just take your side because of your relationship, or perhaps a therapist, or an authority on the subject in question.

An objective person should be able to tell you if they would react or think or behave the way you did, or if they feel that your reaction is plausible. If the thing in question can be verified as a fact, research the subject on line, using well-established, reliable sources. (If you’re not sure if a site is reliable, run it through Scam-detector.com.)

Basically, you should determine if you are, in fact, wrong. All of us are wrong sometimes. It’s a rare person, though, who is wrong all the time (and most of them get into politics).

In my case, it took me decades to even realize I had the right to question what my gaslighter was saying. At some point it occurred to me that it was strange that she took so much joy in saying something that caused me so much confusion and self-doubt. Finally, I realized what was going on. She wanted me to question my opinions. She wanted me to wonder if I was wrong. She wanted me to shut up and let her make all the decisions. She even talked other people in my life into using that phrase with me. After a while, I had three people telling me that I had strong opinions. If three people say it, it must be right, surely? Hmph.

Step Three: Own Your Conclusions.

Once you’ve reached a point where you know the kind of person you’re dealing with, and believe that you have a right to think/act/feel the way you do about something, make sure you feel it right down to the very marrow of your bones, because the next step can be hard, especially if it’s not something you’re well practiced in.

Step Four: Set Firm Boundaries

First of all, don’t waste your time arguing with a gaslighter. They are way too good at it. And there is no point in trying to change their beliefs, because odds are they never believed them in the first place. The only thing that you need to convince them of is that you are standing firm in your convictions.

In my situation, I had been thinking about what I believed for some time, and she just happened to hit me with the “You have very strong opinions” on a day when I had the presence of mind to be unusually quick on the uptake. So I said, “You know what? I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’ve decided that everyone has strong opinions. That’s the very definition of an opinion, isn’t it? You believe it or you don’t. It isn’t as if I expect everyone to share my opinions, but yes, I have them. You don’t have to like my opinions, but I have no intention of checking my brain at the door just because you feel my opinions are too intense for you.”

And just like that, that particular tool was removed from her abusive toolbox. She never said “You have very strong opinions” to me again, ever. I was actually quite startled by how successful that impromptu speech was.

Don’t get me wrong. She didn’t apologize. She didn’t see the errors of her ways and change. She simply realized that that sentence had no control over me anymore, so there was no point in uttering it. I consider this a success because she wasn’t going to change, but I could, and did. I took back control.

You know how bullies seem to deflate when you confront them? My gaslighter ran out of gas when I turned off the supply. It felt as though, in that one particular case, I had thrown water on the Wicked Witch and she melted before my very eyes.

Oh, she went on to abuse me emotionally in many other gassy ways until she passed away, but she found it a lot harder to do. I had my work cut out for me with that one. But learning the coping skills I describe above gave me what felt like superpowers.

The only way a gaslighter holds sway over you is if you buy what they’re selling. So learn to shop elsewhere. You can do it.

Good luck!

Update: I wrote this post just before getting the autism diagnosis that I blogged about on January 2nd. This adds a little more nuance to my situation, because strong opinions is yet another potential symptom of autism. So perhaps my gaslighter was right about that. What she was wrong about was trying to bully me to change, because if these opinions are part of my autism, then that’s most likely not going to change. But I still stand by the (strong) opinion that I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinions. If that’s the case, what’s the harm? But, yeah, I have a lot of thinking to do.












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How the Patriarchy Plays Out on Female Bodies

Women must conform.

Occasionally, I meet a woman who thinks that her only currency in life is being sexy, and that never fails to make me profoundly sad. I picture her intelligence, her humor, her creativity, her compassion, and all her other skills atrophying while she focuses intensely on that sexiness for as long as it lasts. (And it never lasts, young ladies. Trust me.) So eventually she’s left with “nothing but” all those underused qualities, and she has to learn late in life how to employ them. Kudos to those who manage to put that off, in spite of so much wasted time.

The most frustrating thing about women such as these is that they definitely did not come up with those warped priorities independently. All young girls get that memo, the world over. They are bombarded with it from all sides, even from friends and family. And the messages can be mixed, too. We shouldn’t be sluts, but we should dress up as naughty nurses for that late night Halloween party. The fact that we all don’t turn into vapid Barbie Dolls who are devoid of genitalia speaks to our resilience and formidable ability to survive.

Even in countries where women are supposed to cover up and remain chaste, there’s this underlying lesson that their sexiness is such a force that the men around them can’t control themselves, and if they don’t dress conservatively, then they will suffer the consequences for bewitching innocent men by not keeping their own power in check.

We are told that we must sit with our knees together. We are told not to be provocative. We are told that we should smile more, even while graciously tolerating unwelcome advances.

Here’s a disturbing statistic for you, found amongst a mountain of disturbing statistics on the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) website. Every 68 seconds another American is sexually assaulted, and 90 percent of those victims are female. Every 9 minutes, the victim is a child. Think of that the next time you’re watching the second hand of the clock, hoping for time to pass. Perhaps if we discarded minutes and instead used rape statistics to measure time, we could learn to talk about it and come up with ways to prevent these weak men from running amok.

While doing research for this post, I came across an article by Dr. Jessica Taylor that turns this female oppression into a fascinating pep talk. I encourage you to read the whole article, but here’s just one intriguing paragraph:

“Men don’t oppress women because they think they are stupid, incompetent, weak or incapable – they oppress women because they know that we aren’t any of those things. They know that given the chance, we will change the world in several ways which will permanently dismantle male supremacy. And they don’t want that.”

She goes on to explain that rape and oppression of women are found the world over, and that there’s no society on earth where females have equal control of their lives, finances, education and governments. This has nothing to do with any flaws we ourselves possess.

It is in the best interest of the patriarchy to keep us from realizing that we are just as skillful, intelligent and powerful as they are. To do so, they must keep us under tight control. They target the most private and intimate parts of us to maintain that control.

Women are expected to conform to men’s standards of beauty. As male tastes change, various female body parts are supposed to increase or decrease in size. We’re supposed to wear more or less makeup and clothing. When we can’t keep up with these ever-changing standards that are so out of our control, we are to consider ourselves failures.

We are expected to submit to or abstain from sex regardless of mood, all at the whim of our fathers, brothers, husbands and often bosses. We are expected to blame ourselves for rape. In many countries we are not even allowed to keep our sexual organs, because our pleasure is threatening and/or intolerable. And many women and girls do not get to choose their mates.

A more sobering quote from that article is as follows: “No one has to work very hard to control or manipulate women and girls who already view themselves as sex objects to be used, abused, controlled or enjoyed by men.”

Another level of control, of course, is that of our fertility. Patriarchal organizations would have you believe that birth control is evil because we must procreate, and if we do get pregnant, we must see it through regardless of our personal wishes, physical or mental health, or finances.

If we suffer when we menstruate, we are emotionally out of control. If we can’t have children, we are barren. If we enter menopause, we are dried up. If a man decides to “spread his seed” with us and we’re underage, then we are teases and jail bait. And the poorer we are, the more likely our wombs will be for sale. We can be surrogates. We can have a bride price. We are given away at the altar, from one man to the next. Having children will keep us close to home.

I had to go to ten different gynecologists before I found one who would tie my tubes, because you never know, I might change my mind. I was 35. I never changed my mind.

According to this article in Ms. Magazine, even our hair is a source of control. We are pressured to dye our hair when it turns grey because the older we appear to be, the less value we have and the less we are seen by society. We are often told how we must wear our hair in the workplace. We are told that some hair colors and textures are more valuable and more indicative of beauty than others. If you didn’t win that particular lottery, then you must spend a fortune to try to make your hair conform, and that’s money we could be investing to get ahead.

On the other hand, some parts of our bodies shouldn’t have hair at all, while other parts should be plucked and bleached and shaped into submission. If you’re too hairy, you’re too manly, too radical, and, heaven help us, unhygienic.

If we were in full control of our bodies, the make up and fashion industries as we know them today would not exist. Surrogacy would look very different. The weight loss industry would disintegrate. The military/industrial complex would be a helluva lot less complex. Plastic surgery would no longer be the cash cow that it currently is.

Every woman on earth has had her body judged. You need to gain or lose weight. Your skin should be bleached, tanned, or moisturized. You’re too this, that, or the other thing. Because of that, you’re not enough.

Your body must be used to attract others. Are you passing or failing in that quest? There is a reason why girls are ten times more likely to have eating disorders than boys. And we are told we can’t be beautiful without the help of beauty enhancing products. So where does that leave our self-esteem?

We can’t be allowed to have positive self-esteem, because that might lead to self-confidence. Then we’d be considered too outspoken. It would be preferable if we didn’t speak at all. We are set up for failure, because our success would lead to patriarchal chaos.

The FBI tells us that 97 percent of crime is committed by men. The femicide rate increased by 33 percent in 2020. Women are all but trained to live in fear of violence, and that impacts our ability to act independently.  How long must we lie back and take this?

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you: The verb cleave, according to fundamentalists and Promise Keepers, means sticking to something like glue. As in, we should cleave to our husbands. But they neglect to mention that this word also has another meaning that is equally valid, that of cutting or splitting something apart with a sharp instrument.  

If anyone ever dares tell me I should cleave to a man, I’ll be tempted to say, “Okey Dokey… Brace yourself…”

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Road Rage

If people would just listen, he wouldn’t have to shout.

I wrote this story because I was inspired by an idiot who nearly ran me off the practically empty interstate at 11 pm one night. I felt like venting and writing fiction. Indulge me.

He watched as the accident that he caused receded in his rearview mirror. He didn’t mean for that to happen. It probably wouldn’t have happened at all if that stupid woman knew how to drive, or listened to him when he tried to show her, but no.

She had been driving in the left lane. The left freakin’ lane. Why do people do that? It’s almost always a woman, too, isn’t it? He rode her bumper and flashed his lights for a quarter mile, and she refused to budge. There was nothing for it but to pass her on the right.

So he whipped out into the right lane, rolled down his window and shouted at her. He threw an empty beer can at her window for good measure. Sometimes it feels good to tell someone what an idiot they are.

She looked scared. Good. Serves her right. And it’s not like anyone else was on the road to set her straight.

He decided to give her a taste of her own medicine. Show her what it feels like to be forced to ride someone’s bumper for a change. He swerved over in front of her, leaving inches to spare.

How was he supposed to know that she would pull her steering wheel sharply to the left? And right next to a retaining wall, too. Who was expecting her damned car to flip like that? Not him. She should have known better, right?

Not his fault, not his problem. And this is the interstate, so someone would surely be along soon to check on the stupid woman. He drove on, as his favorite talk show host ranted over the radio about feminazis.

The next day, he checked the news, but saw nothing. That probably meant that she was fine. That’s good. Even though it wasn’t his fault and he tried to tell her.

If people would just listen, he wouldn’t have to shout. It really made him angry, how they never listen. It just wasn’t right. Making them listen is important, and he had a lot to say.

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Body Autonomy

“I can do whatever I want to you.”

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article entitled, “7-year-old girl traumatized after White school staff member cuts her hair”, and I was horrified by what I read.

It seems that little Jurnee Hoffmeyer, who is a Biracial girl with beautiful curls, was assaulted two days previously by a fellow student on the school bus. That student cut out a section of her hair. Her father immediately took her to the salon and let her choose her own style. (I like this man.) She came away feeling slightly better, with a beautiful crown of shoulder length curls. The father requested that the cutter in question not be allowed to sit next to Jurnee on the school bus. Case closed.

Or so you’d think.

Two days later, poor Jurnee came home in tears, her hair butchered. She now had less than three inches of hair all over her head. Her dad asked if it was the same kid, but to his shock, he found out that no, this time it was the library teacher, Kelly Mogg.

Insert the sound of my head exploding here.

HOW DARE SHE??? In what universe does a teacher look at a student and decide how he or she can be “sculpted”, like she’s a statue? Especially without talking to the parents first? What’s next? A tattoo on the kid’s wrist of the school mascot with a number underneath? How dare she even TOUCH that child? This is abuse and assault, and I’m stunned that the woman wasn’t ridden out of town on a rail.

Yes, hair grows back, but you don’t understand the trauma that is caused when you teach a child that he or she has no control over their own body. Here are just a few examples from my life.

In junior high school, I had lovely thick wavy hair down to the small of my back. A kid on the bus thought it would be funny to drop a big wad of chewing gum between my hair and the seat back. The only way to get it out was to cut it. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to live with the thought that a big glob of someone else’s spit was clinging to my hair until I got home. It felt like a violation.

And it also triggered me, because when I was around ten my mother chopped off all my hair down to a pixie cut against my will. I was mistaken for a boy for ages after that. I’d walk around hiding under a big floppy hat whenever I could, but they didn’t allow one in school. It took me years to recover from the theft of my autonomy and the theft of my gender. It still sticks with me.

And I’ll never forget the time a boy walked up to me and stuck his finger in my mouth and ran it along my gum line. I have no idea why he did that, but it was disgusting and inappropriate and so not okay that I can still feel the way I felt when it happened if I think about it for very long. Talk about your invasion of space.

I know someone who was in the midst of a horrible custody battle with her ex-husband and his new wife. The child was sent to the father’s house for visitation, and when she came home, it turned out that the stepmother had pierced the child’s ears, a permanent change, without discussing it with the mother. It was a smug little way to send the message that they were in control. Evil. Just evil.

And then, of course, there’s sexual abuse. I won’t go into detail here, but trust me when I say that it changes you forever. You are never the same after that. You never feel completely safe.

All of these things have one thing in common. They are aggressive. They are all about sending the message that you are not in control, little girl. I am. You don’t even get to have agency over your own body. I can come along and do whatever I want to you, and you have to live with it. You have no right to choose. Your saying no does not matter one whit. You are inferior. You are weak. Just lie back and take it. Stop being so sensitive and hysterical.

No wonder Jurnee’s spirit seems damaged now. Especially when you factor in the racial overtones of her assault. “You have bad hair.” “You are different.” “You look funny.” “I know better than you do how you should be.”

The Mount Pleasant Public School system is not viewing this outrage as a big deal. I’m glad lawyers are involved. I think this is the biggest deal of all.

Jurnee, if you ever read this, I want you to know that your hair is beautiful just the way it is. Grow it back out and be loud and proud. Oh, and I love your name, too.

Jurnee before and after.

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Debunking Chemtrails

Step away from the lunatic fringe.

Let’s round out the year with some facts, shall we? Chemtrails are a myth. There is no credible evidence to support their existence.

I suspect that if you’ve read past that first paragraph, I’m probably already preaching to the choir. That’s a pity. It’s nearly impossible to disabuse a conspiracy theorist of their erroneous conclusions. The only reason I’m even giving it a try is that I still see this subject come up time and time again on social media, from sources that I think are way too smart for this foolishness, and I’m hoping that if you know someone who seems to be on the fence about the issue, you may be able to use this post to draw that person away from the lunatic fringe.

According to this article in the Smithsonian, based on public policy polling, “…about five percent of Americans believe in chemtrails. That’s more than the four percent who believe lizard people are taking over our politics but much less than the number who believe in bigfoot or that global warming is a hoax.”

Give me strength.

Okay, let’s start with the basics.

You’re not being conned. We call them contrails because that’s short for condensation trails. You’re familiar with condensation. You’ve seen it gathering on the outside of a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day. It’s why you use coasters. You’ve seen it dripping out of your old air conditioning window unit when you were trying to beat the heat. Condensation requires three things to exist: warmth, cold, and moisture.

Jet engines provide the warm water vapor by way of their exhaust or by way of a sudden change in pressure when air flows over the wings. (However, wingtips require an assist in the form of high humidity in the air.) This moisture hits the cold air that the high atmosphere provides and that causes this water vapor to cool and condense. Ta da! Condensation! (This article explains it in more detail, but it’s really just that simple. I promise.)

And here are some FAQs for you:

Why do we seem to be seeing more trails in the sky? Because contrails are produced by planes, and we have increased the number of flights for travel and shipping over time.

Why do they seem so bright? Because sunlight reflects off the ice crystals, just as it does on sparkly snow. You’ve seen sparkly snow.

Why do these trails seem to last longer than they used to? Because a) you’re paying more attention to them, b) there have been changes in jet engine technology and c) (please don’t kill the messenger) global warming may cause the trails to linger longer.

Why do they often make big exes in the sky? Because planes fly in different directions and are at different altitudes. It may look like the cross is located right over your house from your angle, but I guarantee you that one leg of the x is at a much higher altitude than the other, so someone on the other side of the county, seeing it from another angle, is probably thinking that the x is over his or her house, too. (You get an x, you get an x, EVERYBODY GETS AN X!!!!!!!!!!)

Okay, then, why have theorists found traces of barium, aluminum, copper and strontium in ponds, snow, and air? Because we have polluted the freakin’ planet. All of us. Perhaps you’d be better off focusing on our need for green energy.

Why do some of these trails have multiple bands? Because some planes have multiple engines. And all have multiple wing tips. (Yes, condensation can come off of wing tips, too. With help. See above.)

Why can’t I believe that these trails are a government conspiracy to control the weather, the population, or to test biological weapons? Well, you can, if you insist. But…

  • If the government is trying to control the weather, they’re doing a horrible job of it. I’d like to send some of the Pacific Northwest rain down to California where it’s so desperately needed, please.
  • If they’re trying to control the population, again, they’re doing a horrible job of it.
  • Due to ever-changing wind currents, they couldn’t specify the exact population they would be controlling from that altitude. People in the government have families, too, and they don’t want them to be messed with. They may not want you to have grandchildren, but they want some of their own.
  • If there is some type of aerosol birth control out there, especially one that would provide the exact proper dose to everyone with whom it comes in contact, I wish to hell someone had told me about it before I got my tubes tied.
  • Perhaps most glaringly obvious is the fact that it would be idiotic to test biological weapons on your own populous, because the whole point of producing something to use to wipe out your enemies is to wind up with more of your friends when all is said and done. So by that way of thinking, it would have to be a foreign government doing these tests.
  • Every country heavily monitors their own air space, so it would be awfully hard for another country to drop chemical weapons on us, all over the country, on a daily basis, without our being extremely aware of it. We knew the exact location of sputnik, for crying out loud. And in the case of a daily invasion of that magnitude, our government would be pissed. There would be tweets, believe you me.
  • How could our own government produce daily chemtrails all over the country when it can’t even work out an efficient way to provide us with sufficient vaccines to get this pandemic under control? To believe that the government is using chemtrails, you have to have a heck of a lot more confidence in their organizational, logistical, and secret-keeping abilities than I do.

Okay. That’s it. I’m done. I tried. Now it’s up to you to think critically.

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Your Own Little Inner Fascist

It’s high time that we all overthrow the little dictators in our heads.

Here lately I’ve been binge watching a series called The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It’s 4 seasons long, and it’s about what America would be like if the Axis powers had won World War II. In essence, Japan has the Western states, the Nazis have the Eastern ones, and the Rocky Mountains are the neutral zone.

This show makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. I’ve written about fascism before. I fear we are flirting with it now, as we don’t seem to learn from history. In fact, we seem to be irrationally idealizing a past that never existed.

As uncomfortable as The Man in the High Castle makes me, the writing is phenomenal. It causes me to look at things with fresh eyes. One character said, “You’ve got your own little inner fascist telling you what you can and cannot do.”

That really resonates with me. According to Wikipedia, “Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy.”

If that doesn’t describe my inner voice, nothing does. My inner voice is all about explaining to me how I can’t or shouldn’t do things. It’s all about walls and roadblocks and keeping me from doing anything outside the box. My inner voice wants me to be a good little soldier and follow orders.

“You’ll fail.” “You’ll be laughed at.” “People will think you’re crazy.”

Fortunately, I often chafe at this type of control, and can therefore resist it. But every once in a while, when I’m feeling tired or insecure, that little voice has caused me to avoid taking chances, or has prevented me from speaking up. And now that I consider it a fascist voice, I abhor it even more.

I think it’s high time that we all overthrow the little dictators in our heads. Cast off the oppression. End the torture. Free our minds so that we can be our best selves. We can do it.

And incidentally, if you are someone who uses the terms fascism and communism interchangeably, here’s a little primer by way of clarification.


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Sanitizing My Sanity

I need to stop letting certain things get to me.

I need to stop letting certain things get to me. To wit:

  • Situations over which I have absolutely no control.

  • Stupid people who are in love with their own stupidity.

  • Stress surrounding arbitrary deadlines that I’ve imposed upon myself.

  • The endless pursuit of nonexistent seals of approval.

  • The fear of missing out.

  • Bitterness regarding the unchangeable past.

  • Anxiety regarding the unknowable future.

  • My inability to feel as though I fit in.

  • My weight, which will most likely never change.

  • My appearance. Same.

  • My frustration over constantly being misunderstood.

  • My inability to get others to care about the things that I care about.

  • The secrets that I know are being kept from me.

  • My failure to convince people of the potential that I know that they have.

I need to wash all these things away. I need to sanitize my sanity.


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Helpless Stress

Sooner or later, every train engineer will have someone step in front of his or her train as a way to permanently solve a temporary problem. That must be a heartbreaking experience. You want to stop, but you know you can’t. I suspect that all you can really do is close your eyes, swallow really hard, and get ready to fill out a boatload of paperwork.

No doubt this sometimes happens to bus drivers as well. And I’m sure ferry captains have their fair share of jumpers, just as we bridgetenders do. I can’t even imagine what first responders deal with on a daily basis. It’s a part of these jobs that no one wants to talk about. Helpless Stress.

It’s that feeling of being completely out of control. It’s that desire to save someone, and not being able to do so. It messes with your head. It’s the kind of vicarious trauma that people don’t quite understand until they’ve experienced it themselves.

The most frustrating thing about it is you know you’ve been through something big, but you’re not physically hurt. Nothing shows. Your wounds are on the inside, where no one can see them. So your friends and loved ones often expect you to “snap out of it.”

If you have experienced helpless stress, I urge you to take it seriously. Talk to a professional; someone with experience in crisis or grief counseling. Don’t try to simply power through. What happened is not your fault, but if you choose to not cope with it, that can compound the problem.

You’re not alone. Help is out there. Please seek it out.

Helpless Stress

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The Stink Eye

In order to get to my designated parking space here at work on the drawbridge, I have to drive along the bike lane for the whole length of the movable span. Most people are used to this, or don’t care. But every once in a while someone gives me a dirty look. And in Seattle, dirty looks seem to come with disapproving head shakes.

Do they apologize when they finally realize I’m parking? No. Never. That would be tantamount to admitting that they behaved as pompous know-it-alls when in fact they know nothing about the situation. We can’t have that, now, can we?

Come to think of it, glares, as a general rule, are pretty arrogant. They mean, “I think I have the right to sit in judgment.” They mean, “I think I make the rules.” Or worse, “I am the social norms police.”

And giving someone the stink eye rarely achieves your goal. It just makes people think, “A$$hole. Who do you think you are?” And then they continue doing whatever it was they were doing. So, congratulations for setting off a negative energy domino effect. Do you feel better now?

It must be awfully stressful to believe that you have to be society’s moral enforcer. Me, I have a hard enough time keeping myself in line. The last thing I need is to have to control total strangers, too.

Here’s an idea: Mind your own business. I don’t care who you are. The stink eye is never a good look.

Stink Eye

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