The I in Writing

Is it egotistical to use yourself as your main frame of reference when writing?

Ever since I started using the “drop cap” feature on my blog posts, which makes the first letter of the first word of the first paragraph extremely large, I’ve noticed that I start a lot of my posts with “I”. Does this mean that I’m narcissistic? Egotistical? Or at the very least, self-absorbed?

I touched upon this in a blog post I wrote long ago, when I was kicked out of a storytelling group and the moderator decided to send me on my way with a heaping helping of harsh criticism. I now realize that the guy was an a$$, but I still struggle with the egotism label he decided to place upon me. That kind of self-doubt is a bit of a slippery slope.

Would an egotistical person recognize egotism in her, him, or themselves? I’m thinking probably not. Who would want to knowingly take on that bad look? So, if I’m egotistical, I’d struggle to know it, and… I am struggling.

So I started Googling, as one does, and I found several articles, but this one seemed to resonate the most with me. 15 Signs You Might Be Egotistical felt kind of like a test. I read through it and gave myself points. I figured that the higher my score, the more egotistical I must be. Check out the article for the specific signs, but what follows is my reaction thereto.

  • Well, I’m not a big shopper, and I don’t have any desire to have the latest version of anything. I definitely don’t try to keep up with the Kardashians.
  • But I have to admit that I’m a gossip.
  • I don’t expect lots of praise. In fact, it usually shocks me.
  • I do tend to interrupt a lot, but I also try to check myself when I do, so I’ll give myself a half point for that one.
  • I definitely do not hold a position of power. (Unless you’re a sailboat wanting to get from one side of my bridge to the other.)
  • I don’t think I’m overwhelming. Actually, most of the time I’m overlooked, and I kind of like it that way.
  • I don’t think I hate losing but I do want to understand why I’m being asked to do things a certain way, and tend to chew on the subject until it makes sense to me, which seems to drive those around me nuts.
  • I absolutely adore learning new things from others.
  • I’m always sending out kudos emails when my coworkers do something great, and I genuinely believe that if you allow others to shine, you, too, will look good.
  • I have to admit that I don’t like admitting when I’m wrong.
  • I am definitely opinionated, but I’m always surprised when I find out that people think that means I expect them to agree with me. So another half point there.
  • I’ve never felt entitled to anything in my life, and I’m grateful when good things come my way.
  • I am drawn to unique characters. I don’t pick my friends strategically.
  • I do have a hard time playing on a team, but that’s not because I think I’m better than anyone else, but rather because I’m an introvert. (We introverts are often mislabeled as “stuck up”.)
  • I definitely do have low self-esteem, but the concept of being able to act cool and confident to hide this from others kind of makes me laugh. I have never managed to pull that off.

So, based on my self-assessment, I score a 4.5 out of 15 on my impromptu ego scale. I’m definitely no saint, but I think I can mingle amongst civilized people.

But does that mean I’m in denial? Why does this matter so much to me? Why am I so obsessed with how I am perceived, especially when the person who started me down this twisted path is himself an a$$? And look how many times I’ve used the word I in this post. Am I self-absorbed? Can anyone see themselves clearly? And why do I think you’d care enough to read up to this point?

Well, I can answer that last one, at least. A lot of times I write without considering that there might be an audience. It’s like therapy, and if someone does read it and relates, there’s the bonus that they might feel less alone. That would be wonderful.

At the risk of sounding like I protest too much, I have to say that I spend the bulk of my time alone, so it’s natural that I use myself as my main frame of reference. I imagine myself standing within my body but getting my greatest thrills from looking outward. I am a born observer. I enjoy learning new things, and I am always amazed at how much more there is to know. I love to travel and learn about other cultures, because it reminds me that “our” way isn’t the “only” way, and quite often it isn’t even close to the “best” way.  I like gardening without chemicals, for the benefit of the creatures who visit our yard. I like keeping my little free library stocked and I love seeing the delight on the faces of the people who use it. I try to help others as much as I can, because heaven knows I’ve been helped quite a bit along the way.

Is any of that egotstical? If so, I think I can live with it. But then again, I did just write all about me… so maybe I’m a narcissist. Hmmmm…

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Body Talk

Ignore your body at your own peril.

Your body is speaking to you all the time.

Feeling tightness in the neck and shoulders? “Girl, you’re stressed out.”

Grinding your teeth in your sleep? “Um… I told you you were stressed out. When are you going to do something about it?”

Stomach issues? “Stop eating that crap. I don’t like it.”

Hungover? “Less is more, idiot.”

I’d call this “body language”, but the phrase has already been taken. Nevertheless, there’s communication going on, whether you choose to listen or not. But ignore it at your own peril.

I’ve known a lot of people (usually guys but not always), who like to ignore their bodies. They’ll power through. They won’t go to the doctor. They’ll ignore pain for as long as they can, until the damage is irreversible. “Oh, I have a tumor the size of a basketball? No wonder I’ve been feeling funny. I guess I have a week to live now. Pity.”

Nine times out of ten, it’s guys who sport those melon-sized cysts on the Dr. Pimple Popper videos. What woman would willingly walk around with a second head growing out of her neck unless she was forced to due to lack of health insurance? I mean, come on, guys. Why would you let anything get so out of control?

But to be fair, for the life of me, I never can understand those women who don’t know they are pregnant until the baby pops out. Talk about denial. I mean… how… Oh, I could go off on a tangent here, but you can already imagine.

Not only should you listen to what your body is trying to tell you, but you should also take the time to initiate the conversation. Meditate. Sit alone and be still and open to hearing what is being said. Because let’s face it, without our bodies, we’re done. And it’s not like you can trade it in for a new model.

I’m guessing there were a whole bunch of red flags flying for this one.

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“I Don’t Consider Myself a Feminist”

I always cringe when a female says that. A friend of mine said it recently, and it nearly broke my heart. She referred me to Judge Judy, who, according to this article, says, “I never felt I didn’t have equal opportunity as a woman.” But in that same article Judge Judy admits that there were only 6 women in her law school, and the professors didn’t treat them well. She also concedes that she did all the housework and child rearing even though she and her husband both worked. I’m not sure how she characterizes opportunities for women, but this seems kind of contradictory to me. Yes, she may have overcome those hurdles, but the point is, an attitude of “suck it up and deal with it” does nothing to remove those hurdles.

Here’s why I think everyone should be a feminist: It means you believe that women should be treated equally. It means equal pay for equal work. It means not being harassed. It means an equal level of human rights. It doesn’t mean we’re out to get all men or expect special treatment as is often claimed by those who speak out against feminism. If your primary focus are those who occupy the radical fringes of this movement, then at least acknowledge that every movement will have its fringe elements.

When I have this debate with friends, they often state that they are not feminists because that equality of which I speak should be the way it is anyway. As if the unfortunate need to ask for equality or demand it somehow delegitimizes the right to have it. You may not want to be identified as part of this group, but like it or not, by virtue of being a woman you are being treated like it by outside forces.

Should equal rights be a given? Abso-freakin’-lutely. But here’s the thing: It isn’t the case. Judge Judy is the exception, not the rule. It’s awfully easy to not support the minority that you’re a part of when you’re at the top of the heap, but there are a heck of a lot of us below you, your honor.

And Judge Judy couldn’t have reached her successful pinnacle were it not for the work of feminists. For example, according to this article, here are things American women could not do less than 100 years ago:

  • Have their own name printed on a passport.

  • Wear whatever they wanted.

  • Work in “dangerous” jobs, such as in bowling alleys.

  • Maintain US citizenship if married to a non-citizen.

  • Work the night shift.

  • Hold a job while pregnant.

  • Enlist in the military.

  • Serve on a Jury.

In theory, we finally got the right to vote in 1919, but it actually took decades for that to be universally practiced in this country. Some Trump supporters, even in 2018, want to repeal the 19th amendment. Women fought and were tortured and jailed and force fed and died for that privilege, and yet only 63 percent of eligible female voters turned out for the 2016 election, and 42 percent of them voted for a man who admits to grabbing women’s private parts. I’ll never understand that as long as I live. Do we hate ourselves?

And if the Me Too movement isn’t giving you a sense of how shabbily women are treated in the workplace, your head is buried in the sand. I’ve written a couple posts about my personal experiences with harassment, and I’m pretty typical. Eighty-three percent of American women believe they have experienced discrimination in the workplace. That’s a statistic that ought to be hard to ignore.

According to this article:

  • The more education a woman gets, the higher the wage disparity becomes. The average woman will earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

  • Only 30-40 percent of all small businesses are owned by women, and they generate 61% less revenue.

In my workplace alone (the Seattle Department of Transportation), in one of the most liberal enclaves in the United States, of the 99 field positions, only a handful are held by women. And when I suggested that they make more connections with Woman in Trades organizations, to attract more female electricians, mechanics, welders and engineers, it went in one ear and out the other. That’s probably because the administration of SDOT is overwhelmingly white and male. I still work with people who use the term “cat fight” and don’t believe women should be bridgetenders.

Women’s rights are under threat all the time. We have to constantly fight to have birth control covered by insurance. No one has to fight to get Viagra covered. And there’s little or no support for affordable child care in this country. There’s constant political pushback against us making our own decisions about our health. Keep us barefoot and pregnant and out of every man’s way. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

And if we are in such an enlightened country, how is it possible that sex trafficking, child marriage, and domestic slavery still exists here?

So when a woman says, “I don’t consider myself a feminist,” what I hear is that they are comfortable enough in their situations to not have to stick their necks out. They have no desire to address the many outrages that they’re in denial about. They have theirs, and to hell with everybody else.

It would be nice if feminism were not necessary. If only wishing could make it so. But now, more than ever, we need to show a united front. Even if you don’t feel like it. If we don’t step up, why should we expect anyone else to?


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Pink Slime Syndrome

I once watched a TV show featuring the charismatic chef, Jamie Oliver. He was trying to teach school children to eat healthier, so as to combat America’s chronic problem with childhood obesity. He was also trying to get school cafeterias to serve healthier food.

In this particular episode, he taught children how chicken nuggets are made. (Check out the clip here.)

Basically, they remove the expensive cuts of meat from the chicken, then they throw the carcass, bones, skin, connective tissue and all, into a massive blender. What comes out is this pink, pasty goo, much like the pink slime in beef that you’ve heard so much about. They form that into patties, bread it, fry it up, and there you have it. Chicken nuggets!

Gross, right? But here’s the scary part. He shows those kids the whole process, and they’re going, “Ewwwwww!” the entire time, but in the end, when Jamie asks them who would eat that, every single child raises his or her hand. Every. Single. One.

How is that even possible? That’s like forming a hamburger out of poop, and then watching someone not only eat it, but eat it with gusto! Denial on this level renders me speechless.

Although I’ll never understand it, at least it makes me realize that the Trump phenomenon isn’t new. I mean, he basically handed the American public a massive shitburger, topped with sexism and covered in a special racist sauce, with a side order of hate, and supersized it with a complete disregard for democracy, and they ate it.

Yup. What we are suffering from, dear readers, is a national case of Pink Slime Syndrome. The only difference is that those of us who don’t want to partake are being force fed as well. Bon appetit.

Chicken nuggets, deconstructed. Ewww…

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Not My Problem

I spent the first hour of my shift today with a battery operated leaf blower, cleaning off the sidewalks and the bike lanes of my bridge. A clean bridge is a happy bridge. At least that’s my motto. I take pride in showing this drawbridge in its very best light, and in my quarterly reviews it’s usually noted that this is the cleanest bridge in the system.

Leaf blowers are fun. They give you this sense of power that is normally beyond your reach. Out, damned spot! Out I say! You just have to be careful not to get so caught up in your own head trip that you get mowed down by a bicycle. Talk about a reality check.

The only down side to blowing leaves is that you’re not really getting rid of your problem, you’re just relocating it. Which is fine, if you follow through and bag them afterward. But I’ve seen many a landscaper just blow them down the street. “Not my problem anymore.”

Yeah it is. Because a certain percentage of them are going to blow back into your yard eventually. Count on it. And if everyone has your attitude, a whole lot more debris is going to be blown into your yard by the equally lazy people up the street.

This is also why most medical funding is not focused on prevention. Even though prevention has proven time and time again to give you a much better return on your investment, society in general is much more willing to deal with the problems that have already occurred, when there is no longer a choice.

It’s the same with the environment. Does it really surprise anyone that so many people are willing to ignore global climate change? We’re doing all right for the time being. We still can fill our bathtubs and eat our avocados out of season. Why make sacrifices? And I’m not just shaming the climate change deniers, here. I live in one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the entire country, and yet even as I write this I’m looking out on a highway that is so choked with vehicles that they can hardly move. And yes, I drove home to write this.

One of the few problems with short terms for politicians is that they, too, can blow their problematical leaves down the street. “Let someone else deal with the tricky stuff a decade from now, once I’ve retired.” We now find ourselves hip deep in a political leaf storm, people. Having fun?

Humanity has a lot of growing up to do. We have to start behaving like adults. We need to take responsibility. We need to act with integrity. We need to take society’s ills seriously even if we aren’t feeling particularly feverish as individuals.

It’s time to start bagging up our leaves.


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Crossing Denial

There’s this trait that runs wide and thick through my family. I first noticed it in my mother. If she didn’t want to see something, then it simply didn’t exist. For example, one time my teenaged sister went to a party, got extremely drunk, came home and passed out on the front porch. When my mother went outside to get the morning paper the next day, she saw her lying there and said, “Oh. You decided to sleep outside? It was a lovely night last night…” And then she went back inside and started breakfast.

When I told her I was being sexually abused by her husband, she informed me that I was making too much of it. La la la. When I started drinking at age 14 as a result, this escaped her notice. And she later assumed I was a virgin in my mid-twenties. Huh?

When that same teen-aged sister grew up and had kids of her own, she carried on this destructive tradition of denial. Many were the cries for help from her children that went unheeded. She went through life with her nose buried so deeply in a book that I’m surprised there weren’t permanent ink stains on its tip.

When the person who is supposed to take care of you prefers to live in a fantasy world, the result is you grow up never feeling quite safe. It causes you undue anxiety. It makes you struggle with trust.

Do I have this trait? Unfortunately I do. But I make an effort to resist it. As they say, knowing you have a problem is the first step. Luckily I have no children to damage, but I’ve certainly been self-destructive. The older I get, however, the more I realize that even though it may be uncomfortable to face facts and deal with them right away, in the long run the results are much more pleasant. If you keep your head in the clouds too much, you never get to see the sun.

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Revenge Porn

My, my, I’ve led a sheltered life. I hadn’t even heard of revenge porn until this month. For the uninitiated, these are websites predominately directed against women. Men who have been jilted can post the compromising photos they took while still in a relationship, and include detailed stories about their exes, possibly true, possibly outlandish, all to humiliate the women who have moved on for whatever reason.

The saddest part about this is that you can tell just by reading these posts that these women were smart to leave. What woman in her right mind would want to be in a relationship with someone who would resort to posting their private business in a public forum in an effort to ruin her life and cause the maximum amount of pain? Such class. Such dignity. His mother would be so proud.

These men are, frankly, pathetic. I’m not saying that the women in question were saints. I’m sure they inflicted their share of pain. But to resort to a revenge porn site to vent your spleen seems a little bit like throwing a tantrum in the middle of a Walmart. At age 30. Sad. Just sad.

An even more disturbing trend is those sites where women post pictures of other women who have stolen their husbands. They include heartbreaking details, and often hurl abuse at the home wrecker in question. Oddly, the predominant message seems to be that the husband stealer is the only one at fault, and that because of her, an otherwise perfect life has been ruined. The husband never comes off as nearly as culpable.

What strikes me as strange is the implication that the marriage was perfect, full of joy and happiness, until this other woman came along with evil intent. If that’s truly the case, then how was she able to steal him in the first place? I’m not laying all the blame at the feet of the wife for the resulting divorce. I’m just blaming her for not seeing that there must have already been cracks in the foundation of the marriage, whether they were created by her or by her spouse, or, as is usually the case, a complicated combination of the two.

Home wreckers may be poison, but the immune system of the marriage must already be compromised before that poison can become lethal. And frankly, if your man is that easy to steal, you’ll be much better off without him in the long run, and therefore, in an odd way, perhaps the other woman should be thanked. It’s always helpful when someone else offers to haul your garbage to the dump.

These websites are graphic evidence of humanity’s pain, denial, and blatant inability to communicate. I find them depressing, and no good can possibly come from them.

Don’t air your dirty laundry in public, people. It will only make you look like a pig.


Come the Apocalypse, I Want to be with my Dog.

I have a new theory. The best possible thing that can happen when you are searching for a mate is a horrible first date, because then you can see how that person reacts under pressure. Stress separates the men from the boys. It cuts through all the surface bs and shows you what someone is truly made of. There are all sorts of ways of dealing with negativity, as evidenced by nature. All of these ways are legitimate, but only a few of them are viable in terms of a life partner in this modern world. Here are a few examples.


The Shark. In times of great tension, the shark will not only attack the source of the problem, but will also turn on anyone and anything that happens to be in his vicinity, even members of its own family. When in the midst of this feeding frenzy, the shark has absolutely no regard for loyalty, and does not care about who is on his side. When in the presence of this type of fury, there is nothing you can do except prepare to be eaten. Frankly, I find the shark to be tragic and self-destructive. And the most depressing thing about the shark is he cannot see why this type of behavior is a problem. Somehow being eaten will become your fault. You’ll never feel completely safe with a shark.


The Fainting Goat. Also known as the Myotonic Goat, this poor creature freezes in times of panic and keels over, thus rendering him utterly useless to himself or anyone else. I used to date one of these. Don’t ask me why.


The Turtle. When the sh*t comes down and you’re with a turtle, you are on your own. He will pull himself into his shell and wait for the boogeyman to go away. Oh, he’ll protect himself all right, but he won’t confront anyone or anything and prefers to live in a state of denial. He’s completely resistant to change, which makes improvement impossible. Also, if you come by his house and he doesn’t feel like talking, he simply won’t come to the door. Who needs that?


The Badger. No need to wait for a crisis situation when on a date with a badger. He’s going to be in a foul mood regardless, even if you could potentially be the best thing that ever happened to him. He’s never going to see it.


The Porcupine. Now, here’s a guy who is prepared. He doesn’t want to be messed with, and has made sure that he won’t be. The problem is, since all he wants is to be left alone, he’ll never let you in.


The Octopus. I have to admire this guy’s ability to avoid conflict. I like his stealth and intelligence. But if none of that works, he shoots ink. Do you want someone who’s going to throw stuff at you? No. That, and he tends to be clingy.


Frilled Lizard. You’ve probably seen one of these guys on the National Geographic channel. When you piss one of them off, the frill on their neck expands and they’ll chase you on two feet. Yes, they look intimidating and they get the job done for the most part, but honestly, what would happen if you stood your ground with them? Not too much, I suspect. I think you’d win that confrontation. These guys are all sizzle and no steak.


The Rattlesnake. The rattler is sort of a first strike kind of guy. He prefers to be the aggressor in anticipation of any possible antagonism you may or may not have in mind. Don’t hang out with the rattlesnake if you’re hoping for cozy get togethers with groups of friends.


The Praying Mantis. Honestly? Do you really want to hang out with a guy who is so desperate for sex that he’s willing to go there with you even though he knows he’s going to get his head bitten off for his troubles? This guy is so focused on what he wants that he has no concept of the consequences.


The Meerkat. I have to admit that I have a certain fondness for meerkats. They’re loyal. They’re family oriented, they’re protective, they’re cautious. But they’re also an emotional drain. They’re constantly anticipating trouble. They’re always on the lookout. Their watchword is paranoia. They never seem to relax.


The Benobo. Scientists have dedicated their lives to studying benobos, because these cousins of ours seem to be totally devoid of aggression. They’re the hippies of the primate world. They’re all about free love and live and let live. I could see myself getting caught up in this lifestyle, but I suspect I’d get fat and complacent, and years would go by without my realizing it.


The Dog. Dogs don’t seek fights, and in fact try to avoid them, but if you eff with them, they’ll take you out. I can respect that. They tend to restrict their aggression to those that deserve it. They’re loyal and protective, and usually generous and kind unless they’ve been abused. They’d much rather cuddle with you than argue, but they’ll do what they have to in order to protect themselves and the ones they love. A dog will always have your back. They also know how to heave a heavy sigh and release all tension. This, to me, is a very healthy and well-balanced approach to life. Yup, I’ll take a dog every time.

So next time you’re thrust into the dating world, pray for a flash flood or an earthquake or an armed robbery, because then you’ll know exactly what you’ve got on your hands. Disaster can save you a lot of time and heartache.