There’s Nothing Wrong With You

There are only two things that you need to do in this life in order to be a good person – be honest, and don’t think you have any say over any one else.

That’s it. That’s the key to life, to happiness, to finding love, to being a good member of society. Hell, those two things are the keys to making a better world. So why aren’t we all happy and loved and comfortable with ourselves? Because most of us can’t do these two things.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy or something in between or neither, or straight or gay or uninterested in sex or bisexual or prefer to have sex only with yourself. You’re wonderful, just the way you are. You don’t need to change for anyone. Be a writer, an artist, a math teacher, an auto mechanic, a librarian, an accountant – they’re all good careers. None of them is any more special than the others. You’ll be successful if you find something that you love and you work very, very hard at it, and if you can do that, you’ll make your job special and yourself special, regardless of what your job title is. Wear dresses, high heels, jeans and tshirts, chucks, boots, a lot of makeup, no makeup, style your hair or shave it off – it doesn’t matter. You’ll be who you are supposed to be, and someone out there will be attracted to you, if that’s what you’re looking for.

You don’t have to pretend to be anything other than who you are. Not one bit. Not at all. In fact, pretending to be someone else is probably what’s keeping you from being happy.

See, we get stuck in this idea that we have to be something in particular to be loved. Then we find a mate who wants that thing, even when we’re not that thing, we’re just pretending. Or we find someone who’s close to what we want, and we think, “Oh, well, with a little work…” and set out to change them, a tiny bit at a time, into what we want them to be. Why do we do this? Fear, pretty much. We’re afraid we’ll never find the right person, we’ll never be loved, or move out of our parent’s house, or have enough sex, or whatever it is. We get impatient and we get scared and we settle for someone who’s not quite right and we’re not quite right for.

It’s OK if you like sappy romantic movies, and it’s OK if you want to spend your weekends painting Warhammer figurines, and it’s OK if you like anything else that most people would consider geeky or strange or boring. There are people out there who like the things that you like. Go find them instead. I guarantee you that not only will you find these people if you’re open and honest about what you like, but you’ll feel more comfortable, more at home, being around the people who understand and accept you than you ever did squishing yourself into relationships with people who didn’t share your interests.

When I say be honest, I mean completely. It doesn’t work if you tell people that you love Michael Bay movies but don’t mention that you think that if someone really loved you, they’d put your needs first all of the time. It doesn’t work if you find someone who also loves camping during the summer, but don’t mention that you think monogamy doesn’t really work and that you can’t see yourself only sleeping with one person for the rest of your life. Whatever you think, whoever you are, put it out there. Display it, wear it, be proud of it. It’s who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

The only thing that’s wrong with anyone is the desire to control the people around us. You don’t get to decide if the person next to you is “really” a man, or a woman. You don’t get to decide if two people should get married, or shouldn’t. You don’t get to decide that your spouse has to spend more money on you or clean the house on Saturday mornings or your parents have to be more supportive or your friends have to stop liking some tv show or stop drinking red wine at your dinner parties. It’s not up to you.

All you can decide is to be honest. If something’s not working for you, say so. If it’s something small and simple, like “I don’t like the smell of your cigar smoke so I won’t tell you to stop smoking but could you do it on the porch or let me know when you plan to smoke inside so I can use that time to run errands out of the house,” then talk about it, and make that compromise. If it’s something that can be fixed, great. If not, if the only option is for you to get your way or be miserable, then you leave. Done. End of story. That’s the only power you have. Because lying about your needs is a trick you play on your partner, where you pretend to be happy but really aren’t, and that unhappiness seeps into everything else that you do together. And trying to control the other person to turn them into who you want them to be is laziness, because it’s easier for you than going out and taking the time to find the right person for you.

How is that love?

If you’re in a relationship where you can’t be honest, there’s a problem. If the only way for you to get what you want, to be truly happy, is to lie about who you are, or what you’re doing with your time, then it’s a relationship that needs to end. If you’re only going to be happy if you can get your partner to stop having certain friends, or stop going certain places, or get a different career, then you’re never going to be able to turn your back on them. You’re never going to be able to trust them. You’re never really going to be happy … and that’s playing a pretty mean trick on yourself. If the only way to make your relationship work is to take abuse, to change things you liked about yourself, to be told (often) how wrong/bad/stupid/useless/not-good-enough you are, to give up your friends … then honey, you’re hurting yourself. You deserve to be with someone who loves you for you, and if you haven’t found that person yet, then being alone is better than letting the wrong relationship keep you from meeting the right person.

Be honest. Be open. Let the wrong people go, let the right people in, and be happy. There’s nothing wrong with you, but there might be something wrong with the friendships or relationships you’re currently in.

Racism is Stupid

Recently a post about hipster racism has been going around, and if you haven’t read it, you should. The bottom line is that ironic racism is still racism, just slightly more likely to have dressed from a combination of products sold on Etsy.

Part of that is white people making jokes about people of color who they care about out of some idiotic belief that they must not be racist because they know/love/fuck/live with a person of color. *headdesk*

Racism, in all forms, is stupid, and everyone just needs to fucking stop it.

But, of course, I can say that, right? I’m a white person, so I’ve been protected by white privilege, so what would I know? To some extent, that is true. I am extremely white. I have red hair and freckles. I can’t even tan (though everyone else in my family does; it’s weird). My white privilege means that the one time I was pulled over by a police officer for blowing through a stop sign, I was given a warning. It means that I have walked through one of the poorest neigborhoods in Oakland, while on drugs, and jaywalked in front of a cop, who yelled, “Watch out for cars!”. At 3 am. It means that no matter how poor or uneducated I was (I lived in that neighborhood at the time, and worse ones after), people never told me that I couldn’t make something better of myself.

I’m not speaking as someone who was personally affected by a lot of racism. I am someone who got a free pass when a lot of other people I love and admire didn’t. So if I, who am not being repressed by racism, can tell you it’s stupid and useless and wrong, will that matter to you? Will it mean more to you than hearing it from a person of color?

To a racist, yeah, it will. How stupid is that?

But maybe you think that because I am so very white, it doesn’t really affect me, so I can say “don’t be racist” and it’s not that important. I’m just being trendy or something.

The thing is, racism does affect me, everyday, because I see it everyday, and it affects the people that I love.

My grandpa Joe was black. He and my (white, red-haired, Irish) grandma Helen loved each other very much. Before they both passed away, I got to see that, and it would become fundamental in shaping what I thought love was. The good kind of love that I’m still not sure I’m ever going to find.

Joe was kind and – normal. He wasn’t a “black guy”, he was my grandpa Joe, who just happened to be black. One of my nephews (I have more than one sister) has a dad who’s half black and half Chinese. Some of my best friends, including a guy who has been my friend, consistently, for 17 years, have been Filipino.

This fact doesn’t make me cool, or open-minded, or some kind of special. It just makes me not stupid. I’m not stupid enough to believe that human beings are divided by something as arbitrary as the color of your skin. We have grown to fill this whole planet, we have lived in a variety of climates, and some of us show the difference in skin tone that comes from having ancestors who mastered a certain spot on the Earth. That’s all it means.

This way of splitting up the world into groups, so that we can decide who we’re better than, and these jokes and comments and advertising and every other little way that we pass judgment on different colors of people … It’s all so stupid.

More than that, it hurts. It hurts me to see people that I respect being insulted or dismissed or patronized because they’re not white. It hurts those people who have to face prejudice every day for something they were born with. (No one gets to pick for themselves what color their skin is or who their parents are!) And it hurts us, as a global society, to still be fighting each other over this arbitrary classification.

So please, stop being stupid.

For those of you reading this and thinking, “Oh good for you, Carrie,” don’t. It doesn’t take much for me to take a stand on this, I know that. What you should do is to take a moment to redefine the people around you. All of those little labels we have in our heads? Rewrite them. Stop thinking of your black neighbor or your Asian coworker or the Hispanic woman in the PTA. And for fuck sake, stop describing people that way. Find another label.

Think of them as Bob who has the amazing rose bushes next door, or Jimmy who drinks four cups of coffee a day or Paula who’s allergic to dogs. Something about who they are as people. Because no matter what color you or I or anyone else is, we’re all the same. We’re all people.

Do that, and then I can start thinking of you as someone who isn’t stupid.

Please.

What Is it About Roller Derby?

I love roller derby. It’s one of the few team sports I’ll actually go to see. While I do keep up with general scores and standings of certain hockey teams*, and I’ve stayed up late to watch Ireland’s World Cup games, I tend not to watch team sports unless I know someone on the team. I’m much more interested in individual sports, like tennis and boxing, where I’ll watch a televised match or follow a tournament’s stats on Twitter. On the other hand, derby has been a part of my life for so long that I can’t stay away. Continue reading

Tin House / Electric Literature Reading at Powerhouse Arena Bookstore – A Recap

Yesterday afternoon I saw a post by Small Beer Press (on Facebook) mentioning that Kelly Link would be reading at a bookstore in Brooklyn and right about there I decided that I wanted to go – no, NEEDED to go – and then suddenly had to figure out how I was going to do that.

I currently live in New Jersey, towards the middle, next to Trenton, which is just over the river from Philadelphia. The bookstore is in New York, the city (and the state) making it a whole other state away from me.

The problem is, though, that I had to go. Not only was it Kelly Link, whose work I adore, but Tin House and Electric Literature (warning, current cover art – posted on their home page – is NSFW), both great markets that are nearly impossible to get into, and it was a chance to adventure into Brooklyn, where I’d never been. It was also possible, thanks to a combination of trains and subway rides, and since I’m due to leave NJ for upstate NY in a few months (where there are no trains) it was a trip I won’t always be able to make. This particular event would never actually happen again. Add to that my feeling that as writers we’re not just supposed to write but also to read, to listen, and to learn from the writers we admire. To not attend these kinds of events is to sit alone in our apartments, only learning from ourselves. Continue reading

Readercon 2011 Recap: Saturday / Sunday (and we’re done)

I’ve previously talked about the books I brought home from Readercon, some Readercon advice on writing an author blurb, and recapped Thursday/Friday.

Saturday morning was breakfast at Panera, then panels:

11 AM Book Design and Typography in the Digital Era Neil Clarke, Erin Kissane, Ken Liu, David G. Shaw (leader), Alicia Verlager. From this I found out that Ken knows quite a bit about the history of the book and its evolution from scroll to codex to ebook, making him officially one of my favorite people ever. This was one of the most informed panels I attended, and I felt that all of the panelists had useful things to add to the discussion. I only wished it were longer.

12:00 PM Daughters of the Female Man Matthew Cheney, Gwendolyn Clare, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Barbara Krasnoff, Chris Moriarty. I tend to avoid panels on women’s issues in fiction, honestly. I’m of the school that we should promote damn fine writers who happen to be women as opposed to promoting women writers and hoping they’re good. I come from an academic background and am particularly informed by the discussion about women’s place in art history, and the (absurd) question which always gets asked, “Why are there no good women artists?” However this panel was excellent both for it’s suggestions for further reader and for the way it didn’t focus on anything other than good writing by women. Notable for this panel was the absurd statement from the audience about how the panel should have done “a little more work” and created an annotated bibliography to hand out (you know, so we wouldn’t have to read anything on our own).

Continue reading