February 29, 2012


The official leap year day mascot.

Leap Year!

For some reason the randomness (ok, I know it's not really random and that we need this day every 4 years to balance that fraction of leftover sun time that doesn't quite fit in to our set schedule) of February 29th completely amuses me. Today possibly more so because the morning commute seemed to indicate a lot of people looked at today as a bonus and took a holiday. Disneyland had an extra day of fun, which I'm sure drew tons more crowds than a typical February Tuesday, and honestly I really wish I didn't spend it working.

But there was nachos, so I win a little bit.

Leap Year is traditionally the one day a woman is allowed (encouraged?) to propose marriage to a man. There's at least one restaurant in Britain that is capitalizing on this tradition, letting ladies order the Leap Year Special, a steak with "will you marry me?" seared into it. If I were to propose marriage that is nowhere near the way I'd do it, but it is a fantastic idea and I wonder how many women took advantage of the opportunity. And it does follow the notion that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, a notion I take to heart. Plus, what meat eater could say no to a woman proposing with steak? You'd at least get a chuckle and a great story if it didn't work out, plus apparently 12 pairs of gloves the man would give his spurrned woman to cover her ringless shame.

I've always pitied people who happened to be born on February 29th (and wondered if it was a coincidence that I have 3 relatives with February 28th birthdays) because they are essentially birthdayless for the majority of their lives, and most places officially recognizing their birthdays on March 1, making them technically wait a day. Fortunately, "leapers" turn 16 on a leap year, which means they can get their driver's licenses on their actual birthday, but unfortunately they don't turn 21 on a leap year, so legal drinking gets to wait a day.

Leap Year does another thing: the days of February and March are exactly the same, except March has a few extras. But during Leap Year there's an extra day of February so that scheme is thrown off, which, however, is something you'd only notice if you manually create a calendar every month.

Unfortunately for me this year, Leap Year mostly sucked, but it did end nicely and I did earn an extra day of pay, so it wasn't all bad. The next Leap Year will be in 2016... wonder what life will be like then?

February 28, 2012

Race At The Oscars

Those are happy tears!

Leading up to the Oscars over the weekend there seemed to be a lot of talk about Octavia Spencer, who played a maid in The Help, being nominated. Some people were angry not that she was nominated, but that she was nominated for what they considered to be a demeaning role. Their point was that black actors should have more varied roles, not just play maids and servants. But this movie was based on a book, which was written partially about the author's real life experiences in a certain time and place in history when wealthy white households employed poor black maids and servants.

This whole controversy made me wonder what would have made these naysayers happy. They were angry that a black woman was nominated for (and won!) a stereotypical role in a movie. But what about the alternatives?

Should she not have been nominated? Octavia played her character very well. I'm sure it wasn't an easy role but she shone. Her mother worked as a maid, and I think winning an Oscar for this role is a great way to pay tribute and acknowledge the history of her home state and region. Her skills deserved nomination and she deserved the award she won.

Should she not have played the role? Octavia chose the role. If she believed, as a black female actress, that a role as a maid to a wealthy white woman in the American South was demeaning she could have not auditioned, turned it down or made it clear she didn't want any part in it. But clearly she did, and that choice was hers alone.

Should the movie not have been made? OK, well the book was great and the movie made a wonderful story that many more people got to enjoy, so I'm all for this movie. I don't think there's anything wrong with making movies about recent time periods. Plus, it's not like everything's all fine and dandy today; we still have loads of discrimination in all sorts of forms, not the least of which is still race in this day and age.

Should the book not have been written? A good number of the naysayers never even read the book, for various reasons. I can see choosing to not read the book, but it does kind of take away from your ability to be vocal against the validity of it (yeah yeah yeah, I'm vocal against Twilight and I've never read them, but I've seen the movies, sort of, and I'm willing to acknowlede my hypocrisy), and especially your ability to knock the actress who played a character in the ensuing movie. The author grew up in the same place she wrote about, and part of her goal was to more effectively represent what life was like in that time and place, Jackson, Mississippi. While it may seem stereotypical to say that wealthy white families employed their poor black quasi-neighbors as diminished servants, it happened in real life, so why try to ignore it? Again, it's not like we're all that advanced as a society now. Plus, I'd be willing to bet the South has quite a bit more left over discrimination because of their history.

Should producers be focusing on providing black actors with more substantial roles? Sure. Of course. But have you seen the types of "black oriented" movies that are out there, or worse, the TV shows? They're incredibly stereotypical. Black thugs, fat funny guys eating fried chicken, being loud and shouting at each other at all times... how are these characters any better than a black maid? The bargain bin at Blockbuster has these movies, which should be an indication of their quality. The Help isn't reinforcing stereotypes, but plenty of other movies and TV shows are.

When it all comes down to it, Octavia was so happy and excited and beyond composure that she clutched her Oscar and cried onstage. The bottom line is she played a difficult role very, very well (and she held her character true to the book, but that's beside the point) and she deserved the recognition she got. I'd even say she stole a good portion of the movie and was a very significant supporting character. I'm sure she's still very happy she received the most prestigious award in her industry and is glad she chose the role. And I hope those who were knocking her role earlier will shut up about it.

February 24, 2012

In Which I Am A Gym Member

Now I have to figure out locker room etiquette...

So I joined a gym.

Didn't really think I was the type of person to pay to exercise, but you know what? Having a machine that forces you to run at a consistent pace is pretty great, and being in a room full of other sweaty people trying to improve their bodies is a good motivator. And I think I'm going to like the consistent climate within a gym.

After spending a few weeks researching my options and trying out a couple of places, I picked the least expensive gym, Chuze Fitness, for a few reasons. 

It's near my home and on my way to and from work. I stop in after work about every other day, and when I want to go on the weekends it's a 5 minute drive from my place or a short trip down the freeway from my boyfriends'. A pretty convenient location and I'm more than happy to make the drive and save $20 a month over every other gym around.

It's enormous. You can see the TVs from the freeway. There are 4 rows of various equipment evenly spaced and in front of the various channels so you can watch the show you choose while working out on the machine you choose. There's a whole dedicated weight area and a class space, and so far I haven't had a problem finding a free locker to use.

It's new. And clean. The cleanliness was a big issue for me and my moderate germophobia. There are signs everywhere reminding people to wipe down equipment after sweating all over it, there are paper towels and sanitizing spray conveniently located everywhere and nothing has felt wet or sticky yet. The walls still look freshly painted, the bathroom is clean, and staff members are constantly walking around with hand vacuums. 

It has variety. There are treadmills, two different kinds of elliptical machines, and stationary bikes and all of the machines have a little thing where you can plug in your headphones to listen to whatever show is on that lets you change channels (there are 10 and the variety is pretty solid. I watched Chicken Run last Saturday.). The weight machines seem to cover every muscle and are designed in a way that women can use them without feeling like we're exposing ourselves. All the weight machines face one direction so you're just staring at people's backs. I've found a machine to train every muscle I want, plus there are enough free weights for the standard stuff.

It has free classes. All classes are included in the membership, which is just $10 a month. I took one and it kicked my butt, but in a way that made me feel stronger. It was good to have a leader yelling at me/the class to not stop; I don't do that to myself. There's also a variety of classes to suit a range of fitness styles at different times so you should be able to go to any class you want at least once a week. Plus, signing up for a membership gives you a 30 minute session with a trainer where you can ask questions about fitness and nutrition and focus them towards a specific goal. 

It has a no grunting policy. Seriously. I had to sign saying I would not grunt. The point (I had to ask) is that grunting is intimidating and Chuze wants to be unintimidating, so if you're working out so hard you're grunting you should step it down a notch or take it to a gym that's better suited for that. Plus, people who are body building and serious weight lifters are probably not going to be at this gym because it's designed for the average person, and it goes to great lengths to make the average person feel comfortable. The other gym I tested out did not make me feel this way, and I did feel rather awkward and even weak compared to the other members. And Chuze has a much higher percentage of female members than the other gym I tried, which is more important than I realized. So there's none of this.

It does, however, also have the former-neighbor-turned-one-night-stand as a member, which I discovered, but that's much better than the person I might run into at the gym near my house.

Since my time for a half marathon has only gotten worse, I'm hoping the gym membership will get my butt back into gear and in May I'll beat my best time. But after this race is over I think I'm going to keep the membership so I don't have an excuse to not run when it gets hot over the summer and can get back the tone I used to have in my arms. For $10 a month there's really no reason not to.

February 23, 2012

Thinking About Money

Cat in a pile of money!

Today one coworker bought another coworker a Coke. The one buying the Coke doesn't make as much as the one receiving the Coke, and she also has 2 kids and can be heard on the phone talking with her fiance about money issues. The coworker receiving the Coke asked how much he owed her and you know what she said?

Don't worry about it.

As in, I just bought you a Coke and do not need you to pay me the $1.25 back. And do you know why? Because the cost of the Coke was so small it wasn't going to make a difference. Her exact words were:

I mean, it's not going to make me go broke.

Hearing her say those words made me feel pretty shitty about myself because I realized I'm selfish enough to know when I've spent $1.25 on someone else. I don't worry about things like that with close friends, my sisters, my roommate or my boyfriend because there's a regular give and take with those people, and something like five bucks, or even a meal or utility bill, aren't worth worrying about with those relationships. But I would remember buying a Coke for an acquaintance or coworker.

I really need to let go of my money worries. I'm constantly recalculating my finances trying to make sure I'll have enough for taxes and car insurance and have been living on a very strict budget since the beginning of the year in order to do so and worrying about money (which is way more fun now that gas prices have jumped 35 cents a gallon in 4 days) is exhausting. And depressing. I know I'm OK and I'm sure I'm going to make it, but I would have asked for that $1.25. Kinda makes me feel like a crappy person. 

I really want to not worry about money. I want to be the person who buys people Cokes, or even lunch, and says don't worry about it. To be the person who tips generously. To take friends out for celebrations on me. To give random presents. And I really, really want to look at the left side of the menu page before the right side, not let price dictate everything I do and be the first question I ask. 

The other want I have, however, is to do something with my life that I feel passionate about, something that's important to others and that might matter in a few years, or even decades. But I'm worried that I'll never be able to have both of those things... to feel like what I'm doing means something and to also not always be so worried about every dollar I spend. I know when I graduated with a writing degree that I said I would be OK with being poor, but if I'm already sick of it at 26 what am I going to do in ten years? My hope is that once large expenses stop I'll be able to save for accidents and unexpected expenses in the future. And then I'll have a buffer so I can stop worrying, and stop feeling bad for saving for fun things, like vacations and computers and bigger beds. 

I feel like I've been saying the word "someday" a lot.

February 20, 2012

In Which I Admit Defeat

For some reason this is the first picture I thought of.

Palm oil has been a rather sticky thorn in my side as I do my darndest to buy products that don't have it, but today I discovered I will make exceptions.

I bought hippy deoderant (Tom's of Maine, doesn't get worse than that) and very hippy body wash, which surprisingly wasn't even a dollar more expensive than what I normally buy, because of sodium laureth sulfate. I've already found shampoo and soaps that don't have that ingredient and am working my way through my daily routine to replace anything that has it.

Except toothpaste.

I thought there was no choice when it came to toothpaste because not even Tom's of Maine toothpaste is SLS free. But then I discovered a few other brands of toothpaste that you won't find in Target or Vons that don't have SLS. And they start at $5 a pop and only go up from there.

I just can't pay 2 to 5 times the amount of money I'm used to spending on toothpaste. Though there are options on the market that don't test on animals and don't use SLS, but between the cost and really, really wanting to make sure my teeth are in as good of condition as they can be for not having been to a dentist in... 6 years? So I'll be sticking to my animal testing, SLS toothpaste that I buy for $2 and hoping it does the trick and my teeth aren't rotting.

And so I admit defeat. Hopefully my teeth will thank me for it.

February 19, 2012

Abstinence>Birth Control

 Because if you aren't careful, one of these could be yours.

Abortion, birth control and how people have sex is, for whatever reason, big news in the Land of the Free, and the upcoming election (still 8 whole months away) will likely center heavily on these intertwined topics. And because women's issues are very near and dear to my heart and most certainly my body, I'm quite passionate and opinionated about them.

I've been having a difficult time trying to understand the purpose behind these ridiculous debates, and perhaps because I'm a woman, perhaps because I'm young, perhaps because I tend to think these types of things do not need to be legislated, I doubt I ever will. The most recent comment on the issue of birth control, who should be having sex and how consenting adults should go about having children comes from a Republican WOMAN, who said if married couples don't want to get pregnant they should not have sex. Married couples. Shouldn't have sex.

Unless they want kids.

According to Ms. Blankenbeker (I assume she's married because Republicans are all about the family, and I so want to know what her husband thinks about all this), abstinence is an affordable form of birth control that is available to everyone, regardless of insurance. She also reminds us that condoms are available over the counter to anyone, with or without insurance. So, condoms and not having sex are the only ways to prevent pregnancy, according to this woman. Married couples who love each other but who aren't ready for or don't want more kids better hope their condoms don't break...


I was always under the impression that the only right sex is the sex between a married man and his female wife. Unmarried sex is bad, as is homosexual sex, and any negative consequences that result from bad sex is the fault of the people involved. But a married man and married woman together having sex is now off the table unless they explicitly want to procreate? Now sex between man and wife is only for making babies? The Bible doesn't even advocate that. Who is this crazy woman?

Also, what about married couples who do not want to have kids? I have no intention of having kids at any point in my life, but I do hope that I'll be married at some point in my life, presumably while I'm still physically capable of conceiving. Does this mean I am not to have sex with my husband unless I change my mind about having kids? Relying on condoms isn't realistic for me because I'm allergic (or maybe just sensitive) to latex, and it can be very painful to use them.

These comments were made at a hearing designed to urge Obama to drop the requirement that insurance plans offer birth control, which makes me believe they're inflammatory and actually designed to encourage Obama to stick to his guns. Could she be saying such ridiculous things, things which Republicans don't agree with and the American public doesn't agree with, to ruin her party? A Republican in Democrat's clothing, perhaps? I doubt it, but I don't think this notion should be ignored.

At the same hearing, another Republican woman claimed that birth control pills lead to prostate cancer. Funny thing, though, is women don't have prostates and men don't take birth control pills (yet). So hooooooow would a medication cause a disease/side effect in someone who isn't taking it? It's not second hand smoke: men don't get second hand estrogen when their partners take hormonal birth control. This woman, a Ms. Notter (again, wonder what the hubby thinks), says she was referring to high levels of estrogen in the environment, which is actually true. Men, however, are not affected by it. Frogs, fish and other wildlife can be, but still not on a common or regular basis. So I'm not sure where she's getting her information. 

I've always felt fortunate to have been born at the time I was, rather than even just 20 years earlier when women were less able to live freely or openly. I'm glad that I can be 26 and unmarried and not be an outcast, that I can skip having kids without it being weird (it's still a little weird, but enough women are opting out now), that I don't have to live under my parents, that going to college wasn't to meet an eligible man who would make enough money to support me. But when my government starts deciding whether or not my access to birth control is valid, or having an opinion about my sexual activities, that's when I wish I was born later. I know, I have to believe, that when my generation is older and our kids generation starts learning about these fucking ridiculous legislative attempts and ask what we were thinking we'll have to shrug and say we tried, but people were still bigoted and sexist and puritanist back then, but at least now the country is a better place for all of its citizens, young and old, gay and straight, male and female. 

February 17, 2012

The Abortion Debate

A panel of men discussing the type birth control that women are responsible for.

I inadvertently sparked an abortion debate on Facebook a couple of weeks ago when I posted a link to an article in which a Republican presidential hopeful said that not only would he work to make abortions illegal but that women should view pregnancies that are the result of a rape as a "gift from God." People have very, very opinionated views on this topic, as can be seen by the 69 very informed comments that post garnered on my wall.

One of the people commenting later posted an unrelated link to a collection of interviews from abortion providers, asking them about their most memorable patients. They talked about the very religious/anti-abortion patients who were getting, that's right, abortions. Women who ran anti-abortion groups with their schools, pro-life parents bringing their young daughters in for abortions, even one woman who brought her (black) maid in for an abortion and sat in the lobby passing out anti-abortion pamphlets to the rest of the waiting patients made the memorable lists. Incredible stories.

The people most opposed to abortion in these interviews, the ones getting abortions, were convinced that their abortions were necessary. They were convinced that the abortion providers and other patients could never understand their reason, and some even called the other patients terrible names even though they were getting the exact same procedure. They did not thank the doctor who performed the procedure and some got snotty, as if it was the doctor's fault the woman was getting an abortion. Some of these women getting procedures they did not "believe in" blamed the abortion providers to their faces and said hurtful things (some of these women were turned away). But it made me wonder why people who are vehemently anti-abortion get abortions. Could it possibly be because they find themselves in the same position many women find themselves? None of the women in these interviews said their pregnancies were the result of a rape (and certainly none of them were life-saving abortions because they occurred in clinics), which leads me to believe these same women are having the same kinds of sex that every other woman has, with the same types of partners, and the same types of accidents occur.

However, people who are anti-abortion are generally (not always, please don't harp on this word) religious, believing abortions should not be performed on moral grounds for any reason. But these same people also generally believe that pre-marital sex is a sin, and a good portion of them believe that using contraception of any kind (which absolutely baffles me) is also a sin. However, my experience has shown me that even religious women have pre-marital sex: the Catholic basketball star in my high school class got knocked up our junior year because she had unprotected pre-marital sex. The women and girls who do so are obeying a very basic, very common and very powerful urge, and possibly some are giving in to boyfriends they don't want to lose. Now, a pregnancy is really the only sure indication that a woman has had sex, so I wonder if some of these anti-abortion women get abortions to save face. They can't exactly preach abstinence if they're knocked up and unmarried, can they? So they get abortions so that no one has to  know there was ever a pregnancy or even ever pre-marital sex. Their purity remains, their future husbands will never have to know, and they won't have to give up any position they've made for themselves. The only other options are to carry on with the pregnancy and have a child out of wedlock or marry the child's father immediately. However, these women are often in the same social and financial situations as the majority of the women who get abortions. They are not in a position to get married, do not have enough money to support a pregnancy or child, and would be condemned by family members and close friends for their actions. An abortion is a great way to save face, protect their reputations and allow them to carry on with their way of life.

Maybe anti-abortion women are less likely to have a second abortion, or maybe they're more likely to acknowledge their actions and tlearn to ake precautions, like using birth control the next time they have sex. But I also wonder if they might be more likely to get a first abortion.

The good part about that collection of interviews was that one provider shared a story of a woman who changed her mind after her abortion, acknowledging that if she could get an abortion she could no longer condemn other women for making the same choice. Gives me hope that people will eventually realize that abortion is a choice that needs to be on the table, for whatever reason. Which is why access to and knowledge about birth control is very important for men and women.

February 16, 2012

Not Really Our First Valentine's Day

Thought it would go as expected... it did not.

For the first time in a long time, I was actually really excited about Valentine's Day this year. I did the same thing I did the two previous years when I was single (which wasn't much of a departure from what I did when I was in a long term relationship): have people over, make something, drink wine, and make fun of Twilight.

Except this year I have someone who is more romantic than I am, who likes doing stuff like Valentine's Day, who makes me feel loved and wanted every day I see him, and who gets me excited about Valentine's Day.

The funny thing is we spent Valentine's Day last year together, too, albeit within a group of other singles (almost exactly the same group of people). Funnier thing is I was sort-of-seeing someone last year but ended up spending more time that night with my now-boyfriend, which honestly was A-OK with me.

So, technically this was our second Valentine's Day together, but like he says it was our first year together. Last year we made sugar cookies and iced them inappropriately, so this year I decided we'd make chocolate ice cream bowls after seeing a how-to on the internet. And in my own true form it failed miserably.

My research recommended using balloons sprayed with cooking oil, dipped in the chocolate (not too hot) and frozen for as little as 10 minutes for it to set. Seemed simple enough, yet my kitchen ended up covered in chocolate, butter and balloon fragments. And because we used water balloons (geniuses) some of us ended up a little wet, too. After telling my coworkers the story I was overwhelmingly told to not use water balloons... Oops.

The Oatmeal sums up Valentine's Day pretty well: "February 14th has absolutley no bearing on our relationship, but we should pretend to be extra attracted to each other today." Eh, I'm cool with it. It's just another gift giving holiday, except this one focuses almost exclusively on chocolate, wine and sex, so really what's not to like?