Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Retreat: I thought it was a joke from The Onion

I never thought of a plantation as a place to party, not even when I lived in South Carolina. Never took a plantation tour or attended a plantation wedding (people really do this!) because it just seemed weird. I had to drive past the Confederate flag twice a day on the way to work and back as it waved merrily above the State House in Columbia, and that freaked me out enough. I’m, like, from Arizona. I didn’t understand a lot of things out there, like cheese grits or wearing pantyhose to work or “Sugar Pig” as a term of endearment.

I was just there for a job. And, no matter how long you live in the South, if you weren’t born there? You’re a visitor.

Southerners avoid discussing the region’s racial history with outsiders, but I did manage to meet a few pro-Confederate Flaggers who had a one-sided romance with “history” and “tradition.” Their position was, the flag didn’t necessarily support the institution of slavery but merely recalled a gracious bygone era and states’ rights. (My position was, this position was disingenuous).

And I met liberal Southerners of all races who thought nothing of attending events held at plantations (they’re listed in historic registers all over the South, where the word “plantation” isn’t loaded in the same way as everywhere else) but who HATED the flag.

Sometimes there’d be protests outside the State House, and at one of them I saw a Black woman holding a sign that said, “Your Heritage Is My Slavery.” This, I thought, was sufficient reason to take the flag down. Common sense! As George Costanza said, We’re living in a society here. We’re trying to rub along together in 21st century America with all its attendant unrest and trouble; why give unnecessary insult? Why be weird? That flag is weird! Plantations are weird! I still think this.

So. I’m not the Ani fan I was 10 or 15 years ago – her last few albums were music to wear hemp sweaters to – but I connected with her work so deeply, and for so long, that the Nottoway Plantation retreat shitstorm is a big sad ugh. I recall with unalloyed pleasure my first girl-kisses with Up Up Up Up Up Up on repeat during a foggy September night; the scent of patchouli lingering on my mouth-friend (a girl who’d marked Ani’s 30th birthday on her wall calendar) and I still play “Living in Clip” real loud when I clean the house, but the magic is mostly memory for me.

If you knew that magic, you remember: Ani was singing about you, for you. She was plucking out, with duct-taped press-on nails, the rhythms of your life. You knew the B-sides; you hung the posters; you cried on your ex-girlfriend during “Both Hands” (yeah, ex-gf came to the show with you) and took fuzzy photographs from the second row. You wished you were her guitar-changer.

We didn’t have an Internet to tell us we weren’t alone.

But I’m not 23 anymore, and Ani is worth 10 million dollars. She’s an empire who no longer personally watches over every aspect of her business; otherwise RBR wouldn’t have participated in an event at a place that whitewashes slavery (an institution known for sexual violence against women; something history books gloss over) and funnels money to right-wingers. Her fan base is liberal  and progressive; sensitive to hypocrisy of any kind, and they’re quoting her own lyrics back at her (They were digging a foundation in Manhattan/and they found a slave cemetery there…)

Her no-caps response to the escalating pile-on – much of it misogynistic, abusive and demonizing in ways unique to anonymous social media – reads badly. Whether her PR people were simply unprepared for this kind of disaster and gave her bad advice, or if they gave her good advice (apologize quickly, clearly, unequivocally, and briefly) to many it reads like an oblivious elitist didn’t hear a word they said – and for them, that negates 25 years of activism.

I don’t know if it’s my place to say they’re wrong, or to opine how a plantation site should be “reclaimed,” because I’m not Black. (It was former inmates who decided Auschwitz should be a made into a museum, you know?)

Reading non-Black opinions re: Nottoway plantation (excepting Tim Wise’s piece) reminds me of my feelings when non-teachers share vehement opinions re: education politics and classroom management strategies, or when my great-uncle says, dismissively,”No one really discriminates against the gays anymore.”

I hate that. So presumptuous! I think: This is not your pain, your struggle,  your history or your reality, so you wouldn’t know. You can’t. I’m not mad at you for not knowing, just for not listening, so hush for a minute – 30 seconds, even! – and listen. Then you can ask questions.

Nobody ever went wrong that way.

Sunday reblog: notthatstupid

“Most of the time our disdain for porn and prostitution is spun to sound like we don’t support women who take part in these activities, or we are “slut-shaming” them. I fucking hate that term and that brings me to my next point, which is that we don’t participate in “reclaiming” words that are sexist or patriarchal such as slut, bitch, whore, cunt etc. Those words were created to shame us on the basis of our sex and are therefore words that in my opinion, and the opinion of most radical feminists are not salvageable. This is part of an overarching difference in our ideologies, that is that we don’t believe that activities, words, etc that are patriarchal or sexist in nature can be reclaimed or made to be empowering as long as patriarchy exists. Just because you feel ~empowered~ or whatever when you proudly refer to yourself as a bitch or when you work as a cam girl to make extra money doesn’t mean you (or any other women) actually are empowered by these things. Your feelings about something don’t change the effects they have on other women or on society.”

23andMe: one inch of spit in a tube and $99 explains a lot

Welp, 23andMe has spoken: My in-demand, keep-you-on-your-toes relational volatility and high-test professional masochism come from an honest place. Here’s the lab report!

avoidance of errors

the verdict

All those nights I spent sobbing and listing to and fro while singing inaccurate lyrics to Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”* because a lady (or gentleman, if we’re talking pre-2002, which we’re not) had broken my heart a third or fourth time? The jobs I stayed in far too long as my dreams curled up like be-salted slugs, all snotty and petulant? My willingness to visit Reddit every once in a while, just to see what’s up? There’s a gene for that! Science, y’all!

For those who don’t know: 23andMe uses saliva samples to take a peek at your DNA. Six weeks after you send in your sample, you get an-email with information about your ethnic ancestry; inherited conditions (like if you’re a carrier for cystic fibrosis) vulnerability to diseases such as Parkinson’s or heart disease; whether or not asparagus makes your pee smell funny; and lots more.

My report accurately described my eye color, hair texture, height, body-mass index, later-than-average menarche, and reaction to certain medications. In the 18th century, this would SO be witchcraft.

Some of it is opaque, like I’m an “AG genotype” (which I have decided stands for “Akimbo Gangsta.”) The above study (in case of tl;dr) found that:

“People with the GG genotype learned to avoid choices with negative feedback relatively easily, while people with AG or AA genotypes did not learn to avoid these choices; in other words, they did not learn from their mistakes.”

I guess AG’s are like rats who persist in taking the wrong turn through the maze no matter how many times they get shocked. Their rat friends are over in the safe corner, eating Froot Loops and having their velvety ears stroked by good-natured graduate research assistants, but AG rats just keep getting zap zap zapped.

This particular genetic finding is more interesting to me than the rest (even more than learning I have a big chunk of German DNA, or that my mother is just a teensy bit Asian). It’s true that my history includes many...definitively themed mistakes that made me suffer — but it’s also not true. Because while some of my choices were “inefficient” in terms of avoiding pain, some were an honest attempt to find things out for myself (“What would my life be like if I changed careers again?”) Others were culturally supported (“This raging case of bulimia sure is painful, but I do get lots of compliments on my body.”) Still more were an assertion of faith in people in whom I saw potential rather than limitations or hazards (“Imma move to Canada to marry a pre-operative transsexual I’ve never seen in direct sunlight!”)

I’ve not succeeded in avoiding pain, but neither have I failed at finding joy — sometimes in the midst of pain or even or because of it. For example: I wandered around Toronto brokenhearted and lost because I’d trusted someone in a way that caused pain — a way I had trusted before and would again — but as I wound in and out of the frozen streets I found color and music; art and drama; weird ways of making money; an array of inimitable people. I wandered into new places and emerged with treasures tangible and non. One night I was bonedeep cold and couldn’t go home because she was crazy so I walked into a bookstore, shook the snow out of my hair, bought a rare copy of “Jane Eyre”and let the story devour me in a new and stunning way.

I didn’t crawl back inside myself. I stayed for the party, even if I was the only one who showed up.

I always stay for the parties. I stay for the funerals too, and the weddings and births and screaming night terrors. And ultimately, I prefer the person I became over who I would have been if “negative feedback” was enough to make me miss any of these things.

I’m awake. I’m alive.

And I’m making fewer truly shitty choices as I hit late youth — and that’s what I am, since my DNA says I’m likely to live to 100 and I probably won’t get Alzheimer’s. (If I’d gotten bad news from that quarter, my plan was to put a big bottle of Xanax on the mantel with a Post-it reading, “If you can’t remember what these pills are for, take them all.”)

So I think that my She’ll never learn genetic legacy; my Lady, are you nuts? zapped-rat fate is ameliorated by experience and a conscious choice to learn from it and bend it to my will. I believe that the ability to use one’s mistakes is the most crucial ingredient to a successful life (followed closely by adaptability to change and an appreciation of the absurd).

That, and staying off the smack, I guess.




*”Well I had a feeling that I’m a log/Well I had a feeling that I’m a piece of one/Piece of one/Piece of one.”

somewhere else, not here: Part 1

I moved somewhere new.


I move every three or four years because it divides life up into nice clean parcels; drawers of calendar dates to file away the past like it happened to somebody else. Plus, starting over in a new place makes me feel alive: Where does this street go? What’s the shortest route to the grocery store? Who lives next door?

Actually, though! I’m feeling a little bit like a baboon heart. My house is large and cavernous, even though I try to find furniture at estate sales. Every weekend I tiptoe across purple carpeting to audition the bedroom chairs of dead John Birchers, only to get poked in the ass by wicker shards. We don’t have a Trader Joe’s or a movie theatre. My next-door neighbor leaves his blinds open at night:

oh no

There’s one other lesbian under 40 living by herself in this family/retiree neighborhood; a police officer who takes her K-9 home with her every night. I walked over there with a cheese bread, a scone, and my phone number, but guess what, she’s one of those dykes who thinks she passes and therefore won’t be seen with someone who doesn’t.

You can spot her from a hundred feet.

I am Mopey McSulkersons right now, but I promise to leave the house this week and have a story for you at the end of it.