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Gifts that shouldn’t make anyone’s holiday wish list…

Since it’s the season for gift giving, I just want to throw some things out there that no one should be buying. Under any circumstances.

1. Haribo Sugar-free Gummy Bears

Sugar Free Gummies

These will ruin your stomach if you eat more than five. And everyone eats more than five, because they’re tiny and delicious. I’m not sure what’s in them that causes such digestive issues, but take it from me and my personal experience. You don’t want to eat these. Unless you’re constipated and desperate to change that.

2. Taxidermy Pikachu Mouse

Taxidermied Pikachu

I appreciate being Pikachu’s fan. But I think this takes things a bit too far…

3. Taxidermy Meerkat

Meerkat Meerkat 2

I think this is actually going to give me nightmares.

 

4. Make Your Own Vagina Mold

Mold Vagina

Uh, right. I haven’t figured out why this exists yet. I also can’t believe it would work all that well or that it could be all that safe.

5. Edible Chocolate Anus (The Anus that Made Britain Great)

edible-anus

(Image)

I don’t think I’ll ever look at chocolate the same way again. Also, was there a model for this anus? If so, who was it? I’m not sure that would change my opinion on whether it should exist, but they’re fair questions.

What have you seen that you wouldn’t give anyone, ever?

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Just Say No to Societal Pressure

Just over a year ago I met Mr. Lyndsy. I was 32 and not sure it would ever happen. I had more or less accepted the possibility that I could be single forever. That sounds bleak, but I really believed that if that’s what was meant to be, my life would be full of other amazing things.

It was hard to get to that place. Something happens to single women when we turn 30. I’m not even talking about the ticking of the biological clock. You look around you and realize that the vast majority of your female friends are either engaged, married, pregnant, or have kids. Well-meaning family and friends are constantly asking when we’ll be walking down the aisle, or, if it’s my parents, “When am I going to get some grandchildren?” (Getting married or a significant other was optional as long as there were grandchildren. My mom even once told me, “Now would be a good time in my life for you to have kids.”) My poor grandmother’s face when my cousins and I are like, “Yeah not sure when or if there will be kids.” You’d think we told her we’d killed my grandfather and added his body parts to a stew we served her.

And the way my dad asked, it was like he thought I was intentionally avoiding finding someone to be with. Like I was purposefully withholding grandchildren. So I got a dog. My mother refused to be called “Grandma.” I pointed out that Buddy may be the only grandchild she got, so she should learn to love it. She wasn’t buying it though she did love the little guy quite a bit.

There is a lot of societal pressure on women to “settle down” and have populate the planet. Yes, we want to propagate the species, but the timeline we’re asked to be on these days is a little crazy. To ask us to have that going on or done by about 30 is too much. We are going to college in record numbers. There are more women in college than men these days. Being 30 and married with multiple children was a lot easier when people weren’t going to college like we do now. College is a process of exploration. By immersing yourself in it, you learn all kinds of things about yourself and it changes what you’re interested in and often what you’re looking for in a significant other. Chances are good the person you’re with then won’t be the guy you marry, especially if you go on to get another degree.

Not to mention that you just don’t have time. I wasn’t one of them, but I knew a lot of people who dedicated significant amounts of time to going to class and studying. When I went to the law school orientation they stated explicitly that if we were not in relationships we shouldn’t get in one, if we could cut ties with people in our lives it would be a good idea. At least one marriage that I know about ended during the first year of law school. Couples broke up. It’s a tough process where the professors try to strip you of your humanity and empathy. It’s probably a little like dating a serial killer. A good friend of mine wouldn’t even consider dating while he was in dental school because of the amount of work he had to do and pressure he was under. I’ve also seen the same when people go to medical school.

That’s how you end up 30 and still single. Once you get out of school at 26, 27, or 28 you get shoved into some crazy job where you work 60+ hours per week to prove yourself, maybe to yourself, almost definitely to your employers. A couple years out of law school I was working 80 hour weeks and was in grad school full-time. Dating was’t so much an option then. Grabbing a bite to eat outside of my apartment became a luxury.

So here we are, 30, single, and maybe getting a chance to start dating. Guys our age aren’t as worried as we are. After all, they can have kids in their 40s and it’s not a big deal. We’re scrambling to find a decent date; see if we can get something going. Also, it’s not like we’re going to strike gold the first time out either. “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to meet your prince.” Sad, but true.

If we’re lucky, by 32 or 33 we’re with someone who’s got long-term potential. By now we’re attending at least 2 or 3 bridal showers per year. Whether we want kids or not it’s a little like torture because everyone is asking when we’ll be popping out some spawn. We suppress the urge to suffocate everyone who asks with the toilet paper and candy bars that act as diapers and baby poop. Our significant others can’t figure out why we’re suddenly losing our shit when we get taken out for a romantic dinner and there’s no proposal. Or yet another anniversary comes and goes without a ring.

If everyone could back off with the questions we might be able to maintain some semblance of sanity. For those of us who want marriage and children, we already feel it. We get a reminder every year on our birthdays. We’re watching the clock tick down, knowing we aren’t where we want to be. The best thing anyone can do is be supportive of the choices we’ve made and when we freak out, remind us that we’re on the paths we’re meant to be on, and that we’re making a difference being who we are.

 

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When last I checked, I am not cattle

I don’t know if you know this about me, but, I’m not cattle. Despite the obviousness of that statement, it doesn’t appear that the government here gets that. Allow me to explain.

I suppose it all started because fraud was sort of running rampant here in Qatar. It was pretty easy to get a loan and once people had them, they’d take the money, just walk off their jobs and leave the country. There was nothing that could really be done about it. People would go buy a Ferrari for the week or weekend and abandon it at the airport. To fix that, they started requiring Exit Permits before someone could leave the country. The employer has to give the okay which is usually a guarantee that someone is coming back. (This only applies to someone who is working here and sponsored by a company. I will be able to come and go as I please.)

Also, per the rules, expats who come work here are entitled to accommodations or accommodation pay. It’s part of the contract. People who get married get a bump in compensation to cover the cost of housing the spouse and the same thing happens when kids come into the picture.

So we can see how this might cause a problem. “Oh yeah, I got married. More money, please!” Uh, not so fast.

Our certified marriage certificate from Florida wasn’t enough. It had to get certified by someone in the central state government, the Secretary of State, and then someone in the Qatari embassy in the US. That took… a while.

Not only that, Mr. Lyndsy had to send his DIPLOMAS through the same process. What that has to do with us getting married, I have no idea.  It also took a while. We also sent in birth certificates and something else.

That only got us so far. I had to have blood drawn to test for HIV/AIDS and to get it typed (the blood type goes on your national ID card, still haven’t figured that out), and I have to have a chest x-ray to make sure I don’t have tuberculosis. Because they make everyone do this, they have the process down somewhat efficiently. Except that you get processed a bit like cattle.

You go in, get a number and wait to get called to the registration desk. They sent me to “Room 7″ where a woman scanned my barcode into the computer, wrote “OK” on it, and rudely sent me out of the room, without actually telling me where to go next. It probably doesn’t help that her English seemed to be limited to “Okay, go.”

Then I had to go back to the registration window to show that the paper said “OK.” They charged me $28 and told me, in very limited English, to follow the arrows on the floor. I looked at the paper I was holding – Laboratory and x-ray. I asked somewhere where to go and they told me again to follow the arrows. The red arrows indicated the Laboratory so that’s where I went.

I had to check in with someone else who put me in another line. I waited behind a few other women (because well, there are only women in this facility – like in a lot of the medical places, only women are allowed in certain parts, and only men in others), until a scary woman stabbed my arm for blood. She told me to “Go” when she was done. I walked back to the waiting area I’d just come from and asked where to go next. They indicated that I should follow the yellow areas to the x-ray.

In this waiting area they just tell you to sit down, in order, in a row of chairs. We got there early so I was in the front row. By now, even though I was in fleece pants, I was freezing. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so damn hot outside most of the time or what, but a lot of the buildings in here have the AC cranked so low that if you don’t think about it, you’d think it was winter outside. I didn’t have to wait long, and they called all of us into the row into a room. There were about 7 dressing rooms and they had us all take off  our tops so that we could get the chest x-rays. There were a lot of Muslim women in line with me and older Indian women and it was pretty obvious that even though it was just women, they were really uncomfortable.

As we all got into the gowns, they had us line up to wait to go into the x-ray room. Again, we stood in a line as they took x-ray after x-ray. Forget any kind of privacy about this. I got a look at at least 4 sets of x-rays. It was also a problem because the vast majority of the women in line don’t speak Arabic, and the techs don’t really speak anything else. Fortunately, there were some women in line who spoke Hindi (I think), and could help some of the older women who didn’t understand what they were being told to do.

I was thrilled to finally escape into the blazing heat. Poor Mr. Lyndsy had been standing outside waiting for me (since they wouldn’t let him in) and he was melting. We had to drive to a separate facility 15 minutes away to get my blood typing done. Big shocker, I’m still O-.

What’s crazy is that they got my results already and unsurprisingly, I’m totally clear! Now to wait for the fingerprinting. Not sure why they do that since it’s not like they’re going to do a background check on me…

I’d read about other women’s experiences with this and I was like, “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.” But no, it really is. They do treat you like cattle. I won’t complain too much though since it’s been the smoothest part of this process so far.

 

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Put Your Claws Away

For a good portion of my life, guys were my best friends. I had female friends, but I seemed to get along better with men. I rarely really stopped to think about why, just accepted it and had fun. Every now and then a female friend would say, “I’m so jealous of you that you….” It never made any sense to me, because I had always looked at whoever said it to and could immediately come up with a ton of things that they could do or that they had done that I would like to have or experience too. More often than not I was just excited to have them in my life so I could put myself in a position to have those experiences as well.

As I got older, I started to notice a trend in my friendships with women. I was friends with a lot of lesbians and women who had a good idea of who they are and what they want out of life. That reduced any kind of feelings of jealousy and meant that we could just have fun together and grow from the support we provided each other. Even still, it doesn’t come as easily as my friendships with men.

I’ve given a lot of thought to why recently and I think it has to do with our need to compete with each other.

Men Women Socialization

I have no idea who said it, but it seems accurate. And it’s a problem. A big one. What exactly are we fighting over? Why are we competing with each other? What’s our end goal?

Is it that we’ve been taught that the only way to feel good about ourselves is to make others feel worse about themselves? If everyone subscribed to that theory, the end result would be that we all feel bad about ourselves. What’s the point of that?

Comparing one woman to another is like comparing an apple to an orange. When it comes to men, some like apples and some like oranges. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the apple or the orange. People just have their preferences, and that’s okay.

When it comes to recipes, some call for apples, some call for oranges. That doesn’t mean that the apple or the orange has more value. Just in that particularly situation, one was better for the project than another.

There’s enough room in the world for apples AND oranges. Women are at a severe disadvantage in our society. People freaked out when Lego made a scientist set that didn’t include male Legos. Why? It’s not like male Legos are ever in short supply. Women make 77% of what men make for doing the same job with the same qualifications. How does that make sense? Women are expected to control male behavior by modifying their own. They have to dress modestly so men aren’t tempted by sexual desire. They have to change how they speak and respond to something so men doesn’t feel uncomfortable instead of the men taking responsibility for themselves.

To even begin to overcome these problems, women have to work together. We have to stop with fake the compliments. We have to stop tearing each other down publicly and in private. How we think is how we act.

We need to start praising each other for our accomplishments. One woman’s accomplishment is an accomplishment for all of us. Look at the newest Nobel Peace Prize winners,  Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi. Their accomplishment has done great things for women all over the world.

Not all accomplishments have to be Nobel Peace Prize winning to matter. A promotion at work is a big deal as a lot of fields are male-dominated. Getting healthier physically and mentally is really important because it means a woman feels better and that is always a good thing. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In a time when people thrive on tearing each other down to feel better about themselves, that link is weak indeed.

The next time a friend posts a picture of herself in a short or tight dress because she’s been working out and it feels good to her to wear clothes like that, congratulate her on her hard work instead of thinking to yourself that she’s a tramp for sharing the picture. The next time a woman you know does something new and challenging to her, don’t think about how she’s bragging, share in her accomplishment. I think we’ll all find that when we start doing that, we all feel better about ourselves. The easiest way to feel good is to share good.

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Hiding from the Sun

Having grown up in the State of Florida, I thought I knew what there was to know about living in hot places. I hated almost every minute of the oppressive heat and humidity. In recent years the winters haven’t even provided much relief.

And then I moved to the Middle East desert. NOW I know what hot is. It’s almost the middle of October and it’s still over 100 degrees regularly. There’s just something not right about that. I keep hearing that things will cool off, but every time I check the forecast it just doesn’t seem to be happening. Of course, when the people here talk about the early cooling off, they mean temps regularly in the 90s, rather than hot enough to boil water.

The crazy temperatures combined with the fact that I can’t wear a pair of shorts outside means that I haven’t been out exploring the city all that much. When it cools down, I plan on heading out to get some pictures of the buildings and landscape. Of course, one flat area of the desert pretty much looks like same as another, but I’ll try to grab some pictures.

I think one of the things I’m always struck by is the number of phallic structures around. And when I get a chance, those are what I usually take pictures of. Like The Torch.

The Torch

 

And there’s more where that came from. When it stops being so damn hot outside.

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Possessor of the Penis, Please Read

Hello, Possessor of the Penis!*

I do hope you’re well as you read this. It’s just me, Lyndsy, wanting to have a chat with you. I do hope you’ll read this all the way through, even though it was written by a Possessor of the Vagina.

I want to start by saying that I’m not angry. Or emotional. Or on my period. I’m putting that out there because your first inclination once you read this will likely be to comment that I must be one of those three things. Those are the usual go-tos when women express thoughts about how men interact with us.

With that out of the way, I want to share a few things with you.

  1. Emotions are normal parts of being alive. Telling a woman to calm down is telling her not to be alive. That you have trouble expressing yours is your problem, not ours. Some days, things are shit. That makes people sad sometimes. Other times it makes them angry. Just because you personally don’t understand why someone may be feeling a certain way doesn’t mean what they are experiencing is invalid. My husband spent a lot of time screaming at the screen during the World Cup, I didn’t tell him to calm down even though it’s an event that gets repeated every four years. I let him get all excited about cars and video games too. Those are his things. Let the women in your life do their thing.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, women do not sit around plotting how to accuse men of sexual assault or domestic violence simply for shits and giggles. I have never once thought about it and I have actually been the victim of both in the past. Has it happened? Yes. But, just because it has happened in the past does not mean that your favorite athlete the victim of a devious scheme. Rather than jumping to the defense of your favorite steroid-taking ego maniac, think about what the woman might have to gain. In reality, it’s not much. More thean likely, she is already feeling shame and like it was her fault. People are going to scrutinize her personal life in ways no one’s life should ever be scrutinized. Do you want national media asking you about the number of women you’ve slept with throughout the course of your life? Or about those nights you can’t remember? Didn’t think so.
  3. For all the self-proclaimed “nice guys” out there – if you’re single, there could very well be a reason for that and it likely has nothing to do with the fact that “women just like the bad boy.” Really, we don’t. However, crushing on your best friend’s girlfriend doesn’t make you a “nice guy.” It makes you an asshole who has no respect for your friend and his relationship. Being friends with a woman, cozying up to her with the hope or expectation that she will one day want to have sex with you does not make you a nice guy. It makes you a creep. Invest in a woman because you find her interesting, intelligent, fun, etc. NOT because you want to slip your meat into her love mitten.
  4. Leadership is best done when you mix traits stereotypical of men AND women. Aggression and inflexibility promote anger and distrust among a team. Your employees may perform out of fear, but they’ll perform a lot better when understanding comes into play. When discussions are had instead of lectures.
  5. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If you want to go out three nights a week to hang with your bros, then your significant other gets to do the same. If you don’t want to do laundry or mop floors, don’t expect that she does either. Households are shared responsibilities. You don’t get to slack off and expect her to do all the work. If you’ve talked about it and agreed to it, that’s fine. But if you want her to be happy, encourage her to have and pursue her own interests. I am sure you’ll find that the happier she is, the happier you are.
  6. Male privilege is a real thing. Women do seriously make less than men do, for doing the same jobs. And it’s not that women are less capable than men. What seems to be forgotten is that we need men and women doing all jobs so they get done as well as they possibly can. More perspective is better. Different ways of looking at problems. Finding things that the other can’t see because it’s outside their realm of experience.

But the real thing to think about is how much less enriched your lives would be without the women you love. Seriously, stop and think about what your life would be like if women stopped being part of it. Women are finally realizing that we should have each other’s backs and not put up with the bullshit that men have been spewing for years. If you don’t shape up, you’re going to find yourself without the women you love so much. Don’t let it happen to you.

*And yes, I realize that not all men act like jackasses. But, even if you don’t, chances are good you know someone who does. Instead of letting it slide next time, put the dipshit back in line.

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Public Shaming is NOT Okay

I was ecstatic last week when the Gators managed to pull out a victory over Tennessee. Treon Harris, freshman quarterback, comes out of nowhere and the Vols are left crying in their ugly orange outfits. Unfortunately, the victory was almost immediately overshadowed by the allegation that Harris sexually assaulted a female student after returning from the game. I’m proud of how the University of Florida responded to the allegation. He was immediately suspended while the investigation was pending. This is huge at a time when other universities (yeah, I’m talking about you FSU) don’t immediately look into serious allegations like that.

The allegation has since been withdrawn by the woman who made it. Harris has been reinstated and will play today. I should be overjoyed, but I’m not. The circumstances surrounding the withdrawal make me pretty uneasy.

Harris’ attorney released a statement on Thursday, which stated that the woman and Harris had been corresponding by text message from the time the game ended until he arrived back in Gainesville that night, that they knew each other before that, and had socialized together prior that evening. But, he also included that she had been sexually intimate with someone else prior to being involved with Harris, and referred to her as a “sexual aggressor.” He detailed that a number of witnesses saw them together beforehand and that everything looked like they were having a good time. They exchanged messages the next day.

I can tell you from personal experience that that does not mean that a sexual assault did not occur.

I obviously have no idea what happened between this woman and Harris. What I do know is that Harris’ attorney shamed a woman for absolutely no reason. What she did or didn’t do with someone else prior to being involved with Harris is irrelevant. She could have slept with the entire football team before spending any time with Harris. None of that sheds any light on whether Harris sexually assaulted her. Just because a woman enjoys sex does not mean she wants to have sex with every man she meets.

Let’s say it together now. Just because a woman has multiple sexual partners does not mean she automatically consents to sex with every man.

Also, women can change their mind about whether they want to have sex with someone. Maybe the woman thought it was something she wanted to do, but when put in the situation, the idea no longer appealed to her. Maybe she thought one thing was going to happen and Harris wanted something else. No one but the two of them will ever know.

What I do know is this: Harris’ attorney made public statements about her sex life, insinuating that she was a sexually aggressive whore and that no one was going to believe what she said anyway.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want that to happen to me or anyone I care about.

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Musings on the Minimum Wage

My first job was as a cashier at Wal-Mart. I was 16 and I worked primarily on the weekends. During the summers I went full-time. When I started there, a lot of the people I worked with were like me – students earning a little money for a car or just spending. A lot of the non-managers were moms, looking to make some extra money for their families now that their kids were in school full-time. Minimum wage was $5.25 an hour, but I made a cool $5.40. For me, that was good money. I did a pretty simple job and had money to blow when I wanted to go out with my friends.

Things have changed since then, quite a bit. The auto industry hadn’t fallen completely apart in 1997. Jobs weren’t being outsourced to other countries as soon as we had a need for them. Wal~Mart was still advertising how it was proud to carry products with the stamp “Made in America.” We in the United States had not yet figured out how much cheaper (though less safe) it was to have children in China make our toys.

It’s 2014. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. To put it in a more useful perspective, people working full-time at minimum wage in 1997 made $840 per month, before taxes. Now, it’s $1,160 per month, an increase of $320. That seems like a decent raise. Until you factor in how much more expensive everything else has gotten.

In 1997, gas was somewhere around $1.50 per gallon. If you figure that the average person uses a 13-gallon tank once per week (and that’s on the low end), that’s $78 per month. You could find a place to live for around $600/month. A pound of ground beef was about $2. You could see a movie for $5. Even then, on minimum wage, you’re scraping by.

Today gas is somewhere around $4/gallon. For the same fill-up schedule as in 1997, you’re paying over $200 per month for gas. Rent is $800 per month. Internet, something that didn’t really exist in 1997 for a lot of people, is at least $25 per month. Cell phones. something else most of us didn’t have in 1997 (unless you were a drug dealer), have replaced land lines, and are typically $40 per month before taxes, and that’s for the cheaper prepaid plan.

That “extra” $320 per month disappears faster than it gets made.

So, yes, I think they need to take a look at raising the minimum wage. However…

Raising the minimum wage isn’t going to fix the problems we have. There’s a limit to how much it can be raised before we start to see a trend toward the negative. I enjoy going to McDonald’s, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, and pretty much everywhere else except Taco Bell. Am I willing to pay a little more for my value meal if it means someone is going to keep their lights on? Absolutely.

But there will come a point when I think to myself, “Holy shit! Those chicken nuggets better give me a massage before I eat them for that price.” When that happens, I’ll go out to eat less and less. And so will you. When we go out to eat less, restaurants close or reduce the number of employees. Then we’re back at square one.

We need more jobs. Good jobs. The ones that disappeared overseas, we need them back. People rail against Wal-Mart because they’re huge, closely held by a small number of family members, and when something goes wrong, it’s incredibly public and awful. But let’s remember, Target, Walgreens, Macy’s, and Hot Topic aren’t non-profits either. These people are in business to make money. That means that they cut hours so they don’t have to cover anyone’s insurance. They outsource jobs and buy goods made elsewhere because it’s cheaper. It freaks me out that the frozen chicken nuggets I love so much are probably coming from China. Seriously? We can’t make those bad boys in the US?

What we fail to realize is that we, the consumer, are the problem. It’s a simple situation of economics – if demand rises, so does supply. We demand these things, so they provide them. It’s as simple as that. It’s hard to not buy products from China since it seems like everything is made there. But, if we made a conscious effort to buy less made overseas, we might make a difference.

If we bought secondhand instead of buying everything new, we might make a difference.

If we actually paid attention to elections and voted for candidates who were going to do something to help us, instead of helping big business, we might make a difference.

If we started pushing for our representatives to enact legislation that closed tax loopholes for businesses who export jobs overseas, we might make a difference.

If we told our representatives that we want to reward businesses who keep the jobs in the United States, we might make a difference.

If we started thinking about how much we consume and whether we actually needed all of it, we might make a difference.

If we spent money on those facing difficult times, instead of ourselves (do you actually need that $5 cup of coffee every day?), we might make a difference.

So I ask you this, how are YOU going to make a difference today? Tell me more ways that I can make a difference today.