On Abortion, Thoughtfully

(The opinions expressed below are mine alone; don’t get all grumpy at me – I’m just having a jumble of thoughts.)

“How can you be pro-choice if you were adopted?”

I get that question a lot.

I usually choose to answer it delicately (“delicately” is an interesting word choice, I know, given that I’m not prone to grace). I usually say that to me, pro-choice is not necessarily pro-abortion but rather, exactly as it says: pro-choice.

I believe that the choice is the most important part of the argument. Once you’ve stripped away the arguments about when life begins, what God intended, and so on, you’re left with one thing: a woman’s body.

Since I happen to be the owner of a female body (I quite like the model I’m in), I have expert, first-hand knowledge of what being a woman is. I do not, however, have knowledge of pregnancy or knowledge of having to make the choice: adoption, abortion, or raise the kid.

I believe that people who don’t have that knowledge should sit down and do some serious listening. They should listen to women who’ve had abortions; they should listen to mothers; they should listen to people who’ve given children up for adoption, as well as people who’ve adopted children; they should listen to women – women who aren’t yet pregnant, who might become pregnant, who’ve been pregnant, and otherwise. Each woman will tell you a different story.

On the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade, I think we’re all in need of some listening. Not just listening, but understanding. We need to understand that we cannot force our own personal beliefs on others, just because we believe that we’re correct in our thinking. We need to understand that the law has stood for 40 years for a reason. And we have to understand that abortion is not new. Abortion existed before you, and it will exist long after your body has returned to the earth.

I don’t think I could ever have an abortion. Were I to get pregnant (“fall pregnant,” as they say in South Africa), I’m old enough now that I could handle it (mostly). I’d also have the support system I needed: my mom is going to make an excellent grandmother some day and my brother is so great with kids. It should be noted here that none of my friends want kids, so I’m going to be that nervous, awkward, unkempt wallflower mom at the Mommy and Me class. (I went to one, once, in Illinois with the little guy I was babysitting – basically my favorite baby ever. He was very uncooperative and kept getting up and wandering and I kept getting judgmental looks from all the other “mothers.” Phew. Was so glad when the final song was over and we could book it out of the library.)

It’s not just a question of age, though. It’s more than that. There are other factors, including economic and social ones. I think that economic independence is a huge factor in whether or not a parent will decide to raise a child. In fact, now that I’m on the fence about having children of my own, I think that my decision will ultimately come down to whether or not I’ll be able to afford them.

(They’re hell on the pocketbook, in case you weren’t aware. They also make you statistically less happy, but contribute to a more meaningful life. Ugh, I’ll save weighing this decision until my biological clock is screaming at me to procreate. For now, it’s all conjecture. Besides, little kids are the cutest things. Until they get weird and hormonal and teenager-y.)

I’m going to throw this thought out there:

I believe that if we make abortion illegal, we will not be stopping abortions at all, but rather driving terrified pregnant women into a very dangerous underground. I don’t think that most people would describe themselves as “all for abortion,” even the most pro-life among us. I think that most people believe that an early abortion is best, if abortion is the choice.

I think that by attempting to seriously limit access to abortions (and birth control, too), an upsurge of which we’ve seen on the political stage in recent years, we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice. Huge.

It’s easy to protect life during gestation, but it’s a lot harder to do that once the child is born. I think that people who are so vehemently pro-choice ought to do some looking into how they can help the children of this earth who have been born into situations that they cannot control, but situations that no child should ever be in. It’s one thing to support the birth of a fetus, but it’s another to support a child until he or she turns 18. I think we as a society should start looking into how we can help the children that are already on this planet.

It’s hard, because for me this discussion always takes so many turns. Abortion as birth control? Not okay. Abortion as a life-saving measure? Totally okay. What about welfare for mothers who can’t afford the babies they’re going to be forced to have? What about the strain on the system – that most pro-lifers don’t even want to pay for? We’re not creating a better society by limiting access to reproductive services, up to and including abortion.

My ending argument is this: if a child that is not wanted is born into a family, is life going to be any better for them? Are they going to end up neglected, unloved, and potentially abused? Will they have access to education and friends and the things that they need? Will they have clothes on their backs and food on the table?

I was adopted. I was (am) loved. But that doesn’t mean that life is perfect or easy. Nothing is simple. There are complications from being adopted that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. There are complications that my birth mother has and will live with, and the same goes for my parents. Being adopted is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t make everything magically better. The same goes for having and raising a child. It doesn’t end at birth – that’s when it truly begins. (Oh man, I meant for that to sound ominous and heavy. That’s totally not me claiming that life begins at birth. Don’t think that.)

One of the most beautiful things about living in the United States is our freedoms. Freedom of expression, of speech, of religion: freedom to make the choices that will carry you through life. I love that we have the choice about what to do with a pregnancy, and I respect that so many women (and men) fought so hard to make sure that we would always have that choice.

 

 

On Statistics, Criminally

Yesterday’s Harvard Business Review Daily Stat (article abstract here) irked me, and I’m not sure why.

Car-wash attendants who cleaned the interiors of automobiles stole loose change 30% of the time, but the rate doubled if the driver had left a beer can and a racy magazine in the car, say Ronald Burns, Patrick Kinkade, and Michael Bachmann of Texas Christian University. The experiment suggests that you’re more likely to become a victim of petty crime if would-be criminals see you as more socially “deviant,” the researchers say.

 

 

 

 

 

I think it has to do with the fact that I disagree (at least, I think I do – this is a dumb statistic that lacks significant real-world application, even though they’d like you to believe that it’s totally applicable to all crime).

I’d also be curious to see what a study would say about how criminal car-wash attendants would react to my car. Chances are I wouldn’t even notice if anything got stolen, or that no car-wash attendant would go so far as to even disturb the clutter out of fear for their life. (This is why I rarely get car washes – I don’t want anyone random to see my clutter. It’s just like that scene in 50/50 all over again. When I got a flat tire last summer, the attendants at Discount Tire assured me they’d seen much worse, but I think they were lying because whenever I say that to someone, I’m lying through my teeth to preserve what dignity they have left. It’s just like, “It happens all the time.”)

But seriously, are criminals more likely to target criminals? What if it’s just that people who leave beer cans and porn in their car are more likely to have spare change lying around? I mean, that’s obviously not a clean car to begin with. And someone who forgets porn is probably more likely to forget their spare change. (Ew, but at that point, would you want to touch the spare change?)

It is true that you’re more likely to have crime happen to you if you’re involved in crime. If you’re a drug dealer, you’re more prone to being robbed or shot. As someone who probably has shady characters in and around your house at all hours of the night, you’re essentially welcoming an element of society that’s more prone to crime against you since they’re already involved in crime.

But as a criminal, does this prove that you have some semblance of a conscience, as shown by your choice of victims? Are you more discerning? Do nicer cars have better spare change?

I feel like this study begs more questions than it provides answers. Do nicer cars have less change because of the propensity to charge purchases? What does the amount of change in a car say about the driver’s spending habits? Will car-wash attendant theft decrease as we move away from being a cash-based society? Can we quantify criminal behavior just by looking at car-wash attendants? (Of course not, that was a dumb question.)

On Irony and Millennial Rage, Pointedly

I am a Millennial. I live in the age of technology, apathy, and stagnancy. I find myself, for some reason, oddly incensed when I read articles decrying the state of our Millennial generation and the effect we’ll have on the future.

One of my friends posted a link to a New York Times op-ed piece called “How to Live Without Irony” on his facebook wall. I, being the curious creature that I am, clicked on it. And I’ve been in a Millennial fury ever since.

The article focuses on irony as the “ethos of our age” and discusses hipsters as “the archetype of ironic living.” Before I even begin, I must state that I believe that the sort of hipster that the author, Ms. Wampole, is describing is a sort of hipster that we only see in stereotyped form – the sort of hipster that she imagines is the sort of hipster that died out the minute Urban Outfitters opened its first store, just as the emo movement of my teens trickled into black nothingness after a few years of outpourings of softened masculinity and affectation of grief stemming from the loss of nothing concrete.

(The cover image of the article shows two hip-looking twenty-somethings wearing Justin Bieber shirts, ironically. I know plenty of hipsters and I’ve never once seen a single one of them wearing any sort of pop star t-shirt, save for Ben, the South African grad student who owns a Britney Spears t-shirt but genuinely loves her. That’s not irony; that’s adoration.)

The author goes on to describe the acceptance of such an ironic life as being something easily mocked and lacking individuality, the ability to gift sincerely, communication skills, and an aversion to risk.

She’s right on the count that it’s easy to mock hipsters. But that’s not really a point. It’s easy to mock most groups, so long as you’re not a part of them. Ms. Wampole admits that the reason she’s so irked by hipsters is that “they are….an amplified version of me.” I’m not sure what she means by this, although she goes on to point out that she, just like hipsters, finds it hard to gift sincerely.

This is bullshit. Maybe you, Ms. Wampole, are just a terrible gift-giver. Yes, it’s terrifying to work really hard on a present that someone might hate, but that’s part of being alive. (Do you also not date because you’re afraid of rejection?) I know hipsters who gift-give insanely well – I own two eye patches and a pair of man-pants, neither given ironically, and all three things appreciated intensely.

I have no idea where the author is getting the idea that hipsters can’t gift sincerely. Oh, wait, perhaps she’s thinking Urban Outfitters, which is hipster gift central, but again, way too mainstream for authentic hipsters. (You’ll find them in the boutiques that I’m terrified to enter – because instead of finding acceptance and awesome things, I find condescending glares from the pierced staff and faces full of disgust.)

The teenagers who buy the brass knuckles mug for $17.99 (I’m making that price up) aren’t buying in to hipsterism and ultimately embracing irony as their ethos; they’re buying it because they want to feel badass. They want to feel adult. They want to feel like a unique consumer.

Same goes for the dude who’s in the Puma store buying a pair of sweet track shoes. Or the new bride in Anthropologie spending a ridiculous amount of her newly created joint back account on a bathrobe or a pretty, lace-lined dress. They want to feel unique. They want to exude the air of quality, or expensive taste, or maturity through purchasing power. Those people aren’t hipsters, or maybe they are. But it doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the ironic life that anyone is buying into.

This is in no way a new thing. Expression of self through material expression is the ultimate in statements. The fashion industry thrives not because we need couture. It thrives because the clothes we wear ultimately send signals to our peers about who and what we are.

Judith Butler (my favorite feminist theorist, don’t judge me) writes about a concept that I’ve hung on to: the idea that all individuals are always dressing in drag. This means, essentially, that what we wear and how we put ourselves together is all a performance. For example, I usually wear jeans and a sweatshirt to work. Today, I’m wearing dress pants and a nice shirt. My co-workers are all like, “Laundry day?” because me dressed up is usually my signal that it’s time to wash my clothes. But no, today I’m wearing dress pants because we’re closing on our house (eek!) and I want to give off the appearance that I’m totally calm and put together (I’m not).

Everything we do and own is performance, and I think the author would do well to remember that the idea of “heteronormative drag” goes much further than the Brooklyn hipsters.

It is my contention that the expression of irony through statement t-shirts, and other ironic, or potentially outdated fashions is merely a cultural commentary, and a rejection of the bubblegum pop materialism that we Millennials came of age in.  (Ms. Wampole seems to forget that fashion is cyclical – I would kill for some more vintage dresses. Think 50s housewife. The lines look good on me, and accentuate my almost non-existent curves. I don’t want them to make feminist statements; I want them because I feel good in them.)

I don’t think that it’s so much “nostalgia for times he never lived himself” so much as it is the rejection of consumerism as a whole – for example, the move toward bicycles signals a conscious attempt to provide quicker pedestrian transportation, particularly in cities. It’s practical and functional, and people want to deck out their bicycles the same way they want to put fuzzy dice in their cars (but shouldn’t).

I can’t (and won’t) speak to fixed-gear bicycles because they terrify me. My dad gifted me his 1973 road bike (with gears and brakes, thankfully) for my birthday a couple of years ago – not because I was feeling nostalgic for the damn time in which the bike was created, but because I rode on the bike when I was a baby; I think it’s sweet; and it was free. Perhaps they signal some sort of accomplishment, as in, “yeah, you see this baby, it has no brakes. I’m a badass.” Again, I think that’s what people really want. It’s the cycling equivalent of a Tesla Roadster.

I grew up in an age marked by plastic and glitter and things made of glittering plastic. I think that the hipster mentality is rooted in a desire to embrace the bright colors but simplistic design and clean lines of times past, when furniture was for function rather than overly artistic design for the sake of overly artistic design. (Think of McMansions and the glittering, faux-crystal chandeliers. It’s not that the hipster is rejecting quality, but they’re rejecting the pretense that “all that glitters is gold.”)

Of course, I must address mustaches. I’m personally terrified of facial hair. I think it’s weird. On some people, it looks great, but I don’t want to wake up next to the remnants of last night’s sweet handlebar mustache. I don’t want to date a guy who spends more time on his mustache than I do on my hair. I don’t get hipster mustaches. And I am critical of them. But heck, I’m critical of Bump-Its, too.

I think Ms. Wampole is correct when she says, “Throughout history, irony has served useful purposes, like providing a rhetorical outlet for unspoken societal tensions.” But she’s wrong to say that our “contemporary ironic mode is somehow deeper; it has leaked from the realm of rhetoric into life itself. This ironic ethos can lead to a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche.”

I do believe that outwardly, the display of the ironic is more present than at most points in history. But again, I contend that it stems from not only access to social media and all things internet-based and it also stems from a sort of cultural shift that’s happening. We’re frustrated and stagnant, and it seems that no amount of pushing and shoving is allowing this generation to get out of the critical gaze of our elders. I feel as though we can honestly do no right. I’ve attended webinars that focus solely on how to manage Millennials, webinars that criticize but neglect to touch on the benefits that we may have. We may lack social interaction skills, but I think that with enough mentoring and practice, we’d all be more than proficient. (I exchanged recipes with a middle-aged businessman at the last trade show I attended. I don’t think I sat there the whole time buried in my phone. I was terrified, but I stood, hands folded in front of me, smiling and making small talk. Success.)

(Something for middle-aged readers to remember: did you start out in middle-management? No? You started out as a kid in an ill-fitting suit who had no idea what was expected of you? Oh, really. Hmmm…perhaps you’d like to share your experiences and some tips with the young kids in your office. Perhaps you could each benefit from a relationship. I bet they’d be willing to teach you about a lot of things, not just pop culture references. I always say that one of the things I’m most grateful for is the fact that I’m the youngest by 18 years in my office. I’ve had such beautiful opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. And I’ve also contributed to the environment in which I work. I bring enthusiasm, perspective, and humor. I’d argue that we’ve all benefited.)

Is our move toward silly expression really just a reaction to the overwhelming burden that’s been placed on us? As a Millennial, I’m constantly met with statistics that are wildly incorrect. They tell me that I’m not civic-minded or politically engaged. These are distinctly false. I am both civic-minded and an informed voter. (I think the pollsters would do best to stop interviewing 18-year old high school graduates, for I think that all rational thought at 18 is not necessarily the rational thought that those same people will possess a mere five years later.) I’m constantly facing the news that I’m going nowhere, that I’m ill-prepared to lead a productive and sustainable life, that I’m vapid and moronic. I have news for you: I’m none of those things. And I resent it.

Perhaps I am a bit sensitive, the hallmark of my generation. We were so coddled and loved and adored, but that’s the fault of our parents, the generation that moved to the suburbs and embraced materialism as a marker of success and eschewed happiness in favor of social status. (Oh she’s shifting blame! Quick, get her!)

I’m not shifting blame entirely. I do know plenty of people who aren’t half as self-sufficient as I am. I know plenty of Millennials who lack the drive and focus. But can’t you say the same for people in your own generation?

Ms. Wampole describes us as a “self-infantilizing citizenry,” and I think she’s wildly incorrect. We are not that. We are driven, determined, and yes, stagnant. Our under-employment and over-educated minds are frustrated. Our loans are crippling and our credit scores sick with over-exertion and exhaustion. We work jobs and jobs and jobs, until we are exhausted, mentally and physically. And yet, we hope.

Just as Ms. Wampole says she did in the 90s (mind you, she’s really only 3 years removed from this pathetic generation of Millennnials and hipsters, so perhaps the fact that she sees some of us in her is based in proximity alone). We hope for better for ourselves. Not necessarily materialistically better, but better. We hope for many things – a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a solid 401(k); a peaceful, sustainable future for our own children (should we choose to procreate). None of these things vary that drastically from the hopes of generations before us, but the messages are so mixed these days, it’s hard to tell if we’re headed in the right direction.

She also discusses the archetype of her own generation, “the slacker who slouched through life in plaid flannel, alone in his room, misunderstood. And when we were bored with not caring, we were vaguely angry and melancholic, eating antidepressants like candy.” I’m not sure how this differs from the current hipster archetype. I’d like to argue that her generation’s slacker has become the hipster of mine. The aimlessness we feel somewhat resembles that of the Lost Generation, the generation who struggled to find meaning, who struggled in a post-war world, who lacked the solid foundations of a future, yet who desired so much to discern meaning from their circumstances.

We need to stop writing off the hipsters or the Millennials, or both singularly, as being unintelligent and uninformed. We need to stop criticizing them for this mess – the current social atmosphere is far more charged and reactionary than you might be inclined to believe.

The friend who posted the article responded to my comment taking offense to Ms. Wampole’s assertion of our insincerity through ironic expression saying that he felt that the author’s intent was not to go after hipsters and that irony can undermine sincerity and authenticity. He’s wrong about her intent: she’s a hipster-hating human who doesn’t have any clue what she’s talking about since she’s locked in the ivory tower of academia – it’s a very sheltered world, and I often find that when theoretical thinking is not paired with real-world experiences, it tends to become a shade too intense and unrealistic.

He’s right about irony undermining sincerity and authenticity. I personally strive to be the most authentic person I can be. I love sincerity and truth and understanding and the trust that can be fostered through honest communication. But I also think that since truth and trust are difficult for some to embrace, irony can serve a purpose.

I think that plenty of identity formation can stem from negation. Think of it as “I am not this, therefore I am something else.” Granted, it’s a much broader approach, but finding out what you dislike or reject can lead to some very necessary self-exploration that perhaps you may not have done otherwise.

I will concede that irony, like all things, is best in moderation.

On Entitlements, Defensively

I’m annoyed (oh man, what’s new?).

One of my absolute favorite teachers from high school posted a Facebook status about hearing he could quit his job teaching because he could get government handouts that total more than he makes per year. Cue the slew of comments from people advocating for people who work and decrying the lazy poor. And for people only deserving to earn money for the work that they do, and comments suggesting that people are lazy, and we live in a sick country dependent on handouts.

This is untrue. How do I know this? It’s no secret that I work my ass off. But there was a time when I made significantly less than I do now. And during that time, there was a lot of panic. Sometimes, I’d stare at my bank account and wonder how I was going to make that last me the entire month, with rent, bills, insurance, and gas and food. It goes fast.

So out of curiosity, I checked out government assistance. (Food stamps, bitch.) And guess what? I made too much to qualify for ANY of the assistance programs. (Not just food stamps, bitch.)

I started babysitting. And then I started freelancing. And then I started working at Dairy Queen. And I also got a raise or three at work.

I’m frustrated by the ideas tossed around – many of them lack any sort of basis in fact. Granted, there are a multitude of programs that fall under the umbrella of government assistance. Stafford loans, unemployment, Medicare/Medicaid, etc. And yes, there are people who are ridiculously dependent on the government without the expectation that they should have to work for it. But there are also people who need the help that they get.

I’m frustrated that the dialogue here is so critical. I’m frustrated that instead of focusing on the cause of the poverty and need in our nation, we have created a system that doesn’t allow for equal opportunity, that has magnified the cyclical situation of the working poor, that divides our nation into socio-economic groups, and so on. We’re reaping the “benefits” of an economic clusterfuck that we’ve been complicit in creating.

I harp on this all the time, but it’s because I really do see it as a barrier to progress: our societal devaluation of various types of labor has created the situation we’re in and it’s simply not sustainable. Gone are the days when someone could begin a career and work up through the ranks of a company. They may not have been wealthy, but the idea of a pension and a comfortable retirement was possible. The dream of owning a home and putting food on the table was a reality.

Now, we are forced into a hyper-competitive (and unrealistic) model of unattainable career advancement. The white-collar workforce has become an oppressively elitist segment of society, neglecting to remind themselves that their luxury cars had to be built by a laborer – someone who possesses skills they themselves most likely don’t have.

Personally, I wasn’t cut out for manual labor (apparently a lack of muscles makes me unfit for jobs that require them). Or the daily grind of a statistician (lack of mathematical prowess and logical thinking disqualifies me). Instead, I work at a job that suits my own strengths. It’s high time that we reminded ourselves that any society needs variety – variety of skill sets and variety in life. But the fact that one person runs a company and another wires houses or fixes clogged toilets does not mean that any person is of any greater value than the next. (Trust me, no amount of luxury cars in a garage is going to fix your overflowing toilet. There’s no app for that.) (There probably is an app for that.)

The discussion now focuses on the stereotype that the poor are lazy, which is something I’d love to put to the test. Let’s take your $70k/year job and pay you $12/hour for it. Let’s say that what you do isn’t worth that much. Let’s see you have to deal with not only the aching muscles, but the condescending tone of customers that so much resemble you by day. (Yeah, I get this a lot at Dairy Queen – somehow, my uniform and position behind the counter make me open to belittling, yet when I pass these same people on the street dressed in my professional attire, they open doors for me and say hello. Curious, isn’t it?)  Let’s see how you cope. Let’s see how good you are at balancing your budget, at cutting coupons, at working 14 hour days to feed your family. After you’ve spent time being part of the working poor, I’d love to hear you talk about entitlements and handouts. (Better yet, I’d love it if you’d start your arguments with facts instead of conjecture.)

Oh, and while I’m the subject of entitlement, let’s tax the shit out of capital gains. Sorry. If my $14/hour job gets taxed at a certain rate and your millions in interest and dividends don’t count, I have every right to spit your own arguments back at you. Entitled? Yeah, I think I am. I’m entitled to same services you, services such as education, roads, and police. The services that my tax dollars pay for. The services that you expect but don’t want to pay for.

I’m not saying that our government or economy or society are in a good place. They’re not. They’re corrupt. They’re every bit as corrupt as the governments we criticize. But to attempt to deny people things that they are entitled to, especially if they work and work and still can’t make enough to make ends meet, is a travesty.

I urge you to reexamine the way the you treat other people. All people. Poor. White. Black. Rich. I urge you to think about the advantages that you had. My advantages? Education. I come from a family that put education first and foremost. And I was very lucky to have the help and assistance and support that I did. I want to use my gifts to give back to my community. I want to use my gifts to help empower all people – and to give them the gifts that I had, and ultimately, give everyone a chance to make the life they want.

I don’t support handouts to people who don’t deserve them, and I do think that often, the idea of handouts leads to a dependence on them and a perpetuation of a problem that couldn’t have been solved with assistance in the first place. But I think that everyone in our society deserves the chance to live a life that’s fruitful and happy. In order to create a sustainable future for all of our citizens, not just the rich white ones, we need to come together as a people and do some serious reevaluation of our principles. Perhaps some moral compass re-calibration is necessary, too.

Just a thought.

On the Road Trip to Albuquerque, Excitedly

We set off to spend a weekend geeking out over “Breaking Bad” in Albuquerque, the trip we’d planned on our first date. This was officially our tenth date, but it was so much more than that. It’s been so much more than that.

If you’ve never seen it, “Breaking Bad” is a show on AMC about a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth because he’s been diagnosed with cancer and he wants to provide for his family. It’s an incredibly well-done show. It really asks a lot of “what if” questions that you’d never think to ask yourself and brings morality into focus. It’s well-written and it pulls at my heart in ways I never thought television could. (But then again, I cry at Google commercials, so it’s a given that I’m going to cry at this.)

I-25 to Albuquerque

I was so excited to spend a weekend away. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, with work and the impending home purchase, so the promise of a relaxing weekend (three whole days off!) was almost more than I could bear. Matt and I have been communicating constantly since we met, but our dates are relegated to the weekends due to our jobs and the distance between us, so the thought of spending 72 hours with him was both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

We stayed at the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque (great AAA rate!). It was lovely – the hotel used to be a hospital, but was redone a few years ago. It’s clean, bright, and gorgeous. The hot tub is open 24 hours a day! We made sure to get as much hot tub time as possible in. The first night, they had a party at the rooftop bar, which got to be annoying. The guy working the front desk said that one guest had called to complain, saying that he would come down in his underwear and start yelling. That thought made me laugh.  Our room was a corner room in a separate building, so we had tons of windows and a huge bathroom.

But seriously, who throws a Halloween party on November 2nd? Albuquerque does. Apparently, they don’t let go of Halloween there – we were at a diner on Saturday and the waitress asked us if we had enjoyed Halloween. Very strange.

Saturday morning, we started our adventure. Matt was adorable and made us the sweetest map ever – he pinned all of the filming locations that we wanted to visit (I found the locations on a blog and sent him the link) and then added pictures and the physical addresses of each.

The first stop was the Crossroads Motel, which actually wasn’t on our map. We happened to drive by it on our first night in Albuquerque. (Oh, there was also an incident in which we attempted to get slices of pizza and were treated horribly by the manager after waiting more than 20 minutes only to be asked “Are you waiting for something?” by the girl who took our order. When we finally got a refund, the man snapped “I’m not refunding the Dr. Pepper!” Jeez, dude, chill. I didn’t ask for that. At that point, I just wanted like $5 in cash and I wanted to bail.)

We were standing in the parking lot of the motel when a man approached us, opened his wallet, and said, “DEA, what are you doing here?” Of course, he wasn’t from the DEA, but he was at the motel with his wife doing the same thing we were doing – taking pictures of filming locations. They were from Albuquerque, so we traded maps and chatted for a few minutes before moving on to the next stop: Jesse and Jane’s apartments.

One of the main characters is named Jesse Pinkman. He’s a small-time meth cook before he joins Walter White (the chemistry teacher) and their business expands. I love him, and one of my favorite story lines of the show is his star-crossed love affair with a recovering addict named Jane. They live side-by-side in a duplex, they fall in love, then (spoiler alert) she dies. It’s sad. But it’s beautiful. They are adorable together.

I knew that this was going to be my favorite spot, and it absolutely was. This was the site where I felt the most connected, not necessarily to the show, but to all of the emotions that I felt while watching it and all of the emotions that I felt while standing there with Matt. (We have some adorable couple pictures all over this property that you’ll see once they’re edited and ready for viewing.)

Jesse Pinkman's apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

(Jesse ends a lot of his sentences in the word “bitch.” It’s his way of emphasizing something. When I originally posted these, I posted them with the caption, “Jesse Pinkman’s apartment, bitch!” just because it felt like the right thing to do.)

Jesse Pinkman, apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

When we got to Walter’s house, we walked around the block, holding hands and chatting. (The curbs are seriously high in that neighborhood. I would destroy Simon. I’m very glad I don’t live there – I was driving Matt’s car, and when I parked, I purposefully parked about a foot off the curb so I wouldn’t take any chances of hitting the curb with his car!)

It was surreal.

There’s a scene in the show where the teacher, Walt, gets angry and throws a pizza on his roof, so apparently at one point, the family who lives in the house had to put out a sign that said “Please don’t throw pizzas on our roof.” Imagine going outside every day and having to get pizzas off your roof. I bet they clog the gutters and get annoying pretty quickly. (Still not the worst thing that could happen to your house after it’s been used as a filming location, though.)

Walter White's house, Breaking Bad, meth, Albuquerque

This is us posing in front of Walter’s house, but you can’t tell.

Hank and Marie (the chemistry teacher’s DEA agent brother-in-law and his wife) live in this insanely gorgeous neighborhood. Better than their house was the park nearby – we got out and hiked around and I got to climb on some rocks!

We also got to go to the Chicken Man’s restaurant! (In the show, there’s a super awesome meth dealer named Gus who owns a chain of chicken restaurants, so I call him the Chicken Man. In real life, the chicken restaurant is a real restaurant. We went and I got a soda.) It was amazing. We also went to the Octopus car wash – I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them from Matt.

Leaving was such sweet sorrow. We woke up, fully intending to go take more pictures near this gorgeous wooded area we’d seen the day before, but ran out of time and instead headed to Santa Fe. We had lunch there, walked around the Cathedral, stopped at Trader Joe’s (wine! chocolate covered cherries! chocolate covered pretzels! tea! pumpkin yogurt!) then headed back to Denver so that I could be home at a reasonable hour to be ready for work today.

On the whole, I would not return to Albuquerque willingly, unless you promised me that we could stop at Olo Yogurt Bar – where I had red velvet frozen yogurt topped with strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, gummy bears, and chocolate sprinkles. The city itself is stuck in the past – they have Furr’s cafes and lots of old neon. We didn’t really see much revitalization, but the neighborhoods that we found ourselves in were absolutely lovely. So perhaps there’s still a bunch of Albuquerque that we’re missing.

The hotel was amazing. The continental breakfast was Matt’s least favorite part, but I found it to be par for the course (they had me at Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Earl Grey tea). The shampoo was his favorite part. My favorite part? Hot tub. Sheets. Quarantine signs when you wanted privacy (a nod to the hotel’s beginnings as a hospital). We laughed when they talked about the “nurse’s quarters” because the building had a smokestack next to it…obviously not nurse’s quarters.

It was the best tenth date ever.

Denver, Albuquerque, I-25

 

I’ll post more pictures soon!

And note to everyone: VOTE! Tomorrow is election day and if you want the right to bitch for the next four years, you absolutely must vote tomorrow so you can at least say you did your part.

obama 2012, i voted, sticker, colorado,

I, of course, voted for Obama last week. Here’s hoping I won’t have to spend the next four years bitching. (According to Nate Silver’s newest forecast, I should breathe easy because it looks like Obama’s going to take the election easily. You can find Nate Silver and his election forecast on the Five Thirty Eight blog at http://www.nytimes.com.)

Nate Silver election forecast

But seriously – I care more about you voting than who you vote for. (I mean, that’s totally a lie, but I will find it even harder to respect you if you don’t vote than if you voted for someone I think you should in no way logically support.)

On Fall, College, and Debates, Randomly

I’m totally embracing fall today. I’m wearing my lumberjack plaid shirt (which got complimented at the grocery store by two really burly-looking dudes, so that made me feel pretty badass), I drank a pumpkin spice latte (work perks), and I’m relishing the leaves that are suddenly everywhere (Colorado got really windy last night, so now there are leaves on lawns, leaves in the streets, leaves on the sidewalks, and so on). I even changed my Gmail theme so that the background is a wonderful vision of red, yellow, and green leaves.

Yay, fall! It’s still sunny and bright, so I’m not even thinking about the ice scraping hell that is yet to come. Right now, I love the weather. I love the leaves. I am craving a pumpkin carving session. I want to make spiced cider and wear striped socks.  It’s still warm, so I’m still looking forward to wearing my coat – although somehow between last week and now, I’ve managed to mislay my brand new black pea coat. Hrm…..looks like the hunt is on.

Where does one leave a pea coat? It’s not in my car (although my gray one is, along with the black one that I am dissatisfied with. I keep it in there to wear when I go to bars so in case someone steals it, they’re actually doing me a favor instead of ruining my evening). It might be in my house (this is a constant problem since 80% of my clothing is black – I can never find anything when I need it). It might be at my mom’s house. It is. It’s hanging in her kitchen closet because I didn’t get it after dinner last week. Boom! Thank you, logic and desperate recollection.

***

I fall asleep while watching tv on my computer, usually. It’s my way to calm down after the day, but also my way to keep abreast of current pop culture stuff. I usually choose The Daily Show or The Colbert Report because they’re 21 minutes (ish), they’re light-hearted, and I don’t have to follow anything other than the sound of their voices as I drift off. Also, Carlos seems to enjoy them, too. He curls up with me and lays his head so he can see the screen. I have no idea if he’s watching or if he’s just comfortable that way, but I won’t complain.

But the other night, I chose one of the new episodes of Modern Family. I’ve written about the show before, mostly because if it’s a good episode, I will have cried at least once by the end. (Not cried like melted down and sobbed, but teared up and/or felt at least one tear drip down my cheek.) The show is silly, but I do think that they have some really poignant moments. And that’s what I’m all about – the humor blended with the absolute certainty of reality of life.

So….the oldest daughter is going to college. The move-in process was really not one of the show’s finer moments, but the scene where the parents have gone really got to me. The daughter is shown wandering around the cafeteria, alone, as the parents drive home. She calls her parents later, when she’s back in her room. And the parents are holding back tears and so is the daughter. Of course, my heart just cracked and spilled over and tears ran down my face – enough to annoy the cat.

I’ve written about my college drop off a hundred times. It was horrible. My uncle and cousin were kind enough to accompany my mom and brother to Chicago. We got my stuff moved in. And the first night, they were still in the city. Over breakfast before they left – at a place that did not have sides of fruit available for purchase – I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I’ll repeat, just for emphasis, it was horrible. I’m not even embarrassed. My uncle does a really funny impression of me begging, “I’ll go to DU, I swear! Take me with you!” (Funny now, not so funny then.) And then I cried for the next three days. The first night, my roommate came back into our room and declared – oddly gleefully – that there was a bulimic on our floor because she’d heard some girl throwing up. (That girl was me. Not a bulimic. It was tear-induced vomiting.) After those first few days, I was more or less fine and proceeded to fall in love with Chicago. But watching the tv parents drive away in their van, and the girl alone in her room brought it all back, just for a minute. That’s how you make good television.

I also laughed out loud at the gay/lesbian Venn diagrams they made with their arms. I laughed hard enough to annoy the cat, who apparently doesn’t find gay/lesbian human Venn diagrams amusing at all.

Last night, I fell asleep while watching Breaking Bad. Then the boy/man/romantic interest – ugh, we’ll just call him by his actual name because I am sick of writing “he” – Then Matt called, and my sleeping self told him that it was very windy and then went back to sleep. (Sleep Katie is very productive – she answers the phone, she responds to emails and texts, and she talks. Last week it was about towels and cat food – obviously very pertinent and totally normal things.)

***

The debate last night. I don’t care what side you support, or who you think won, but I’ve been very much enjoying all of the internet uproar about the whole thing.

Like this, which made me laugh out loud:

Binders full of women My roommate got pregnant our freshman year of college, and now has an adorable five-year old daughter. She’s single, a teacher, a mother, and a beautiful human being. She was indignant about Romney’s answer to the AK-47 question (as was I), and rightly so. It reminded me of my junior year of high school when our Morality teacher told us that single parent households were against God’s plan…I told him that I was being raised in a single parent household (at that point, I was living with just my mom, and it was by choice). His response? “Would you want your kids raised that way?” Personally, I think I turned out just fine. And I don’t own any weapons, assault or otherwise.

Also, the best facebook status of the night, posted by one of my brother’s friends: “Apparently, guns don’t kill people, single parents do.”

On Rape, Legitimately

Earlier this week, Representative Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri, was discussing his views on abortion when he said, “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s [pregnancy from rape] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Understandably, a bunch of people flipped out. We’re not talking “take shelter until this blows over” freak out, we’re talking intense, election losing freak out, and rightfully so.

Just for the record, the body does not have any “ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” What methods does Mr. Akin imagine the female body might have to avoid pregnancy? I’m curious. Click here for an article discussing the science behind rape and pregnancy. You’ll note that around 32,000 pregnancies occur as a result of rape each year.

So, realizing that this comment wasn’t just going to be hidden under the rug, Mr. Akin responded. From the New York Times:

Mr. Akin quickly backtracked from his taped comments, saying he “misspoke.”

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year,” Mr. Akin, who has a background in engineering and is a member of the House science committee, said in a statement. “I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life, and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

 

I highly doubt that’s going to make it any better, Mr. Akin.

As a country, we spend an awful lot of our time and energy discussing and fighting about abortion, but I’m not entirely sure that we spend enough time trying to understand abortion. If you’re feeling curious, why not go over here and check out some stats?

But let’s skip the abortion debate, because we’ll get trapped into that abyss of conversation and lose our way.

Let’s talk about rape.

I am guilty of spending a large part of my life believing that rape was just uncomfortable, like bad sex. I didn’t understand. I still don’t, since it’s not something I’ve experienced, but I have a much better idea now.

I knew about rape as a child because I spent so much time buried in magazines like Time, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest. During the 90s, I feel like there were a lot of news stories focusing on rape – particularly during and after political conflicts and wars abroad. That, coupled with the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal, really cemented the idea of the vulnerability of women during times of war and the idea that rape is tied in with power and masculinity.

But my understanding of rape was still clinical and journalistic. It wasn’t until I was ten or eleven or twelve (somewhere in there), and received a book of murder mysteries for Christmas that I started to understand. In one of the stories, there was a rape and murder of a young girl. I won’t go into detail. It was graphic. It terrified me. I wrapped the book and hid it in the bottom of my desk drawer because every time I looked at it, I had nightmares. That was my first visceral reaction to the idea of rape.

Then came high school, followed by college. We were in a feminist class, I think, and the professor showed this scene from the movie A Time to Kill, which really put it in perspective for me. I don’t know why it was this that did it, or why it’s haunted me ever since, but in that moment, somewhere in a dark classroom, I felt my heart tear open and begin to ache as the understanding spread through my body to settle deep inside my mind.

Rape is not just bad sex. Rape is destructive, violent, painful, terrifying, and scarring. We as a society do so little to protect and comfort victims. You’ll notice that it’s comments like this one by Mr. Akin, or the one by the officer in Toronto who said that women should avoid dressing like sluts to avoid being raped, that really set us off. They’re the comments that create awareness, promote discussion, and prompt change.

But even so, the change comes too late for so many. The rapists take shelter in the gray areas of the law, and often walk away without having to face consequences due to lack of evidence, or a “he said, she said” argument. Rape is covered up, hidden, made a secret. The victims are left shattered and alone, abandoned by their peers due to lack of understanding and social stigmatization.

Instead of working to protect the result of rape, why are we not working to end rape? Why are we not trying harder to educate our children about the consequences of rape, about the actual definition of rape, about date rape, about assuring consent? Why are we not working to provide a save haven for victims? Why are we not working to end the shaming that we put on the shoulders of victims?

I was the result of a one-night stand. I could just as easily have been the result of a rape. Am I glad that I exist? Of course. But imagine what might have happened to my birth mother had she struggled to support herself and her child (baby me!). Where would we be now?

Something that these lawmakers (so often male) neglect in their utter dismissal of the magnitude of rape as a crime is also the magnitude of the aftermath. Personally, if I were to be raped and become pregnant, I would be furious if I were to be suddenly expected not only to carry that child to term, but then take on the financial burden of raising that child. Would I be able to be the best mother possible for that child? Would I be able to provide for us adequately? Would I need social services like welfare to help me?

Let’s not regress to where we’re arguing about what counts as “legitimate” rape. Let’s focus on eliminating rape. Let’s focus on providing services to the victims. Let’s move forward. Let’s provide choices and options, but most importantly, let’s remember that rape victims are so much more than their reproductive organs. They are people who deserve our respect, rather than our insistence that we not punish the child. (It’s an argument that gets made over and over again, along with “so and so was the result of rape, and look at them.”)

And for god’s sake, is this not THE prime example of why we need more science and sex education in schools?!

P.S. Check out these Onion articles. They’re sad, but pointed and definitely worth reading.

 

 

On Being a Twenty-Something, Defensively

I’ve had a blog since I was fifteen. I wrote posts on MySpace, I posted to (and obsessed over) my LiveJournal account, and finally, when I went away to college, I got a Blogspot to document adventures for my family. Three (give or take a few) iterations later, you have the present form of the same thing: a place on the internet to write about my life.

There is something so entirely humbling about reading back to a post that I wrote when I was little.

Stuff like:

“I stood there, in the company of many, but I knew so few.”

and

“I smiled, trying not to make eye contact. I’m sure my dejected look detracted from my approachability.”

or

“The drive home, in the cool night air, windows down, music up, was immense. No other cars on the road, just me and the night, speeding slowly home. I set the cruise control, just for fun, so that I could just be in the night. I was sixteen again, fresh with ideas, taking the turn to the song, letting the music take me elsewhere.
The lights in Denver have begun their countdown, a simple way of informing pedestrians of their impending restriction, and at night, the countdown simply hits zero and reverts back to the little light man walking. I found myself timing it so that as I drove, I’d be crossing the intersection as the change occurred, the ultimate end leading back to the same beginning.
There is nothing better than the promise of summer, no matter what life is holding for you at the moment, standing outside in the night and smelling the air will change your life. Floral scents intermingle with the city’s hot fresh air and the animals of the night seem to be more alive.
We saw a skunk mosey past, on his way somewhere fast. As I drove away into the night, rolling down the windows, I passed the skunk again, still running, still on the street, getting somewhere.
We’re all getting somewhere, even if we have no idea where we are.”

These posts become a place for me to mark my growth. They remind me that I’ve always been some things, and they reinforce that I’ve always been others. Sometimes I am struck by how insightful Past-Me is, and others, I cringe at her insecurity and wish her all the self-assurance in the world.

I’ve been reading posts about my generation. We’re the Millenials, the ones who are supported by their parents, who have no work ethic, who are vapid and shallow and marked by their sense of entitlement. All of those authors are so wrong.

Yes, we’re wallowing, wandering, lost, and afraid. (And yes, some of us are total dicks. But your generation had some not-so-pleasant people in it too, admit it.) What we were raised to see as our future is crumbling in front of us, as though arriving at the desert mirage to find more and more of same, too-hot sand. We’re thirsty. As I’ve said before, we’re the Next Lost Generation. We have no idea what to expect, because the expectations change daily.

Struggling to find the balance between youth and maturity is a difficult one, particularly when any move toward “grown-up” is criticized, and movements to remain “youthful” are equally stigmatized by both my peers and my age-superiors. What I find interesting is that many of these authors criticizing the Millenials are Millenials themselves.

I work three jobs and don’t get financial support (except health insurance premium – Mom, you’re the best), and I make it work. I have work ethic, drive, desire, and passion to create a sustainable and secure future for myself. I happen to enjoy a few gin & tonics and some dancing. So be it. Yeah, I get frustrated at my peers. I find people with no drive infuriating and weak. I am prone to the occasional meltdown of desperate wallowing.

But I’m also not wallowing for the sake of wallowing. This life is a journey. Right now, the age-superiors are controlling a large stake of this world that we live in. It’s hard to get past the entry-level job, it’s hard to ascertain whether or not our place is as adult-equal or child-mentee. It’s difficult. It’s like being seventeen again, being all lost and insecure and afraid.

The reason that there are so many twenty-somethings actively writing about their lives is because they’re finding an outlet.The internet has opened lines of communication that hardly existed twenty years ago, and has fostered equal parts community and isolation by “social networks.” Growing up with access to technology will change – has already changed – a lot of the ways that people example typical milestones. There’s a lot more comparison, more evaluation, but also less of each.

Pressure on young adults to be “perfect” is a very real thing. They want to succeed, and want to be able to do that, but are often so coddled and cared for that they lack the tools with which to do so. Or, alternately, they want to succeed but instead of being coddled and cared for, they’re tough enough to make it on their own but are constantly fighting external circumstances. It’s life, just like you lived it, just like your kids will live it. It’s just always a bit different.

Yeah, some of those blogs are insipid as all hell. Some are lame. Others are personal. Each blog inhabits its own space. It is exactly what it is. And I’ll tell you something that I always tell people: If you don’t like it, don’t read it.  (For those of you who think the Millenials are strange, you should delve into the world of middle-aged bloggers, some who are fascinating, wonderful creatures and others who are like reading something reminiscent of listening to nails along a mile-long chalkboard. The grass is always greener, dear Baby Boomers.)

My blog marks my growth from adolescent to young adult and beyond. I’m humbled by, grateful for, astonished by, embarrassed about, aware of, and immensely proud of everything, even the parts I hate. This blog, while both public-facing and well-trafficked, is an account of growth and the stages that mark a life. My life. It is meant to be self-pitying and triumphant in equal measures.

When I look back on my posts, I am able to mark the moments at which I grew and changed. I am able to see how my opinions and tastes have changed and grown. And I am  content to see how the journey has progressed thus far, and excited about the glorious future that awaits.

So, remember: If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Problem solved.

On the Supreme Court and Socialism, Quite Happily

I heard the news about the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care in the car on the way to work this morning. I am thrilled. We are one step closer to joining the ranks of the countries that have affordable health care. Now, if only we could get rid of that pesky “for profit” part…

The cries of socialism are ringing, though. On my way into my office building, a co-worker told me that one of the guys who eats breakfast was ranting about how we’re turning into a nation of socialists.

Hardly.

But it got me thinking about people, specifically. Our democratic model is supposed to allow for involvement by all citizens. Of course, the better educated and motivated the citizens are, the better the democracy, which in theory will work in the best interests of its people.

There was a man standing on the corner on my way to work. He caught my eye because his Hawaiian shirt did not match his checkered shorts. He was holding a sign that said, “Honest work for honest pay.” It also listed his phone number.

There’s another man, wearing some sort of identification badge (as a way to legitimize his request) who stands on the corner where I turn onto the main thoroughfare as I leave work. He’s there every day, even in the hot sun, and his sign says that he’s an Army veteran and a father of four, willing to work.

When I was a child, the signs read, “Anything helps,” or “I’m not going to lie, I need a beer,” and while I don’t mean to make light of the homeless epidemic that has been a problem for longer than I’ve been alive, which is entirely related to our own lack of mental health care -particularly for our veterans – and other necessary services, I find the fact that the signs’ messages have changed to be an indicator of a far deeper problem.

Who are we as a society to put profit before people? Have we forgotten about the “general welfare“?

When a baby is born, it is a helpless individual in need of constant attention. While most of these babies grow up to be adults, the paths that they take (both willfully and unwillingly) are greatly divergent from their shared beginnings as infants in need of clean diapers, a warm bed, and food.

Somewhere along the way, some of these people seem to have forgotten that our fragile existence is dependent upon reliance on others. Reliance on others sounds like hippie nonsense, but it’s not. Every individual possesses unique strengths that serve as an asset to the communities in which they live. A community that is able to utilize these assets in the best manner possible has far greater strength and is a far more vibrant place to be.

People are quick to make assumptions when they see someone standing on a street corner holding a sign that begs for work. I urge you to imagine how you would come to that decision. It’s not a dignified action, the begging, and people know that. They have weighed their options and come up with nothing, and so, standing on the corner with a sign is their last attempt.

Say what you will about people who receive assistance from the government (and in doing so, I urge you to consider the bailouts of banks and large corporations as something similar, just for perspective), but at the core of everything lies the concept of humanity. If we desire to create a society driven by the pursuit of sustainability and progress, we must remember that each and every citizen matters, regardless of their ability to accumulate wealth or their social standing.

In our rush to actualize the American dream, we started valuing white collar jobs, and in doing so, began to devalue labor. Human labor is a necessary force for sustained growth and the success of a nation. People want to work. They want to feel as though their work matters.

Business can be successful when people matter, but the desire to drive the profit margin ever higher must cease. I work for a company that proves that human is more important than anything else. We have been providing software for decades (longer than I’ve been alive), and have maintained and grown the business without sacrificing the integrity of the people who work here. My boss always says, “We are not what we do,” and he lives by that. He once had to get up in the middle of a very important demonstration of our product to go attend to his family, and he did so without hesitation. I respect that.We work together, as a community. We share ideas, inspirations, and celebrate the good news. We are a support network during times of grief and sadness. This is a unique kind of company, and I’m glad I work here.

I’m arguing for or against socialism, but I’m arguing that as a country, we’ve begun to neglect of the most important facets of our society: our people.

The United States is no longer the greatest nation in the world. What we lack in education, human services (including health care), and global respect, we make up for in incarceration rates, defense spending, and bravado. In order to keep ourselves relevant on the world stage, we must learn to compromise between the corporation and the individual. We are a government “by the people, for the people,” and it’s time that we started remembering that.

 

From the NYT: The Flight From Conversation

I love newspapers. I love news. I love reading and folding and crinkling the paper. (I also hate that, too. The cumbersome folds, the awkward holding, the way you can never quite get the paper to rest comfortably while you eat breakfast….)
I have never had my own subscription to a newspaper. It’s too damn expensive.

Why pay $20/month for a digital subscription to the NYT when I can just follow their twitter feed and access links via social media for free? Sure it cuts down on my reading, but it also cuts down on my bills, and for that, I’m grateful.

Someday, I’ll have a subscription to the newspaper. It will be real. Somebody will have to hurl it at my doorstep every morning. I’ll hear the thump and be reminded that I’ve arrived at full adulthood. I’ll gleefully smear ink across my fingers as I turn the thin pages. I’ll glance at the advertising sections and clip out coupons that I’ll never use. (Future me would love 20% off of this new magical pore-reducing, ultra-moisturizing calming cream! I’ll think.) I’ll check the obituaries to see if there’s anyone I know. I’ll look at the weather in Chicago, in New York, in Cape Town. I’ll read the calendar of upcoming events. I’ll tsk at the rising crime in the neighborhoods, I’ll worry for the future of our schools, I’ll laugh at poorly written op-ed pieces (and then, of course, I’ll be the one writing letters to the editor).

(That jubilant scene will actually only happen like once a week. Mostly, the paper just end up in the recycling pile or in my kids’ homework assignments.)

Anyway, we’ve got a ways to go before we get there, so in the meantime, here’s this:

OPINION

The Flight From Conversation

Photographs by Peter DaSilva and Byron Smith, for The New York Times
By SHERRY TURKLE
Published: April 21, 2012

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.

Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, “I am thinking about you.” Or even for saying, “I love you.” But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view.

FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.”

And we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. These days, social media continually asks us what’s “on our mind,” but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It’s hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect.

As we get used to being shortchanged on conversation and to getting by with less, we seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether. Serious people muse about the future of computer programs as psychiatrists. A high school sophomore confides to me that he wishes he could talk to an artificial intelligence program instead of his dad about dating; he says the A.I. would have so much more in its database. Indeed, many people tell me they hope that as Siri, the digital assistant on Apple’s iPhone, becomes more advanced, “she” will be more and more like a best friend — one who will listen when others won’t.

During the years I have spent researching people and their relationships with technology, I have often heard the sentiment “No one is listening to me.” I believe this feeling helps explain why it is so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed — each provides so many automatic listeners. And it helps explain why — against all reason — so many of us are willing to talk to machines that seem to care about us. Researchers around the world are busy inventing sociable robots, designed to be companions to the elderly, to children, to all of us.

One of the most haunting experiences during my research came when I brought one of these robots, designed in the shape of a baby seal, to an elder-care facility, and an older woman began to talk to it about the loss of her child. The robot seemed to be looking into her eyes. It seemed to be following the conversation. The woman was comforted.

And so many people found this amazing. Like the sophomore who wants advice about dating from artificial intelligence and those who look forward to computer psychiatry, this enthusiasm speaks to how much we have confused conversation with connection and collectively seem to have embraced a new kind of delusion that accepts the simulation of compassion as sufficient unto the day. And why would we want to talk about love and loss with a machine that has no experience of the arc of human life? Have we so lost confidence that we will be there for one another?

WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.

When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.

Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”

So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.

I am a partisan for conversation. To make room for it, I see some first, deliberate steps. At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars “device-free zones.” We can demonstrate the value of conversation to our children. And we can do the same thing at work. There we are so busy communicating that we often don’t have time to talk to one another about what really matters. Employees asked for casual Fridays; perhaps managers should introduce conversational Thursdays. Most of all, we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.

I spend the summers at a cottage on Cape Cod, and for decades I walked the same dunes that Thoreau once walked. Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices.

So I say, look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.

Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 22, 2012, on page SR1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Flight From Conversation.

source: The New York Times