Sunday, July 14, 2013

Narwhal Spotting: Orange is the New Black


I'd like to say I've had another productive weekend of writing, networking, and fighting against the patriarchy. Ya know, typical weekend stuff.  

Spoiler Alert: I didn't nail it.

But that would be a big fat lie.

I've been binge-watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix. And I think I found my new favorite show.

OITNB tells the story of Piper, a preppy, upper class New Yorker who is sentenced to 15 months in prison on a decade-old drug trafficking charge.

Based on the eponymous memoir by Piper Kerman, the show follows our heroine as she arrives at and acclimates to life in Litchfield prison. 

And guess what? Girlfriend is a narwhal!

Piper is engaged to Larry, played by Jason Biggs. (Sidebar: every guy I dated in college and my early twenties looked like Jason Biggs. What can I say, I know my way around a Jewish fraternity!)

Would you like to accompany me to the AEPhi mixer?

But prior to Larry, Piper was in a relationship with Alex (Laura Prepon), a rockabilly, drug smuggling lesbian who is also serving time at Litchfield.

Free Donna Pinciotti!

In the pilot episode, Piper tells her family that she "used to be a lesbian." Yawn...we've seen this character before.

 But hold off on the sad trombone solo.

Unlike other shows that whitewash and downplay a bi character's same-sex relationships, OITNB doesn't treat this as a passing phase. 

Praying for a decent bisexual storyline.

We see flashbacks of Piper and Alex's relationship, and it's given the same depth and weight as her relationship with Larry.

That, in and of itself, is pretty groundbreaking. 

A bisexual lead character who, while she may not self identify as such, is rare. And a show that treats this identity with consideration and respect is exceedingly rare. Todd VanDerWerff from The A.V. Club articulates it perfectly: 

"Orange Is The New Black is also wonderfully insightful and complex when it comes to sex, notably Piper’s complicated sexual history. The crime that landed her in prison was smuggling drug money to help the girlfriend she had straight out of college (Laura Prepon). Though Piper is now engaged to a man and about to open the most upper-class white person business one could think of (selling designer soaps), her complicated, dangerous past and her lesbian relationship aren’t treated as flings. They’re treated as integral parts of her being that she’d hoped to set aside but finds resurfacing once she’s in prison and forced to confront the full weight of her past. Bisexual women are too often presented in fiction as women who are simply waiting to meet the right guy, but Orange Is The New Black understands how complicated this all can be. Piper really loved her ex-girlfriend; she really loves Larry. Both of those emotions are genuine, and neither is more genuine than the other. Her stint in prison, then, becomes less about owning up to something she did and more about accepting who she was and still is, in all its messy pieces. "

People are losing their minds over this show and it's easy to see why. It's an unparalleled, complicated look at the lives of women: women of varied ethnicity,  social class, body type, sexuality and gender presentation. It's a show that passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. The already overwhelming response shows something we've all known for awhile.

Women's stories need to be told. And people need to hear them. 
Bertolt Brecht said, "art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” 

Who needs a hammer when you have a contraband screw driver?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Current Working Rules for Relationships

 I am a work in progress. Here is the progress report.

What I Want From a Relationship, in No Particular Order:

I want to live a big life, full of adventure.
 I want to travel. 
I want to feel free. 
 I don’t want to lose myself in compromise but I want to respect what you want to do as well.
 I want to do things that scare me. 
 I want to be who I am at all times. 
I want to be in the present. 
I don’t want to feel guilt for things I cannot change.
 I don’t want to fix things that don’t need fixing.
 I don’t want to feel inadequate, even if I am. 
I don’t want to make decisions based in fear.
 I don’t want to be stifled.
 I don’t want to be molded. 
I want to be respected. 
I want things that are just mine.
 I want you to have things that are just yours. 

Promises I Will Try to Keep, in no Particular Order:

 I will no longer be afraid of rocking the boat or starting shit.
 I will fight fair.
 I will love fiercely and faithfully. 
I will recognize that not all of my needs can be met in a single, solitary person, nor can theirs within me. 
I don’t want either of us to have to give up the things we love and cherish and value because of what the other might think or fear about them. 
I don’t want us to change in ways we don’t want to change. 
I don’t want to be told what to do, unless I’m doing something the wrong way. 
Then tell me. 

On Raising Children, if it Happens:

 I don’t want to raise our children to believe that  all rules/authority should not be questioned. 
A little rebellion is a good thing.
 They will rebel from us, in new and interesting ways that haven’t even occurred to us.  
I don't want our children to think they are born with some sort of original sin or source of guilt about themselves or their bodies.  
I do not want to make the mistakes my parents made. 
I do not want to make the mistakes your parents made. 
I want us to be honest with each other when we think the other is making mistakes with our kids. 
I don’t want to fight in front of our kids, but accept that it will probably happen at some point. 
I want to be honest with our kids.
 I want us to expect the best from our kids, whatever that may be. 
I want them to have the freedom to be themselves. 
If they want to dress as Jedi knights or pretty pretty princesses I want them to be able to…but they can’t run around naked if we are going out/have company. 
Also, even Jedi knights can’t bring their lightsabers to the dinner table.
 I want discipline without oppression.
 I want good manners, respect, and no back-talking. I
 want to trust them to make the right decisions when they reach that age. 
I want to expose them to the big beautiful and scary world.
On Monogamy:

I will be attracted to other people. 
That’s just biology. 
Don’t take it personally.
 I will not act on it, out of love, respect, and satisfaction with you. 
I will not be a dick about it in front of you and go “woo, look at how hot that girl/guy is!” because that is poor form. 
I will do everything in my power to ensure that you feel loved and secure…but you need to feel that way about yourself as well. 
There will always be insecurity on both sides and we will just have to deal with it. 
I promise, we will deal with it.
I will keep open communication with you.
I will be transparent with you.
 But please don’t try to know everything.
 I’m allowed my secrets and you are allowed yours. 
These don’t have to be big scary secrets.
 They are just little things that are allowed to be just yours or just mine.  

 I will take care of myself. 
  I will take care of you, if you let me. 

What The Fuck Is A Narwhal?!

Hey Internet: 

I have a confession. 

Yeah, I know you must get these a lot. Some are shot anonymously into comments sections. Some are tossed into our discourse by trolls. And some are scrawled in cramped handwriting onto homemade postcards and sent off to Germantown, Maryland. 

But here's one more to toss onto the ever-growing pile: 

I'm obsessed with narwhals. 

Shut up, I'm serious.

 Look at them.


Narwhals are amazing. They look unreal. They look like mythical creatures. Seriously, if Game of Thrones doesn't end with Daenerys Targaryen storming Westeros on the back of a narwhal I will be very disappointed.

But maybe I'm getting ahead of  myself here. 

Let's start with the basics. 

I'm a woman.

 I'm 28. 

I'm a writer.

I'm bisexual. 

I'm in love with a man. We've been together almost four years. We live together. 

I'm still a woman, still 28, still writing. But people seem to think that I'm no longer bisexual. 

Why is this? Is it because I don't "look bisexual/queer?"

What does that even look like? Is it this?

It's frustrating having to define myself in this way. "Bisexual but in a monogamous cisgender relationship with a straight guy."


So many words. 

Try Googling that when you're looking for other people in the same boat. It's not fun.

A friend said I refer to myself as a unicorn. And don't get me wrong, unicorns are great.

But queers have already adopted the unicorn as the de facto mascot. Unicorns are in the mainstream. 

Don't believe me?

Fucking gay unicorns were on Glee.

Gay unicorn cheerleader. I rest my case. 

Which brings me to narwhals.

But why narwhals? 

I I ruled a country, this would be the flag.

They're hard to explain. 

They're unusual. They're misunderstood. 

They're like the unicorns of the sea. 

Some people don't think they exist. These people are idiots because, obviously, narwhals are everywhere. 

Even some unicorns don't believe in narwhals, which is bananas. 

I mean, you're a unicorn! You poop fairy dust!

Is it really that far out of the realm of possibility that you could have a horned cousin swimming around the ice caps?

Get it together, unicorns!

So for now, instead of referring to myself as a "BBIAMCRWASG", I'm just gonna call myself a narwhal.

You are all welcome to join my pod. Yeah, packs of narwhals are called pods. Deal with it.