I love Reasons My Son Is Crying, and I’m not ashamed

"Hey Cat, check this out". Those words marked my first experience with the Tumblr entitled "Reasons My Son is Crying". I scrolled through the site with my husband, reading the captions beneath each image and laughing together. "This looks like my son!" I thought. Each image brought back memories of a difference instance where he had cried, seemingly for no reason at all. It was an adorable, two-minute distraction, and I thought nothing more of it.

A few days later, however, I read several tweets commenting on how exploitative it was. How awful. How terrible. Clearly this man hated his child and wanted nothing to do with him. Honestly, I was kind of dumbfounded. The sheer angry vitriol was absolutely not, in any way, what I had felt when I visited the site. People were saying that any adult who takes a picture of their child crying and shares it with other people is a horrible, exploitative, monster who deserved to have their kids taken away because “they clearly don’t want to be parents.” All sorts of terrible assumptions being leveled at a person who, in my eyes, was sharing a candid snapshot of his family life with the world. A snapshot that I, as a fellow parent, was thankful for. This was a sly wink, a nod that said “I know what you’re going through. I go through it every day, too.” To me, this was not a malicious act of someone who hates his child. This was a parents way of finding levity in a situation that can drive you mad, can exhaust you, can strip you down to nothing. Even so, when our kids are acting up or are hard to handle, we love them. We may not like their behaviour, but we love them.

But  maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my experience is unique. Maybe my kids, are the first kids in the history of the world that are at times difficult and trying. Maybe every single other parent in the world has perfect children. Children who have never physically thrown themselves in to dangerous situations. Children who have never had reactions to situations that seemed bizarre and completely out of place. Maybe not only are my kids terrible, but I’m terrible, too. And you know what? They very well might be. I have no other experiences to draw from. I don’t have young siblings. I don’t have young cousins. Before I had children, I hadn’t even held a baby. My experience with children and parenting was based solely on what I’d seen in the media. I didn’t know anyone with kids. And even after four years, I am still unprepared for how absolutely exhausting, emotionally and mentally, it can be. But what I’m even less prepared for is the absolute minefield that is Dealing With Other Parents. And it’s sickening to see parents making such nasty assumptions about other parents for speaking out about their daily lives. It’s nasty, isolating, catty, cliquey behaviour that strives to exclude all but a tiny percentage of the parenting population. Honestly, I worry more about the people who can’t talk about how hard it can be to raise children than I do the ones who joke about it. If you’re getting that mad over something a stranger is doing, what kind of reaction do you have when your spouse or child does something that you don’t approve of?

When I see people getting mad at a parent for even daring to acknowledge that parenting can be hard, it’s depressing. Behaviour like this is the reason that women with PPD don’t feel like they can talk about their experiences. Why parents are afraid to discuss parenting honestly, for fear that someone may misinterpret one difficult situation with a hatred of parenting as a whole. If we don’t let parents acknowledge that raising children has it’s shitty, thankless parts, we foster this unspoken myth that parenting is always fun and easy and a barrel of laughs. That parents who become tired, or exhausted, or just plain burnt out are somehow “bad” parents for feeling those ways. By overreacting, saying that “he clearly hates his child”, they are effectively shutting down any and all conversation about what it actually means to be a parent. You can’t engage someone who is Concern Trolling, because they’re not interested in productive, mutual discussion. They’re concerned about a 140 character quip that garners as much rage and attention that it can.

So no, I don’t feel guilty for enjoying RMSIC. Because it reminds me that all parents go through the same thing I’m going through. It reminds me that for every parent out there blogging about how fantastic their 15 month old piano prodigies are at potty training themselves while their parents hand-craft holiday ornaments out of salvaged vintage lace and run their entire spotless households without any help, there is a parent like me, who is staring at a 2 year old crying hysterically over a piece of broken cheese, not knowing what path to take next. And it makes me smile. And it makes me laugh. And I’m glad I can laugh, because if I didn’t know how to laugh in a situation like this, I’d be crying.


Flawed Analogies

So I’m back on Facebook now. And one thing that Facebook is good for, aside from connecting you to your best friend from grade school’s next door neighbor’s cousin’s dog walker’s aunt’s dentist, is providing writers with endless sources of infuriating, material generating memes and fads.

One in particular that I saw this morning, was a flawed analogy regarding rape. A person was trying to insists that rape is like stealing someone’s wallet. If you get money out of an ATM in a bad part of town and someone steals your wallet, no one is going to blame YOU per se, but you were still basically “asking for it”.

Whoa whoa whoa WHOA, let’s back it up a few steps there, can we? First off, not only is this a terribly flawed analogy in general [someone violating your body is not even remotely akin to a stranger taking your money, no matter how crappy that also is], it’s also classist [because all poor people who don’t live in nice areas are thieves, obviously], and it completely discounts the fact that most sexual assaults are committed by someone that the victim knows.

Don’t think of it as some scary stranger lurking in an alley way. That’s too impersonal, too distant. Instead, think of it like this:

You, whoever is reading this right now, imagine that you have a friend named Bob. You’ve known Bob for years. Bob’s a good guy. He pitches in for pizza and beer and helps you move. If you got stuck in a shitty situation, Bob would be the first person you called. You trust Bob, implicitly. You honestly could not even think of something Bob could do that would break your trust. Then one day, you go over to Bob’s house for dinner. You’re sitting on the couch together, relaxing and watching a movie. Without warning, Bob punches you across the face, throws you to the floor, and takes your wallet out of your pocket. Not only are you physically injured, you’re also shocked and can’t understand why your friend, someone you know and trust, would do this to you. When you ask him why, he shrugs and says “You owed me, so I took it”. In Bob’s mind, all those times he chipped in for pizza, beer, helped you move, anything else - you owed him something. Eventually, he just took what he believed he was entitled to, and you had no say in it. You didn’t even know there was an invisible tally going. Nothing on your part could have prevented it, save from never speaking to a single person on the planet, ever, in your entire life, in an attempt to prevent this from happening. And Bob, on the other hand, sees nothing wrong with what he did. Didn’t you owe him for all those times he helped out?

Do you get it yet? Do you understand that sexual assault and rape is NOT just a crime committed by some scary “other” person that you don’t know? That instead, it is every bit an abuse of power and trust as it is a violation of another person’s body. Telling an assault victim that they are responsible for their assault, even by saying “they should have been more careful”, is victim blaming. It completely removes the conscious choice that the other party made to attack them. The ONLY way to stop sexual assault and rape? IS FOR PEOPLE TO STOP RAPING OTHER PEOPLE. PERIOD. If you can’t wrap your head around this, I wonder, if on some level, you believe that other people owe you something, as well.


Dr. Soong, you dirty freak!

The other day, I had a revelation about Data from Star Trek: TNG. He was created as a fully functional, human adult male. He is programmed with thousands of different lovemaking techniques. He can get robot boners. There is literally no reason why Dr. Noonien Soong would have created a 100% anatomically correct male android unless it was intended to be used for boning. Obviously, Data lacked an emotion chip because emotionally driven sexuality can be destructive. Clearly, this is why Lore is so evil, because he’s filled with pent up sexual energy and he can’t release it. Do androids masturbate? And if so, would they have some sort of robot ejaculate? [Now I’m laughing at my desk thinking about “hydraulic fluid”] So many questions that will remain unanswered. I should really track down Brent Spiner at a comic convention and see if he can clear all this up for me.

One thing that

Judge Not and All That Jazz

Confession. The other day, I did something stupid at work. Now, it wasn’t anything majorly stupid, it wasn’t enough to get me fired, it wasn’t even enough to warrant disciplinary action. But, it was stupid, and I regret it immensely.

Long story short, I mistyped something private in to a public, locked chat, with several people above my pay grade. Not the smartest move, and I have no excuse for why I did it. [Well, actually, I have several excuses, I was having a bad day, I’d just had two people almost yell at me over the phone, my doctor’s office wasn’t returning my calls regarding an abdominal ultrasound I’d had two months prior that they never gave me the results for, I didn’t know I was in that room, etc.] But they’re just that, excuses, and they don’t absolve me of any responsibility.

At first, as is typical of my reaction in stressful situations, I threw up. [Okay so it was just a little bit of throw up.] I had a panic attack and sat at my desk silently, hyperventilating. I talked to my supervisor about it. I felt immensely shitty and beat myself up in ways you can’t even imagine. I called myself names and tried to make myself feel as badly as I could, in repentance of that mistake. And that’s what it was, a mistake. I got home, talked to my husband, and felt a bit better, but still overall felt really, really bad.

But lying in bed, right before I fell asleep, I had a revelation. You know what? It didn’t matter. Yes, I made a stupid mistake. But it won’t happen again, and I learned from it. And if the people who witnessed that mistake choose to judge me, without knowing me, from one, single, out of context sentence, well, that’s their loss. I don’t need approval from people who can’t see the big picture. Who refuse to give people second chances. Who make judgement calls based on something they have only seen one tiny part of. Those are not people I want as my peers or superiors, in any capacity.

And this revelation, so startling to me, helped me discover something about myself. I fear making mistakes in front of others because I do not want them to criticize me, the way I criticize them. But I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to hold someone’s mistakes against them, never giving them a chance to redeem themselves. To close that door permanently and never allow them to open it again. So I will keep my mind open. I will allow people to make mistakes, and be human, without holding on to that mistake in my mind. I will allow people to exist right now, in the present. Allow them to be who they are, without seeing them defined by one single experience from the past. I will forgive.

And all of this, starts with myself.


Your Hipster Boyfriend

There’s a lot of hatred towards hipsters these days. [I’m not really sure what to think about them myself, since I’m not even 100% sure what “hipster” means.] According to most women I know, any man who chooses to firmly entrench himself in the “hipster” camp should be avoided like cold sores, dirty socks, or gas station sushi platters. Personally, I’m of the mind that it could be an enjoyable experience, if one has a thing for bearded men of ambiguous sexuality in skinny jeans and knit hats.

The perfect hipster boyfriend is an elusive creature, much like the perfect pair of underpants. Ideally, he should compliment your figure, provide you with much needed support in all areas, and fit so well on you that at times you forget he’s there. In the morning, your hipster boyfriend would awaken you with a tray of free-range, grain-fed eggs with whole-wheat toast with soy butter, all purchased from your local co-op. As you eat breakfast in bed and brush the toast crumbs off the free-trade cotton Fleet Foxes benefit concert t-shirt you borrowed from him, he would serenade you with an acoustic cover of his bands latest song. Next, a shower in his vintage claw-foot tub, complete with all natural body scrubs produced by the indigenous peoples of exotic places such as Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, and Vancouver. Your shower will occasionally be interrupted by your boyfriend’s roommate, a lovely young man named “Waterfall” who is currently between jobs and who your boyfriend assures you is “totally cool with you crashing here”, as well, your boyfriend explains that Waterfall is asexual, so it’s fine for him to see you exfoliating your naked form with a loofah that was harvested in a non-environmentally-impacting way.

Next, he will chauffeur you to work on his recumbent, fixed gear bike, before heading to his own job as a sales clerk at a local vintage record store slash vegan cafe. Thoughtfully, he has packed you a lunch. Unwrapping the re-usable Japanese furoshiki fabric cloth, you find an artfully prepared mixed green salad which he has harvested from the container garden he started on the balcony of his walk-up apartment, a Luna bar, and a bottle of homemade strawberry-lime kombucha in a container that was created from 100% post-consumer material. You make a note to thank him graciously later as you empty the kombucha in to the bathroom sink and order a cheeseburger and fries on your phone from that place down the street that totally uses non-free-range beef. On your coffee break you browse websites for independent retailers specializing in raw bamboo body jewellery and look for a present for his birthday next week. You settle on a nice set of red 3/4” plugs stained with natural vegetable dyes and a new alpaca-wool hat that was hand-knit by a co-operatively owned group of amputee Tibetan throat-singers.

After work he picks you up on his bike, because he’s gotten tickets to a local performance artist’s latest show, (“Randy: My life in Mime”) and you can’t be late or you won’t get a seat. (It’s understandable, as the venue is a repurposed broom closet in a condemned tenement building and there are only six seats, but the acoustics are fantastic.) You get there just in time to get a seat for the performance, the first ten minutes of which consist of the artist standing completely silent in a red spotlight while images from National Geographic are projected on to his torso, before launching in to what you assume is a full-body seizure, but what is later explained to you as being an interpretive dance symbolizing the artist’s frustration with the stereotypical male gender binary that society has placed on him. What fun! After the performance, you mingle with the crowd and sip lukewarm Rolling Rock while your boyfriend debates the merits of spontaneous street theatre versus outsider art with several other bearded men, each in a different colour of skinny jeans, but the same identical knit hat. Occasionally, someone will ask you your thoughts on the performance, and you will smile and nod in to your drink while making a mental note to go home and look up the meaning of 75% of the words that you’ve heard that night.

After such a thrilling evening, you’re ready to go home, but your boyfriend has a line on a really amazing after-party being thrown in a loft space that used to be a typewriter factory but which now houses a web-design company with the totally un-ironic name of The Typewriter Factory. At the party, you are introduced to seven dancers, two poets, one copy-writer for a local inclusive Feminist ‘zine, and exactly seven men named “Travis” who look exactly alike. Your boyfriend will disappear randomly throughout the evening, leaving you in the company or at least one Travis at any given time, re-appearing at unexpected intervals to drape himself over you and loudly proclaim how “awesome it is that you’re just so cool with all of this”, unlike “All those other girls he knows who are so fake”. At some point, one of the Travis’s will put his hand on your thigh and suggest a three-way and you will have to politely decline with a line about how early you have to get up in the morning and also one about how he may wish to remove his hand before he ends up more intimately acquainted with it than he may currently wish to be. You track down your boyfriend, only to find him engaged in a clearly engrossing conversation about a local no-kill cat rescue operated by a couple of Neo-Pagan polyamorous lesbians. Rather than interrupt what is a obviously the after-party equivalent of a major political debate between warring nations, you call a cab to take you back to your non-rent-controlled apartment complex with working security cameras and digital cable, eat a late night dinner of fast food from a multi-national non-environmentally friendly corporation, take a hot shower and wash your hair with paraben filled, chemically laden, store-bought shampoo and conditioner, turn off your phone, and make a note to have your number changed in the morning.

On second thought, maybe I’m starting to understand what some people have against hipsters. 

Merry Commission-Mas

Okay, so I have decided to offer some commissions for Christmas. I have shied away from offering open commissions for several years, due to an “incident” which is long and rambling in nature [and generally not of interest to anyone but me].

But as part of the Christmas season, I thought I would try again to offer a small amount of open commissions to stretch my artistic muscles.

The Dealio:

I am offering physical media, single character, minimal background commissions. I will draw whatever you request [within reason, exceptions will be specified below] and mail it to you, or a recipient at a specified address.

The Rates:

4”X3” portrait - Standard “Twitter Avatar” style - $15 - Single character, bust/portrait style, pen and marker.

Add an additional character - $10 extra, per character.

The Exceptions:

I am fine drawing most things, people, animals, mechanical items, etc. Obviously, I will not do anything illegal, etc. I am pretty open to most things, though, but please ask if you have an idea that you think may not be “appropriate”. Yadda yadda yadda, I reserve the right to refuse any request I choose, etc.

Payment and etc:

PayPal is easiest, I know a lot of people are not super fond of it, but it’s safer than cash through the mail or bartering with goats and chickens. So while I’d dearly love one of your goats, I must ask that we keep this on a strict no-farm-animal-basis and just stick with PayPal for now.

Please email questions or commission requests to barbituratecat@hotmail.com with the subject line TWITTER COMMISSION REQUEST and I will respond as soon as possible.

I am not an “Artist”.

For many years, I have called myself an artist. I have thought of myself, as an artist. I draw, paint, sketch, sew, write and create. And I always assumed that inevitably this is just what I would “do”, the same way I see other people naturally falling in to creative careers. It seemed so effortless, and my way of thinking was just that some people are artists, and some are not. If you are an artist, it’s in your blood and that just happens. It’s what you are.

So imagine my surprise when it didn’t  happen for me. When publishers weren’t lined up outside my door flinging fistfuls of money at me to draw comics or write short stories. When small artistic ventures didn’t pan out and I just dropped them. When I stopped doing commissions because it was just “too hard” to work on another person’s creative vision. I still draw, I still write, I still sew. I still hold on to some modicum of “natural ability” when it comes to putting pen to paper. So what was wrong? What was wrong,with me, that is. What was wrong with me that I wasn’t in a creative career? Wasn’t I an artist? I saw other people getting hired in to the industry in a way that seemed completely effortless on their part, and it was mystifying. I just couldn’t figure it out, so I assumed the problem was that I wasn’t talented enough. I was resigned to a life of arts and crafts and that was it. 

But the other night, the curtain lifted. I realized - An artist is not something you are. Art is something you do. Anyone can be an artist. Anyone can be a writer. Anyone can do anything creative that they put their mind to, and it doesn’t even have to be “good”. It just be to be. If you work like an artist [or writer], you becomean artist [or writer]. It is not a feeling inside, it is a work ethic that you strive for, day after day. It is a career.

One thing I have struggled with in regards to my writing, is that I have never felt “like a writer”. I was coming at it from the angle, the wrong angle, really, that this is something I needed to feel inside, the way I smell, or taste, or see. I was waiting my entire life to feel something that was never going to come. Waiting for some internal signal that said “Okay now, you’re a writer, go do it”. Such fallacious thinking, and I think, one of the reasons why some artists or writers get in such a uproar when a “fake” artist or writer creates something, especially if that something is popular. Stephanie Meyers is still a writer, regardless of whether or not you like what she has created. After all, she created it. She sat down and wrote it from beginning to end, and no matter what anyone thinks about her grammar or prose or characters or plot holes, she. is. a. writer.

It’s hard to struggle with perfectionism, the feeling that everything you do is awful, terrible, just no good. You write and rewrite, draw and redraw, once, twice, hundreds of times, and never ever finish. You throw away more projects than ever see the light of day. You hold off submitting to publishers because “this isn’t good enough yet”. But the truth is, it’s nevergood enough. And really, it never should be. Because it’s work. It’s a dangerous trap that artists fall in to, this thinking that “natural ability” should make this “easy”. If it’s ever easy, it’s never good. Stop that thinking, right now. Stop thinking that you are too goodto work on your craft. Stop thinking that you don’t need to practiceto keep up with those around you. It’s not just about taking criticism, it’s about actively working to create. The hardest thing for me to do is to create when I don’t “feel” like creating. It’s a cop out. There are days when I don’t “feel” like doing my 9 to 5, but I come in and do it to the best of my ability and I get it done. So why don’t I have the same attitude towards art or writing? Why don’t I say “You know, I’m not feeling it right now, but damn it, I am going to sit down and I am going to write ten pages and I don’t care if I think they’re shit, I am going to DO it”? What is so goddamned difficult about treating a  creative career like “work”, instead of some bullshit “natural calling”?

I get that people don’t want to spoil the joy they feel when they create something purely for themselves. And that’s great, it’s a wonderful feeling and I hope everyone has something that gives them that rush of “I did this”. But at the same time, for a creative career to be successful, it has to be work. You have to keep doing it, even when you don’t want to. At times, it might even suck. But you keep your head down and keep slogging through.

So no, I am not an “artist”. I can draw and paint and write and sketch and sew, but I am not an “artist”. Not until I start working like one, anyway.


The Naked Face.

Normally, I try to do my make-up in the morning, in the rare quiet time that exists between the time that I wake up, and the time everyone else wakes up and starts demanding I do things for them. Sometimes that’s not possible, and I have to do my make-up at work, which isn’t the most ideal of situations, but still works. Today was one of those days - or, at least I thought it was.

I drop my bag on my desk and paw through it to find my little Snap&Lock case filled with liners and pencils and fancy tinted lip balms. Only, it’s not there, so now I have to think of a way to Macguyver up SOMETHING that will keep me from looking like a forest troll. Thankfully my skin is behaving itself today so the lack of concealer isn’t going to kill me. Still, I pull my hood up and hope none of my asshole coworkers make a comment about it. I dig through the bottom of the purses and hope against hope that something, ANYTHING, has fallen to the bottom.

I am rewarded with a single tube of Dior ultragross in “Flash”, and the stub of a kohl eyeliner that is approximately 10cm long and completely flat. More digging resumes, this time through my pencil case to find a pencil sharpener, which helps somewhat but still makes me feel like I am putting on eyebrow make-up with a mushy crayon. I hide my pitiful bounty in my pocket and walk to the bathroom, which has been conveniently placed in the absolute farthest corner of the building  from where my desk is located, and pray that no one is in the hallway. I encounter approximately every single person that I know, and am forced to gracelessly dodge and weave around groups of people talking in the hallways in an attempt to get past them without anyone looking directly at me and/or my face. [I mean come on people, don’t you have offices you can talk in? Stop standing around the hallways!]

In the bathroom I manage to wing some passable cats-eye’s out of the now sharp liner, pressing it up to the water line to disguise the fact that I am not wearing any mascara or eyeshadow. Thankfully, the gloss is slightly tinted so I look somewhat “made up”, and not just “like I was eating a plate of fried chicken”. I put my glasses back on, stand up straight, and review myself in the mirror. I look fine, and I don’t think anyone’s gonna care anyways, but it’s the thought that counts, right? At some point during the walk to my desk I realize that even with eyeliner and gloss, I have resorting to pulling my bangs over my face and eyes, the fashion refuge of lepers who have been shunned from normal society, and angsty teenagers in oversized black hoodies with MISFITS patches safety-pinned to the back.

Back at my desk, I settle in and start to work. I have several encounters with co-workers and friends, who, despite being in close proximity to me, do not recoil in horror at my unconcealed skin. No one screams and runs away, no one tells me I “look sick”, and no one tries to play connect the dots with the freckles smattered across my cheeks. The only difference between me with make-up and me without make-up, it seems, is my own heightened sense of anxiety. I sigh, and pull my hood back up. I was really hoping for something to make a big deal out of today.

Really, McDonalds?

I don’t get it. We had such a good thing going, you and I. Sure, we’ve cooled off from when I first got started with you at age 16. So we’ve moved on and it’s a once a month dalliance with a cheeseburger eaten in the driver’s seat in the parking lot, instead of a daily affair where I crammed multiple McChicken sandwiches in to my face hole. But come on… I thought you were okay with that.

But this? This isn’t acceptable. I get it. You’re upset. You want to hurt me, and I understand that. But messing with my coffee? That’s low, even for you. I thought you were so happy to see me again, but then I get to work and I open up my cup to find this….

This is the saddest excuse for a latte that I’ve ever seen. At first, I wasn’t even sure what it was. It smells like milk, with vanilla, without the faintest hint of coffee. If coffee was anywhere near this cup, I’ll be surprised. I think maybe you and I have different definitions of “latte”, where I think it “latte” means “coffee with steamed milk”, and you think “latte” means “tepid milk with coffee beans waved in the general direction of the cup”. I mean, maybe we’re just on different levels here and this wasn’t a malicious act. But you know, I’m just having trouble believing that, and it’s hurting me. On the inside. In my feelings.

So McDonalds, I think we’re going to have to take a break. I’ll be back, but I don’t know why. I have to tell you, though - it’s not me. It’s you.