The Titty Tax

This is going to get heavy, but I promise it will get better. Just probably not today. Unfortunately, this isn’t even an article about bras.

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For anyone who pays attention to American news, this has been a triggering couple of weeks. Victim blaming has reminded many of us why we stayed quiet in crucial moments. The credibility of those brave enough to speak has been called into question because the women were young, drunk or both. Anger has made me shaky and hot. Then freezing. Then hot again.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse, harassment and rape. All these things happened on more than one occasion, and I never reported any of them to law enforcement. In almost all of those instances, I felt that I shared part of the blame. I gave myself reasons for this. For instance: I didn’t fight back hard enough (even though fighting at all made the agony worse). I was asleep naked (as if that were an invitation). I had been too close to the perpetrator. I was related to the perpetrator. I hadn’t bought myself a lock for my bedroom door.

Add these to a culture which, where I lived, shamed women who were not virgins until they married. My ‘greatest gift’ was gone. I was used. I was that chewed piece of gum held up triumphantly in sex ed to the rhetorical question, ‘And who would want a chewed piece of gum?’ I’d chewed my boyfriend’s gum once, trying to get a raspberry pip out of my teeth. It fell apart in my mouth. No one wants chewed gum.

And yet, telling my mother that I had chosen to have sex was easier than telling her that I’d been forced. It carried an air of rebellion with it, a rejection of the religion that would now reject me. Months later, when I told her the truth, she didn’t want to hear about it – but she did  ask me questions that put me on the back foot. Was it the first time I’d had my clothes off around him? Why was I alone with him? Was it still going on? Rather than feeling supported, I believed that I’d had a hand in my own rape. Never mind that I’d bled for days afterward, or that the stress nearly made me lose my mind.

Not every girl’s ‘loving family’ is ready to give her agency, especially if the family religion belittles anyone without a hymen. Best keep it quiet.

But back to the present day. I write this after Christine Blasey Ford provided testimony filled with vivid detail, including the increased volume of a stereo when two men closed her in a bedroom with them. Her silencing was the most frightening thing for her. She also spoke out knowing that it might not make a difference.

Throughout the internationally reported ‘pre- and post-hearing’, the phrase ‘ruining a man’s life’ has been bandied about with particular abandon. As if barring a man from sitting on the Supreme Court ruins his life (not that he’ll ever know). Moreover, this attitude ignores the women’s lives that have been ruined by male entitlement. The hours of therapy we have paid for, the silence, the learned helplessness, the loss of confidence, even the inability to show complete love to our chosen partners – these are the tax of being a woman with a past of compromised safety.

Blaming women for not reporting their own abuse is fairly standard these days, usually accompanied by the implication that future victims are on the first victim’s head. However, the low rate of conviction (or even belief) also begs the question – which of us are worth protecting, and which of us are to be left without justice, our credibility compromised by our own vulnerability? Within this framework of partisan justice, is it any surprise that so many of us stay silent?

Weekly Tarot Reading: Abundance and Balance

In the last week, we had a bit of a renewal. There was a New Moon in Virgo, inviting us to organise, clean and generally overhaul everything. Old habits, cycles and plans concluded to make way for balance, appreciation and abundance. Though there is a tinge of underhandedness in this reading, overall the message is one of partnership, love and balance. So, let’s get down to the reading!

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For this spread, I’ve done a basic five card spread and allowed it to tell a story. My query was simple: ‘What can I expect in the coming week?’ The cards have revealed a tale of hard work that results in major-based harmony.

In the first position, we have Three of Pentacles. In this card, the tradesman is observed at his craft by a priest and a wealthy-looking man. Though the imagery is medieval in nature, its message is still relevant. The tradesman’s work, as he puts forth his effort to build the church, is being appraised by others and is found to be admirable. Though the other two men have more social standing than he, his work speaks for itself. This card is one of promise and completing the first steps of a project: outside approval and appreciation are due to those who put forth effort. However, it may also be time to ask for assistance from someone with specialist knowledge if you find that the task is overwhelming.

In the second position, we have the Two of Cups. Building from what we learned in the previous card, this indicates a new partnership is well-fated, as long as both parties are honest. The card depicts a wedding ceremony, with an idealised house on a hill in the background. The caduceus of Hermes hovers above them, indicating a meeting of complementary opposites as well as health.  The card, when paired with the previous one, could indicate a passionate business relationship and a partnership of equals.

The King of Pentacles is a card of material abundance and worldly security. The King has his castle, his money and his produce: all his needs are met. The financial struggle is over, whether through the completion of a project or the attainment of some goal. Take the time to enjoy everything around you and know that, money-wise, you are taken care of.

The fourth card provides a warning: the Five of Swords indicates a triumph that does not feel wholly positive. The opposition has been disarmed, but there’s still a storm coming. Thus, victory can be won, but the cost may be too great. If everyone has turned their backs on you, is victory still worth it? This might indicate a bit of bickering that ends in an explosive argument, even though your only intention was to pick a little fight that you have all the time and never gets resolved. What would the end of that argument look like, and does any result feel like a good one? If no, drop the matter for the time being.

The fifth and final card is Temperance. Our only major in the spread, it reminds us of the big picture: the goal of this creative endeavour or business project that has been the focus of the week’s reading is only part of the story. Working in the masculine all the time leads to burnout, but spending all time in the feminine results in virtually no productivity. Thus, we need to be both grounded and in flow. The journey through life goes up a mountain where the sun rises or sets, depending on perspective.  Hearkening back to the previous card, Temperance asks you to see two perspectives and avoid taking a hardline stance. This is a time to walk the middle ground and leave fighting for another day. Though the world seems to be spoiling for a fight, the ideal stance now is one of blending all those disparate elements in work, life and other agendas to create something more valuable than they were by keeping them separate.

Fear and the Art of New Stasis

My husband and I are currently planning a move to the US. I am reluctant to engage with this decision because I am reluctant to go. Our life in the UK is lovely, and I’m convinced that a move to a less expensive part of the country would solve all our problems. He is unconvinced, and felt that the solution lay in a complete upheaval. It’s clear which side won. Let’s speak no more of.

In complete denial of this upcoming departure, I spend up to an hour a day scanning properties on Rightmove, looking for the perfect three-bed-with-garden-plus-large-kitchen and a view of some sort of watery feature. It doesn’t matter that the husband (and anyone else who knows of this habit) finds this exercise pointless, because maintaining it means something to me.

Yet, I am unsure as to why I am so focused on what is clearly a lost cause. This has happened before, namely after our last move from a flat to our current house. I spent months rearranging our old flat via floor plans so that it could accommodate everything my husband wanted in a place – never mind that a new Mr and Mrs had already settled in between those same walls.

The fact is that I’m scared of too much change. Small changes, such as the local pub changing hands, are jarring at the best of times. Big changes, on the other hand, knock me for six in my old age (30). All I want to do is get to the point at which we’re going to be when the whole mess is sorted so I know where the metaphorical chips lie. Stake out a piece of high land in advance of the flood and learn to grow my own turnips, if need be. But I want that routine now, so I can get used to it before it becomes a requirement.

And I want it in the UK, because the US seems altogether more volatile. Socialist medicine and gun control are anathema, but these are things we take for granted locally. Moreover, I feel we’ve reached some sort of plateau in the amount of crazy within our borders. Of course, this is not true – Brexit hasn’t even taken place yet. But I live in hope that Article 50 will never complete.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself to keep writing and, in spare moments, browse Rightmove. I feel that the breakthrough property – the one that makes my husband say, ‘Ah, that’s superior to anything Stateside!’ – is only an advanced search away.

Adventures with the Jaydess IUD

This post contains stuff concerning the female anatomy. Mine, to be precise. If this offends you, please read something else. That said, these are my own personal experiences and may differ from your own.

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Recently, I agreed to my doctor’s recommendation of the Jaydess IUD to help counter my heavy periods. On the face of it, the IUD sounds like a little T-shaped miracle. Localised hormones, few reported side effects, lighter periods – why wouldn’t I go for it?

And, equally, why would I believe that hormones would stay localised in the body? Hormones on the skin enter the bloodstream; hormones in the cervix will definitely get in the bloodstream. But I digress.

It has to be said, getting an IUD has been sold as something of a feminist action for American women. As an American woman (though one in the UK), I was not immune to these messages. Perhaps these messages are just intended to be for reproductive uses, but I still took them on.

So, I made an appointment. The official leaflet details very few side effects, but tells the user to tell her doctor if ‘these or any other side effects arise,’ just to be suitably vague. Insertion was painful, and I had cramps for about four weeks. After four and a half weeks, the bleeding stopped. My first period with the device was a sharply medicated affair, as my cramps were worse than a usual period’s.

The real fun was emotional, from crying at everything to spending much of my time feeling hatred for those around me. Also, my hair was falling out. And the bloating (plus three pounds of weight gain) meant that only my stretchiest clothes fit. Accepting this, I spent some time selling some stuff on eBay so that size 8 dresses didn’t make me sad by hanging in the closet. But emotionally, I felt anxious and hopeless. I lashed out at my husband, then spent time wondering if I always felt that way, or if it was the IUD. Regardless, its days were numbered.

My experience with the device was not the usual one, and the long and short of it is that I’ve had it removed. I mean, Goddess bless the NHS – I had a removal appointment within 48 hours of requesting it, and my doctor was very sympathetic. The removal was quick, barely noticed by my surprised cervix and very little blood followed. I took ibuprofen in advance, though, because the insertion had been memorably unpleasant.

On the way to yoga after my appointment, my dearest friend asked, ‘So you wouldn’t recommend it, then.’ At first I dithered, saying that some women find it effective and useful and don’t have crazy side effects. But then I realised, having it put in hurts. Like, a lot. And it hurts for weeks. I bled for a month, and this was considered normal. How can a birth control method which hurts women be considered feminist?

Changing Tack

For a while now, I’ve been writing strictly about minimalism and getting my life in order by clearing out my space. This has been working well for me, and gradually I am reducing my possessions to have a tidier home. As much fun as this is, I feel as though it’s time for me to branch out with regards to what I write. I have loads of interests, activities, qualifications, etc., which are currently vying for my attention.

Therefore, I will be changing it up around here. I will be holding space for my spiritual growth, discoveries in the complex world of personal health and progression in my ‘proper writing.’ I’ll be doing more tarot readings and eventually create a library for all the tarot card meanings.

I’m also about to move internationally, so I’ll be sharing that experience with you as I blossom in my new life. Things are getting exciting!

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Let’s do this.

Evaluating a Purchase

As a shopping addict, I have to admit that not buying stuff is harder than I thought it would be. Also, learning the difference between a necessity, a replacement and a decadence has been surprisingly tricky.

At the moment, for instance, I am in the process of replacing a black skirt. The one I’ve been wearing since I was 13, purchased for my grandpa’s funeral, has become too short as I approach 30. I donated it, deciding I would wear a much longer one already in my closet. However, this plan appears dowdy with my no-heels look. And so I’m looking for a mid-length skirt to suit my needs. Not schoolgirl short, not ‘only fashionable with stilettos’ long. It also needs to fit me well, and look good with tops tucked in or a sweater lying over the waistband.

It’s the type of purchase I have always avoided. My shopaholic tendencies have always leaned towards the flashy, and I was reluctant to spend money on a plain item. This skirt is a basic, not a statement, so why would I have bothered?

Now, though, I’m operating a strict ‘one out, one in’ policy and want to make sure I get it right. I feel it’s ironic that I didn’t learn how to shop until after I tried to shop in a non-addicted way.

‘Women can’t handle money.’

I’ve heard these words several times in my life, and I’ve even believed them to some extent. How could I not, when I had consumer debt, student loans and a shopping addiction?

There is no shame in a woman spending her money in the way she wishes, but I am aware of the fact that my habits have been poor. Thus, my decision to spend less does not come from a place of dependence and denial, but rather in the hopes that I’ll be able to see my own consumption more clearly.

As a married couple, the Laird Hamilton and I have a joint bank account, as well as our own separate accounts. He can’t see my outgoings, and I cannot see his. In this way, we have privacy in our spending. However, I swing between wanting financial autonomy and believing that I’ll be unable to spend any funds wisely.

These thoughts are coming up as I reflect on my most recent read, The Year of Less, in the wake of my ‘no spend’ March. In truth, March was probably one of my most expensive months in a long time, and I expect it was spurred on by a sense of deprivation for all the things I wasn’t going to have. Purchases on 28 February slowly spilled over into the first week of March, and what was the point of stopping then?

It is in this spirit that I’m considering planning a no-spend year, complete with lists of approved, necessary items. It makes me slightly uncomfortable to think of justifying each item to myself, but I hope that this practice will lead me on the path to more mindful consumption.