Why YOU HAVE to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Or to protest it – same thing. Unless, of course, you have genuinely forgotten about it. But, if February 14th comes about, and you have at least one thought “oh, today is Valentine’s day” it’s too late. Now, you have to celebrate it.

Maybe it’s something small, like you look at yourself in the mirror and say “Today is a today to appreciate love, and I appreciate how much I love myself!” Maybe it’s something big, like paint bombing a Hallmark store. The one thing you cannot do is ignore it.

BUT WAIT! Maybe it wasn’t your fault, maybe your sappy coworker gave you one of those little boxes full of those chalky hearts, and blasted Valentine cheer into your brain completely against your will. It doesn’t matter, the damage has been done! You have to respond to it. You are not separate from your surroundings, if the world celebrates Valentine’s day, you do too. It’s like wearing clothes – you cannot be neutral on the topic, because *everyone* is wearing clothes. Either you wear clothes and implicitly support the status quo, or you don’t wear them and make a statement (a commonly executed option in San Francisco.) You can’t say, “Yeah, I’m fairly neutral on the topic of clothes-wearing, so this morning I figured why bother?” The repercussions you will face when you go out in society will demand you take a side.

Similarly, you can “ignore” Valentine’s day, but you will keep getting reminders of it. It will keep needling itself into your brain. And, why do some people choose not to celebrate it anyway? People who choose not to wear clothes generally *don’t like* clothes. Similarly, people who don’t celebrate Valentine’s day tend to *not like* Valentine’s day. Which is fine, but OWN it. Give your coworkers cards with little black hearts on them, with the note “love is dead” on the inside.

Otherwise, you risk being like me on my birthday. I was like, “Yeah, I don’t really care about birthdays. Age is just a number, etc.” and planned to do nothing. But, when the day came around and I felt alone and unloved, and called up my good friend and was like “OH MY GOD CELEBRATE MY BIRTHDAY WITH ME” and she was all “It’s cool, come over and I’ll bake you a cake.”

Anyway, in the sake of full disclosure, this whole post came up because my girlfriend told me she usually “did nothing” for Valentine’s day. I was like, “You have watched every lesbian romantic comedy in the world at least 10 times, and probably 80% of all straight ones. How do you not celebrate Valentine’s day?”

She said she didn’t like feeling obligated to get gifts. I told her sorry, but she was obligated to get me flowers, but they could be cheap cuz I know she’s on a budget. (Hey, I hate to be shallow, but I’m not going to lie. If she’s shows up empty handed tonight, I’m probably going to be pissed.) Alternatively, she could have told me she wanted to protest it and we needed to think of a list of the 10 least romantic things we could do and I would have gone with it, unless it involved coprophagia. That would have been fine. But, a night of sitting around pretending like we both didn’t know it was Valentine’s day? NOT going to happen.

I suspect many people who “ignore” Valentine’s day are afraid they’re not loved. If they don’t get their hopes up for Valentine’s day, they won’t be disappointed – except, inevitably they will. If they really didn’t care, they wouldn’t need to make the conscious decision not to care.

The Stories We Comfort Ourselves With

I was reading Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Trungpa Chogam, and a passage of the book has been popping up in my mind ever since.

We would rather hoard and preserve the flavor and beauty of the experience so that, when bad times come, when we are depressed and down, we can bring that memory to mind in order to comfort ourselves, to tell ourselves that we have actually done something worthwhile.

I believe Chogam was talking about the way some people mentally cling to some of their more moving spiritual experiences (frankly, I don’t fully understand a lot of what he’s saying) but it stuck out to me because it seemed to be a more general applicable. Why do people post only their happiest memories on the internet? Why do people create this sanitized, beautified story about their lives? I had always found it somewhat offensive, even though I do it too. But, when I read that line, instead of feeling my normal annoyance at all the people who did this, I felt a sort of sadness – as if I were looking at a bird with with a broken wing trying to fly.

Apparently, the singer Amy Winehouse died alone of alcohol poisoning watching youtube videos of herself. Something about her death struck me as particularly iconic of our times, as if she had given a bolder expression of what so many of us do every day. It’s so easy to get caught in this loop, watching ourselves, and obsessing, trying to see how beautiful we are but never quite seeing it. I’d always thought facebook was a tool to show off to others, but I think actually it’s appeal is that it allows us to show off to ourselves.

When we are forced to see something difficult about ourselves, we can turn to these stories and say “see, this is who I am, the person in these photos!” But, we never actually believe it do we? Because if we did, we wouldn’t need the stories.

Girl’s Toys

I’ve been getting a bunch of articles on gender and toys like this on facebook:




And, you know, despite a lot of the PC and gender neutral phrasing, the takeaway sort of ends up being “we should be getting girls to play with boys toys.” Sure, sure, all the articles will pay lip service to “how boys should be allowed to play with dolls”, etc. But, at the end of the day, we usually see pictures of girls in the articles, not boys. We are usually talking about the negative effect these toyed gender divisions have on girls, not boys.

On an unrelated maybe related note, apparently people are far less empathetic today than they used to be.


So… in a world of reduced empathy, our number one priority is teaching our female children how to be engineers?

I remember when goldie blox was blasted all over the interwebs, to much acclaim.


These are toys aimed at girls to get them excited and into engineering.

But, do we really need more engineers? Why do we want female ones specifically? Why? Do we look at the pie chart of how many women there are in technical fields and say “zomg, this slice is too small! My OCD requires that the male, and female sections are exactly even!”

Wait! But Money! POWER! We need women to have these things just as much as men!

But why? Why do we need this? Our technology has enabled us to build drones that we fly into Afghanistan to kill people. Our technology has trapped us to our computers, desperately posting our lives to facebook to show off to our friends. Our technology has produced millions of useless, time wasting, computer games that we use to numb the permeating dissatisfaction and alienation we feel in our lives.

I don’t want women to become engineers. I want women to save the fucking world.

We are headed for a dark place. We already work longer hours, have fewer vacations, have less time for our loved ones than ever before. Adults have fewer close friendships than they did 20 years ago. Why do we want to send more women into this abyss? I want women to be there to help pull men *out* of it. I want wives to be telling their husbands “your e-commerce site isn’t as important as your son’s first words.” I want women to empathize with families in Iraq, and say “we cannot fight this way anymore, it is wrong.” And, I say this *as* a female engineer.

I remember at my first job, I would go on walks and cry in the bushes. This is where my feminism had led me? To a barren cube in a company full of single morbidly obese men? If I became like them, unhealthy, and unhappy, this would be a success? Because I was one of the few women who “could” do it? It is not enough for women to emulate men, because men have seriously fucked up this world. If we are trying to copy this, the materialism, the selfishness, I can only conclude that most women really lack faith in their own abilities. You think our daughters should aspire to be just as successful as men? As the wall street bankers who stole billions from the working class? As the internet billionaires who are contributing to increasing the income disparity, and pushing down the living standard for the everyone else? These men have failed to be even decent HUMANS, and this is how you want your daughters to turn out? Does money really mean that much?

I think what women really need is respect. Respect for raising kids, for being nurses, for being teachers, for caring. The people who devote their time and energy to taking care of other people, either the young, the old? Those are the ones we should be idolizing. What toys did they play with as a kid?

And, for whatever it’s worth, I was pink-barbie-cabbage patch kidded up to the max as a kid, and I still ended up an engineer. Just, hopefully, one with a perspective on larger society.


Femininity Depends on Masculinity Depends on Femininity

I often find lesbian culture to be an interesting place to look at masculinity, because you can isolate being “masculine” from being “male.”

Here’s an interesting thing that happens (or, is part of the gay cultural narrative anyway.) There exist masculine identified lesbians who only want to give sexual pleasure (usually, to feminine identified lesbians.) “Stone butch” is generally what it’s called, and here’s an article by someone who identifies as such. The phrase “stone femme” seems to usually indicate a desire to only receive sexual pleasure. The concept of a feminine person who receives her pleasure from *giving others* pleasure is very unusual.

There are several ways that seem usual for femininity to manifest:

– Recipient of pleasure

– Giver of pleasure for reasons other than sexual gratification (love, fairness, mental imbalance etc.)

– Giver of pain (this is the usual manifestation of female “dominance”)

Conversely, a feminine woman who *enjoys* giving her partner pleasure seems to find herself squarely in the cultural narrative as “slut.” Sure, many things can make someone a “slut” – but, the idea of a horny woman who goes over and blows some guy and heads out? That sounds like exactly like the type of stuff someone would would get the “s” label – usually with the implication there was something “wrong” with that woman. (Clearly, she has daddy issues, is just trying to please a man, etc.) Incidentally, I’m fairly sure many men hire *male* escorts so they can blow the escort – it’s totally cool for gay dudes to be into putting out, just cuz they like putting out.

At first, I had trouble reconciling the idea of “stone butch” with straight masculinity. Straight male masculinity seems very involved with male pleasure, while stone butches clearly are not into receiving physical pleasure. However, what they do both have in common, is the feminine party is supposed to be receiving pleasure from the masculine party. A lot of straight male phobias (am I big enough? can I last long enough?) seem to stem directly from the conflation of “masculinity” with “ability to please a woman.”

Conversely, the narrative of men who like to receive is very difficult. There’s a concept of a man as “rapist,” who will force sex on a woman against her will (so he is clearly not concerned with her pleasure in that case) but there he is still the active party.

One case of male passivity and female action is in the case of BDSM relationships. However, there the woman is usually giving *pain* to the male party, and not pleasure. Another thing I’d like to note is that there are a lot of submissive men who want to be “feminized” – i.e. to be dressed up in feminine clothing. I’ve dated a few guys like that myself, and part of what I think it is is that there’s not an easy way to square “being masculine” with “being receptive” or “being desired” so many of them skip the “being masculine” part in their fantasies.

Ultimately, feminine sexual agency for the pleasure of *another* person still seems troublesome for our society. Many feminists (male and female) seem to identify “sexual reciprocity” as “both parties receive as much pleasure.” However, it’s also sort of “known” that women are harder to bring to orgasm than men.

There’s almost become a new type of chivalry, where a man appreciates he’s going to be doing most of the sexual “work” – an idea which is reflected in areas of lesbian society that mirror traditional gender roles where “butch” lesbians (in theory) provide pleasure to “femme” ones. But, this leaves feminine women who enjoy giving pleasure out in the cold.

It may also be a way of maintaining traditional masculinity over femininity power dynamics. Power generally falls to the person giving the pleasure, the receiver is dependent on the giver. The fact that one of the more comfortable ways a woman can be “dominant” is to “give pain” is to deny her some of the power she’d have if she gave only pleasure. (Fewer people enjoy receiving “pain” than “pleasure,” so she becomes more dependent on her submissive partner than a fellatio expert would be.)

The tying trait, in all of these, seems to be creating structures for the feminine person to become dependent on the masculine person. And yet, femininity stands more clearly *alone* than masculinity does (Dresses? Feminine! Pants? Masculine?). If masculinity is explored by needing a feminine person to please, in a deep sense, masculinity is dependent on femininity. (I’d like to take a moment here to note that masculine gay men are often great at projecting their masculinity probably because they *don’t* rely on femininity to define their masculinity. Few straight men feel comfortable projecting a masculine sexuality to that degree.) This masculine dependence, however, is very uncomfortable for many masculine people – and I am inclined to think it’s a big cultural force for sexism in our society, but I have a client meeting and gotta wrap this post up so that’s a topic for another day.

The Terrible Things we do to Boys are Why Women Aren’t Welcome On The Internet

I saw these two articles on facebook yesterday, and they seemed related: why women aren’t welcome on the internet and there’s something absolutely wrong with what we do to boys before they grow into men.

A lot of feminist reading I’ve read has focused primarily on the female experience, which is important. It has been helpful for other women to call out their experiences getting hate mail, getting harassed on the streets, and having it be dismissed as unimportant. It has helped me realize that I’m not alone, and I’m not crazy.

That said, there’s not a lot of discussion about the male experience. Why do some little boys grow up to be so angry at women? How have we produced a world, where for every feminist blogger, there are hundreds of men who want to tell her to go get raped? Many people, male and female, I know would basically just dismiss these men as human scum, but it doesn’t address the problem. Apparently, 6% of college aged men will admit to attempting to force a woman to have sex when he knows she doesn’t want to (but, will decline to call themselves “rapists”.) 6% is pretty high. If you think of 17 men who have been to college, in theory, one of them will admit to attempting to force a woman to have sex with him. And this is just men who come clean about attempting rape – if we include men who didn’t admit it, or behaviors that aren’t rape but are still intimidating to women, the percentages are probably much higher.

In fact, you probably interact fairly regularly with a lot of men who have committed some assalt-type behavior on women. And, you know, they might actually be a pretty nice. The majority of men who send death threats to women on the internet are probably totally capable of interacting with society on an acceptable level in public, but for whatever reason, have a need to vent some anger when they’re alone.

So, what’s going on here?

Why will some men present a politically correct front to the world, while hiding a much more sinister personal view on women?

Male majority sexist conversations I’ve been a part of (which, I’m sure are biassed because I’m a woman) tend to go one of two ways. Either, a group of men goes on to make a bunch of jokes about women unchecked, or one of them will speak up and say something like “not cool, bro.”

But the question “why are you so angry at women?” never goes asked. I don’t even think it can be asked. To ask a man why he feels something in a social situations is inappropriate (dare I say, “emasculating”.) For men to admit that they have emotions, that things might go wrong for them sometimes, can be an admission of failure. (This is not true of *all* men – I have many male friends who are able to articulate the problems they have without shame, but I think it’s true of enough men, particularly in professional settings, to cause problems.)

And, feminist men who speak up on the behalf of women are really great. But, I don’t think they’re gong to change the world.

I think the world is going to change when more men speak up – sexist men, rapist men, angry men, stalker men – and explain what happened to them that made them act the way they did. And, the more we blanket condemn these behaviors without asking *why*, the worse they’re going to get. We can’t arrest half of Reddit.

We can’t stop this by force. That is both the curse and the blessing of the internet.

I’m Jealous of Artists

Sometimes, I read a really good poem or see a really beautiful picture, and I’m touched.

Then, I’m jealous.

I think to myself, “maybe, if I hadn’t spent all those years learning how to program, I could create beautiful art.” Instead, I’m always ashamed of the things I create. My words are always so clunky and labored, my pictures so crude.

I can’t communicate with anything as quickly as I can communicate with a computer. But what is that? It’s not as if it’s ever going to talk back.

When I was younger, I saw this in myself. I was condescending toward other people’s technical abilities, not because I really thought I was better, but because it’s all I had. Sugar said Art isn’t anecdote. It’s the consciousness we bring to bear on our lives. When I look at the work of an artist, I think “Why do you get to bring consciousness to your life, while I have to figure out how to spam people’s facebook walls with messages they don’t want?”

I mean, if I can’t be *better* than artists in some intangible way, then I have to face that what I’m programming is ultimately devoid of anything that actually touches at what it means to be human. Well, I guess I get more money too. Maybe if I spend enough, I can look attractive enough to make other people jealous, and then that would almost be like winning. 

Truth is, deeply, I do believe there is something there to our technology – but what is it? I’ve become so distracted by the mindless repetition of the ideas I’m inundated by that I’ve lost the ability to step back. 

So many people want to “get into” tech, and I desperately want out. Not to stop programming, but to be out of this fucking bubble where programming is valued as somehow elite. People are willing to waste their minds doing meaningless tasks in order to “be technical,” rather than really figure out “is this what I want? is this what we want?”

Why work an 80 hour week to impress people, when you could be – say – living? I have actually blown off dates so i could work until 10 pm before. For what? So people would like me more – or act like they liked me. I’m not sure someone who actually liked me would want me working an 80 hour week, but then again, they may simply have not thought through the repercussions. 

What does it mean that all we can do with our time saving technology is work more? Is this the end game – program more, and teach more people to program, so we can keep programming? 

Or is there something else?


I just finished reading this XKCD,

and – frankly – my views very much fall in line with the man in the hat.

In  fact, I found this whole comic was fairly annoying. The hat man *didn’t* tell the strangers they were “having experiences incorrectly,” he simply stated that he hated how people did that.

I agree – not because people are “living life wrong,” but because I don’t like taking photos. Suddenly, all activities I engage in become “photo” fests, and I have to wait around for my friends to take stupid photos of stupid things, but I don’t like it. What if you didn’t like dancing, but every single event you went to required you danced at the beginning of it? It would totally blow, right?

When the hat man says “documenting your life detracts from living it,” I think what he means is “you documenting your life makes it harder for me to live mine.” Sure, if random strangers are taking photos who cares? But, when it’s people you’re around that you’re forced to engage in  it becomes very frustrating. When I was driving with my parents across iceland, they stopped about every 10 minutes to take photographs. An eight hour drive was turned into a two day drive because of this. It took more than twice as long, and that extra day was a complete waste of my life as far as I’m concerned.

And for what? To cling to some scenery in some images that will never be looked at anyway? To hold on to tangible reminder of a real event, so you can create a fictional story around it and use it to impress other people? Why do we even want photographs in the end? To show off? To forget?

Sure, if the act of taking them is pleasurable, enjoy it. But, if it’s not as pleasurable as – say – something else you could be doing, do that instead.

I fucking hate photographs.


Have you ever been accused of having too much ego, or being too egocentric? I certainly have! Many times.

And, you know, the people who told me that were right in a way. The times I have been the most depressed, for lack of a better word, heavily correlated with the times I spent the most energy introspecting, thinking about myself, and ruminating on everything I did wrong. Unfortunately, after being accused on being egocentric, I simply ruminated too much on how egocentric I was. To try not to be be egocentric starting with the idea “I am egocentric, and this is bad” is, unfortunately, by its very nature deeply egocentric. It is very focused on who “I” am, and who “I” want to be.

Also, accepting someone else’s evaluation of this can be dangerous. Sometimes, when people say “you are being too egocentric” what they actually mean is “you are being too inconvenient.” Often, for instance, oppressed groups of people are encouraged not to feel angry about their oppression. I took a class in non-violent communication with a black woman, who was careful about expressing frustration because she didn’t want to be another “angry black woman.” But, black women in America have plenty to feel angry about! And, it is possible to use pseudo-spiritual language to oppress people even more. “You have too much ego, you care so much for these little slights when clearly someone just made a slip of the tongue when talking to you. You will be happier if you just let go of some of this anger, and don’t stress out about every little comment someone makes.”

(On a side note, I *hate* the idea of “letting go” of anger.)

I disagree that a black woman who represses her anger is letting go of ego, however. I think a black woman who endured a racist remark, and hid her anger, would be embracing her ego. Not that that’s “bad” per se – sometimes it’s necessary – but she would not be expressing what she feels, in the effort to maintain a good image either to herself, or to others. To be or nor to be an “angry black woman” – both paths are full of ego. However, people who don’t like to face the repercussions of their own racism, or sexism, will gladly tell black women not to be “angry,” and if they can clothe it in hippie, new age-y type language to give it more credibility, so much the better.

In fact, I don’t think it is very useful for someone else to tell you you have too much ego, because to attack it directly like that is to play right into the ego. “I don’t want to be an egocentric person,” is a trap from which we cannot escape. The very desire itself stems from ego.

Perhaps a better question is, “What have you wanted to do, but been able to, because you were preoccupied with your self image?”

One answer for me is dance! I love dancing, but I care so much about what other people think of me, I will sometimes not do it. Even when I’m alone in my room, I’ll start to dance, and then sometimes stop because I am ashamed at how “badly” I dance. Even though there is no one else there, to think of myself as a “bad dancer” is so painful I will avoid thinking about it by avoiding dancing.

Another answer is meditate. Often, when I am meditating I get up with thoughts that approach something like “I can see so much!” Sometimes it’s not so much a thought, as a feeling of excitement, that stems from a sense of “this means something about me.” It throws me out of wherever I was, and starts me down a path of thinking about myself.

And, in a way, that’s ok. There is a lot of culture there, that I’m carrying. I exist in this facebook world of self promotion, and I don’t want to just cut it off or cut it out of me. It’s how I relate to my friends, it’s how I connect with the people around me. It’s part of what will enable me to understand pain other people are going through.  It’s important, but it interferes with some things I’m trying to do. I don’t really have a good solution. My current plan is to keep trying to do the things I’m trying to do (to dance, to meditate) with the hope that eventually, I’ll just get bored. I’ll stop being interested in thinking about what this means “about me,” and just do them.

Being Female or Being Feminine

My girlfriend works in the call center of a tech company, and was promoted to be a team lead. She just came back from a retreat with the other team leads, and said it was kind of funny that all of the team leads were either male, or lesbian. (Two of the three lesbians, including her, were “masculine of center” or “butch” lesbians.)

I thought that was interesting, because it’s something I’ve sort of heard before. One of my friends did research with one of the few female physics professors at MIT, and my friend pointed out to me “Many people think it’s particularly great that she’s become a professor while being a fairly masculine lesbian, but I wonder if the fact that she was a masculine woman made it easier for her male colleagues to accept her.”

When I started discussing this with my girlfriend last night, I read her reaction as a little defensive – like, maybe she thought I was privilege shaming her for her gender expression? That was not my intention, I have no strong emotional attachment to the sexuality or gender expression of women who enter tech. In fact, I have  no strong attachment to the number of women in tech. Given that I didn’t particularly enjoy my life as a programmer, I’m not inclined to encourage women to live a life they don’t enjoy in an effort to hit an arbitrary metric for the “ideal” number of women.

Yet, I think there’s something *there* – something important drifting around the fact that femininity itself is a marker for “non technical.”

Personally, I think the one true failing of feminism is that traditionally female roles did not gain in prestige after the movement. We freed up women to express masculinity, which was really wonderful for some women, but we did not learn to respect the work women used to do. So now, no one does that work – at least, no one I know. I think I have one friend who stays home to take care of her kids, and I’m nearly 30. This is always a tricky point, because sometimes people will read this as “women should stay home and take care of the kids,” which isn’t want I intend to convey.

I have often wondered is why did women want to take on masculine roles, but why are men so reluctant to take on feminine ones? Is it because it is worse, because raising children is a far more terrible task than being a middle manager? I suspect not.

I think that for many people (dare I say, most people? Myself included) prestige is very important. And, women’s work does not have prestige, but, it’s necessary. Sometimes, I despair because the world seems so cold now. People my age are expected to work these 50, 60, 70 hour weeks, with no concern for our own enjoyment or pleasure in life. And we’ll do it! Why? Why are people my age willing to work so hard to make someone else rich? Why do we put so much effort into producing material goods, and making money?

Do you work more than 40 hours a week? If so, why?

The traditional “feminine” role was a dependent one, dependent on children for fulfillment, on a husband for material support. I’ve heard an accusation that “women act like they don’t need men anymore,” but sometimes, I think the reverse is true. I think men act like they don’t need women. I’ve met so many men in tech willing to sacrifice their personal relationships for their career, to work such long hours they have no time to date. And, even if they are dating, they often view their main contribution to the relationship to be money, not love.

I wish traditionally feminine roles were more valued, not so we could force women to get back in the kitchen, but so that anyone who chose to pursue them – male or female – would not be ashamed of their choice. Men could say, without shame, “My connections with those I love are more important to me than the money I make, and so I will not put the best part of myself into my job. I will save it for my friends, and family, and lovers.”

Traditional femininity (as I understand it) was about nurturing the family, and maintaining social relationships within the community. Traditional masculinity was about making things manifest in the physical world – and it’s no coincidence that as we’ve lost femininity, our consumerism and materialism has skyrocketed. But, how can we start to respect something? How can a culture change its own values?

I don’t know.

The Ring Case

In Europe, there was a push for a while to label photoshopped images in magazines to “discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.” (New York Times, Nov 2011.)  I watched a recent South Park episode where Wendy shouts “Kim Kardashian is a short, overweight woman who manipulates her image and makes average girls feel horrible about themselves.” The general assumption is that photoshop, these images, have the power to make girls feel bad about themselves and that we should do something about that.

It’s a view that I usually sort of buy into. Whenever I see a view of a beautiful woman, who is likely photoshopped, I usually mentally compare myself to her or feel angry. Part of me just wants someone to make it go away, and I deeply sympathize with people who want to legislate it away – and maybe it would even work, I don’t know. But, I don’t have the power to make it happen, this is not the world I live in. So, why worry about that too much?

Once, I took an introduction to shiatsu massage class, and half way through I was feeling very relaxed and open. Suddenly, a voice in my head said “I’m going to die soon.” I was deeply unnerved, and not really sure how to take it. I tried to resist it, but no reassurances I could give myself could reassure me that I wouldn’t die soon. What was soon, anyway? Two days? Two years? Two hundred years? Who was this “I” even referring to anyway? Me? Who is me? And who was this voice talking to? Also me, the same me? Why was it not “you’re going do die soon?” (In fact, when I repeated the story too a friend, I remembered it as saying “you’re going to die soon” – I couldn’t keep straight who was “me” and who was “you” when referring to the voices in my head.)

Anyway, I came to the conclusion that even if the voice was completely prophetic, nothing had really changed. Except, when I walked home that night, everything looked different.

As I stepped off the subway, I entered a room completely plastered in express ads. The ads featured skinny women in lacy clothes, with heavy eye makeup, and that slightly open mouthed expression that is so common these days. “Pouty” I think it’s called. I remember when they’d first put the ads up, I’d been so angry. My eyes could not escape them, no matter where I looked. They even had ads plastered on the floor – I was allowed to walk on the pretty women, as long as I looked at them.

But, when I entered that room that night – full of awareness of my own mortality – I didn’t feel angry. Or sad. I felt amused. I stopped in front of one of the large vertical ads, and stared up at these woman who were probably about twice as tall as I was. And, I can’t recall the exact feeling now, but I remember finding it funny.

Since then, sometimes when I pass the ads, I still feel angry. I have tried to remember what it was I found so funny, and I don’t think it’s quite something I can put in words.

But. It had something to do with the pouty expressions, carefully engineered to completely hide the inner world of the models.

Once, when I was a child, my grandmother showed me a case with a beautiful ring in it. She took the ring out to show it to me, but I was more interested in the case. She let me play with the case, but when my brother saw me playing with it, he wanted to play with it too. I had seen ring cases on TV, and had realized that people valued them which was why I wanted to play with it, but I didn’t understand the ring inside was the valuable part. When my brother saw me with the ring case, he was tricked! He also assumed the case was the important part. We sat there fighting over the case, completely ignoring the ring.

Maybe the media is like a giant ring case shop, with huge, beautiful ring cases on display – more elaborate and more ornate than anything that has existed before, most of which you could never afford. And in the corner, there is a bucket full of beautiful diamond rings that you pick up to go in your case.

You enter the shop, and go over the the bucket of diamonds rings in the corner. You spend a minute or two staring at them, then turn to the man who runs the shop and ask, “Can I have one of these?”

He laughs at you, in a condescending but indulgent way. “Sure,” he chuckles. “Help yourself to whatever you want.”

So you reach in and take a big fist full of diamond rings, and put them in your pocket. “Thanks!” you say, as you head out the door. And, he shakes his head with a bemused sort of pity. What type of fool are you, that would want a handful of rings without a good ring case to keep it in?