Posts Tagged ‘adulthood’


I am a fully functional existentialist.  I believe that we are all responsible for our own choices within the circumstances of our lives, and to make changes to our lives, we must both 1) acknowledge the reality we’re living in, and the true situation of where we’re at, and 2) own up to the things we’ve done, good and bad, and both the possibilities and limitations of where we can move.  We are not responsible for being born where high school is shit.  We are responsible for deciding what to do with our crappy education, whether that’s learning a trade, getting a GED, going to community college, or going to community meetings to talk about how to change it.

The toughest part of teaching classes to folks dealing with criminal charges is the idea of taking responsibility for the things they’ve done wrong.  It’s very easy to fall into what I call the “comparison trap”, looking at other people’s actions (even, maybe especially, if the other person is wrong) and minimizing our own actions.


See?  This dog gets it.


Example.  During a class I taught, there was a student who was charged for driving without insurance and driving on a suspended license.  He had been rear ended by another driver, and continued to insist his charges were this driver’s fault.


Was it this driver who suspended your license?  Was it this driver who chose not to put insurance on your car?

Other people make crappy choices.  Lots of times, they make choices that negatively affect us.  But that doesn’t excuse our own crappy choices.

After almost 10 years in mental health, I’ve decided taking responsibility is the hallmark of adult behavior.  But being responsible really sucks, because now you can’t really deflect blame.

Please note: this is not an article extolling the virtues of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  Many people, much smarter than myself, have debunked and criticized that particular, self-servingoften racist, and fairly patronizing American ideal.  However, blaming/shirking responsibility and awareness of circumstances/taking responsibility look very different.

(We’re not talking systemic inequality either.  I can acknowledge the racist way drug laws are enforced, while still acknowledging I committed a crime by smoking crack.  The most effective place to fight that is probably not a prison cell; the way to fight it is probably not by getting arrested over and over.).

All you need to do to take responsibility is say you did something.  You can recognize the reasons for it, but still acknowledge you did something.


Example.  Abuse tends to run in cycles; one third of abused children tend to grow up to be abusers of their own children.  It’s generally a complex traumatic reaction.  They either model the behavior they learned as children, or don’t have proper coping skills to deal with their own anger/depression/anxiety/stress, or don’t have good/accurate parenting information (this is the “in my day all kids got a whooping” defense).  Abused children are nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.  They struggle with self-esteem and attachment to others.  Abused children have much higher rates of mental health concerns than the general population.

However, none of this excuses parents who abuse their children.  It can help us to understand, it assists the parent in knowing where help and assistance is needed, and can assist those of us in public health to target useful preventative areas.

But the abuse is still wrong.  The parent made the choice to abuse.  And if the parent points to their own childhood, or lack of parenting knowledge, or lack of social safety nets, or lack of social supports, without acknowledging their own agency, that’s a problem.

The behavior we don’t take responsibility for performing, we can’t take responsibility for changing.

Live dangerously.  If you don’t like our society, change it.  Don’t like our laws?  Fight them.  Don’t know where to start?  The internet!  Or…you know, take responsibility for not knowing, and ask for help!

Want to be independent?  Recognize your own agency today!



For the longest time, and likely right now, I thought communicating with my partner would take away something from our relationship.  Surely, if he truly loved and understood me, he could interpret my change in breathing, or remember what I wanted for Christmas, or actually empty the dishwasher.  If I were to say something out loud, I thought it meant we were no longer in love.

Truthfully, this is baloney.

And just as truthfully, in past (younger) relationships, I didn’t believe my partner was doing something because he actually wanted to…just doing it because I had asked, which took something away from the action.

Again, baloney.

The goal of communicating within a relationship is to increase your cooperation, happiness, and respect for each other.  Oh, and to get what you want, and make sure your relationship gets what it needs to be healthy.  If you’ve got a problem, the goal is to get the problem solved.  It doesn’t really matter if a partner really wants to empty the dishwasher, or if he/she is just doing that to make you happy – the dishwasher is still empty.   Problem solved.

My favorite sexual feminist issue is consent (read about it here!), and I have come to suspect our distrust and misuse of consent is centered around the same preconceptions I used to have about communication.  Surely, we think, if I tell my partner to do something differently, or that I don’t like that position, or that I’d rather not have sex right now, then I won’t be able to enjoy anything ever again and our love is over and this sex is no longer sexy.


Let’s pump the brakes on this, yes?

So many issues can be avoided if we’d just talk to each other!  And the worst song offender I’ve found, a song that totally centers the idea of acting without actually talking to the person you’re interested in, is this gem by pop rock stalwarts Weezer (lyrics here)…except the idea is that he says it out loud.  Great job, Rivers!

Ryan Gosling knows.  #bonusGIF


High heels break my heart.  High heels are always beyond beautiful to me, and all the shoes I see and like tend to have ridiculously high heels.  Iron Fist is my favorite guilty pleasure; they may be a bit Ed Hardy-ish, but MAN are they cute.

I mean…come on.

I am terrible at wearing high heels.  It takes lots of practice; there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of articles out there about how to walk properly in heels.  When I was friends with burlesque dancers, we used to practice walking around our city in high heels, and generally we’d be dead after about two blocks.  I have a vision of wearing heels to my high school graduation and being in tears by the end of the ceremony because the straps had bloodied my feet.

Heels have some nasty side effects, too.  They fucking hurt to wear – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Many women wear


heels so often their Achilles tendon shortens, and it becomes painful to wear flat shoes or go barefoot.   They change your gait, make you walk more slowly and move toe-heel rather than heel-toe.  It’s damaging to your knees, to your back, to your feet.  If you’re not sitting down for at least 5-10 minutes every hour in heels, you run the risk of nerve damage in your feet;  after a night out drinking in heels, my friend was forced to have surgery; the night ended in damage to the balls of her feet and almost necessitated the removal of two toes.

Still, I find myself hesitating every time I go to clean out my shoe collection.  Part of a professional presentation as a woman often includes high heel shoes.  I kid myself into thinking I might wear them out to dinner, or to a wedding (I won’t).  They’re sometimes the only way to fancy up a boring outfit. Plus…they’re so pretty.

While reading Bad Feminist, one of the lines that’s stuck in my mind is about high heels and purses.   To paraphrase author Roxane Gay, they’re pretty, but they were invented to slow women down.  I agree with it, and I hate it.

The high heel shoe has a long and storied history.  It’s been a symbol of societally enforced sexiness for hundreds of years.  After all, an impractical shoe ensures women are physically slower and mentally preoccupied (either with how great they look, finding a great pair of shoes, or with how much pain they’re in).

look at those boys!

I can’t think of many punk or hardcore bands where heels are present (with the fabulous exception of the New York Dolls).  It’s tough to skank around if you can hardly walk; it’s tough to keep your balance when you’re already balancing.  Punk, in my mind, after the 1970s, was mostly about function over fashion, rejecting societal norms and making that rejection a fundamental part of your presentation.  Viv Albertine talks in her autobiography about wearing boots with dresses after she and a friend were chased and assaulted by a gang.  It’s tough to run for your life in heels.

This morning I had a moment of sadness that I was opting for flats, after walking to my car at a snail’s pace in my favorite fancy pair of heels.  But for me, I’m reminding myself today I can walk quickly and function well.  That’s my tradeoff.  And my heel collection, well…maybe that will be a tradeoff soon too.

But not one without regrets.

My sister is amazing.  We’re the only two children in our extended family, and have 8 years between us.  As she gets older and wiser, we’re getting closer and building up our adult relationship.

We are about as different as two siblings can be.  In school, I was an enormous nerd; I wore glasses, had wavy, frizzy hair, was chubby and awkward (not like Zooey Deschanel awkward, like Amy Schumer awkward).

fuck you.

I played in marching band, and was on backstage crew in theater.  NERD.  College gave me punk rock, and I haven’t looked back since.

My sister was nominated for homecoming princess, captain of her soccer team, with naturally straight hair.  She played basketball, volleyball and powderpuff football.  She made t-shirts with her friends and took selfies that looked professional.  She’s also smart as shit and is studying to be an engineer now.

So it took me by surprise when she texted me to let me know she wants to be a punk now.

with this picture. it’s great, isn’t it?

After I recovered from my laughing fit, I started thinking about how one becomes a punk.  If you’re past the age of 15, it becomes more difficult to get into the culture, into the scene.  I still wince thinking about my naiveté calling garbage pop punk and post-hardcore records “punk.”  Oops.

this guy definitely knows how to be cool.

It’s the little things, you know?  Like the time a punker told me I had “all the right bands” on my computer.  I was 18, this was a big deal.  Or the party where my idol put on And Out Come the Wolves and I could sing along with everyone else.  Or a bouncer seeing my Black Flag tattoo and saying something about it.  Poser moments?  Maybe.  But they were a part of my punk evolution.

The best advice I ever got was from a friend of mine who we nicknamed “Scary Eyebrows.”  They were incredible, they stuck straight out like Einstein’s hair.  Anyway, he told me punk was all about doing whatever the fuck you wanted and not caring if anyone liked it.  That’s still the philosophy I try to live by.

So, if you want to be a punk, start with your education.  Read all the books you can about the birth of the musicWatch documentaries.  Talk about them with your friends.  Get comfortable with the politics and divides.

Go to shows.  Like, all the shows you can.  Especially local shows.  Punks support each other and support the local scene.  Try to avoid major label bands if at all possible.  Buy merch and music directly from the bands – that’s how they make their money, not by the cut from iTunes sales.

Listen to punk.  Obvious, but important.  Get familiar with the nuances, the different genres and styles.  Peruse the classics and figure out what you like and don’t like.  Are you a fan of gang vocals and rage?  Maybe hardcore punk is your shit.  Do you enjoy skanking around and bouncing with friends?  Try out some third wave ska.  Are bagpipes and fiddles your cue to party?  Perhaps some Celtic or eastern European  punk bands would tickle your fancy.  Do you hate the establishment?  Start with crust punk and crack rock steady, then work your way into 1990s hardcore.

Keep up on the news.  Read and Profane Existence.  Skim through Maximum Rockandroll.  Keep informed about your town’s scene.  Read some zines and stuff created by your peers and compatriots.

Do the jobs that fit with your values, that honor DIY ethic, that contribute to the community.  Be nice to people.  Pick people up that fall down.

Drink PBR, or don’t.  Eat hamburgers, or be a vegan.  Dye your hair, or never fuck with showers.  Be yourself.

Most importantly, dress however the fuck you want.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go shopping at Hot Topic.  You can’t buy your way into punk.  Do It Yourself is the guiding principle here.  Tear up your own t-shirts, sew your own patches, stud your own vests, paint your own leathers.

I guess that’s where my advice ends.  Any additional advice is more than welcome in the comments!

As a wise band once said, breaking up is hard to do.

When you’re young, breaking up is the end of the world.  Your chest is always tight, your eyes always on the verge of tearing up, and every song you hear is either a repudiation or an anthem of your personal pain.

It doesn’t matter what side of the breakup you’re on, either.  It really sucks to be dumpee, but it also really sucks to be the dumper (and how gross does that term sound?).  Constantly questioning your values and your value as a person is exhausting, producing the kind of existential angst only matched by 00s emo (I’m looking at you, Taking Back Sunday).

these fuckin’ guys right here.

Breaking up is also super important.  It puts everything into sharp relief – what’s really important to you in another person, what valuable contributions a partner brings to the relationship.  I read once most relationships are broken apart by sex, money and childrearing.  I believe this only because those are three of the biggest issues dealing with personal values we can face, and that couples must face.  I doubt it’s actually money or sex or kids that are the problem; it’s our beliefs about how things should be done, how the world functions, and our place dealing with these things, that create relationship turmoil.  Our schema, if you will.

Rougher still for me personally is the uselessness of my old standby for decision making, the pros/cons chart (here’s a great one, if you’re into that sort of thing).  You can list good and bad all day, but a relationship has weighted grades.  One con may outweigh 10 pros, or vice versa.  It makes things very complicated.  I’ve never met anyone who thought the person they loved was all good or all bad, and even when things get shitty (like, really shitty), it’s tough to discard the non-shitty parts.

More recent narratives and articles don’t help (Mr. Right Now, anyone?), although lately it seems more women (and men) in feminist spaces are extolling the virtues of the single life.  In a world still obsessed with finding The One, ticking biological clocks, and stories of the sad, lonely misfits brought low by lack of relational prowess and partners, ending a lackluster or unfulfilling relationship seems like selfishness, like betrayal.  Shouldn’t we be grateful anyone exists to love us at all?  Shouldn’t we just keep trying because nothing and no one will ever be 100% perfect?

(see this quote from the Wedding Planner)

Jerry Seinfeld, the greatest philosopher of our time, compared breaking up to pushing over a vending machine, because it takes a couple tries to get it done.

Here’s to picking candy out of the broken glass.

Full disclosure: I have run many an anger management group and it infuses a lot of the classes I teach.

The main concept we try to get to is control of behavior.  You might feel your feelings, but you have to be responsible for your actions and behavior.  Just because you’re pissed doesn’t give you the right to hit someone in the face.  Got the concept?

It’s a new expectation for behavior.  If you were in prison, where letting an insult go can lead to a label and a target on your back, it’s (almost always) seen as necessary to respond to insults with force.  If you’re living in the hood, part of not getting messed with is projecting an image of strength and fearsomeness.  Rightly or wrongly, these are the cultural expectations we see in folks with anger problems.  It’s not because everyone in prison is an asshole – it’s because the situation and culture creates an expectation for behavior that one must follow to remain safe.

Controlling an anger reaction is difficult not only because it runs opposite to lots of cultural and situational training, but also because it’s tough to let wrong people get away with being wrong.  It’s essentially a game of self-control, but most of the time it’s frustrating and unrewarding; it’s much more satisfying to actually act on your emotions (consequences be damned) than to control them.  Especially for men, who have so much identity tied up in being macho and tough and ready to fight, it’s really hard to expect them to walk away from someone who is in the wrong, or to not stand up for their reputation, or to let an insult go without reacting.

I was at an (amazing) hardcore show last night, hanging out on the outskirts of the mosh pit, enjoying the hell out of watching the folks dancing around doing spin kicks and floor punches.  It’s like a cultural experience sometimes – there’s expectations for behavior and for reactions in every show, and every scene is different.  There was a young man, probably early twenties, who got kicked in the leg by a dancer (I think); he got pissed and walked toward the person who had danced into him, arms out, like the “come at me bro” guy.

like this.

It was absurd, not least because it’s a cultural expectation at a show – you stand by the mosh pit, you might get hit.

He looked ridiculous, and luckily his friend stopped him, but he didn’t want to get stopped.  He wanted to give into that anger reaction, and he didn’t want to admit he was wrong for getting pissed (even though he was).

The toughest part about walking away is that the person who did you wrong might never know, and this is super annoying.  Lots of our cultural media is centered on justice, of wrongdoers paying the price, assholes getting their comeuppance.  Real life doesn’t work that way all the time – even if a wrongdoer pays, we might never know.  And it’s still essential to be the bigger person, to know that you’re okay, even if they never know.

Anger management sucks because it requires we let go of our ego and humble ourselves.  It requires not acting on our impulses and maybe never getting credit for doing a good thing.  In a world obsessed with individuals and ego, it’s more important than ever and more difficult than ever.

Anger management sucks, but it’s essential to function.  The difference between children and adults is impulse control – maybe this is the key task for us to master before we can work toward the world we want.  Society before self.

Anger management sucks, but chaos sucks more.

Both my local news and CNN were full of Marshawn Lynch for the past couple of days.  Honestly, I’d never heard of the guy; I’m not what you’d call a sports fan and I certainly don’t care what a football player has to say (even when it’s amazing quotes about balls).  Despite my lack of interest, however, the news saturation has forced an opinion out of me.

For Pete’s sake, leave Marshawn Lynch alone!

Apparently the NFL has a policy that players must talk to the press or face serious fines.  Marshawn is not a big fan; the press conference I’ve seen has him saying “thank you” to every question, or answering with “you know why I’m here” and “I’m here so I don’t get fined.”  It’s hilarious.

This morning CNN reported he may get fined for wearing “unapproved hats.”  Seriously?

Leaving aside the utterly ridiculous fact that the NFL is technically a nonprofit, this is absurd.  WHO CARES about his flippin’ hat?

This is the problem with overarching rules, a lot of the time.  They’re probably there for a reason (like to make sure players who behave badly, like [too many to list], have to be accountable at least a little to the press) but the enforcement gets ridiculous.

Lynch hasn’t done anything wrong (at least not publically, since his 2012 DUI).  He’s a great player (watch the following for proof).  He stated he doesn’t like talking to the press because of his upbringing (because winning games is about the team) and being forced into it.

So why do we keep forcing him?  Can’t we just talk to the other dudes on his team, who’d probably love some publicity?

Better yet, why do we talk to these folks at all?  Maybe if we cared a bit less about this baloney we could have actual news on our news stations.  Just a thought.

(however, this run is sick.)

When I first started therapy, at least this round of therapy, I immediately got into a fight with my therapist about drinking.

As a substance abuse counselor for many years, I am well familiar with the symptoms and signs of problematic use; my issue was her assertion drinking causes mood disruption for almost a month after the drink.  One drink?  Depressed for a month? Sounded a bit loony to me, especially as I’d never read anything in the literature matching this assertion, with the exception of those who drank every day, then suffering withdrawal and PAWS.  So I did an anecdotal, totally unscientific study and stopped drinking for 45 days, tracking my mood each day.

Through this time period, my parents invited me to visit them on vacation in Florida, I was living with roommates with whom drinking was our main activity, and I was single and working three jobs.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to say no to booze (it’s always nice to have a reminder that I really can stop if I want) and drinking club soda usually solved the problem at bars, as it looks like it could be a drink.  But my mood stayed the same.

(Depression and alcoholism (as well as other drug use) usually go together.  They do not help each other.)

I have never been hungover and told myself I would never drink again.  For one, that’s an absurd cliche.

For two, I knew it was baloney.  Sure, I wouldn’t been tossing shots back the day after a big night, but forever is a long time (hence the one day at a time motto in AA).  But as I grow older and older, I am drinking less and less.  My tolerance is down, and I don’t find myself out on Friday and Saturday nights, spending money and carousing.  I have fewer hangover brunches, and my fridge keeps beer in it for weeks at a time (it helps not having roommates).

I struggle, because in the states especially, it seems drinking is associated with being young, being in college, with fun, with cutting loose.  I worry I am getting too serious, that I am losing friends, that worst of all, I may be growing up and out of the party scene.


It’s this that is most difficult, because really, drinking is putting a neurotoxin in your body.  It has calories, makes you do stupid crap (sometimes) and it destroys your body if you drink enough for long enough.  I have friends in their forties who party like college students, and my parents definitely drink with their friends on occasion.  It’s these thoughts and experiences that make you sympathetic to anyone in recovery, anyone who has chosen to make changes in their life and put the bottle down.  Because even for us weekend warriors and college boozers, it’s not easy to stop.

This article states an alcoholic is anyone who’s life gets better when they stop drinking.  Does yours?