On Life

We the People.

 

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“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution” Howard Chandler Christy, 1787.

There have been a lot of concerning events that have happened during the first two weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, and while they each pose very real and immediate threats the the liberties of the American people, there is a much bigger problem going on. I don’t think the leader of the free world understands how the Constitution works. For that matter, I don’t think the majority of the American public understands this document.

I am not saying this to declare that the US is full of ignorant bumpkins that don’t even know how their government works. I am sure everyone has read it, or at least parts of it. I am sure that most US citizens know about the three branches of government, and the Bill of Rights and were at some point assigned to memorize the Preamble, but most have probably not taken the time to actively understand it.

I don’t blame you. The original text is about ten pages long, and written in eighteenth-century English. Its purpose is to be administrative and as a result, it can be very dry.

I studied the “Philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system” as a part of what is probably the nerdiest and best academic team ever invented, it even has a long-winded name to match: We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution. (We called it the Constitution Team for short.)  I spent a year closely studying the Constitution, my undergraduate study was focused on the American Revolutionary Period and the Early Republic, and even I still have trouble with it.

So, I decided to spend a nice Saturday re-reading the Constitution. To my surprise, it was difficult to find the full text on Google. In fact, the whitehouse.gov link wouldn’t even load. This is indicative of many things. Most of which, are probably conspiracies invented in my own head, but what it is really indicative of is that each American citizen needs to seriously sit down and read it.

Print out the original text. Take the time to consider it as a document that was meant to be actively understood, not wrapped up and delivered to you as a totem.

Consider the history behind every sentence, every word. Consider the people writing it, the political atmosphere,  the social, economic, racial, and any other context that you can imagine. Stop, think, discuss, progress.

And, if you’re interested, I’m going to be taking the time to write up my own analysis, and I’ll be posting it here. I encourage you to join me, send me your questions, comments, concerns, and disagreeing opinions. Now, more than ever, we need to be engaging the US Constitution and talking about it seriously and productively.

You can find it here.

Mindfulness and Cooking

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Braised rabbit with leeks and saffron tagliatelle.

I recently came across this NPR article on using what the author describes as “mindful muffins,” to relieve post-election stress. I think that we can expand this idea beyond just mindfulness, but as a means to find a way to incorporate cooking into our increasingly busy lives.

As I enter into my prep for a Thanksgiving dinner that I am putting on for fellow expats and MA students, as well as prep for my thesis proposal on Monday, I have been thinking a lot about mindfulness and cooking. I have always used the practice of cooking to deal with stress and center my thoughts, but even so, I sometimes find myself feeling too exhausted to think about entering the kitchen.

Unfortunately, this means that I then succumb to either eating instant noodles (my love for them will never die) or delivery, which is inevitably disappointing and expensive, not to mention, unhealthy. Convincing myself that I am too tired or too stressed to make my own food does nothing but perpetuate an unhealthy cycle. When my diet is bad, my brain doesn’t work, when my brain doesn’t work, my stress levels increase, when I’m stressed out, I feel exhausted, when I’m exhausted I don’t want to cook, when I decide not to cook, my diet gets worse. This is something I have to remember to tell myself every time I open up Deliveroo on my phone.

I know that you may not like to cook, or even think that you don’t have time, but you are making the same mistake I am. You do have time, and you may not like it, but you can learn how to. You have to change the way you think about cooking.

In fact, this is what I am focusing my research on for the next year, more specifically, the evolution of culinary discourse in the United States throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, in relation to how the Industrial Revolution drastically changed the ways Americans worked and lived. At some point, Americans began to see food only as a means of sustenance, we stripped the practice of cooking and dining of all of its cultural importance and only looked at it in terms of its practicality.

This is how we got hooked on processed foods, they are ready to eat, they give us time to work more, they have the base level of nutrients we need. This is how we convinced ourselves we don’t have time to cook, it takes away from our earning potential. But, what does that mean for us? What does it mean that we look at the practice of cooking in terms of our economic presence in the world? This may not be a completely conscious association, but it is most likely that you feel like you don’t have time to spend fifteen minutes in the kitchen because you get home too late from work. The long hours you work probably make you stressed, the food you don’t cook is probably not great for your diet, this diet makes you exhausted, your exhaustion makes your job more stressful. Do you see? You are also perpetuating an unhealthy cycle.

So, how do we change this? Look at feeding yourself as a meditative practice. Start changing the way you perceive cooking. Consider cooking as a moment that you can stop thinking about your responsibilities, take it as a moment to reflect. Consider cooking as an excuse to take care of yourself. Find a recipe you want to try, or sign up for services like Blue Apron (though, I would only use them as a means to avoid going to the market, I am not a big fan of their recipes). It doesn’t matter if you decide to make yourself oatmeal for dinner, what does matter is that you allow yourself to take the time to do it. Each time you do, you might find that you enjoy it more.

I’ll leave you with this, I got some pie crusts to make!

Why are the millennials grieving?

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Image via ABC News

For starters, I am not one to readily call myself a millennial. I think that it is an overly generic term that does not apply to the majority of my generation. So, let’s throw that term out the window. We are more than a term ascribed to us by the generation that has upended the economy, ruined the climate, and then called us whiny for expecting them to have some accountability. We are not a generation whose interests are fleeting and easily forgotten as soon as the next set of hashtags start trending on Twitter. We are just trying our hardest to speak to a world that has consistently shut us down.

I know what it is to experience this, even more so as a woman. In the wake of the election, I made a Facebook post about my disappointment with the election results, only to be warned that this was a “new beginning” and that “anything else is anarchy.” Thank you for the lesson on government systems, it’s something that I have devoted quite a bit of time to studying, but I’ll just throw that BA in United States history in the trash, because that’s how employers see it anyway. I have been told time and time again that I am far too young to possibly understand what I am talking about, and when I get older, I will understand the necessity for xenophobia. I have been scoffed at for trying to learn about women’s health issues. I have been told that I look white, so I should rewrite my ancestry. I have been objectified and demeaned by men on the street. When I cut my hair, customers at the café I worked at told me that I “ruined” my beauty.

These are just my experiences as a privileged straight woman. These are minuscule compared to the affronts experienced by friends and family that come from a multitude of different backgrounds.

This is what your votes for Trump advocated for. Your votes for Trump told us once again that our experiences don’t matter. They told us that there is no room for public discourse, no room for acceptance, no room for healing. Your votes told us that there is only one American experience and that we’d all better get in line. Your votes advocated oppression.

To those of you that want to write me off as a bleeding heart liberal, you need to take the blindfold off of your eyes. This is not matter of liberals being poor losers. I can lick my political wounds and concede to the win of a Republican president, what I cannot stand for is the death of communication. The purpose of democracy is to encourage conversation across party lines, to bring everyone together.

I know not all Trump supporters are racists, or bigots. I know that some of you are my friends and family members, and that as people you are wonderful. I know that your intentions were not to hurt this country, but you should have known better. You should
have looked up from your ideology, and listened. Where were you when the debates were on? Where were you when Trump interjected, called his opponent a “nasty woman” and didn’t even have the courtesy to address questions? Were you distracted by the apocalyptic
picture he was painting of America? Were you distracted by his Twitter feed? Did you realize that when you went to the polls on November 8th, that you weren’t voting for a presidential candidate and that you were voting for hostility?

This is the real problem that we face. Trump as president is secondary, the long term repercussions of this election have to do with the dialogue the nation has developed. When women cried out against Trump’s sexist comments, we saw his female supporters wear signs saying, “Trump can grab my pussy!” instead of confronting the very real problem of sexual violence. In the first day since his election we have heard countless stories of Muslim women getting their hijabs ripped off, Hispanic citizens being told to go back to their own country, and a gay man was called a faggot and beaten in California. Supporters have decided that they have free license to go out into the streets and spew the hate that has been bubbling beneath the surface until now. Trump let that hate out, he made it ok to discriminate.

If you have children and you supported Trump, shame on you especially. You have taught a new generation this hatred. You have allowed for yet another generation to turn a blind eye to the experiences of their peers. You have made it ok for your children to use hate-speech, and act without concern or compassion for those who have different experiences than they do. I am not saying that this is definitely who they will grow up to be, but this will be the climate they grow up in.

This is why my generation is grieving. This is why many took to the streets, and why I wish I was there to join them. This is why we will not call that man our president. It is not that we want to overthrow the government, we want to overturn systematic discrimination. We want to live in a country where our experiences matter, not where we are told that we are cry-babies that ruin everything. We want our government to be a representation of more than a tyrannous majority; we want actual inclusive representation of the American people.

Bridalplasty saved my wedding.

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Bridalplasty. If you haven’t seen this show yet, and you love trashy television, stop everything you are doing. Buy season one on iTunes, watch all ten hours of it, and then cry because there isn’t a second season. Well, it’s probably best that Bridalplasty wasn’t given a second season, because it is pure gilded trash.

At the height of the reality TV show golden age, when the producers were drunk on power, some evil genius pitched this beautiful train wreck. It has everything.

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Reality TV star with waning popularity as host: CHECK.
Brides, doing bridal things: yup.
Body shaming, immediately fixed by a creepy plastic surgeon: 100%
GORY SURGERY FOOTAGE: YAAAAS
Negative portrayal of women: Absolutely.

I rage watched this show the first time I tried to plan my wedding. It was everything I needed to feel ok about not wanting anything remotely traditional about my “special day.” Before I finished the show, I felt like I had to comply with tradition. I thought I needed to have a bridal party, and a theme, and care about what plates the food was going to be served on. I even convinced myself to go wedding dress shopping.

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Dream come true.

It did not end in happy tears. The dresses I wanted weren’t “bridal enough,” they weren’t floor length, and I refused to try on veils. I felt like I was disappointing everyone around me because this was something that I just did not enjoy. Brides magazine was mysteriously sent to my house (I still don’t know why, I never subscribed), and I would last maybe five minutes before I started to angry cry. My fiancée would come home, see the magazine, and just know that he was going to spend the next hour listening to a tirade on the atrocities of capitalism. Eventually, I decided to stop planning my wedding all together.

We did not break off the engagement, or decide not to have a wedding. I just decided to stop planning it. I could not have a positive experience with the process. I didn’t want to be a princess, and I definitely did not want to be the center of attention. I wanted to continue living my life with my partner, just as we had been doing for the last eight years. In my mind,  our “marriage” started long before we even got engaged. Every celebration, every milestone, every argument, every difficult conversation, every time we decided to stay, those were our vows to one another.

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LIPOSUCTION OF KNEE, JUST ONE?!?

So, instead of planning a wedding, I watched a reality show where women compete for plastic surgery and a “celebrity” wedding. Each challenge winner chooses from her wish list of procedures, and is granted a full two weeks of immunity. You know, because she was recovering from major surgery. The bride who was voted out of the house is sent on her way by Travis Barker’s ex-wife, who would muster up her best condescending face and say “Your wedding will still go on, it just may not be perfect.”

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Exec. Producer, Giuliana Rancic.

What! Why? Imperfect because of that tummy-tuck you really should’ve had before the wedding? Imperfect because you don’t get to have the same florist as Giuliana Rancic? Every frustration I had about the wedding industrial complex, I was able to hurl at the TV. I was able to watch the distilled absurdity of wedding planning. I finally felt like I was justified; I no longer had to pretend to be excited.

Eventually we went on with it, but in a way that I felt comfortable with. I cut all my hair off, even though people told me I should wait until after the wedding. I bought my dress online without consulting anyone. I handed over decoration and food planning to my grandmother (she was a saint for listening when I said “no” to everything remotely wedding like).  We got a friend to officiate. We didn’t rehearse our ceremony. There were no first dances. It wasn’t “perfect” by Bridalplasty standards, but it was great.

So thank you, Bridalplasty, you gorgeous abomination.

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Glamorous.

 

Vous êtes américaine?

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Musée D’Orsay

“Trump or Hillary?” I get asked this question as soon as someone realizes that I am an American. Uber drivers, fellow beer drinkers, the maintenance guy in my building, all of them. I smile after they ask, trying not to let it morph into a cringe. Then, we bumble through a conversation of broken French and (less-broken) English. There are a lot of shoulder shrugs, and “Je ne sais pas.” Inevitably, I begin to feel ashamed of the farce of democracy that has been playing out on the American stage for the better part of the last two years.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about that. Two. Fucking. Years. At least during the Democrat’s primary season, there was some substantive debate about policy. The Republicans tried, but eventually their message descended into “Dumpster Fire America, 2016.” I am not going to pretend like I am unbiased, I am a self-proclaimed socialist, but even the most die-hard conservatives must be disappointed in how this race has turned out.

We have given the candidates two years to explain why they are qualified for the highest office in the country and, arguably, the world. We have given them two years to flesh out their plans to improve international relations, the economy, and the lives of Americans. Yet, after the debates, I’m still not sure if I know where the candidates stand on any of the issues.

This is disappointing for all of us. We should be in mourning over the loss of the political process. When the first official presidential debate aired in 1960, the main purpose was to inform the electorate of the candidates’ positions. It was to give candidates the opportunity to go up against their opponents and give the American voters a clear idea of who they were voting into office. In other words, it was supposed to be a debate, one with questions and actual answers. A debate we deserve after enduring the last two years of campaigning. We deserve to have candidates that are prepared, and ready to talk about their plans for America. We do not deserve to have have one candidate talk over the other, and rob us of the political process.

This is the insidiousness of Trump’s candidacy. He shows up and preys on the anxieties that a decade of Republican fear mongering has created. He shows his supporters that he doesn’t have to respect the political process, because he is above it. He shows them that he doesn’t have to respect the American people, because he is above them, and they eat it up.

I may not completely agree with Clinton, but I am upset for her. She is a woman who has devoted her life to public policy, and thus opened herself up to the world that is, frankly, unkind to ambitious women. She is highly educated and qualified (if somewhat untrustworthy, but it’s a mistake to fully trust politicians), and her opponent is a misogynist, racist, xenophobe, whose greatest accomplishment is building an empire devoted to his own narcissism.

So, I get asked “Trump or Hillary?” and I want to scream. I want to say “Our process is more than this!” I want to wax poetic about political philosophy. I want to explain that American politics just made some questionable decisions in the 80’s, like all the good Boomers. I want to be proud that a woman is running for president, and not have that overshadowed by another puffy old white dude. Unfortunately, there is never quite enough time for that, so I go on my way and try to pretend that American politics is actually made of the things in Aaron Sorkin’s dreams.

Winter is for other people.

I put on socks this morning,
I only own three pairs.
It’s only October,
but Winter might be here.

The season I only heard whispers of,
through the myths of my father’s childhood.

Visions of picturesque landscapes blanketed in white,
Bundles of clothing that claim to have people inside,
Breath escaping from them, as proof.

My winters were flip-flops,
the occasional scarf,
Beaches finally empty and serene.

I think this might be different here
freezing might be real,
instead of hyperbole.

Winter was for other people,
or so I had always thought,
But, as I put on socks this morning,
I realized Winter might be for me too.

Fuck.