Category Archives: work

don’t you remember?

Standard

came to work to find the air conditioning blasting (it’s 43 degrees outside! or it was, now it’s shivery again) and an anonymous valentine on my desk urging me to accept jesus christ into my heart. yes, really. it really upset me for some reason (although i felt better when i realized that everyone had gotten one and it wasn’t just me, it wasn’t just some random person who pegged me as a sinner).

the fabulous amanda lent me her walkman so i’ve been listening to fuzzy tapes all day instead of my crisp-yet-repetitive ipod. been taking me down memory lane, in a bad way. when i emerge from a too-long bathroom session my eyes are puffy and red and i look like a disheveled homeless man. i guess the fingerless gloves and the dirty long wool coat (what my ex-best friend called my “lovable wino coat”) don’t help matters much, but what choice do i have? the AIR CONDITIONING IS ON, ON FUCKING VALENTINES DAY. maybe that would be okay in, like, hawaii, but probably not even there. not in western pennsylvania. so i’m wandering around heartstabbed and shivering today. i can’t get warm anywhere. this coat used to be the thickest one i owned, and now the wind slices right through it.

despair.

Standard

so. obama is planning on cutting $2.5 billion dollars from LIHEAP. i work for LIHEAP; about 3 million families in america use the program; about 65,000 in the county i work for/live in. planned parenthood is slated to lose $327 million in federal funding. one of my besties and three of my other friends work there; millions of low-income and uninsured women are served there every year.

what will happen to us five? what will happen to us millions? i guess we’ll figure something else out, make it work somehow, stretch the unstretchable until it snaps. what else can you do? lay down and die? tempting, but that would be letting the fuckers win, the fuckers (oh aren’t i so dignified in my language choice?) with their suits and their suites and their power, who don’t think my life as a living breathing woman is as valuable as that of a fetus i am incubating? oh my god, that link, if you haven’t heard of it already…if you, as a woman, did not already have enough evidence that your life means nothing to the people in power, that link will be all the proof you need.

so, what to do. the previous post made me upset but empowered, the community response around that issue was amazing, so many people willing to do what it takes in such short notice. the first time i saw the powers of facebook used for good and not the mundane. truly inspiring and heartwarming.

but what do you do in the face of bills on the brink of passing that invalidate your humanity, that state that your life has no value? go to law school? write a letter to your congressperson that gets thrown in the recycling immediately? call them and get branded a wingnut? what happens if you are tired of explaining to men who will never get pregnant that choosing whether or not to be pregnant is really, really important, and really, really not their business? what if the air rushes out of your lungs. what if all this arguing with people who don’t care robs your cells of the oxygen they need to live. don’t you need to live?

and what do you do, every day, in the face of that tidal wave of paperwork, all those heating applications, all those sad stories, and your co-workers who’ve had good jobs their whole adult lives, who tell stories of their spouse turning down the thermostat to, gasp, 68 degrees!, say they’re lying, say, they’re just trying to get your sympathy, what do you say in the face of that? especially when they have your empathy, not sympathy, because you know their stories. because you’ve lived them, or witnessed them. you’ve shivered through winters because you couldn’t pay your heating bill and you know these people aren’t lying, or, if they are, they have a damn good reason. but what do you say to those gray cubicles to make them understand?

what do you do. you fight in the small ways. you find ways to stay sane. you write and you hope. you keep living. what else can you do.

ask me about my feelings about tubal ligation! and childbearing! and how i am not a bad person because i don’t want to have babies!

Standard

holy shit. i just got an order from the excellent ak press which included a zine called “ask me about my tubal ligation“. the title caught my eye while i was perusing their catologue, as it’s something that i’ve been pondering for a while. it’s not really a super-pressing issue, as my long-term partner is trans & can’t get me pregnant, & historically i have not been very sexually active with anyone who can get me pregnant. but, i feel that, were i to become serious sweeties with a man who could knock me up, i would definitely be looking into it.

this zine was so good because it provided a step-by-step outline of how she made her decision, how she fought against many a sexist, condescending doctor until she finally found one who was willing to do this procedure. she wrote a little bit about the actual procedure itself & the recovery, and the rest of the zine was devoted to dealing with other peoples’ negative reactions to her new voluntarily infertile status.

reading this zine was SUCH a breath of fresh air for me. like the author, i don’t like children, i don’t want to devote my entire life to the many frustrations, both petty and major, of being a parent. i think that this planet has way too many people on it already, and, if my time at chld protctv svcs has taught me one thing, it’s that there are a TON of kids out there who really, really, really need safe, healthy, stable homes. (and i don’t even want to get into the whole i-had-an-unhappy-abusive-childhood-and-i-am-terrified-that-i-would-become-an-abuser-too bit, but that’s definitely a factor, too.)

but, you know, i’m such a horrible person for thinking that. i don’t like kids because i’m “heartless” and i don’t want them because i’m “selfish.” i care about the planet not having enough resources to support the people who already live on it because i’m “negative”. and if i bring up the dozens of really sad, cute children i used to work with, whose parents have died, whose parents are doing life, whose parents are too busy smoking crack or shooting heroin or just plain old fashioned not giving a fuck to take care of them–well, i’m just “bringing everyone down!”

seriously, people? just because i don’t particularly enjoy listening to the screeching of children all day does not mean i’m an awful human being who is deserving of your judgment and criticism. i would not ever criticize you for having kids; please do not criticize me for wanting to spend my life around adults.

and on the flip side, i don’t particularly like it when someone sees me doing something cute/nice/tender/selfless for someone else and says, “i don’t know why you don’t want children; you’d make such a great parent!” as if my kindness is wasted if i give it to an adult? as if lavishing love on my partner, friends, or even strangers has absolutely no merit, for me or for them?

anyway. the purpose of this blog entry is not to stomp on anyone’s toes. i know that most of the people reading this blog would like to have kids some day; most people do. i am not, in any way, criticizing your choices. i am merely stating that being child-free is also a valid choice and i am tired of dealing with people who don’t respect my choices (which affect absolutely no one besides me and my partner [who, if you're wondering, does want kids some day, but is also a bit younger than me & wants to wait at least 5 years, so it's a non-issue for now]). and reading this zine unlocked something within me, made me feel like it’s okay to talk about & gave me some backup. & i feel like part of the reason why i read zines is for emotional backup.

on a semi-related note, i recently learned that, in PA, a woman is eligible for TANF cash assistance if she is pregnant; but if she has an abortion, the money is cut off. because, you know, she totally couldn’t use that princely [$205/month] sum as a childless grownup, with rent and bills to pay. she’s only “deserving” of it if she’s doing her womanly duty of incubating a fetus. if she doesn’t want to do that, she’s shit out of luck. gaaaah! so fucked up! [in case you didn't know, in PA at least, one can only get cash assistance if one is a) totally destitute (i believe if the household has more than $200 in resources they are ineligible. i don't know because i work in heating assistance, not cash assistance, so that isn't really my job, but i do know that the threshold is some ridiculously low # like that) and b) either disabled & with a denied SSI claim or taking care of/having children. things were different before the clinton-era welfare reform act, but for now, if you're an adult without kids & you're between jobs, if your unemployment runs out and you can't find any more work, if you're in any number of difficult situations and your money simply runs out and you can't get any more--you are just going to have to deal with it, because the government is not going to help. not like the chump change they dole out is enough to live on, but it's SOMETHING. ugh. of course, families should get as much financial support as they can, but what about the grown-ups? we need money too! i could rant about this literally all fucking day; about these fucked up policies and how no one cares; but i will stop here.]

on bleeding, cramps, self-care and the fuckin’ patriarchy.

Standard

so. i am one of those people who very rarely calls in sick. i dragged myself to work throughout a hellish cold last month, because i didn’t want to lose any money or seniority at work.

but today i woke up at 7:15, when the sky was still dark and the world was still cold, bleeding profusely, and i was like, “you know what?! fuck it!” i called in sick to my manager, who seemed mildly horrified that i was honest about having cramps, despite the fact that she is a woman and the mother of several daughters. but whatever. the funny thing is, i wasn’t even feeling crampy. i do get really sick usually, but i didn’t get sick today, because i took care of myself.

sure, i could have gotten out of bed, taken a shitload of pain medication, packed my heating pad, and trudged out into the snow and single-digit windchills. i could have waited for the bus, gone to work, plugged my heating pad in and snuggled it next to my abdomen, hiding it under my desk all day. i am very fortunate to have a physically easy, sit-down desk job. it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. i’ve done it dozens and dozens of times.

but today i decided to opt for some self-care, to act like i am a person whose needs and comfort matter, and so i called off, and snuggled with my sweetheart underneath our blankets, and slept for a total of 12 hours, and took a bath, and just didn’t push myself on this day where, month after month, i am completely exhausted.

well, on the lucky days i am completely exhausted and just feel vaguely like shit. on the unlucky days i am on my knees puking violently and crying about all the things that i can handle the rest of the month, just crying hysterically about my friend in solitary confinement and my other friend in the graveyard and all the fucked up things going on in the world, every fucking thing, i can feel it then, i feel it so intensely and it’s so, so awful.

and i also called off (you see, you see how much i need to justify it to myself? crazy i tell you) because i was thinking, if the world were run by women we’d all get an automatic day off every month to deal with this shit, no shame, no questions asked, no docked pay, just a day to curl up and reflect and not push your body past its breaking point. and of course in the world as know it now that wouldn’t be possible, all these men would be making a stink about how “unfair” it is that women get an extra day off, when what’s actually fucking unfair is how half the population has to go to work, or school, or go about their daily routine,  feeling totally horrible and sick, and not only that but we have to hide it, act like everything’s fine, be vague if a crack in our armor shows and people ask what’s wrong and keep smiling! keep smiling! oh, you’d better keep smiling because if you are not smiling through every situation that life throws at you, you have completely failed as a woman. gaah. i don’t even care how much this sounds like a 15-year-old new-to-riot-grrrl rant.

all i am saying is, i am glad that i took that day for myself. nobody gave it to me, i took it. i am glad that i have a job where it isn’t a super big deal if i miss a day (although i don’t have paid sick days and i lost about $80 not going into work, i am also glad to be in a financial place where a day’s pay lost isn’t a disaster), i am glad that i was able to wake up and say “fuck it” and spend the day taking care of myself, and i am in a much better mood in general for having had that experience.

on a much-lighter-but-still-menstruation-related-note, i ordered this poster from iheartguts last month and it makes me so happy! it’s soooo cute!

snowy times, tough dykes, & possibilities

Standard

winter is here and it sucks the breath out of my lungs, that first step outside. i didn’t believe it would happen. i don’t know why, i just thought things would be different. but i’m sleep-deprived & over-caffeinated, just like most people, wandering through the days in a numb haze. already tired of it, with many months to go.

i saw “rise against: the tribe 8 documentary” last night with a bunch of fun queers, and it was so good, so snarky and relevant to my life both now and long ago, made me miss my crazy punk dyke friends, all gone now in one way or another. and just seeing a movie, seeing something, that made sense to me, that i could relate to, was like a salve. there’s one line i thought about all day, where silas flipper says, “i read somewhere that a woman’s worst fear is being raped, and a man’s worst fear is being laughed at. i think that says a lot about how things are in our society. so, i try to laugh at men as much as i can!” i spent all day wondering how any woman gets by in this world without subverting it in some way. all the women that i work with, who i don’t like at all, i still feel bad for them. all the dieting, the endless trying to please everyone in their lives, all the casual self-hatred tossed out all day. “i’m so fat.” “i’m so stupid.” how have they done it for so long?

i don’t think that i’m making the point that i want to make. so i will change the subject. i was thinking of moving back to new york, not this summer but next, and working for the union for a little bit, mainly because i want my next novel to be a lesbian construction worker romance (which will not be as ridiculous as it sounds!) i worked construction the summer of 2004, in the union that my dad is a member of, that my grandfather and great-grandfather were a member of. fourth generation. all the grizzled old union guys were impressed when i told them. it sucked, getting up early and sweating all day with a bunch of dudes, half of whom were so pissed that i was there because they felt like they couldn’t scratch their balls all day or whatever the fuck. but it was also a really interesting environment that i kind of want to talk about. and i want to talk about how the women in that environment took care of each other; we had to. there were about 500 guys in the building and about 20 women. and it was so beautiful, what we saw in each other, what we nurtured and protected.

plus, funny things happened there every day. just little things. i don’t feel like telling any of the stories right now, but maybe i’ll be in the mood some day. the graffiti was great, the conversations were sometimes great, just being in those buildings while they were still new, before anyone else, high above the city as the sun slowly crawled above the buildings. and the first-born in my family has always been an electrician, for three generations before me, and i usually hate tradition but there was something about swinging that hammer, about cutting that pipe, about running that wire through the ceiling, that felt so right, that i felt deep in my bones. so maybe i’ll do it again, just for the summer when i’m off from my other job, gathering stories like little figs, underslept and overcaffeinated, just like i am now.

to be honest, i’m mostly posting to move those pictures of myself down the screen a little.

Standard

this weekend was really bad, in terms of mental health. i haven’t felt this crazy in a long time. things got really awful and then they got better, like a thunderstorm and then it’s over.

ray thinks that it’s “post-partum depression” from my book, and also that maybe editing my book, which is very, very loosely based on my younger, crazier years (everyone who reads it assumes it’s an autobiography, but there are maybe 5 pages worth of events in the whole 200+ page manuscript that actually happened to me; the rest is fiction! fiction! fiction! and if it “sounds like me,” well duh, that’s because i wrote it!), is reminding me of all the fun parts of those times, and not how fucking hard it was. and it’s making me kind of sad that that part of my life is over & i’m in this easier-but-duller stretch.

i think i’m sad because i struggle every day in a world that hates me and because i spend 35 hours a week sitting in a room with people who very, very obviously don’t like me, even though they don’t know a damn thing about me, because i don’t look like them and i don’t share their fucked up opinions and, no matter how much i try to clean up there is always something that’s a little, little off….and it is hard to be in that environment without internalizing it in some way. without feeling like maybe there is something wrong with you, maybe you are all the bad things that people have been calling you for literally your entire fucking life, maybe that sweet voice inside of you, that fire burning steadily, maybe that was wrong and they’re all right. and oh, doesn’t that just make you wish you were dead? of course it does.

but i’ve been taking care. calling friends, reading inspiring zines, screaming when i’ve gotta scream, mending bridges, reminding myself that they haven’t gotten me yet. and that’s all i can do. i don’t know anything else.

on names, identities, and the 90′s. plus some other things.

Standard

so, my new job has really been going swimmingly thus far. i think a lot of the reason is because i’m no longer using my legal first name professionally. i’m not going by my preferred name of ocean, because i still feel weird asking people to call me that. i can’t just act like it’s part of my legal name, because i work for the government and they check evvvverything. plus, i really like keeping my personal and professional life separate, and googling “ocean capewell” brings up not only this blog, but a whole lot of things that i’d prefer random middleaged middlebrow co-workers not know about me. (not that i really think anyone’s gonna google me, but you never know)
so, i’ve switched to alice, which is my middle name. i don’t know why this didn’t occur to me years ago. i really, really dislike my first name, not because it is such a bad name in and of itself, but because it is a very real reminder of a terrible time in my life. i used the first name for the first 12 years of my life, when i had pretty much no friends and when absolutely everyone hated me. i was really quiet and considered boring and creepy by pretty much everyone; i was abused at home and tormented at school and was never happy unless i was reading or writing (two activities for which i was routinely made fun of, or which were taken away for little to no reason). it doesn’t sound all that bad, typing it, but it was bad to live through, and once i changed my name my life got interesting and strange, and it’s pretty much stayed that way since.
but, you know, i have to use this name i hate for straight jobs. i’ve definitely had some jobs where i could be ocean, but i’ve spent the last few years working white-collar office jobs. and yeah, i could be brave, but i already have so many strikes against me being weird-looking and not quite gender-conforming, i just don’t want to add another. so i use that name, and it’s weird how much it brings me back to that socially paralyzed, extremely awkward, hopeless place. it’s weird how it seems like the last 16 years of adventures and bravery and gumption have all been erased, and i’m mute again, i’m so afraid and so unable to connect with people. but using “alice” doesn’t bring up any of this, really. it’s a little odd using a name that i don’t associate with myself at all, but ultimately not that big a deal.
some of you readers out there know my legal first name, and that’s fine. it happens sometimes, and as long as you don’t use it in conjunction with me, i don’t really care. and some of you may be wondering what it is. please don’t ask me. i think it’s a good rule of thumb to follow trans name etiquette with everyone who’s changed their name, regardless of whether they are trans or not. (in case you don’t feel like clicking that link, here’s a rundown: don’t ask what my ‘real’ name is. don’t go around telling people my given name if they know it. even if you think my name is stupid, or doesn’t fit, keep that information to yourself and respect that i can make decisions about my life that are important to me. etc.) most people don’t go through all the hassle of a name change–be it legal or informal–for absolutely no reason. we often have very good reasons for keeping our birth names private.

anyway! i have more to say on that subject but i am tired of writing about it. kind of weird that i have used an “illegal” name for 16 years now and this is the first time i’ve really written publicly about what it means to me emotionally and my frustrations around having a name that i’m legally tied to but absolutely can’t stand. (i have not been able to get a legal name change for various reasons)
okay, but really, new topic! another reason why i like my new job is that there is a very relaxed dress code. today i showed up looking kind of like harmony korine in sassy magazine from, like, 1995:

and nobody breathed a word, or even seemed like they noticed. i also wore my ridiculous bright red fake fur coat that i love SO much, and i met amanda for lunch, and i said, “isn’t it weird how i have a real job now but i still look like a total weirdo?” she said “yes” and we giggled together. it was really great.
speaking of the 90′s, i may be a little late to the party, but this “you may be a 90′s woman if…” post totally made me laugh, and realize that i am more of a cliche than i realize. i could relate to every single one of those, except that silly list of people to crush on. i’ve never been the crushing-on-celebrities type. what an odd note to end this post on, but i really have nothing else tonight.

oh, the things one thinks about when one is bored.

Standard

remember school? remember the hours of sitting, pointlessly, how it wore on you, how it brought strange things to the top of your head? work gets boring, yes, but it’s different than school, because there’s usually some work, or gossip, or drama to distract you from your own boredom.
i’m in training for my new job, all week, and it’s kind of like school. sitting numbly in a windowless room, watching power point presentations and trying to sift through an endless stream of rules, policies and forms, often making little to no sense, or contradicting each other. such is the life of a government worker, i know. and every so often my brain can’t take it any more, and i check out.
i’ve been reading the most excellent and highly recommended (by me, and probably a lot of other people too) book a visit from the goon squad by jennifer egan. it’s the kind of book that gets you into other peoples’ heads, makes you know them, understand them, sympathize with them even when they’re awful people. so this has made me more aware of my own thoughts, made me remember things more in-depth and meaningfully.
one memory that i’ve been dwelling on is so mundane. i don’t know why i’m even thinking about it. it’s just a food not bombs cooking from seven years ago. my friend walt0r and i sat on the couch of my girlfriend-at-the-time’s punk house and made sandwiches for serving from a garbage bag full of almost-stale bagels. slice bagel, smear with veganaise, lettuce, tomato, wrap in saran wrap. nothing interesting or poignant happened. we made sandwiches until we ran out of veganaise. i remember nothing else of that day, but i’ve been reliving that strange, pointless memory over and over again at work. why? i have no clue. when my brain tires of that it moves to another strange lettuce-and-tomato related memory–this thing, which i don’t remember ever owning as a kid but i must have played with it at someone’s house, and i’m thinking about how you could put a tiny blob of play-doh under the lever and press it down and a tiny, perfectly-indented tomato would come out. it was so cool, and as i sit there pretending to pay attention my brain does it again, and again, and again.

i have accomplished very little else this evening, besides listening to “the queen is dead” twice..

Standard

…and uploading a select few pictures of ye olde bike trip to my flickr. for you real life friends out there, ray is putting a much more extensive collection on his facebook, but it may take a while.
today was my first day at my new job. it was mostly okay, except a co-worker expressed dismay that we aren’t mandated to report to INS if we discover a client is in the country illegally. (i now work for a government agency that provides assistance with heating bills for low-income peeps). like, she was seriously DISAPPOINTED that she wasn’t going to get anyone deported! i missed about 20 minutes worth of important info imagining smashing her face into the oyster-gray table we were all sitting at, and/or giving her a good talking to.
other than that, it was okay. and i have nothing else to share!

mini-update #4: two good things that came out of my job!

Standard

so, blog readers, you’ll be happy to know that i’m leaving my gawd-awful job. friday the 20th is my last day! i have used this blog as a way to blow of steam for the more awful things that have happened; but here are two mildly sweet things from work. because it wasn’t all bad, and there are a lot of people and things i’m actually going to miss.

like this woman! this is one of my favorite co-workers, with a note that she put on her lunch one day.

and this is the union bulletin board in the break room. what a cute, simple explanation of why it’s important to stand together, and have things like unions and solidarity! as someone who grew up in a very pro-union family and who has a (perhaps excessive) affinity for cute things, i LOVE this (and i know at least one other person who will. ahem, jill!)