Week in photos (189-195)

Happy news! I finally took my digital compact to this wonderful repair shop, Camera Heaven (in the Tenderloin). It was a simple repair job apparently; the owner had it in his hand for less than a minute, and he charged me nothing!

So now, thirteen months after breaking off my point-and-shoot 365, I am picking it up again.

Untitled 189/365.  

Untitled 190/365. My mom and I have been spending a lot of time here.

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191/365. It weirds me out when Band-Aids do this.

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192/365. Drake's Beach with Odessa.

Untitled 193/365. I love how this dress makes me feel.

Untitled 194/365. Niece and her mama's skirt.
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195/365. Vacation.

How I deal with street harassment

My modus operandi used to be just continuing on my way as I boiled with humiliation, anger, fear, and helplessness.

Until last summer, when I had a job that 1) gave me a lot of practice talking to strangers, and 2) was located just off a plaza where a number of verbally aggressive homeless men congregated.

I got fed up with the harassment and started talking back.

What helped me make a habit of responding: Thinking of one or two comebacks flexible enough that I wouldn't have to improvise. And plenty of dudes willing to "help me" "practice."

My standbys are:

  • "That's actually NOT my name."
  • "Did I ask for your opinion?"
  • "Excuse me?"
Add some righteous indignation and laser eyes, and you're set.* Useful on public transit as well as with panhandlers or fellow pedestrians.

When it comes to Jerks in Cars, there is not much time, so my repertoire is limited to gestures like the finger. Depending on proximity, speed of traffic, and how much berserker you have in you, you may have the option of assaulting the vehicle in question. (Speaking as a mere kicker of bumpers and banger of hoods, the dudes hate having to admit that their chariot of misogyny is not untouchable.)

Not surprisingly, coming back at a harasser is much easier in some circumstances than in others. Homeless men don't particularly intimidate me.** An young, expensively dressed man, a big man, a large group of men — any of these would generally be more intimidating me. Depending on my survival radar, I might decide it's not worth it. That's fine. (The point of talking back is not that you are a weak person if you don't.)

Respect for intuition/survival radar withstanding, no harasser has yet responded to me in a way that outweighed the satisfaction of talking back.

The point is: that you are allowed to be angry at men who try to degrade you, and you don't have to swallow that anger. That it is not your job to be pleasant and submissive. It is not your job to treat harassers as if they are not doing a terrible, shocking, unacceptable thing. Feeling helpless sucks, and claiming your right to act like what you are — a human being with reasonable rights and emotions and the means to express both  — is cathartic and constructive.

*Laser eyes can work pretty well preemptively too, if you're getting warning vibes from someone's demeanor.
**Almost all of the men who harass me are panhandlers or otherwise visibly homeless. Somewhere in the overlap of race and class with sexism and this being San Francisco, there is an answer to this. I have an inkling that harassment in public places generally takes place across boundaries of race and class, and that men harassing or assaulting women of their own class and particularly race are more likely to do so in private.

Gratitudes + things that are making me happy

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• the smell of beeswax candles

• the smell of green tea oil

• "walking" on Google Maps Streetview around the neighborhood in Australia that will be mine

• my friend Steph coming to visit (and letting me play with her camera, whee)

• a fresh volume of Adrienne Rich

• letters

• presents

• pre-dawn and dawn

• doughnuts from Pepples

• discovering a chai vendor downtown — chai as in the kind you get in an Indian restaurant, not the kind you get in Starbucks with "latte" appended to its name

• hydrangeas

• Beach House

• a strand of simple round beads, anytime

• using a knife to do scissor tasks (feeling vaguely badass)

• warm socks in a chilly house

Andrea Gibson live

Late breakfast


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Escaping autumn

I bought my tickets.

Back to Australia.

I'm leaving in September, returning in December at the earliest.

Late morning, San Francisco

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Sometimes I wonder whether I even want to travel, because so much of what I want from Other Places boils down to this: that they remind me of this place.

It makes me understand how people can get married.

I have given pieces of my heart to Berlin, Reykjav√≠k, and Sydney, and I know there are many cities I haven't seen that are wonderful in their own ways, but this one is my center. Really, what I read once about San Franciscans is true — we call it "the city" because for us, there is no other city. No matter how well-traveled we may be.

Gratitudes + things that are making me happy

Rain and Thunder over breakfast

• frozen yogurt and nineties movies with my little sister

• the smell of salt in the air

• the sea-horizon at dusk

• long brisk walks

• rinsing my hair with tea tree oil after swimming

• doing a monthly version of this exercise

• getting paid for housesitting

• Oscar Wilde

• Excellent Twitter conversations/interactions (I'm @tangerineteeth)

Sui glow

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Sui wearing so much red that she throws off red light.

To keep warm through the night

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

- Lisel Mueller

I can't tell you what it meant to be breathless with laughter with my princess-haired friend without telling you that twenty minutes before she was speaking of her dear friend whose boyfriend is regularly beating her up, and how she suspects they are going to get engaged soon.

I can't tell you about joy, about one of the songs we sang along to, in between cracking up at how the bass made my parents' minivan rattle — far from home, all alone/but we're so happy — without saying also that I wore my throat raw sobbing to the empty space of the car on my way home. (What can/could I do? What is there to do?...)

No, the weight of the laughter that I share with my friends is some function of this litany of pain. The assaults, the abuse, the depression and eating disorders, the scars literal and figurative, all these grievances that I find so uniformly distributed among the women I love. It's not incongruous that we laugh. And it's this honesty that allows it. It is possible to really laugh because we trust each other, and that includes not having to pretend we do not know all these reasons not to laugh.

Despite all this, all these things that so often come with being a woman in this society, we still have laughter. We do. And it is not escape, denial, or forgetting, but the taste of the bitter with the sweet, sweeter for its being so dearly bought. It is the insolence of being joyful with open eyes  and it is our honor, to speak so bold a language. Our fire that we are burning through the night.

Breakfast with my sister and my niece

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Some time ago, in their old house.

Gratitudes + things that are making me happy

• big big mugs for tea

• eucalyptus trees

• Australian plans

• niece, aged twenty months, calling my name when she doesn't know where I am

• taking pictures of her this and yesterday evening with one of my plastic cameras

• rosary-based prayers; prayer beads in general

• staying up late reading the Hunger Games trilogy on my brother-in-law's Kindle

• my big sister's new house, especially when the afternoon light comes in

• ice cream trucks

• having a journal with lined pages again

• feeling peaceful

• mockingbirds, and how they make my mom happy

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