Why Caitlyn Jenner was the perfect choice for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award

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CC image courtesy of Synergy by Design on Flickr.

I’ve been seeing some backlash on social media about Caitlyn Jenner winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY awards. I really don’t understand the controversy. Caitlyn Jenner is the perfect choice for this honor, and I’m going to explain why, using language from ESPN’s description of the award.

What is the Arthur Ashe Courage Award? From espn.go.com:

“The Ashe Award is one of the most prestigious in sports. Recipients reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost. The award is inspired by the life that Ashe lived, using his fame and stature to advocate for human rights, although, at the time, those positions may have been unpopular and were often controversial. From speaking out against apartheid in South Africa to revealing to the world his struggle with AIDS, Ashe never backed away from a difficult issue, even though doing so would have been easier. Winners of the Ashe Award strive to carry on Ashe’s legacy in their own lives – – inspired by those who do so each day.”

So, why Caitlyn Jenner?

First off, Bruce Jenner, the athlete, was a big fucking deal.

If you only know Bruce Jenner as the put upon patriarch of the Kardashian clan, get the hell out of here and watch a documentary about the 1976 Summer Olympics and get back to me.  Or you know what? Watch Miracle and substitute Bruce Jenner for the entire American hockey team. That will give you an idea.

When Bruce Jenner won the men’s decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics, he was considered the world’s greatest athlete. If I had to compare him to someone more relevant to my generation, the best I can come up with is Michael Jordan. (For you kids out there…LeBron James?) Jenner not only set the world record for the decathlon, he did so by defeating the Soviets, which was a big deal at the time. If the Ashe Award is one of the most prestigious in sports, it makes sense to choose one of the most prestigious athletes in sports. At one time, Bruce Jenner was a bald eagle in a Superman cape, high-jumping over communism. Respect the athleticism, people.

Athletic accomplishments aside, there are people who don’t think Caitlyn Jenner, as a transgender woman, is as deserving of this award as other contenders, like Noah Galloway or Lauren Hill.

Noah Galloway is a former United States soldier and double amputee who appeared on the November 2014 cover of Men’s Health. (He was also the third place finisher on season 20 of Dancing with the Stars.) I don’t think anyone would argue against fighting for your country being one of the bravest things you can do. Coming back from severe injuries to achieve a superior level of physical fitness is motivational to say the least.

Then there’s Lauren Hill. Hill was a freshman basketball player who resolved to continue playing for the Mount St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team even as she battled terminal brain cancer. She died earlier this year at the young age of 19, but not before helping raising over $1 million for pediatric cancer research and undoubtedly inspiring multitudes of sports fans.

Noah Galloway and Lauren Hill are obviously two shining examples of courage, but do you know what else takes courage? Being your true self and paving a way for others like you, knowing that most of the general public will ridicule you for it.

Here’s the part where I remind you about the bit in the description of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award that says, “The award is inspired by the life that Ashe lived, using his fame and stature to advocate for human rights, although, at the time, those positions may have been unpopular and were often controversial. From speaking out against apartheid in South Africa to revealing to the world his struggle with AIDS, Ashe never backed away from a difficult issue, even though doing so would have been easier.” Human rights. Unpopular. Controversial.

To my knowledge, nobody criticizes Noah Galloway for having sustained life-threatening injuries while defending his country. He’s considered a hero. Lauren Hill was so popular that when her school played Hiram College, the game had to be moved to the 10,250 seat Cintas Center on the campus of Xavier University. Theirs is the kind of bravery that makes everybody stand up and cheer. Caitlyn Jenner’s bravery is met with public ridicule and criticism. She’s not referred to as a hero; she’s the punchline to an off-color joke. How much braver do you have to be to fight your personal battle when you don’t have the public on your side? Could you do it?

In the last ten years, we’ve seen more and more gay, lesbian and bisexual celebrities come out of the closest. Marriage equality is now the law of the land. But what about transgender men and women? How are they fairing in this battle for acceptance and equality? Research shows that transgender men and women, specifically transgender women (and more specifically transgender women of color), are more likely to be victims of discrimination and violent crime than gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals.

Part of the continued discrimination against transgender men and women could be because there aren’t many visible transgender celebrities. I mean, how many can you name? Okay, the lady from Orange is the New Black. (That’s Laverne Cox, by the way.) Chaz Bono? Anyone else?

There are literally millions of transgendered men and women in the world. Millions. You can probably count the number you are aware of on one hand. Now think of all of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual celebrities you can. Two of them – Michael Sam and Robin Roberts – have won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, in 2014 and 2013, respectively. Doesn’t there seem to be a correlation between increased public visibility of LGBT individuals and increased acceptance?

What do you think happens to a young person who feels isolated from everyone around them, is constantly ridiculed for their differences, and has nobody to look up to? According to a 2011 report on transgender discrimination, 41% of transgender respondents reported having attempted suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population. They are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty. They experience discrimination and harassment at school, in the workplace, and by the justice system. This is unacceptable and it must change.

Caitlyn Jenner can help. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like her. It doesn’t matter if you think she’s a publicity whore. Maybe ESPN chose her because they knew it would boost their ratings. It doesn’t matter. Her story will save lives.

A superior, record-breaking male athlete coming out as a transgender woman in a world of omnipresent social media and criticism is one of the most courageous things I can imagine.

Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” He also said, “We must reach out our hand in friendship and dignity both to those who would befriend us and those who would be our enemy.” I think Caitlyn Jenner is doing that.

 

Saturday Afternoon Movie: 16 Observations About “Poke Her” (An Adult Film)

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PokeHer“Poke Her” is a dirty movie my husband and I purchased many years ago, when people still bought porn on DVD. (Or anything on DVD?)

Bored on a Saturday afternoon, we decided to dust it off and see if it would spice things up.

It did not.

  1. “Why is the DVD making that rattling noise? None of our other movies do that. Our DVD player is literally rejecting this movie.” (Bryan places the DVD case under the front part of the DVD player and the sound goes away.)
  2. “Why can’t I go directly to the menu? There are a million commercials. Do you think any of these 900 numbers are still operational?”
  3. “Man, I just got a glimpse of who these movies are marketed toward. Now I feel sad.”
  4. “Finally. Which scene should we select? How about ‘Respect Her’? I have a feeling that’s going to be an inaccurate title.”
  5. “Wait, they both have four aces and a king? Why are they acting like that’s a real thing that happens? I have a feeling this porno isn’t going to be very realistic.”
  6. “Doesn’t that stripper with the boots remind you of the stripper in that Canadian strip club we went to that one time? Remember?” (Bryan: “I do not remember that.”)
  7. “I’m going to have to blog about this.”
  8. “Why is that guy playing strip poker nearly naked, but still wearing his cowboy hat? That’s Strip Poker 101: Lose the hat first.”
  9. “Big Dick looks like Doug Wilson from Trading Spaces. It’s kind of distracting.”
  10. “Oh, look – two women sucking one dick. Again.”
  11. “How is there no girl-on-girl in this?”
  12. “I just want to point out that the woman who just lost at strip poker, removed her G-string, and was banished to the ‘Loser’s Lounge’ is still wearing both of her stockings.”
  13. “The poker announcer just said that in a previous hand, girl #1 beat girl #2’s ‘Pocket Rockets’ with a pair of aces. ‘Pocket Rockets’ ARE aces. Was there no research put into this movie?”
  14. “Did the announcer just introduce that woman as ‘Fredericka Paprika’?” (Bryan: “I was just going to ask you the same thing.”)
  15. “It’s weird that the action doesn’t look any different when I’m fast-forwarding it.”
  16. “I am actually less horny than when we started watching this.”

5 Things You Need To Know Before Getting a Pixie Haircut

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Michelle Williams is the perfect pixie.

So, you’re thinking about getting a pixie cut?

When Jennifer Lawrence lopped off her hair into a pixie last year, it was the haircut heard ’round the world. Soon, it seemed as if every Hollywood starlet was making the big snip: Julianne Hough, Kaley Cuoco, and Anne Hathaway, just to name a few. Even Pamela Anderson, who is arguably as famous for her flowing blonde mane as she is her bright red lifeguard buoys, took it all off.

Six months ago, I finally worked up the nerve to go short, and now I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about getting a pixie haircut. I wish someone had told me these things before I ventured into the world of short hair. Instead, I had to take a Xanax an hour before my appointment and hope for the best.

1. Just Do It Already

You’re nervous about how you’re going to look with super short hair. I get it. Listen, there’s no real way to know how you’re going to look with short hair if you’ve never had it before. Sure, you can try a virtual makeover application, but all that is really going to do is tell you how you would look with a cartoon helmet made of a vaguely hair-like material. (I tried several makeover applications and they leave a lot to be desired. I pretty much looked like Chaz Bono in every style.)

You know what your head looks like. Do your ears stick out? Do you have Rumer Willis’s jawline? Then maybe you should continue to nurture that long hair blanket you wrap around your shoulders and hide your face behind. If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable wearing your hair pulled back in a ponytail or a bun and letting your face hang out for the world to see, then you’ll be fine with cropped hair. It really doesn’t matter how much preparation you do anyway, because…

2. You Probably Won’t Get It Right the First Time

You might think you know what style of pixie haircut you want, but you’ll probably need to tweak the cut after you live with it for a couple of weeks. I walked into my salon with pictures of Jennifer Lawrence’s hair from every angle imaginable. I was in love with her style and Jennifer’s look was what made me want to get my hair cut in the first place. But here’s the thing – I don’t look like Jennifer Lawrence.

It turns out that there is a reason I haven’t had bangs since elementary school. I hate them and they drive me crazy. A lot of pixie haircuts have heavy bangs, oh so artfully swept to the side. Also, longer pixies tend to be fussier and take longer to style. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I went back to my stylist a few days later and had her lighten up the bangs. The next time I went in for a trim, I decided I wanted it shorter all over. It took a few tries to dial it in.

Don’t get me wrong. Taking pictures with you is a good idea – it gives the stylist a concrete image of what you want. If you just say, “I want to look like Jennifer Lawrence!” you could end up with whatever picture your stylist has in her head. If the person cutting your hair is a big X-Men fan, there’s going to be some serious miscommunication about your finished look, and you don’t want any more trouble than you’re already going to have because…

3. Your Shorter Hair Will Take Longer to Style (At First)

I bet you’re looking forward to rolling out of bed with cute, perfect hair! Forget it. When you look in the mirror first thing in the morning, you’re going to have Chris Farley looking back at you. Your hair will be standing straight up, with flat patches here and there depending on how you slept. You can no longer just throw your hair into a ponytail and go either. You could put on a baseball cap if you’re in a hurry, but with no hair to stick out the back, be prepared to look like a twelve year old boy.

So, you have to do something with your hair, and if you’re used to having long hair, you’re probably going to suck at styling your pixie cut. It will be impossible to replicate what the stylist did with your hair in the salon, and you will be filled with regret. It’s okay – this is normal and it will pass. Getting your hair cut short brings out all kinds of weird cowlicks you didn’t know existed. Your hair might be used to laying in a different direction and now you have to train it to sweep forward instead of backward, or vice versa. Just keep practicing with it. Watch some YouTube videos if you have to. If all else fails, you can always ask your stylist to show you what to do because…

4. You’re Going To Be In the Salon Every Month Getting Trims

I used to go six months between haircuts when I was growing my hair out. When your hair is past your shoulders, three inches in length doesn’t make much of a difference. When you have a pixie haircut, four weeks’ worth of growth is the difference between looking chic and resembling a homeless person. Even if you think your hair grows slowly, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your hair grows out and becomes hard to style. You have to keep your cut maintained.

At $50 a pop, I was going broke getting my hair done every three weeks at my fancy salon. That’s how I ended up switching to a no-frills barbershop around the corner from my house. (I had already taken the big plunge and cut most of my hair off, so I was kind of fearless at this point.) Lucky for me, the owner had been cutting hair longer than my previous stylist had been alive, and he razored away at my hair with the speed and precision of Edward Scissorhands. When it was all over, I had the best pixie haircut I’ve had since deciding to make the chop and it was only $17 including tip.

Which goes to show…

5. It Gets Better

It has been six months since I cut my hair into a pixie. There were rough patches in the beginning, like when I realized that if I don’t blow dry my bangs in the right direction, I look like Joffrey from Game of Thrones. And before I discovered the barbershop down the street, monthly trims at the salon were putting me in the poorhouse. That’s all under control now.

I’ve learned a few things. I can style my hair from start to finish in five minutes flat. I know that no matter how badly I want to make it happen, I cannot rock a fauxhawk. I discovered that other women think you’re brave when you don’t have a curtain of hair to hide behind. “I wish I had the guts to do that,” is something I hear a lot. Most importantly, I learned that with a pixie cut, you have to be vigilant about not getting any hickeys. (I bruise easily, and I once had to wear a scarf to work in July.)

So, there is everything I wish I would have known before getting a pixie cut. Now you can stop pinning celebrity pictures onto your Pinterest account and just do it already. After all, life is too short not to take chances, but it’s too long to put up with a bad haircut.

Death By Chicken

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Chicken_suit1I just finished handling some raw chicken in preparation for dinner. I’ll be taking a Silkwood shower from the elbows down and blowtorching the kitchen if anybody needs me.

I’m sick of grocery stores advertising amazing prices on meat and then you find out you have to buy a metric tonne of it to get the deal. This is how I came to be wrangling a ten pound frozen mass of boneless, skinless chicken breasts this afternoon. The chicken breasts were thawed when my husband purchased them, but one of us (I’m blaming him) just threw the whole bag in the freezer without separating them into usable portions. When I took it out of the freezer, it was an intimidating ice ball of mangled chicken. This bag of frozen chicken has been in the refrigerator for two days, and it is just now showing signs of thawing.

I improvised last night, but we need this chicken for dinner tonight. With about five hours to go until dinner time, I decided I better take that big frozen bitch out of the refrigerator and start making shit happen.

I have to say, if toxic waste were treated with the same caution I exercise for raw chicken, EPA regulators would be sitting around with nothing to do, much like the Maytag repairman. The Toxic Avenger movie would have never been made. (Actually, that would be a tragedy.) Maybe instead we could have Salmonella Avenger – the woeful tale of a hippie housewife who didn’t believe in the powers of bleach and triclosan. I ain’t going down like that.

Preparing a regular-sized package of raw chicken isn’t that big a deal. You open the package over the garbage, wash your hands 37 times in five minutes, and hose down the kitchen with anti-bacterial cleaner when you’re through. Wrestling an icy chicken mass larger than a newborn baby is a different sort of ordeal.

I hate putting food in the kitchen sink because everybody knows your kitchen sink is dirtier than your toilet. That being said, I needed to run some water over this frozen chicken ball to break apart the boobs, and the nearest toilet was too far away. You want to know something about frozen meat? That shit is fucking cold. I alternated between prying the chicken meat pieces apart under the running water and holding my fingers under the faucet to thaw them out as well.

I finally separated three Dolly Parton-esque chicken breasts from the pack and put them in a casserole dish to finish thawing. Then I had to put the remaining frozen mass back into the bag and clothespin it closed since it didn’t have a Ziploc opening. (A ten pound bag of meat that isn’t reclosable? Seriously, Albertson’s, you are officially too ghetto for me. I’m done with you. I don’t care if your chicken breasts are 17 cents per pound.) Of course, by now the outside of that bag is covered in salmonella. I considered wiping it down with bleach, but since I couldn’t completely close the bag I was worried I would get bleach onto the chicken and poison myself in a whole different way. So I put it inside a plastic shopping bag and returned it to the fridge to continue thawing over the next six weeks.

I’m pretty sure my entire kitchen is now a bacteria-laden petri dish. I scrubbed my hands and arms up to the elbows, but I’m worried that tiny micro-particles of chicken death are irreversibly jammed up my fingernails. Also, I’m pretty sure that salmonella from the chicken bag is now molesting everything else inside of my refrigerator.

I’m a little worried about all of this, but I have a pretty surefire solution for situations like these: I’ll just wait until I’ve forgotten about how dirty everything is and then go about my normal business. (Hey, it works with my “dry clean only” clothes that I hang in the back of the closet.) Does anybody want to come over for chicken parmigiana? I’m pretty sure I’ll have enough for all of you.

This Little Piggie Went to Market

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romanescoToday my husband and I went to our local farmer’s market, the Saturday Morning Market. It’s huge and awesome and a great way to get excited about eating healthy foods. That’s one of the great things about living in Florida – it’s February and rather than being buried under three feet of snow, we’re entering the best time of the year for local produce. (I’m not trying to rub it in, really. I mean, come July, the temperature will be 98 degrees with 319% humidity. I have to enjoy the weather while I can. The polar vortex has fucked everyone else in the country over, but it’s given us a solid two months of crisp autumn weather, which has been really lovely.)

We loaded up on organic, local fare, including Romanesco broccoli. I don’t know how I’ve gone 38 years without ever having seen it before, but Romanesco broccoli is pretty much the most beautiful vegetable that has ever existed. Not that it has much competition. (I’m looking at you, turnips.) Anyway, Romanesco broccoli (or cauliflower, depending on your loyalties – it’s called both) is an example of a naturally occurring fractal. I don’t really know what a fractal is, just that twenty years ago, in college, everybody liked getting high and looking at them. We actually had a cable access television channel that was nothing but fractals. (Kids, see what we had to do to amuse ourselves before the Internet?)

Besides all the local farms, there are also a number of artisan craft makers and homemade food stands. I just had to stop at “Old Fashioned Goodness”, a candy booth operated by an adorable older couple. Thirty seconds earlier I had sworn off empty calories in favor of the natural, delicious bounty of fruits and veggies we are blessed with on this planet, but they were giving out free samples of chocolate fudge and salted caramels. I’m only human.

I forgot to mention, one of the things I love about this market is that a lot of people bring their dogs. (Not us, mind you. Our dogs are terrible. Fletcher is sweet and friendly, but Lucy thinks she’s in the Secret Service and I’m the President. She’s a fifteen pound, fluffy killing machine. We can’t take her anywhere.) There were so many big and little sweeties – an assortment of dogs as varied as their owners.

benetton_eggsA few minutes after visiting the homemade candy booth, while Bryan was standing in line to pay $5 for a dozen mismatched eggs, I started digging into my fudge. As I reached into the little bag and unwrapped a single piece of peanut butter fudge wrapped in noisy cellophane, every dog within a ten foot radius promptly stopped in their tracks and gave me the “Treat?” stare. It’s funny how universal that is. I almost felt bad, but I wasn’t planning on sharing my goodies with my husband, let alone some strange dogs.

Now that we’re home and my homemade candy is long since eaten, I have to look up some recipes for cooking all of these fresh, delicious vegetables we bought before they rot an ugly death in the crisper. Maybe later I’ll put on some Pink Floyd, turn on the black light, and stare at my Romanesco broccoli.

Wild Side

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concert_crowd_smallMy husband Bryan and his friend Larry go to concerts together. They have pretty similar tastes in music, so they alternate paying for the tickets. Recently, my husband treated Larry to a Megadeth concert, so now it’s Larry’s turn to pay. (They’ve also seen Rush together and probably someone else I can’t remember.)

So, we’re in the car today, on our way home from the Farmer’s Market, when “Wild Side” by Mötley Crüe comes on the radio. Bryan says, “Oh yeah, Larry’s buying us tickets to this concert at the Amphitheatre.” (That would be the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, formerly known as the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre. You see why we just call it “the Amphitheatre”? And by “us” he meant Larry and himself.)

“What? Seriously? I want to see Mötley Crüe!”

Okay, maybe not really. I hate concerts. There are only ever a few, old songs I want to hear but inevitably bands play all their new, drug-free boring shit first and if you’re lucky, you get to hear “Pour Some Sugar on Me” at the end before you book for the exits to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. (That’s right – the last concert I went to was Def Leppard, opened by Joan Jett. Shut up, I’m old.)

Bryan knew I didn’t really want to go to the concert, so it was cool. Then he said he’ll probably owe Larry for this one since these Mötley Crüe tickets were more expensive than the Megadeth show. (Concert ticket prices are ridiculous. I thought Eddie Vedder was supposed to fix that. What, nobody remembers Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam duking it out with Ticketmaster? Is Ticketmaster even still around? Fuck, I’m so old.)

“There was another concert Larry wanted to get the tickets for, but they were just too expensive. Who was it…” Bryan says, thinking. He snaps his fingers. “Katy Perry! That’s it. But those are like $100 even for the cheap seats.”

He was totally serious, by the way. I wouldn’t think that Mötley Crüe’s and Katy Perry’s target audiences typically overlap by much, but there you go. In the Venn Diagram of “Shout at the Devil” and “California Girls” there is one person in the middle, overlapping part: My husband. And Larry, I guess.

My Husband Tries His Hardest to Make Me Happy

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dinner in a canSo this just happened:

Me: “I’m hungry, I’m going to eat those Spaghetti O’s you got at the store yesterday.”
Then, upon finding that the Spaghetti O’s Bryan bought were the kind without meatballs, I yell to him, “WTF is this? No meatballs? Who eats Spaghetti O’s without meatballs??”

Bryan: “On the grocery list, you just wrote Spaghetti O’s. I almost bought the ones with the meatballs, but I said to myself, ‘Bryan, if she had wanted meatballs she would have written meatballs. Just get the plain kind.'”

Me: “We’ve been together 15 years and you don’t know what kind of Spaghetti O’s I like? I’ve never eaten plain Spaghetti O’s in my life. YOU DON’T KNOW ME AT ALL!”

So I sit my grumpy ass down and start playing Candy Crush.

Bryan is rifling through the change on the counter. “How much do you think Spaghetti O’s cost at the corner store? Three dollars?” (The corner store is a party store/quickie mart two blocks away from our house.)

Me (happy and incredulous): “Are you seriously going down to the corner store to get me Spaghetti O’s with meatballs?”

Bryan (good-naturedly sarcastic): “Well, I can’t let you starve, now can I? But I’m only taking a handful of quarters, so you might just end up with an ice cream sandwich.”