The Girly Perfection of Flawless Polished Nails

Greco Roman statue that is chipped on the face

How I painted my fingernails like a man

I hated painting my nails. While I zealously painted my toenails for decades, I hated painted fingernails. They always chipped, and I’d pick at the remaining polish and destroy my nails as layers peeled away like onion skins. I couldn’t stop myself from picking them apart.

Until my late 20s, I was too poor and cheap to get professional manicures. But even when I did (not often), I’d dread the walk over to the neat little racks showing off what brands and colors the salon offered to pick mine.

My nails have always grown quickly and are strong and thick. Every keyboard bares indents from my nails, water carving through stone to form a river over time. While they eventually break, my nails stand against the wear and tear I’ve put them through, like ranching, gardening, and washing dishes. I’ve never had gels or professionally applied length because I could have natural long ones. Mostly, I’d look down at my nails one day, and they’d be very long again. Or I’d break an index fingernail, and suddenly keyboarding was catawampus. Or a cis woman would notice my hands, exclaim at how very long my nails were, and share how disappointingly brittle hers are.

But polish? Every chip made me feel like a failure. Like a little bomb telling me I did something wrong. I just had them done; they should be flawless like a woman in an advertisement with her flowing hair, lush makeup, and buttery hands with flawless nails.

Intellectually, I know no one’s nails are flawless, even if fresh from a manicure.

Every little chip felt like another flake of failure at being feminine, at being a woman. Continue reading “The Girly Perfection of Flawless Polished Nails”

Falling Out of Love with Superheroes

Me as She-Hulk and other images

It’s me, not you?

The Thanksgiving before Captain Marvel (2019), my friends and dinner guests all turned to me and asked, “Who the heck is Captain Marvel?” I spent the next 30 minutes regaling them with the history of Carol Danvers — her high-points and low-points — and answering their many related questions, especially on my movie-focus speculation and which other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) characters might show up.

No pre-game Wikipedia is necessary when you have me for a friend.

My relationship with superhero comic books was intense. From 2007 to 2020, I wrote comic book reviews. I founded GeekGirlCon, a nonprofit that throws an annual convention celebrating women geeks, including those who love comic books. I’ve spent thousands on comic books, movie tickets, DVDs, action figures, artwork, clothing, coasters, blankets, and bottle openers featuring superheroes. I’ve cosplayed as Alice (Batwoman’s sister), the Winter Soldier, Emma Frost, She-Hulk, and Wonder Woman, among others, and attended as many comic cons as I could. Summer of 2007, I was three feet away from Robert Downey Jr. — who then was just my favorite Ally McBeal boyfriend — on the SDCC show floor as security escorted him to his Marvel signing booth.

Superheros and their superpowers delight me because perhaps, like Jen Walters (She-Hulk), I’m just a tiny and non-physically powerful human who desires to become on the outside what I am on the inside. Maybe I wasn’t thinking of that in 3rd grade, as my mom made me and my brother Batgirl and Batman costumes. Yes, Batman Returns (1992), specifically Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, was my sexual awakening. (I’m sure I asked my mom for a Catwoman costume, but that would’ve been rightfully too sexy for a child.) Continue reading “Falling Out of Love with Superheroes”

I Hate Coming Out; I Am Out.

Rainbow pride flag with they/them in front of it. Photo is by Katie Rainbow on UnSplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/90bg59HzXxE?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

In my novel, my main character is outed by his sister to the rest of their family at their father’s funeral. It’s not that the MC’s completely closeted when the novel starts: his friends know, his one sister and young nephew know, and of course, the people he dates also know. Additionally, I outed him and all my other fictional main characters on Twitter, so we’re always future-proof on my writing.

The novel is not a coming-out story for many reasons, including how I’m tired of them personally. But my biggest reason is that I hate coming out. I hate coming out, almost as much as I hate the misrepresentation of my identity. Continue reading “I Hate Coming Out; I Am Out.”

Q-Force: Maybe It’s Better Than You Thought

When the trailers for Q-Force dropped during Pride Month, very online queers came out with their pitchforks. The jokes were dated. There was too much sex. Was every single member of the alphabet mafia covered? All centered on a 30-second clip of an adult cartoon show that was supposed to be funny. I assume the Venn Diagram between these mostly younger queers and the ones who think we should ban kink at Pride is a full circle. (This sounds glib here, but bear with me, friends. It’s relevant.)

The problem with any queer media representation is that there is not enough. We don’t get to have messy queers. We don’t get to have bad TV. We don’t get to have mediocre shows centered around us that are fun to watch when we’re too tired to do anything else on the weekend — because has anyone noticed, we’re still in a pandemic.

That was how I binged most of Q-Force, and the show took off for me after Episode 4, “EuropeVision.” This episode allowed all the characters to be human, to go beyond the jokes. Continue reading “Q-Force: Maybe It’s Better Than You Thought”

Books I Read in 2021 & Think You Should Read in 2022

Nothing has brought me more comfort in my life as a good book, and almost nothing has brought me more joy than when someone enjoys a book I recommended to them.

In 2021, I read 101 books, and I’ve consistently read around ~22,000 pages for the last several years. Of course, this does not count the many times I read my own book as I went through rewrites and edits or the pleasure of reading my friend Max’s unpublished first novel.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many books you read in a year, only that you are reading and you are enjoying what you read. Goals help me. My primary goal was to read at least 40 books I’d had on the to-read shelves since 2020.

For my friends who struggle to read books:

Whatever reading assignment made you hate reading in school, don’t do that. You can stop reading a book at any time, say, “Not today, Satan,” and put the book in a free little library because it might be someone else’s cup of tea.

Can’t focus: try audiobooks. That’s reading too!

And perhaps, most importantly, carve out time for reading. I read before I sleep, and it helps me sleep better. But my favorite reading is stolen moments when I cannot put the book down, and I’m supposed to be doing something else (usually working or doing chores).

Now, for my reader readers, maybe we challenge ourselves with “assignment” reading. For me, it’s usually work-related or self-improvement or a worthwhile book, but the text is dense or the prose style different than we’re used to. Sometimes, I might take notes! Other times, it’s one chapter at a time, and then I can go back to reading cotton candy fun.

Especially since we’re still in this terrible pandemic, it’s perfectly acceptable to put a book down. Maybe it goes in the Did Not Finish pile to get rid of — or maybe you march it right out to your little library in front of your house (oh, hi, it’s me) — or maybe it goes on pause as you read something else for a while. A while can be a couple of days or six months.

Okay, let’s get to those books.

My Top 10 Books from 2021

1. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Detransition, Baby by Torrey PetersGenre: contemporary fiction

In his essay, “Smaller Than Life,” James Baldwin reviews a biography of Fredrick Douglass, and he argues that the book is terrible, not because it’s poorly written, but because it doesn’t show Douglass in all of his humanity with all his flaws. Thus, turning Douglass into a heroic representation of his race instead of a human with whom people can empathize, especially people who are not Black and especially white people. Baldwin argues that this heroification does an incredible disservice to Douglass and the project of racial equity.

I think about this essay a lot in terms of my writing and the types of books I’m drawn to, such as the book in question: Detransition, Baby. Baldwin’s assertion certainly applies to any minority group. The characters and situation in Detransition, Baby are messy. They don’t apologize to cishet people. They are very human, and none of them are or can be a heroification of a trans woman or the model of what it means to a woman. They just are. Continue reading “Books I Read in 2021 & Think You Should Read in 2022”

Magneto Was Right

Community, Karl Popper’s the Paradox of Tolerance, Mutant’s Rights, and learning to apply history

This week, a friend of mine reached out to me about a community management problem. Last newsletter, I’d linked to an article about how to improve your communities by banning bigots outright, and he’d been curious about how to do this when your community is both online and offline.

His community had a new member, who seemed fine at their in-person gathering, but then proceeded to post ‘COVID-19 is a hoax’ nonsense and became further abusive toward the moderators when they removed the posts. He was worried about a possible confrontation at their next in-person meetup. As we discussed various possibilities, scenarios, and some of my own experiences banning people from in-person events, my friend left our conversation with a good plan for dealing with this person.

Our conversation made me consider all the times I hadn’t outright banned someone when I should’ve because they already told me who they were. When a white cis man sealioned about men’s suicide statistics in a post about equal pay, I didn’t ban him. Then that same man left conference “feedback” around how all the women speakers were of lower quality than the men and how we cheapened the conference with speaker binary gender parity. (Ironically, when his individual speaker scores were tabulated, he didn’t actually rate the women any lower or higher than the men on average.) And then, friends, this same man tried to get hired at this company.

Popper’s Paradox

This summer, my mother hit me with a right-wing talking point about how intolerant I am of bigots and intolerance and isn’t that just so closed-minded of me. In fact, I was possibly the most closed-minded person she knew. I hadn’t had my morning tea, so I wasn’t exactly on my toes to discuss Karl Popper’s the Paradox of Tolerance. I probably yelled something about how I’m not going to tolerate people who want to kill me and others.

Popper wrote in 1945: “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” Continue reading “Magneto Was Right”

Bye, Bye to Heartbreak City

How I turned down a dream job because I’m worth more.

I said no to a dream role last Monday. I was in the candidate process, and a job requirement crossed a hard boundary: it wasn’t remote and required relocation somewhere I don’t want to live.

My 8-year-old self screams at me. Like in the corner throwing a full-on body tantrum with tears streaming down their cheeks and pointing at the posters on their walls as if to explain to me what a fool I am.

My 23-year-old self glares at me from their daily commute up and down I-5 from Tacoma to Renton and back again. Reminding me how our job requires us to photoshop in “sexy” white or Asian women on email marketing and banner ads.

My 30-year-old self loves our job and team, but this would be the one opportunity they think we should snag. A breakthrough into an industry we aren’t part of and something we have loved our entire lives. Passion means you’ll never have to work a day in your life, right? (Wrong.)

But here we are. I wished the recruiter good luck, and she asked if she could pass along my resume to other remote teams hiring for similar roles.

Why did I say no? Continue reading “Bye, Bye to Heartbreak City”

The Value of a Story

Transgressing the story I’d told myself about my own queer stories.

In between my college courses, student groups, and work in the early 00s, I wrote a lot of fanfiction. Fanfiction is the writing of stories about characters from one’s favorite media, and it can be found across the internet for any and every type of media — movies, TV, books, celebrities culture, etc., — or fandom that you can think of. Fanfiction sculpted me as a writer, perhaps more than a fancy Creative Writing degree.

I wrote about Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, the X-Men, Stargate: Atlantis, Grey’s Anatomy, and a whole host of media properties I loved. Writing is about practice. Fanfiction gave me a lot of practice.

While not every fanfiction author seeks to better their craft, that was part of my desire. I got to play with characters and worlds that were not my own, but as a queer person, I also got to transgress them.

My fanfiction was a lot of queer romance. It had a lot of sex. It reflected my own experiences in dating and romance, and sorry for the TMI, but in my book, getting naked together on the first date has never been ruled out because it was the first date like so much media plays out. Whether Meredith and Cristina had shower sex at Seattle Grace or Angel and Wesley joined the mile-high club (under special necro-tempered glass!), my fandoms were my playgrounds.

Even today, there aren’t a ton of queer characters on TV, my primary fanfiction outlet. But there were fewer in the early 00s, especially on network TV or programs. And even the softest kiss — fit for a Disney Princess between two queer characters — gets labeled “for adults” and put in a bucket marked “for queers only, so there is no market.”

As someone with a 15 years+ marketing career, I could spend many words debunking that notion.

But for me, the damage hit internally. For me, it was being told that the only place I’d ever have an audience would be the secret corners of the internet, writing based on a fandom, under a pen name, and I’d never make a cent off it. Continue reading “The Value of a Story”

Following the Paths of Grief

(kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up)

Grief has kept me away from this space, away from engaging in the writing I love, and away from what seems like the barest minimum of human connections. A grief that shuts down, just as much as it can hone.

I didn’t write here, but I did write a lot about organic electro-optic materials in photonic computing, coming to a website near you. Even in grief, you must pay the bills.

My cat Hermione died. Her cancer came back, and there was nothing we could do. Hermione knew it was time, even if I still don’t want it to ever be time.

Me, Hermione, and Jacob
My precious baby Hermione

Continue reading “Following the Paths of Grief”

A Gardening To-Do during Quarantine: Simple Tips and Five Foods in Less Than 30 Days

My summer garden 8x8 feet full of green veggies
My small garden with two beds that are 8×8 feet. This is from August 2019.

Every time I open my phone, there’s another confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) case, or sadly, a death in the Seattle region I call home. Our governor’s declared a state of emergency, and our shops are selling out of face masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, bottled water, and milk. People are asking themselves what they can do.

Besides, wash your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Might I suggest starting a garden? Even starting a small garden in your windowsill. Continue reading “A Gardening To-Do during Quarantine: Simple Tips and Five Foods in Less Than 30 Days”