Tag Archive: sluttery


Today’s Post-Intelligencer features a short post about Cecil Andrus, who visited Washington state recently — and who governed my home state for most of my childhood. By the time I was old enough to vote — just four years after Andrus left office — the idea of Idaho electing a Democratic governor was absurd, almost surreal. As far as I can tell — from my elitist, bike-riding catbird seat — that is still largely the case.

The piece is largely complimentary, but also nostalgic for the party’s imagined heyday: “Andrus is what the ‘D Team’ used to look like in days when Democrats represented guys (and some girls) at the workplace and stood for education, family-supporting jobs and conservation,” the writer of the piece, Joel Connelly, gushes. The emphasis is mine, because isn’t that parenthetical a little odd? I mean, women, especially blue-collar women, have always worked; Idaho was the fourth state in the nation to grant women the right to vote; women voters favor Democrats by a much wider margin than men.

But, you know, whatever. Everybody slips up from time to time, including writers whose commentary skews progressive. Connelly continues in the “in the good old days, all Democrats cared about was fair wages and the environment” vein, a position I have taken myself. I’m glad union membership has increased — however slightly — in the last couple of years. I’m glad we’re talking about taxing the rich again. That birth control is even an issue this election cycle makes my stomach churn.

But then Connelly goes on to say:

“Our state’s Democrats seem preoccupied with social issues and talk ceaselessly about birth control, same-sex marriage, legalizing marijuana and the right of women to terminate their pregnancies.

“Andrus took an opposite tack, stressing Inslee’s independence and willingness to buck the majority in his House votes against bank deregulation and the resolution authorizing the Iraq War.

“Inslee, too, was sounding like a lunch bucket Democrat with talk of hooking up Washington to the new energy economy, and “chowder heads in the Legislature” who once tried to cut money to rural schools.”

“‘Didn’t last. Soon, Inslee was back referring to “access to contraceptives” and the right to choose.”

These gosh darned Washington Dems and their gosh darned fringe social issues, basically! Why can’t they just stick to fair wages and creating wilderness areas like we did in the ’70s? Could we stop pandering to the pot-smokers and the gay-marriers and the birth controllers ALREADY? Is it so hard?

(Never mind that environmental issues — and funding for education — have been considered fair game in the culture war for some time now, at least in the inland Northwest.)

The answer is, in part, that it’s not the ’70s. The world got more complicated, the big tent got bigger and let more people in, and some of the people who’d always been there started talking about stuff that wasn’t on the table before. Also, the Idaho Dems — and Andrus in particular — had a lot of support from loggers’ unions and unions in general. National policy killed the unions and a combination of dwindling resources and NAFTA killed the timber industry. The voting base left, or did other things, and turned on AM radio.

But also: anybody who thinks “access to contraceptives” and “the right to choose” are not economic justice issues is either trolling or willfully ignorant or both. A copper IUD installed using Title X funding costs about a grand, all told — a fraction of the cost of educating a kid in public school for just one year. People who care about family-wage jobs — including those who don’t happen to have ever held one, including many women — care about contraception and abortion, too.

“Some girls” aren’t the only folks with a vested interest in improved access to contraceptives, either. Never mind, either, that Democrats are not the only ones who need or use birth control. Loretta Lynn’s only political contributions have been to Republican politicians and generally right-leaning groups; maybe because she had four kids before she became legal, she seems to get it just fine.

In college I wrote a paper that talked about The Rocky Horror Picture Show live-screen acting phenomenon as part of a larger discussion about what makes a movie a “cult movie.” This was partly because while I’d wanted to write about exploitation movies, it turned out to be way harder to locate research materials on that topic in time for my deadline than to find academic writing about Rocky Horror, of which there is an actual fuckton at your local university library.

I got very smart about the topic: the way the movie aped all the different genres of midnight movies before becoming the midnight movie. I interviewed a guy who’d played Meat Loaf’s character in a live production in the south. And my brain is still full of annoying Rocky Horror trivia, like, “Did you know the Portland Rocky Horror is the longest continuously running Rocky Horror in the country?” (It’s actually a very close second, but we need our dubious distinctions.)

At 30, I was probably the world’s most precocious Rocky Horror virgin.

I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie on television, but I refused to watch the whole thing until I could see it live, because that, as far as I could tell, was how it was done. But I missed the boat. I grew up in an isolated community in southern Idaho, and Boise doesn’t have a consistent live RHPS performance (I think it might happen at Halloween sometimes). Then I went off to school in Corvallis, where I had a car, and no curfew, and lots of friends, and we talked about getting a posse together to go to Portland and see it, but didn’t ever do it.

And even though, for three years, I’ve lived a short walk away from the Clinton Street Theater, I’ve generally had other entertainment priorities, like getting in endless and pointless comment wars in various corners of the Internet, finally reading some Jane Austen so I don’t get kicked out of being a girl (or get my English degree revoked), and complaining about Burning Man people. So I went uninitiated despite ongoing vocal curiosity about the whole business, until this weekend, when my boyfriend decided it was time for me to lose my Rocky Horror virginity.

Once, when I was in college, I sat and tittered uncontrollably while one of my male housemates listed the funniest, most disgusting euphemisms for semen he could think of. These included “man mustard” and “baby batter.” I still find both those expressions hilarious for the total ick factor. My freshman year roommate used to fake loud orgasms in the background every time I talked on the phone to my parents (or my boss). I was annoyed by this, but not very, and returned the favor from time to time. The same roommate and I liked to get dressed up in the weirdest, tackiest outfits we could put together, and too much makeup, and go to the $2 movie theater to heckle the films loudly. The point being, there was a time when I would have thought dressing up in a shiny bikini and fishnets and yelling “Cum Dumpster!” and “Slut!” at a movie screen the height of Saturday-night fun.

But those days are over, and I don’t think I miss the person I was then very much. She’s been replaced by someone who probably isn’t any more likeable — someone who, if she goes seven hours without eating, alternates between nodding off and fantasizing about biting people in their faces then starts growling incoherently about burritos. The latter prompted my gentleman friend to whisk me across the street to Dot’s and put a burrito and a beer in front of me, and that is the story of how every teenager in Portland did not get murdered last Saturday night.

I generally support the notion that you’ve never too old for a happy childhood or a miserable, awkward, fumbling adolescence. That there are some adolescent shenanigans that never go out of style, like fooling around in a graveyard or in a booth at The Original Hotcake House at 3 a.m., or stealing a bunch of pears you don’t need and writing a book about it. (See, I didn’t just read academic studies of Rocky Horror in school.) My own 30th birthday was prom themed! But some things just don’t work in an adult context, like reading The Catcher in the Rye or pulling all-nighters or, apparently, Rocky Horror.

A couple of weeks ago Mike and I were having dinner on Hawthorne and he said Portland isn’t so much where young people go to retire as it is the place you go when you figure out that once you grow up, you can eat all the candy you want. There were, of course, as he said this, several dozen people in pirate costumes running what appeared to be a pirate marathon. He said, “I’m not quite done with that thought. But I’m almost done with it, and I’m ready to move on to another thought, but I don’t know what yet.”

Puberty takes so long to complete these days that I’d half hoped to see a bunch of grim, pathetic lifers Saturday. Instead, I’m pretty sure I’m technically old enough to have given birth to a couple members of the cast, and that’s Fine. It’s weirdly relieving. It’s nice that some things still just belong to the young, and that I’m not young, and that I missed out on some stuff, and I won’t be able to properly experience that stuff ever.

Anyway, I’ve also never seen Star Wars, so you should probably go ahead and freak out and trash me in the comments.

One of the more amusing side effects of getting older is that when I remember myself at certain ages — or just stumble across material evidence of all those people I used to be — I’m less and less likely to recognize them, and quite a bit less likely to be mortified by the strangeness of their ideas and the foolishness of their outfits.

When I was 15 I tried to write a play called The Conference of the Selves, about a young woman who had tried to kill herself. But her soul got pulled into some purgatorial board room with the souls of herself at various ages, with a mediator who would help her try to integrate them all into one whole identity. If the selves all came to some sort of agreement, this girl would get her life back. See.

I was thinking about it recently and for the first time since I had the good sense to be abandon it (that is, about three pages in to the actual writing), I was more impressed by than annoyed with the brain that would think of something like that.

Sure, it’s silly and solipsistic, but here in the silly, solipsistic 21st century, people imagine conversations with their younger selves all the time.

I just walked past a car with a bumper sticker that said, “The next time you think you’re perfect, try walking on water.” Which brought up the memory of passing angry notes in second grade with my best friend after a fight. “Nobody’s perfect,” I wrote. I have no clue now what action I was defending.

“Well, some people are,” Sara countered..

I wrote, “Not even God!” which totally shut her up.

Later, I told someone else about this conversation, someone whose religious education was a little more coherent than mine, and I was rapidly informed that I was wrong. It turns out that not only was God perfect, that was sort of the entire point of God, really, if you thought about it.

The thing is that it’s rarely occurred to me that I’d even want to walk on water, except perhaps on particularly wet days when I’m wearing nice shoes.

Of course, I also don’t think I’m perfect. In fact, per the instructions I’ve been given since birth, I take a little time every evening to catalog the day’s failings and then to chide myself for being far too insecure.

So at the risk of giving my childhood self too much credit when she was really just trying to win a fight (though hey, props for the bitchiness, too), I’m impressed than an eight-year-old had, I think, some notion of life being far too messy for perfection to even be a meaningful concept, really.

At 30, I’m so set in my agnosticism that colloquial talk about God is a little off-putting to me, particularly when it’s eight-year-old me doing it. But then, I sometimes revert to a suspicion that someone is in charge of the whole shebang after all, and that he ought to have been kept out away from the liquor cabinet. I mean, he isn’t sleeping it off for weeks on end, he’s out crashing his car into things and prank-calling evangelical preachers to tell them the world is ending a couple of weekends from now.

If God exists, he’s the exact sort of person I would have dated a few times two years ago, then ended the relationship with a shouting match wherein we each accuse the other of being needy. While she lived in the same house I live in now and knew a lot of the same people, I’m as alienated from my 28-year-old self as I am from the person I was at four. Both were to some degree impaired, one by blinding grief, excessive drinking and an imploded sense of entitlement, the other by a short-lived but deeply-felt desire to one day own a horse.

The assumption driving my play and other hypotheticals like it is that when two versions of the same person sit in the same room together, some sort of wisdom will be imparted. I see no reason this has to be the case. My 15-year-old self thought her three-year-old self might have something to teach her, but my three-year-old self thought your clothes grew with you.

I see no reason I shouldn’t inform three-year-old Christen that actually your stuffed animals DO come alive when you fall asleep at night, but they never talk about anything interesting (“mostly taxes and stuff”).

My 16-year-old self was pretty highly strung and paranoid and it makes a lot of sense to me that I should have just told her that it’s not that everyone finds her boring or annoying like she imagines, just that she is literally invisible to everyone but her parents and a few teachers, and should test this theory by driving naked to school one day.

Like most twentysomethings, I made as many good choices as bad ones (and failed myself in some situations by not choosing at all). Clearly the best I could do my past self is to tell her to do everything just slightly and arbitrarily differently. “Don’t sleep with that guy. He’s a douche. Sleep with THAT one, for he is a slightly different kind of douche and will fuck you up in a slightly different way. This crummy job will take aaway a completely different piece of your soul than that one. Give it a shot, then quit with no notice. Also, wear less flattering clothes and dye your hair a color that really, really doesn’t suit you.

“I’m thinking black.”