Monday, May 26, 2014

From the Archive: Funemployment is a lie

"From the Archive" is a series of posts that I wrote on past, no-longer-updated blogs that I feel are good enough to need a new home.

This post was originally written in May 2012.

That might seem a little harsh. But I keep hearing the term "funemployment" and to me, it's wrong (it's also short-sighted and privileged; we can get into that in a bit). For me, being unemployed has not been fun.

Since I finished grad school in December 2010, I haven't been able to find a full-time job. It isn't for lack of trying or laziness, contrary to some Republican 1% views. I can't even begin to count how many applications I've sent out in the past year and a half. I've tried for jobs that seem ambitious, jobs that I think I'm overqualified for, jobs that excited me, jobs I'd have to acquiesce to performing every day, jobs withing my field, jobs outside but vaguely related to my field, day jobs like retail and bartending, basically everything you can imagine. I've considered NYC Teaching Fellows and the Peace Corps as back-ups.

I've had some freelance work and part-time gigs, but still nothing lasting or full-time. And then, in March, the job that was my primary source of income (but still part-time) informed me they were low on funds and couldn't pay me. So I was let go, though with the caveat that they'd like me back if they got their act together and I was still searching.

So aside from a once-a-week unpaid knitting column, two short (volunteer) shifts for a punk news blog and the occasional photo slideshow (the only one that pays a little), I've been unemployed for nearly two months. It sucks. I've been sending out my resume everywhere that I can, and I've had two interviews -- one was on the phone, and I didn't make the cut to in-person, the other got as far as a writing test, but I still didn't get it.

I know, there are a few perks. I can sleep late and run errands in the middle of weekdays when the city is less crowded. But that's about it.

Want to hear the downside? I am almost out of money. I'm still living with my parents with no prospect of leaving any time soon. I feel like a worthless human being, who contributes nothing to the world. Basically, it's like I'm in a waiting room, biding my time until my life starts.

So I'm going this week to meet with a staffing agency. It isn't a career move. They only do receptionist and office work, and just temporary assignments. But it's something. It gets me out of the house and making a little money while I work on finding a longer-term position. I hope it works out, because I need it to.

I said we'd get to why the term "funemployment" is privileged and short-sighted, and here it is: anyone who can use the term is very lucky. You've clearly got something keeping you going, whether it's a trust fund or savings from a past job, or a supportive partner, or whatever. Many people who are unemployed are far worse off. I'm not including myself in that because I have parents who let me stay with them for free. But there are millions out there who are unemployed and having no fun whatsoever. They are losing their homes, relying on food stamps to feed their families, and falling way behind on bills. They aren't relishing in sleeping until 11:00 and wearing sweatpants all day. So that's another reason I don't like the term.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: "Dataclysm" by Christian Rudder

I'm a graduate student in a doctoral Information Studies program. This means I've read a lot of different books about data and the internet. I've also done a little of my own research into social media and, specifically, OKCupid.

Dataclysm's author, Christian Rudder, was one of the founders of OKCupid, and has turned data mined from the site's millions of interactions into an interesting view of the patterns of behavior of the online dater.

The book is informative, intriguing, and at times pretty funny. Rudder's writing style is accessible and conversational, bringing trends and statistics from the academic set to the casual reader.

Much of the data is focused on heterosexual coupling, which was a bit disappointing, but Rudder indicates late in the book that there were few differences when you looked at data about gay or bisexual users. That in itself is interesting, because if, like straight men, gay men prefer younger partners, how does that translate? Obviously both halves of a couple cannot be younger.

(My other disappointment is that the advance ebook didn't properly display most of the graphs, though Rudder's descriptions were clear enough that I was able to understand what they were showing.)

In the middle of the book, Rudder discussed some rather interesting and controversial topics like race and body image. His coverage of the way online daters view race was pretty comprehensive and a little disturbing -- well, his coverage isn't what was disturbing, it was more that he found that people are more discriminating than they would ever admit to. The discussion of body image was brief, however, and mainly focused on Tumblr's #proana controversy. I wish he would have looked at some data relating to weight -- specifically fat -- and online dating.

Overall, however, this book was fascinating and really pleasant to read. Beyond my own nerdy and intellectual interest in the subject of social media use and data, this is a must-read for anyone who wants a look at the habits of online dating site users and those with concerns for internet privacy.

Verdict: 4/5 stars

Dataclysm will be released September 9, 2014.

I received a free electronic copy of this book through NetGalley. This review is my own uninfluenced opinion.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What If Chubby Girls in Crop Tops Were A Thing When I Was Younger?

Lately, going through the body-positive part of Tumblr means you'll likely stumble across many pictures of fat chicks wearing crop tops. I think this is awesome, have bought a few myself, and am waiting for the right combination of hot weather and not giving a fuck to actually wear them with naught but a bra underneath as god intended.

I was wearing one over a tank top recently, and it made me think -- what if this trend, and really, the whole body positive movement, had been around when I was a teenager?

My high school experience occurred from 1998 to 2002, so we had the internet, but it was still relatively new (and slow), and things like Tumblr did not yet exist. The closest thing I had ever had to social media was my AOL profile -- I wouldn't even get a LiveJournal until my first semester of college.

So all I had to model myself after was mass media and friends. I didn't get to see shining images of happy fat ladies showing off their belly rolls and batwings. There was no example in my face to let my know it was OK to rock a mini skirt or crop top.

As a chubby teenager, my experience with my body was probably similar to lots of other fat ladies out there. I was uncomfortable in my skin a lot of the time. I had good friends who generally didn't make me feel bad about myself, at least not on purpose -- sometimes comparing myself to them did a number, but that wasn't really their fault. I was on and off diets, I couldn't be quite as trendy as I wanted because the girls' section of PacSun wouldn't get over one thigh. The really overt bullying had mostly stopped in middle school, but I still had plenty of body image issues, many of which I'm not yet over today.

If there had been a fast internet full of social media images where girls who looked like me were rocking their bodies with pride, would I have felt better? Would I have been on fewer of those diets? Maybe the issue of not finding clothes would have been the same, but it's also possible I would have spent less time comparing myself to my in-person peers if I had online ones who made me feel good? 

Obviously what-ifs can never really have an answer, but just thinking about it makes me a little bit hopeful. This generation of teenage girls is growing up with something I, and people older than I am, didn't have -- widespread availability of people who look like they do, shown in a positive light.

This is why I'm pro-selfie, and why I so love things like the #everyBODYisflawless video. Women -- well, people of all genders, but especially women -- need to see what regular people look like. We need to see how different everyone is, and how that diversity is beautiful.

Monday, May 19, 2014

From the Archive: A Short, Angry Letter to Fish's Eddy

"From the Archive" is a series of posts that I wrote on past, no-longer-updated blogs that I feel are good enough to need a new home.

This post was originally written in September 2011.

Have you seen Fish's Eddy's "Intervention Ware"? (This plate is the worst in my opinion.) Well, I just did and they inspired me to write this letter:


I just thought you would be interested to know that I was recently alerted to your "intervention" plates, and as such, I will no longer shop at your store.

We live in a size-biased, fat-hating society that constantly tells women (and men, but it's worse for women) that they are not good enough based on their appearance and their ability to conform to an arbitrary beauty standard. Fat people are discriminated against and mocked. We have girls as young as 5 going on diets and suffering from eating disorders and merchandise like this is contributing to that problem.

I have spent my entire life being bullied based on size and I do not need a store to continue this trend.

You have officially lost a customer. I will soon be moving and, as such, will need dinnerware. Under other circumstances I would have come to your store to get it, but now I think I will take my business to somewhere that doesn't make me feel like less of a person because of my appearance.

I know it's short, and it's not my most eloquently-written angry letter, but it gets the point across. I mean, anything sold with the slogan "serve up a heaping scoop of guilt!" has to be stopped.

Friday, May 16, 2014

What I'm Reading

May 16

Friday Fashion: Warmth


Monday, May 12, 2014

From the Archive: Why I don't want a 10 to be considered "plus sized"

"From the Archive" is a series of posts that I wrote on past, no-longer-updated blogs that I feel are good enough to need a new home.

This post was originally written in June 2011.

Forgive me if this sounds like a half-cocked rant. I'm really tired today but felt like I needed to say something.

I saw that the site Refinery 29 is launching a site for "plus size ladies size 10 and up." My reaction, instead of being glad to see that, is that I am decidedly not OK with a 10 being considered plus sized. (Note: all clothing sizes I refer to are U.S. measurements.)

It's not because (as someone actually said to me on Twitter) I think 10 is "normal," which, of course, indicates that plus sizes are a deviation from that. It's not because I think "plus size" is an offensive label or that it somehow damages the otherwise-socially-acceptable size of 10. It's because plus sizes need to keep aiming up, not down.

As it is, the smaller end of plus sizes -- currently the standard is to start at 14 -- get the bulk of the good stuff. There are more options, more representation in models (though plus models are still overwhelmingly too small), and more mainstream recognition. Once you pass, say, a size 20 or 22, you're in a proverbial no-(wo)man's land.

I can only sort of speak from experience on this. The largest I have been is about a 22/24 (and the smallest in my adult life is about a 16), so I have never really faced what it's like to be someone who needs a 28, 30, 32, or larger.

What I experienced is that once your size has a 2 in front of it, there is an immediate drop in options. Lines that brag about how they are making plus sizes and are suddenly oh-so-accepting-and-awesome don't really cater to anyone high up there. When Forever 21 first introduced plus sizes, they included 1X and 2X. That's not exactly much of an extension, especially when you consider that they also run small. Now, they have corrected themselves a little, going to 3X and adding in more styles. But that still excludes a lot of people.

So my reason is that including size 10 in the line of plus means the border is even lower, so women who wear sizes higher than 20 will be considered even farther outside the threshold between straight and plus sizes. In a world where lines already cater to the smallest plus size possible, the last thing we need is to have that size be even smaller. It's not because I think being called a plus size is a bad thing. It's because too many other people do, so to be further outside the so-called norm will be incredibly damaging to a group that is already too often excluded.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cherry Blossom Season

One of my favorite things about spring in Brooklyn is seeing the cherry blossom trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I have tried to get there every year since I moved here in 2007, and this time around it's even better because I live so close to the garden!

After a really intense and exhausting therapy appointment yesterday, I decided to go over there and sit under the trees for a little while. I forgot that Tuesdays are free admission (I always get in free with my student ID), so it was a bit more crowded and not so relaxing, but the trees and other plants were still gorgeous.


I'm planning to go back again tomorrow when (hopefully) it won't be so busy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

From the Archive: How not to write obnoxious how-to posts about check-splitting

"From the Archive" is a series of posts that I wrote on past, no-longer-updated blogs that I feel are good enough to need a new home.

This post was originally written in March 2011.

For some reason, this piece from The Awl about splitting restaurant bills has been making the rounds in the internet circles I run in.

(This isn't actually about writing how-to posts, but I found The Awl post and some of the responses I've seen very obnoxious. I guess I'm really just adding my own reply, which is probably equally obnoxious, but seriously, people. Cut it out.)

It says, basically, if you are under 25 you can pay for what you ate but once you pass the quarter-century mark you should suck it up and split evenly, even if you don't drink or your food was cheap.

That's dumb.

I know, I'm not far past the 25 mark (I'm 27). But I generally think the paying-for-what-you-ordered route is the fairest one. From what I've read by people who work in restaurants, it's really not that big a deal for a server to split up checks or to put different amounts on different cards. Toss on an extra dollar in tip each if you're worried about being a pain. Or bring cash, which means you can pay what you owe and not give the server any extra work.

Because here's the thing. Though Jill at Feministe may think I'm an "ass" for this, I'm not going to pay extra for someone else's choices when they are significantly more expensive than mine. I'm a vegetarian, which means my food is often at least a little bit cheaper. Especially if I'm being nice/a doormat and I agreed to go somewhere where all I can get is a side salad and some tiny appetizer. I'm not paying for someone's pricey meat entree when all I had was a vegetable quesadilla. I'm already being nice by agreeing to eat somewhere that doesn't cater to my dietary needs to make my friends happy, so I'm not going to pitch in extra dinero on top of that.

And likewise, if I drink at dinner and someone else didn't for whatever reason, I wouldn't expect them to pitch in for a $10 cocktail when they had iced tea. Sure you could argue that it evens out in the long run, but why take that chance when it's not difficult to divide a tab fairly?

So here's what you do: get the bill. Look at it. Find what you ordered and add up the cost. Then add between 25 and 30 percent for tax and tip. Then put that amount on the table. Once each person has done this, someone count the money and compare it to the total-plus-tip (if you're a really big group they may add in tip, so figure that out beforehand). Is there enough? Good. If not, start hitting people up for singles until you get there.

Is it perfect? No. There will always be someone who only wants to tip 10% and someone else who throws in an extra buck to cover for them, but it's a lot closer to being fair than just splitting evenly. Plus it involves math, and math is hard. Oh wait, we all have cell phones with calculators. So it's actually NOT hard.

Also, to respond to The Awl: if you have to start a sentence with "I really hate to generalize/be sexist here," then you are about to generalize and be sexist, so just stop talking. And as a less-cute girl, I have never seen any of my hotter friends do what you claim they do. Being pretty does not make people manipulative and cheap. Really, everyone comes up a dollar short here and there, and decent friends don't mind covering once in awhile (no matter what you look like, shockingly).

Honestly, though, I've never been at a group dinner where anyone wanted to just split evenly. Everyone I eat with (except my parents, who just pay for my food, hooray) throws in for what they had plus tax and tip. Or we ask for separate checks.