Birth Control Process

Birth control is wonderful and freeing and very, very important. I'm 20, I want to have intercourse, I don't want a baby for a long time, so I am on it. That said, it's a pain in the ass to find the best birth control method for your lifestyle. As Dr. Kate was saying in her post on the Daily Bedpost, it's hard to match up with your pill, and if you don't it's easy not to use it properly.

I think a lot of women (especially young ones) expect that they will just go to the doctor and be handed the No-Babies Pill and have done with it. I encourage doctor-going and birth-control-getting, but go in with an open mind and know that it might take some trial and error to find the right birth control method for you. Like any medicine, different people react differently to the chemicals, so you've got to figure out what works for your body.

In the interest of opening up discussion about this sort of thing in a public way, here is the story of all MY trials and tribulations in the world of birth control:

I get migraine headaches with aura (blind spots, sparkles, etc) so when I first went to Planned Parenthood to get birth control (when I was 16), they told me my only available method was the shot (Depo Provera). It is an estrogen-free method, and estrogen is associated with higher risk of stroke among those who get migraines with aura. There are other methods of Progestin-free birth control, but I didn't know that at the time.

So I went on the shot, and went just bat-shit crazy for the year or so I was on it. I cried at the drop of a hat, was angry very often, felt icky lots. My sex drive was drastically reduced, and I did not get as wet during sex. I also got my period very sporadically, was tired all the time, gained weight, etc. Woot, lots of fun.

Finally, I did some research and discovered Progestin-only Pills (POPS or Ortho Micronor) and switched to those. Much better in terms of side effects, but not perfect. My sex drive didn't quite get back to its former glory, but it came back a little. I still had breakthrough bleeding, irregular periods, and some mood swings. All fun, of course, but not quite as much of a shit storm as the shot.

POPs have to be taken at exactly the same time every day or their effectiveness declines drastically. So I bought a watch with an alarm that beeped when it was time. I still missed some, though, and I wanted a method that wouldn't require as strict adherence. Plus, the spotting between periods was damn annoying.

So I tried the pill with the lowest dosage of estrogen possible. I don't remember the name of it, as I was only taking it for a month. The day I started taking the hormones again after my first placebo week, I got a migraine that put me in the hospital. So that was definitely a no-go. I went back to POPs.

And THEN I got an Intrauterine Device (IUD). That was about a year ago. Some doctors will only insert an IUD in women who have had children. I haven't had a baby or anything, but at Planned Parenthood in California, they have more contemporary policies and gave it to me anyway. I chose the Mirena, the five-year implant which sits in your uterus and releases a small amount of local progesterone to prevent pregnancy.

I LOVE it! I don't have to do anything like take a pill, so the very tiny risk of pregnancy isn't mitigated by my usage. My periods are regular again, I don't feel hormonal-crazy, and my body feels healthier. I'm back to my pre-birth-control weight. Best of all, my sex drive is back with a vengeance. Boom Boom! I'm set for five years, so all told it's cheaper than any other method I'd have to keep paying for every few months. It's great.

That's four years after my quest for the No-Babies Method began. (I got the IUD a year ago, but my periods were still irregular for a while after it was inserted, so I'm considering my birth control quest accomplished now that they're back to normal.) Not everybody will have as much trouble as I did; like I said, I get migraines and that had a big effect on what I could take. But be patient, because it's totally worth it. Choosing when to have kids is super, super, super important. And pretty nifty.

If you want to know more about birth control methods, I recommend Planned Parenthood and as great info sources. Happy questing!

Print News

I read the newspaper today. This isn't completely remarkable, but it's not something I do every day. I get the New York Times emails and I scan the headlines. Whoopie.

Now, though, I'm back at my parents' house and they get the print version of the San Francisco Chronicle, so I actually sat down at breakfast and read through most of it. I didn't read every article, but I looked through the whole thing.

You know that accent people on news shows put on? The one that sounds excessively pleasant and strangely modulated? I could hear that going in my head. The news is written so formally, the voice in my head as I'm reading (yes, I hear the words I read) might as well be from a computer robot. You know, those ones online you can play with and make them say funny things in different accents.

In print news, they edit their quotes. To be grammatically correct and everything, to make sure it all is perfect. They do it in magazines, too. And I always find myself re-editing them in my head as I read to try and figure out what the person actually said. It's usually pretty easy to tell, and the original quote usually flows much better than the oddly formal edited one.

I hate that silly formal English. As the author of a column, it's really annoying when they change my nicely flowing slightly casual writing into this stilted, old-fashioned crap. I bet it's one of the reasons that the news has trouble reaching young readers (and viewers). It's a really unappealing tone of language.

Now, I know they're striving for balanced, objective reporting, but does "perfect" grammar really effect that? Yes, having a standardized language could in theory make news seem more objective, but that language can still be manipulated to favor a bias. It simply promotes the illusion of objectivity. I think objectivity is bullshit anyway, but I'll write more about that later.

I just think that if they used words and phrasings that are more casual and commonplace, they might do a better job of reaching their audience.

Mish Mosh: Sex, Fire, Feelings, Relationships

I feel very close to people while I'm having sex with them.

I absolutely adore sex. I love nakedness: being naked myself, seeing someone else naked, touching our skins together. I love the texture of skin and hair, I love the heat. It all makes me feel so wonderful, like I'm a hot tub inside, all gurgley and warm, and that kind of happiness makes me feel special and different about my partner. I know it's happy chemicals or whatever released through orgasm and pleasure, but all feelings come from chemicals so I think it's just as valid as an emotion experienced outside the bedroom.

I have a lot of casual sex.

I like to fuck people I don't know very well. I don't do one night stands, but four nights? Mmm. I love exploring a new body, feeling the new bumps and hard places and softness of skin. I like to hear the different ways people moan or gasp or hold their breath or talk in bed. I like having to guess at what's in their head; I like that they can't tell what I'm thinking, that I can enjoy them and enjoy sex without having to give everything away. It's hard for me to guard my face when I'm fucking, but if they don't know how to read it yet, that's fine. I like feeling a physical connection, sharing an experience, laughing and whispering and coming with someone I probably won't see much afterwards.

I like to play with fire.

I get bored in a monogamous relationship. I like to be happy, sure, but I can't just sit still or be complacent. Contented isn't my style. I'm young, I know. I need to get out and get hurt and push things and learn by trial and error, big errors. I like to feel dirty. I like the way it feels to meet someone and just take them home, take off their clothes, let them fuck me. (Yeah, I'm a bottom.) It feels dangerous, it causes trouble, it feels good.

I need to be in a relationship.

I love sharing my bed, coming home to someone at night. When I was little I used to have long talks with my mother as she was tucking me into bed. We were close, and that was our time. I still like to debrief with someone who knows me, who can read my face, who won't take my bullshit. I need to talk things out as I feel them, discuss things as I learn them. I love being close to someone, having a safe place to come back to when I get tired from the fire. I love fucking the same person over and over, knowing their body and loving the familiarity of their responses. Routine and repetition are comforting to me, even sexy. It's a feeling I miss.

I fall in love very easily and somewhat frequently.

I love readily. I care very deeply about other people, and it doesn't take much to make that specific to one person. Love isn't what makes my relationships special. Love doesn't make the difference between a fling and a partner. It's trust. I do not trust easily. I am very reserved; very few people know what I'm actually feeling. If I share, when I stop hiding, that to me is what makes a relationship special, what takes time. The measure of how special you are to me is not how much time I devote to you, how much affection and support I show. It's how much of myself I let you see, how many of my own feelings I invest.

Being At Home

I'm back in San Francisco. Staying with my parents. All I really have to do is unpack. I haven't started summer work yet.

It's funny how I write, think, read, blog surf, etc. so much more when I have a million other things to do. When I'm so busy I can barely breathe, I manage to write, but when I'm just sitting around, nothing comes.

Amazing, the galvanizing powers of procrastination. When there's something I have to be doing, I manage to get all sorts of other things done.

Must get busy again, otherwise how shall I function?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

So, as my post title says, it is everyone's favorite time of the school year: finals! I've been in the library for the past 24 hours or so; I've spent probably a total of three days (as in 72 hours) here in the last week. It's uber fun.

Now, I am a big fan of the all-nighter. Who needs busy work during the semester when you can save it all for the last second and burn a few brain cells staying up for a several straight days to get it done?

Of course, things don't always work out perfectly. One key ingredient for such fun times in the reading room is coffee.

The same kind of coffee that I just spilled all over my laptop. In a moment of blazing glory. It puddled in the keyboard, pooled around the battery, and proceeded to slide all the way across the table over the other side where my friend neatly caught it in the cup it had just escaped. It was a beautiful dance of creamy French Vanilla.

What does one do in this situation? When one's grip is sliding off the last bit of twine attached to sanity?

Why, sit outside the professor's office door of course, hoping she will show up and bring absolution from the horror of deadlines.

"I really did spill coffee on it! See! Smell it! Sniff it! Sniff!"

I'm Watching Jesus Camp For the First Time

Jesus Camp

Now, that link will get you to the whole film. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should. I prefer to financially support films, books, and music that I like instead of getting them on the internet, but you can make that decision for yourself. If I were you, I'd go rent it, because I'm sure it's better with nicer film quality.

I am so speechless about most of this film. Part of me wants to give the kids a hug, I just feel so bad for them. The emotional blackmail, the guilt that they're put through.

But on the other hand, they are not stupid. Clearly. They speak very articulately and passionately and are so obviously trying really hard to live well. With the information they're given, they are making the best decisions they can. They wouldn't want my hugs. I just can't imagine what it's like to go through life with that kind of guilt, repressing yourself so much.

To grow up like Ted Haggert, who's got a little cameo in the film, and despise yourself, live a double life, oppress people who are like you because you think that you are evil. What that must be like, emotionally. How much pain there must be.

That doesn't mean I like Ted. On one level, I really despise people like Ted, people who press others down. Part of me whats that to be all I feel, as an activist, a humanist. They are mean people, hypocrites, etc.

But I also feel empathy for them. I can't help it; they're living in a hell. Of course, they're trying to force that same hell on other people. For that, I'll always fight them. But I'll feel sorry for them, too.

It starts when they're children, just like the ones in this video. If we feel sorry for the children (who are perfectly capable of thought, simply more open to new ideas and brainwashing because they have less previous knowledge) it makes sense to feel sorry for their adult manifestations.

(P. S. I know it's stereotyping, but after watching good ol' Ted speak for about a minute, I'm wondering HOW nobody ever guessed that he was kinda gay... Just saying.)

New at This

I don’t remember my first time on the strip club stage very well.

I’d bought an outfit a few days beforehand, a tiny bikini top and matching g-string number in red with skulls on it and a little pleated black skirt. I was wearing makeup, I know, which I’d gotten out of the habit of doing on my college campus. No need to put on makeup when you’re going to class in your pajama pants.

I remember talking to the manager, and I stuttered when he asked me my age. I can’t get used to saying “twenty” because it doesn’t have a “teen” at the end of it. Takes a while to adjust to a new decade.

“Nineteen,” I spit out, and I had to awkwardly correct myself. He raised an eyebrow at me, but he was looking at my California license. It’s got an old picture; they took it when I was fifteen. He photocopied it and then told me in a brusque voice that I’d be doing two songs and that I needed to be in just my g-string by the last song. He’d be watching from the back.

He went through a list of rules. No showing my pussy; if the lips stuck out on stage I’d be fired. No touching the men at the tip rail. I needed to be wearing "pasties" (ie clear glitter fabric paint or body glitter) at all times onstage. I was to dance and move, I was not to just stand there or sing along with my songs. One of the girls would show me how to work the jukebox in the back.

After that, though, I forget what it was like. I’ve been on that stage so many times that I can’t remember how it was when I started. I know how I dance now, but I can only imagine what I looked like when I was new. How I felt, even.

You can always tell when a girl is just starting. V would dance in the corners, her back to the men, uncomfortable being naked. A used to thrust her pelvis as she walked, which made her look like a bony ostrich, lurching across the stage. M couldn’t sway her hips much when she started; her movements were jerky and her shoulders moved out of synch with the rest of her skinny frame. Jerky is a common thing for newcomers. I’ve been there long enough now to watch the girls get more graceful the longer they last at the bar.

I do remember seeing myself under the black lights for the first time. It’s an insider secret that I love to tell. The black lights that they hang over the stage make everyone look great. They smooth out your skin, make your hair shine, give your eyes an odd white gleam. Even girls’ expressions look less strained under the black lights. I remember looking at myself in the huge mirrors that surround the stage and thinking, “Huh. I look good.”

That’s the biggest thing that’s changed for me since I started dancing. It’s such a superficial, external way to learn it, but I can finally see myself as pretty now. As attractive. I can believe that someone would want to be with me, at least sexually. Hell, men will pay me to let them see my skin. It’s got to mean something.

I have an idea, now, that I am a whole package. I have to employ my charm, my smarts, my personality or I would never make any money. “Hey baby, you wanna buy a dance?” will never be as effective as talking to someone, listening to them, letting them see enough of me to want to get closer, learn more. I can’t win them all, but I’ve learned that my personality, too, can be attractive.

I still can’t look in the mirror and see a pretty girl. A hot girl. Beautiful? Whatever. I still see the little features I don’t like about myself: my chin is a little loose, my eyes are slightly differently sized, my hair is completely unmanageable. Whatever. But at least I’m starting to be able to think of myself (even if it’s just in words not images) as an appealing girl. I can say “Thank you” now when someone gives me a compliment.

Of course, that’s superficial. In the end, there are more important things. It’s not like I was going to let feeling unattractive stop me from doing what I wanted, from having sex, from giving love, from seeking work, from exercising my smarts.

But it feels good to live comfortably in my body, to not apologize for it all the time, to feel that in some way I can choose when and how to use it. I can have sexual agency, because I don't feel like being unattractive is going to be a barrier to getting what or who I want. I choose my partners now because I am attracted to them, not just because they show some interest in me.

Ill gotten though it may be, that’s a cool feeling.

Bouncers and Female Vulnerability

In the strip club,we have bouncers, big burly guys who stand around in the club looking menacing. They're not really allowed to talk to anyone because they've got to preserve their image of perfect stoic masculinity. Their job is, of course, to protect us ladies from the mens who want to put their hands on us.

I vastly appreciate these bouncers. They do make me feel safer in the club, safer really than I feel anywhere else. (Ironic, no?) BUT, not always for the reasons you'd expect. If I can get a bouncer to talk to a man for me, I don't have to be the bad guy and enforce my own boundaries with the customer. I can let it be "The Man" who comes in as a disciplinarian. I don't have to use my personal power to enforce my personal boundaries. I can continue to be the li'l delicate lady, which keeps me in the money. Femininity sells.

I was reading Feministing's review of Susan Faludi's new book The Terror Dream. Feministing quotes her discussing how as a nation, "we base our security on a mythical male strength that can only measure itself against a mythical female weakness," going on to say that "when we are most fearful, we are most likely to regress into familiar, albeit limiting scripts about who we are, what our dreams might be, what's safe and what's too scary... Our cartooned femininity is directly related to men's cartooned masculinity."

Now, I'm obviously quoting pretty heavily here to get to my point. And they're not exactly talking about strip clubs and bouncers. Their reflections on masculinity and protection, though, made me think about how I relate to my bouncers, how I rely on them to protect me purely because I am in a feminine role when I'm at work.

I could just as easily physically and verbally defend myself when a man tries to touch me in the club. Granted, some of them might be bigger and stronger than I am, but I'm not a small or a physically weak woman. Most of them wouldn't be. If I did need help, the bouncers would be useful, but I rely on them way more than I have to.

I rely on them so much because it's easier than trying to be powerful in my own right. I can use their availability as an excuse to stay feminine, to stay friendly, to continue to be liked and make more money. The rules of the club are set up to get me to act that way, but I think from now on I'll make more of an effort to enforce my boundaries myself, to be more commanding. I know some of the dancers do this and they still seem to make money. It's just another reflection of patriarchy in my own head. Gotta work on it.
On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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