On an Unrelated Note: Keep. Your Hands. Off Me.

I am not always a very good feminist. I’m actually often quite a poor feminist. But, for as terrible a feminist as I can sometimes be, I absolutely believe that women have the right to live their lives however they choose without having to justify any of their decisions to men who seem to think that a woman’s attention is something they’re owed.

I went out to watch Chelsea/Burnley with a friend this afternoon. She’s dating my closest friend from the club and has shown interest in learning more about football, so I invited her to come with; it was the perfect opportunity to show her some non-Spurs football. Unfortunately, we discovered that my local — where we both prefer to hang out — isn’t open until 4 on Mondays, which led us to the clubhouse.

We watched the first half in relative peace. We bantered with my favourite clubhouse bartender, who, as a Liverpool fan, takes great glee in carving LFC into the collar of my Guinness every chance he gets (jerk!), cheered the excellent Burnley strike, bemoaned Burnley’s failure to account for Shurrle (because serio, especially after the World Cup, who doesn’t account for Shurrle?!?), and generally had a good time.

But there were a couple of guys sitting down the bar from us. We were half chatting to them about the music on the radio — they weren’t watching the match at all — but nothing to give them any indication that we had any interest in them. And then the second half rolled around…

Here’s the thing: I am not your property. I am not something to be referred to as “this broad here”, touched at your will, or bought with a pint. I am not gorgeous.* I am not your “baby” or your “mama.” I am not my tits alone, though they are pretty epic. I am not a bitch or a lesbian because I don’t want you. I am a person with a brain in her head who has every right to say “don’t touch me” when you decide that I am some sort of trophy to be had. I am a person with friends who has every right to hang out with them at the bar, undisturbed. And if you’d been raised right, you’d have known well before it came to me saying “don’t. fucking. touch me” that all of these things are the case.

But that’s what it means to be a woman, doesn’t it? This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last. But it should be.

Because I. Am not. Your property. I cannot iterate enough that I do not give a single fuck who you are,** what you do, or how much money you have; I owe you exactly nothing.

 

This story has a sort of happy ending: the friend who is dating the girl I was with, having heard the story of what happened, sent me a video of Tom Hiddleston continuing to be the awesomest at life. Because he’s a good friend, and he knows that the best way to make this particular girl feel better about pretty much everything is to send her videos of Tom Hiddleston being his delightful and charming self.

*Cute on a good day; gorgeous, absolutely not.

**Autobiographical story: I have told both a number one American football pick and first round baseball draft pick those exact words. The former was told “I don’t care who you are, that’s not my job”, the latter was told “I don’t care who you are, get your hands off me.” Both occurred while I was working for sports teams. To be fair to the baseball player, I don’t think it was a sexual thing; he was just drinking and being overly friendly at the start of the season trying to get me to like him. Needless to say, I did not. Because “but I’m [his name here]” was his way of trying to get away with pretty much everything, and again, I didn’t care that he was a first round pick. My refusal to fawn on him didn’t endear me to him at all. We had a rather rocky relationship that had to be navigated, shall we say…carefully…since he was a first round pick, and I worked in media relations. In the end we managed, but there was no love lost. As for the American football player, well, that was just a lost cause. We each had other people we could go to so after our initial encounter, unless we absolutely had to, we opted for general avoidance. That probably worked out better for both of us.

Lesson #386: The Lottery

I was hanging out, recently, with a friend and another guy we know from the neighbourhood. He was talking about how the Final Jeopardy question the night before (category: literature) had been something along the lines of, “her 1948 story led people to write to ask where this town was and how they could take part”, at which both of us immediately guessed, “Shirley Jackson?!?”

Because literally (and I do mean that in the proper dictionary sense) everyone who went to high school in America has read The Lottery, which is one of the most disturbing pieces of fiction I’ve ever read in my life,* and I love dystopian literature.** But seriously, can we talk about how people wanted to actively participate in this sort of violence? Because…dude. DUDE! This is a story about the danger of conformity! The entire plot is a bunch of people stoning one of their friends to death for no other reason than because tradition mandates it, and that person was unlucky enough to draw the dot! This is the one short story that I can mention to anyone and, without fail, watch them cringe.

But here’s a fun piece of knowledge: although it’s never explicitly stated, Jackson based the town in her short story on Bennington, Vermont. I found this fascinating because, in my head, this story has always taken place somewhere out west. I don’t know why, to be honest; it just always has. I’ve always imagined a dusty kind of a place.

*I’d also list Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ for very different reasons.

**I like dystopias because I find them an interesting study in revolutionary theory and how and why certain cultures revolt…one of the chapters of my MA thesis is actually titled ‘Ideas are Bulletproof.’ But I also really enjoy post-apocalyptic literature as well because I find the concept of how people act and react in the absence of “normalcy” fascinating. This probably shouldn’t be news.

Lesson #385: Malaria

As Liverpool didn’t play until this morning, I invited our Tanzanian friend out to the clubhouse with us for the first match of the new football season. Afterwards, we stopped by our local for a pint and got to talking about the work he’s doing. He’s over doing a year of his PhD work at the School of Public Health, in which he’s working on shortening the length of time a mosquito can transmit malaria — he said right now it’s about six days; he’s working with a team to cut that in half. Which meant he had to explain all the basics of malaria to me because my knowledge of malaria was two points. It’s transmitted by mosquitos, and it’s treated with quinine.

I learned all sorts of cool stuff. First, that malaria’s symptoms are flu-like, which can make it hard to diagnose. Second, that your body will develop a tolerance to it over time. Because he grew up in Tanzania, he’s had malaria many, many times and, as a result, when he contracts it, it feels more like just being a bit fatigued and generally just kind of off for a few days. Whereas, as I’ve never had it, so it would knock me on my ass for a week. Third, that while you can develop a tolerance, being unexposed for an extended period of time — as he will be for the year that he’s here — means that your body forgets how to deal with it, so he admits he’s in for a rough go when he gets home.* Fourth,  the mosquito isn’t the host for malaria, humans are; the mosquito is just the vehicle. The parasite that causes it gets processed by the mosquito’s system in such a way that it moves from the blood the mosquito has consumed from an infected host up into its salivary glands so that when it next feeds, it will infect a new host. It’s a genius system, really.

Anyway, you can read all sorts of fun stuff about malaria — like the the fact that it kills more than 600,000 people every year (!), that there are four different strains, and that it takes quite a long time (usually 10 – 15 days) for symptoms to develop after a bite — from the WHO and CDC here and here, respectively.

*This explains why our Togolese striker missed the North American tour after contracting malaria while he was home during the offseason.

Lesson #384: A Simple Key Change

One of my closest friends can’t hear tone or, at least, hears it very poorly. This is something that I don’t understand. At. All. My life is so intrinsically linked to music that I find it completely baffling when someone can’t tell the difference between a major and minor chord when she hears it.

Now, I don’t have the musical ear some people have. Like my brother, for example. My brother is a bit of a musical savant. He can hear a piece of music once and play it back for you note for note. My cousin in a major western Canadian city has likely forgotten more musical theory than I’ve ever known in the first place. A college friend who recently did a Fulbright scholarship in music on the other side of the world could go on for days about composition. But I know when a note is out of place if I hear it.*

When I play the piano,** I like to take pieces and alter them from a major to a minor key and vice versa, just because I like to hear what it sounds like.

So…

It turns out that a guy in Ukraine and his daughter have taken some popular songs and done exactly that. And it’s really effing brilliant. Some are obviously better than others, musically speaking. No Doubt’s Don’t Speak should never ever ever ever (there aren’t enough evers to cover how deep this goes — just like cheering for Cristiano Ronaldo) be done in a major key. The dissonance I love in the minor key is nearly unbearable in a major key. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. But Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit in a major key is sheer excellence! The Beatles’ Let It Be in a minor key is just brilliant! The Macarena in a minor key? SO. SO. GOOD!

I cannot encourage you (Dad, I’m talking to you specifically; you’ll absolutely love this) enough to go check out this guy’s YouTube channel because it’s been the best part of my week.

*One of the worst stage performances I’ve ever seen was a national touring company production of Miss Saigon in which the guy playing Chris (the male lead) was anywhere from marginally to horrifically flat for the entire thing. It was actually painful to sit through.

**A lot…I have one in my living room that I paid an absurdly small amount of money for — no joke, it was a significant amount under $100…the guy just REALLY wanted to get rid of it. It is admittedly in need of a new coat of varnish and the G below middle C sticks in the humidity, but apart from that, it does exactly what I want it to. It does need a tuning, but I’ll wait until the dry season is upon us before I do that.

Lesson #383: Fionn mac Cumhaill’s Split Boulder

The Irish oral tradition is so fantastic. If you’ve never read The Táinin my opinion the most fun and exciting part of the Ulster Cycle –I’d encourage you to do so. It’s good stuff ! Then again, I absolutely love the old sagas/epics. I have a lot of them in my personal library.

I was watching the latest McDonagh (John Michael of The Guard, not Martin of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths)/Gleeson project, Calvary today. Because I like black comedies best of all. Though Calvary isn’t really haha funny like The Guard is, it’s still got its moments.* And on the whole, it’s very, very good. Anyway, there’s a part where Brendan Gleeson’s character is telling his daughter about the legend of the split rock — because they’re at the split rock — and it’s really very interesting.

I’m not as familiar with Fionn mac Cumhaill (or Finn McCool as you’ve all probably heard him called, because English) as I am with Cú Chulainn, the great hero of Ulster, but I know the basics. He was a mythological warrior who shows up in the Fenian Cycle, but also in legends originating in Scotland and the Isle of Man.** Fionn had a band of followers called the Fianna.*** He’s also, in some legends, referred to as the giant responsible for building a series of stepping stones from the North of Ireland over to Scotland; it is for him that Giant’s Causeway and Fingal’s Cave — in tribute of which one of my favourite pieces of music was composed — are named.

Anyway…the boulder. In Co. Sligo, near the town of Easkey, there’s a giant rock that’s been split in two. Science blames the last ice age, but science is unimaginative. Legend has it that Fionn and another giant by the name of Cicsatóin (or just members of the Fianna, depending on what you read), were hanging out one day. The pair decided to make a game of throwing a pair of massive boulders from their place in the Ox Mountains into the sea, 20 miles away. Cicsatóin succeeded****; Fionn did not. Enraged, he strode down to the rock and whacked it with his sword, splitting it in two. According to legend, you can safely pass through the boulder twice, but a third attempt will end in you being smushed by the rock.

You can read more here and here. And probably in the Fenian Cycle, which I can’t find you full text of, but there’s a pretty good synopsis here. As this is all legend, these aren’t exactly what one would call credible sources, but it’s legend, and part of the fun of legends is that they aren’t verifiable.

*And also, Aiden Quinn with his proper accent, which took some getting used to after years of hearing him as Littlefinger.

**My favourite of the stories I know tells how Fionn created both the Isle of Man and Lough Neagh when ripped up a part of the land to throw it at a Scottish rival. He missed, and the land wound up in the Irish Sea.

***Yes, that is where Fianna Fáil comes from.

****Legend also has it this is why the waters around Easkey have such good surfing.

There’s a new lesson coming, I promise.

Sometimes my real life takes over, and I wind up having dinner with my next door neighbours who are (and I’m super jealous about this even though I was, myself, offered a job in Southeast Asia the other day) running away to Mozambique in a month and wanted to get their friends together to hang out together before they do. They’re awesome, and I’m going to miss them.

It’s been a busy couple of days for me. There will be a new lesson tomorrow.

Lesson #382: The Mason-Dixon Crownstones

Among the other subjects that came up in the Facebook discussion that ensued as a result of my dad’s email on Friday was a discussion about barbeque. And how, though I live south of the Mason-Dixon line, I don’t live in what one would call “good barbeque country.” Which is somewhat disappointing because if there’s one thing Southerners know how to do well, it’s slather meat in sauce and then apply open flames. I can get decent barbeque, but that’s a very different animal from good barbeque.

Anyway…because the line of demarcation between the north and south is the Mason-Dixon Line, I wound up going back for a bit of a refresher on why it’s placed where it is (I was right…slavery) and discovered that every five miles along the line there are markers called crownstones. On the Maryland side of the marker, they have Lord Calvert’s coat of arms and on the Pennsylvania side, William Penn’s.

There’s really not that much more to say about them. They’re markers left to indicate the Mason-Dixon line. That’s pretty much it.

That said, the first thing I did when I learned the crownstones exist was call my mother about taking some time to go find some; we both live close enough that we could make a field trip out to find a few.

Read a fun article written by a guy who went hunting some crownstones, see here. For a list of some of them, see here.