“When I see this image, I realize I will never be alone again. I also think about all the young females in science who can stand on our shoulders, because we will be providing a ladder for them — not pulling it up as so many before us have done.” –Laura Boykin

I just came across this article on Medium yesterday and it’s really made me think a lot about the choices I made in my early life, choices that, unknown to me, have limited my options ever since.  I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, as my daughters move upward through the school system.   Watching my older daughter do calculus when I never got past beginning Trig is really strange.  My girls are doing all kinds of things I didn’t know I could do, without even questioning their right to do so.

It’s not like I couldn’t have done some of the same things if I’d really wanted to.  It’s more like no one really encouraged me or told me I should try — or even seemed to believe I could.  And, teenage laziness being a natural thing, I chose the path of least resistance.  I found Trig hard, and assumed I’d reached my limit in math.  If I’d had someone else around who knew math, I might have been amazed to find that Trig is just shitty for everyone, or at least shitty unless you have an amazing teacher.  And I would have gone on to Geometry (oh God, geometry, my passion now) and probably thence onward from there.  And who knows what could have happened?

I look at my daughters and admire their utter dedication to geekdom.  When I was in high school, I had geeky friends, but didn’t quite know what to do with them.  They all belonged to the chess club, so I did too — but I didn’t like playing chess, because I didn’t understand the strategies and was impatient with learning them, since everyone was so much better than I was.  But more importantly, my geeky friends knew what classes to take, while I just took what sounded good.  So while they were all taking AP and honors classes, I was taking Creative Writing and bonehead Algebra and any history I could get my hands on.  Because I didn’t know that those other classes were full of smart people talking about interesting things!  And I didn’t understand that I was up to it, that it was worth the work, that there was a whole world of learning that was passing me by.

As a result, I became more and more alone over the course of my schooling.  I didn’t fit in with the “normal” kids, but I wasn’t in any of the classes that my nerdy friends were taking (except maybe history).

I had dreams of being a scientist when I was young, and I actually took Advanced Biology and Physics in high school in an effort to pursue that goal.  But here again chance intervened.  I spent my last year of high school at a small boarding school where the teachers were very intimate with us.  I didn’t really learn that much because, in Physics at least, there were two boys who argued so much with the teacher that I got lost along the way.  Interestingly, it was the presence of people like these arguers that made me see that I could take these harder classes; but then he who giveth, taketh away, I suppose.

Here’s the thing: I never identified as geek because in those days geek was a bad thing, a stereotype that no one wanted to embody.  Even my nerdy friends struggled with this.  There was none of the joy of being dorky and smart and different that my daughters get to experience.  These were the days before Title IX, too, so no sports other than tennis and softball, all full of supercompetitive pretty-girls.  It was an era when having long blonde hair meant you weren’t very smart, and I wasn’t good at pushing away the image that people set on me.  There were no computer classes in my provincial high school either, or at least nothing that a latent geek girl with a lack of belief in her own abilities would have recognized as something she could do (I believe there was a FORTRAN thing you could do with the university, but WTF??).  I was a person lost, trying to find my tribe and failing, through lack of common cultural reference, no guidance, and an inability to see through my friends’ general dorkiness.

So call me a late bloomer.  And thank the Gods for the new culture of difference that my daughters get to enjoy, all the movies about intelligent misfits and the Internet and Star Trek and Dr. Who.  Because now everyone can know who they are by seeing it embodied outside themselves by role models that are fun, interesting, and palatable.  Nowadays you can own your dorkiness, and it is good.  You don’t have to wait until nearly forty, like I did, to suddenly look around and say hey, wait!  This is who I am, and this is who I want to be.  Like coming out, but from the toolshed, not the closet.  And although I might not have grown up to do the exciting science I love reading about, at least my daughters have the support to do so.

I came back from two months of traveling the night before last, and there was a lot of emotional weight to the homecoming, because I hadn’t been particularly happy when I left. So after the whirlwind of amazing adventures I’ve had, it’s very strange to be plopped right back down into my old routine, as if nothing had happened.

I’ve decided I don’t like this life. I’m going to change it. Here’s what I’m going to do:

– Ask my husband to point out old patterns in my interaction with him as they happen, so I can change them.
– Go outside more. Go hiking, go biking, go camping. These are all things I enjoy but never seemed to take the time to do.
– Save my money, rather than spend it on something fleeting and unnecessary. So if I see that cool t shirt in CVS, I really don’t have to shell out the $10, even if that’s really cheap. Two of those would probably pay for a night’s stay in Thailand, and which one would I rather have, Thailand, or a t shirt?
– Sit down and write when I get that antsy feeling, rather than surfing or watching stuff. Write more blog posts, tweets, whatever. Anything rather than sit around wishing I was finishing my novel. Maybe if I keep my fingers busy I’ll actually finish the novel. Anything’s better than watching stuff.
– Offload some of my responsibilities. This means getting my daughter to take care of her bunny or get rid of it, for example, and not doing the costumes for the school play. Stuff like that.
– Finally start that business I’ve been talking about and dinking around with a business plan for. I’ve already got inquiries out about studio space, and I’m working on the designs for my first tents. I don’t think I want to simply retire from my job when I’m 65 — I want something more fulfilling than that, sooner than that.
– Keep up my word count. Maybe having a studio will help with this.

Whew. Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to start working on tent patterns…

I’ve been working on the edits for my novel, previously called Endless but now titled Biomancers. Very, crazy busy, but I’m here! And still doing graphics.

Pacific Elementary School, where I work, did their bi-yearly play this year and it was a play I wrote called Leilah and the Magic Lamp, a take-away from the Arabian Nights Panto tradition, but with actual peoples from the Middle East mixed in.

Now we’re getting ready to go to Europe for two months this summer — planning the itinerary and getting all kinds of things done so my husband can get off to Croatia for his Fulbright this Saturday. Whew.

More soon.

We all watched Repo Man tonight.   So fun to hear all the old songs: TV Party, and Institution, Pablo Picasso, and all the rest.  Black Flag, Iggy Pop, Suicidal Tendencies, and––God!!––the Circle Jerks dressed in lounge suits playing one of their songs at 1/8 speed while Emelio Estevez says, “I used to like these guys.”  And who doesn’t love Harry Dean Stanton?

I had forgotten how many times the F word was used, and my kids raised their eyebrows a little at that and the sexual references, but they laughed at the same parts I always did (so glad the main character’s parents aren’t us!) and I was very pleased at how well the movie has held up.

I guess I’m showing my age here.  I was always just on the edges of the punk scene.  My friends were always going to concerts of what have since become extremely famous bands––Flipper, Agent Orange,  the Germs, X, Butthole Surfers, the Cramps, Dead Kennedys and all of the ones mentioned up above––who seemed always to be playing at some warehouse or other.  I saw PIL in LA in 1984, with Mike Muir popping up informally to join in, and for some reason the drummers from Bow Wow Wow onstage with what looked like taiko drums.  I even spent a few days in Redlands once with a friend who introduced me to his friends, all of whom were in a band known later as Camper Van Beethoven.  It just seemed in those days like you couldn’t go anywhere or do anything in California without tripping over one band or another, and everyone was always showing up at one anothers’ concerts.

I was, unfortunately, too shy to actually attend more than a few of the concerts.  They were very crowded and filled with a kind of angry energy that I didn’t fully identify with, at least in action, though I liked many of the songs, which had a goofy side to them, a sort of quirky humor that was hard not to like.  But I was a country girl, not used to close quarters with bodies bumping, and was still too green to identify with the movement yet.  I was under 18 in a town where you mostly had to be of age to do anything and, well, like I said, I was shy.  I might have been in college, but I was only 16, and I didn’t know how to lie about my age (and no one would have believed me if I had).

What’s funny now for me is to go into a shop and find someone wearing a Cramps t-shirt (or something), and realize there is no way that I, a weird redheaded old lady in a t-shirt and Steampunk jewelry, can explain all this.  I smile at the checker and say, “I haven’t seen that t-shirt for a long time,” and he looks at me like “what?”  I am still shy, so I walk out thinking, in the espirit d’escalier of these things, of what he might have said if I said, “I saw them in 1981.”  But of course I didn’t, because I didn’t always seize the moment back then.  I know better now.

Nowadays, if I hear these songs I smile.  They seem so melodic!  It’s hard to completely explain to people raised with all the various flavors of Metal how discordant the punk bands all sounded in 1980, when we were all coming fresh from the syrupy sounds of the 70s.  It’s a little like trying to explain what it was like having to wait for your TV show to come on––people nod their heads, but they don’t really get it, I mean really get that when there was nothing on there was really NOTHING on.  You had to just go read a book.  Or something.

The truth of this hit me tonight, when I put TV Party on my iTunes to play for my kids.  I still love that song, and was pleased to see my (non-loud-music-loving) teenage girls respond with laughter… especially when the band members all say sadly, “No TV  party toniiiiiiiight…”

Why Good Female Characters

I’ve been reading the first book in the Dark Angels series, based on a recommendation from a young male friend. And, well, the writing is really good––I never stumble on how he says things; it’s smooth and well-constructed and full …