Tag Archives: health

Snarling #12wbt: sleep practices OR all about those zeds


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I need to start doing regular early shifts at work, and by early I mean 7am starts. Ouch. That means I’m out of bed at 5.30, to leave by 6.15 so I make it there on time.

To make this possible I need sleep and lots of it. I’ve always really struggled with sleep, and even though one of my medications has a side effect of drowsiness (which can at times be pretty extreme. Thanks seroquel!) I still find I stay up and up with a wired brain. This is not an insomnia thing; I often just make unhelpful choices around bedtimes. And I have pretty shocking sleep hygiene.

What’s sleep hygiene? It refers to the practices you use to help yourself sleep, to both get to sleep, sleep well and deeply and sleep for long enough. Historically I’ve always been pretty self destructive when it comes any kind of night time routine. But I pay for it.

Without good sleep I’m less likely to exercise because I’m pooped; I am more likely to be emotional and not cope with my day, meaning I’m more likely to emotionally eat. It impacts my relationship. It impacts how I feel about myself, my body, and it definitely negatively impacts my performance at work. And since I work with kids, that’s kind of a big deal.

Last night was great though. I did the following and it made for a great night of zeds, and I had SO MUCH ENERGY at work today. I also managed a run which was awesome. And even ate like a fucking trooper all day, making delicious and nutritious food choices because I wasn’t leaning on food to make me feel better. Here’s what I did:

– I warned my husband ahead of time that I’d need a quiet dark house by 8.30 and he was awesome and helped out.

-I didn’t eat too close to bed time. Digesting keeps me awake.

-I’d had a good run and a decent dinner and a warm shower, and some laughs/quality time with husband so I was relaxed.

-I left half an hour to be in bed before I needed to be actually asleep.

-I turned off all the lights and lit a candle. I found the flickering made my eyes tired and the heavy vanilla scent helped me feel sleepy.

-I focused on my breath, using stuff I’ve been learning in my yoga practice, and let my breathing slow and deepen.

-I worked on observing thoughts that came up about work and the gym and my relationship and let them kind of float past. That was hard as I really struggle with that kind of meditative strategy. I’m a super judgemental thinker so it was difficult. I tried to let my anxiety about it go as well!

There’s nothing too amazing about any of those things. I know for people with hardcore sleep problems, none of that is helpful, but for a person like me who is just all over the place with bedtimes and good sleep strategies, it is really helpful.

It’s so worth it, since sleep is like hydration: you really notice if it’s missing. It effects and underpins everything you do. I really fear (in terms of sleep) the day we have a baby because I’m going to be one cranky, stressed, underslept individual!

Until then though, I’m doing my best to catch as many zeds in the land of nod as I can 🙂

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Snarling 12WBT: A feminist takes on the Michelle Bridges program. Week by week.


2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

[Harvey Keitel:] Ms. Third ward, your first question – what is your aspiration in life?
[BeyoncĂ©:] Oh… My aspiration in life… would be… to be happy.

(Pretty Hurts, Beyonce, The Visual Album).

As part of my journey at the moment to understand my body and my relationships with food and exercise, I’ve been seeking structure.

Sometimes in life I think it’s powerful to admit when you just aren’t strong at organisation. For instance, at work I bring a lot of creativity and passion to leadership in programming and pedagogy, but organising locker tags? A big fat nope. I’m never going to be the lady with a neat and tidy bedroom 100% of the time (unlike my neat freak partner whose love of order is Sheldon-esque).

And having a history of disordered eating is as it sounds: dis-ordered. Disorganised, chaotic, subject to the whims of emotion and external/internal/historical influence. I swing all over the place and cycles of restriction and binging are often exacerbated by being time poor. Exercise, which I love, also goes out the window and gets complicated by emotions and life pressures and plain tiredness. My job is high stress and emotionally/physically/intellectually exhausting. And my relationship and baby making plans have demanded a lot of me lately, and they have definitely pressured my relationship with my body as well.

I’ve sought structure in the past from nutritionists who’ve left me always wanting more, and I don’t have the cash to afford coaching intensives from expensive dieticians and they only vaguely address exercise. “Move more and eat less” is the vaaaaaguest statement ever when it comes to the huge complexities of how we inhabit and understand our bodies. What does that mean day to day? I know eating nutritionally balanced food and enjoying movement (having fun!) are things that make me feel great, but finding a structure to follow has always eluded me. I just cannot generate that shit on my own.

So I started looking for a program I could follow to help me get a handle on disordered eating and start to get into regular exercise patterns, and as a feminist, pretty much every choice sucked. Pretty much NO PLAN allowed you to eat without calorie counting, and had exercise coaching, and everything made me grumpy. Everything seemed to have fat shaming built into it and it was all about goal-orientation – the goal being to reduce body mass. Because that’s like, everything, amirite?

So, left with few truly good choices, I decided to live in the grey. Perhaps I could take what I needed from a program and critique the unhelpful bits. If I worked on my self talk at the same time as benefiting from some structure around eating and exercise, and used this as a chance to actively trigger myself and work on more helpful internal responses to those triggers, I would actually grow a lot more than if I avoided using any program. What if I used the benefits found, and challenged the problematic messages with critical reflection? It’s not a common approach, but it is a pretty genius one.

After lots of thinking, I found the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation and decided to give it my money – at around $19 a week for 12 weeks, it was a shitton less expensive than seeing a dietician and would probably have similar content.

This program is something you could have a body posi feminist field day with. Alongside the (really delicious, filling and nutritionally balanced) meals and (not too horrible) exercise plans, there is both some truly helpful and truly triggering content and thinking.

My intention? To complete the program and reflect in this blog critically as a feminist to de-construct it as much as I can and give some idea of what it feels like to be inside it. I will live out loud here, in the grey, taking good bits and critiquing the bad bits – from recipe discourse to discussion of body types. Hopefully this will act as a self reflection tool while acknowledging the nuanced reality that I live in: that to access health support, we have to work very hard as feminists on our mental health to disassemble body fascism as we encounter it all “mixed up and in” the very support we are accessing.

I refuse to be a blank eager canvas who slurps up what health gurus dish out. Nooope. Maybe, just maybe, we can talk back to the messages and triggers, pull them apart, and put them back together in ways that make more sense to us and are less punishing. Maybe having these conversations about moderating rather than rejecting health narratives is super important. I think so.

I’m going to be talking once a week about, in real terms, what it feels like to work through health messages mixed into much needed support. As well as stepping through how this negatively and positively impacts my relationship with my body, and everything in between. As a fat, queer, non neurotypical woman with disability and a history of disordered eating, who is time poor and has a real, busy life – how does the 12wbt feel in application?

In the words of Queen Bey, pretty hurts. And so very many health gurus are, underneath or even on top of everything they preach, mixing in some very painful ‘pretty’ with some good advice.

I hope other feminist women who may also be utilising some of the tools provided by the 12WBT program can follow along, and those enjoying journeys with their body in general.

I’ll also be tweeting a feminist critique throughout the process using the hashtag #feminist12wbt and you can follow me over the 12 weeks – @geekhag

Here’s to squats & snark!


How I know me: A jubilee year of personhood over numbers


TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses eating disorders, body image and exercise and eating habits. Whilst it is positive and hopefully affirming, I acknowledge it may trigger aspects of the eating disorder cycle and difficult feelings. Please read it in a safe space at a time when you feel able (or not at all). ❤

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This year I refuse to be weighed or measured. I refuse to count one single calorie.

The Judeo-Christian idea of a Jubilee period is something I learned about a child from the Bible I no longer believe in, but it remains interesting to me – the idea that at a certain time in a calendar cycle, there was a time when slaves were freed and their lands returned to them and “liberty” was proclaimed. I remember reading the following in Leviticus:

“Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”

I’m not keen to co-opt concepts of Roman slavery in antiquity as a white woman with privilege, because I have zero experience or history of this in my community, yet the Biblical idea of a time when liberty and amnesty was granted is something I found interesting when I was little. It seemed a bit mysteriously wonderful to my young mind (even though as an adult it seems not at all equal to liberty or freedom or social justice. Abolishing all systems of slavery would have been a lot more effective than a Jubilee.)

I wonder in a much more general sense how often we grant liberty and amnesty to ourselves. Specifically, imagine having the state of ignorance of the statistics we all know about our bodies returned to you. Imagine giving yourself permission to say no to this way of knowing about bodies.

Imagine if you didn’t know how much you weighed, and had never known. Imagine your life if scales with the intention of weighing human bodies had never been invented, or used in that way. This may not matter to you, but for those to whom it does matter: just imagine having no concept of your body in numbers. Dwell for a moment on what that must feel like.

We are all weighed and measured at various times in our life, and we often consent to this practice without much thought, or in many cases, with eagerness. The practice of (particularly women’s) bodies being analysed through a numerical lens is something that is so culturally acceptable and preferable that we don’t stop to question it. In fact, we are told that it is part of sound medical science and a keystone to being healthy. But is it?

There’s probably a handful of times when being weighed is vitally medically necessary, but there’s very little reason the vast majority of people need to own bathroom scales. My friend Sarah gave the example of being weighed when she gives plasma (something to do with calculating how much plasma is in her blood, or how much to take, or something!). But do you need this number disclosed to you? What do you profit from knowing it?

Where does our thirst to know our body weight come from? Obviously it’s socially constructed; nobody is born with a burning thirst to know their body weight (except for the little scientists among us who may yearn to know all the things!). I personally think that the urge to see a number and keep track of it over time is much more developed among women (in this I include all women, not just cis-gendered women). In most cases, the urge to weigh oneself and the blithe acceptance that doing so is a good thing is not something seen in childhood often – I work with young children and have also worked with primary schoolers, and in my experience the majority of “weight talk” sets in with almost exclusively girls towards the end of primary school – around 12. By high-school, the process of weighing and measuring oneself and it’s cousin – calorie counting – has become entwined with social success and status, personal knowledge, and self esteem.

I don’t remember when I first began twisting a tape measure around my waist and thighs, or when I first stepped on a scale. I was probably 14 at an outside guess. I grew up in a house where my mother was not very happy with her body, and nor were my female friends, but it was never mentioned by my male relatives or peers. My mother talked a lot about food, nutrition, and the shape of her body – she hated her knees and arms and would go to great lengths to buy clothes that didn’t exhibit them to the world. Later in life she lost a significant amount of weight, and that was somewhat of an extension of the same set of feelings – except once she’d lost the weight she had many emotional processes around feeling free and unburdened of worry, yet still a fixation on numbers (and worry wasn’t far away – it could come back as soon as a few kilos were gained back). My female friends talked a lot about their bodies – mostly from the point of view of dissatisfaction and resentment. Knowing numbers was a very real agent of that – it both acted as a catalyst for bad feelings about the self, and as evidence of complicated disturbances in our psyches in which we could look at a number and see our worth, see it going up and down, betrayed or edified by what the swinging indicator pointed to on the scale.

I’ve reflected a lot on my disordered eating and struggles with body image over the years. In 2012 I engaged in probably the most marked restriction episode of my life. I live with EDNOS or OSFED (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) that involves components of restriction and compulsive overeating, which present themselves in a cycle that has distinct characteristics that I now understand a lot more than I did as a younger woman. Golda Poretsky outlines this in her brief piece (ignore the sell at the end) ‘Why Portion Control Doesn’t Work and What to Do Instead” with a graphic that sums up how the EDNOS cycle generally works (with variations of course for most people). And there’s a mostly very good piece on Oh She Glows about binge eating (what I’d probably say is the “best fit” for behaviours I have – it’s a misconception that binge eating lacks a restrictive phase. Oh yes it does!).

In that year, that restrictive episode saw me losing a very very large amount of weight in just four months by starving myself and practicing exercise bulimia. I received massive social rewards for this, which were not very critical – nobody except one or two close friends saw through the good game I talked (oh, this is a feminist action, I feel so empowered…by my constant gnawing sense of hunger and fatigue? Hmmm.) And they were afraid to speak to me about it because they knew I would viciously reject their worry, and they were right – I would have. Because the numbers on the scale were going down, and this meant my worth as a person was increasing in the complicated dance most of us, but particularly those of us with eating disorders do. I didn’t want to hear opposing views. I was winning. I wrote an elated post on this blog about how incredible I felt and the restrictions my therapist had encouraged, and how I would never go back. Since then, I’ve gained all of that weight back and more. The cycle continued.

By radically reducing my body mass, I was winning. Unfortunately, this aspect of disordered eating and exercising is almost always met with social acclaim except in the most physically obvious cases of malnourishment, hospitalisation, and a reduction of body weight that is so observably intense that people suddenly go “oh! That’s not good…” But the processes of extreme behaviours are similarly pre-occupying, regardless of how observable your body in the process is, and the defence mechanisms to protect restrictive behaviour from critique are strong. Basically, fat people with restrictive components of disordered eating are mostly rewarded for their restrictions, regardless of the thought processes behind it and their indicators of poor mental health. In my case, that bout of restriction was linked to trauma from violent assault and feelings of being alone when my partner left the country mere weeks after that assault. My mental health took a dive, and with it went my ability to self regulate my emotions and so I went down a path of starving and power walking for hours a day. I was not a well woman.

What part did numbers play in prolonging and encouraging this restrictive episode?

The emotional hullabaloo in me each time I weighed myself on bathroom scales, or was measured by scale and tape at the doctors office was intense. You wouldn’t know from looking, but I felt huge anxiety and fear each time I stepped on the scales – and as the kilos dropped away, that began to mix with excitement and eager anticipation. Weigh in day became a craving for more and more loss. At the doctors office, the receptionist and doctor would beam, congratulating me loudly in front of the full waiting room for my “successes”. My doctor did not once stop and ask me how I was doing it, how I was feeling, and what my thought processes were. There is very little attention paid to mental health when people are clocking up the numbers (or clocking down, rather). I shouted my numbers from the rooftops with pride – on facebook, to friends, and became avoidant of people who didn’t react exactly as I wanted. My partner was bemused at my weight loss and didn’t express approval even once – he was very cautious to comment, and I think didn’t know what to make of it. He certainly didn’t affirm me. I was disappointed, and so sought out the approval of my instagram community and facebook friends – some of the most hearty approval came from other women who themselves had “struggled” to reduce their own body mass. The fixation on numbers is a self sustaining aspect of EDNOS – you will seek out whatever community you can find to feed your habit. EDNOS is a disease and it is a part of you that wants to survive. I think of it like a cockroach living inside me – it will do whatever it needs to in order to remain the last critter standing and it is very hard to root out and crush effectively.

I would like to say that the numbers didn’t matter, but they mattered hugely. Knowing at all times what I weighed was very addictive, and I would often step on the scales every day. I wanted digital scales, I wanted something more and more accurate. I wanted to see even a gram drop away. Perhaps for people who do not have disordered eating this is less intense, but it is still there. The numbers on scales and on tape measures, and the calories you count will, at the end of the day, make you Feel Stuff. And sometimes that Stuff feels good. Critiquing the good feelings, not just the bad feelings, is not something encouraged by most people around us.

A huge realisation I had was that by knowing numbers, I was engaging in not only EDNOS thinking, but in one of the fundamentally most destructive aspects of late stage capitalism – the idea that people are only worth their productivity. As a teacher, I fundamentally reject the idea that my children are only as good as their results, or the pretty things they make. What is beautiful is their learning and that’s all in their process. Their art, their music, their physicality, their cognition – all of their beauty is in their doing and being, not in the sum of their production.

So why is this different for me? In focussing on my body as a product, I separate from processes of wellbeing which can be found in eating well and moving to the best of your ability, and being in these things for their own sake – for enjoyment and vitality and loving one’s place as an alive thriving animal. EDNOS and capitalist thinking fractures my mind from my body and this divide distracts from the beauty of existing as a whole person. Beauty, as they say, moves. Why is it ok that beauty is a trophy with a number on it?

So let’s do it. Let’s ask those questions.

Why do you need to know how much you weigh? Does it make you a better partner, a better professional, a better parent, or a better person? What can you possibly get from knowing these statistics? Outside of some very small cases of medical necessity, why do you need to know?

And what happens when you know? What happens in your heart? What do you think and feel? If it is intensely gratifying for you, why is that?

What parts of yourself do you damage by knowing? What parts of you shrivel a little and change with this gratification or devastation? What happens when the number drops into the pool of your selfhood and creates ripples? What do you stop doing, and stop enjoying, and stop engaging with because you know these things?

My challenge for myself is to return to a state of not knowing how much I weigh, what my waistline is in inches, or how broad my hips are. I will not allow a doctor or a personal trainer to wrap a measuring tape around my thighs, and I refuse to do it myself. I won’t step on a set of scales, and I’m throwing the ones I own in the bin. I won’t count calories, and I will avoid reading nutritional panels that indicate them.

I won’t engage in conversations in the staffroom or with friends about kilograms and calories. I will eat my lunch away from them if I have to. And if I have the strength to insert some critique into those conversations, gently and lovingly, I will.

Does this mean I have to stop caring about my health? Actually, I have big plans for my health this year.

I plan on finding a personal trainer who can help me get into routines of moving and eating that don’t injure my personhood, but instead heal the fractures I’ve experienced and help me reintegrate body and mind. There will be goals, sure, but they will be around process and how I feel – for example “look at my thighs and enjoy how they feel in my hands and write down three positive things I do with my thighs” or “see if I walk for a while today and be thrilled for trying!”. “Make a BIG delicious salad and eat it slowly and RELISH IT.” These statements may not be perfect and I will develop others, but I am making a start on moving away from conventional ways of framing successes regarding my health. There will be times I will struggle with EDNOS and I will talk to my PT about those times and involve them – critiquing my urge to restrict or overeat and sticking to moderation and generative self-talk that encourages a disruption of the EDNOS cycle.

Basically, I’m no longer willing to be a product. I see that processes are what create states of emotional wellbeing along a spectrum – some processes need active pushback to resolve their energetically destructive influence, and others that help me and make me feel more whole need a little bit of tending to so they grow and thrive. I wholeheartedly agree with Oh She Glows who has this to say about the importance of changing processes:

I honestly do not think that I could have beat binge eating if I didn’t stop restricting my intake. This took me a long, long time to realize and I hope to be able to save some of you some time too. When I finally stopped restricting my intake, I allowed myself to eat when hungry and I stopped counting calories and weighing myself.

If you leave this article thinking that you couldn’t possibly stop measuring yourself, please think again. I actually think we can stop, as individuals, and we can resist it as a culture and move towards wellness. And I wonder this:

If for a whole calendar year you didn’t once know a measurement of your body mass or size, and asked medical and health professionals to withhold it from you too – or to not measure you in the first place – what would happen? If you simply moved and ate with enthusiasm for moving and eating, with no number known, what would happen?

What in you would grow and expand to fill that place? What could you feel and what could you stop feeling?

It’s an interesting question to ponder. Give yourself a year off – heck, maybe more! – from knowing your body through numbers, if you can.

I’d love to hear about how you’re going and maybe we can support each other.


The pain in rain falls gently on the plain.


Every morning this week I’ve woken up stressed out by the sound of the rain.

When you have a back injury – the rise and fall of the pain of which is heavily dependent on carriage, sitting and standing positions, and any potential falls and impacts that tip the very delicate balance – rain is the worst.

I’ve wanted to just not go to work, as navigating slippery pathways in a deluge that seems to never stop, is so stressful that I’ve been having panic attacks on public transport.

I stand at my counter all day and stare into the bucketing down of the heavens, thinking ‘I have to go back out into that’.

Of course, it also means my clothing and shoes get wet, and I lack what I need to wear so that my body is comfortable and positioned properly to cope with standing all day. Being warm and dry keeps the muscles relaxed and not stressed, so my pain is lessened. When I can’t do that, I can’t cope as well, and my pain increases.

Today my work pants are all wet, my work shoes are still soaked from yesterday, and I know in twenty minutes I’m going to run (screaming in fear on the inside) for the bus. I’ve already slipped twice this week.

This leads to a heavy dip in my spoons, as I get depressed and anxious and worn out by managing, the best way I can. I get jealous of the able bodied. I get angry that I was in a car accident. I get angry that I can’t take sick leave, ever.

Then I get self conscious that I’m not coping properly, that I’m supposed to cope, that I’m whinging…and so on. I get angry at the people who try to cheer me up. I want to throw a bollard at them. Or maybe a pie, that’s less violent.

Irrationally I even get angry at my friends who have temporary injuries that will heal, knowing mine won’t, knowing I have many more weeks of rain in my life to handle.

In the end, this is not a gold star week to the world for a chronic pain sufferer. I am giving it a black star and sending all this rain to the very back of the class.

And now I will go cry into my tea and put my unsupportive shoes on. /grumblesticks


Respect Pumpkin Time: The madness of a busy poly life


I’m a big fan of scheduling. My google calendar makes my life run smoothly. Why?

I’m hyper-reliant on timetabling because I am currently dating three people. Well, maybe four. But it’s hard to tell.

One relationship has been kicking strong for over a year now. This partner lives with me, and we’re kind of like flatmates with separate bedrooms who are in L.O.V.E and make sexy faces at each other. Oh, and we both obsess over House and take care of each other while we’re sick.

The other relationships or connections exist in various states of establishment and flow. One of them I’d consider myself properly dating, and the others are…yet to be decided. They’re fledgling things that are all distracting with how fascinating and shiny they are.

I’m not sure I knew that I’d opened Pandora’s box when I became polyamorous. Of course back then I was married, and it certainly didn’t work in that context because of too many contingent factors to speak of.

Now, though, my life is different. I’m part of a very strong and supportive poly community – with overlaps into the queer community – that provides a lot in the way of positive support, resources and education about how to make your life as a non-monogamous person both bountiful and functional.

Sometimes though, poly is exhausting. I’m glad that people are pretty honest about this. I mean, loving or fucking more than one person is one thing – but being able to budget for it all time and energy wise is another.

Sometimes I feel like a rabbit on crack. I’m bouncing all over the place, trying to keep up with dates and communication about dates and sexy tiems and poly events (ok, I barely ever go to these in all honesty) and the general ebb and flow of the people in my life. Whether it is one partner or six, I’m always on the go – whether in my bed or in my head or at a workshop. Even when I was only partnered to one person, I still had lots to do emotionally while I computed the presence of their other partner in their life and mine.

It was lovely, don’t get me wrong. It was fantastic having a partner’s partner around so much – it helped build a sense of family that I cherished.

But the nature of poly is flux. At least, in my experience it is. You have to be prepared for a certain amount of wear and tear on your resources – whether that’s your body, your emotions, your bank balance or your time. Those who think polyamory doesn’t involve any work – or ‘processing’ as it often called in the community – are either liars, extremely lucky or are doing it irresponsibly.

Poly is not the easy option. It is a fun, stimulating and rewarding one though. For those who think they can have open relationships or non-monogamous connections as a ‘default’ position to make their life easier – well…I’d hand them a bex and tell them to lay down before the truth hits.

I think, on reflection, something I’ve come to value is the ability to communicate to my partners when I need to holla for a time-out. That’s a skill I’ve had to work on and now I’m getting good at it. I have a lot of other considerations in my life beyond and before my partners and this is important for me to remember. Sweeties are, in the worst case scenario, expendable – but I’m the only me I’ve got.

I have chronic back pain from a car accident which left my spine a mess and that eats up a lot of my ‘spoons‘. I struggle with that daily. Some days I barely get through work, I’m all full up with held back tears because I’m in so much pain. It fucks with my ability to do physical things and it makes me feel weak and stupid. I hate asking shiny people I’m on a date with for more pillows or for them to not move my body that way, thanks, or in the case of this weekend having to move beds altogether because I just couldn’t deal with their bizarrely soft mattress without agony.

My back pain, and how I manage it, is my number one concern each day. After that, I manage a mental illness – bipolar disorder and co-morbid anxiety. After that I manage full time work. I try to keep in touch with my family, and see my friends, and take good care of my cats. I try to manage my finances well and eat right and go to bed on time. All that there is a full life in itself – full of stimulation and challenge.

Now add a sprinkling of lovers, people, squeezes – whatever you want to call them. Now we have discussions about boundaries, expectations and needs. We have booty calls and hanging out and snuggle time. There’s the complexities of partners meeting/them being friends/them dating your other partners to consider. There’s the sheer circus act of balancing your schedule so everyone gets a slice of pie. You also have to think about how you move in the world – how do you talk to family, friends, workmates and doctors about your relationships? That’s pretty full on, particularly in the early days.

To be honest, I’m no alchemist. I’m not a perfect poly person. I just try my best to adjust to often rapidly changing circumstance with dignity and glee. Sometimes I fuck this up and sometimes I balance everything well. I do what I think is fair and right and try to remember to have fun and be joyful.

But most important of all, in this, is to be mindful that one cannot give to others what one doesn’t already have. If you’ve depleted yourself of energy and spoons and happiness, you’re screwed. If you’ve pushed yourself too hard and lost your puff, lost your ability to navigate well, you’re no good to anyone.

Most of all, you can’t make yourself happy. If you can’t remember the last time you sat under a tree and read a book, or did your favourite sport, or slept in by yourself in your own bed – you’ve tapped out your poly meter. Glitter is good, yes. But it isn’t everything.

One of my partners and I have worked to respect each other’s sleep patterns, both needing it for work and in my case, to replenish my spoons. At midnight we turn into pumpkins, we say. So at 10:30pm he leaves my house, or I his (roughly) so we can get home and get to bed on time, knowing we’ll feel better for it the next day.

I’m glad we both felt we could ask for this and do so assertively. Respecting pumpkin time is symbolic for how we need to respect each other’s resources as polyamorous people. Respecting pumpkin time is also about respecting myself, and knowing I’m worth good sleep and a healthy daily existence.

Anyway – who wants to be a pumpkin when you can be a well-rested golden carriage with a spacious back-seat?

That’s what I’m talkin’ bout.


Don’t watch House with tonsilitis.


Warning: this post contains a) triggering material and b) spoilers.

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Screaming at the screen really hurts. And no amount of frosty fruits cool that equivalent amount of rage.*

I am sure that writing about how politically incorrect the actual character of House is would be easily dismissed. Well of course…we’re supposed to hate him! He’s an anti-hero!

No fucking duh. I get that House is intended as a jerk-face. This is the entire basis of his character arc. He says sensationalist things that show a lack of empathy and humanitarian insight. He is abusive to women – well, everyone, but especially women – is queerphobic or queer-titillated, is flamboyantly racist, he violates consent constantly, he chronically abuses drugs while in a position of care over other people’s lives and wellness and he is wilfully ableist (for a doctor, that’s particularly well done). The character is mainly problematic in that the show contextualises his actions inadequately and has internal justifications that erase meaningful response to them – he is always right in the end, so that renders the damage he leaves in his wake somehow ok.

Not really. Just because you cure someone of leprosy doesn’t mean you didn’t traumatize the shit out of them by stabbing them in the leg with a giant syringe when they’ve said “no”. Medical erasure of consent is a serious issue – something I’ve experienced – and House constantly essentialises and reduces the reality of this complex issue by reverting to the old “yeah well, you can worry about your hurt feelings with all the years of that life of yours I’ve just saved.” Saving lives is good, yes. But I reject the House model that anyone who cares about consent and tactful handling of patients is a bleeding-heart liberal who doesn’t care about getting shit done.

But it isn’t the first time we’ve had despicable characters on television. While watching such an amazing jerk prance about in a position of authority drives me batshit crazy, this isn’t my main problem with the show (which I will italicise to distinguish from the character).

My key issue with House is actually that the show in general deals with issues with the clanging lack of sensitivity and reality that is often typical of shows that are intended to fall under the ratings gaze of Middle America.

Some of the worst infractions of the show are not even when this sideshow of a misogynist white man is on-screen, though he helps it along. I’ve watched Season 5 while I’ve been sick (read: I’ve been on an I.V drip of House, ice blocks and potato chips). I’m an erratic watcher of House which means I’ve watched Season 1&2 and parts of Season 3 and now I’ve skipped ahead to 5 – mostly because I wanted to scoot through the boring intern changeover thingy. Really, I don’t care about medical students clambering over each other for the artificial approval of an idiot. I’m interested in the pathos and the individual patient stories.

But what has emerged for me is that Gregory House is not required on-screen for this show to offend and disgrace itself. Take, for instance, the discussion of Taub’s wife’s separate bank account. House has in this season recruited a private investigator to collect information on his staff, friends and anyone else he’d care to manipulate (just…yeah. He is a jerk. I’m not gonna say it again, it’ll get boring.) House reveals to Taub that his wife holds a separate bank account, with the imputation being that she has had sex outside of their monogamous sexual contract. Taub maintains staunchly that he trusts his wife, but a little information on the side for you here – Taub has had an affair. This is known to House and most members of the team. Here’s where shit gets jerky.

In a conversation with Taub while inspecting a house for toxins, Kutner questions Thaub’s trust in his wife. “Are you saying my wife is a slut?” “I’m saying I’d want to know if my wife was a slut.” Similar themes are repeated later in the episode, and he eventually questions her as to what she is doing. The whole episode is weighed down with a tension of suspicion around her actions.

Please don’t dress that up in tinsel and tell me it’s Christmas. Here is a man who has already broken his sexual agreements with his partner – a fact known to the men on his team – and they are more concerned with whether the wife is sexually deviating from the said contract or not. Awww, hai outdated sexual politics. Cheating men are totes ok – they probably have reasons! and we should feel bad for them! because they have man pain! – but cheating women are S.L.U.T.S. And just like facebook says, we should throw bricks at sluts.

Does House present these and other politically dubious concepts with any kind of self awareness, self-reflexivity or critique? No. This is pitched at Middle America. A little slut shaming would barely raise an eyebrow there (or here). This is not placed in a context of rebuke or question – it just gets served up to us. And to assume that the audience “gets it”, with some kind of ethical narrative adjacent to the show while watching is a bit hopeful. I don’t mean to sound rude, but most people are ignorant dickheads. In a show as dynamic and weighted in rabid discourse as House, throwing bad politics out there with no inbuilt counterpoint is either lazy or indicative of those views being inherent.

Queer and ISGD (Intersex, Sex and Gender Diverse) people are largely invisible on House, despite the rampant homo-erotic relationship between Wilson and House. (I mean guys, come on – STICK IT IN ALREADY. I have unrealistic queer hopes and dreams for that friendship. There’s so much charge and sparkle. The ‘admit it!’ scene at the funeral of House’s father was worth it’s weight in slash-provoking gold. Here’s an idea, Wilson: next time, rather than throwing a bottle through a church window, ruffle that grumpy man’s hair with your fingers and go for deep tongue. It’d make a lot of us able to focus on the procedures again, because unresolved sexual tension is tres irritating.)

But I got distracted. Where was I? Queer and ISGD invisibility, yes. Anyway, it seems like the scope of the queer and ISGD world is almost absent from House except for the odd gay patient or the occasional patient story that makes being queer or ISGD seem like the worst, most shocking thing in the world (never just a part of who a person is, and not really central to their storyline/treatment – that would be nice).

I haven’t in my watching travels come across a positive ISGD story, or many at all – the only one I recall was in the earlier seasons and involved an intersexed young person who was working as a (raped and exploited) female model, managed by her (rapist) father. Watching this story was an exercise in pain – and this young person’s pain and distress was inadequately dealt with or supported.

Their abuse was handled with the least possible tact by House and some other staff and their father’s shame at discovering their child had body parts and hormones different to their expectation was actually scripted to overshadow the fact that this man raped his child. The episode ended with a circus-freak treatment of the young person, with them screeching and exposing their breasts to the hospital, beseeching them to find them/her beautiful. The heaviness of the gender-deviant shame simply tumbled off the screen and made me feel quite distressed. What made me feel even more uncomfortable was the idea that I wager most people would have reacted to this story with the intended feeling of “how horrible to find that out about your child! what a horrible situation!” not “oh god, this kid is a rape victim and is now grappling with a newly discovered ISGD status and is now stuck with an abusing shaming parent. NO.”

Well done, House. Super well done.

As for queer characters? Oh god. In Season 5 we have Dr Hadley – or as House likes to call her, 13 (all the male characters have names. Just sayin’). Guess what kind of character stereotype she is? You guessed it – the troubled bisexual tacky tramp! While I’m used to this cultural meme by now (‘used to’ not being the same as ‘okay with’), for some bizarre reason I expected better of House. But Dr Hadley is here in all of her glory, a drug addicted party girl with a debilitating disease that will shorten her life. Who “goes both ways” as House likes to put it, and mostly cruises. Her cruising is heavily critiqued early on in Season 5, where it interferes with her work and ability to be a good doctor. Because that’s how bisexuals roll – their greedy sex with everyone totes makes them unreliable and irrational. Better to be straight, amirite?

My partner pointed out also that House treads the line with the conservative right by not only demonising her, but making sure she doesn’t enter a meaningful relationship with a woman. She just has lots of sex scenes with them that we get to see, but not much meaningful long term exchange. “Women fucking women is hot,” my partner said. “But women having relationships with other women is just threatening.” Despite all her witty returns to House’s lecherous porn-ification of her personal life, Hadley ultimately falls prey to a boringly ‘nasty bisexual’ storyline – treading the grey no-man’s land of being desired for spectacle, but ultimately rejected for a ‘deviant’ sexuality.

The first meaningful relationship she has is with a man, by the way. Pre-fucking-dictable. Because everyone knows girl-on-girl is just foreplay for cis-male penile penetration and marriage, right? Gay until graduation to real sexuality. Yawn.

The final – and rather infuriating turn of events was something I didn’t come across until last night, and that’s how House deals with sex workers. I mean, my sex worker friends would probably tell me I’m really fucking naive for expecting something better from almost any form of media and they’d likely be right. Sex workers are not handled well by media, and I’ve noticed they’re handled particularly badly by medical and procedural shows. In this context they’re almost always presented as tragic victims, riddled with disease and drug habits. And the only way in which they’re acceptable is if they’ve seen the errors of their ways and are engaged in redemptive transformation (which is usually serving the purpose of a man who is saving them from themselves and thus the storyline is actually about how great men are. Not about the sex worker.)

Now, take a drink for every whore-phobic clanger you spot.

Anyway, this particular episode of Season 5 involves Wilson and House playing practical jokes on each other. In order to “get” House, Wilson tells him he has a new girlfriend. He doesn’t even bother sharing her name at first (one shot) – he shares the fact that she’s a sex worker (he uses the word prostitute). Well was a sex worker. (two shots) She’s made some mistake (three shots) but she’s making good choices now (shot four! light-headed?) and well, she’s just so smart and capable (shot five. oh dear. drink water now, this train’s not stopping).

House leaves judgingly. (no shot for that; that’s just a given).

Of course, later in the show we overhear a conversation with the private investigator who says he’d dig up embarrassing stuff on Wilson, but when he’s starting from an already embarrassing place, he’s not got anywhere to go. (DRINK.)

To wrap it up we cut to Wilson revealing his prank. “Did you really believe I’d date a hooker?” he says (I’m paraphrasing, there). And House responds with some shit that is so vile that I was yelling through painful tonsils and a fever at it and so I don’t remember it fully now. It was judgey though.

Oh House. Just…why? Sex workers are just workers. It is perfectly possible to be a boringly-everyday or fabulous or any-other-thing sex worker, because sex work is just work and a range of people with a range of experiences do it. Continually scoring false shame into the fabric of a script that involves sex workers for giggles is not clever, is not cool and is lazy. Othering sex workers is not new – but for a show that manages to be so “edgy” in other ways, surely a simple acceptance of sex work as valid work and leaving the whore-phobia aside – or challenging it, somehow! – is not such a stretch?

Oh and did I mention the rape jokes? Yeah.

—-

I’m still puttering my way through Season 5 and I’m already enraged. Where House fails is where it founders in turning the ascerbic tongue of the main character on itself. The razor needs to fall somewhere on the skin of the writers craft again, to draw a little more blood with love in it. Right now, as compelling as it is, I’m seeing all the ethical dynamism of a tadpole’s wriggle.

I love the show, don’t get me wrong – I am a fan. But I am also of the opinion that the best fans are the toughest critics. I don’t boycott shows. I just blog about how shit they are at times.

Now I’m off to fire up some more Season 5 and suck on another frosty fruit.

I’m sure if House were here he’d make an innuendo about that.

 

*(Why watch then? I am largely addicted to the futility/poisonous love of the House/Cuddy ship, hence why I continue watching. And the epic potential gay of Wilson/House. Shipping always keeps me fixated on even the most infuriating of shows. Having been caught in a few OH DEAR GOD NO love-stories myself, this is gratifying in a Schaudenfreude sense. I also enjoy watching Dr Hadley’s almost constant season 5 derision of House – “I’m sorry, he mistakes immaturity for edginess.” Not that she ever wins, but I like seeing her give a punch.)


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