But What’s Your REAL Name?

October 9, 2013

At least once a week someone asks me what my initials stand for. My stock answer is “My first and middle name,” which usually gets a chuckle, but almost never deters the questioner. When they realize I’m not going to tell them, a lot of people just start guessing. Curiosity is persistent, it seems.

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And Behind Door #1…

August 1, 2013

I know I’ve written about this before, but I have a thing about public bathrooms. It’s not a phobia, it’s not an irrational fear, it’s a reasonable (I think) reaction to years of problems in public bathrooms. I’ve spent my entire adult life knowing that every time I step into a multiple occupancy women’s restroom, I run the risk of any number of outcomes that have happened to me time and time again: a woman enters, sees me, exits, and re-enters sheepishly. Someone tells me, “This is the ladies room.” A woman does a double-take. A woman laughs at me. Someone calls security on me. A woman stares me down like I’m wearing a t-shirt that says I’m here to molest your daughters.

I’ve had trans* women tell me I have more problems in bathrooms than they ever have.

A place that should be so simple, so basic, so available to me whether I just need to pee or check my hair or change my tampon has turned into a place I loathe. I will go out of my way to patronize bars and restaurants with gender-neutral (or just single-occupancy) bathrooms, but there are a lot of other things I do hoping to avoid all my favorite worst case scenarios. So, in no particular order,

Things I Do in Public Bathrooms (That You Probably Don’t Even Notice)

1. Send in an advance scout.
When I’m in a new bar or restaurant, I’ll often wait until another woman in my party visits the little girls room so that I can get a little recon. Is it multiple stall? Single stall? Gender-neutral? (Be still, my heart!) One of my favorite new bathroom configurations is at Publican in Chicago. Stalls are labeled M or W but they’re all single stalls and everyone uses the same big fountain sink, so nobody’s weirded out by washing their hands next to someone they think is a dude.

2. Bring an escort.
Especially in big, multi-stall situations (think airport or movie theater) I’m prone to going in with reinforcements. I’ve never really bought into the omg we have to go to the bathroom togetherrrrr! mentality, but I feel a lot safer walking into a bathroom, casually chatting with someone who is quite obviously a woman (or at least more obviously a woman than I am). I figure other women are going to know that a lady isn’t just going to waltz into a bathroom with her dude friend, so I must be safe.

3. Emphasize the goods.
I’m not the breastiest (and I know that apparently women use other cues, like haircut and wardrobe, when they’re deciding who does and doesn’t belong in a public bathroom) but I do have a pair of boobs, and I tend to try to accentuate them when I’m walking into a restroom. My whole posture changes, I’ll pretend to adjust my bra strap, or I’ll reposition the strap(s) of a bag to accentuate the boobs.

4. Accessorize.
Aside from wearing things to draw attention to certain parts of my anatomy, I’ll also momentarily ditch my baseball cap or throw a canvas bag on my shoulder. I’ve also been known to gesticulate with a tampon.

5. Get outta dodge.
The point at which I’m most likely to have a bad run-in is when I’m washing my hands. Most public bathrooms are laid out so that you walk in and immediately see the sink(s), or else come upon them from around a corner. Surprise! So I have a tendency to rush the whole hand-washing procedure–sometimes ditching it completely if I think it’ll get me out of a bathroom without running into another woman. Sadly, the very things that mark most women as la di da, just a lady here, like checking your hair or your outfit in the mirror, are the things that take too much time–I just don’t risk it.

Here’s the thing I don’t get. I’ve spent over a decade getting called out by strangers (some women, some not) for being in the “wrong” bathroom, but I have never–not once–found myself in a bathroom with someone whose appearance was so objectionable that I felt the need to say something. I’ve never felt unsafe in a public bathroom because I thought there was a dude in there with me–just tormented by other women.

This Is Health Care Reform?

January 31, 2012

So Massachusetts passed a law giving cities and towns an enormous amount of power to change the health care plans for municipal employees, essentially bypassing the collective bargaining process. (Individual collective bargaining agreements will still be honored as far as splits are concerned, but unions are pretty much given thirty days to argue their case, and then if the parties can’t agree a panel will look at the plans/changes strictly by the numbers. Hooray!) The AFT has a good summary here, or you can try to wade through the actual text of the law here (fun fact: Worcester County is exempt for some reason).

There’s been a general simmering discontent since the law passed, because none of us knew which cities and towns would go for it, or what it would ultimately mean when they did. Despite allocating $30,000 to study employee and retiree benefits in general, the Selectmen of the town I work for recently decided (before the $30,000 study was complete, I should add) to just go ahead and exercise their new powers.

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Women. Not Girls.

February 17, 2010

Dear Olympic commentators: adult female athletes are women. Not girls. Yes, even the younger skiers–you know, the ones who are 21–are young women, not young girls.

Hey Dan Savage

April 29, 2009

…You’re terrible at apologies.

Here’s a hint: it’s not really an apology if you use a whole column to mock the people who complained to you in the first place.

Seriously. I know you revel in being an asshole, and usually I think your wit outweighs your searing insensitivity to other people’s concerns. But the r-word isn’t funny, clever or progressive, and I’m done reading your work.

Stuff I Don’t Like: Super Shuttle

June 28, 2008

On paper, the Super Shuttle is a great deal. For under twenty bucks you can get from LAX to a variety of locations, including Disneyland and surrounding hotels. (And vice versa, of course; with the proper reservation, Super Shuttle will even pick you up at your very own home and bring you right to your gate.) After paying the modest fee of sixeen dollars online, I was feeling quite secure that I’d make it to my Anaheim hotel in a timely manner last night.

And all signs were looking positive. Everyone I’d spoken to on the phone (for some reason my reservation wouldn’t complete online, so I had to make my purchase with the help of a real live person) was friendly and informative. I called ahead from Baltimore when I knew I’d be arriving late, and a very nice operator assured me that would be no problem. I followed the colored signs (after yet another call, because where I thought I should go turned out to be slightly wrong; this operator, while she sounded a little tired, was still nice and perfectly informative) and met up with the trip coordinator, who took down my confirmation number and pointed me at a van marked “Disneyland Express.”

Now, I thought I knew the meaning of the word express. I’ve used it often in my daily life. I feel comfortable using it. When I’m on a train running express to Forest Hills, for instance, I know that this means the train will not stop until it reaches Forest Hills. It means fast. It means non-stop. It means speedy.

But that is not what it means on the Disneyland Express. Read the rest of this entry »