Y’all, yesterday was not a good day for reasons that a) you already saw on Facebook if you know me in real actual person life or b) will not hear about right now because I am maintaining an Air of Mystery.

Hahah, ugh, being kindly let down and still kind of disappointed? The worst! We’re trying round two today, so fingers crossed.

But I will not leave you hanging, readers. Instead, I’m going to tell the story of how I remembered why I cannot be in departments other than my own for more than like 20 minutes.

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I’m ISPicky

As you may or may not know, I’m moving out of my parents’ house on Wednesday. And, though terrifying in that “oh god now I have to pay power bills” kind of way, it’s going pretty well. Once I buy renter’s insurance later today, I’ll be all set to get my keys. Yay!

Since the essentials are taken care of, I thought I’d move on to things that–though not necessary to move in–make apartment living nicer. I settled on getting the apartment’s wifi set up.

This was a horrible decision. Unlike the other utilities with their beautiful government-enforced monopolies, there are many options for selecting your ISP. Except it’s a trick, because all of them are terrible.

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Being Idle

I finally got around to reading “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” a NYT article that’s been making the rounds. I particularly enjoyed this quote:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

This is something I used to write about with greater-than-normal frequency at HackCollege. Though the author of the NYT piece is talking about busyness as a specifically New York thing, I think it certainly manifests in universities like my own. Busyness–pulling all-nighters, not having time to do anything but eat, sleep a little, and study study study–is next to godliness for a certain kind of American college kid. And why wouldn’t it be? We’re never asked to consider if our work is valuable before we’re in college, and so we don’t once we’re there, either.

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The Worst Worst Thing

So today was kind of terrible.

Not in a, “my host mom made me cry way.” Not even in a, “I worked on a group paper for six hours why god why,” kind of way.

Today was terrible in a, “Bank of America closed access to my debit card while I still have 10 days–including a trip to Paris–between me and home” kind of way. (Also terrible in a, “this is the 21st century, why does this have to be resolved on the phone, no, Senegal doesn’t participate in the international toll-free standard, I’m switching to a credit union” kind of way.)

So yeah, that happened. Apparently BoA somehow came to be aware that someone had stolen my card number and all of its accompanying security information. How they came to know this, I have no idea. The purchase that they had flagged on my account was legitimate*, so I assume something else tipped them off. At least, I hope so, because if not my bank has just made my life really miserable for no reason at all.**

The kindly customer service people told me that they could keep the hold on my account temporary. So now I just have to call them and go through phone tree hell each time I make an ATM withdrawal or a purchase between now and May 25th, at which point they’ll send me a new card. It’s a terrible solution, but it is some sort of a solution.

This whole experience was a nice reminder of how incredibly terrible American banks are at dealing with travel. For me to resolve the situation, I had to call the bank on a telephone (rather than providing my verification information online), because apparently I live in 1999.

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Let’s Talk About Higher Ed.

So, lately I’ve been thinking about study abroad, and about how the ways in which higher ed institutions approach it is kind of profoundly broken.

At most universities, once a student applies to and is accepted to their program, their university piles them into a room with all of the other study abroad students and everyone has a nice chat about how to not get murdered. Culture shock is discussed. Personal boundaries are tested. Slideshows are played.

Sometimes discussed in the meeting is the graph charting students’ study abroad experiences. At the beginning, the student is in a honeymoon period. Life is great! Locals are just like me! Then, reality sets in and the student is bummed out for a while about cultural differences or loneliness or whatever. Then, there’s a spiky bit on the line that trends generally upward, and by the time the student finishes their time abroad they don’t want to go home, they feel like they are one with their new countrymen, etc. etc.

Study Abroad Model

Both of these are really stupid ways to prepare folks for the study abroad experience.

Because here’s the thing–both the meetings and the graph treat study abroad students as one group. And, for university insurance purposes, they are. But I think there are actually at least three distinct subgroups within study abroad students that need different information, have different goals, and will have profoundly different experiences during their time abroad.

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Controlling the Narrative of My Personal Failure

The squid thinks my tears taste delicious.

The squid of my own personal failure.

So I cried again in Wolof. For those of you playing along at home, we’re up to four sessions of this class in which I have teared up. Given that this is a class that has only met ten times in the last two months, this is Kind of an Issue.

Don’t get me wrong: I do not want to be crying in class. This is not an attention thing. Something about my teacher’s style simply makes my eyes leak tears like a squid squirts ink. (In all fairness to my body, this one saves me a fortune on bleach.)

It’s not that classes haven’t made me cry before. I tear up easily and mostly define my self worth in terms of academic achievement.* But in every occasion that I can think of doing this sort of massively embarrassing thing, it happened after I left the room. Wolof sucks so hard that I literally cannot keep it together while sitting two feet away from my teacher. Continue reading

On Sexual Assault and Capital F Feelings

Today, I had a frustrating discussion about sexual assault.

It started out relatively well. While driving somewhere, I was riffing with a friend about the fact that Senegal—where I will be going soon—has something of a street harassment problem. We joked that this had something to do with the country’s French colonial past. (Paris has a by all accounts more physically agressive street harassment culture.)

I joked that I was going to try to mimic the Senegalese response, which I find amusingly direct—a few months ago, I spoke to a graduate student who does research there and she noted that Senegalese women often go with a blunt “Nah, you’re ugly” in response to marriage proposals.

There is of course the more evasive route suggested by my guidebook, which is to murmur “maybe next time” in Wolof, which is apparently a culturally-accepted way to brush someone off politely. I said that in reality I would probably use this response, since I’m not that confrontational. (I could also go with the American response of pretending to understand neither French or Wolof and wandering blankly past.)

Another passenger in the car, who was a friend of my friend and who I had just met, said, “You don’t want to give them false hope or make them angry. That’s a good way to get raped.”

I responded that statistically, that’s untrue. Most sexual assaults involve alcohol and disorientation. He said he disagreed. I gave up and another passenger in the car changed the subject.

But seriously? I am so tired of having to pretend that random boys get an input on the likelihood of someone trying to assault me by virtue of their Having Feelings on the issue.

Are you Senegalese? No.

Have you been to Senegal? No.

Is the threat of sexual assault something that you have to negotiate in your daily existence on a college campus? No.

So no, your feelings about my likelihood of suffering a violent crime in a Scary Foreign Country with Scary Dark Men do not, in fact, get to be treated as more than the baseless, victim-blaming bullshit they are while I am giving you a ride in my car.

In fact, here is a comprehensive list of ways to increase your likelihood of “getting raped.”

  1. Be around a rapist when he decides to rape you.

There we go.

But, since we’re talking about Feelings, here are mine on how to increase your likelihood of getting punched.

  1. Be the sort of clueless asshole who brings up rape in the car of someone who’s driving you.
  2. Refuse to back down.
  3. Refuse to deal in things like “facts” or “lived experiences.”

See, sharing our Feelings can be super productive. I’m glad we had this talk.

Bank of America is Judging Me

Tiny, delicious shame nuggets.


So, today I got a note from Bank of America telling me that—as a result of some suspicious charges—my debit card had been suspended. I had to call them to get the card reinstated.

I assumed that something in my last week’s worth of purchases (all sort of odds and ends to prepare for my trip to Senegal this week) had tripped the algorithm. My money was on the three transactions that I managed to have take place at REI last week, despite having never spent money on fitness gear before.

Once I worked my way through the many painful phone menus involved in getting to the right customer service robot, the system read the suspicious charges to me. The REI charges were not among them. In fact, none of my unusual travel charges were. Instead, my card got flagged for these three purchases:

  1. $8.56 spent on pizza at 10:30 last night.
  2. $8.93 spent on grocery store mini cheesecakes at 10:00 the night before.
  3. $25.00 spent at a CVS the night before that. (Which was very nearly $45.00, but they were out of Genie Bras in my size.)

Bank of America flagged me for buying food—and in the CVS case, acne medication—late at night. Along with being massively embarrassing (mini cheesecakes are not a food that screams “dignity”), these purchases are completely within the realm of normal for me. I have been to all of these stores before. I usually spend about $10 when I get food and about $25 when I go on a CVS binge.

What I have not ever done is spend $100 at REI, then get refunded $50, then spend $26, then get refunded $26. That transaction (having to do with some confusion about what mosquito net I needed) happened the same day as the CVS debacle, and BoA did not bat an eye at it.

The algorithm it’s applying to my account is one that makes sense for my parents. It is not one that makes sense for a physically inactive college student with poor impulse control and a deep love of cream cheese. Conveniently, as Bank of America has every possible bit of information about me, it knows which one of those two demographics I fit in.

So, the moral of this story—for those of you seeking to commit identity fraud—is to buy some really sweet and easily resold luggage at REI. However, avoid groceries. The bank might catch on.

I Hate My Skin and It Makes Me Feel Like a Terrible Feminist


I hate my skin.

Since moving off oral contraceptives*, my face has exploded in oil. I wear foundation and pressed powder on a day-to-day basis, and  within ten minutes everything I’m wearing is an oil slick in the middle of my face. I look like I am perspiring from my nose.

Add this to the fact that my skin is pale and shows discolorations easily, and you get shiny skin with very red, very noticeable blemishes. This is only exacerbated when I pick at them, which is a disgusting, unhelpful habit that I nonetheless find soothing**.

The end result of this is that I really, really hate my skin. And it makes me feel like a terrible feminist.

I know, realistically, that oily skin is not the end of the world and is not any reflection on my personal hygiene habits or on me. I know that actual human beings have actual human pores and the fact that I do too should not bother me the way that it does. I know that most of my friends are women, which I do not date, and so the fact that my skin is in various states of hot mess does not change the way that most folks around me are going to think about me. (I hope.) I know that my skin has nothing to do with my ability to be interesting, or funny, or intelligent.

As much as I know all of these things (and I do!), I hate my skin with a visceral sort of disgust if I think about it too much.

I want to be the sort of person who can go all Amanda Palmer and just tell the beauty standard to go fuck itself while I let my pit hair grow and shave of my eyebrows. But I’m very clearly not. This leaves me with a sense that I have failed twice: once, by having bad skin, and twice, by being bothered by it.

This is not a healthy way to relate to my face.

I am curious whether going abroad will change my attitude about my skin. Not in a mystic-journey-to-a-place-where-people-are-so-above-that kind of way, but in a will-be-walking-lots-and-eating-better-and-not-spending-so-much-time-in-the-mirror kind of way. Until then, I am holding off on any feminist epiphanies. Because, truth be told? I still really hate my skin.

* Fuck yeah, Implanon.

** Type A? Me? Noooo.

The Room is Terrible, But Quit Calling Lisa Fat


A little while ago, I went to go see The Room with a group of friends. In addition to being a delightful reminder that chunks of Atlanta are very similar to a small town (Oh hi there, 20 kids I went to high school with! Hello, friends of my friend’s roommate!), the film was its usual dose of terribad. (For those who have not seen it, The Room is regarded as possibly the worst film ever made. Seeing it in public involves pelting the screen with spoons. It’s like a mellower Rocky Horror Picture Show.)

For the most part, the shoutalong dialogue was great. The film truly is terrible, and public evisceration of continuity errors, unlit establishing shots, and inexplicably graphic (and occasionally out of focus) sex scenes is great fun.

But there was a second undercurrent to the shoutalong commentary that was frustrating and a little disheartening. Though the main female character is a badly-written, sociopathic robot of a human being, most of the insults directed at her were comments about how she was a) a whore, or b) fat. It’s irritating to have a mostly-male set of commentators commenting on the woman’s weight and perceived unsexyness when she’s thinner than you and—if she was just a person you met on the street—pretty conventionally cute.

Poking fun at the cheesy sex scene music and the needless nipples is great, and is pretty equal opportunity. But shoutalong commentary seems to be prone to devolving into sexist jeering at actresses for not being the right kind of hot. That’s unfair, and displays the same troubling assumptions about the fact that it’s a woman’s duty to be attractive that routinely get critiqued in the feminist internet corner.

Everyone at my post-movie diner table agreed that the looks-based insult commentary had made them uncomfortable to varying degrees. This included some folks who had participated in it. If we’re a representative group, then it seems like folks viewing the film should make an effort to move away from the “Ew, she’s fat” commentary and back into the “You’re reusing sex scene footage and for the love of Christ why are you people petting each other with roses” school.

The Room is great and terrible on its own. Sexism doesn’t make it better, funnier, or more enjoyable to fling spoons at. The film is misogynist in its own right. Making fun of that is much more entertaining than contributing to it, and it has the bonus fun time side effect of not making half the theater kind of uncomfortable.