Tag Archives: Voyeurism

Oh, The People You’ll Meet

oh peopleThe job was data collection for research studies related to mental health and drug addiction. My role was to go into various communities to survey research respondents, armed with a laptop and some sort of cash incentive. We were surveying high school kids about sexual behavior and drug use. We were surveying adults about various health-related behaviors. We were surveying parents about their child abuse cases. We were surveying elementary school kids about bullying. A field period of one project was always beginning, another ending, another smack in the middle, meaning sometimes we were on multiple projects at a time, cleaning up and finishing one, gearing up for another.

At the beginning of a project we were handed a stack of folders with the respondent’s contact information on the front, a contact log and notes field printed on the pages throughout. Many of our respondents were dealing with poverty and lived a transient lifestyle, phone numbers and addresses gone disconnected and cold almost upon our receipt. You started by dialing the numbers, hoping to make contact and schedule a time to meet them for an interview. Continue reading

The Interview Series: The Best Flowers Bloom Late

IMG_20150220_170714My first question was where he first learned about sex and from whom. He wanted clarification—did I mean the concept or “the intricacies and what to actually do”? Oooh, good point. I wanted both, now that he mentioned it. We started at the beginning, when he learned about human reproductive systems and development in school, as a nine year old. I wondered if his parents had added any information, or initiated conversation on the topic. “Not that I can remember. I remember coming across my dad’s prescription of Viagra about four years ago. That’s the extent my family spoke about sex.” Was there any conversation at the Viagra find? “After I found my dad’s Viagra, I high-fived him. He said, ‘you don’t think this is weird or gross?’ I was like ‘no, lack of sex is a leading cause of divorce, I’m glad my parents still do it’. I was the sex-forward one in the family.”

A recently engaged, early thirties man, he had generously offered to be interviewed to continue Candid Uprising’s exploration of how what we learn about sex as children influences our sexuality. It was immediately clear that I was speaking with an open (or sex-forward, in his words) individual. Continue reading

Introducing…The Interview Series

IMG_20150220_170714It all started with a couple of posts about my experiences of interning as a counselor at Planned Parenthood, and the utter failures of sexual education from parents (and truly, society at large) that had brought women though our doors. A reader confided in me that she had been raised without access to medically accurate information about sex, reproduction, and the human body, and offered that perhaps I’d like to interview her for Candid Uprising’s readership. The resulting conversation, encapsulated in Sex Ed Fail: The Interview was the most read, most viewed post at the time of its publication. The comments thread on social media thanked the subject for openly discussing her experience of being “old enough to know better”, yet under-educated, shining light on an important issue.

Next, I shared a deeply personal account of the last time I was drunk, in celebration of six years without alcohol. I hesitated to publish it wondering if revealing such a sordid, angst-ridden, raw account of myself would be too much, or turn our readership off. I clicked “publish” on the day of my six year anniversary and watched as within hours the post blew up, garnering the most readers, views and shares of anything previously published on Candid Uprising. Comments and personal messages poured in, thanking me for telling my story.

We understood the response to mean you were asking for more stories about real people facing the myriad challenges life throws at us, in a judgement-free, exploratory context. I reached out to our community via social media, asking people to volunteer to be interviewed, their stories to be written up and shared on Candid Uprising. We chose a topic for each person and asked them to elaborate on a facet of their respective lives, free-form. The result was an extraordinary outpouring of human experience, an unexpected level of candor, and in some cases, a new level of understanding reached simply in the telling.

Beginning Tuesday, March 3rd, we are honored to present you with The Interview Series; stories about parenting, entering a new decade of life, divorce, depression, and rape, to name a few. We will post two interviews a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout March, with special guest posts on Fridays that provide first-person accounts on a variety of topics. Please join us for this exploration of stories about people in the Candid Uprising community, and chime in.

Overheard In A Consignment Boutique

ovhrdconsignIt was a wet, dreary Friday afternoon, and I wandered into the boutique after stopping for a post-work cup of froyo with some colleagues. I grabbed a few dresses off the racks to try on, just killing time, really. I was the only customer in the store, and as I disrobed, I heard one of the shopgirls say to the owner, “Did I tell you he got fired from the school finally? But it wasn’t for what he did to me. It was because he wasn’t doing his job.” Suddenly, I was no longer killing time, I was listening closely to my next voyeurism piece taking shape. I listened quietly behind the dressing curtain, grateful for its thin, sound-permeable quality as the young woman continued, “…and he totally texted me today, after all that, still trying to get with me.” Continue reading

Overheard On Top Of Camelback Mountain

cfiles27764I went hiking for the first time since I was twelve years old with two friends a couple weekends ago. My dad, the avid outdoorsman used to coerce me into hiking and camping (by offering carefully meted out sweets, which were usually forbidden in our house) from the time I was a young child, which I resented as I transitioned into a makeup loving, phone-glued-to-my-ear preteen. I’m an indoor girl, and that’s just how it is. My dad eventually let it go, and I promised myself I’d never hike again as an adult.

And there I was, humping it up Camelback because a dear friend had asked me to for her birthday–ten months earlier. With each heave and grab and stretch forward up the mountain, I thought about how worth it the strain would be–a 360 view of the Valley. Yet when I reached the top, something even better was presented in the form of three twenty-something women having a conversation about creepersContinue reading

Overheard At The Gym

gymI was sitting on a bench over in the weights area doing biceps curls when I heard a man say, “so this guy proposed on camera at a game and his girlfriend said no. Later, she explained to him it was because his dick was too small!” I sensed my next voyeuristic “Overheard” post was taking shape at the squats rack adjacent to me, and subtly moved closer, to hear better. “It’s this documentary called Unhung Hero and it’s about this guy’s search to find out if size really does matter,” he continued, his buddies (and I) hanging on his every word. I studied them in the mirror that covers the entire back wall of the building, three men in their late twenties, all white, all of average height, barrel chested, pecs and biceps defined. “So, like, what did he do?” one of them asked. “She dumped him and he went around the world to check out the myths, to find out if the stereotypes are true, and what men do to get bigger.” Earlier that morning, I had been lamenting to myself that it had been ages since I’d overheard anything worth blogging about, and realizing I was going to have to try harder (read: be creepier) if I wanted to keep the “Overheard” series alive on Candid Uprising. Jackpot. Three jocks talking dick size at the gym. I couldn’t have asked for a more compelling conversation, and in such timely fashion! Continue reading

I Can’t Breathe

Eric-Garner-Killed-998x561My carpool buddy and I had left work early that late-August day, hoping to avoid the miserable, inching gridlock of Seattle summer traffic. About a mile from our respective apartments we came to a complete standstill, not moving for a period of many minutes. We checked our phones to find the cause of the delay and found reports that the Seattle Police Department had shot a suspect to death, just blocks from where we sat, a half hour earlier. The report began to fill in, as the afternoon and evening wore on. The shooting was a confrontation of a single suspect by a single cop. The suspect was a known street inebriate, a man in his 50s, of Native American descent. The cop was young, white and in his late 20s, rather new to SPD. The suspect had a name–John T. Williams–and a family tradition of woodcarving. He had been crossing the street, using the crosswalk, head down, a chunk of wood and a pocketknife in his hands. From this point, I will refer to Williams as the victim, because I believe very strongly that SPD Officer Ian Birk chose to murder him that afternoon.

Williams had been living on the streets of Seattle for many years, struggling with severe alcoholism, hearing loss, and eking out a meagre living selling his woodcarvings. Seattle has a large population of transient individuals, and you begin to recognize the faces of the homeless who dwell in the neighborhoods where you work and live. I can remember arriving for early-morning opening shifts at the GAP on Broadway, a street populated by many people dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction. The cops would shake these folks awake, or tap their feet to rouse them from doorways, offering a ride to detox. It seemed like a sensitive way to manage potential clashes between business owners and people without stable housing. I assumed that SPD officers were familiar with the street folks on their beat, getting to know them over time, their personalities and behaviors. If I knew some of their names and many of their faces, their lines for soliciting money, the substances they were using and parts of their stories, didn’t SPD, whose job it was to serve and protect the citizenry? I assumed they would know the people on their beats well, allowing them to more accurately assess threats and respond safely and appropriately .

Why then, did Birk, after cruising along on a beautiful August afternoon, feel the need to pull over and leap out of his car when he saw a frail, homeless man, head down, slowly crossing the street? For what purpose did he begin yelling “drop the knife!”, firing multiple rounds and killing Williams within four seconds of getting out of the cruiser? Because a vulnerable person of color was carrying a small pocketknife while crossing the street? I believe that Birk got up that morning with the intent of murdering a person of color. His actions chilled me, and shook me to my core.

As a middle-class white woman, I’ve had the privilege of viewing the police as my protectors, feeling safe and secure in their presence. When I’ve called, they’ve shown up, giving me the benefit of the doubt, listening intently to my side, guarding me. I have zero concept of how it feels to be profiled, menaced, stopped and searched. I’ve basked in this privilege. Birk’s fatal shooting of Williams that afternoon shattered my perceptions of SPD as “peace officers” and forever changed my feelings about police.

Watching Eric Garner’s strangulation by a New York City police officer over the summer sent shivers of revulsion through me, taking me back to that afternoon in 2010 when I lost trust in cops. Here was evidence of cops continuing to choke-hold an individual (who struggled with severe asthma) suspected of a petty, victimless crime as he struggled for air, saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe”. For what purpose did Daniel Pantaleo push Garner’s face into the concrete sidewalk, choking the life out of him? Because he suspected him of selling individual cigarettes? I believe that Pantaleo got off on exerting his power as a law enforcement officer, abusing it, stopping short of nothing, not even murder.

The documented incidents of police using lethal force on unarmed, young, old, vulnerable people of color seem to be happening in a tidal wave of excessive violence, yet I think this is nothing new. I think now that nearly all citizens have video and photography equipment in the palms of their hands at all times, we’re seeing a stark reality that has always existed. The 24 hour news cycle and the ability to upload images to social media in seconds are showing what has always been: an utter lack of common humanity. In other words, our society has drawn illusory lines between individuals and groups and we’re selling ourselves on the idea that we’re not all human. That some groups are worthy, special, important and valuable and others aren’t. That some groups can’t be trusted, are guilty until proven innocent, and must be killed to avoid a perceived inherent threat to other groups. It’s so dead wrong it makes me sick. Even with our big brains, we’re too stupid to meet each other with common respect and dignity, thereby acknowledging all lives have value.

I struggled with whether, as a privileged white person I had a right to write about my feelings and reactions, in light of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting MIchael Brown to death. I didn’t know if anything I said would have any gravity or accurately express how disgusting I think our society is, for treating non-white citizens like garbage, and worse. Right now I feel like nothing has improved, that we’ve made no progress as a species, simply running racism, fear, resentment and bigotry underground. It rears up, showing its hideous face and convincing me humanity is too fucking stupid to ever be better. This is why I’m an atheist, and in my most pessimistic moments, this is why I think the sooner humanity is wiped off the face of the earth, the better. If not all lives matter, then how do any lives matter?

 

Confusing Drama with Happiness

dramaI’m a big fan of the TV series Parks and Recreation, which I binge-watch on Netflix. It means I’m always a season behind, but it’s worth it to keep pressing “next episode” rather than waiting a week for a new show. In a recent (to me) episode, Nick Offerman’s character, Ron Swanson, a gruff, rugged man’s man remarked “do what you want with your life, but don’t confuse drama with happiness”. I’d seen the quote on Twitter, but it wasn’t until I saw it on the show that it impacted me. I thought, oh my god…that’s absolutely what I went through years of doing…no wonder I was so fucked up and unhappy. I consistently mistook the chemical rush of a drama-filled life, where I rushed from crisis to elation to crash to buzz and back again, with happiness. Yeesh. Continue reading

Round Hole, Square Peg

RoundI’ve previously discussed my often overwhelming need and desperate attempts to fit into various groups over the course of my life–the cool kids at school, the hipsters in my neighborhood, my family, etc. Being myself didn’t feel like an option. Not only that, I hadn’t the first clue about what that would mean. A blank space existed where my sense of self belonged, and it wasn’t until I was near the end of my twenties that I began to attach certain truths to it, like some sort of existential pinterest board. I started thinking about this struggle again recently, prompted by a friend’s facebook post, where she posed the question: at what point should an outcast try to conform? Continue reading

We Should Only Instagram Happy Things

Insta HappyThe title statement was said in jest over the Fourth of July weekend by an acquaintance, who was considering posting a picture of some legal documents she had just received in the mail. She brushed away the idea, but she was on to something. The influence of social media on mental health and interpersonal relationships seems to be coming up a lot in online articles and in conversation. Everyone’s happier than me. Everyone’s partner relationship is stronger. Everyone has more money than I do. No one else is struggling the way I am. Everyone else’s kids are easier to raise. Other people are successful at life, in ways I’m just not. Or so it appears. I have a few hundred friends on facebook, and I maintain regular phone, email or in person contact with a far smaller number. I know what’s beneath the glossy social media surface of their lives, and that the two don’t often match. They know the same about me. Why then, are we allowing ourselves to buy into the idea that we’re alone in our experience of life as less than wonderful, all the time? Continue reading