White Fragility, Elijah McLain, & Robert E Lee


Do you remember Elijah McClain? If you don’t, here’s a quick summary. Elijah McClain was a young black man who was walking home from a convenience store in Colorado one evening in 2019 when he was put in a chokehold by police officers & then given an insane amount of strong sedatives (specifically ketamine) by paramedics without proper cause or proper monitoring afterward. Shortly afterward he died. And McClain had committed NO CRIME, nor even truly been suspected of one- unless of course walking while being black is a crime. Let’s be real- the way he was treated certainly indicates that it was.

I’ve always been surprised & disappointed that this disturbing case has not received the same amount of media sensation as many other cases, especially considering it seems like such an open & shut case. There can be little argument that the officers & paramedics were justified in their actions- it’s so painfully obvious that they weren’t. Thankfully, some two years later, a small measure of justice has been served as the officers & paramedics involved have all been found guilty of manslaughter & criminally negligent homicide. (To read more, click here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/01/us/elijah-mcclain-officers-charged-colorado.html). Of course true justice can never be reached in tragedies like this because the innocent life that was lost cannot be brought back. But at least there has been some measure of accountability put in place here. I suppose that’s the best we can hope for- that & of course sending the message that such tragedies cannot be allowed to continue. Yet once again I am surprised & disappointed at how little attention this has received in the media, including social media. I realize we have other big news stories right now with Afghanistan, Covid, & hurricanes ravaging our country & the world, but even so, I’ve seen very few headlines, even deeply buried ones, about this. And I find that odd. And disappointing.

On a slightly different but somewhat related subject, a massive statue of Robert E Lee was removed from Richmond, VA this week, the capital city of my home state (as in the state where I grew up, not where I live now). As someone who loves history I’ll confess that this is always a challenging subject for me. But over time I’ve come to believe that such Confederate statues belong in museums, not in our city streets or parks. And yet I am disappointed at how many friends & family members I have seen posting & commenting about how heartbreaking it is to see this statue carted away. Y’all, no one is saying we should erase history here! We’re just saying that we shouldn’t have public monuments to people who fought for such inhumane practices as slavery. And whether we like it or not, that is exactly what Robert E Lee did.

Fellow white people, it has been over 150 years since the Civil War. It is high time we admitted that many of our ancestors were in the wrong. It’s not like our parents or grandparents or anyone we actually knew fought in that war. Those people are all long since dead & gone & were never known to us! Besides which, I have friends who have parents & grandparents who are (or have been) alcoholics, narcissists, drug users, & abusers. And as incredibly difficulty as it is, they have found ways to say “I might love this person but their behavior is wrong.” Or “I know I ‘should’ love this person but their behavior towards me has been nothing but hurtful so I am choosing to walk away.” If they can do that, we have no excuse for not being able to admit that our ancestors from well over 100 years ago whom we never even knew weren’t perfect. Grow up, folks!

Furthermore, if you are heartbroken over the removal of a statue of a dead man you never knew, but you have never once expressed outrage or sorrow over police brutality in cases like Elijah McClain’s- or other flagrant racism in our society- may I suggest that you need to get your priorities in order? I realize that as a white person it can be easy to ignore racism sometimes, to just say “Well, that doesn’t affect me since I’m not black. I don’t hate black people. Whatever.” Newsflash- been there, done that, had the courage to admit how wrong I was! Over the years I have come to realize how important this subject still is for all of us. One of my absolute dearest friends is married to a black man (she is white). Some of my next door neighbors are black. So are several other families on my street & in my neighborhood. Both of my managers at work are black. My new dentist (who is also my husband’s & daughter’s dentist) is black. So are several of the doctors & surgeons I work with. And of course I work & have worked with countless black nurses, nursing assistants, & medical assistants over the years. Many of my patients are black. In fact some days, most of my patients are black, & some days most of my coworkers are too. To not care about racism would be incredibly callous & cruel of me. And frankly, even if you are a white person who doesn’t interact with many black people, you STILL should care about racism, at least if you care about PEOPLE at all. After all, as Martin Luther King, Jr said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So if you’re upset about these monuments being removed, please take a moment to consider how you might feel if you were a black person seeing monuments to people who fought to keep your ancestors enslaved. Please also consider how you would feel if you were black & had to see your white friends posting about how heartbreaking it is to see these monuments removed & yet to never see those same people speaking out against racism. If you’re offended by this, congratulations- now you know why the term white fragility was coined in the first place!

Why the Afghanistan Mission Failed


As I’m sure most of you know by now, the American military involvement in Afghanistan is finally coming to an end after 20 years- two whole decades! And it hasn’t exactly ended the way anyone would have hoped. But the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t come as any real surprise to me (& I think to many others) that things have ended as they have- that it feels very much like we’re back to square one, so to speak, with the Taliban right back in control, just like they were when all this started.

Before I dig deeper into this subject, let me first preface this by saying I am in no way a foreign policy or military expert. Furthermore I am in no way claiming I have all- or even a tiny fraction- of the knowledge necessary to say what is or isn’t the right thing to do in these incredibly complicated situations. But what I do think I have a good understanding of is human nature. More than anything though, I’m just tossing around ideas & trying to make sense of an incredibly complex & horrifying situation. If you find anything I say here offensive- particularly if you served in Afghanistan yourself or if a loved one did, or worse yet if you lost a loved one in Afghanistan- please know that I am very sorry for any offense I may cause. I understand that having not been there myself & having not lost a loved one there, my mindset on this issue may be quite different than yours (though I have spoken to veterans who agree with me on this).

First off- why do I care so much about this? Well, most importantly I care about people. So to know that the Taliban are back in control in Afghanistan & what that means for human rights- especially women’s rights- is horrifying. Furthermore, 9/11 happened when I was 12 years old. It was in many ways the defining moment of my generation. I realize most of us did not lose a loved one that day- I certainly didn’t- but there is no denying that the events of that fateful day had lasting impacts on our culture & in many ways shaped the mindset of my generation. Between that & the many recessions & the increasing inflation my generation has experienced, it’s no wonder that we’re largely a cynical generation that is distrustful of authority (or maybe that’s just me projecting myself onto others). I remember when Osama Bin Ladin was killed when I was a senior in college & people burned couches on the street & all kinds of stuff in celebration. Being the studious person I was, I slept through all that of course (or at least stayed inside). Granted college students are always down for any excuse to party but it actually made sense because Bin Ladin was the mastermind behind the event that changed our culture in so many ways when we were still so young- but not so young as to be oblivious to it. So to see things in Afghanistan end this way is indeed a tragedy & a disappointment that I think many of us feel quite strongly right now.

Having said all that, I’ve often seen lots of parallels between Afghanistan & Vietnam, certainly in terms of the American military involvement in both places. And this week of course we are seeing another parallel- with helicopters & planes leaving Kabul much like they did in Saigon in the 70s. The main parallel I see is that both wars seemed truly unwinnable– if that’s a word. And I think the biggest reason for that is that we can’t fight other people’s battles for them. We can’t force democracy on people. It’s quite antithetical to the very idea of democracy, if you think about it! The end result is that you can’t accomplish something that neither side really cares about, so inevitably it’s a loss, really on all sides. At the end of the day as incredibly complex as all of this is, it boils down to the fact that you can’t change a community or a country or a culture from the outside. It has to start from within. Imagine if I (or folks like me)- a white woman from a very rural background- tried to infiltrate an inner city gang in NYC or southside Chicago or even somewhere more local like Durham. It would not work for a multitude of reasons! It’s like trying to erase racism from people’s hearts. No matter how talented, educated, & professional black people might be, they alone can’t stop some white (or maybe I should just say non black) people from being racist. Those changes have to start from within. Same as you can’t make someone quit smoking or drinking or using heroin, etc. People have to make that choice themselves. The point is you can’t change a country from the outside, & the reason for this is that you can’t change a PERSON from the outside. And what are countries except for a multitude of people?

Furthermore, while I clearly think our (American) culture- while far from perfect- is preferable to any culture ruled by the Taliban, is it really our place (or anyone’s) to police the world? My heart says no. While my heart breaks for the people of Afghanistan, I don’t think it’s our place to be the “savior” of the world. Certainly not our military. Militaries were not designed to set up entirely new systems of governments in other countries. They were designed to fight wars. And this was so much more than just a war. We were asking our servicemen & women to do something that in all likelihood was impossible. As much as it hurts to think that their sacrifices may have been in vain, I think the truth of the matter is- like a toxic relationship- it was always going to end this way. Whether we left five years ago or ten years ago or if we stayed another 20 years, the end result would be the same, for all the reasons I’ve just discussed.

There is so much more we could deliberate here. We could talk about how Afghanistan as a country was largely defined by outside powers carving up the land with no respect for tribal history or local traditions. We could also discuss the opium trade, which is massive in Afghanistan, & of course oil. We could discuss how religious extremism is incompatible with freedom & democracy. While all of these things are relevant I still think all of this boils down to our essential human nature. And that nature says that change must come from within. As much as it sucks to admit that sometimes, as much as it makes us feel powerless at times, it’s just the way it is.

Now does any of that make sense? Or am I just spinning my wheels on a lot of BS trying to make sense of a shitty situation?

P.S. I do 100% believe the actual evacuation of Afghanistan could & should have been handled better. But that’s a whole other post right there.

The Problem with Small Towns


This blog post has been a long time coming, to borrow a small town phrase. Perhaps it was finally pushed into fruition since I spent a few days in my hometown earlier this week while my daughter’s school was closed & my husband was traveling for work.

For those who don’t know anything about me, allow me to preface this with a quick autobiography so you will have a better context for the rest of this post. I grew up in a small town in central Virginia, a place with 4 stoplights in the entire county (there are 5 now since we got a Wal-Mart!). A place with one primary, one elementary, one middle, & one high school for the whole county. A place that- at the time I was growing up there- required you to drive a minimum of 20 mins to get to the closest Wal-Mart. A place with more churches than restaurants. And zero bars. I moved away for college when I was 18, albeit to another small town but it was sufficiently bigger that it felt like a small city to me. Which is probably proof of how rural my early years really were! Anyway, aside from the summer after freshman year of college, I have never lived there again (after college my husband & I moved to an urban area in another state). And that summer was the longest one of my life because I spent most of the time counting down until I could go back to school & get out of there. I can truly say I have never regretted moving away & I’m quite certain I never will.

For a little more context, allow me to add that for the first few years after I left my hometown I was quite angry & bitter toward the town. Because it was all I had known for 18.5 years, it was quite a shock to find out at college that my formative years were quite different than those of many of my peers. It was easy to feel like I’d missed out on a lot in life, to feel like my town had somehow held me back or deprived me of experiences. However, as time has gone by I’ve become a lot more forgiving of my hometown. I actually feel more connected to the town & many people there than I have in a long time. Even so, I’ll never be that person who loves their hometown & thinks it’s the best place on Earth- not even close. But I’m no longer angry & bitter about it. However, I think I’ll always have very conflicted feelings about it. I think it will always be a place that conjures as much sadness for me as it does happiness, as much disappointment as it does pride.

Now to get to the meat of the message- there are so many problems with small towns in the rural South, & I daresay with small towns the world over. Of course there are plenty of problems with more urban areas too- but that isn’t the focus of today’s post. So- what are the problems plaguing my home town & thousands, nay probably millions, of others like it? Well, there’s poverty, racism (some quite overt, some much more veiled but equally sinister), religious extremism, drug use (this one has spiked exponentially over the past few years), closed-mindedness, unemployment, depression & other mental health issues, domestic abuse/violence, cronyism, isolation, & obesity- to name a few.

But the number one problem that I think plagues small towns is a refusal to see the full potential in others, an insistence on categorizing people & making assumptions about them based on said categorizations. This is especially true in adolescence but I’m very sad to say that I think it often extends far beyond high school & into all of adulthood. Now hear me out on this because I realize this may seem like a far smaller problem than the other things I listed above. The reason I say this is the number one problem is because I think it is the root cause- or a root cause anyway- of many of the other problems, including racism. When people feel categorized from such a young age- whether it be as a nerd, a jock, an athlete, a class clown, a goth, etc- this can & often does have a crippling effect on self esteem, ambition, etc. People feel stuck in roles that quite often they didn’t truly choose. All of this can lead to depression & isolation which are hardly good starting points for happiness & success in life. Not to mention there is the pressure people feel to please others or to conform to local societal norms to avoid rejection & humiliation.

To expound on my own experiences, one of the reasons college was so exhilarating for me was because it was the first time in my life I didn’t feel looked down upon for being smart. It was the first time I felt like I could be truly & authentically myself without people immediately categorizing me in a negative way. It was also the first time I felt free to fully explore my own ideas & beliefs about life without people breathing down my neck telling me how wrong or sinful I was to question things. That’s a whole other blog post right there but the point is that being away from my hometown really allowed me to come into my own, so to speak. And it also allowed me to appreciate all kinds of different people, many of which broke the stereotypes that I’d so often seen or heard at home.

I always hear the stereotype that small towns are the friendliest places in the world. I can see why people say that but I think they can be the meanest places too. For example, in a small town, it’s so easy to see someone who uses drugs & just say “Oh, they’re a useless druggie.” You’d think that small towns might have more empathy for these people because “everyone knows everyone” but what I’ve realized is that everyone does NOT know everyone at all. Sure, most people know each other as far as names, relatives, things like that. But that does NOT mean we actually know each other. We often know only the most superficial things about each other but end up assuming we know so much more. Just because someone is or was categorized as a certain thing in school or beyond in no way means we actually know anything about their true personality- their likes, their dislikes, their dreams, their ambitions, etc. And yet so much of the time we are so quick to assume we know everything about everyone just because we’ve all lived in the same area for so long. How do I know this? I know it because I have been guilty of it too. And still am at times.

As far as the drug use issue, such attitudes only serve to further isolate these people & therefore drive them further down the hole of addiction. I am in no way saying they aren’t responsible for their decisions but I do think our world would be a much better place if we spent less time looking down on addicts just to feel better about ourselves & more time understanding WHY people make such unhealthy decisions, & thus tried to address the root causes of addiction. But, again, that’s a whole other blog post right there.

What I’m trying to get at here is this. Agatha Christie said over & over in her books that even the smallest village is a microcosm for the world as a whole because no matter how small a place is the essential nature of human beings doesn’t change. All the good & all the evil that can be accomplished or undertaken in the world can & does happen in the smallest of towns, just as it does in the largest of cities. I started reading her books in high school- actually probably middle school- & even then I knew she was probably right in this assertion. But I hadn’t yet lived anywhere but a small town so I had no experience elsewhere to confirm it. Now I do. And now I know that the reason small towns have the problems I’ve discussed here is because HUMANITY has these problems. And as much as you might think that having a smaller amount of people might somehow lessen those problems, I think it’s actually quite the opposite. I think it only serves to heighten the problems, perhaps because there are fewer people to dilute them, if that makes any sense. What I’m saying is it’s so easy for outsiders to see places like my hometown as these perfect, quaint, peaceful towns but in reality there is so much darkness underneath the surface. But I think that’s because there is so much darkness in human nature as a whole. And just because there are fewer people doesn’t mean there is any less darkness.

Remember how I said I will always have conflicting emotions about my hometown, how it will always elicit as much disappointment as it does pride? Well, the truth of the matter is that the same is true for HUMANITY as a whole. It’s just that I feel so much more strongly about it when it’s associated with the place where I grew up, the place that “should” feel like home but really doesn’t.

So my unsolicited advice to all my friends & family back home or anyone else reading this from a small town (or anywhere really) is this: don’t assume you know folks just because you’ve known them your whole life. Allow people to be more complex than you might have previously pictured. I know the world is scary & confusing- perhaps all the more so since Covid struck- but categorizing people in an attempt to simplify things doesn’t help anyone, including yourself. And remember, I am writing this to myself too.

Just to be clear, I haven’t written all this to point my finger at my hometown & others like it. I have not written all this to say I’m better than anyone there because I moved away. I’ve written all this to try to make sense of a confusing world. To try to find some peace about a place that often causes me such unrest. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. The older I get the less I care what others think because that doesn’t pay my bills or help me sleep at night. If you’re truly happy living there or in another small town somewhere, I am sincerely happy for you- & even a bit jealous if I’m truly being honest. Remember, my gripe here isn’t really specific to small towns- it’s to humanity as a whole. And I know I’m part of that too.

Edit: I’d like to share one of my all time favorite songs. It’s sad & beautiful all at once & while it was clearly written with a person in mind, I feel like it perfectly sums up my relationship with my hometown & with small towns in general. “I love you, but I leave you. I dont want you, but I need you… I’ve got a gypsy soul to blame & I was born for leaving…”

https://youtu.be/oouFE51HcqM

The Perfectionist Conundrum


How do you define yourself? What are the main characteristics that encompass who you are? Is it a strong work ethic or athletic, musical, or artistic talent? Perhaps generosity or courage or fortitude? For me it’s always been my intelligence & my kindness. Throughout my whole life the main feedback I’ve ever received from the world, be it teachers, family, friends, coworkers, or managers- whether said feedback was solicited or not- has always been, “Oh, Rebekah? She’s so nice. And very smart.” Or something very similar to that. Now there’s nothing wrong with that & I’m certainly not complaining. Whether intentionally or not, these are the ways I’ve defined myself too. But I’ll confess I’m having a bit of an identity crisis right now, precipitated at least partly by two events that have occurred in the past 24 hours.

First, when I was coming home from work yesterday I stopped to get gas. As I was finishing up at the pump, a man approached me with a sob story about how he & his pregnant wife needed money to fix their car to so they could get back home to Charlotte. I was suspicious of his story, partly because I’ve heard this same story from other people quite often in my life, but being the nice person I am, I couldn’t say no seeing as I DID actually have cash with me & I COULD actually afford to part with some of it. I ended up giving him most of the cash I had because he was so persistent. He didn’t even say thank you, just moved on to the next pump saying “I need 7 more dollars, 7 more dollars.” I left feeling a bit used, I’m not going to lie. And yet, I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I’d either lied & said I had no cash or just refused to give him any. I know this is a very complex issue & in many cases I have given homeless people food or water rather than cash, but on the chance that this man’s story WAS true, food or water wasn’t going to fix the problem, so that wasn’t really an option here. Even if he was in fact lying, I can’t help but feel that he must have had SOME kind of need or he wouldn’t have been begging from strangers.

I am always happy to help when I can, so in the end I don’t regret giving him the money- I really don’t- but I DO have to wonder if I have some kind of sign on my forehead that unbeknownst to me proclaims “CAN’T SAY NO- WAY TOO NICE!” And if so, how the hell do I go about removing that “sign” without actually becoming a cold-hearted mean person? After all, I have long since learned how to draw boundaries at work & in my personal life so that I’m not constantly being taken advantage of there. In reality, that would be a much bigger problem. Even so, in situations like this where I don’t actually feel threatened but do feel a bit pressured, I can’t seem to find the guts to say no. Hell, once I had a man approach me at a gas station saying something creepy along the lines of “Hey, if your husband doesn’t appreciate you, I can” all while leering at me lecherously. As angry I was, I was so shocked that all I said was “Have a nice day.” In my head, once I drove away, I was saying much worse, believe me, but in the moment I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t formulate a better response. What I suspect is that I’m giving off some kind of vibe where these types of men somehow KNOW that & that’s why they approach me in the first place. Actually, I shouldn’t say men because these things have happened with women too. And I find it even harder to say no to them!

Now obviously if I saw the same person every day telling this same story (or a very similar one), naturally I would not continue giving them money. I am not Jeff Bezos or Oprah here, after all! I cannot fund every crisis I encounter. It’s just hard to be a kind person in an often cruel world, so often wondering if you’re being taken advantage of & yet unable to live with yourself if you say no to someone who may in fact be in real need…

As a side note, these are the stories I always want to scream at people who tell me that I’m such a terrible, uncaring person because I’m not a socialist or communist (as if the only way to have compassion is through the government- please, give me a break!) I always want to scream “You don’t know anything about me. You have no idea how many times I have given my time & money to help both friends & strangers in need.” But usually I just clam up & let them rant because it rarely feels worth the effort.

The second thing that happened to provoke this identity crisis is that I wrecked my car on the way to work this morning. Thankfully it was nothing too serious & I wasn’t actually injured- I’m just a little sore & psychologically torn up. Most importantly my daughter wasn’t with me. Furthermore the only major damage to the car was a flat tire & a small dent, the latter of which isn’t worth fixing. My husband was able to come remove the car from the ditch & change the tire so that I could get home & try to spend the rest of the day recovering so that I can make it to work tomorrow. But the whole thing has left me feeling like a total idiot. I mean, for someone who has spent her whole life priding herself on her intelligence & rational decision-making, going off the road & ending up in a ditch feels like an incredibly dumb thing to do (because it IS an incredibly dumb thing to do)! Being a perfectionist is hard because even when everyone around you says “It’s ok, it’s just an honest mistake, it happens to everyone,” your own brain won’t let you off that easily. And I’ve always had this terrible anxiety that if I weren’t such a perfectionist about everything, my whole life would fall apart, like that’s the only thing holding me together or keeping my life “on the tracks.” So when I make a mistake like this, I’m left feeling like: A. “I’m not as smart as I think I am or as people so often tell me I am.” Or B: “My life is going off the rails! How could I slip up like this? What is wrong with me?”

I’m sure this is just part of getting older but I’m left wondering how we are supposed to define ourselves when the things we’ve always been defined by feel somehow wrong or invalid. I’m also sure that after some good sleep I’ll probably feel much better, both physically & psychologically. But one thing I’ve learned over the years- albeit slowly- is that the only way to really move past something is to just face it, to allow myself to feel every emotion I’m feeling rather than telling myself “I shouldn’t feel this way. This is stupid. Just move on.” None of those things are helpful. I’ve found that the best way to actually “toughen up & move on” is to be weak for a moment, to cry when I need to, to scream at the universe when things feel unfair. Otherwise I’m just creating a powder keg that will inevitably explode in a much more unpleasant & hurtful way later down the road.

I think one mistake many people make, perhaps women more than men, though I could certainly be wrong about that part, is that we often allow the world around us to define us. I know I am guilty of this at times. The truth is that we have to learn to define ourselves in a world that so often seeks to box us in or to make us conform to pre-arranged identities. Fighting against that is hard & when we inevitably fail to live up to our own standards at times, we have to learn to forgive ourselves but still keep trying.

So I guess I’ve written all this to say, I forgive myself. I want to do better- I need to do better. But I won’t accomplish that if I spend all my time berating myself for not being perfect.

So dear perfectionist brain, take a “chill pill.” It’s going to be ok.

An Ode to Mediocrity- Or Is It?


If you know me, you know that I have always been, & likely will always be, a perfectionist at heart. An over-achiever. A bit OCD, if you will, but not to the point of having the TRUE disorder. So it should come as no surprise to hear that I got into nursing with the goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner. I saw it as the cheaper way to become a doctor (or rather something similar enough to a doctor) since I had a full scholarship to nursing school. And I had no problem working as an RN for several years in order to get there. Initially I thought “Ok, I’ll do 3-5 years as a bedside hospital nurse & then I’ll go back to school.” Well, five years went by & the unthinkable happened: I decided to become a mom! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that for many years I said I never wanted children. But somewhere around age 25 or 26 I changed my mind. Believe me when I say it wasn’t a flippant decision either. It was something that happened gradually & that I put a monumental amount of thought into- if anything TOO much thought, as I am often known to over-analyze things.

Anyway, around that same time in my life, I realized that becoming an NP just didn’t interest me that much anymore. It’s not that I didn’t/don’t think I was/am smart enough to do it- I had/have no doubt in my mind I could do it if I wanted to. Many doctors & NPs I’ve worked with over the years have told me I’d be a great NP, just as they’ve also told me I’d be a great ICU nurse- but I’ve never wanted that either, for a variety of reasons. The simple truth is I realized being an NP just wasn’t what I WANTED anymore. Now, five years later, I feel even more strongly about this issue. The longer I’ve been a nurse, the more I realize that I don’t agree with certain things that the medical system teaches/does, so being an NP would put me in way too many ethical dilemmas that I don’t want to have to face. Furthermore, as a mom of a small child, I don’t want to take call overnight & on weekends. I don’t want to come home & have a mountain of charting to do. Simply put, I don’t want a job that follows me home & dominates my life 24/7. I had enough of that experience when I briefly did nursing management & I realized that life it is NOT for me. Or at least it isn’t at this stage in my life. Obviously I can’t predict how I may feel in ten or twenty years, just as I didn’t predict I’d eventually want to become a mom (ok, deep down, I knew I’d probably change my mind on that but I fought against it for a long time, believe me).

I know plenty of women my age (& younger) who have gone back to school when they have young children, but I for one cannot even begin to fathom the stress of doing that on top of having a young child. Maybe I just find motherhood more stressful than some women do. Or maybe I just value my own happiness too much. But if there is one thing I’ve learned in a decade of nursing it’s that life is way too short to be anything but happy as much of the time as we can. As someone who struggles with anxiety & depression & OCD tendencies, the last thing I need is to overload my life with too many things going on at once. I’m in awe of those who are able to do it & seem to not just survive but actually thrive. But I know my limits. And I’m not pushing them. Plus, if nothing else, there is no age limit on when I can go back to school if I do decide to pursue that path someday. It’s not like you can’t get a master’s degree in your 40s or 50s (or older)! On the other hand, my daughter will NOT be young forever. Someday she will need me a lot less than she does now. Trust me when I say that I look forward to that more than maybe I should some days. But at the same time I refuse to give up time with her now when I know she is still very much in her formative years. To be clear, I’m not judging anyone who chooses a different path than I have. We all have different personalities & needs, as do our kids- this is just what I’ve found makes sense for ME.

As much as I love nursing, some days I actually dream about becoming a high school English (or maybe even history) teacher. I would love the chance to grapple deep subjects with young minds. But as with being an NP, there are so many things I disagree with about the modern education system. The idea of doing lesson plans makes me cringe. The idea of enforcing dress codes makes me cringe. Furthermore, I’d probably get fired for choosing books almost entirely from the various banned books lists (keep in mind the Bible is on many of those lists so it’s not as narrow of a range of books as you may think). Not to mention there is the sad fact that I’d be making considerably less money as a teacher than I do as a nurse (even working part time). And I’m not going to lie, I don’t want to take a pay cut, especially since I’d have to pay to go back to school to pursue such a career.

What I’m getting at here is that I so often find myself as odds with “the system.” I’m a great rule follower when it comes to following protocols for things like starting an IV, inserting a foley catheter, taking a BP, etc. That kind of stuff is very evidence-based, very tangible. But there are other part of our medical system that are not so evidence-based, in my opinion, but are still done because they benefit the system itself (or the various pharmaceutical companies) or they’re just “the way it’s always been done.” Anyway, on a similar token, if I were a teacher I think I’d be great at getting kids to have in depth discussions about serious life matters. But I’d probably be horrible at some of the more practical aspects of teaching, like lesson plans & grading homework.

I guess what I’m saying is there are so many things in life I think I could accomplish, but there are so many hoops I’d have to jump through, so much unnecessary red tape to battle, that I find myself for once in my life being satisfied with what some might call mediocrity. Being a part time outpatient nurse, partly because the schedule is beneficial to my husband’s career (meaning I’m more available for our daughter when he sometimes isn’t), is certainly something I would have called mediocre a decade ago. But you know what? I’m happy! I don’t mean I never feel sad or disappointed or scared or anxious. Trust me, in truth I’m naturally a bit of a melancholy person. But overall, I am very content with my life. And if that means having a bit more of a traditional role than perhaps I envisioned for myself, so be it. After all, it’s not like I’m stuck at home all day every day. It’s not like I do all the housework while my husband does none. No way! I could never stand for that, as I mentioned in my last blog post. The way I see it is I get the best of both worlds & if that means I’ve settled for mediocrity, for once in my life, I am content with that.

I’m not really sure what the point of all this was, other than to settle my own overly analytic brain. But that’s a point in & of itself, is it not? Anyway, if your life hasn’t turned out quite the way you imagined, if you’ve made different choices than you thought you would, even done things you said you’d never do, just know that you’re not alone. And as long as you’re happy with your choices, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. After all- no one else’s opinion is paying your bills or raising your children. No one else has to sleep with your conscience at night.

In conclusion, I never thought my life would lead me where it has now. Actually, maybe that’s being a bit more dramatic than is strictly necessary. But the point is, my life hasn’t followed the trajectory I would have predicted years ago, nor the trajectory many folks who knew me as a child or teenager might have predicted. But I am happy where I am, & I’m learning that the destination truly isn’t half as important as the journey along the way. I don’t say that to make excuses for bad decisions either. I say that because I’ve realized that it’s ok to change your goals, it’s ok to be something or someone different than you were in the past or than you pictured yourself becoming. If something you once thought would be mediocre (or even lame) makes you happy now, embrace it. True mediocrity, in my opinion, is refusing to be flexible, refusing to adapt to the stages of life. True mediocrity is not doing whatever makes you happiest & most fulfilled.

And based on that definition, I don’t think my life is mediocre at all.

And you never know- maybe I’ll run a book club someday & that will fulfill my fantasy of being an English/literature teacher without having to deal with “the system” & all the red tape it entails!

Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex?


At some point over the past few years since becoming a mom, I became a subscriber to the popular Mommy blog Scary Mommy. By subscriber I mean I’m on their email list- I’m certainly not paying them. Anyway, here lately I’ve noticed a preponderance of posts about how women do not owe their husbands sex. Now this is a very complicated issue that has been weighing heavily on my mind lately, probably largely because most of the posts I’ve seen on this matter strike me as particularly one-sided. In other words, they all seem to come from angry, bitter women who are over-worked, over-stressed, & appear to have a bit of a chip on their shoulders. But even that is too simple of a summarization of such a complex topic. So I thought I’d create a space where we can have a frank discussion about something that really is incredibly important both to individuals as well as to society as a whole.

Before I go any further, I recommend reading these articles so you will better understand the context for why I’m writing this. As you will discover, I am much more inclined to agree with the Huff Post article.

Stop Making Married Women Feel Bad About Not Having Sex (scarymommy.com)

Married Women Don’t Owe Sex To Their Spouse (scarymommy.com)

Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex? | HuffPost Life

Sex in America is a strange beast. One the one hand, sex is everywhere. “Sex sells,” as the old saying goes- & it’s true. Sex is either implicitly or explicitly involved in so many aspects of our culture- everything from movies to music to advertisements to video games. It’s everywhere- & yet it’s not. Because when it comes to actually TALKING about sex we are curiously silent. As parents we are so afraid of awkward discussions that we often let our kids learn about sex from everyone & everything but us- a recipe for disaster if you ask me. Our society frequently depicts sex as both wonderful & horrible all at the same time, so is it any wonder teenagers are rushing to do it to figure out what they’re missing? Furthermore, our society often depicts sex as something that magically vanishes once a couple gets married or generally settles down together. I realize that IS the case for some couples & there are very valid & legitimate reasons for this, but at the end of the day we are animals- albeit very different from other species of course. But the fact remains that sex is a biological need. It serves both physiological & psychological purposes for us- both men & women- so to act like it’s healthy or normal for sex to disappear once you’re married (or generally committed to someone long term) is, in my opinion, an extremely unhealthy concept to encourage.

Don’t marry a man like this

Now one thing I do agree with the Scary Mommy articles about is that men absolutely need to step up to help their wives around the house, especially once children come into the picture. I truly believe one reason that my husband & I have maintained such a great sex life is because he consistently does his part around the house- WITHOUT BEING ASKED. Which is exactly how it should be. Sure, once in a while I might ask him to help with something but the vast majority of the time, he just does it. And frankly I doubt I’d have married him if he weren’t like that. I for one did not get married to take care of a man child. No way, no sir, no how. That life is not for me! I married someone who is my life partner, not someone to take care of like a child. That dynamic might work for some people but it would NOT work for me. And I absolutely believe we need to do a better job of raising our boys to know that housework is not just for women. If more men stepped up to help with the laundry, dishes, etc, I can almost guarantee American sex lives would be in a better spot.

Furthermore, I 100% agree that husbands should be invested in their wives’ pleasure. If your man doesn’t care if you’re orgasming or not, you’re with the wrong man. If your husband/partner is only interested in sex for his own pleasure, trust me when I say, he ain’t “the one.” End of story.

But where I disagree with these articles is on the idea that spouses don’t owe each other sex at all. Now I’ll admit I don’t like putting it in those terms but I’m not sure how else to say it. And this whole idea that “when I got married I didn’t sign up to meet his sexual needs” just makes zero sense to me. Um, yes- yes, you did. And he signed up to meet your needs too- both sexually & otherwise! Now by NO MEANS am I saying that women should be sex slaves to their husbands who have to say yes every single time. But when you marry someone, you’re promising to meet their physical & emotional needs, & yes, sex is part of that! We are animals after all! So if you’re going months or even years without sex, something is wrong- very, very wrong (unless of course both of you are truly ok with that- but I have a hard time imagining anyone, male or female, not wanting sex for that long- but maybe that’s just me). Anyway, the point is that while I very much believe that each person owns their own body & should not be FORCED into anything, at the same time, being married DOES mean you’ve promised to meet each other’s needs. This obviously applies to men too. I have read posts & articles with wives complaining that their husbands never want sex anymore & how hurtful that is to them. So for sure this goes BOTH ways.

Anyone who has analyzed divorce data even a tiny bit knows that a lack of sex is almost always involved. Have you ever wondered why that is? I suspect it’s because a lack of sex is usually symptomatic of a greater problem in a marriage. If you aren’t having sex, I have to wonder if you’re really emotionally close to one another. Now obviously there are exceptions here- people undergoing chemotherapy, women who’ve endured very traumatic childbirth, etc. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. My husband & I have always said that one reason we prioritize sex is because we can never be but so mad at each other if we’re having sex regularly. I know we are very different than a lot of people but I suspect that is true for most folks. Sex is an emotional experience for everyone, not just women, so it’s hard to do it regularly with someone & not have a good emotional connection with that person.

Lastly, when I read these Scary Mommy articles & ones like it, I can’t help but feel that these women are saying “men are so selfish & only care about themselves & their desires.” (Now I’m sure that’s true for some men- don’t marry that type!) BUT it also feels to me like these authors are also being quite selfish & saying they only care about their own needs & desires. Maybe I’m old school but two wrongs don’t make a right. As far as I’m concerned it is not healthy for anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to consistently deny their partner sex for ages on end (exceptional circumstances notwithstanding of course). That’s just setting your relationship up to fail, if you ask me. It’s setting both of you up to be miserable, to communicate poorly, & to resent each other.

Now I’m no expert, no sex therapist or guru or what have you. I’m just a normal 30-something wife & mom who enjoys dissecting difficult topics & discussing things most people would rather sweep under the rug. I in no way think that I’m a perfect wife, that my husband is perfect, that our relationship is perfect, or that I/we have all the answers. But I am saddened to see that the narrative on this subject seems to be mostly dominated by women who seem to have such a negative view of sex. I have to wonder if they just haven’t had good sex… Was that a sexist statement? Hmmm… Now I’m not saying there haven’t been times in my life, mostly in the first year or so of our daughter’s life when I was breastfeeding, that I didn’t feel particularly in the mood. Certainly there have been. But you know what? We found ways to make it work. I value my own sexuality, I value my husband & our relationship, & like anything else in life worth having, our sex life was/is worth fighting for.

The purpose of this post is not to make anyone feel guilty. And the purpose is certainly not to brag about my own sex life. But I think this is a very important subject that usually either isn’t addressed or is only addressed very one-sidedly. Of course the women writing those Scary Mommy articles probably argue that this subject used to only be addressed with men’s needs/desires in mind. And that is probably true. But again, two wrongs don’t make a right. We aren’t going to better our society by treating men like trash. That just isn’t the path to progress. We need to have an open dialogue about touchy subjects like this (pun very much intended). We need to communicate clearly with our spouses about everything, including of course sex. And that kind of open dialogue needs to happen long before someone becomes your spouse! I personally think sex before marriage is quite necessary to ensure that people are compatible. I know that goes against everything I was taught growing up, but nonetheless I truly believe it. Now I also believe that if people have a strong emotional connection the chances are very good that they will have a strong physical connection too. But sex is way too important to leave to chance, if you ask me.

I’m sure there’s an angry feminist somewhere reading this & screaming that I’m condoning marital rape. Let me assure you that I am not. But I also think we need to be honest with ourselves & admit that denying a partner sex consistently is not healthy. When it comes down to it, you’re denying YOURSELF pleasure too. Ask any sex “expert” & they’ll tell you that “sex begets sex.” There are times when it may not be perfect or the most romantic experience of your life, but if you stay off the horse forever you’ll never get back to the great rides you remember from the past (pun intended once again).

So, did I answer the question in the title of this post? I’m not sure. Even if I did, I suspect the answer will be different for everyone- & that’s fine. But it’s something you better be sure to communicate clearly with your own partner.

I’d love to hear others’ opinions on this matter. It’s always possible I’m just crazy. But I truly believe this is an important discussion that needs to be addressed from all angles- which in my experience is not being done.

Disclosure: if you’ve experienced rape or sexual assault, I realize your experiences may be vastly different, & this post may not be very relevant for you. I can only speak to my own experiences. If this article feels tone deaf, I apologize.

P.S. Feel free to private message me your thoughts if you aren’t comfortable discussing this in a public forum. I totally understand that.

P.P.S. I just looked at my phone & I had a notification from YouTube that one of my favorite country singers (Gary Allan) just posted a song called Sex. And yes, it is about sex. It even addresses the fact that our society is obsessed with sex & yet we don’t like to talk about it. Talk about timing….

Dear Sexual Harasser


I’ve recently discovered that the best way to attract an audience to my blog is to write about controversial topics, specifically race & sex. This is really no surprise of course because, as the saying goes, controversy creates cash. Not that this blog creates any cash for me- it definitely does not. But naturally as a writer, even a very amateur one, I do like knowing my posts are reaching a broader audience.

Well, today’s post concerns both sex AND race. Whether it will garner hundreds of views like my other recent (ish) posts on similar controversial topics remains to be seen. And frankly this post is not intended to reach a large audience. I’ve always tried to be very up front about the fact that everything I write here is primarily for my own benefit. Writing is one of my main therapeutic outlets- it’s how I try to make sense of my own head & the world around me. I have no pretentions of trying to save the world or change lives with my posts. Sure, I’d love if it my words spoke to someone & made a positive difference in their lives, but that isn’t my primary goal when I write. I for one have found that the art that speaks to me the most, that has most changed MY life- whether it be music, poetry, or books- is almost always written by someone with a similar mindset. When we set out to clear our own heads I think that is quite often when we DO reach the most people because we’re being our most authentic natural selves.

Anyway, that was a long tangent that really has nothing to do with today’s subject. This post was actually inspired by one of my Facebook memories that popped up this morning. As the memory reminded me, eleven years ago today I accepted a summer job as a student nurse/unofficial medical assistant for a doctor in a small town near where I went to college. I was so excited for that job & despite how things ended I don’t regret taking it. I learned so much about nursing from that job, everything from medication reconciliation to managing lab results to taking manual blood pressures. But I learned some other, darker life lessons too.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of what happened- the truth is NOTHING actually HAPPENED- but the end story is that after I left the job to return to school this doctor ended up asking me for sex more than once. He even invited me to dinner & because I had worked with both his wife & his mother at the office I assumed one or both of them would be coming too. Nope, turned out he was just trying to get me drunk & take me to a hotel- & even back then I wasn’t so naïve as to not know what THAT meant. I was way too smart to go along with such nonsense of course. But looking back I’m just amazed at his confidence- or should I say his gall? He seemed genuinely surprised when I turned him down! Keep in mind I was 22 at the time & he was easily twice my age, plus I was engaged & he was married!

One thing this doctor taught me was how good of actors some people can be. After all, the whole time I worked for him I never once foresaw anything like this happening. He had never ONCE made me feel uncomfortable in any way. I had NEVER gotten any kind of sexual vibe from him at all. The previous summer I’d had an assistant manager at a restaurant who did make some sexual remarks about me & even called me a bitch once to my face, at which point I very explicitly told him that I didn’t tolerate such behavior & that I expected to be treated with respect at work. And I never once had a problem with that guy again- we actually got along after that. The point is, I’d experienced sexual harassment at work before & it didn’t surprise me when it happened that time because I’d already gotten those vibes from the harasser. But THIS man- no, I had NEVER felt that way with him. I had admired him so much because I saw him as this great family man who was a pillar of his community. And in many ways he was. His wife & mother both worked at his office. He was on the school board for the county. He helped train medical students AND he helped coach his son’s football team (or whatever sport he played- I couldn’t swear it was football). He was also the first black doctor I ever knew. And because of that I respected him even more because I knew that he had probably faced obstacles that his white counterparts had not.

I’ve looked back so many times & wondered if I missed some kind of major red flag. I’ve always prided myself on reading people well- & the truth is the vast majority of the time I’m right. But I couldn’t have read him more wrong. I’ll admit there are two things that maybe I should have given more thought at the time. First, his previous medical assistant left VERY unexpectedly which is why he was looking for a nursing student to fill the role for a few months until he found someone more permanent. Now maybe that should have been a red flag. But I met this woman once when she came to pick up her last paycheck & frankly she was not young or particularly attractive. So the idea that she might have left because of sexual harassment never even crossed my mind. I probably should have asked more questions but it’s not like they would have told me the truth anyway. And it’s entirely possible that ISN’T the reason she left. I’ll never know. Secondly, I do vaguely recall being alone at the office with this doctor one time on a Friday because everyone else had left a little early. And I do remember having a very fleeting thought of “I probably shouldn’t be here alone with him too long.” So I very quickly wrapped up whatever I was doing & left. I could never put a finger on WHY I had that thought that day, & I still can’t. In fact, I felt very silly & even guilty afterward. Of course, later I realized maybe that was some kind of primitive biological instinct protecting me.

After all this happened I ran into one of this doctor’s patients during one of my nursing clinical rotations. She wasn’t a patient of mine- she was a staff member at the facility. She asked me if I was planning to work for this doctor after graduation & I guess the look on my face said it all because before I could say no, she responded with “Oh, I guess he got to you too.” She then proceeded to tell me how he had come on to her as a patient & had threatened her husband (who was also his patient). I was horrified because I had always really enjoyed this woman & her family when I knew them through his practice. But I was also relieved in a way because it let me know that I wasn’t the only person he’d approached inappropriately. It assuaged some of the guilt that I felt over potentially inadvertently tempting this man. It made me realize that the problem really was HIM, not me. In fact what he did to this woman was far worse than what we did to me & actually illegal. Well, maybe not illegal but certainly a breach of his medical license. Naturally this woman & her family found a new doctor. I wish I’d asked her if she’d reported him to the medical board but I think I was too flustered to think logically in that moment.

Months, maybe years, later I found out that this doctor was actually involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit during his time with the county school board. In fact that harassment started before I even worked for him, though I don’t think it was public knowledge at the time. I’m not sure what the end result of the lawsuit was, though if I dug really deep online I could probably find out, but the gist of the story is that a local woman applied for a leadership position in the school system & this doctor continually told the woman that the only way she would get the position was to have sex with him. She refused- & of course she didn’t get the job.

In the years since all this happened, I’ve often wondered if I should have reported this man. But to whom would I have reported him? Soliciting me for sex was clearly unethical but I wasn’t his employee anymore (nor his patient) so it wasn’t actually ILLEGAL. Sure, I could have tried to report him to the medical board for soliciting sex from a patient but that would just be hearsay. It wouldn’t hold any water in court. Furthermore I was so young, just trying to start my own career (& marriage), so the last thing I wanted was to call attention to myself. Even so, sometimes I wish I’d said something because my silence probably bought him another victim. My silence probably enabled him to find someone else to harass. After all, as history has shown us, these kinds of people rarely do this just once or twice. It’s almost always a serial thing, a pattern of behavior that happens again & again.

I have no idea where this doctor is today. A Google search leads me to believe he is no longer in the area where this happened, maybe not even in the state. But I really don’t know. I’m not naming him because I see no good that could be accomplished if I did. And I don’t want him coming after me for revenge if he somehow found this post (which I realize is highly unlikely). The truth is I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish here other than to clear my own mind of painful memories, even though I realize I’m powerless to change them.

Now this doctor probably hasn’t thought about me in a decade because it’s been that long since I’ve had contact with him, & I have no illusions that there was anything special about me in his eyes. I was just another person he sought to control. There are times when I don’t think about him for months & months either. But when I do, I wish I could ask him a few things, namely:

Why? Why did you do this- to me & to others? Who else did you hurt along the way? What were you doing with those young, often beautiful, medical students who you mentored at your office? Were you taking advantage of them- or trying to anyway- knowing they’d be terrified to say no? What in the world made you think I’d be willing to have sex with you, especially since you knew that I was engaged (in fact you’d even met my fiancé once)? Did you really think I was so desperate for your approval that I’d do that? You wrecked havoc with my anxiety that year because for months I was terrified that you’d somehow find a way to tarnish my name in the community & make sure I never got a nursing job. Looking back on it now, I realize that a fair amount of the community probably knew what you were like so it’s probably best that I DIDN’T have a reference letter from you or that alone might have tarnished my name. Of course that brings up another question. If a lot of people in the community did know about your predatory behavior, why didn’t they speak up? Oh, the answer is obvious of course. No one wanted to make waves. No one wanted to be the “bad guy” to take you down. Everyone just wanted to move on with their lives. Which is exactly what I did. But I hope by now, wherever you are, the truth has gotten out & people have seen you for what you are.

I’d also like you to know that I haven’t allowed your deceit to overly influence my life. I could have used your treachery as an excuse to be prejudiced against black men, but I haven’t- because I know that would be as unfair to them as your own actions were to me. In fact there is a doctor in my clinic now who looks uncannily like you, but I don’t allow that to influence my feelings or actions towards him. Yes, you were a wolf in sheep’s clothing, & yes, you definitely taught me that people can be really wonderful in many aspects of their lives & really horrible in other aspects, but I refuse to give you so much power over my life as to allow your predatory behavior to unduly influence how I view other men. You obviously get off on the power you have & on abusing it, but I refuse to allow your unethical behavior to color how I view everyone. I might have been your victim once- mentally at least- but I’m not now. I’m not yours to control anymore- actually I never was.

Finally, I don’t allow you to take up enough space in my head to hate you, but nonetheless- with all due respect, **** you!

Dear White People, We Need to Do Better


“Ain’t got any of them black boyfriends, do ya?”

“You got a boyfriend?”  “No.”  “Ok, well as long as it’s not any of them black boys.”

“These afros & dreadlocks are so gross & disrespectful looking.  How do they expect anyone to take them seriously looking like that?  Especially with all those tattoos too!”

“Why do we need Juneteenth as a holiday?  This is silly.”

“This rioting is out of hand.  Why can’t they [black people] just be happy they aren’t still slaves?”

“Slavery has been over for 150 years.  Why are they [black people] still complaining?”

“The Civil War wasn’t actually about slavery.  It was about states’ rights.”

“You know they’re all on Welfare” [referring to black people, particularly black women].

“Police aren’t actually racist & never use excessive force.  These thugs just don’t listen & do what they’re told.”

“Those statues are our history!  I can’t see why anyone wants to tear them down” [referring to the removal of Confederate monuments].

“I’d prefer you stick to white boys but an Asian or a Hispanic boyfriend wouldn’t be as bad as a black one.”

“My granddaughter has a black friend. One isn’t so bad but the trouble is once you’ve got one, the whole lot of them wants to invite themselves over.”

“My parents told me I could be friends with black kids but I couldn’t spend the night at their houses & they couldn’t spend the night at mine.”

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  I hope not, but I suspect for some of you these kinds of conversations are all too familiar.  All of these are quotes that I remember from my own childhood or adolescence (NOT necessarily by my parents, to be clear) or that friends of mine have shared with me from their experiences growing up.  Or lastly they are things that I have seen posted on social media by family or acquaintances from my hometown or from other similar small towns. For the purposes of this post I will be writing everything in the first person to help the post flow better & to better preserve anonymity but do remember some of these are not actually MY OWN experiences, though some are. Furthermore, I am concentrating on white racism against black people because I am white & because I am confronting these mostly offhand remarks that I (& others) experienced during my (our) formative years that were mainly aimed at black people. However, I am well aware that other races struggle with their own share of racism & that even white people can be victims of racism. I even experienced a handful of unkind remarks because of being white as a child, but that isn’t the point of today’s post at all. Simply put, racism isn’t just a black issue or just a white issue, but as a white person I feel I am best suited to speak out about the racism I see being perpetuated against others from my own community.

Let me preface this by saying that if you’re reading this & recognize yourself in any of these quotes (even if they’re just things you’ve thought to yourself but never actually said out loud), I still love you. This post isn’t about shaming or embarrassing anyone. I can love people even when we disagree on things. But I do not love the attitudes these quotes reflect. And I have black friends, neighbors (literally next door & across the street), & coworkers who deserve so much better- which is why I can’t remain silent any longer. I regret my silence on this matter far too much already.

The past year in particular has forced me to recognize just how many racist attitudes unfortunately still persist in this country, particularly in small town America, even among people I know & love. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am by no means perfect, & I make no claims to be.  However, over the past 10 years or so, particularly the past 5 years, I have made conscious efforts to confront my own internal bias & find ways to erase it or at least navigate around it.  Yes, the U.S. (& the world at large) has made great strides in the area of civil rights compared to decades ago, but even so, there is still work to be done.  And you know where that work starts?  It starts with you & it starts with me.  What the past year has made me realize is that the burden of erasing (or at least minimizing) anti-black racism cannot fall on black people. (I say anti-black racism because all races can be racist against any other race, as previously mentioned.)  After all, would women ever have achieved the right to vote & other such basic rights in society without at least some men standing up & fighting for those rights too?  Undoubtedly the answer is no. Those who are experiencing discrimination & racism cannot alone be responsible for ending it. If that were the case, don’t you think these issues would have been erased ages ago? It’s as completely backwards as saying that the onus for preventing rape falls only- or mostly- on women (oh wait, we all too often DO send that message in our society, but that’s a post for another day).

Again, this post is not about naming names or calling out anyone in particular.  It’s not even about sending anyone on a guilt trip.  This post is about me saying I refuse to be part of the problem. And that means I refuse to remain quiet & accept the “casual” racism that I all too often see & hear from some folks I know & love- folks who I know are in many ways truly wonderful, loving people. I’ll also be completely honest & admit that this post is largely intended simply to clear my own brain & to try to atone for some of the guilt I feel for not confronting this issue earlier. I’ll also confess that I’m a typical product of my generation & I find it easier to call out these attitudes online than I do in real life. What can I say? I’m an introvert, a born writer, & a work in progess…

I am also well aware that most of the people making these comments do not consider themselves racist & most would not DREAM of being actively rude to a black person to their face. But that doesn’t make these comments any less dangerous. As I stated in my previous blog post, sometimes it’s our most casual, offhand comments that reveal our true, underlying feelings & prejudices. Now- it’s time to examine each of the quotes from the beginning of this post & explore exactly why these things are problematic. I will group a few of them together since they’re on the same or similar subjects.

  • Ain’t got any of them black boyfriends, do ya?”  “You got a boyfriend?” “No.” “Ok, well as long as it’s not any of them black boys.”  “I’d prefer you stick to white boys but an Asian or a Hispanic boyfriend wouldn’t be as bad as a black one.”
    • Ah, yes, interracial dating/relationships.  This is a topic that the older I get, the more I truly cannot understand why anyone has a problem with this.  Now these quotes, I will confess, do come from some of my own family members (though I certainly know plenty of other white girls who were told the same things).  Not trying to throw anyone under the bus here, but yes, a few people in my family did in fact say these things to me (& probably to my sister too).  I was always so flabbergasted as to why anyone would say this nonsense that I never really responded much, partly because often it was asked when I was too young to have had a boyfriend at all, regardless of skin color.  Furthermore, my parents never made these kind of remarks so it didn’t make sense to me why others would say this- or even care.  Plus as a child I was too naïve to understand why anyone would ever feel this way.  Of course as I got older, I understood it a bit more but it always bothered me.  After all, the people who say this stuff almost always identify as Christians, & I can’t wrap my head around how they could think that God wouldn’t want his creatures to love whoever they love.  Don’t these people believe we all trace back to Adam & Eve anyway?  I actually asked a loved one once to explain how an Asian or a Hispanic boyfriend would be less problematic than a black one, & needless to say I didn’t get any kind of logical answer. Again, I promise I am not trying to make anyone look bad here.  But the truth of the matter is this kind of thinking is just gross. And if you persevere in this kind of thinking, frankly, you deserve to be called out on it. (This is the stuff that literally keeps me awake at night, trying to figure out how some people I love so much who are generally so kind can hold such antiquated, hateful attitudes.)
  • “These afros & dreadlocks are so gross & disrespectful looking. How do they expect anyone to take them seriously looking like that? Especially with all those tattoos too!”
    • I honestly think this comment stems from pure ignorance, from truly not understanding that black hair is in fact quite different from white (or Asian or Native American) hair.  I cannot believe it took me 30 years to truly grasp the fact that an afro is one the natural forms of black hair if left to grow & brushed out a bit.  Please forgive me for my ignorance, y’all, but I truly didn’t know that!  I suspected it but I just wasn’t sure & I was always too afraid to ask for fear of offending someone or looking stupid. Once I realized this I became so angry that anyone would ever discriminate against someone for a hairstyle that is quite literally 100% natural. Again, the people saying this stuff almost always identify as Christian, so I beg of you, if you think like this, please explain to me why black people wearing their hair in the natural way God made it is wrong?  Also, did you know that having black hair relaxed (to basically look “more white”) is not only expensive & time consuming but also damaging to the hair? As for the dreads, all human hair can naturally form dreads. So again, why is that gross or wrong? As for the tattoos- well, all I have to say is some of the nicest people I’ve ever known, some of the hardest working people I’ve ever known- of all races- have had tattoos. If you don’t like them, don’t get them. But let others do as they please & remember that physical appearance has zero impact on someone’s intelligence or ability to do their job well- OR their overall character.  End of story. P.S. If you think black people aren’t actually discriminated against based on their hair, then explain to me why we need to pass ordinances like this: https://www.wral.com/wake-commissioners-ban-discrimination-against-natural-hairstyles-for-county-workers/19587931/.
  • “Why do we need Juneteenth as a holiday? This is silly.
    • First of all, who in their right mind complains about getting an extra holiday?!  Especially if it’s paid!  But on a more serious note, the ending of slavery WAS a big deal.  It is most definitely something to celebrate.  Imagine if YOUR ancestors were slaves.  Wouldn’t you want to celebrate the fact that that ended & that you’re free now?  See, that’s what I thought.
  • “This rioting is out of hand. Why can’t they [black people] just be happy they aren’t still slaves?”  “Slavery has been over for 150 years. What are they [black people] still complaining?”
    • Sometimes I have heard these things word for word. More often though these messages are very clearly implied by the memes & posts shared by certain people. I am going to be brutally honest & even admit that these thoughts have crossed my own mind a few times in the past.  But what I have realized is that these kinds of statements send a very clear message- one that I absolutely cannot condone. That message is: “Black people aren’t really human. They’re not like everyone else. They should just be happy we aren’t treating them like total animals.” Again, if you say or think things like this & call yourself a Christian, please explain to me slowly how some of God’s creatures are better or more deserving than others.  Whether you’re religious or not, this kind of thinking is just absurd.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for two minutes & consider that not everyone has experienced the world the way you have.  And then extend some grace to your fellow man.  Let me be clear & say that I do not condone rioting or destruction of property, especially private property/businesses that have nothing to do with the subject of a protest. BUT if you’re more upset by rioting than you are by police brutality that leads to MURDERS, then please ask yourself why that is, & furthermore, would you feel the same way if the rioters or the victims of police brutality were white?  If the only thing you ever discuss in regards to racial justice is how bad rioting is, you’re sending a very clear message that racial justice doesn’t actually matter to you. 
  • “The Civil War wasn’t actually about slavery. It was about states’ rights.
    • This one came from a teacher of mine in high school, one of my favorites actually.  I hadn’t thought about this quote in YEARS but I suddenly remembered it recently & was appalled to think that a teacher had actually said this- especially knowing black students heard this too.  First of all, even though it wasn’t a history class, this statement is just factually inaccurate.  There’s just no way around that.  Sure, states’ right was part of it.  But what state right were they principally fighting over?  That’s right- the right to own slaves!  So, yes, like it or not, the Civil War was in fact about slavery.  Frankly, I think white people just say this to make themselves feel less guilty, particularly if they know they actually had ancestors who fought for the South.  My response to that is- so what?  Everyone has ancestors who did bad things.  No one is responsible for what their ancestors did, especially when it goes back generations.  Just admit it & move on.  That’s what we expect black people to do with slavery, right?
  • “You know they’re all on Welfare” [referring to black people, particularly black women].
    • Ok, first of all this is one is just plain false.  There are actually more white people on Welfare than black people.  Now of course there are also a lot MORE white people in the country than there are black people.  Is the percentage of black people receiving Welfare higher than the percentage of white people receiving Welfare?  Maybe.  But stereotyping like this isn’t helping anyone.  Furthermore, have you considered that these programs were designed & put into place largely by white politicians who may or may not have had the best interests of minorities at heart?  No one likes discussing this, but since the inception of mass welfare programs the percentage of single parent (almost always single mom) households has risen DRAMATICALLY in both black AND white communities.  And along with that we’ve seen many other negative societal outcomes.  It’s almost like maybe the nuclear family (however it’s composed) is actually important!  But that’s a post for another day.  The point is saying things like this doesn’t help anyone.  And if black children hear this kind of thing, it just further reinforces to them that they aren’t “meant” to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, scientists, engineers, etc.  So, please, just stop this nonsense.
  • “Police aren’t actually racist & never use excessive force. These thugs just don’t listen & do what they’re told.”
    • Really?  Then what do you have to say to U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario who was held at gunpoint, pepper sprayed, & put in handcuffs despite obeying police orders?  What do you say to Philando Castile who was shot & killed by an officer despite following police orders & having committed no crime? What do you say to Elijah McLain who was choked & given way too much of the sedative ketamine just for “acting weird” while walking outside, both of which almost certainly led to his death?  What do you say to the countless black men- many of whom are educated & have professional careers- who have still found themselves in unnecessary traffic stops where threats or intimidation were used?  Are they “thugs” too?  Even those who have broken the law deserve to be treated like human beings, especially when the offenses are non violent.  A traffic stop for anything should not lead to murder, even if the person isn’t 100% an angel the entire time.  When white mass murderers can be brought in without being killed but black men are disproportionately killed by police even over much more minor offenses, we need to ask ourselves what is going on here.  I know, I know- the cops you know are wonderful people who would never do such things.  And for most of them that is probably (hopefully) true.  But the fact of the matter is we have to admit that some of the “good ole boys” in our country’s police force aren’t really all that good.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing a black man with a knee to the neck for 8 minutes till he died.  Furthermore, if all these good cops aren’t standing up against the bad ones, what does that make them?  I for one have called out bad practices when I’ve seen them in my own field.  There is no reason why police shouldn’t be expected to do the same.  (And I am grateful for those who do.)
  • “Those statues are our history! I can’t see why anyone wants to tear them down” [referring to the removal of Confederate monuments].
    • Now this one is a hard topic for many folks & it’s one that I’ll admit I’ve had a hard time with myself.  I love history & because of that of course I hate to see parts of it destroyed.  But what I’ve realized with the Confederate monuments is this: No, taking them down or moving them to museums isn’t going to magically end racism- it’s not that easy- BUT if I were a black person, yes, I do think I would find it both strange & hurtful to see all these monuments to people who quite literally fought a war to keep my ancestors enslaved.  Have you ever thought about it from that angle?  I think at the end of the day these monuments belong in museums or historical parks.  That way we can still learn from them but without making it seem like we’re honoring them as heroes.  Again, if you’re white & you know you have ancestors who owned slaves or fought in the Civil War, that’s ok.  It doesn’t mean that you’re guilty just by association.  I for one do not believe that sons should bear the sins of their fathers. But please consider that most of these monuments were not even erected until the late 1800s through the 1950s. Do you really think this wasn’t at least somewhat intended to intimidate black people & remind them of “their place” in society? That alone should give us pause.
  • “My granddaughter has a black friend. One isn’t so bad but the trouble is once you’ve got one, the whole lot of them want to invite themselves over.”
    • This one was said by a salesman when I was attempting to buy something from him. I’m ashamed to admit that I was too flabbergasted by such a blatantly racist & despicable remark to actually confront him about the subject. I just changed the subject & walked away. Looking back on it though it’s horrifying to realize that he just assumed I would agree with him & that I wouldn’t report him for his obvious racism. The sad thing is that I DIDN’T confront him about it, so in a way he was right. Trust & believe- if this kind of thing happens again, the person at fault will not be left unconfronted.
    • “My parents told me I could be friends with black kids but I couldn’t spend the night at their houses & they couldn’t spend the night at mine.”
    • Just for the record, this one comes from a friend, NOT my own family. But yes, these attitudes do in fact still exist. I don’t really think there is anything else to say here other than- WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU IF YOU FEEL THIS WAY?
  • Let me end this by clarifying a few things. No, I am not some “crazy liberal.” No, I do not feel guilty for being white.  None of us chooses our race after all. No, I do not believe in paying reparations. But yes, I do believe in decriminalization of drugs, especially marijuana, partly because drug laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities. Yes, I do believe in reducing the number of traffic stops for minor offenses & asking police to use more of their time building bridges with communities & focusing on serious, violent crime. Most importantly, I believe in understanding that we all have biases. It’s just human nature- biology if you will. It’s probably only natural that many of us feel most comfortable with or are most attracted to people who look like us (“birds of a feather flock together” type thing). But we need to be cognizant of that & most importantly we need to learn not to treat those who are different badly just because of our own internal misgivings or fears.  That of course goes for all people of all races. However, as a white person, my voice is probably going to resonate most strongly with other white people, for better or worse.  And I for one am saying that we as white people need to do better.  I’ve changed my mind about so many things over the years because of living in different areas, talking to different people, reading various books, etc. I’ve learned that my own first impressions of people can be wildly wrong & that quite often, if given the opportunity, people will surprise you in all kinds of wonderful ways. If I can do that by my early 30s, I truly don’t understand how some people who have lived twice as long as I have haven’t figured this stuff out.
  • If you know me in real life, you know I hate conflict.  I truly do not like arguing with people, hurting anyone’s feelings, or offending people.  But the older I get, the less I care about those things, at least when it comes to really important subjects.  And this is far too important for me to remain silent.  So if this post has offended you- sorry- but I’m not sorry.  You probably need to be offended.  That’s how I’ve learned about some things- sometimes that’s how we all learn.  Furthermore, I know there are plenty of things I’ve said or done, things I believe or don’t believe, that at least some, probably most, of my family would find offensive. And yes, that is hard for me; yes, that keeps me awake at night too sometimes. I hate knowing I’ve disappointed people I love (I’m not talking about drugs or anything at all criminal here, before anyone gets any wild ideas), but I also know that life is way too short to live my life just to please others, even those I love. But believe me, I feel the weight of that judgement too, even if a lot of it is more perceived than real.
  • So why did I write all this? Why did I bother putting myself out there to possibly be hated for saying things that make people uncomfortable? Well, as Edmund Burke said many years ago “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And as the great Martin Luther King, Jr said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” And this, my friends & family, definitely matters. So I will reiterate: if you recognize yourself in this post, I still love you. But I have black friends, neighbors, & coworkers I care about too, & frankly they deserve better. So, dear white people, I’m saying it now loud & clear- we need to do better.

On Teenage Sex & the “Good for him” Narrative


I overheard a conversation between two men yesterday that sparked a lot of discussion in my own brain, & almost as soon as it happened I knew it would end up being a blog post. I cannot share many details of the conversation for a variety of reasons but I’m going to sum it up as best as I can below.

Man #1. “So this 16 year old boy is making racist statements towards me & also regaling everyone with tales of his sexual escapades from years ago.”

Man #2: “From years ago? And he’s only 16 now?”

Man #1: “Yep.”

Man #2: “Well, good for him!”

Being the person I am I couldn’t help but butt into the conversation to say “Just imagine if the genders were reversed. You would NOT be saying that.” Neither man acknowledged my remark in the least, which is fine. I wasn’t really part of the conversation but because of our physical proximity at the time I couldn’t help but overhear it. But I do think it’s interesting that neither of them so much as looked at me to acknowledge my remark. Not sure if that means they immediately dismissed it as irrelevant or if they realized I’d actually made a good point! Whatever. I’m certainly not going to report either man for having the conversation because they didn’t offend me. They didn’t intimidate me. And they certainly didn’t harass me. But I do think the second man’s remark is indicative of some greater problems within our society. Let me explain further.

Now let me preface this by saying that I do not consider myself a modern feminist. I did not march on Washington wearing a vagina hat- & I’m never going to. You won’t find me screaming about abortion rights or a gender pay gap. I do not identify with those sorts of women. As a friend of mine recently said to me, unfortunately modern feminism has largely been taken over by people who are in reality misandrists. They aren’t calling for equal rights for women so much as they hate men & are trying to tear them down. I hate that this has happened because they have turned feminism into a dirty word when it absolutely should not be.

Having said all that, I am bothered by the conversation above for several reasons. First, the second man’s comment implies that sex is by default good for males. I can almost guarantee that he would not have made the same comment if they’d been discussing a teenage girl who’d already been having sex for years. No way! (And that’s why I couldn’t resist saying what I did.) So the implication here is that sex is good for males but bad for females. Now I’m not an idiot- I am not in denial of biology. Obviously sex is inherently more dangerous for women because of the chance of pregnancy. Furthermore, some STIs can be more dangerous for women (or at least have more damaging long-term effects). Not to mention rape of course. So yes, I understand & acknowledge all of that. But danger (or the potential for danger) does not have to equal bad or wrong.

I’ve never actually seen this movie, but it seems appropriate for this post.

Second, I do not think that sex is healthy for young teenagers, regardless of gender. Neither teen boys nor girls are emotionally mature enough to handle the potential emotional consequences of sex, much less pregnancy or STIs. Therefore it is not a healthy thing for our society to joke about teenage boys having sex like they’re winning at life. You see & hear these same types of comments whenever a female teacher is on the news for having sex with a student. There are always men coming out of the woodwork saying “Oh man, I wish the teachers had been like that when I was in school” or “Good for him.” Have I laughed at such comments myself at times? Sure. But in the end I realize they’re really very unhealthy. No one says those things when a male teacher is caught having sex with a female student. In both cases, quite often the student was more than willing. But that isn’t the point! The point is that regardless of gender, an adult- much less a teacher or someone in authority over a teenager- should never be exploiting an underage person because teenagers just do not possess the capability of making such decisions.

A case of a female teacher having sex with an underage male student was in our local news a month or two ago. And it did not receive nearly the same attention it probably would have if the genders were reversed. People just do not view female sex offenders as dangerous in the same way they do male sex offenders. In a way I understand this because biology dictates that a woman grabbing a random man off the street & raping him is nigh impossible. But that does not necessarily make female sex offenders any less dangerous. Considering that the average teenage boy is itching to lose his virginity to just about anyone, an adult woman who exploits that, particularly a teacher or someone in a position of authority, is just as disgusting as a man who does the same thing with a teenage girl. Why does our society act like boys cannot be emotionally scarred or damaged by sex that happens in bad situations just as much as girls can be? Of course they can’t get pregnant, but that isn’t the only issue at hand here. It’s like we’ve forgotten- or are in denial- that sex is an emotional experience for men just as it is for women. (And any man who argues otherwise is clearly having bad sex.)

I don’t believe in censoring art but this song is pretty disturbing when you think about it.

Here are a couple of metaphors for the “sex is good for men but bad for women” trope. Imagine a couple won the Olympic gold medal for pairs figure skating but only the man was actually awarded. Or suppose a football team won the Superbowl but only the offense was considered the winners & only they got the rings. Sure, the offense has the more glamorous job that usually results in scoring all (or most) of the points (don’t men love saying they “scored” with a woman?), but they still can’t do their job without the defense. It takes a team to win (or lose) a game. And when it comes to sex, it takes two to tango, as the proverbial saying goes. So it’s just plain inconsistent & illogical to say that sex is good for one person & bad for another when they are quite literally doing the same thing.

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts on this matter. It’s always possible I’m just overreacting. But I think it’s very important that we consider the underlying messages we send to our society as a whole by even our most “off hand” comments. One could argue such comments reveal our true, underlying values, even if we aren’t fully cognizant of them.

Moral of the story: watch what you say around me. You might end up in a blog post!

The Best Albums of 2020


It’s time for my annual album hall of fame post! This year I’m hopeful I’ll get this published much earlier in the year. Last year it was JUNE before I finally got my 2019 post done. Oops! While all three of my highly anticipated concerts for 2020 got corona-canned, the upside is there were still some really amazing albums released last year. These are in no particular order, other than the first two which I consider to be my favorites for the year.

Please keep in my mind that I am in no way a professional music reviewer. I’m just a 30 something mom, wife, & nurse who happens to really enjoy music- & writing about it & sharing it with others. But I in no way have access to hear all the new music that was released last year, even within my favorite genres. This is not meant to be an all encompassing list by any means- it’s really just my personal favorites for the year.

  • F8 by Five Finger Death Punch: Is the title “F 8” because this is FFDP’s eighth album, or is it just an abbreviation for the word fate? Or both? Anyway, this is the first FFDP album written with vocalist Ivan Moody completely sober, & it is every bit as amazing as you’d expect. Per the usual, lyrically there are some very dark themes here but they are addressed in a way that is much less angry than one usually sees from Ivan- at least some of them are. And yet the band has definitely not gone soft! I’m not sure I could pick a favorite track on this monumental album but one of my favorites is definitely Living the Dream (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOkkWIOkWl8)- & yes, I loved it even more after the band released such an epic music video to go with it. Musically the most surprising song on the album is probably A Little Bit Off (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve3fcInpKj0) which incidentally also has a neat music video- filmed at the height of quarantine in a ghost town Las Vegas. In case this song has you worried that the band has indeed gone soft, the last line of the song followed by the next song, the hard-hitting Bottom of the Top (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q9aRCQvplE), proves they most definitely have not. However, two of the most touching songs on the album are the hauntingly beautiful rock ballads Brighter Side of Grey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JLv8FTO_R8) & Darkness Settles In (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pglKybM4yl0). I for one cannot wait to see what the futures holds for this band now that Ivan has truly addressed his inner demons & achieved sobriety, something that, to be honest, I never thought would actually happen. I am so glad he proved me wrong! Anyway, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Full Circle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xm_T_4Bp_aM), another favorite of mine. By the way, if you’re thinking this album was inspired by Covid & the associated lockdowns, it wasn’t. It was actually released before all that even happened, but it’s amazing how relevant some of the lyrics are to the worldwide situation that unfolded so shortly after its release.
  • Tickets to My Downfall by Machine Gun Kelly: A lot of people were surprised to hear MGK go pop-punk but if you listened to his last album, especially the final track with Yunglud, you probably sensed that this was coming. And what a glorious thing it is! MGK had an excellent response to those who accused him of switching genres. As he told Howard Stern: “I make a pop-rock record…. and everyone’s like, ‘you switched genres!’ To me, I just added on to the multiple things I’ve already done anyway, but sure, what a narrow-minded way to look at things.” (see https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/9454468/machine-gun-kelly-interview-howard-stern-eminem). Everything about this album is very intentional & well designed, including the insightful title which was inspired by the way Hollywood, the media, & celebrity culture in general build people up when they are rising stars but are just as swift to throw them away & celebrate their downfall, often only a short time later. The first song, cheekily entitled Title Track, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUBQ0_0Q7j0) is all about that concept. Now I could easily write about every song on this album but I’ll try to condense this to my favorites. Check out Bloody Valentine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSdT-SArM2Q) & the accompanying music video which features his real life girlfriend Megan Fox- although they were not yet officially dating at the time, it is pretty obvious they had a real connection beyond just the theatrics of the video. Another fun song with another fun video, both of which feature Halsey, is Forget Me Too (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tn6nWYNK3Q). One of the most poignant songs on the album is Lonely (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AJ6EI3uda4) which includes a recording of MGK’s dad talking about his son near the end of his life. (Background: MGK’s mom left him & his dad when MGK was just a child & thus he has no relationship with her at all. His relationship with his dad was fractured for many years but was restored somewhat before his father died last year.) On a more upbeat note, Concert for Aliens is a very catchy song that is very reminiscent of 2000s punk that also comes with another fun video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dANJlolAYyA). The album ends with the heartfelt tearjerker Play This When I’m Gone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kQJOSVwqwc). I could write so much more about this album but let me just sum it up by saying that I sincerely hope MGK & Travis Barker will continue working together because together they are magic.
  • Weird by Yungblud: If you are offended by bisexual men who have an affinity for pink socks & occasionally wear dresses on stage, then Yunglud isn’t for you, which is a shame because his music is truly wonderful. One thing I love about this album is that, like all of his work, the songs are nearly impossible to categorize. Is Yungblud a pop star or a rock star? Or both? Whatever he is, he’s a brilliant musician. The album starts with the slow-burning Teresa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5mz9j3Bg3o), a song that I fall more in love with every time I hear it. Other favorites include the heart-wrenching Love Song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzKJ9-3MQBc) in which he croons about having trouble loving others because he wasn’t taught to love himself, & the inspirational God Save Me But Don’t Drown Me Out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSwiHeoYL34) in which he states “I won’t let my insecurities define who I am.” A similar message of reveling in your own weirdness is found in the final track The Freak Show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXaZdp5byE8) which gives me slight Manson vibes & has quickly become a favorite of mine. One of the most powerful songs on the album is the title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIWALAgvz2U) which was actually written before quarantine but was such a light for me & so many others during the height of the lockdowns last Spring. It truly is the perfect quarantine song. I also feel compelled to mention that I love the fact that Yungblud’s Yorkshire accent is often audible in his music, whereas so many other British musicians aren’t even noticeably British when they sing.
  • Who I Am by Cory Marks: I first came across Cory Marks because he featured Ivan Moody from FFDP on the standout track Outlaws & Outsiders (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsHtLXIAEh0) from this album. The curious mix of country & rock immediately intrigued me, so naturally I dug further. Then I found the gorgeous duet Out in the Rain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awyPddDLzFc) featuring Lzzy Hale, & of course after that I had to have the whole album. Other standout tracks include Another Night in Jail (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ-o_oS3ysg) which was definitely written about a literal night in jail but can also be taken to mean the jail of one’s own mind, which I find very clever, & She’s Hollywood (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gjB_EsU2lg). Take note, this is not your grand-dad’s country! This is country by a Canadian man covered in tattoos who basically looks like a somewhat countrified version of Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy. Ladies (or gents), do a quick Google search & you can thank me afterward. The point is, there are a few swear words & a lot more rock & roll sounding guitars than what most folks are used to in country music. But that’s at least part of what makes it so much fun!
  • CMFT by Corey Taylor: Ah, the long awaited solo album by Corey Taylor of Stone Sour & Slipknot fame! I for one was very disappointed to hear that Stone Sour are now on hiatus, especially since the concert of theirs to which I had tickets a few years ago was canceled due to a hurricane, so I’ve never gotten to see them live. An assuaging factor, however, is that Corey’s solo album is quite similar in style to Stone Sour, so I’m hopeful that when he eventually is able to tour for this album maybe he’ll throw in a few Stone Sour songs too. Anyway, my favorite from this album is the caustic & blistering Culture Head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5a6NQcDaE8). Other highlights include Everybody Dies on My Birthday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbIKWawcQ4I), Black Eyes Blue (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og1RMTP2fYk), & the somewhat country-inspired Highway 666 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btM3xwtF9o8). For a lighthearted turn, check out the ridiculous CMFT Must Be Stopped which features rapper Tech N9ne (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEPI69cx22E).
The cover art is one of Manson’s own water color paintings.
  • We Are Chaos by Marilyn Manson: After the accusations that have come out against Manson the past few days, I suppose it would be the “right” thing to do to delete this album from my list. But good music is good music & I stand by that, even if it was created by a very flawed man. Besides I still believe in innocent until proven guilty, though clearly much of our society does not. Anyway, Manson’s new work with Shooter Jennings is definitely a mature new version of this always talented & ever evolving musician. The title track on this album immediately reeled me in with its gritty darkness that is somehow still uplifting (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQJFP1INGxs). Other stand out tracks include Red, White, & Blue (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKn_PxGKq7M), Perfume (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKn_PxGKq7M), & Solve Caligula (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTEW762-Ci0). The last lines of Solve Caligula are “I’m not special, I’m just broken, & I don’t wanna be fixed.” As much as I love Manson’s music I sincerely hope that isn’t a reference to being an abuser… I must say I find it suspicious that he & Johnny Depp are such good friends (they even have matching tattoos) & of course Johnny was recently painted as an abuser by his ex wife only for the truth to come out to be quite the opposite. Obviously I’m biased because I love Manson’s music, but it just makes me wonder. I know society today says always believe the victim & as much as my heart bleeds for abuse victims, I still think evidence is important & everyone should get a chance to tell their side of the story before “canceling” someone. Anyway, no matter what comes out, I still stand by this as an excellent album. After all, society still worships plenty of music by other less than perfect individuals…
  • Hunter Gatherer by Avatar: I first discovered Avatar when I saw them open for Trivium a few years ago. It was love at first listen, so naturally I was very excited for this album. While I enjoyed their previous two albums, I was glad to find that this one is a return to a darker, heavier sound, more akin to Hail the Apocalypse. Be sure to check out the creepy but fascinating video for the stellar track Colossus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLMCsFjawNU). First single Silence in the Age of the Apes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBlb8TTO0c8) is also fantastic, as is God of Sick Dreams (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tHlijWX21s). Lastly, don’t miss A Secret Door (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKqVB_e8u5w) which features an interesting cameo from the aforementioned Corey Taylor- trust me, it’s not what you’d expect. This is yet another album that was written prior to Covid & yet is so fitting for the current state of the world.

I’ll end this post as I often do by including my picks for my most anticipated albums of 2021:

  • Death By Rock & Roll by the Pretty Reckless (out 2/12)
  • The Phantom Tomorrow by Black Veil Brides
  • Heart & Soul by Eric Church (April)
  • TBA by Beartooth
  • TBA by Halestorm
  • TBA by Machine Gun Kelly (Yes, he is awfully prolific!)
  • TBA by Nothing More