Songs for the Struggling Artist


The Cafe Wall of Fame

On the wall at Café La Habana in Mexico City is a plaque that proclaims the previous presence of Octavio Paz, Ché Guevara, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and more. The rumor is that the Cuban Revolution was planned there. It is an inspiring place. The conversations of these public intellectuals soaked into the very walls.

Also, not a single woman is listed in its storied history.

It was founded in 1952. That means Frida Kahlo could have gone there in the last two years of her life. Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington could have gone there. I know they didn’t live nearby but still, they could have. Laura Esquivel was two years old when the place was founded but I imagine she’s been there at some point in her life.

I mean – did no women come and plan there? Or they just haven’t done it yet? What if we planned the feminist revolution there? The Cuban one worked out reasonably well for the guys who started it.

I have a lot of questions about this particular place because it feels like a kind of magic to write in so potent a place. But I wonder if that magic has only ever applied to men. Did women not go there? Were they somehow unwelcome to the public intellectual’s realm? Or was it unsafe for women? Or were they there and then forgotten about? Or did they just have their coffee, conversations and revolutions at home?

As a woman who has spent time in coffee shops in many countries, I can confirm that public spaces like cafes are more male space than female. In some places I’ve been, I’ve been the only woman. On holidays I am almost always the only woman in the last open café.

It does feel as though despite our many advancements, public space like coffee shops still belongs to men. Soraya Chemaly gave one of my favorite TED talks on the subject of public spaces. The gist of it is, almost all public space is male space, in that it was designed by and for men. I can’t stop thinking about this. I’m fascinated by the architectural projects that are JUST beginning to address it. There is a movement coming, I think. But without the history, it’s very difficult. Show me the café that brags of all the women who frequented the place. (Seriously please show me – I’ll go there.) Show me the city that was planned with women in mind. (Vienna comes closest in that they made adjustments based on a survey of women’s needs back in the 90s.) All space is men’s space that others find our way through. All cafes are for men, for men’s ideas, men’s revolutions. The women’s revolution is in the house, I guess? Which maybe explains why we haven’t really had a revolution.

If women have no public space in which to gather, if we aren’t seen in public together (except for once a year at our march) then we have no public power. We try and claim space when we march. We chant. Whose streets? Our streets.
Now maybe it’s time for:
Whose café? Our café.

I’m not here to call out Café La Habana. Honestly, I can’t think of a single café in the USA that honors literary greats or revolutionaries of any gender on its walls. Café la Habana is way ahead of us in honoring writers, artists and intellectuals and I respect and admire them for it. I’m a fan.

One day in the future, I hope to make it back to that cafe, where I’ll drink another delicious lechera and on their updated plaque I hope to see many women’s names. Or maybe one of you will start a café with women in mind and we’ll all turn up to hang out and plan our revolution and someone will hang a plaque up decades later. I’d like to be on that wall with the rest of you.

Photo by Donna Shaunesey

 

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

The digital distribution is expiring at the end of February for the second album, so I’m also raising funds to keep them up. If you’d like to contribute, feel free to donate anywhere but I’m tracking them on Kofi – here: ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

If you have a particular album you’d like to keep there, let me know!

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Want to help get my name on a cafe wall?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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Anger Is My Superpower
January 16, 2019, 1:54 am
Filed under: feminism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Up until my mid 20s, I would have sworn to you that I did not feel anger. And I didn’t. I didn’t experience what I felt as anger. Mostly I cried. There were tears, lots and lots of tears and since I thought tears meant sadness, what I felt was sad, not mad. Anger was so foreign to me during my prime acting years that I worried about playing parts that required me to be angry. I could play anything but anger. My, how times have changed. Now, anger is my super power.

All my life, I’d been trying to avoid it. I’d pushed aside any hint of it, suppressed it, repressed it. Then – through this very blog, I began to express some of the things I was “frustrated” by, injuries that made me “upset.” And then I reached a breaking point and I wrote a very angry blog post. That anger led to the most views I have ever gotten.

Again and again, I find that when I let loose my anger, the world responds positively. Some folks appreciate the quiet, considered, intellectual type analysis of things – but the angry posts are the hits. The angry posts have fire in them.

Anger fueled my return to the theatre after a year’s absence. Anger writes me songs. Anger gets me moving. In their recent books on anger, Rebecca Traister and Soraya Chemaly both discuss the stigma against anger – how everyone has always said that anger is bad for you – when it is, in fact, the reverse. Anger can be very very good. Soraya Chemaly talks about her search for anger management for women and how all those classes are really for men. The anger classes women need are how to access our anger, how to feel it, how to direct it, how to use it.

There is a profound release in expressing anger – whether it be on the page or in person. Simply acknowledging its existence is powerful. For a lot of women, the simple act of declaring our anger is profound. Traister pointed out that almost every woman she talked to for her book would at some point declare that her anger had passed – that she WAS angry (past tense) and then she channeled it into action and she wasn’t angry any more.

I will tell you right now that this is not true for me. I am angry. I was angry. I am still angry. My anger moves in waves and some days I am angrier than others but this is all current. And I am not about to push my anger down again. It is fuel for me. It makes things happen.

Sure – it may make me seem like a stereotype of a feminist – the kind we have all been declaring we’re not like, the kind so many women would like not to be. But I really don’t give a damn. Those bad-ass angry ladies were (and are!) fierce warriors and they were fighting for rights that I have benefitted from. I should be so lucky to be seen in their ranks.

I may still look nice and approachable and accommodating to the outside eye. I still smile broadly. I still look friendly. But I tell you what, I don’t mind walking down dark streets anymore. Part of me is waiting for some asshole to try me – just so I can unleash all my fury on him. I learned a nice trick involving a key to the eye recently and my fingers itch to use it.

I mean – not really – of course. I don’t really want to be attacked. But anger is getting me through my days (and nights!) unmolested. It is getting me out of bed in the morning instead of sinking into hopeless despair. It’s getting me fans on the internet. I wouldn’t go back to my earlier life “without” anger for anything. Life with anger is immensely more powerful and rich than life without.

Is this possible for everyone? Nope. Getting to feel and express anger is a privilege. Both Chemaly and Traister point out how this kind of expression is not possible for the vast majority of women. Women of color especially are prevented from expressing their anger from multiple sides.

So…since it is my privilege to be angry, I feel it is my obligation to use my righteous anger on others’ behalf and to express it every way I can to at least be a vicarious channel for others who are not permitted the space to be angry. For those who don’t feel like they can be angry? I can be angry for them. I am angry for all of us.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me develop my superpower?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Books About Anger and The Safety Tax
November 29, 2018, 9:44 pm
Filed under: art, feminism, theatre | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I can’t tell if reading all these books about women’s anger is helping or making things worse. On one hand, it is tremendously affirming to read about my current experience and all the reasons I have to feel the way I feel. On the other hand, I’m newly angry about things I thought I’d already worked through my fury about. Despite my lifetime awareness of the ways sexism has tied my hands, at the moment, each reminder of an old fact or a fresh perspective makes me newly furious.

For example, Soraya Chemaly’s framing of the safety tax on women is at the forefront of my new awareness. She points out that the threat of rape and sexual assault is so ever present that women have to take extra security measures, pay extra money to be safe. (i.e = take taxis, live in safer (in other words, more expensive) neighborhoods, park closer to their destinations.) Now, personally, I’ve always been a little reckless in this fashion. I have been known to take a subway by myself at 2 am. I have generally just refused to pay the usual tax I guess. And I’ve been relatively lucky.

But the other night, after a show, when no subways came for over an hour, I started to get angry about this aspect of things all over again. I got home around 1 am – over two hours after leaving the show. And because the trains were a disaster – I ended up having to take the subway that drops me off ten blocks from my apartment rather than the one that drops me two blocks away. I realized that the MTA basically just made my journey, not just delayed, but exponentially more dangerous. Arriving home at 11pm is a very different situation than arriving home at 1 am. Arriving ten blocks away instead of two means my trip home is many times more dangerous.

Now – the MTA is a disaster for everyone right now. Our governor has tanked the whole system and everyone is having a miserable time. However – a series of decisions around it have also made things incredibly more risky for women. For example – trains used to shift to their late night schedules around 12. If you made it on a train before 12, you should be okay. Then the late night schedule shifted to eleven. Not great but still do-able – still time enough to see a show and grab a quick drink after. But now the “late night schedule” begins at 9:45 pm. For women who are better at safeguarding themselves than me, this means that seeing a show means taking a taxi home. Every show women see just became much much more expensive.

While still at the beginning of my two hour journey home, I saw a woman hit the door of a trash train that was slowly passing. She was so furious. All she could say was, “I’m so angry.” I thought maybe the driver had said something to her but when I asked, she explained that due to the lateness of the trains and the misinformation on the train countdown clocks, she was going to miss the last train back to her neighborhood in Brooklyn. It was not yet 11. And I understood completely why she was at her rope’s end.

When I started this blog, it all ended there. But then I went to rehearsal in a space that I have rehearsed in dozens of times before. I arrived in the neighborhood not long after six in the evening but it was already dark. The neighborhood is not well lit and there was no one around. It’s not as if I didn’t know the place was the way it was. I have been there before. But this time, I realized that I was asking almost a dozen women to come there. This time, I realized that the building is dark. This time, I realized that it was a little foreboding. This time, I realized that the handy magnetic door entrance that only the renter has the keycard for is not safe for anyone who might be stuck outside with no way to buzz in. On the way out, several of our actors waited in the lobby for car services. It was 10pm. It was dark. The walk to the subway may have been short but it was deserted. A car service was a good idea. And car services aren’t cheap. And you know what? That’s a freakin’ safety tax that women are paying all the time. Already under paid or unpaid, women in the arts are either taking giant risks to tough it out in out-of-the-way arts venues or are spending money on cars. I never noticed it before, I think, because I was in a headspace of “being a cool art chick who’s super down to be anywhere, even dark deserted urban areas, man.” Anyway, this is one cool art chick who is now trying to raise some extra cash to compensate those ladies for their safety tax. (Fundraiser still open, contribute if you like!)

So, after all that, I have to say that reading these books about anger and rage is, in fact, helping. I may be angrier in the short term but in the long term, it’s helping me make space to talk about something we never talk about in the arts. I have been working in theatre for over twenty years, I have literally never heard anyone discuss women’s safety in this way.  It’s about time. Now I can do something about it in my own little pocket of this universe. I recommend reading and I recommend doing.

I got to see both these badass ladies speak in the same week.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me pay my safety tax?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Why, Yes, I am Unhinged. Thank you for Noticing!

Over the last couple of decades, in my sessions with my Rubenfeld Synergist, I have found myself returning to a theme of “keeping it together.” Why do I think I have to clutch my thigh, immobilize my shoulder, turtle my neck? Because I must “keep it together.” Because I don’t want to “lose it.” Everything might “fall apart.”
I experienced my body as all buckled in, strapped together, contained by the proper restraint.
Over and over, I have learned to allow myself to let go and over and over I have returned to discover that I have contained myself again.

My synergist will often ask something like, “What would happen if you fell apart? What does losing it look like?” And I had no idea.
I have some idea now. And, truthfully, it looks great. It looks like freedom.

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On a long walk after listening to Soraya Chemaly talk about her book, Rage Becomes Her, my friend and I talked about the power of imagination, of art, of dragons and how witchcraft made a man leave us alone just from a small hand movement and a funny whooshing noise. My friend said, with obvious appreciation, “You’re unhinged. In the best possible sense of that word.”
And I am. I am. I absolutely am. Completely unhinged.

And it feels like freedom. Unhinged is one of the many words we use to call people crazy but it is most often applied to women. It has a soupcon of benevolent sexism in it – as if the person using it is minutes away from calling the funny farm. It also tends to be deployed to dismiss a woman expressing an opinion. The Republican Senators call Kamala Harris unhinged when she calls them on their bullshit. Elizabeth Warren gets called unhinged for telling truths on the regular. Maxine Waters’ incredibly calm “reclaiming my time” moment also earned her an unhinged label, despite the logical, measured way that moment evolved. There’s something about “unhinged” that suggests that if the person would just fall in line, just climb back into the slots of a door hinge, all would be well. “Just calm down, little lady, you catch more flies with honey. Why don’t you smile more? We’ll just line up these hinges for you and you’ll be back in your place in no time.”

I keep thinking of something that Rebecca Traister pointed out in Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger – and that is the language overlap of madness. That is – to be mad can mean being angry or crazy. And, really, it’s both. Because if a woman is angry, she is seen as crazy. Madness (that is, anger) in women is seen as madness (that is, craziness.) Men’s anger is seen as cathartic – the cleansing wind that gives us noble revolutions. Women’s anger is seen as madness no matter how righteous the cause.

After all these years of being hinged, strapped in, appropriate, self-contained, I have released myself. I am unhinged. The straps with which I kept myself within the proper bounds have fallen away and I have let go of a wide range of behaviors and norms that I just don’t care about living up to anymore. I realize that all this makes me look unhinged and I find that rather than being worried about it, I am delighted by that perception. I suspect that the line between crazy and free is much more narrow than we like to think. Maybe crazy just means refusing to accept society’s unjust rules. I know that if I were living in the Victorian age, I’d have long ago been locked up for hysteria. (Whether it would be my novel reading, or my anger that would get me put away, I can’t be sure.)
If I were feeling the way I’m feeling now in the middle ages, I would have long ago been burnt at the stake.

Non-compliance is dangerous. To those who are attempting to re-invigorate the patriarchy, women who feel like me are nothing but trouble. I am un-hinged, non-compliant, unbought, unbossed, undone and free.

After all those years of keeping it together, I have been set free. To some, that freedom looks like madness. A free woman may well be unhinged but I think that’s a compliment. I take it as one. But I also no longer really care what anyone else thinks. I’m free. That’s it. You can’t strap me in, hinge me down and you can’t convince me to do it to myself anymore either.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me navigate the world with more freedom?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



What Keeps Me Blogging

When I read an article or hear a talk that speaks directly to or for me, it feels like a relief. Soraya Shemaly’s “10 Words Every Girl Should Learn” made me feel like, “Yes. Thank you. That. I didn’t realize. But THAT. That IS my experience. And yes, all of that context.” Caroline Heldman’s TEDtalk on the Sexy Lie is another example. Before I heard her talk, I was baffled by how to explain the difference between sexual objectification and sexual empowerment. The culture is deeply confused on this point, too. I watched her talk and it all made sense. I suddenly understood what it meant to be a sexual SUBJECT rather than a sexual OBJECT and it blew the doors open. There is a great satisfaction in ideas finally clicking into place.

Occasionally, when I post a blog, I get responses like, “This is exactly what I was trying to say” or “I couldn’t put my finger on what troubled me about this and this is it.” There is nothing better. It feels amazing to find a way to say what others couldn’t find a way to explain.

I know there are those who write to generate controversy, to stir the pot – but any pot stirring I do is beside the point. Sometimes I end up saying things I am not supposed to say or stumble into controversy and that disrupts things. Sometimes the truth is disruptive.

Disruption isn’t really my goal, however. I feel called to write about things out of a desire to connect – out of hope that I’m not the only one to feel the way I’m feeling. They’re little messages in bottles and when one ends up in someone’s hands and it happens to speak directly to their experience, it feels like success.

It can be a weird, lonely life, this artist’s journey – and I know it helps me when I know I have company, even if it’s only the virtual kind. So I just wanted to say thank you to all the friends, family and patrons who let me know I’m not alone. You’re what keeps me blogging.

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You can help me keep me blogging by becoming my patron on Patreon.

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Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page



My Customer Service Whisperer

My boyfriend is a genius at calling customer service, or anything like it. He manages to stay calm and collected and get what he came for. When I get on the phone with customer service, I become almost instantly furious. And I am not, in any other area of my life, a particularly furious person.

Watching him negotiate a call system, immediately after I’ve hung up blinding mad, is like watching a miracle in progress. I’m trying to understand what’s going on here. Why is he so successful at it and why am I so terrible? And is it gendered?

When my first pass at my most recent customer service exchange failed, he jokingly offered to call them back with his “authoritative male voice” (said with some irony) – and we laughed about it, especially when I said, “Yes, please!” in my damsel in distress voice. But I think there’s really something TO this idea of authority.

The fury that builds in me when I’m on the phone with customer service (or tech support or whatever) is related to a sense of extreme powerlessness – a feeling that nothing I do will yield the results I’m looking for.

The National Theatre produced a fantastic podcast about the Female Voice and in it, one of the participants mentioned that she noticed her voice getting higher whenever she talked to customer service. I do something similar. And it is what I try to do in life as well, I think. I think I’m going to win by charming the person, by seducing them with my niceness and if all that fails, I’ll attempt to have them empathize with my plight. I try to get what I want by smiling. These can be feminine strategies for survival in life in general. But they just don’t work for me in this context of calling customer service. They almost never yield results.

One of the things that my boyfriend does with customer service is to immediately establish his own authority, to see the phone call as HIS and not the operator’s. This seems to me to be a key aspect of the success of his call. He controls the conversation rather than letting the conversation happen to him. He never feels helpless while talking through endless circles of bureaucracy because it’s always his space and he’s just patiently waiting for other people to behave appropriately.

This sense of ownership of space feels like the key missing ingredient for me. I’ve been socialized to defer. The world belongs to men and I’m usually just asking for what I want from that world, even if I’m asking a woman. When I come in to a space, I wait to see where and how the space will make room for me, I do not come into a space and posses it.

I recently watched a Ted talk by Soraya Chemaly called the Credibility Gap.  She talked about the various ways the world is built for men and not for women. Her thesis was that (aside from the home) all spaces were men’s spaces – even women’s restrooms. She points out that our understanding of this starts very early – that socialization teaches all of us that women are not to be trusted or listened to. We (teachers, parents, everyone) interrupt girls and let boys talk. We affirm boys who take up space and shame girls who do. Chemaly wrote an article called 10 words every girl should learn  which gives us concrete ways to be heard, just by saying “Stop Interrupting Me,” “I just said that” and “No explanation needed.”

I have found ways to be heard in a lot of areas of my life – but sometimes when I get on the phone with customer service, all the ways I have been dismissed over the years rise up and the circular logic and bureaucratic red tape add up to make me vibrate with fury. Explaining what I need for the 10th time to the 10th person is all too familiar in this heightened concentrated form. It is concentrated helplessness.

I think I could use some of the tips my customer service whisperer uses the next time I have to make a call like that but I know, because of the way the world has always been, that I will never be able to put it to use in quite the way someone with a male voice could. It just goes that way. For now.

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You can help reinforce my authority by supporting me on Patreon.

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Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page



A Sort of, Kind of, Lesson

After I finished my novel, I put it aside for a year, as Zadie Smith advised. When I got the opportunity to pick it back up, I was stunned by the sheer volume of qualifiers I found in my work. It was full of sort ofs and kinds ofs, with a smattering of prettys, as in, it was pretty hot or sort of yellow and kind of thrilling.

I started to get frustrated with myself as I crossed out qualifier after qualifier. It made my protagonist sound extremely unsure of herself and it was hard to read. I think as I was writing it, I felt all these sort of kind ofs added to her humanity. I thought it made me feel closer to her as a woman: but it doesn’t read like that now.

Luckily, I have the opportunity to edit this stuff out, so the problem is easily remedied. But I do wonder if this writing tick might also be a vocal tic. Do I speak like this too?

I attended a workshop at which the instructor seemed to have almost no experience in either teaching or in talking about her work. I don’t know if that was really the case or it if was simply that she had the same vocal tic that I had in writing. Every other phrase was “sort of” or “kind of.” I found myself frustrated as I listen to her – but also sympathetic. There is cultural conditioning behind all the qualifiers in her speech. As a female choreographer, this instructor is in the minority in the dance world. It can be threatening when a woman is in charge and many times women will take on a persona of extremely soft leadership in order to bend around that threat. I have done it myself. And it drives me bonkers. Probably because it is something that I do.

Usually when we talk about these speech patterns, the solution comes down to something like that Bob Newhart Mad TV sketch, where, for every psychological problem he’s presented with, he just screams, “Stop it.” There a world of “Women need to be more confident” articles out there – the Confidence Gap, the Lean In, etc. But all of that fails to address why we feel it necessary to qualify our words in the first place. I think Soraya Chemaly comes close to it in her article  “10 Words That Every Girl Should Learn” that is, that we likely developed this habit of qualifying in order to find a way to be heard.

For example, if I say, “That was sexist,” I can be instantly pegged as a man-eating feminist, ready to burn my bra in the public square. If I say, “That was SORT OF sexist,” I might get away with it, especially if I say it with a cute quiet voice and a beguiling head tilt.

We are sort of kind of getting people to listen to us while we sort of kind of backpedal simultaneously. I’m trying to quit doing it but it does feel like surrendering a part of my femininity. Short declarative sentences are macho. Long qualified sentences are girly. I sometimes still want people to kind of sort of like me and to sort of kind of think of me as a nice woman.

But I’m at a time in my life in which I care less and less about fitting into a gender role and am now qualified to unqualify my shit. I’m getting to a place where I don’t care if people like it.  Sort of, Kind of, Pretty Much.

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You can Sort of, Kind of, Help by joining me on Patreon:

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