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Hair, part 1

Last week I met up with a friend who recently cut off all her hair. Although it was done in a spirit of activism and charity, she really likes her new short do, and will probably keep it for a while. Prior to cutting it off, she regularly colored it with henna, having given up chemical treatment a while back, and washed with vinegar and baking soda rather than store-bought shampoos and conditioners.

I’ve been reading about the industry behind birthing babies in the United States, and one of the concerns is unidentified and/or toxic chemicals in the products we take to be safe for baby and for ourselves. Since I plan to have children, this combination of reading and conversation made me start to reconsider my own approach.

My first grey hair appeared when I was 19. This was not entirely unanticipated, as my father had been grey as long as I could recall, and had told me that his first grey hair appeared when he was only 16. At first, I didn’t mind it, as it blended in with lighter hairs and made me feel vaguely distinguished. But as I advanced into my twenties, completing my masters degree and thinking about whether I wanted to start a family, the years went by and my grey overtook the occasional summer blond streak or other stray light hairs. I no longer felt summery or distinguished, merely as though I was aging beyond my years.

During this phase, I was staunchly anti-color, for myself. I was even proud that I had never colored my hair. But by age 32, I had to do something to counter the perception that I had, that other people would look at me and think me old. Not older, not more reliable or professional or sage. Just old. Although I was dating, I hadn’t found anyone serious, and didn’t have a steady boyfriend. It was time.

The first color I requested was blond highlights. This would effectively cover up the grey, and it sure did, more than anticipated, because I went to a beauty school, where they charged less for student work, students who did what they felt I was asking, instead of what was actually requested, and ended up with more than highlights. Now I pay over twice as much to have a trained professional attend to my hair; following the over-highlighting experience, I went to reddish, and darkish, and am now, four years later, back to attempting to maintain my relatively natural brown.

My talk yesterday with my friend, though, made me realize how much external pressure I feel to color. I want to remain sexually relevant, which I associate with attributes such as perky boobs, shiny and vibrant hair, and plump, wrinkle-free cheeks. In other words, the same image that is constantly presented through any and every media outlet.

The other pressure point is looking “professional.” This look can vary depending on context, but in my context, which typically requires a fairly conservative mode of dress, hair is also a concern. My daily routine includes shampoo, conditioner, some sort of styling element, and hair drying, when I’m working regularly in an office setting. Typically this work is overseas, so you may think that I would get a pass, but my environment has made me feel that I need to be that polished shiny person arriving fresh at the office each day. In addition to hair expenses, I have myriad wardrobe maintenance expenses too, involving suits and separates, garments I would never wear by choice on a daily basis.

While I have felt outnumbered in my professional context by men and women older, more degreed, and more experienced than myself, this has not made me inclined to grow out my grey. It has pushed me to be put-together, projecting a persona that inspires confidence.

Now that I’m finally considering conceiving, my concerns regarding exposure to unnamed chemicals is coming to the fore. I am forced to weigh the need to feel sexually relevant and professionally polished with the need to protect my health and the health of my future baby. As much as this seems like a no-brainer, I have not yet changed my routine, and have only begun to talk about how I might go about it. These other pressures are strong, more than I would like to admit, as a public health minded person in my personal and professional spheres, and more than I would like to admit as someone that wishes I could shun societal expectations of women.

Stop sitting, change your life.

This article falls in line with my reading and thinking as of late.  I find it interesting that sitting for 8-9 hours a day in an office is considered not only boring and not great for fitness, but lethal.  The author points out that unfortunately not everyone can be farmers, who showed the most activity and least sitting per day in one study. 
But… isn’t this some food for thought?  How can I (or we) reorganize daily life so that it incorporates more non-exercise movement, since going to the gym doesn’t appear to counteract all of the desk time?  For me, this will mean a 180-degree shift in my current expectations of professional life.
April 14, 2011

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?



I haven’t been to this blog in a while, because blogging sometimes seems a lot like work.  And, I like my entries on this blog to address some political issue.  But most of my blogging this past while has been personal, and not visible to the public.

Now, though, I find that in some ways, my personal is becoming political.  I’m bowing out of one life and starting another.  As I think about my future life, I realize that it’s not a new job or occupation I’m seeking, or a new/old place, but a community and a way of life that fit a philosophy.

Maybe this sounds simplistic, and yes, lots of people do it, but the kind of life I want is linked to other people, and to place.  Everything that is important to me now is related to having a community, friends, a family.  I wonder, after having spent so many years single and hopping around whenever I wanted, if the idea of being connected even seems stifling to some.  To me, it sounds heavenly.  I don’t want to be far away, I don’t want to be isolated, I don’t want to be “must be a self starter and able to work independently.”  I want friends, family, community, a team.

Not only that, but I want to step away from consumerism and capitalism.  I’ve posted here and there about this, perhaps not on this blog.  But it’s time to actually be a part of it now.  I want to live my life, rather than buying ways to be distracted from it.  I want to grow some of my own food and support a local food movement.  I want to see how long I can go without stepping into a mall (easy) and without buying something off Amazon.com (harder).

Before I took my current post, I was making some headway, but being posted overseas with access to a DPO means that although we feel that we don’t have shopping opportunities locally, our federal government ensures that we don’t stray too far from spending our dollars in the US and concentrating on the myriad things we can ship in to a country to feel like we don’t actually live there.

Now, I’d like to live where I’m living – or where I’m moving.

And I want to create.

I’ve been reading and thinking and mulling over these ideas and decisions for a long time, and I’ve talked with some friends in depth.  I wonder why I’m blogging about it now?  Maybe it’s a way to create accountability, record my intentions, by making a declaration.  So here it is, me declaring myself, declaring my emergence into something different, and better.

The time for languishing in front of a computer monitor is over.  I’m going to create.  I’m going to be a part of something.  I’m going to become who I am.

Belated celebratory post – Happy Inauguration Day!

I’ve updated another blog, Facebook, Twitter, texted friends, etc. but had not made it over to WordPress yet.  So, congratulations America on our new president!

On Monday night, I attended a friend’s President to Resident party, in which we played, “Which unbelievable statement did Bush actually make?” and a game of Memory involving matching up cards with the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, Ann Coulter, Border Fences, Axis of Evil, and Guantanamo Bay on them.  We also played “Throw the Shoe at Bush” with some toddler sneakers and a paper image.

On Tuesday, I headed out just after 11am for celebratory Bloody Marys and watching the proceedings in a community atmosphere on the big screen.  My friend and I celebrated for about 12 hours straight.  I’m glad that I was out in a communal atmosphere, a small local bar that was packed for the event.

Last night I was catching up on my Daily Show and laughed at Jon Stewart’s White House Reporter saying, Why does cheese all over Italian food taste so good but if you were toput it on Chinese food, it would be disgusting?  This was his way of saying that although President Obama in his speech used quite a bit of the rhetoric that Bush had used in 2004, it tasted darn good!  The Daily Show roasted President Obama for being very negative (rather than inspiring) about the state of our country, but frankly – let’s call a spade a spade.  We’re in a mess, and the first step toward recovery is admitting that we have a problem.

I’m excited, on several levels. It is (unfortunately) a major achievement that Barack Obama has made it to the White House.  I say unfortunately because Rick Warren making such a big deal out of it really rubbed me the wrong way, and I realized that it’s pathetic that such an achievement is still a first.  It should have been possible and achieved a long time ago in the United States of America.  Nonetheless, I had my doubts before the election about whether it would come to fruition, so I am absolutely thrilled.

Many people are holding President Obama to incredibly high standards, which Bush was obviously not held to, which I find unfair but typical.  But I think that with his pragmatism, he will not commit to giving us the moon when he knows he can’t deliver.  Making moves to close Guantanamo Bay and rescind the gag rule, which I’m counting on to happen before the end of the week, will be a significant start.

I can’t wait to hear from J at Back to Digressing about her experiences in DC.

Notes from an interview with Philippe Sands, author of Torture Team

The other night I was listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross and caught this interview with Philippe Sands, a professor of law at the University College of London. It’s worth listening to the entire piece.

He talks about his book, Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, which was released this past May. In a nutshell, his opinion as expressed to Terry Gross is that although George W. Bush and Dick Cheney may not be investigated for war crimes including torture, those in the administration that were behind the development of the policies that allowed for torture in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, etc. may indeed be targets of investigation.

There was some talk about the idea of establishing a committee under the Obama administration, which may be a way of avoiding actual international trials. Sands discussed the possibility of Bush issuing preemptive pardons for some, possibly including Donald Rumsfeld, William Haynes, and James Abbington. Sands’ opinion is that if this is done, the United States will have missed an opportunity to prove that it is serious about righting the wrongs that it has perpetrated through its disregard of the international outlaw of use of torture.  Following that missed opportunity, the door would be open for another country to pursue these investigations, and another country, he feels, would in fact be obliged to pursue these investigations.

He mentioned another potential out that South Africa used following the demise of institutionalized apartheid, which was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The idea behind this process is that perpetrators giving testimony are granted amnesty, but their hearings are also based on the understanding that while they may have thought that what they did was best and justifiable at the time, they realize now that they were wrong and they regret their actions.

In the case of Dick Cheney, a truth and reconciliation process would be moot since he insists that his actions were right.

It will be interesting to follow this process.  What moves the USG makes will be crucial in the coming weeks.  Unfortunately Sands believes that the top men in the administration, Bush and Cheney, will be exempt from eventual prosecution, but believes that those lower down will be loathe to make any travel plans soon.  He cites the case of Pinochet, who, believing he was safe from Spain, sought medical care in England in the early 1990s and was subsequently extradited through an agreement between the two countries.

What remains clear is that some action on the part of either the USG or another country is crucial and inevitable, to demonstrate that the UN Convention Against Torture is not  to be taken lightly by its signatories, and that even in the context of international law, enforcement can be possible.

The US has set an example in spearheading the establishment of guidelines to outlaw torture; if those flaunting the rules are not investigated and possibly prosecuted, the message to the rest of the world will be one of permission.

ETA: There is a blog post on the ACLU Blog of Rights citing Sands in an excerpt from another book called Administration of Terror, authored by two ACLU attorneys.  I’m adding this to my reading list along with Torture Team.

We will not be silent

I initially read about the incident mentioned below on the blog of a friend who knows Raed Jarrar.  Here is Raed’s initial blog post about the event in August 2006.

NEW YORK (AFP) – An airline passenger forced to cover his T-shirt because it displayed Arabic script has been awarded 240,000 dollars in compensation, campaigners said Monday.

Raed Jarrar received the pay out on Friday from two US Transportation Security Authority officials and from JetBlue Airways following the August 2006 incident at New York’s JFK Airport, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced.

“The outcome of this case is a victory for free speech and a blow to the discriminatory practice of racial profiling,” said Aden Fine, a lawyer with ACLU.

Jarrar, a US resident, was apprehended as he waited to board a JetBlue flight from New York to Oakland, California, and told to remove his shirt, which had written on it in Arabic: “We will not be silent.”

He was told other passengers felt uncomfortable because an Arabic-inscribed T-shirt in an airport was like “wearing a T-shirt at a bank stating, I am a robber,'” the ACLU said.

Jarrar eventually agreed to cover his shirt with another provided by JetBlue. He was allowed aboard but his seat was changed from the front to the back of the aircraft.

Last week, nine Muslims, including three children, were ordered off a domestic US flight after passengers heard what they believed were suspicious remarks about security.

Although the passengers, eight of them US citizens, were cleared by the FBI, they were reportedly still barred from the AirTran flight.

Security has been at a high level in US airports since the September 11, 2001 hijacked airliner attacks against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

However, rights groups and representatives of the Muslim community say the security measures have led to frequent discrimination and harassment.

Dear The Right, this is what happens when you make abortion inaccessible.

(And aside from fears of damaging side effects taking place without the oversight of medical personnel, I don’t think it’s a half-bad option.)

For Privacy’s Sake, Taking Risks to End Pregnancy
By JENNIFER 8. LEE and CARA BUCKLEY, The New York Times, January 5, 2009

Amalia Dominguez was 18 and desperate and knew exactly what to ask for at the small, family-run pharmacy in the heart of Washington Heights, the thriving Dominican enclave in northern Manhattan. “I need to bring down my period,” she recalled saying in Spanish, using a euphemism that the pharmacist understood instantly.

It was 12 years ago, but the memory remains vivid: She was handed a packet of pills. They were small and white, $30 for 12. Ms. Dominguez, two or three months pregnant, went to a friend’s apartment and swallowed the pills one by one, washing them down with malta, a molasseslike extract sold in nearly every bodega in the neighborhood.

The cramps began several hours later, doubling Ms. Dominguez over, building and building until, eight and a half hours later, she locked herself in the bathroom and passed a lifeless fetus, which she flushed.

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