Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blogoversary: Two Years of Finding My Virginity

Two years and one day ago, I styled my hair a new way.

Today I twist my hair up like that several times a week.

Two years and one day ago, I wore a new black dress with purple flowers.

Today that dress is too big for me, but it hangs in my closet for curvier days ahead.

Two years ago, I had my shared apartment to myself because Lauren was out of town.

Today Lauren and I have our own apartments down the street from each other.

Two years ago, I drank 3-4 cans of Diet Coke with Lime a day.

Today I drink 3-4 cans of Diet Coke, sometimes with Lime, a week.

One year and one day ago, I said good-bye to my family in the South and moved to the Midwest.

Today I’ve lived in the same city, without interruption, for the longest amount of time since graduating high school.*

One year ago, I wrote the scariest post I’d ever written.

Today I take the first step to losing my anonymity.**
Taking selfies without showing my face is HARD, y'all!

My reasons for anonymity are legit. I think wanting to discuss sensitive topics like sex and sexuality with complete honesty is difficult without anonymity. I mostly read lifestyle blogs, and y’all don’t talk about sex. Like, ever. Which is totally fine and your prerogative and I respect that decision completely, because sex is personal. But I can’t talk about virginity without talking about sex, and I don’t know if I could have maintained this blog for the last two years if my parents, former professors, colleagues, etc. had been reading it.

But anonymity is tiring. I think twice before I tweet about what I’m doing. Does this refer to my location? I crop all my photos. How much of my face can I reveal before it identifies me too much? I have to keep track of pseudonyms for every single person in my life. I was hanging out with Hardy and Lauren, and damn it, where’s my list of best friends? What do I call… James, that’s it. I call him James.

And I write and write and write. I tweet and tweet and tweet. I comment everywhere. I buy ads on other blogs. I’m myself. I’m authentic. I paid for a blog design. I do all that stuff I’m supposed to do to build blog traffic, and it’s not enough. 

Look at my new button on Casey's blog!

Because the people who know me IRL aren’t allowed to post my blog to facebook, or link it to any mutual friends. Because I can’t ask my friends and family to like my facebook page.

Because the network I have who comment all over my personal facebook wall, who send me links to articles on sexual assault and modesty culture and France and women’s history, who email me to thank me for the work I do, who ask me if I blog, who share all over the place the tiny handful of public writing I do…

They have no idea Belle Vierge exists. Or if they’ve stumbled across her (this happened once), they don’t realize Belle is me.

But as much as I want to shed my cloak of anonymity and shout to the rooftops that I’m happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time, I’m not there yet.

I don’t really think my parents should find out I’m bisexual via a blog post, nor do I think it’s right or fair to attach H’s name to his assholery. And those of you who do know me IRL, and those of you who I met here who have discovered my real name, I think y’all will agree that my first name is unique. Unique enough that fear of discovery by future potential employers is a legitimate concern.

Seriously, if you google my first and last name, you find results for three people. That’s it. I share my name with a lawyer and with a photographer. Also my firstnamelastname.com domain name has already been taken, alas.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about this post. Planning what I would write. And I should note, for the record, that I’m writing this the actual evening of July 30, 2013, still torn on what to reveal of myself while still allowing the freedom to be myself.

I realized I’m not so worried about people finding my blog and realizing it’s me as I am people knowing who I am, looking me up online, and discovering my blog. The first involves searching for certain qualities and associating them with me. The latter is only knowing me or my name and suddenly discovering some rather strong opinions and personal information.

So here are some things 
I never directly mentioned before.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Club Friday: Princess Series (Books Three and Four)

I just got back Monday evening from a wonderful long weekend in Denver, during which my second cousin got married and his parents threw a big party the next day to celebrate multiple events, including their 35th wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful holiday, during which I was able to spend quality time with both Beau and with many family members who I rarely see. Beau and I kept our bodies on Eastern time for most of the trip, so we were up early every morning, without much to do. I used the time to catch up on my reading, and I finally finished the last of the Princess Series!

If you remember back a few weeks ago, I reviewed the first two books of the Princess Series, The Stepsister Scheme and The Mermaid's Madness, by Jim C. Hines. Today I will conclude the all-too-short series by reviewing the last two books, Red Hood's Revenge and The Snow Queen's Shadow

Red Hood's Revenge (Princess, #3)   The Snow Queen's Shadow (Princess, #4)

From the book/website

Roudette’s story was a simple one. A red cape. A wolf. A hunter. 

Her mother told her she would be safe, so long as she kept to the path. But sometimes the path leads to dark places. 

Roudette is the hunter now, an assassin known throughout the world as the Lady of the Red Hood. Her mission will take her to Arathea and an ancient fairy threat. At the heart of the conflict between humans and fairies stands the woman Roudette has been hired to kill, the only human ever to have fought the Lady of the Red Hood and survived: 

The princess known as Sleeping Beauty.

Although Hines reveals details about all three princesses throughout the series, the first two books are more about Danielle than Talia or Snow. In this book, the princesses end up in Talia's homeland, a desert kingdom called Arathea. Hines also introduces a new--and slightly terrifying--character, Roudette, the Lady of the Red Hood. Oh, and religion is a side plot, and human magic is apparently sinful while fairy magic is good... 

Yeah, there's definitely a lot going on in this book, but it's still as kickass as its predecessors. 

From the book/website: 

A broken mirror. A stolen child. A final mission to try to stop an enemy they never dreamed they would face.

When a spell gone wrong shatters Snow White’s enchanted mirror, a demon escapes into the world. The demon’s magic distorts the vision of all it touches, showing them only ugliness and hate. It is a power which turns even friends and lovers into mortal foes, one which will threaten humans and fairies alike.

And the first to fall under the demon’s power is the princess Snow White.

This is the bittersweet conclusion to the series. 

It did not end the way I expected. 

I might have definitely cried. And then I might have felt like hitting something, but I didn't go that far. 

Just like the first two books focused on Danielle, and the third on Talia, this one focuses on Snow. Hines tells us more about her childhood and her wintery homeland, Allesandria. 

We also learn more about Jakob, Danielle's son, which was one of the most interesting revelations in the book. (And also why I hope Hines returns to this series one day).

Without trying to give away much of the plot, what really struck me with this book were the ethical questions I asked myself. The demon affects anyone it touches, and those people all turn on the princesses, fighting them, trying to kill them. So much bloodshed occurs in this book, but unlike in the previous novels, when the enemies "had it coming," I felt very unsettled by the "enemies" injured and killed. And it made me think about soldiers who fight for their country, even if they don't always agree with what they're doing. I've become more and more of a pacifist in my old age, and this book partly reaffirmed that. 

Anyway, the four books are all brilliant, and as happy as I am to have read them, I'm sad the series is over. The ending is certainly fitting, and I understood why Hines ended it on this note, but I was still very sad about it. I just really like happy endings, with everyone alive, and paired off in love. But that only happens in Disney movies, not in brilliant adaptations of fairy tales.

Once again, I'm linking up for Book Club Friday!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Month of Birthdays

My birthday month might be over, but I always find new occasions to celebrate! This weekend, Beau and I are in Denver for my second cousin's wedding (yesterday!) and for a big family party (today!) thrown by my first cousin once removed and his wife, aka the groom's parents. These are my French/American cousins, so happy Bastille Day!

I love my birthday. I love a celebration that's all about me, true, but it's more than that. I love taking the time to reflect on my growth in the previous year, to reminisce about fun and/or new experiences, to focus on my goals for the next year.

My birthday was June 8th, but I celebrated all month long, as I do... Highlights included:

Buying a rattan table and chairs for my apartment
Joyeux anniversaire à moi
My boyfriend and my besties coming over for a wine & cheese night

Going to a big city with my boyfriend for the weekend, my first time ever visiting this city

In this city, visiting several museums and the zoo
Yes, I love taking pictures with all the bronze statues. Especially silly pictures.
Just outside this city, seeing a community production of Shrek the Musical

In this city, going to a major league baseball game

Catching up (a little) on my reading

Going to my local Pride Festival
The Pride Festival included booths for several sex shops. I couldn't resist taking this photo.
Seeing a Broadway show on tour

Spending several mornings and afternoons in a bikini, at a pool, causing men to lust after me

The only bad part of my birthday was H proposing to his girlfriend the day before our birthday, aka stealing the spotlight away from me. That, and finding out that his girlfriend now fiancée had defriended me on facebook. That, and seeing that none of our mutual church camp friends bothered wishing me a happy birthday.

Sometimes, taking the high road and not telling all your mutual friends about exactly why you're not speaking to someone really SUCKS, because he's obviously told them all that I'm overreacting and that he's the victim in this situation. 

Other than that, my birthday month was PERFECT. My boyfriend spoiled me rotten with all sorts of lovely prezzies, like two humongous bags of gummy candy, and a bottle of Bordeaux, and a laptop cooling board, and a new set of wine glasses, and a new bikini, and something I'm not blogging about that's just between us. (Fine, I told Lauren and Hardy too. And my parents. But I'm not blogging about it).

My birthday month was perfect this year, but the boyfriend has already figured out a way to give me an even BETTER birthday month next year... Too bad y'all will have to wait until then to find out his plans for us.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Club Friday: The Forged Series

So if y'all remember back a few weeks, I blogged about Summer Book Crush. A sweet opportunity to buy some e-books at bargain prices. Remember?
My point-of-contact for the event was Angela Orlowski Peart, one of the authors. After a few emails back and forth, I realized that she had written some pretty sweet fantasy fiction, and she realized that I love to blog about books, especially of the e-read variety. Clearly a magical partnership was necessary. Angela emailed me her books, formatted for my kindle, in exchange for my honest review. Luckily for her, I LOVED her books, so I don't have to write any diplomatic BS about her work being better-suited for people who aren't me.

The Forged Series is a blend of urban fantasy and high fantasy, Forged by Greed being the former and Forged by Magic: Origins being the latter. Forged by Greed is a full-length novel, and Forged by Magic: Origins is a collection of short stories that serve as a prequel. Read them in the published order, even though they're both available. Nerdy #ProTip: Prequels work best when read after reading the main novel (think The Chronicles of Narnia). 

From the website:

Two Seattle 16-year-olds, Jatred and Jasmira, are not your typical star-crossed lovers. They are not even your typical Shape Shifters. Sure, they try to live an ordinary life. At least, as ordinary as the Prince and the Princess of the rivaling ancient Races–the Winter wolves and the Summer leopards–can live. But eventually they learn that not much about their existence can be normal. Especially when the Races’ two commanding Goddesses are involved.

I somehow managed to read this in a single weekend, one that was largely spent working at JCP. Almost immediately, I was intrigued by this overlapping mortal/magical world, one with two races of shapeshifters, two goddesses, an amulet, and otherworldly realms. At first, I struggled to keep straight all of the characters and their respective races/friend groups, but as the book progressed, I understood the need to have so many characters. There's definitely a lot to digest in the first few chapters, but if you stop trying to analyze it (difficult, I know!), and just keep reading, everything comes together.

I know that the genre of "star-crossed lovers" has been done, many times over, but I never grow tired of it. Plus Angela definitely included a few twists to keep things interesting. The true reason Jatred and Jasmira can't be together is MIND-BLOWING, to say the least.

The more I learned about the Winter and Summer races, the more I wanted to know. Angela has borrowed from ancient mythologies worldwide to create a a new mythology of two races, led by two goddesses.

So obviously, I was excited to finish this book and then start the prequel, which fills in many of the gaps about this mythology.

From the website:
Prequel 1 to the Forged Series, Forged by Magic: Origins is a collection of short stories, featuring the characters from the Forged series. This is the first of two prequels to the series. Each story is told from a different character’s point-of-view.

Find out how the Amulet and the Dasht-e Kavir have been created, and how the powers of the Universe opened the gates to other dimensions, inadvertently releasing unworldly supernatural creatures into the Human World.

Like I said, the mythology Angela has created is fascinating. I loved reading more about the magicians, the Amulet and the Dasht-e Kavir, the goddesses, and the shapeshifters in their early days. I was a little confused by the inclusion of a story about a water nymph, but I assume this character becomes important later.

The next prequel just came out on July 10th! I haven't had a chance to read Forged by Legacy: Beginnings yet, but rest assured, I will review it as soon as I can! 

Linking up with Heather & Katie 
for Book Club Friday!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Bikini Answer: Sexual Attraction is not Lust

Beau is a very supportive boyfriend. Not only does he not mind me writing all about our love and non-sex sex life on the Internet, but he reads all of my blog posts faithfully. He then gives me feedback on my writing. Sometimes he points out the occasional typo, but mostly he just tells that me I'm a wonderful writer, and that he'll happily be a SAHD in the future when I'm a world-famous author. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about going to the pool with Beau and my besties, Hardy and Lauren. Who love the nicknames I gave them, by the way. Beau read it while we were skyping, and then this conversation happened.

Beau: Well... I definitely noticed Lauren in a bikini.
Me: But you weren't lusting after her.
Beau: Uhh...
Me: Were you thinking of her as a sexual object who only existed for your pleasure?
Beau: No.
Me: You just noticed that my best friend is hot and looks good in a bikini?
Beau: Yes.
Me: That's not lust, babe. In fact, I think my next bikini post will be on the differences between attraction and lust.
Saturday, June 22, 2013

Modesty culture does not distinguish between healthy, biological sexual attraction and unhealthy, objectifying lust. As usual, I am not the first to write about this, and I do want to acknowledge what else has already been eloquently stated on this topic. However, I also want to differentiate even further and consider appreciation, attraction, and lust as three distinct reactions to a bikini-clad body (or really, any "attractive" human being).

Appreciation: Good-looking people are not all identical. Obviously beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but even if you look at a sampling of Beautiful People, they are not all the same. Brad Pitt is conventionally attractive. So are Will Smith, Orlando Bloom, Patrick Dempsey, Ryan Gosling, etc. I look at all of these men and acknowledge they are Beautiful People. But I'm personally not attracted to all of them. They are not all My Type. I appreciate all their good looks, but I am not attracted to all their good looks. If you've ever told your best friend how hot she looks, or your younger brother how handsome he is (and you weren't lying to be nice), then you understand. You can appreciate someone's attractiveness without being attracted to that person. 

Just for the record, this is me with the majority of my female friends. (The majority of my male friends too, for that matter). Just because I'm attracted to women, and I think my female friends are attractive, does NOT mean I'm automatically attracted to all my female friends.

Sexual Attraction: When I see Will Smith or Orlando Bloom, I get these feelings. Physical feelings. And when I see Beau, especially when he's looking at me in that way, these physical feelings are like a tingling sensation all over my body, but especially in my lady bits. This is sexual attraction. It is a natural, biological response. In fact, it is a natural, God-given response. If we never felt sexual attraction, we wouldn't want to have sex. If we never had sex, we could never procreate. And God's most awesome creation would have ended at Adam and Eve.*

Lust: I am guilty of lust. Yes, women are capable of lust. When I go to tumblr and look at photo sets of Naya Rivera, which are often collections that focus just on her perfect tits or splendid ass, I am lusting after her. I am not seeing Naya Rivera as a talented, kind-hearted person worthy of dignity and respect.** I am looking at her body and thinking about how much I enjoy it. I am objectifying her. This is lust, and this is the sin God calls us to avoid.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Panty-Grabber, Rape Jokes, and Vulnerability

The night after some creep stole my underwear, I went to Lauren's apartment to have dinner with her and Hardy. Wine in hand, we sat around while dinner simmered on the stove, and I told them all about my ordeal. Their response was just what I needed. They sympathized with me completely. They asked all the right questions. They were appropriately shocked and disturbed. 

After dinner, and several glasses of wine later, Lauren coined the phrase "panty grabber." We had been joking about several topics, and making the little "shame, shame" motions with our hands, when she did the gesture again, saying, "Tsk, tsk, panty grabber!" And I about died laughing. We started repeating it over and over (I mentioned the several glasses of wine, right?), and Hardy came in, completely bewildered. I'm sure he thought we were crazy.
•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Bad comedians claim that any joke, no matter how offensive, should be okay to tell, because humor and free speech blah blah blah.

Average comedians think maybe some subjects shouldn't be used in jokes.

Good comedians know that any topic can be the basis for a joke, if done correctly. 

A good comedian can joke about rape. Unfortunately, bad comedians tend to be the ones mostly joking about rape, making assholes of themselves, and screeching FREE SPEECH as though they have a clue. 

If you ever want to joke about rape, Lindy West wrote an excellent guide to doing so. In a nutshell, joking about rape, or other offensive topics, is okay when the rapist, or rape culture, is the butt of the joke, NOT the rape victim.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Vulnerability is not my strength.

I like to be strong. Independent. Confident. Carefree. 

I don't like feeling hurt. I don't like feeling scared, or unsure, or alone, or nervous. And if I do feel these things, I'd rather not anyone know. I'd rather come off as cold or indifferent or angry than admit I'm in pain.

But I'm trying. I've learned how to be vulnerable with Beau, and I have a few other close friends to whom I've opened up. I've written some vulnerable posts here, and I have it on good authority that they're among my best

I'm an eternal optimist. I'm all about the silver lining. So when I think about the panty-grabber, I prefer focusing on my ability to take this horrific event and write two blog posts about it.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

So what do the panty-grabber, rape jokes, and vulnerability have in common?

I was strong for the first few hours after my underwear was stolen. But then I broke down into tears over the ordeal. I was more composed when I saw Hardy and Lauren the next day, but I was still upset, and they validated my feelings.

First with Beau's support, and then with my friends' understanding, I felt better. My fear was real. My pain was real. My reaction to the situation was not a joke. But I still reached a point when I could laugh about it. 

Lauren unwittingly helped me with that by referring to the creep as the panty-grabber. Just that little, silly phrase removes his power over me. No, I don't plan on doing my laundry in my apartment building anytime soon, but I feel more like he's just a pathetic loser than a terrifying rapist-in-training. 

The panty-grabber tried to hurt me, but it turns out, the joke is on him. I have a drawer full of new sexy panties courtesy of Beau, and the women in this building are all now aware of the panty-grabber's existence. So the panty-grabber might have momentarily thrown me off-balance, but I've already repaired the damage and prevented him from any future thievery in this building. 

I'm still strong, hot, and awesome, and he's just a sad little creep who's destined to die alone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Love Is...

My boyfriend spending his afternoons working on my car.

Me sitting outside with my boyfriend, watching him work on my car.

My boyfriend buying me a year's supply of my favorite tea, which isn't found in stores.
Fast Lane by Celestial Seasonings is the most delicious tea ever
Me doing my boyfriend's laundry with my own.

My boyfriend falling asleep with one hand in my hair, holding on to it like a beloved bear.

My boyfriend wearing a shirt to match my outfit.

My boyfriend remembering to ask his friend to take a picture of the two of us in our red, white, and blue.

My boyfriend watching a stupid T&A cheerleading movie with me because sometimes I like to watch movies that pass the Bechdel test that also cater to the male gaze.

My boyfriend going to work early so he could come home early and spend time with me.

Me not being visibly disappointed when his parents showed up early too and postponed our plans for alone time. Even if I did tweet about it.

My boyfriend taking me to the reservoir at dusk first to see the sunset and then to see all the lightning bugs.

Me writing a blog post in which I brag about how wonderful my boyfriend is.

A new series I plan on doing periodically, just to talk about some of the cute things my boyfriend does. And the nice things I do for him. How have you given or received love this week?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Club Friday: Princess Series (Books One and Two)

If you've ever checked out the books in my library, and then also clicked on my Fantasy Fiction Recommendations, then you've possibly seen my brief mention of the Princess Series by Jim C. Hines. I read the first three books in the quartet two summers ago. Last fall, I finally had the opportunity to buy all four of them, but only recently have I had the time to reread the first three to prepare to read the fourth.

In a nutshell, Hines has taken the classic stories of Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty and completely turned them upside down and inside out. Instead of three passive princesses waiting for their princes to come, these three women routinely go on dangerous missions for the queen.

This week, I will review The Stepsister Scheme and The Mermaid's Madness. Later I will review Red Hood's Revenge and The Snow Queen's Shadow.

 The Stepsister Scheme (Princess, #1)  The Mermaid's Madness (Princess, #2)
Images via goodreads.

From the book/website:

Cinderella–whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas)–does marry Prince Armand.  And if you can ignore the pigeon incident, their wedding is a dream come true.

But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon.  And though Talia–otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty–comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.

That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course).  Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.

Obviously, I loved this book, and not just because kickass princesses are my favorite. It's an exciting story with moral shades of gray, AND Hines writes a surprising twist about Talia's character, revealed near the end. Any retold fairy tale will have its fair share of twists, but this particular one is extra-feminist... I love the different rules involved with magic and spells, the different kinds of fairies, the world-building, everything. 

From the book/website:

There is an old story — you might have heard it — about a young mermaid, the daughter of a king, who saved the life of a human prince and fell in love.

So innocent was her love, so pure her devotion, that she would pay any price for the chance to be with her prince. She gave up her voice, her family, and the sea, and became human. But the prince had fallen in love with another woman.

The tales say the little mermaid sacrificed her own life so that her beloved prince could find happiness with his bride.

The tales lie.

In this book, Hines adds another fairy tale to the mix, that of the Little Mermaid. We all know the Disney version is sanitized, but Hines's retelling is even darker than the original tale. The undine (mermaid) princess Lirea kills her human prince and then succumbs to madness.

Another brilliant book full of twists and turns, not to mention a lot of unresolved sexual tension. Also figuring out the real villain... Lirea is a murderer, but she's also crazy... What made her this way?

I highly recommend these books to anyone who loves fantasy fiction, retold fairy tales, or strong female characters. If you're like me, you love all three, and these books are pure perfection!

As usual, I'm linking up for Book Club Friday!


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