on boyhood

A few weeks ago ago, my friends and I were having a discussion about children. More specifically, about the prospect of having them. It’s normally a topic I steer clear of, largely because the presumption of a “ticking clock” has always insulted me more than intrigued me. (i.e., shouldn’t people just either want to have children or not, irregardless of gender? alas, I digress.] In any case, interestingly, my friend (a guy) immediately said, “I’d be SO protective of a girl and worried for her, I’d probably rather have a boy.”

Though the statement didn’t shock me, it saddened me. Sure, women are most often the victims of sexual abuse and violent crime in the world, but isn’t it sad that to avoid this problem, you have to hope you don’t have a girl? I realize my friend wasn’t trying to solve world problems with his very casual statement, but he was making an observation about what he’d feel more comfortable doing. And it saddened me.

Nowadays, we tend to approach the problems of violent crime (specifically rape, sexual abuse, etc) in a particularly girl-centric way. How can we protect our daughters, how can we talk to our daughters, how can we make sure they steer clear of x situation. It’s a continuation of a long history of victim-blaming, where the would-be victims carry the burden of awareness and prevention. And for many people, including my friend, that’s a burden that’s daunting when it comes to child-rearing. But the thing that many activists are trying to change — and what I feel people need to question — is how we approach these topics. Instead of wondering how to talk to our girls, shouldn’t we be wondering how do we raise our boys?

This exact topic is broached by one of the most kickass slam poets out there — Andrea Gibson — in an incredibly powerful piece called “Blue Blanket”. You can watch the performance here (and I STRONGLY urge you to), and I’ve also included an excerpt below. As a young feminist, I have opinions about many, many things, but what perhaps riles me the most is boyhood — and how little we focus on it. Here’s hoping that changes.

“Blue Blanket” excerptΒ 

…tonight she’s not asking

you what you would tell your daughter

she’s life deep in the hell—the slaughter

has already died a thousand deaths with every unsteady breath

a thousand graves in every pore of her flesh

and she knows the war’s not over

knows there’s bleeding to come

knows she’s far from the only woman or girl

trusting this world no more than the hands

trust rusted barbed wire

she was whole before that night

believed in heaven before that night

and she’s not the only one

she knows she won’t be the only one

she’s not asking what you’re gonna tell your daughter

she asking what you’re gonna teach

your son.

every, every minute

Two things of note occurred today.

1) A gaggle of 8th grade girls* stopped in their tracks, stared me square in the eye, and then checked out my entire outfit. I’ve never felt more simultaneously cool, self-conscious (I did button my shirt, right?!), and 14 years old.

*I work at a middle school. That should make this less weird.

2) My friend Harish passed along this incredible video:

If you have the time, take a second (well, many seconds) to watch it.

In any case, aside from distracting me from an ever-so-thrilling bout of scanning, this video struck a chord with me. The basic gist of it is this: a 30 year old photographer took one picture each day for a year, and compiled it into a 1-second-per-photo video. Many people have attempted this, but his take on it was hauntingly profound. In large part, he shares a fear I’ve long suffered from — the fear of forgetting. In an attempt to counteract this, he photographed the banalities of day to day life, and created the narrative of a life that increasingly was becoming less linear. For those of us who’ve grown into ourselves amidst social media, the lack of a reflective understanding of our lives is deeply relatable.

Having gone through years of gradually losing someone, I’ve always longed for a narrative to flatten the complexities and forge some sense to it all. But more urgently, I longed to never forget. And in those moments of heightened reality, photographing the banal came easily. Watching a Giants game together, going to the grocery store, sitting in our favorite coffee shop. My mom and I photographed those moments endlessly because the narrative already existed — this was time dwindling, turning inward, i love you’s, goodbyes, and what’s for dinners.

It’s the moments now, when time has suddenly regained its “how is it already may” pacing, that I find difficult to capture. Perhaps because the plight of the twenty-something is the plight of the ever-waiting. We say things like “I’m just figuring out what I’m going to do with my life”, not realizing that this IS our life. In some ways, I feel like I’m aging backwards — afters years when self defense meant living singularly in the present, I’m finding myself continually living in the seemingly more glamorous future. And you can’t really photograph a future.

In any case, living in the present — trite as it may seem — is at the heart of the daily photo project. And as my life has slowly slid back to normalcy, its a philosophy I’ve found harder to stick to.

So, ironically, it’s a favorite quote of my dad’s that I constantly turn to in moments like these, and one I think many people my age should keep in mind: “Do any human beings realize life while they live it — every, every minute?”. It comes in the final act of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”, a painfully boring play we’re submitted to in 8th grade. But the point, and my dad’s favorite part, is that it’s boring for a reason. It’s boring because it’s life. And though boredom is largely associated with the DMV and 11 hour flights, it’s something we need to practice, celebrate, and document.

In which Casey reemerges from a long blogging hiatus (and switches blogging platforms for kicks).

As some of you may remember from my Philly archive blogging days, I get rather excited about parchment and long-dead white dudes. But somehow, leaving the world of the 1800s meant dropping the ball on my blogging habits. As non-sensical as that sentence may seem, I’m sticking with it.

In any case, I struggled for a long time to pick a new theme for my blog. If I’m not writing about AHFODs (awesome historical fact of the day, for those of you who’ve somehow forgotten) or my wonderful Parson Weems, who would actually read this?! Could I only write about bizarre nerd things that no one actually cared about?!

Answer: no.

…at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

I’m throwing caution to the non-existent wind, and proceeding theme-less. As many of my friends have suggested, a blog seems like a good place for me. I’ve yet to decide if that’s a nice way of saying “you tweet too much” or “you over-share already”, but I’m forging ahead.

I’ve realized in the passing months that I do indeed have much to say, but nowhere suitable to say it. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until the Osama events of the last 24 hours that made me realize how isolated I feel in much of social media. Though some blogs inspire me (likeΒ Kate,Β AmulyaΒ and Rohini),Β most blogs I read have felt more and more detached from a voice I can understand. In any effort to feel less removed (also, 140 characters, WTF), I’ve decided to revamp my over-sharing habits.

You’re welcome.

Part social commentary (for anyone who’s watched Glee with me can attest to, my comments are many), part journal, this space is largely for me. At the very least, it’s a space for me to feel proactive about my voice, particularly in a media world that continually forces me to be negatively reactive.

I suppose the “purpose” of this blog can be summed in one of my favorite maxims, which will adorn the header of this space: “let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” (sylvia plath). The ritual of writing has forever been cathartic for me, but largely private and entirely purposeful. I’ve flown through journals to shed myself of heartache, loss, fear. I empty the words in hopes they empty the sentiments that inspired them. As a public space, blogging can perhaps counteract this. This will be a constructive, enduring space — in whatever form that takes.

(This is part where I resist all urges to be hokey, but recognize it’s in my blood, and thereby end by saying this…)

Let’s begin a walk down casey lane.