Musings of an Inappropriate Woman

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Park Life

When I told my friends I was going camping last weekend, they responded in a mix of amusement and horror.

“What will you do without your hair straightener?” one asked, with mock aghast. “What if a rat crawls up next to you while you’re sleeping?”

“Firstly, that’s why I get keratin treatments,” I replied chirpily. “And secondly, rats are city animals.* I’d be much more worried about one crawling over my feet on the subway than turning up in my tent. Besides, I’m only camping for one night, and it’s next to a farm house with a kitchen and running water. It will be fine. This is not an episode of Sex and The City.”

“But what will do you if you need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night and the house is locked?” And, well, my answer to that question is not suitable for publishing online. Nor is the below paragraph, but here I go anyway.

My friend was (wildly) overstating things, but she had a point. I am not known for my love of the outdoors. When I was in high school, I wrote one of my creative writing assignments about an aspiring actress who was forced to return to her small town roots after failing to make it in Hollywood. It was a satire, but the character’s behavior may have been loosely based on my own during a family holiday the previous summer. When I was 20, I turned down an opportunity to go zorbing because I didn’t want to get my hair wet. In retrospect, my hair looked like something akin to a clown’s that day anyway, so I probably should have just bit the bullet. But you live and you learn, I guess.

On a weekend trip to Bath shortly after moving to London, I met a woman who told me that she wouldn’t be able to live in the city for too long, because she needed trees. I remember thinking that I would never grow tired of the city. As for trees, wasn’t that what parks were for?

And yet here I find myself, four years later, craving time communing with nature. Hence the camping.

It’s not that I’m tired of cities, per se. I just moved to one, after all, and I have no plans to leave any time soon. But over the past year or so, I have started to feel that my desire for “city-ness” – for people, and speed, and serendipity, and frictionlessness – has been sated. That I now have so much “city” in my everyday life that when it comes to what I want to do to get away with that life, my answer is no longer “New York!** Paris! Tokyo!” but “How about we go look at some rocks?” I’ve been lucky enough over the past four years to see a lot of what Western cities have to offer. Now I’m interested in seeing the things I haven’t yet experienced.

For the record, my camping experience (brief as it was) was great. I fulfilled my dream of swimming in a river before the end of summer, and summoned the courage to jump off a waterfall. I felt a calm wash over me as I watched the river and trees sweep past me on the train out of the city. And no, I didn’t take my hair straightener. (Like I said, keratin works a treat.)

The world is a beautiful place. Here is to many more trips like it.

* Not true, it turns out, but I didn’t encounter one anyway.

** Well, duh.

Related: Big City Lights (Welcome to New York)

The best of the rest of the internet

Weekend reading a la me. 

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Image: Metamorphosis by Me andEdward.

The murder of black youth is a reproductive justice issue. (The Nation)

My receipt was not good enough." Post-Ferguson, (newly minted NYT bestseller) Roxane Gay’s essay on shopping/driving/walking/existing while black packs even more of a punch. (Roxane Gay) 

I’m tired of effortless. Hard-fought and hard-won is so much sexier and longer lasting." (Lainey Gossip)

"A more accurate framework for the article would be ‘the dispute between radical feminists and the vast majority of feminists and LGBTQ activists who disagree with them,’ but that isn’t so sexy and probably wouldn’t generate quite as many page views.” Trans writer Julia Serano responds to the New Yorker piece I shared last fortnight at The Advocate. (The Advocate)

On being an introverted feminist. (Feminist Wednesday)

How scheduling technology is wreaking havoc on the lives of low-income workers. (New York Times)

A couple of Kickstarter projects you might like to support: Out of the Binders Symposium for Women Writers and Dream, Girl: The Documentary. (Kickstarter)

It’s okay not to feel anything when a celebrity dies. (The Daily Dish)

"What a burden it must be to be the only non-crap girl in the village." (Glosswitch) 

For me, money isn’t just a side feminist issue, but the most important one, because in so many ways, having it buys independence.” (Dame Magazine)

How “overnight success” really happens: an artist compiles all her rejections into an ‘anti-resume.’ (Washington Post)

I’m writing a weekly column for Cosmo now. (Cosmopolitan)

And ICYMI: my interview with Persephone Magazine about my forthcoming book. (Persephone Magazine)

New gig: Cosmo’s Sex Talk Realness

So, I’ve got some news. I’m going to be looking after Cosmopolitan’s Sex Talk Realness column for the next little while. Each week, I’ll be interviewing 2-4 people (women and men, straight and queer) on a different topic related to sex and relationships.

The great thing about this column is that it’s not about telling you what you do or don’t have to do in order to be “good in bed” (a personal pet peeve of mine). It’s real people, talking about their experiences and challenges when it comes to sex in a frank and non-judgmental fashion. And if you volunteer to participate, you will be completely anonymous. No names, no ages, no locations – just Woman A, Man B, Person C, etc.

I’m hoping to cover a mix of “sexy” and more political topics, starting this week with how having an STI affects (or doesn’t) your sex life.(Please get in touch by Tuesday lunchtime if you can help.)

Over the next month, I’ll also be covering sexual piercings (clit, nipple, penis, any others I haven’t thought of), asexuality, and fisting (seeking straight and queer women).

Can you help with any of these? Email me at rachel dot hills at gmail dot com.

The best of the rest of the internet

This week’s link round-up is so good that sharing these stories with you sends a little bolt of joy into my heart.

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Image: Bjork.

There is a gap between victories relevant to the lives of gay men and the rest of the LGBT community, and it is threatening to become a chasm. Ask a white gay man living in West Hollywood, a latino transgender man in Albuquerque, and a black lesbian in Dallas the same question: Does America love you yet?" (Buzzfeed)

"I worry about the kids who don’t win. Because — and I can report this first-hand — not everyone gets a trophy.” (The New Inquiry) 

Somewhere along the lines, society taught me to stop being drawn to others for who they were and instead… what they were." (Alexis Belon)

Which wedding traditions should be tossed? (NYTimes)

How your Instagram sausage gets made. (Bustle)

Sex without fear. Will PrEP revolutionize gay life? (New York Magazine)

"Celebrity and traditional brand engagement is a dying breed compared to the allure of the normal girl." Oh, how I wish I had written this article. (The Daily Beast)

Radical feminists now find themselves in a position that few would have imagined when the conflict began: shunned as reactionaries on the wrong side of a sexual-rights issue.” Michelle Goldberg is probably my favourite journalist right now, and this article is fascinating. I wish that it had had a stronger trans voice, though; I kept waiting for it to come into the article, but it never really did. (New Yorker)

Why does the conversation about Having It All begin and end with white women? On balancing career and family as a woman of color.(National Journal)

In defense of women’s magazines. (Cosmopolitan) 

"As it turns out, I am only a people person with people I already know." I’m not sure if this piece by Sloane Crosley is short fiction or a personal essay, but either way, it is very funny. (McSweeney’s)

"By opting to build her celebrity on a carefully chosen set of proprietary symbols — in this case, smile and hair and body (and voice, of course) — as opposed to a carefully constructed, apparel-related look, Beyoncé & Company have ensured that the only brand that really has any real staying power is brand Beyoncé; that everything she is selling comes back to her." (NYTimes)

I never really bought into the whole “raunch culture” narrative, but I did buy into the idea that sex was something very important. That it said something about the kind of person you were: how liberal you were; how desirable you were; how pure you were; how well you fit in with the people around you.

Two years ago, I interviewed the lovely Luann Algoso for my book. Now, she is interviewing me for Persephone Magazine. And reminding me that apparently we sang Hanson songs together in a public place. Totes professional. 

You can read the interview here.