Sunday, October 5, 2014

Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto - autumnal dreaminess

Fall is all about delicious warm comforting treats. Foods that fight that first chill that goes to the bones. Foods that you can eat leftovers of for days and still feel totally fulfilled by.

Butternut squash risotto is one of my favorite fall recipes. I love the perfectly autumnal orange color the squash gives the dish, the slight sweetness, and how the mushroom broth and fresh sage complement each other and give it this earthy full flavor.

This recipe is pretty similar to my previous one. That's the magic of risotto - the base stays the same but the flavors and textures can be anything that you think is scrumptious together.

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 quart mushroom broth
1 bag frozen cubed organic butternut squash 
(I know fresh is always best, but cubed/frozen is seriously so much easier. Buy the organic one, it's fine).  
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 big handful of chopped fresh sage
Dried oregano, to taste (1 tablespoon-ish)
Dried sage, to taste (1 tablespoon-ish)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
2 tablespoons Toffutti vegan cream cheese (optional) or 1 handful Daiya mozzarella cheese (optional)
1 cup white wine, room temperature
Pumpkin seeds, toasted (to sprinkle on top)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Risotto party:
In a small saucepan on a back burner, heat the mushroom broth and keep at low heat to ensure it stays warm. Heating the broth is crucial, the grains get funky if you pour in room-temperature broth.

In a larger pot, sautee the chopped onion in delicious Sicilian Olive Oil (if possible) on low, until golden. Then throw in the garlic and Arborio rice. Stir with a wooden spoon to ensure all grains are coated in oil and that neither grains nor garlic are burning. Just keep stirring, just keep stirring, stirring, stirring, stirring, stirring. (Think Dory in Finding Nemo).Once the rice becomes a bit translucent, pour in the white wine, then the warm/hot broth cup by cup. Constantly stir to keep from anything sticking to the bottom of the pot.

As you add in the broth, be sure to add the butter, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Add in the butternut squash once you're about 15 minutes in. If you add it too early, the squash just disintegrates and I prefer chunks that you can see on your fork to squash-mush in my risotto. Once the broth is near gone and the grains have absorbed most of it, add in the cream cheese if you desire. 

Stir stir stir, let sit for few minutes, and top with another sprinkle of fresh parsley and the toasted pumpkin seeds.

Leftover tip:
I always love risotto the day after it is cooked. The flavors have all had more time to flourish and become even more delectable. Plus it's sticky and easy to make into risotto cakes or arancine. I made the leftovers from this recipe into cakes by forming into patties, coating in glutenfree breadcrumbs, and lightly frying in a bit of organic vegetable oil.

We served our risotto with home-made kale chips and a vegan cheese plate with gluten-free and traditional crackers, and garlic-herb nut cheese. 

 Fresh sage is so soft and pretty!

Frozen cubed butternut squash is a modern miracle. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Zucchini Flower & Prosecco Risotto - una ricetta d'estate

Last Sunday, on the way home from Philly, I stopped and visited my Nonna and Nonno in North Jersey. During the usual many-phone-calls-per-week, they had been going on and on about their garden and all the goodies that were ready to harvest. "I zucchini sono pronti, abbiamo i fiori, l'arugula, il basilico, ecc." So after half an hour of watching my Nonno talk to himself in the garden and putter around in his standard mesh-shorts-dress-socks-sandals get up, I had bags of veggies ready to take back to the city. With two bags full of those bright golden blossoms, I knew had to come up with something besides the usual fried flowers for time and my stomach's sake. See a previous post for that recipe, which is super super tasty and one of my favorite seasonal treats.

This recipe is another fun way to use those colorful delicious blossoms, and the fizzy magic of the Prosecco really makes the flavor sparkle. Super summery and light, full of unique flavor and ideal with some greens, radishes, and cucumber on the side. Plus more Prosecco! Always, more Prosecco.

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 quart vegetable broth
10-15 fresh zucchini flowers, stems trimmed off
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
2 tablespoons Toffutti vegan cream cheese (optional)
1 cup Prosecco, room temperature
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Risotto party:
In a small saucepan on a back burner, heat the veggie broth and keep at low heat to ensure it stays warm. Heating the broth is crucial, the grains get funky if you pour in room-temperature broth.

In a larger pot, sautee the chopped onion in delicious Sicilian Olive Oil (if possible) on low, until golden. Then throw in the garlic and Arborio rice. Stir with a wooden spoon to ensure all grains are coated in oil and that neither grains nor garlic are burning. Just keep stirring, just keep stirring, stirring, stirring, stirring, stirring. (Think Dory in Finding Nemo). Once the rice becomes a bit translucent, pour in the prosecco, then the warm/hot broth cup by cup. Constantly stir to keep from anything sticking to the bottom of the pot.

As you add in the broth, be sure to add the butter, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Once the broth is near gone and the grains have absorbed most of it, add in the cream cheese if you desire. Towards the very very end throw in the zucchini flowers and another big splash of prosecco so the sparkle is on the tip of your tongue. I prefer the zucchini flowers whole, and adding them when almost done ensures they don't get overcooked but still tender and tasty.

Stir stir stir, let sit for few minutes, and top with another sprinkle of fresh parsley.

 Leftover tip:
I always love risotto the day after it is cooked. The flavors have all had more time to flourish and become even more delectable. Plus it's sticky and easy to make into risotto cakes or arancine. I made the leftovers from this recipe into cakes by forming into patties, coating in glutenfree breadcrumbs, and lightly frying in a bit of organic vegetable oil.

Che buona!!

Nonno's garden bounty

La cena. 

Everything is more delicious when it's breaded and fried, duh. 

Can you even handle it? I can't. This is basically the most scrumptious thing ever. 

Grazie, Nonna e Nonno!

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Got It From My Mamma

I recently realized I've without-a-doubt been experiencing that thing you always hear about growing up but don't believe you will actually do because you - you are different. You know, that whole "turning into your parents" thing.

Despite my best efforts, I'm absolutely more and more like my parents every day.  I guess I've always been, because how could I not be reflective of where I came from, but in my youth I was so sure I was rebelling. That I could never be like that. Obviously, I'm different from my parents in many ways, as I've had my own unique experiences and developed my specific perspective and belief system. But still, especially now that I'm more of an "adult" than ever, I see so many parallels to my parents that I can't help but smile and laugh to myself.

I've gotten many qualities that some may find rather unsavory from my mom, but I am quite proud of. I'm a North-Jersey-Sicilian-Princess, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My mom taught me so much that is absolutely intrinsic to who I am today - about coordinating outfits with such astute attention to detail that you'd think we had an actual team of judges grading us based on color coordination and styles. She skilled me in how to decorate a home, again in an eye-pleasing color-coordinated manner, with holiday-specific decorations, decorative bathroom towels you'd never dare to actually dry your hands upon, the allure of matching placemats and cloth napkins that you'd never dare to actually eat upon, and so much more. My mom showed me the simply joys of late-night cereal snacks, how important daily moisturizing is, and that overpacking just means you are prepared for any situation that may arise.

She taught me to fight, unwavering, for those you love and what's right, even if it means being stubborn and hard-headed. She taught me how make that charm glow bright and hot, how to connect with others with a big open heart and nothing holding you back, and how to enchant others with your spell so they love you forever or at least carry your heavy things and grill your food in the summer.

One of the favorite things I've learned from my mom is our childlike enthusiasm, overt appreciation of seemingly insignificant things, and blatant refusal to be jaded. If there is one thing my mom and I are not, it's subtle. And my pride in our lack of subtly, in our refusal to be anything but true to ourselves, burns like a summer bonfire flame.

We are both aware of the hardship in this world, in our families, in our experiences. We both have dark sides and can easily get lost in the gray bleak clouds. Even so, I see that my mom has always blazed ahead, unabashedly appreciating all the beauty and joys of this world no matter how small. As a kid I couldn't appreciate the loudly-yelled commands to "look at the ducks! look at them swimming in the poooond!" or to try this delicious snack at the Italian festival or to look at the tiny baby pumpkins at the pumpkin patch or to come see the sunset at the beach. I thought it was just more bossing, more obligatory annoying un-cool shit my mom was trying to force me to do.

Now I see myself doing the same thing every day. I point out the delicate filigree and ornate exteriors of the buildings in this city with awe. I exclaim when I see just about any animal doing anything. I run over and smell the flowers in the planters in my neighborhood or comment on their saturated colors. I'm always "ooh-ing" and "ahhh-ing" and getting distracted by all the tiny little details, by the clouds, the color of the sky, the glittering of the river, of anything I can find that sustains and inspires me to keep moving forward.

This to me is the ultimate survival plan. To appreciate the beauty in this very difficult and hard world. People often perceive any expression of emotion and appreciation as vulnerability and therefore weak. To be constantly open about enjoying things makes us as women seem ditzy, unintelligent, silly, etc. - lots of the negatives associated with femininity. But I know it is actually being brave, being unabashedly myself.

I thank my mom for instilling this in me, and that it adds another sparkling facet to my femme identity.

Me and Mamma at our joint 30/50 Birthday Party!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Femme-inisms at thirty-one

So, I turned thirty-one and had a beautiful celebratory three-week Gemini-birthday-extravaganza. Delicious Sicilian dinner (in a lemon-print dress), beach weekend with new friends in P-town, new tattoos, a pre-birthday work celebration that included glitter, balloons, cake, champagne, etc. I felt loved, appreciated, brave, free, and of course, all the other less-than-savory feelings that come with getting older.

I studied my body, wondering if it's getting softer, if my face has noticeable lines that don't disappear with my expressions, if my aging is becoming visible. Aging will be visible, no matter what, so that's something I'm obviously just going to have to accept and let go of and laugh off with grace. (Easier said that done). I rode the anxiety-rollercoaster, with the plummets and loop-de-loops of what the fuck my career is, do I want to have kids, is the world going to be an actual dystopia in my lifetime, etc. 

I am feeling a lot of things this year that are new to me. For starters, I feel like I worked through most of my young adult life to be honest about who I am, shake off shame for what comes naturally to me, but also of course always be self-aware and work to be the best version of me. This has meant embracing my femme-princess-high-maintenance ways. I manage to do this with enough self-awareness that people find it charming, and seem to appreciate my lack of subtlety, my harsh-at-times honesty. I just achieved this openness and pride the last few years. I know I am a princess, relish in it even, but I also strive to be doting, loving, nurturing, empathetic, thoughtful, etc - so that I'm not just taking but embracing and giving as well. For complicated reasons I'm still sorting out, I feel like a switch went off during this birthday and I actually feel embarrassed for being this way. Like I'm too old, it's not cute, and it's just fucking selfish. 

But how could this be? I worked so hard to figure out who I am in my heart of hearts, experienced a moment of brazen glory only to feel this plummet again? I see people all around me entering the wholly-selfless-seeming stage of New Parenthood, and am feeling shame that I am still focusing time and energy on myself - my desires, my needs, my fears, my passions, my issues. But all we have is ourselves and the people we love - and I work every day to love myself and show the people (and animals) who matter that I love them, too. 

At work, I feel like the sexism inherent in the environment I'm in ends up valuing traditionally-attractive women, but in really superficial ways that are intensely demeaning. I realize I have social capital when I wear cute dresses, heels, makeup, etc. However that capital is that I am objectified, valued as an object in the male gaze, and not for any of the complexity actually within me. To make it all the more frustrating, wearing those things brings me the truest sense of joy and is when I feel like my most authentic self. Glitter, meticulously curated outfits expressing a specific concept, heels that clack loudly as I walk - these things are ME. I honestly don't even have any other way to describe it. They are me, just me, as I am, truly. 

This birthday, the onslaught of aging-woman thoughts came crashing in - will people enjoy working with me to this extent as I get older? Will my loud outfits and glittery makeup seem desperate, pathetic even, as I age? Will be my light-hearded child-like enthusiasm be read as unintelligent and sad as I advance? 

In reality, these are things I struggle with daily, even at this stage of relative youth. I am fully aware that my gender presentation, my whimsical manner, my enthusiasm, the positivity I try to radiate, is all seen as childish, naive, superficial, and potentially unprofessional. 

None of this is new, I know. I am far from the first and sadly not the last feminist person to feel the rage of this world, bordered by impossible patriarchal demands and standards. Even so, it doesn't make the pain and frustration any less. 

Femininity and "feminine" gender expressions are not frivolous, are not excessive, are not unnatural, are not superficial, not selfish. But we are taught to see femininity and anything resembling a feminine gender expression this way. The femme-inism I feel most passionate about combats this constant derision, this chipping away at our sense of selves, our self-worth. 

I feel embarrassment just thinking about how my wrinkles will envelope the jet-black cat-eye-makeup that's decorated my lids for the past 15 years. I feel silly playing water-pistol-race games at the boardwalk, easily beating the other players, who are all under the age of ten. I recoil from expressing the wonder or appreciation I feel for simple things - cherry blossom trees, a sparkling lake, brightly colored hot air balloons, fireworks. But all of this, this appreciation of the beauty I see, is my own self-care plan. The reality is this world is ugly, horrible, and dying. If I don't find joy in these things, what's the point of going on at all?

We should not have to make excuses for our exuberance, our enthusiasm, though it may seem like a selfish focus on ourselves. We should not have to dull our light, because the majority of society willingly participates in all the obligatory shit that darkens their brightness. 

Even though I felt shame for my femininity and femme gender expression throughout my youth, the difference is that now I feel scared. What could once be written off as capricious youth will be seen negatively in a deeper more hurtful way as I age. I know I shouldn't care so much of what others think, but we live this immensely public lives (social media, haaaaay) and the reality is we interact with people all day every day. 

I have mostly pulled out of these insecurities, but know they will ebb and flow and create new waves that may overpower me as I just keep aging. But even writing this - baring this on the stupid internet - is vulnerable. I yearn for the day humanity begins recognizing vulnerability as the bravest most courageous state - it is raw honesty, it is an invitation to see our truths, and also requires our own armor in handling what the world will throw our way. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gemini Season Begins

It's Gemini season, the very best time of the year! I turn 31 years old in about two weeks. Yikes.

I've been a bit paralyzed around writing lately. I'm having all the thoughts and feelings, as always, but finding it difficult to articulate.

Being Gemini season, I'm going to embrace the contradicting feelings I have and work to find that balance, that reality, that peace and calm.

New York City is at once so freeing, filled with endless opportunity and weird shit just waiting there, and at the same time is intensely inhibiting. People are quick to judge, always with one eye looking for the next best thing. Space is limited, constricted. As a woman in this patriarchal society, I am expected to take up as little space as possible. As a considerate human in this jam-packed city, I try to be respectful of others and not take up too much space. But my limbs are getting creaks and cracks and just want to be stretched out and wild and free. Finding peace and the chance to be feral is a challenge in this city.

Connections and relationships feel bittersweet - supportive/sustaining and disheartening all at once. I'm still buzzing with the excitement and possibility of new connections, but also feel burnt by the unavoidable high-school-cafeteria-politics that seem inescapable even this far into adulthood. I'm trying not to let chest-tightening anxiety of large social events come back, and making sure I stay present in this time and place and leave the baggage of the past behind.

Feminist and queer communities are inspiring and devastating. There's so much passion and general radical badass-ness in these magical little niches away from the mainstream that feed me, push me. Bravery, courage, strength, care, is being exhibited by each of us. But then I see so much that we should be ashamed of. Mistreatment of others, replication of hegemonic hierarchies, lack of empathy or perspective, insecurity, and just not enough self-awareness.

But with all of that comes the reality, which is always nuanced and complicated and shifting, never static. What can we can we do but work on being flexible, ready to jump into it, able to bust through the twist that inevitably comes.

30 to 31 has been huge. So much is so different and I'm beyond grateful that I've had another year of experiences, things that made me learn (whether I wanted to or not), things that set my heart ablaze. I don't have any clear answers, still. But I know loving and being brave and feeling and connecting are the most important things, so I'm just going to keep it at that.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Lately I've been trying to focus on gratitude and honoring where I'm at in the current moment. Rather than feeling frustrated that everything I want isn't just magically coming to fruition right freaking now, I find its more constructive for my own personal health (emotional, mental) to just be present. For me, part of being present means to have gratitude for the things in my life that sustain me, inspire me, heal me, move me forward, etc.

In a city like New York, it's too easy to get impatient.  Everyone is busting their asses constantly (often just to scrape by), while we all hold these big dreams in our hearts, and want desperately to get there, like, NOW. But that kind of myopic entitlement is dangerous, as it fosters a self-absorption that obscures the larger forces at play. We can't afford to be so clueless, to lose empathy towards others and their own struggles, to lose that sense of self-awareness that helps us become more thoughtful people whose lives are full of different kinds of love.

We left Philly just over two years ago, and this time of year also marks two years from when we embarked on our two-and-a-half-month adventure through Europe. My partner and I have been in NYC for about a year and three months now.

Just in the past two months or so, I'm finally feeling like I'm getting more of what I want out of living in NYC. It's been a great experience the whole time we've been here, no doubt. It's opened up my world in every way, given me space to heal and let go to a lot of what I held onto for way too long, etc. However building a new life in a new city just takes time and work. (duh)

After nine years in Philly, nine years of being part of very close-knit communities, I've been hesitant to do the same in NYC. While community is vital in so many ways, it can also be stifling and paralyzing. I've been working on building friendships with people I feel genuine connection to and piecing together my own network of fellow fighters and lovers and creators.

This nice sense of comfort and NYC-savvy is finally settling in. I no longer feel like the clueless new kid (well not all the time anyway). I'm participating in awesome and inspiring events like queer art auctions and cabarets and the ballet and bar bingo and author events and brunch potlucks and all that. I'm surrounded by creativity and passion and people who are trying so fucking hard not to be too scared to make the art they truly want to make. I'm forming bonds with people that set my heart and my brain ablaze and challenge me and push me in the most crucial ways. 

I feel grateful for being in this time and place, and that the possibilities for what's next are wide open.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Anguilla/Ocean magic

When I was young, being near the ocean would make me think of infinity, oblivion. How everything is so temporary and fleeting yet never-ending and cyclical. 

When I look out into the sea, I can almost see the curves of the earth, and try in my very tiny-insignificant-human way to comprehend the meaning of existence. Or that this is no meaning but we continue on with our existence anyway. And that it's always complicated, a beautiful struggle.

Being here, somewhere I have never expected to be and very likely won't ever be again, brings up similar feelings. The main difference is I now have a few decades of life experience to feel less afraid, more accepting, and more appreciative of every moment of this experience.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spaghetti con cavolfiore - a traditional Sicilian dish made vegan!

I love Sicilian food. I love food from other regions of Italy, don't get me wrong. But I love Sicilian food the most. It's in my blood, it's in my bones, it's sunk deep into my flesh like the tattoos that others can see, but realer and more profound.

Sicilian cooking is simpler and features ingredients bursting with bright warm sunshine, ingredients that are accessible to even the most rural people on the island. Sicilian cooking may be simple, but it is fuller in flavor and overlaps with Arab and Spanish and northern Italian cuisine. The use of raisins, saffron, pine nuts, seafood, etc. make it distinctive.

Sicilian cooking is the cooking of my childhood, my family, the comfort my Nonna brought me as a kid. She knew I was sensitive and always had my back, ready to scream someone's head off in Sicilian dialect if they were say, my Nonno giving me a hard time for not finishing my dinner or my mom giving me a hard time for all the other things.

The spaghetti and cauliflower dish I made the other night is not a dish my Nonna makes, but a dish my cousin (her nephew), who lives in Italy with our other family on that side, makes. He owns his own restaurant and cares about food and Sicliy and family more than anything else. I checked with him before Ketch and I made this dish to make sure we were going about it the best way.


1 pound gluten-free spaghetti or standard (gluten) bucatini
1 head of cauliflower (organic if possible)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small/medium onion, minced
2 big pinches saffron (15-20 threads?)
1 cup+ chopped fresh parsley (organic if possible)
golden raisins (organic if possible)
pine nuts
breadcrumbs (gluten free or standard)
fresh ground sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
pot of tomato sauce (homemade or jar - use something really nice and organic if it's from a jar)
  ** I'll follow up in the future with my homemade sauce recipe, I promise.

In one large pot, boil water, sea salt, 4-6 saffron threads, and 1 pound pasta. Follow cooking instructions (they differ for standard and gluten-free).

In another sauce pan, heat your (preferably homemade) tomato sauce on the lowest setting to keep warm but not boil or burn.

On the side, chop cauliflower very small OR grate with a grater to be even smaller. Set aside. Chop or mince fresh parsley and set aside as well.

In a cast iron skillet or sautéing pan, drizzle a swirl of high quality flavorful olive oil and start on simmering those chopped onions on low heat. Once translucent, add the minced garlic and stir (with a wooden spoon, nonna-style). After 3 or so minutes, add in the cauliflower and stir until evenly coated in olive oil.

Add in a cup or two of tomato sauce and saffron, allowing the cauliflower to soften in the sauce and the saffron to release it's flavors. (Alternately, sometimes I put the saffron in a small bowl of hot water, let it steep til a bright sunshine-y yellow, and then pour on the cauliflower before adding the tomato sauce).

Toss in the beautiful bright green parsley and golden raisins. The liquid will cause the raisins to plumpen and get extra juicy. It feels like they are leaking sweet sunshine into your mouth. Be sure to save a handful of parsley to throw on at the end! It makes everything look fancy and mega-delicious. Grind in the salt and pepper to taste.

Add more tomato sauce if needed. This isn't a sauce-heavy dish; it should be just enough to coat all the ingredients and keep them from being dry. It should not dominate the dish - think less sauce than spaghetti and meatballs.

While this is simmering, spread the pine nuts out on a half a baking sheet and the breadcrumbs on the other half. Toast at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until toasty and slightly browned.

Once the cauliflower is soft and everything is all simmered together, toss with pasta. Add more sauce if desired. Scoop onto plates and sprinkle on toasty breadcrumbs and pine nuts, and top with the chopped parsley.

Ketch made us blood-orange and gin cocktails that were exceptional. We also had a spinach salad with roasted carrots, beets, and onions and a side dish of fresh fennel and parsley. All my favorite flavors in one place, with my little family in our sweet little NYC apartment. It was perhaps the best meal we've ever made, with every flavor complementing each other and making us ready for our next adventure abroad. Ketch has never been to Sicily, and I haven't been there in ten years. When we finally go, I'm pretty sure our brains with burst with joy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Femme Feelings

As a thirty-year-old queer femme, I've come to be quite comfortable and proud of my gender, my self-expression, my femininity. It has been a long, complicated journey, and still is in many ways. But I'm also past that youthfully-self-obsessed stage of really needing to figure out my identity, and what I'm saying to the world with how I present myself. That seemed like a really heavy thing when I was younger, and now it feels more fluid and more like it's something that doesn't need to be shouted from the mountain tops at regular intervals. It's almost inconceivable that I actually care so much less about what the outside world thinks about me because of how I project myself.

But there are still battles to fight with owning my femininity, and am constantly reinforcing that I should focus on the empowering aspects of it all. Most of the outside world sees it as something for them, for their consumption and evaluation and very vocal assessment of. In some ways, it kind of is. That's a huge part of patriarchy and capitalism - people's bodies, especially women's, are not their own. My femininity is in everything I do, it's how I move through the world, how I connect with others. But it is also intensely mine, and loaded with my own layers of insecurity, self-confidence, expectations, etc.

I feel complicated about owning these seemingly stereotypical aspects of femininity - being nurturing, open, receptive, warm, enveloping, giving, dolled-up, on display, etc. I have enough of a knowledge base and self-awareness to know exactly what each piece means, but I still knowingly participate. I tell myself it's okay, I'm not actually a "bad feminist" because I am aware of what I'm doing and owning it, but sometimes it feels like it's not as much of mine as I pretend it is. But then other times, I do feel in a considerable amount of control, and it's exhilarating in a way that I can't properly put to words.

I've got a coupon to try Burlesque classes, which has become a big goal of mine for this Spring (in addition to archery and sword-fighting classes, which I have also already purchased coupons for). This is definitely a queer-punk-femme cliche, and am surprised by how much anticipation and excitement I feel. I am not holding onto any grand schemes of becoming a public performer, but am interested in my pushing my own boundaries to what I feel comfortable with. I carry myself with a fair bit of confidence these days, but still am completely overwhelmed by the thought of physically owning the space around me, and taking up as much of it as I want. I'm looking forward to what Burlesque could possibly teach me - how to move without inhibition, to be playful, creative, performative, unafraid of risks, and to be okay with my body and relish in the space it occupies. Sword-fighting and archery will also add to this, hopefully - to help me break past physically-confining inhibitions - and could have such a profound impact on how I move through the world. Also, all of these new activities will help me live out my dreams of being a bad-ass princess/power femme.

In NYC, with all the street harassment and strangers up in my shit and working for a huge advertising agency, sometimes it feels like I'm slipping away from myself. It's enough to make me want to hide, keep what I can from the rest of the world. But I'm not a bottled-up kind of person, and as a queer femme who also happens to be Sicilian, that's not actually a thing I even know how to do. As I inch closer to thirty-one, I  firmly believe more and more that it's time to let go of what has held me back for so long. To let my femininity grow and shine and feel no shame or degradation. Femininity is absolutely not antithetical to intelligence, independence, strength. It is actually an expression of those concepts. It is not frivolity, it is not self-absorption, it is not superficial or meaningless. My femininity is my direct expression of my truest, deepest sense of self. If that's not femme, I don't know what is.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

To Breed or Not to Breed, That is the Question

I'm at that age ::cough thirty cough cough::: where the majority of people around me are popping out babies left and right. Adorable wonderful interesting funny babies that are growing into even more incredible-to-watch-learn-and-grow mini-humans. I have been stressing/debating about whether to have kids or not considerably more these past few years, what with getting married and turning thirty and all.

Most of my adult life I have felt pretty strongly that I didn't want to have kids. It didn't seem the punk/queer/feminist/anti-capitalist thing to do. Thinking about it usually actually gives me a physical reaction similar to seeing a bag of dog poop or some other abhorrent object. But then some smart and rad slightly older punk/queer/feminist/anti-capitalist friends started making babies, and I saw that being a parent could be this beautiful act that clearly aligns with ones' radical political beliefs and ethics.

Part of my reservations around being a parent involve literally just feeling really weird that I could be responsible for another humans' life. This is sort of out of character, as I'm no stranger to responsibility and taking care of myself, friends, pets, my partners, etc. I've also accepted the inherent adult-ness that comes with a full-time career, getting married, etc. But this situation of creating a human and making sure it grows up happy and healthy and having to sacrifice so much for it for the rest of your life, is a level I just don't know if I can handle.

I have the ubiquitous fears most others have - not wanting to become our parents (even though we all do), not knowing if I'd screw my kid up, etc. But I also intrinsically have this sense of uneasiness around creating life. While I am extremely grateful that I exist, that I am in fact alive, I also have an intense comprehension of the fact that existence is not consensual. We don't ask to exist in this world. But of course, we do. Our parents end up having children, and here we are. They do their best in their own capacity to protect us and prepare us for the realities of living in this world. However, nothing can really fully prepare us for the realities of decades of adulthood better than living, making mistakes, and (hopefully) learning and not repeating those mistakes. Becoming an adult is not easy. It's lonely and scary and overwhelming and intimidating. But of course, once you master the art of taking care of yourself successfully and independently, it's wildly empowering and liberating.

Even with that sense of pride in making it through my 20's and knowing that I'm more than just okay, still moving forward, still ambitious, and still full of dreaminess and silliness --- I cannot in good conscience force another human to exist in this world. I especially cannot do that to someone who would be born now or in the near future -- this world of self-obsession, oppression, destruction, human apathy, too much technology, and overall destructive decadence. I cannot feel okay about knowing my child will have to suffer through comprehending the fact that we cannot do whatever we want. That we are mortal, terribly fragile and absolutely mortal, and that we will spend the majority of our lives doing things we almost painfully do not want to do (school, work, etc). I just don't know if it's fair to force that experience upon someone else.

I know this sounds really negative and potentially bonkers/not very "me", but it's just a reality for me. It's not pessimistic or cynical, necessarily. It's just one way of looking at things.

I also know, on the other hand, that existence is magical and beautiful and random and once you exist you most likely will do everything in your power to keep existing because not existing is just too horrific to really imagine. This world contains beauty and wonder, despite all the destruction. Humans and other animals are funny and interesting and also awe-inspiring. I think getting to exist fucking rules, though it is not necessarily always easy.

Seeing the new mini-humans that are my close friends/family complicates all of my already-complex feelings on this. New life, soft and unknowing and sweet and tender, is of course deeply intoxicating. Watching children figure things out and express themselves with wild abandon is beyond inspiring, and a good way to shake off the grayness of being tired and older and jaded. I generally keep a strong sense of child-like enthusiasm and wonder in my life, and I do think experiencing the world with a child of my own would only strengthen that sense to an even more ecstatic level.

Then, of course, there's biology. As a queer person with a trans partner, I feel deeply saddened I cannot have a child that is both of our biological makeup. I know that many many parents, of all sexual orientations, go through this for a variety of reasons and it doesn't deter them. But it's still disheartening, as part of the magic of procreation is watching this new life that is a combination of you and this person you love super intensely. I can't help but feel sad and cheated somehow that we can't have that experience.

But then again, the human capacity to love is truly remarkable and we have big hearts that love a lot. As queer/punk/feminist/anti-capitalists, we have fought our whole lives to re-define everything, including the meaning of "family." I think I could, in the end, be totally elated with any child that was mine to nurture and protect and teach, whether they were made up of my genetic material or not.

And finally, there's the Shulamith-Firestone-2nd-Wave feminist in me that can't help but feel rage at the fact that my body would no longer be my own if I had a child, and in this patriarchal society my feminine body is very rarely truly my own as it is. I don't like the patriarchal implications of just accepting that things will happen to my body that I'm not actually going to be happy with.  BUT on the other hand, the woo-French feminist in me feels intrigued and envious of pregnant bodies, in all of their visceral maternal glory. Like I would enjoy taking up space in a world where women are demonized for doing that.  Like I'd relish in growing life, feeding the new born life, showing unimaginable strength and resilience, and showing no shame for the body's natural processes and fluids and changes.

I still don't know what this all means, which is a bit frustrating as thirty-one is coming up quickly and I'm not much closer to knowing what I want. I vacillate between dreams of being one of those fit and fun older child-less couples, with money to travel, tan from all the vacations and with lots of pets to love and dote upon. But I'm also Sicilian, and babies and family are deeply imbedded in me. I also dream of a tiny mini-me, with a traditional Italian name, that I teach all our family traditions to and have wild life adventures with. Maybe that's a selfish motivation, but isn't it always at least a little bit selfish, wanting to see that reflection of ourselves and achieving that slight immortality in having younger generations to cherish our memory?

Whatever, all I know is that I am thirty and baby crazy and baby phobic and I want all the things and I am a Gemini and I am not good at decisions that involve having to pick just one of the options.

Until I figure it out, let me hold your cute babies, and tell me about your life that is child-free or child-filled. Maybe we can figure it out together.