Liza Eckert

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I’m Not the Woman at the Ballgame, But I Could Be

Persephone Magazine, May 13, 2015

Recently, a hateful, fat-shaming photo surfaced on the internet.

OK, I’m going to have to be more specific.

A picture surfaced that showed a fat woman in the seats at a baseball game, taken from the back and clearly without her consent, with a caption that discussed how much she had eaten during the game, how many calories that was, and how “unhealthy” that made her. I’m not going to embed the appalling photo here and sully this post, but if you really want to be enraged, you can view it on Imgur.

To add insult to injury, a post was then released by “The Anti-Jared” claiming to be that woman, saying that she had lost a bunch of weight already and blah blah blah. But it actually turned out that that post was not written by the woman in the photo, it was written by this pathetic excuse for a blogger anti-Jared putting himself in her shoes.

This woman has been victimized and had her image used without consent not once, but twice now. As far as I know, she has not come forward or said anything, nor does she have any obligation to.

I’m writing this not to put any words in this woman’s mouth — enough others have already tried to do that — but to point out that this could easily have been me.

I’m fat. Not curvy, chubby, plump, fluffy, or corpulent. Fat. If I were at a Cardinals game I would also be squished into the seats — I know this because that’s exactly what happens at Yankee Stadium. The seats are small and rigid and not made for fat butts. When I sit in them I squish uncomfortably, my belly and thighs forced out in different directions. If the human body wasn’t somewhat malleable I wouldn’t get in there at all.

I don’t blame myself, I blame the stadium and those who designed it. I get that they want to put in as many seats as possible to sell, but there should be attention paid to human comfort. Yes, in case there’s any question: fat people count as human.

I catch people staring at me on the regular. Before anyone jumps in and says, “You’re just saying that because you’re self-conscious” or “You don’t know what they’re thinking” — I know I don’t. But I also know how the quantity and quality of stares change based on how fat I am (I have been varying degrees), what I’m doing, and how much I adhere to the arbitrary rules that say I should cover my body. I’ve had people take pictures (you’re never as subtle as you think you are) and make comments to me. If I call out someone’s lousy behavior (don’t ride your bikes on the footpath, people!) the retort is always simply that I’m fat, as if that invalidates anything else about me.

Yes, you’re damn right, I am self-conscious. I don’t blame my fat for that, I blame the ways people respond to fat (mine and others’). I am very much conscious of the fact that people have bigoted notions about my body based on how much adipose tissue it contains and the way I feel and act about that. If I dare to eat, especially something that’s deemed “bad,” stares get worse. If I dare to sit down on the subway and my thighs touch another person, the stares get worse. If I dress in a way that makes me happy instead of wearing only muumuus in a black vertical stripe pattern, the stares get worse. My fat is not the problem. Reactions to it are.

The woman at the baseball game is not the problem. Whatever she was doing or eating is not the problem. The fact that someone felt compelled to take her picture from behind, post it online with the express purpose of mocking it, and ascribe values and judgments to her entirely neutral behaviors is. The fact that someone else put a narrative in her mouth is a problem. Bigots who treat fat people as subhuman are the problem. Fat people are not. We have a right to exist in public, to eat what we want, to be as healthy or unhealthy as we want (or can be), to wear what we choose, and to live our own damn lives without input from anyone unless we ask for it. Our bodies are not an example to be made about some trumped-up issue plaguing the nation. They are our bodies. They are neutral. They deserve dignity and respect.

This post originally appeared on my blog, Reluctantly Adultish.

Professionalism and Oppression

Persephone Magazine, April 22, 2015

Early in the life of my blog, I was trying to focus on being “adultish” — which included some fashion and lifestyle tips and musings that reflected on acting more mature and professional. But lately, I’ve been wondering, what does that even mean?

At some point not too long ago, I was introduced to a site called Dress Profesh, which comes with the tagline “challenging notions of what it means to look ‘professional.’” It shows people of all different sizes, races, and genders wearing what they work in. It really snaps into focus the fact that being “professional” is an arbitrary and often oppressive guideline.

A post was just going around a few days ago in which a college senior was rejected from a tech job because the guys that interviewed her claimed her outfit was more for “clubbing” than interviewing. There are plenty of people out there who think her tasteful top, skirt, sweater, and tights outfit is “unprofessional” because it’s not a suit, ignoring the fact that tech companies are usually pretty casual, and in fact, overdressing too much can make an interviewee look out of touch with the culture of their field.

Regardless, insisting that everyone on the job hunt wear a suit is one of those oppressive things about the notion of professionalism that I take issue with. Suits are expensive. If you’re long-unemployed, or you’re a college student just starting out, even a find at Marshall’s or a thrift store can be out of your budget. Plus, if you don’t wear a straight size, or you are a woman with a large chest, it might be impossible to find anything that will even cover your body — let alone fit well and be without cleavage — especially when price is a dire concern. Additionally, if you are fat or busty (or both, like I am), there are some who will always classify you as unprofessional. No matter what you wear, being too fat will likely get you called sloppy, and simply having a large chest will get you classed as sexy or inappropriate.

There are racial implications, as well. Black people are often maligned for having natural hairstyles like Afros or dreadlocks — women are generally expected to relax their hair and wear it straight, or wear a weave, to look “professional,” for example. That is, if they even get an interview to begin with, since people with white/European sounding names are more likely to get called than someone with a more “ethnic” (for lack of a better word) names.

The idea of professionalism is outdated and ridiculous. It should be enough to say, perhaps, make sure you are wearing anything required for safety, your naughty bits are covered, you don’t smell, and you aren’t wearing hate speech symbols. Anything beyond that is unnecessary, and upholds a white supremacist, cisnormative, heteronormative, sexist, sizeist, kyriarchical structure.

This post originally appeared on my blog, Reluctantly Adultish.

Bookshelf Revisited: Molly Murphy Mysteries #3, “For the Love of Mike” by Rhys Bowen

Persephone Magazine, April 8, 2015

Molly Murphy is trying to get her career as an investigator off the ground in a world that thinks women should stick to needlepoint.

For the Love of Mike opens with Molly spending the night in jail. She is standing on a street, monitoring a house for one of her investigator cases, when some man mistakes her for a prostitute and hauls her in. Of course, who shows up in the morning but her favorite hot cop Captain Sullivan, who gives her a stern (and sexist) lecture before sending her on her way back home, where she is staying with her friends Sid and Gus.

for-the-love-of-mikeNote: The previous book, Death of Riley, referred to Sid and Gus as Elena Miriam Hepsibah and Augusta Mary Walcott respectively. From this book forward, Sid’s last name has been changed to Goldfarb.

Molly is hard at work with her new investigator business, and decides to focus her energy on helping people in Europe locate relatives who have come to the United States. Her first job in this venture is to locate a young woman, Katherine, who ran away to marry an Irish freedom fighter named Michael Kelly. She is also hired by a local garment manufacturer (a sweatshop, really) to figure out who has been stealing new designs and giving them to a rival company.

These books tend to weave the stories in with real historical events, and here we see some discussion of workers’ rights — there is even a fire in one of the factories that is a clear reference to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy, though that happened nearly a decade after this book is set. We see protests and strikes over deplorable conditions, disgusting foremen, and absurd policies (like taking ten cents off your pay for using the mirror).

There’s also romantic intrigue! I’m not talking so much about Daniel though. Molly meets a young man named Jacob Singer, a photographer who is also involved with unions and workers’ rights. He’s Russian and Jewish, which means some are not fans of their relationship, but they like each other, and neither of them cares about the different backgrounds. Molly can’t completely get Daniel out of her mind though, for whatever reason, even though Jacob is supportive of her friendships and business ventures where Daniel comes off as a sexist d-bag who talks down to her and tries to get her to stay home. Plus he doesn’t have the cogliones (is there an Irish word for balls?) to break up with his fiancée because it might hurt his career.

Of course Molly solves her crimes, which conveniently overlap, both involving the same garment sweatshop. She still occasionally makes some daft decisions, but ultimately her cunning and instincts help her finish her jobs.

Bookshelf Revisited: Molly Murphy Mysteries #2, “Death of Riley” by Rhys Bowen

Persephone Magazine, April 1, 2015

In Molly Murphy’s world, women don’t become detectives. They marry and stay home, or they take one of a handful of respectable jobs until they find someone to marry.

death-of-rileyBut Molly isn’t one to play by the rules. When we were first introduced to her in Murphy’s Law, she killed a potential rapist and fled to America, where she had to use her wits to make her own way in the new world. Oh, and, you know, she managed to solve a murder along the way.

This time around, in Death of Riley, our gal has realized her knack for investigations, and wants to get into business helping the families of immigrants locate their loved ones. After spotting private investigator Paddy Riley snooping around during her brief tenure as an elderly lady’s companion, Molly finds his office and talks her way into an assistant’s job.

But then, surprise surprise, there’s a murder, and Molly must solve it. The policeman on the case doesn’t seem to care much about finding the killer, and she’s hit a rough patch with Captain Hotstuff — er, Daniel Sullivan — of the NYPD so she is pretty much on her own in a world where proper ladies are supposed to faint at talk of murder, not jump in and look for the perp.

This time around, Molly’s investigation takes her to the artist culture of Greenwich Village, where she becomes fast friends with two women, known as Sid and Gus (their real names are Elena Miriam Hepsibah and Augustus Mary Walcott, respectively), who are dear friends — the sort of friends who remain unmarried and share a bedroom, wink wink nudge nudge. Molly also makes the acquaintance of playwright Ryan O’Hare, who is known to prefer the company of young men. So we get a little queer representation in the series, even if it does mostly remain couched in the sort of language that would have been used in 1901.

Ryan introduces Molly to none other than Emma Goldman, the famed anarchist. This is one of many times this series incorporates actual historical events for the purposes of storytelling — in this case also fictionalizing Leon Czolgosz and his assassination of President McKinley.

Working the stories around real events is what makes this series so delightful to me. The first book did mention some things — the opening of Ellis Island, the construction of the subway, and so on — but aligning with something monumental like an assassination adds something interesting and special to the story. This book is where the Molly Murphy series really starts to find itself, perhaps because the city setting is more consistent, and much like in the first installment, Bowen constructs authentic-feeling relationships between well-developed characters.

Why Did Parks & Recreation Get a Pass on Fat-Shaming?

Persephone Magazine, March 26, 2015

Parks & Rec is one of my favorite shows. But it wasn’t perfect. For all of its smarts and brilliant hilarity, there was a blind spot — constant and nearly universally unquestioned fat-shaming.

That’s not to say it has never been discussed before — both This is Thin Privilege and Redefining Body Image have mentioned it, as does an episode review on Intellygentsia.

However, for all the (deserved!) praise this show got for its feminist leanings and progressive tendencies, its deplorable use of anti-fat bias was overlooked a lot. Not that that’s too surprising — mainstream feminism likes to completely neglect fat people most of the time. Fat-shaming comics are still treated as groundbreaking; brands bill themselves as “feminist” without making clothes over a size large; the needs of larger people are ignored when looking at issues like reproductive freedom (psst, Plan B might not work if you’re over a certain weight). I’m not saying fat-shaming is the ONLY thing that ever gets a pass (this is not Oppression Olympics), but it definitely gets swept aside on the reg.

A picture of Leslie Knope saying we can defeat obese children.

On the plus (ha!) side, Parks & Rec had two main characters that were fat — Donna and Jerry. Jerry was, of course, regularly bullied by the rest of the office and made the butt of a lot of jokes. They didn’t come right out and make fun of his weight, but the implication was definitely there throughout. It was especially apparent when we were introduced to his wife, Gayle. She was a beautiful blonde, played by model Christie Brinkley, and everyone was always confused about what she was doing with Jerry. The idea that a conventionally attractive person could fall in love with a fat person was foreign to them, and while that may be representative of the way people in real life react, it’s never resolved in any way that feels satisfying.

Donna, on the other hand, is more progressive. A fat, black woman, she never allows any degradation for her size (or race). Men love her, but she won’t get with them unless they meet her high expectations.

A set of images of Donna from Parks and Rec rejecting a Colts linebacker because she wants skill positions only.

Despite some surprise from others when they come across her in a bar surrounded by men, Donna is an overall positive character, self-assured and unwilling to compromise, successful and adored for who she is and what she looks like — not in spite of it.

But the major issue with this show and fat is in its discussion of Pawnee as a town. The constant thread throughout is that it’s the fourth-fattest city in the country. They use the headless fatty trope at least once, and bring up the past Harvest Festivals as a chance for people from other towns to “marvel” at how fat Pawnee citizens are.

On top of that, the main fast food chain featured is Paunch Burger, the logo of which is an outline of a fat person with belly, and the commercials for which show sloppy, cheesy foods that are clearly meant to disgust the viewer. In the “Soda Tax” episode, the drink sizes are exaggerated — a 512 oz “child” size, for example. Plus, the tax passes, which is a demonstration of how thin people, especially those in power, often act like they need to regulate the food intake of us poor, stupid fatties who don’t know any better.

Leslie Knope’s eating habits are hardly perfect, by the way. She basically lives on sugar and mainlines waffles like they’re going out of style. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, except that when she does it, it’s presented as cute and quirky. If it were one of Pawnee’s fat residents acting the same way, it would be presented as disgusting and in need of regulation. The thin, attractive woman is allowed to act gluttonous and have it be positive, but if she is fat, the exact same behavior is deserving of mockery.

A gif of Ben from Parks and Rec with two cans of whipped cream.

You could say that Knope is just acting like a typical overzealous, clueless politician. But on every other topic presented, she is far from clueless. Even if she starts out that way, she has demonstrated an ability to learn and grow. She’s passionate, yes, sometimes to a fault, but she’s smart and frequently more adaptable than she seems on the surface. I don’t doubt her heart is in the right place in caring about the health of her citizens, but the way it is portrayed onscreen comes across as cruel and demeaning, two things she most definitely is not.

So why are we so quick to forgive Parks & Rec for this? For a lot of people, of course, it’s not something to be overlooked because fat is still a punchline or something worthy of disgust. But for others, who would not normally stand for bigotry and bullying, it still seems to get a pass. Perhaps it’s because the show is parroting the same ridiculous status quo that the government does and we’ve been desensitized. Perhaps it’s because the show is otherwise extremely charming and handles a lot of issues well. Perhaps it’s that fat prejudice just isn’t important for certain people, because we’re seen as subhuman. I don’t know. But when my concerns on this topic get brushed under a rug, as often happens when I bring it up, it sends a clear message of dismissal and hate. Since Parks & Rec ended, it’s too late to fix the problem within the show, but we can at least be willing to think critically about it, no matter how otherwise great it was, and use it as an example of how NOT to handle fat issues. In the future, we need to be vocally critical when it comes to this topic, so the people who are making shows hear us, and know to change the way they portray fat on TV.

Bookshelf Revisited: Molly Murphy Mysteries #1, “Murphy’s Law” by Rhys Bowen

Persephone Magazine, March 25, 2015

Molly Murphy is a feisty Irish immigrant living in early-1900s New York City, where she solves mysteries and often deals with misogynistic blowhards.

I came to reading this mystery series when my late grandmother gave me copies of the first few installments, and I tore through them in a couple of days. I was drawn to Molly’s spirit, tenacity, and the way she manages to work both within and around the sexism of her era.

murphys-lawThe first book in the series, Murphy’s Law, has Molly immigrating to New York from Ballykillin, Ireland, which is located in county Mayo. She is on the run for fighting off and killing a would-be rapist — a wealthy landowner against whose family and resources she would never be able to win — in her home. She hops a train and ends up in Liverpool, where she ducks into an open door to avoid two cops who appear to recognize her, and from there luck takes over.

She meets Kathleen O’Connor, who is set to leave for America with her two young children, Bridie and Seamus. But there’s a problem — Kathleen has tested positive for tuberculosis and knows she won’t be admitted into the U.S. upon arrival. So she convinces the children to pretend that Molly is their mother and take them to meet their father in New York.

We follow them across the ocean to Ellis Island, which is where the real mystery begins. A man is murdered, and Molly must find the real killer to clear the name of a man she befriended along the way. Her tenacity and quick wit send her all over the city — traipsing through Hell’s Kitchen, working as a parlor maid, and constantly bumping heads with the Hottie McHotterson (or so she seems to think) detective Daniel Sullivan, who is assigned to the murder case and thinks she is the married Kathleen O’Connor. Sigh, the good ones are always taken, or strong-headed detectives think you’re married so you can keep up the charade that got you into the country.

Molly is a flawed protagonist. She is headstrong and can be impulsive, which frequently gets her into dangerous situations. But that’s why the books in this series are such a good read. She isn’t perfect; she feels real, even if she is living a century ago. But she handles the trials she faces with relatable emotions and a hint of aplomb. Her interests go beyond what is expected and appropriate for women of the era, and she manages to wade through the sea of sexism admirably.

The story itself is not always the most believable, but it serves its purpose as a fun, lighthearted mystery. The historical elements are incorporated seamlessly, even if the crime and investigation feels a bit farfetched at times. Nonetheless, this book is an entertaining read with compelling characters who are easy to care about and situations that are fun to read.

Book Review: “The Fire Sermon” by Francesca Haig


Persephone Magazine, March 18, 2015

Imagine if everyone had a twin, inextricably linked, yet entirely separate.

Trigger warning for discussion of ableism.

The Fire Sermon is set four centuries in the future, after an apocalyptic nuclear blast has shot humanity back into a primitive era. The radiation from the explosion changed a lot — technology has regressed, many animals are deformed, and human reproduction is fundamentally different. For years, it looked like people would die out, but then that turned around.

Now every pregnancy results in twins, but there’s a catch. The twins are always one male and one female, and one is healthy but the other has some sort of abnormality or deformity — often physical, but sometimes mental. The healthy twin is called the Alpha, the “abnormal” one is the Omega (yes, this is an entire social system built on blatant ableism). Omegas are branded and sent away as soon as their status becomes apparent, which could be at birth or later, depending on what their issue is. Parents do not want their imperfect child, but they cannot be killed — twins are linked, see, and on top of being born together (obviously), one can feel the other’s extreme pain, and one’s death will kill the other as well. Omegas are usually raised by other Omegas — relatives, generally, as they cannot reproduce themselves.

Cass and Zach are twins, but they were not separated as soon as many others, staying together until they were 13. Cass is the Omega, but instead of a physical abnormality, she is a seer. She has a certain amount of psychic ability, and manages to hide it for many years before she is sent away.

Zach goes on to join the Council, a sort of tyrannical government entity formed by the Alphas. He has his enemies, of course, so he has to keep them from using Cass to do away with him. So he has his sister imprisoned in what is called the Keeping Rooms. On top of keeping her out of harm’s way, she can be interrogated about her visions. She keeps seeing flashes of an island, somewhere the Omegas are gathering to form a sort of resistance.

After years in a dank cell, under the only electric light she has ever seen (artificial power sources are forbidden), Cass escapes. She has had visions of a room of cruel imprisonment, and manages to free one of these prisoners as she leaves.

From there, Cass and her new friend Kip must make their way across the terrain, trying to find this island. I won’t go any further so as not to spoil the ending, but suffice to say, the concept for this universe is an interesting one. The story is told from Cass’s point of view, and she passionately demonstrates how wrong the ableist segregation of this society is. It might be uncomfortable to imagine a land where babies are sent away because of a disability, but it’s also somewhat metaphorical to our own world. The Omegas are subject to slurs like “freak” and “dead end,” barred from any real chance at a good life, and subject to harsh policing and government mistreatment.

This book is an interesting read for any fan of dystopian lit. There are factors that harken to other well-known series — the separation between haves and have-nots found in The Hunger Games, the journey of Matched, and the spunky heroine of, well, all of them. It’s an entertaining story with a slightly different point of view, and worth checking out if you’re into the genre.

3.5/5 stars

The Fire Sermon was released on March 10, 2015. I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

We Try It: ClassPass


Persephone Magazine, March 11, 2015

It’s like Netflix for exercise. So… the opposite of Netflix.

A friend recently introduced me to a service called <a title=”ClassPass” href=”” target=”_blank”>ClassPass</a>, which allows you to take a seemingly-unlimited number of exercise classes for $99 a month. There’s no cap on how many classes you can take overall, however, you can only take three per studio in a given month. The service isn’t available everywhere (yet?), but it’s in a lot of major cities: NYC, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Philly, Austin, Washington DC, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland (OR), San Diego, Vegas, Raleigh, Baltimore, Tampa, Orlando, Nashville, St. Louis, and Kansas City. It appears that you can sign up for a class starting seven days in advance.

If you’ve ever looked at the costs of joining a gym and taking classes, especially in an expensive city like New York, this is a decent deal. I’ve been taking yoga for several months now, at an amazing studio that’s specifically for fat people, and I adore it, but it’s pretty spendy for only one class per week and I’d like to do more than just yoga. So I signed up for ClassPass, downloaded the iPhone app, and starting shopping for workouts. (Mental note: also start shopping for more sports bras.)

One of my biggest fears when looking for new ways to move is the rampant fatphobia in the fitness community — hence why I was willing to shell out more than I can afford for a small number of yoga classes at a studio where I was guaranteed not to face that. But, like I said, I want more than just yoga and needed a little financial break. So I decided to start off with classes that played to my strength: swimming and dancing.

My first class was Aqua Zumba. I’d never done any form of Zumba before, and my only experience with aquatic aerobics is what my mom used to teach when I was in middle school, which was geared toward an older age bracket. But I am a good swimmer, I have dance experience, and I love any activity that puts me in the water, so I had to try it out.

The place itself was a little hard to find — tucked away behind a swanky hotel on the Upper East Side, I walked by it twice before I found the door. From there, I checked in at the front desk and was directed to the locker room and pool area. The facility was nice, as was the class itself. The instructor knew it was my first time, and she was very good about demonstrating and directing so I didn’t miss too many moves. There was no nonsense about beach bodies or fat burning or anything else that would have made me uncomfortable. I had a great time, and would have immediately signed up for the following week’s class, except it was full. Bummer. I was able to get it later, on a different day of the week, though.

I had signed up for a barre class two days later, but I was still really sore from the Aqua Zumba, so I canceled. In hindsight, I probably could have pulled it off, but you had to cancel 24 hours in advance or you’re charged a $20 fee (note: this has since been changed to 12 hours).

It was a week before I got to another class. The Aqua Zumba class was full, and I couldn’t do pole dancing because my wrist was bothering me, but I finally got to a Crunch class called Aerobics with an Attitude. It was basically a modernized version of the aerobics classes of the ’80s and ’90s that my mom used to teach, so there was a nice dose of nostalgia. You know, to distract me from the feeling that I was going to die. However, I’m not convinced it was right for me as a long-term regular class.

I was also able to try out some places that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise. My mother had gone to an aquatic spinning class a few months ago, and I’ve wanted to try it, but could never afford to. They’re part of ClassPass, though, so I tried to do it — but had several failed attempts where the classes fill up almost instantly. But I hit some good fortune during spring break and was able to get into a class that met when I would normally be working. I also took a regular spin class on dry land though FlyWheel, which I would have liked a lot if I’d adjusted the bike seat to the right height (and maybe brought along a gel cover).

After nearly a month of using the service, I’m pretty happy with it. If you like variety in your workout routines, it’s definitely a good thing to try — and if you just work out twice a week it brings the per-class cost to a reasonable amount. However, if you’re the kind of person who needs a regular routine, it’s probably not the best choice long-term, as it can be hit-or-miss what classes you get into and there’s a cap on the number of times you can go to a given studio. But as someone who gets bored, it works, and I plan to continue my membership.

<strong>Pros:</strong> You get to try a bunch of different kinds of classes, if you don’t like a place you never have to go back, it’s a flat fee with a clear cancellation policy, it’s affordable when compared to most gym memberships and per-class costs, you can go as much or as little as you like, and there’s a class to take at almost any time on any day.

<strong>Cons:</strong> There’s no guarantee you’ll get into the same classes regularly, you can only take three classes at one studio per month, some classes don’t have great descriptions so you don’t always know what you’re getting into, you can only sign up one week in advance so it can be hard to plan ahead, and (for me) guilt that you’re not going to enough classes to truly get your money’s worth.

Things Women of an Arbitrary Age Should and Should Not Do

Persephone Magazine, March 4, 2015

I keep seeing clickbait posts from various sources (that I won’t give the satisfaction of linking to) outlining all the things women (it’s always women) should and shouldn’t do, wear, and have after certain milestone ages like 25 or 30. It would seem one of the things we shouldn’t have is joy.

Apparently, women of a certain and arbitrary age shouldn’t wear cheap makeup, buy the clothes we like, decorate our homes to our own aesthetic, enjoy our own hobbies, or have any happiness left in our lives. All for the sake of being a proper adult.

Here’s the thing: shut up.

I’m 31 years old, and I wear cheap makeup because that’s what I can afford. I have concert posters hanging in my bedroom because it makes me happy to think about those events and the fun I had. They’re not even framed! I reserved framing for my own photography, which I also have hanging because it makes me think of the fun events I shot and a hobby that I love. I buy shotglasses as souvenirs because they’re cheap and small, which makes them easy to transport and display. I also have a handful of vinyl bobbleheads because they make me think of stories I like that bring me happiness, plus they’re cute. In short, I commit many of the clickbait taboos for someone my age, and I love it.

A picture of shelves displaying bobbleheads of Pennywise, Star Lord, Michaelangelo, Loki, and Groot.

Here’s a display of bobbleheads to demonstrate how little I care about being age appropriate.

Here’s my list of what people of any gender should and should not do at any age:

  • You SHOULD decorate your home in whatever way makes you happy.
  • You SHOULD NOT pass judgment on others for hanging the art they like, framing it or not framing it as they see fit, or anything else superficial about decor.
  • You SHOULD do whatever hobbies make you happy as long as you aren’t actively harming another living creature.
  • You SHOULD NOT judge anyone else’s hobbies.
  • You SHOULD wear clothes that you like and that make you happy within the boundaries of occasion appropriateness and work rules (it sucks, but those do exist).
  • You SHOULD NOT make rude comments or judgments about others’ wardrobe choices.
  • You SHOULD take care of yourself in the best way that you can, keeping in mind that this means different things for different people based on abilities, life situations, and priorities.
  • You SHOULD NOT assume that others’ priorities about their own health and happiness are the same as yours.
  • You SHOULD NOT apologize for your fashion choices, lifestyle, weight, gender identity, sexual preference, hobbies, health priorities, living situation, career choices, or anything else that is not harming others.
  • You SHOULD NOT expect others to apologize for or explain any of those things.

That’s it. I honestly don’t give a squirt if you want to play video games, wear $1 lipstick, decorate your place like the inside of Austin Powers’ jet, or rock the word “juicy” on your ass. Whatever makes you happy.

Book Review: “Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell” by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Persephone Magazine, January 19, 2015

Our favorite young detective lives on in print once more.

Let’s get this out there right away: if you haven’t seen the TV series and movie, and read the first book in the Veronica Mars book series, you probably won’t get everything in this story. The second installment picks up after last year’s The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, and frequently references past cases and plots. But the show, movie, and first book are all excellent, so you should watch and read them anyway.

Cover art of "Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell"

Veronica is still living in Neptune, where she returned to work as a private investigator, having passed up a lucrative law career to do so, though she is no longer living with her father, Keith. She’s got her own place, where her rich-asshole-turned-Navy-guy boyfriend Logan Echolls stays when he isn’t overseas.

Mr. Kiss and Tell opens with a prologue, where local antiques/junk dealer, Frank Koslowski, is out on his usual route, scouting for abandoned gems. While investigating a potential find, he stumbles across a young woman, apparently left for dead in a field. She’s very much alive, though, and is the catalyst for the rest of the novel.

In the first main chapter, we tie up a loose end from the Veronica Mars movie, when her friend Eli “Weevil” Navarro was shot and accused of trying to rob the wealthy Celeste Kane at gunpoint, an accusation for which he is now on trial. It launches right into the haves-vs-have-nots theme that has been a constant thread throughout the existence of this universe. Neptune, CA, with its two polar opposite communities — the extremely wealthy “09ers” and the working class or poor everyone else — at constant odds.

Post-trial, Veronica and her gang, including Keith and computer whiz Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie, are at the Mars Investigations office, when the new case du jour is presented. A man representing the insurance company employed by local swanky-ass hotel the Neptune Grand hires Veronica to investigate a claim against the hotel. Remember the young woman in the field from the prologue? She is suing, claiming that she was assaulted in the hotel and has named one of their employees as her assailant.

Of course, Veronica being Veronica, she isn’t going to be satisfied to simply help the insurance adjuster avoid liability. She takes the case hoping that she’ll be able to use the assignment to catch the rapist in question, whether it’s the accused hotel employee or someone else. Of course, I’m not going to tell you how this goes; you’ll just have to read the book. But suffice to say, the story delves into some interesting topics — police corruption, college sports, rape culture — and does it with Ms. Mars’ typical brainy charisma.

The writing can be a bit uneven at times — the setting descriptions of the opening pages read a bit like a pulpy detective novel of yore, where you keep expecting someone to be described as a “dame” with “legs that won’t quit,” but that rhythm is quickly lost in favor of more typically-paced plot exposition. Still, the novel is overall engaging and delightful. You can’t help but read each line in the voices each character had on television — Kristen Bell’s chirpy snark, Enrico Colantoni’s deadpan, Jason Dohring’s smug charm — which is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a visual reference for the characters and settings, but on the other, it makes you yearn to see the story in presented in front of you as a TV episode or movie.

This is an overall solid and fun crime novel, a mystery that’s twisty enough to keep it interesting without going too far into the realm of unbelievable. It’s a welcome addition to the Veronica Mars storyline, and hopefully indicative of more books to come.

Mr. Kill and Tell will be out January 20 via Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

4.5/5 stars

I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. This review is my own uninfluenced opinion.