Who Will We Be When this is All Over?

25 Mar

The other day during a press conference, New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo said, “if you want to go for a run, God bless you.” So, I went. I ran in the middle of the empty streets and, when cars turned up, I headed to the sidewalks and gave others a wide berth. I dashed back and forth from one side of the road to the other in an attempt to have the sidewalk to myself, to give the appropriate and responsible social distance. I felt a certain amount of guilt through the entire process, wondering whether the people in the occasional passing cars were looking at me thinking I was selfish, careless, putting others at risk. I got nervous when rounding corners, afraid of being face to face with another person, trepidatious in a way I haven’t been since walking home through the French Quarter of New Orleans late at night, my restaurant-issued suspenders dangling down my legs. There were a lot of robberies in the Quarter at the time, not so much of local workers as tourists, but still, you had to have your wits about you. I have felt safe in New York City for a very long time now, this dense city where I feel most comfortable around throngs of people. Now though, I feel safest alone, when keeping a reasonable distance from everyone else.

It’s strange, to walk along empty streets, surrounded only by shuttered businesses and empty-looking apartments. Stranger still to pull close to a building when another person approaches, giving them plenty of space to pass, making eye-contact in a sad, weary way. We all have a common enemy but we don’t know who among us carries that enemy inside, who among us leaves it behind on door knobs and grocery store shelves. We are fighting an invisible executioner, one who lies dormant in some while it ravages others. We are left asking these huge questions: who do we know that we will not see again? How will we let people know we love them? When will we be able to mourn those deaths? Will we ever be the same?

There is something about going through a collective trauma, it seems. A population, a place, is never quite the same after. New York City – no, the world – post September 11th was a wildly different place. New oversight, new expressions of racism, new fears, a new mayor who shuffled in businesses and legislative changes that altered the face of the city forever. New Orleans was vastly different post-Katrina. A city was drowned, and terrorized and those in charge largely looked the other way or celebrated the effects wrought by the changed population. So many people who had made their homes there, who had lived there for generations, fled and never returned – whether they hoped to or not. And many of those who did return came back to destroyed houses, changed neighborhoods, and a bureaucratic nightmare.

So I am left to wonder: what will become of us after we “flatten the curve,” after we make it through the heat of the summer months and assess the losses? The lost friends, family members, favorite businesses, people who left to ride it out elsewhere and decided against coming back? What replaces all of that? How do we move past this experience?

Trauma changes you, we all know that. It alters the fabric of your being. New York, despite what people say, is a friendly place. Blunt perhaps, but friendly. A smile and nod on the street is almost always returned in kind. Streets are neighborhoods, people working at local businesses are friends, sometimes even akin to family. We love hard and we love deeply because, when you’re surrounded by so many strangers day in and day out, finding a familiar face in the crowd feels like magic. The longer you live here, and the more people you meet, the more magic you experience. And let me tell you: it never gets old.

So again, who will we be? After months of staying home, crossing streets, taking precaution after precaution, fearing the enemy that might dwell within, and whether it will be your undoing, will we go back to normal? Will we crowd bars and restaurants, congregate in parks, walk close to strangers on the street and exchange a handshake, a high five or a hug with people we know? Or will this fear embed itself inside of us and turn the friendly, helpful, community-oriented New Yorkers that we know we are into the rude, avoidant New Yorkers people have always claimed us to be?

I don’t have any answers, of course. None of us know how long this will last, what sort of wreckage will remain when we emerge from the safety of our homes on the other side. But I really hope that, after this is all over, I don’t cross the street to avoid someone heading my way, that I proceed without fear to my local bar and grocery store, that I am not afraid to leave my home. I hope we learn from this, that we love harder, that we lean on one another and we proceed with our crowded, overwhelming, busy existence, staking out a place in the grass on a sunny day to enjoy a moment of solitude in the company of thousands of people we haven’t yet met.

If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing.

A Ton of us Lost Our Jobs on Monday

18 Mar

And I was one of them.

A flurry of text messages, one after the other. We’re closed as of Tuesday at 9am. That was quickly changed to Monday, March 16th at 8pm when they realized everyone would go out eating and drinking. I was expecting it, waiting for it and, as I wrote a few days ago, urging the government to do it. It still didn’t take the sting away. No income for the foreseeable future. And no guarantee that I will have a job to come back to when this is all said and done. I, along with a ton of other people across the city, country and world, are unemployed by absolutely no fault of our own. And, not to raise more anxiety than people are already experiencing, I fear we are only the first wave.

I also want to say that I know restaurant folks are not the only ones being effected by this. Gyms have also been closed which means all your personal trainers, fitness instructors, front desk workers, cleaning staff members, back of house office folks are also out of work. Salons are closing. So there are stylists, waxers, eyelash extension affixers, manicurists, massage therapists who also find themselves suddenly with no income. There are bicycle maintenance people, theater performers, costumers, freelancers, janitors for shuttered schools and office buildings, landscapers, event planners, florists, DJs, musicians, dog walkers, childcare professionals, Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers and so many more people I can’t think of off the top of my head. And then there are small business owners. The people who employ the aforementioned folks in some way or another  (I know this doesn’t apply to gig workers because that is a whole other story) and all of a sudden find themselves with bills, unusable stock, taxes, rent and a complete and total halt of sales for…who knows how long. Just today I thought to myself…wait, what happens to all the perishables bought by restaurants for the coming week? What do they do with that? Can they donate it, legally, even with whatever liability issues might accompany the potential for food borne illness? Do they just, toss it, when grocery store shelves are void of all kinds of random shit people have been hoarding? (Side note, does anyone have some extra garlic they could spare?)

There are so many questions, there is so much uncertainty. There are so many people who cannot spare one paycheck. They have kids who are suddenly home from school, parents who they care for, families they send money back to. Or maybe they don’t have good health insurance, any health insurance, or they live in a high rent city, they have student loans, credit card debt, they are in the middle of a move and all of a sudden find themselves with nowhere to go. We have created this economy where people have no safety net, and at the same time there is this weird tendency to blame people for this even while we spend money on the exact same services that deny people the benefits and security we all need to survive. We blame them for not getting a college degree when those degrees are insanely expensive. We blame them for not getting high-paying jobs, or founding businesses, when so much about opportunity is tied to who you know, when so much funding is about having rich friends. The rags to riches story is the exception, not the rule, and we often forget that. There are entire sectors of the workforce where people who maybe couldn’t get a job anywhere else rely on a strong market, rely on wealthier people with disposable income, to hire them to do things. But when things get tight for those wealthier people, when the stock market crashes, that portion of the workforce is deemed expendable, they are largely invisible. And they need the money more than a lot of other people because they are so much closer to having nothing.

I am also worried about our prison population. What happens if, no when, this virus takes hold there? How about the homeless? There is a man, Daryl, who visits me at work every week. I don’t know where he stays. I am terrified I will never see him again. What about all the people in the concentration camps along the borders? What about them? Why have we heard nothing? How will we help them? Will we be able to? Will the people in charge even want to? What about people with non-elective surgeries coming up? Our medical professionals? Sanitation workers? Delivery drivers? Postal workers? Public defenders? Ruth Bader Ginsburg?!

Please trust me, I am not trying to blame any of you for this. I am not trying to make people feel guilty. I am not trying to scare anyone more than they already are. I am literally taking you on a journey through my brain over the last few days, through all of the things I have been thinking about and worrying about. About all of the people who are the backbone of our daily lives who fade away when the money dries up. But the thing is that they don’t fade away, actually. They lose their jobs. And we don’t see them anymore. But they continue to exist, to live and to struggle. If it is okay with you, I will continue on documenting what I am feeling. If I am being too preachy and annoying, or if I am causing you too much anxiety, you don’t have to read my future posts. I won’t blame you. We’ve all got enough to worry about.

I am a Bartender. I Am Begging NYC: Close the Bars

15 Mar

I have seen a lot of folks on social media griping about all the people packing into bars and restaurants in the face of this growing public health emergency. And I get it. Given everything that is happening, given what we know about the spread of this thing, this could prove potentially lethal for a lot of people we love.  We should stay home. We should self-quarantine. We should take the necessary steps not to keep ourselves healthy if we are young and low-risk, but to make the responsible choices for our neighbors, family members and high-risk friends. And on the other hand, as a service worker myself, I  need people to go out to bars and restaurants so I can continue to pay my rent and my bills, to buy food, to live. But as some one who has maybe 2-3 months of savings before I am basically scraping the bottom of the barrel (I understand this makes me very privileged compared to other workers in my position), I am begging Mayor De Blasio, Governor Cuomo and President Trump to mandate the closing of all non-essential businesses, even if those businesses are essential to my financial well-being and the financial well-being of a lot of people who I love.

Here is the thing. You can spend your time online telling people to stop being so selfish, to stop speeding us towards a very dire situation, to think about others but they will not. We have been raised not in a community-oriented society but rather one that is very individualistic, one that focuses on what is good for me not what is good for us. We cannot expect people to, on their own accord, undo all of the training that we have received over the course of our entire lives. Activists should understand this better than most. We spend a lot of our time advocating for the betterment of those underserved by society to see gains made at a glacial pace. People who are “on our side” oftentimes do not spend their time trying to be anti-racist or anti-sexist. They don’t want to make themselves uncomfortable. I get that. Being uncomfortable sucks. So I don’t know why, in this instance, so many activists are asking people to make themselves uncomfortable for the betterment of the rest of society and expecting those people to listen. Why would they start now? And I also don’t know why, in this instance, many activists have turned a blind eye to the real financial disaster looming just around the corner for those of us who will be effected by these closures.

So it is imperative that the government steps and makes it happen. And it is also imperative that the government takes steps to help those of us who will be affected by this. And I am not just talking about service and gig workers, but also small business owners who can only forego a few weeks of loss of income before they have to shutter their businesses. And with those shuttered businesses will come a huge loss of jobs. Mine very well might be among them.

It has been really frustrating and scary these past few weeks and, if I am being honest, it will only get worse. And I am angry. I am angry that while me and a lot of people I know – as well as millions of folks who I don’t – are staring down a very, very bleak spring and summer financially speaking, a lot of people working from home, advocating for quarantine and social distancing haven’t taken a step back and realized how fucking scary that is for a lot of us. It’s not that I want to go out and be in crowded places, touching things that other people are touching. It is that I have to. So while I am advocating for the closing of bars, restaurants and other “non-essential” businesses, I am also advocating for people to take a second and recognize that there are a lot of layers to this disaster. This city, and many cities and towns across the country, are going to look very different in a few months. Loss of life, absolutely. Also loss of livelihood and very different looking business districts. I am just begging you all to be aware of this fact. Ask your friends who walk dogs, work in bars/restaurants, are cab drivers, fitness professionals, small-business owners whether they are okay and what you can do to help.* Maybe just FaceTime them. All of us could use a smiling face in times like these, whether we can work from home or not. Plus it seems like we will have a lot of time on our hands. I know I will! My phone line is open to everyone.

But to get back to the original point, the sooner we close everything down, the sooner we can re-open. The less time this takes, the better off we will all be. If bars and restaurants stay open, people will go there to eat, drink and blow of some steam. That is just a given. So if we don’t want that happening, then they need to close. As I said before, we cannot expect people to make themselves uncomfortable until they are forced to. But until that happens, and mark my words it will happen, I guess I’ll just keep going to work. At this point I don’t have much of a choice.

*Super thankful to all of my friends who have been doing just this. You all are amazing and I love you.

So, About the Coronavirus….

12 Mar

I feel like I have been having to start my posts off with caveats recently. This is largely because it seems as though – in my experience – people right now are always primed and ready for a fight and, honestly, I just don’t have it in me. This isn’t an attempt to discourage discourse; rather, it is me making my intentions clear so people don’t jump to incorrect conclusions and then e-yell at me. I’m too tired for that. We all should be. So, with that being said, here is my caveat for this post:

I am not diminishing the risks of the coronavirus nor am I trying to tell people how they should or should not feel or act in regards to it. These are just my worries and I wanted to share them so, here goes.

I want to start out by saying that I, like all of the people I know, am not an infectious disease specialist. I would say that I am pretty unknowledgeable about diseases in general. We are also living in a time where reliable information seems harder and harder to come by. The government doesn’t have any fucking clue what is happening and it certainly does’t help their cause that they put Mike “My Callous Inaction in the Face of Clear Warning Signs Exacerbated an HIV Outbreak in Indiana” Pence in charge of the response. It also doesn’t help that Trump decided to make massive cuts to the CDC budget and, even in the face of a fucking pandemic, seems dissuaded from using that money to….fund a border wall? I think? And all of this while he and his cronies have spent the entirety of his presidency acting like science isn’t an actual thing that matters in the real world. And so here we are! With a gutted Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a media that seems to not fully understand what’s happening, and an entire country in a state of panic. What could go wrong?!

So, with the knowledge that I am not very knowledgable about the spread of disease, I am going to lay out what I do know, or at least what I think I know. Coronaviruses are actually super common – they are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections. This new coronavirus – COVID-19 – is named as such because it is a novel virus that was first found in 2019. A lot of people who are infected with the virus will have no symptoms whatsoever, while others will get fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat. Flu-stuff. COVID-19 can also cause more severe symptoms such as high fever, severe cough and shortness of breath. Like the flu, a small percentage of people will die of this disease. Also like the flu, those more likely to die from the disease are old folks and people with underlying medical conditions. COVID-19, however, has a higher mortality rate than the flu. So we all need to make decisions to protect the most at-risk among us. This means washing our hands, not touching our faces, cleaning our phone screens, FaceTiming our grandparents and immunosuppressed friends and relatives rather than visiting them in person and not buying out all the stuff at the store that at-risk people need far more than we do. But we all know this already.

So I am not nervous about personally getting COVID-19 and dying. I am very nervous about something else, though. Money. And also people being racist idiots.

For those of us living here in NYC, we were informed that the city, as of now anyway, will not be closing the public schools. It is a last resort. Why? Because we have a homelessness problem here in New York. The NYC public schools serve more than 1.1 million students. Of those students, 750,000 are considered low income and 114,000 are homeless. These are populations who will be disproportionately effected by school closures and it’s not just because they won’t go to school for a few weeks – a lot of these students and their families rely on the public schools for free breakfast and lunch, shelter during the days and other basic necessities. If they don’t go to school, who will look after them? Does this mean their parents can’t go to work? Do those parents then lose their jobs, deepening the cycle of financial insecurity they are already trapped in? What about those people just hovering on the edge of homelessness or financial ruin? Having to arrange childcare could mean the difference between having an apartment and making rent and… not. There are a ton of unintended consequences that occur when we make decisions regarding the more vulnerable among us.

And also, we are seeing a rise in the gig economy and non-office work. People who don’t have traditional, salaried jobs and instead rely on freelance gig work. I am thinking about all the taxi drivers for UBER, Lyft and Via, tutors, music teachers, people who make money off apps like Task Rabbit, personal trainers, dog walkers who all of a sudden lose a bunch of clients because people are working from home. These people don’t have the ability to work remotely and stay away from others. They don’t have paid time off or sick leave. To all the people complaining about having to use vacation time to recover if you get sick – and you are 100% right in being pissed about that, that shit is trash and late-stage capitalism is fucked – there are also a ton of people who don’t even have vacation time. These are people who if they get sick and can’t work, they can’t earn a living. These are people who could, and probably will be financially fucked.

Also, people working in China Towns or at restaurants and businesses owned by Asian folks. You guys. Just because the virus started in China, does not mean that every Asian person is infected. In fact, there has not been a single confirmed case of an Asian person being infected in New York City AND YET Asian-owned businesses are going under. The media needs to immediately stop using photos of Asian folks in masks when reporting on coronavirus. It is racist and misleading and is having real serious impacts on the livelihoods and safety of Asian Americans across the country. Also, btw, do you know where else there is a huge outbreak of COVID-19? Do you know what country is basically on complete lockdown? Italy! But I don’t see people boycotting pizza! So if you order in, think about getting some Chinese food! It’s delicious! And tip the delivery person extra because I guarantee you they are really struggling right now.

And do you know how I know that? Because I am a bartender. I am a bartender and people are being told to avoid gathering in groups. Do you know how I make my money? By selling drinks to people gathered in groups. We are coming into springtime which is the time of year when I and many of my colleagues make a chunk of our money for the year. This is the time of year we start putting money aside to save for the slower times. A serious and sustained drop in business will ruin my budget for, no joke, an entire calendar year. And bars don’t operate on a huge profit margin. If this panic lasts a few months, my jobs might no longer exist. There are a lot of us out here watching this not just with concern for the health of our friends and families and people we don’t know. We’re watching this unfold with the knowledge that this could cause a massive disruption in our ability to live and pay our bills. This is really scary for those of us not guaranteed a salary. This is really scary for those of us whose income relies on people showing up, not self-quarantining, ignoring health officials. And I am not telling people to do that. I am just saying that while people are concerned about health, keep in mind that there are a lot of people on the brink whose livelihoods could be entirely destroyed over the next few months.

Personally, I’ll be okay. It’ll be uncomfortable but I have a safety net. I have friends and family willing and able to help me if it gets tough. I am lucky. But there are so many people who don’t have that. So while you are sharing information telling people to not leave the house, maybe check-in on the people who rely on others to leave the house in order to survive and see how they’re doing. As I said, there are a ton of unintended consequences when we deal with something of this magnitude. It’s not only about health. This is going to cause a huge economic downturn. And I know it is tempting to be excited about the impact an economic downturn could have on Trump’s likelihood of reelection, but just be aware of who you’re talking to. Maybe…don’t say that. And I know it isn’t just up to us. The government needs to step in and do something. I am just really, really afraid that they won’t.

I’m Going to be Upset about Warren Maybe Forever

5 Mar

I want to start this off by saying that what appears below are my feelings and I have the right to have them. They are valid. You also have the right to have your feelings, and those feelings can be very much different from mine. And that’s okay. So just know while you are reading this that these are my feelings and I am in no way open to you arguing with me about them. So if you want to argue with me, just please don’t. Talk into a pillow. Call your friend. I don’t care. Just let me have these feelings.


I am so incredibly angry. And scared. And frustrated. And defeated. And so very, very sad. This isn’t just about Elizabeth Warren, although it is partially about Elizabeth Warren. This is about being a woman in America. About being a smart, capable woman. This is about being a Jewish person who is constantly afraid. This is about seeing my greatest fears play out in front of me over and over and over again. This is about a lifetime of feeling dismissed, talked over, ignored, under appreciated and under valued. This is about spending a lifetime in a society that fucking hates me and screaming about it and having no one take notice, having absolutely nothing change. I am so god damn tired.

These past few years have been hard. Like really, really hard. And I know they have been hard on every body – I know that a lot of the most horrible moves the Trump Administration has made are not about disempowering me personally, but they are about disempowering my friends and that IS personal. I also feel less safe knowing other people are being stripped of their safety. I won’t be held up at the border and separated from my family; I won’t be erased from a lot of the language on government websites like the LGBTQ community has been; I won’t be kept from polling places. As someone who, like so many others I know, has been sexually assaulted on more than one occasion, it is hard to explain exactly how psychologically damaging it is to have this president in office. This president who fills his key positions with thieves, liars and predators; who is appointing justices hell bent on taking away our rights; who lies about women, smearing their names and reputations, crushing them under the weight of his abusive, hateful language and his unforgivable, unmoving supporters. I cannot imagine how his victims must feel, seeing his face on television every day, one of the most powerful men in the world. I don’t know how they survive. I am so thankful that, somehow, they do. It reminds me that we have a lot more strength than we know, and that’s a good thing to be reminded of on a day like today.

So, today. Oh, today. Today and this entire election cycle. And the one before it. FUCK, I just want to scream. I want to start, actually, with August 28, 2019. That was the day Kirsten Gillibrand dropped out of the race. That one hurt. And it didn’t hurt because I was planning to vote for her. It hurt because she has been such a fierce advocate for women and victims and that’s what tanked her. Al Franken tanked her. Maybe that’s too simplistic, so let me go a little deeper. Kirsten Gillibrand, rightfully, stood up to Al Franken after allegations of him being inappropriate with a number of women surfaced. He resigned his position. And she has been punished for that ever since. You can like Al Franken or not, I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. But he grabbed women’s asses in photographs and Gillibrand is being punished. This is what it is to be a woman in this fucking country. We are constantly blamed not only for being victimized, but for standing up for the victims. It is always our fault. Always. I know he was a good advocate for women from his position in the Senate, but you don’t get to neutralize horrible behavior because in front of people you do the right thing. It’s what you do in the dark when no one is looking that matters. It’s how you treat the voiceless people when you are in a position of power. But it seems like none of that actually makes a difference. And knowing that makes me feel so small.

I felt small the day Kamala Harris dropped out of the race, leaving less qualified people still in it. Knowing that if she were a man, but especially if she were a white man, she would have had a better shot. I felt small the day Bloomberg’s wealthy, unqualified ass entered and he took all the air out of the room. And I felt small every time I noticed a particular someone missing from polling data and articles. I felt tiny watching Elizabeth Warren get erased in real time, right in front of my eyes, knowing in my heart that she was the best person for the job. And it really, really hurt. It is still hurting as I type these words. And I think it is going to hurt for a long time.

It is hurting because, on a much smaller stage, I have experienced this. Most of us have. Ask the women you know. And especially ask the Black and Brown women you know. It is constant. Talk too loud and you’re shrill, too quietly and you’re weak; get angry and you’re a bitch, be measured and you’re calculating. And then you try and point this out to people and they don’t believe you. They simply disregard your entire lived experience. And there is nothing you can do about it except keeping talking, keep yelling even, and hope one day someone hears you. It’s maddening. It really is. To see who we have in the Oval Office and to look at who was left in the end and for it to be so fucking clear who was most qualified and have it not fucking matter. Because people hate women. People don’t trust women. Even women hate and don’t trust women. I am reminded how deeply entrenched sexism is in this country. As if I needed reminding. As if I am not reminded every day.

I really want to indulge my anger right now. My anger at all the people saying that Warren is to blame for how this election cycle has gone, Warren voters “threw out their progressive votes,” that people who voted for Biden didn’t know enough. But I don’t think I am in a place to make that productive right now so I will revisit it later. What I will say is this: seeing another able and exceedingly qualified woman lose to less able and qualified men is like taking a punch to the gut. My whole life I have been told that I can do anything, be anyone, accomplish anything. But that is not true. I can only do what they will allow me to do, be who they want me to be, accomplish what they allow me to accomplish. The sky is not the limit. The patriarchy is. And as much as I know this to be true, and as much as I try to fight against it day after day, it doesn’t hurt any less to be reminded of it again and again.

I am so tired. And my heart hurts so much. When will we get this right?

Today, I Submitted a Complaint with the NY AG’s Office. Here’s Why.

20 Feb

Today, I write to you out of rage. I don’t know if you all are aware of how much scams piss me off, but they REALLY piss me off. I am not one of those people who is like,

Oh, how cute, a scam. Let’s learn more about it give the scammers more notoriety and fame, ie Caroline Calloway.

Because where ever there is a scam, there is someone(s) who is the victim of it. Someone who has been knowingly taken advantage of. So, here is a story about a decidedly un-cute scam. In fact, to all my race running and riding friends: you might have gotten caught up in it.

A few weeks ago, I signed up to run a race with a few of my friends. It is one of my friends first race ever and I was, and still am, beyond excited to get to cross the finish line alongside her! The signup for the race, which takes place here in NYC this spring, was managed through a company based in Dallas called Active Network LLC. The outsourcing of registration for races is pretty common for smaller organizations so I didn’t think twice when I went through the process. What I did do was make sure to uncheck all the boxes so I don’t get any emails, unwanted magazine subscriptions or added payments for services I don’t want or need. Just sign me up for the race and let me do the rest. And yet today when I checked my debit card I noticed a charge for $89.95 that was labeled ACT ACTIVE NETWORK. I was completely confused. The only charge I made yesterday was $10 to the Warren campaign as a congratulations for her warranted MURDER of Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage but that was done on my American Express card. So, I did what I always do and I researched.

Well wouldn’t you know it, I somehow inadvertently signed up for a trial membership, the free period of which had ended yesterday. Friends, I never sign up for trial memberships because I always forget to cancel them and then I end up spending money on shit I don’t want and don’t need.* The first thing I did was dispute the transaction. I work hard for my money and it is the winter time and the bar has been very slow. There is no way I am giving away a chunk of my money to some membership thing that I did not sign up for and don’t even understand. After doing some more digging, I found out that I am by no means the first person to deal with this. Here is a complaint that dates back to 2014! Even with this piece of information, I thought I would do the right thing and give them a call. I called the number listed on their website, it said it was out of service. So I found a second number and called that one. What I found out is that if you wait long enough they actually present you with an option related to the credit card charge that apparently takes a lot of people by surprise. (When you Google the company, the charge is one of the top search results.) After a few more minutes on hold I was put through to a person. She said hello, introduced herself and asked how she could help. So I said,

Hello. I am calling about a fraudulent charge…

It was at this point that I heard a beep and Sufjan Stevens started playing. Weird. I looked at my phone and wouldn’t you believe it — she hung up on me and my phone automatically started playing a song I didn’t even know I had! Now I was really mad. I took the reasonable next step: Better Business Bureau, bitches! What I found was that this company has A LOT of negative complaints. Here is one of my favorites:

I’m a lawyer who has litigated deceptive “free trial” offer cases and I have no idea how i got enrolled in this Active Advantage scam. I do find that there was a class action settled in California regarding this practice, as well as an Iowa Attorney General action. this practice seems ripe for some more class actions or FTC referral.

I added my complaint to the pile. I still had some rage left over so I took the reasonable next step, and some good advice, and reached out to Leticia James, the New York Attorney General!** I explained my complaint AND I submitted supporting documents because everyone loves supporting documents plus it made me feel really official. Basically like a detective. I might actually go online and order myself a cool badge and wear it around for the next few days.

So I guess I will have to wait and see what Leticia James has to say about this. Hopefully her office will respond.


I know this probably sounds like a waste of time to some of you. I was on hold with my bank and with Active Network LLC for close to an hour; I spent a fair amount of time looking for other reports to be sure I wasn’t just an idiot who missed something; I filed complaints with two different government offices, including supporting evidence. But here’s the thing. This is crap. People shouldn’t have their money taken from them via questionable means. People budget. A random $90 withdrawal from an account can be devastating. And I am lucky enough to have time, research skills and an abundance of rage – especially right now. I can take the time to call my bank, submit these complaints, and do follow-up if needed. I can sit here and write this blog. A lot of people don’t have that time and, in my opinion, that is what companies prey on. They work it into their metric that a lot of people don’t regularly check their bank statements and might miss these withdrawals year after year (I saw reports of this). They rely on the fact that a lot of people will realize what happened, cancel their membership, (maybe) get a refund and never take additional steps. And then there are a few people like me who really don’t like to feel taken advantage of by a company acting in a shadowy manner. And more than that, I really don’t like that, based off my research, they have been doing this for years. And that there is a chance they are taking money from old people. I really don’t like when people take money from old people.

Next stop: Federal Trade Commission.

Anyway, I will keep you posted. And don’t worry, my hate fire is still burning.


*Side note, I think this practice that companies have of rolling trial memberships over into paid memberships without a reminder is sneaky and should be outlawed. We all forget to cancel that shit. I think I paid for a membership to the Wall Street Journal (PUKE)  for a year because I wanted to read one article about Simone Biles that was hidden behind a paywall and then totally forgot to cancel immediately. Technically my fault but I feel like a reminder would just be the right thing to do.

**Actually I just went to the website but whatever.

The Censorship Trolls Strike Again

11 Feb

Ah, friends, what a world we live in. It’s a world where people dismiss Trump’s recorded admission of being a predator as harmless locker room talk but where we, a couple of feminists trying to sex educate people, get all our shit taken down because it violates some ever-changing, nonsensical community guidelines. It’s really enough to make you want to scream. Here is the latest installment of The Internet is a Hell Scape and We’re All Doomed.

Back in August, we posted a photo to our Instagram that was originally taken by @claudiasahuquillo (don’t worry, we credited it appropriately as we do with all the content that we repost from other sources. We’re not monsters!). While some of our content does probably toe the line of what is deemed appropriate by Instagram, this photo was really not of much concern. Want to see it? (Sorry it’s so big I tried forever to resize it and failed.)

View this post on Instagram

Celebrate yourself woman. #skinisthenewcanvas

A post shared by Claudia Sahuquillo (@claudiasahuquillo) on

Okay, review the image. Really look at it. What do you see? I see a person with breasts who is not wearing a shirt or a bra and who’s boobs — the nipples and areolas specifically — are obscured by body paint. Bearing that in mind, read the section of Instagram’s community guidelines that we are supposedly in violation of:

“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”

Alright, so the first thing that I just want to get out of the way here is that Instagram’s community guidelines don’t have a problem with nipples full stop, they have a problem with female nipples exclusively. (The use of binary language here is also hugely problematic.) And the reason Instagram has problems with female nipples is that breasts are sexualized. Sure, nipples can be a very stimulating portion of foreplay and intercourse. In fact did you know that over 50% of men also get stimulated by nipple play? So it’s not the sexual gratification aspect of it that is at issue here. It is the fact that women’s nipples are deemed inappropriate and I would say they are deemed inappropriate because, for whatever reason, women’s nipples which look exactly like men’s nipples are considered sexy. The patriarchy is a real mother fucker.

But also, I have some questions about the mastectomy scaring portion of their guidelines. If a person gets a mastectomy then, what? Their breasts are no longer a threat to the delicate minds and eyes of the viewing public? Does this count for people who have had reconstruction? For people who have had nipples reattached or tattooed on? What, exactly, are the rules on this? They are, as are all community guidelines, intentionally vague.

Which leads me to wonder, what exactly about the above image violates the community guidelines as stated above? The breasts are not considered genitalia so that’s out. There is no closeup of a butt or sexual intercourse. And, (drum roll please) there are no nipples. Just breasts with cartoon eyeballs painted over the nipples and areolas. Or are cartoon eyeballs out now, too?