CZEdwards

Light writing. Galantier’s whiteboard. Too big for Twitter, too trivial for everywhere.

#TailorSnarkWars Battle 1: Donnie & Vladdie Wear The Clothes (Original thread: July 16 2018 Twitter)

Okay, I’m doing this. Donnie & Vladdie wear the clothes. And starting with a history lesson. @SamuraiKnitter requested.

I’ll try tomorrow. I do read suits, but Dampnuts is too easy. His gay tailor has been making him the butt of a joke for 15 years, and Two Scoops is too dumb to get it. I swear he stiffed a tailor’s bill once, and now they’re ALL out to get him.

To understand Russian tailoring, you have to understand the 300 year relationship of Russia, London & Paris. Always delicate, but Russia has always consumed and modified western culture for their own use rather than supplying it to London & Paris. Especially under Lenin/Stalin.

  1. (I’m specifically talking tailoring – menswear – here. Which is just as expressive, but with a limited palette, and for the past 200 years, has been defined by exquisite labor & material, not ornament. This is also true for women’s bespoke clothing for Russia, but more so.)

4.They’ve also borrowed from their east; there’s still much Mongol influence in menswear/cold weather wear that’s not western drag – shoulder button, double breasted coats & jackets; ankle length coats; the furry barrel hats. Steppe winters are horror movie cold. So is Moscow.

  1. Under the Tsars, everything the fashionable 500 wore originated in Paris or Savile Row but often locally produced by talented copyists. That continued under the Soviets for the party, except a lot of talent died because tailors who worked for Tsars became enemies of state.

  2. In the 50s & 60s, there was a branch of intelligence called Kremlinology that examined publicity photos for information about what Moscow really did. They looked at cuts of suit & made assumptions that narrow lapels & skinny trousers were due to economic deprivation...

  3. But no, Moscow seemed to like the Teddy Boy look coming out of London. Moscow fashion can be as capricious as the rest of the world’s, and it has tastemakers. It’s liminal, since it’s the intersection of West & East & it’s a remix culture. So all assumptions carry caveats.

  4. That said: Putin is almost always v well clothed. Too well, per U rules in both UK and US Old Money. His suits always fit perfectly, and are always impeccable, and show so little wear that they’re fairly obviously newly made for the occasion. That’s what scratches the record.

  5. A man’s suit that looks new shouts “New Money! Arriviste! Nouveau Riche!” (For a costuming example: look at Mad Men, first couple seasons – Roger Sterling vs Don Draper. Roger has had those suits for years. Or Prince Charles’ suits vs Tony Blair’s.)

  6. Putin’s tailors are very good – he’s a small man and we all forget that because his clothes give him extra broad shoulders, a long neck and a long torso. Note how rarely we see his back or the backs of his legs. (Or his legs at all, come to think of it.)

  7. But that’s also both Russian and New Money tailor signaling; the latter unintentional. Russian pride or Vlad’s ego – which are deeply intertwined – doesn’t permit him to be a small man. He must be biggest, baddest bear in the forest. Thus, his shoulders are heavily padded. See?

  8. (Note that 🍊💩’s shoulders are also padded, though much worse quality. It’s mostly the same thought process, except shoulder pads are also used to mask a prominent or protruding tummy & to balance out short arms. Difference: you can SEE DJT’s pads in outline. Can’t see Vlad’s.)

  9. The long neck is also an illusion thanks to serious talent. In Vlad’s infamous shirt off on the horse photo, his neck is nothing to write home about. It’s about 3 fingers width from collarbone to chin or to jaw. Average. But in suit? Halfway to ostrich.

  10. You do that by cutting the suit collar to lay very flat over the upper chest/collarbones, and scooping out the back, standing collar by millimeters, so there’s just a titch more shirt collar showing without looking like anything is over or undersized. Serious props to tailors.

  11. And yes, Vlad gets a bit of credit here: he knows how to wear & move in his clothes. That takes study, time and practice. (Yes, I am calling him vain as a phlebotomist‘ s nightmare.)

  12. But remember how little we see of his legs. How often we see him sitting, or when standing, using the camera angle to seem as tall as the person beside him. Vlad is Angela Merkel’s height – 5’5”. DJT claims 6’3”, is really about 5’11”. Now look at today’s presser pics.

  13. (Part of the reason the Obama-Putin stare down pic is so revealing is because it caught Vlad’s side angle, so it’s clear Obama towers over him. And that Obama is not intimidated. Also... Hillary Clinton is slightly taller than Vlad, and not easily intimidated. Hmmm...)

  14. But in today’s press pics, Vlad and 45 are on the same level. I’m gonna guess slouching, boxes, cushions and angles. It’s basic stage-craft. The MCU does it all the time for Robert Downey Jr because he’s tiny and Chris Evans isn’t.

  15. As for DJT: his suits are custom, but his tailors intend him to look like he slept in an off the rack suit that everyone else left on the rack. I assume he wears worsted wool, but it looks & drapes like poly-rayon. His sleeves are too long and baggy from elbow to wrist, but...

  16. ...His biceps are too tight because fat upper arms. His shoulders don’t fit. If he were wearing off the rack, it’s because he’s buying to cover his gut. But he’s wearing custom, so it’s tailors making fun of him. (For sewists, he needs an Full Tummy Adjustment.)

  17. Shoulder pads ameliorate it a little, but not enough. Fat men can wear clothes, they just have to trust their tailor. Since 45 has never trusted anyone but Vlad, well.... Not gonna happen. And no, I’m not fat-shaming or size shaming. I’m saying DJT chooses to be badly dressed.

  18. (I say this as a woman who requires a 5 inch Full Bust Adjustment. Not 5 divided by 2 halves, but 5 inch on each side. Patterns are made for B cups; I’m an FF. There is no shame in needing custom clothing, and tailoring can handle any body shape and size. That’s the JOB.)

  19. Donald refuses to admit he needs good custom clothing & his vanity can’t admit he’s no longer a man in his 30s. He hasn’t updated his internal profile picture in decades. He sees his Art of the Deal photo when he looks in today’s mirror. (Which is unsettling in cognitive sci...)

  20. Dampnuts is still wearing what was fashionable in the late 80s, when he was flying high. Back then, baggy suits, wide shoulders, long ties, and a rumpled look were fashionable. But those do look best on slim men with torsos shaped like a Dorito, not torsos shaped BY Doritos.

  21. And nobody around him can say (and be heard), “daddy, you don’t look right. Let’s fix this.” Either they don’t care or can’t get through.

Which ties to my other wheelhouse- behavioral psych: client wardrobe is highly revealing, and attitude towards clothing matters.

/end

PS! That thing I said about stage-craft? Look at this from the last 24 hours. Chris Wallace is 5’10”. Note that Vlad’s seat is lower to the floor, the chair is upstage from Chris, the angle is canted a bit to mask the difference, and they’ve got the chyron. (Also Vlad’s heels.)

A response to a conservative, about the wall.

Have you lived on the border, Allie? I think probably not. No, your bio says Dallas. You really don’t know, do you?

I grew up on the border. During the Reagan/Bush years, when the border was fairly open. My BFF’s fam owned property on both sides, since the 18th century. I was the immigrant; please look up Gadsden Purchase. The US only acquired Southern Arizona in 1854.

https://twitter.com/conservmillen/status/1078477633707491330?s=20

There were no cartels, and very little cross-border violence; no more than any two small towns in the middle of nowhere.

Nor did people die of hyperthermia in the desert, back then, nor was human smuggling a thing. It wasn’t rosy, but it was safer for everyone on both sides.

Stealing our jobs? Please define our first? Because I don’t see you out in the fields weeding lettuce. Or picking strawberries. Not every day.

Nor are they coming for your podcast ad money. You’re totally fine there.

Do you even scrub your own shower, sis? Because you don’t look like you do any work.

You could say that my BFF’s orthodontist on the south side of the border took business from a US ortho, but my BFF was always going to get her braces from her family dentist (literal family, cousin).

Citizenship in my BFF’s family depended more on which doc their mom picked. Some generations were more US-born than Mexican, when US docs were better about pain control/problem pregnancies.

When the Catholic line about saving baby & letting mom die was strong, there were a lot more births in the US hospital. The costs were about the same, back then. Seriously, the idea of anchor babies was not even a thing, because almost everyone was a dual citizen anyway, either by place of birth or through their parents. The availability of nitrous or epidurals mattered WAY more.

That border? It’s a figment to scare people like you. For those who live on the border? It used to be an annoyance at most; it’s now dangerous because you aren’t coping with your fear. People like you provide weapons to cartels. You do the straw purchase, then private sell the gun, or its parts, to the drug runners. You may even do it at a remove, but that’s what’s always happening.

Mexico tries to control weapon flow, specifically because the cartels (which the US helped create) have a tendency to be mass murdering agents of chaos. You have to take ownership for this: US policies have made the cartels incredibly lucrative. Conservative policy created them.

My BFF’s family was old money, old land owners. They have water rights to Colorado river water that are older than the state of Indiana. That predate the Louisiana Purchase, much less Gadsden. And they have to fight for that water every single year, because of people like you. If you’re not defending their rights to their land, you don’t respect property rights. You’re not a conservative. You’re stealing.

And it’s people like you who are making my BFF’s family into incredibly talented lawyers, because they sue people like you every single day. Thanks!

The wall? It’s noise. Again, if you’d ever been on the border, you’d understand that it’s an incredibly stupid idea to build a giant wall – or fence – in a desert. I can explain a flash flood or a dust storm to you, but you’ll never understand how powerful the desert is. Not even in Dallas. Not a city girl like you.

It’s not even so much that a wall is immoral as it’s moronic, in the sense of stupid, destructive, and counter to good sense.

Let’s just talk about pouring the concrete. You realize that almost all of the concrete will come from... Mexico? That’s were the cement plants are. (And even if the federal spec requires US concrete, which will be more expensive, because it has to travel further, Cemex will be taking up the slack by providing replacement concrete. Cement & concrete are actually sort of fungible, especially when the mix is for deep footings in the desert.)

Right there? Thanks for exporting a lot of jobs. All that tax money? Gone. (And yes, the cartels do have interests in legitimate business, like cement... so good on you for enabling MORE crime! I’m impressed at how multi-modal you’re getting here.)

Oh, and it’s a desert. Concrete requires a LOT of water for pouring and setting, and even more when you’re pouring in the desert, because it’s hot and dry, even in January. There’s very little municipal water piping on the border. Trucking in all of that water. More expense!

The steel? Well, two problems. Back in the late 70s & early 80s, all of the industrial technology built for and after World War II came to the end of its useful life. In the years since it was installed, better tech had been invented, but it was going to be expensive to replace. The Reagan admin refused to subsidize updating the steel industry (because that would have meant acknowledging how dirty and dangerous the industry had been, opening everyone up to deserved suits) so... steel left the United States. We don’t have much steel production anymore. And now we’ve got that little tariff problem. Oops. That’s on your guy, not anyone else. He started that.

Of course, it’s pretty clear who benefits from that artificially high steel cost. Mostly Russia.

Have you checked on the Birchers recently? Their heads must be exploding. (Seriously, will you go check on your Cold Warriors? How can you do this to them? They know Ivan didn’t quit just because Gorby said they did. Oooh, you really are so very young you don’t know... Please go talk to your elders, honey. You’ve got a lot to learn.)

Oh, and one more. Construction jobs. You know, the AZ contractors will probably subcontract out parts of this job, and every subcontract means the job pay rate gets a little lower.

You know who does most of the stoop-level construction work for $15/hr?

You’re not gonna like it.

Basically? All the things you think you want from a wall? You’re not gonna get. The problems you think a wall solves will get worse.

When you force criminals, like cartels, to get creative? They do. The coyotes were a creative (if evil) solution to the problem US caused. And I’m pretty sure I can’t explain scale to most people who have not lived in the Sonoran/Mojave Desert, but let me try.

My grandparents lived about 30 miles from Indianapolis. Going to Indy was a MAJOR expedition. Like all day, get dressed up, check the tire pressure & oil. When I was in High School? 45 miles? That wasn’t even an away game; that’s still in my high school catchment area.

The border is enormous. 2,000 miles. The distance from Miami to Boston. Very few people live there, because there’s no water.

You have no idea of the scale. You think you understand because you’re a Texan, but you’re from Dallas. You’re hemmed in, locked in the suburbs. You have no idea what walking out into the night and desert means.

Maybe a few people in Kansas & Nebraska will get this, but even the scale of the Great Plains is still small compared to the Mojave/Sonoran desert, and those are just two fractions of the whole desert.

You’re imagining walls for action figures. Think Game of Thrones DRAGONS.

There are SO many better ways to monitor that desert.

Use cameras, and send someone out to intercept ASAP with water, not bullets. Because seriously? The coyotes make money for the cartels by selling the fear.

Treat people crossing the border well & you destroy cartel income. Drones & humanitarian aid will do this far better.

Because really? What are you scared of?

Marijuana? We grow that here now. A LOT OF IT. (And it’s hurting the cartels!)

Opiates? See Lilly, Phizer, Roche, et al.

Meth? Mostly local manufacture. Look in your backyards, please. If you’re afraid of labor? Oh, wow. Okay, see, here’s the thing: are you raising your kid to think mucking out a dairy barn is a good living?

This is only true if you own a dairy. The people who come here willing to take an ag job have to be willing to travel, not own homes. The next step up from working stoop/orchard crops (requiring migration with the harvest) is dairy or eggs. All in the same place, but badly paid and dangerous work.

Then slaughterhouse. Badly paid, dangerous, with knives.

Then maybe? Cleaning houses & lawn/garden. Are those the aspirations you have for your child? That’s what you want? Those are the jobs you don’t WANT.

That’s why immigrant labor fills them. It’s all skilled labor, and it’s incredibly valuable, and you don’t value it. But others do.

So what are you afraid of? Are you afraid of another language?

Let me assure you, as a Native English speaker and near native Norteño speaker, with mono-lingual parents who have asked me to eavesdrop & translate a lot...

They’re not talking about you. I promise. You’re not even on their radar. (Also, never ask me to do that. It’s really gross, and I don’t care about their kids’ sportsball schedule, or their family dramas, or what they watched on TV last night.)

I’m sorry you feel you’re not the center of their universe, but that’s on you, not on them. There’s nothing to fear. For far less money, we can hamstring the cartels and provide all of our labor needs.

Oh, and one last. If you want your Social Security, and want a comfortable retirement, and for your roads to at least be patched... you want immigrants’ taxes. Because an undocumented worker is still paying into the FICA & SS funds.

(Most of the time; it’s safer for the employer to have a fake social than to be paying under the table. The former can be plausibly deniable. The latter makes the state & IRS twitchy.)

But they can’t claim those funds, even if they ever manage to get legal. That money goes into the SS/FICA fund and never comes back out. It’s a subsidy for people with legitimate Social Security numbers.

You’re hurting your own future self, conservatives. Undocumented workers pay sales tax on everything they buy. They pay property taxes, on their own property or through their landlord. With 1 citizen in the family, that person gets to own the property, do the insurance, keep everyone as under radar as possible.

Including taxes. It is deeply conservative to want people in jobs.

Nativism is not conservative. It’s fear-driven.

So I just ask this: look at your fear, and really sit with it. Think it through. The Swedes & Irish & Italians & Polish were also immigrants, fleeing war & poverty.

~end Well. I write fiction. It does include deserts, though it’s mostly #hopepunk about a civil war. Because we can get through this, and I tell stories to get us there.

All my books are on sale right now at Smashwords. The first one is forever free! smashwords.com/books/byseries…

In terms of climate, I’m a communist.

We have one planet. Nobody gets off, not even Elon. We all piss into each other’s water every single day. We have more genes in common than not.

Our wealth is merely doing each other’s laundry & selling each other rocks.

Thread.

There is no exit. We’re here. Even those who believe in an afterlife believe that this life governs what happens in the next. We’re taught to be good stewards, across all faiths.

(I’m using Xtian language, but ahimsa in Hinduism, all of Tao, and Shinto, & I’m outta characters.) A steward was responsible for all of the aristocrat’s possessions. Including the roof of the castle and the cellar full of booze, the fields & forests & all of the livestock. If the steward let the roof rot, or drank it all? That steward wouldn’t be in the job for long.

If you’re Christian and expecting a rapture?

You better be lobbying for cleanup on the atmosphere aisle with every polluted breath you draw, because your Lord’s precious planet is filthy.

It’s your job, AS THE STEWARD, to clean it up. You can’t deny it. You must answer for it. Why would he take you into his house, knowing you will again disrespect it, make it a mess, break it down and burn it up? How can you expect forgiveness for destruction? Because you say you love him? You’re not children, yet you show nothing but contempt for his gifts.

If you expect to die before the climate gets bad? Well, if you hope for a good afterlife (Heaven, a next reincarnation), you better be cleaning up, too.

Because your next life depends on the condition you leave this life. If you’re not helping, you’re making the mess worse.

If you think it’s already too late & we’ll all die anyway, might as well just party it up until the end? Fine. That’s your right, for you alone. You may not take ANYONE with you. You can’t make that decision for anyone else.

If you insist on drinking, hand over your keys first. I’m one voice. I help people choose not to die when their prior life wounded them so badly they’d rather not live.

This is my statement: we have 12 years. It’s not too late. But it’s growing later, every day.

This is actually an existential terror. YOU SHOULD BE TERRIFIED. We have one chance.

We may not succeed in mitigating the climate.

But it’s the chance we have.

We cannot walk away.

We cannot pretend we don’t see the damage.

We cannot hope for a savior.

We either get busy living, or we get busy dying. I expect I’ve got another 50 years on this planet. It’s time to bring the Revolution to Omelas.

Fuck walking away.

Fuck pretending it’s not that bad.

We can all live here. We can all breathe. We just have to try. Not ignore it.

mccc.edu/pdf/eng102/Wee… Money? It’s paper. It’s digital. It’s portable abacus beads we hand each other for rocks and laundry. It’s imaginary. It won’t buy oxygen. It can’t make water. It’s a useful proxy for time, thought, and effort. We’re all there is. We’re all that will be, if we don’t do the work. Gotta try.

Worst case?

Well, we’ve wrecked economies before. Let’s talk to the Argand lamp manufacturers. Or the buggy makers.

I say this as a stats geek: it’s all models and theories and statistical noise to entertain us when we’ve got no laundry to wash or rocks to trade. It exists because we agree it exists. It has power because we agree to give it power. It represents our labor, and our intentions, and thoughts. And we can redirect them by our will.

We are alone. We are all we have.

Get Busy Living.

Or Get Busy Dying. Shorter: Don’t be afraid. Don’t freeze. Be pointedly angry. Make it your motivation. Focus on right action. Take the next baby step. There’s so MUCH HOPE in wanting to live.

It’s fierce & hot.

I want to find you, point you at the sky & say “Tomorrow, the sun rises. RIGHT THERE, it’ll break the horizon. We know this because of math. That’s how we know how planets work. we can fix this one. If we hope & work.” But if we waste the precious time arguing about how, we will destroy our civilization, most of the species currently trying to live around our messy asses, our nearest cousins & best friends. Bye bye, kitties.

Let’s be clear: the free market is WHY we’re in trouble. For 2 centuries, they’ve dumped waste into rivers, oceans, and air, because that was an invisible cost. It’s no longer invisible. It’s smog over every city, light pollution at night.

We didn’t know, then. We do now. The free market’s last chance was 25 years ago. It’s time to stop falling for their scam. Whenever they say they’ll do something, we find it undone, years later, shoved into rusting barrels, abandoned on some scrubby private property, leaking into the water table.

Honesty costs. It’s HOW THEY OPERATE. Always have, always will, because the cost to clean up their mess leaves them broke. Free market environmental protection never works, won’t work this time. Every government, from village up, will have to interfere.

Every government is made of us. So. Get busy living. Or get busy dying.

Practical steps, for this sol cycle: Here’s a few. Tested, workable, only depending on you. We’ll get to making governments listen next week, after the sun returns. The work is baby steps. (And USian, because that’s what I know.)

Start. So: Your energy company has a plan that lets you maximize your share of renewable energy. We went to 100%. I ran our audit for this year. It cost us an extra $11. For less than $1 a month, all of our electric is wind/solar. CO has managed days of 60% plus renewable recently. The car you have, if you have one? Keep it as long as you can. A clean, efficient post 2005 car is less carbon than a new one.

(If it’s a recalled VW, or gets less than 14 mpg, it’s time to trade in or give it up if you can. Can you do better than the $5-9K it costs per year?) No, seriously, cost it out: regional bus pass here is $320/month, 3840/yr. No insurance, no gas. 4 taxi/Lyfts a month? $80/960 Van rental, 2x a year: $50 each, if I go Uhaul.

$4800.

Lots of employers give transit as a perk. Some cities/neighborhoods have major discounts. It doesn’t work for everyone, doesn’t work everywhere, but cars are only the cheapest, most convenient tranport when

a) they work cleanly, and

b) we don’t count of ALL the money we put into them. (Including carbon costs.) And go appropriate. Who is in your car 90% of the time? Just you? You need the smallest, most efficient car you can get. (Or a bus pass, so you’ve got time to read and knobdick on twitter.)

You + a kid? Same car.

You + 4 kids? Subie, crossover, small minivan. 27 mpg, min. Just you but hauling drywall EVERY WEEK: Okay, you need the truck/Cargo van.

But It’s cheaper for you & better for the planet to own a Fiat 500 or Prius and rent a Home Depot or Uhaul truck a couple times a year than to own something large because you occasionally need lumber. Less flying. There’s just no way to fly efficiently. If you must fly, buy the carbon offsets.

Truly, a teleconference is often better, because you can record it. A Slack chat is 1000% better, because you got it all in text, and nobody can weasel out of what they said they’d do. (I’d say trains & ships, but in the US? That’s ... hard. Better off with teleconference for almost everything. Same with telecommuting, whenever possible. Face time is highly over-rated for effectiveness.) Natural gas furnace/water heater? Eh... 97% efficient?Keep it serviced. The more efficient, the better. NatGas is the bridge fuel. It’s better than oil or coal.

When your furnace dies, its time for an electric heat pump; aim for geothermal. Tankless water heaters if you got gas. Keep the thermostat as low as you can handle it. Most people aren’t Freezy Babies like me (61 is perfect in winter) but wear sweaters, maybe a hat or headscarf (they look nice, feel GREAT). Get/make a canopy bed, because that canopy makes winter cozy. (Pets like them, too.) It’s more energy efficient to cool a building by 40 degrees, from 110 to 70 (F) than to heat it from 35 to 65 (30 degrees.) So... if you can stand warm climates, and can move to one... do it. The less climate control you use, the better off the planet will be. (Seriously. It’s partly the physics of heat. Warm air rises, so you lose it out your roof, windows. Cold air sinks. Also the physics of air movement & evaporation. Try this: iopscience.iop.org/article/10.108… ) (Caveat, though. Don’t take plants to a desert & put them outside. Skip backyard pools. Minimize concrete & make it HIGH albedo (white) so it reflects. Phoenix is HOTTER & cools off less now than it used to. A desert shouldn’t be a humid heat island. It should get cool at night. Just be XTRA water thrifty if you move from a wet climate to a dry one. Take advice about how to conserve water & accept the spare beauty of a mesquite tree instead of the full leaf of a maple. Tho you’ll thank me if you put all your landscape water on a citrus tree. I promise.) Next: Everyone needs stuff.

If you can’t walk to get the stuff you need, then having it come to you in Amazon Prime Pantry boxes/Jet boxes is actually more energy efficient than making short car trips. An Amazon box equals about 8-11 miles of driving. So fill boxes, wait to order, pretend you’re in the old days when you didn’t get free shipping until $50, and didn’t get free Prime Pantry unless you got your box to 95%. (eBay is a bit better for small stuff, since they mostly use USPS, who comes daily anyway.) If you can’t walk and/or Amazon? Try to do one long loop of trips, get your stuff in bulk and with as little waste as possible. Eat as locally as possible. (Kroger/Frys/Soops groceries are GREAT for this: they all use “I’m Local!” tagging for anything produced within the state.) If you live where we grow soy & corn? Consider becoming vegetarian/vegan. If you live where grass pasture is what the Native Americans used? Try to be an obnoxious beyond organic locavore whose only processed food is the grass in buffalo & dairy, with little rice/wheat/soy/corn. Basically, try to eat less of everything you can’t grow in your climate, especially if it requires supplemental water. As often as possible. Try it for 1/3-½ of meals to start. Anything, just make a start to live a little more lightly on your part of the planet as you can. Check your house. Do you need what you have? In some places, it’s hard to find a house that’s less than 3000 sq feet. And I know that having a roomie is tough for a lot of people. But if you can offer 6 months of room to a cousin to get out of your awful BIL’s orbit? Try it. Set some good boundaries, work out what you need from a roomie and what you offer, don’t be their parent, just be the person who offered them help.

Worst case? You never do that again, and you helped them bridge.

But the best case? You have a sitter sometimes. If you’re empty nest? Downsize now. Look, you’ll be happier without the maintenance & housework & stuff. It’ll cost less in energy and time, you’ll have more time to do what you want. Sick of mowing/shoveling? That’s fine. There are condo HOAs JUST FOR YOU. And still cheaper. If you don’t want to part with that house? Work out a swap with a kid/relative/friend. Work out a sale or rent. Use a service that specializes in family rental/mortgage to help mitigate arguments. (These exist. Often inexpensive. So much easier than setting up a distance sale.) Got a hoard? Ask for help. Next time you’re at a doctors office/hospital, ask for a social worker. Tell them you need help, and don’t know where else to go. Tell them you’re beyond your own capacity.

It’s okay to be overwhelmed. There is no fault in needing help. You have an estate? Start parting with it now. See your investment of labor and time in the hands of the people you care about, while you’re still here, and you can both enjoy it.

And don’t complain how other people use gifts. (Because you have also disposed of something...) You’re alone & not very wealthy? Start talking to other people in the same boat. (Senior centers and student centers are great for this.) Let’s rebuild the world of intentionally constructed families & residence halls & boarding houses.

Negotiating is easier than being alone. Shakespeare was the roomie in a London family for almost his entire career. If Shakespeare did his very best work while living amongst another family’s marriages and arguments and bickers over who didn’t pick up their wet towel... (Caveat of course: if you’re in a bad place, it’s best to get out. You might be better walking out with what fits in a suitcase, taking yourself to shelter, and finding that social worker. Risks are risks, and if you’re unsafe, it’s better to go than stay.) The way we live longer -as a species, a planet, as individuals – is to maximize the social side of our nature, not the solitary predator side.

When we think we can be rugged individualists, we tend to die early and in misery. When we are part of others’ worlds, we are happier. The way to get busy living is to get busy, living.

We are all telepathetic. We do not read each other’s minds. If you need help, you have to ask, but there is help. It can be hard to find, but it’s there. If parting with stuff terrifies you? Find one of my colleagues. Start talking. When we cling to our stuff -be it great gran’s china or Mom’s old towels or the junk mail – what we’re doing is making the thing take the place of our feelings. Stuff can be how we lie to ourselves.

Those walls of stuff lock us in cells of our own making. Because we see the pile of magazines and think we need a magazine file, and then a bookcase for it, then a bin for our odd socks, and... and then we’re back buying more, thinking less, consuming to insulate against fear. Thus my solstice prayer for us: May we never walk away. May we never pretend it’s all is fine. May we take our individual steps to conquer fear, for Earth.

May we live the Revolution in Omelas & tell the story to every child, so no child will ever again suffer for our whims.

The Last Call (Written Dec 25 2018 on Twitter)

Two years ago today, I had to make Gran’s last call. Her nursing home got hit with a wind storm; they were on generator & backup battery power.

She always had a strong living will. We didn’t transport when last stroke hit, per her wishes.

She’d been fine on the Monday before Christmas, and had another cerebral or basal ganglia event overnight, probably the morning of Christmas Eve. But her wishes were no transport to hospital.

I asked for fentanyl & Ativan to keep her comfortable, because she was gone. #Hospice

When you make someone’s last call, and you follow their wishes – no matter what ANYONE else says or thinks – you are helping that person maintain their autonomy and their choices. It’s the most profound kindness and act of love there is.

Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment is the search term you need. Get one of these forms, have it on your phone, email it as needed.

If you’re with your family, today (Christmas!) is a great day to say, “I need to know exactly where your advance directive is. Oh, you don’t have one? Well, I’ll be calling in 2 weeks. Think about exactly what you want. I will follow your orders, but you have to give those orders.”

Loved one says, “but I’m your kid! I’m only 28!” Or “But I’m healthy and will live forever!”

You shrug. Remind them that people get in car accidents and hit by buses ALL THE TIME. Note that it’s more unpleasant to START a family argument by being indecisive than to decide.

Everything gets written down, to the maximum level your state/nation allows. We kept Gran’s 2014 MOST form despite a 2015 update, because she was ADAMANT about no antibiotics once her short-term memory broke. (CO took that off the form for a while.)

Get granular.

(Gran’s? No antibiotics; it’s kinder to die of pneumonia than a slow bladder infection or diabetes. No supplementary nutrition or water if she couldn’t ask for it. No IVs, no CPR, no anything. Drugs for comfort only.)

And make sure it’s signed. Then seal a hard copy in a zip top bag and put it in the freezer door, or in the medications box. You can get an advanced directive sticker from most hospitals. Put it somewhere REALLY visible, so if an EMT has to transport your relative, that form goes with.

I also took copies of her forms to all of the hospitals likely to treat her in an emergency, and had them put in her record.

Because I was not fucking around with the Catholic hospital chain that conveniently “forgets” about the existence of MOST forms & advance directives.

It’s not morbid to talk about how to best die. If it’s an act of love to follow the orders, it’s also a profound act of love to MAKE your own orders.

You tell the people who love you EXACTLY what you want, so they don’t spend the rest of their lives hoping they got it right.

On Not Getting It

(Originally written for the Slactiverse in 2011. Lightly edited to conceal identities.)

I was seven when my family moved to Arizona. I'd had a First Communion in the Catholic Church and was one of those happy mutant children who loved school and Catechism class.

My smother says I’m the child of the person who adopted me, but I’m the only kid who got Catholic school/catechism and Quaker theology, and I look a hell of a lot like the younger siblings of the person I’ve pegged as my biological father. (Who died before I was born.) Also I have a blood type that’s 5% extraordinary mitosis or 95% Don’t Get on 23&Me without lots of thought and a good pseudonym. The parents married when I was an infant and the XY adopted me. (Thus, I don't use the term half-siblings, though biologically, that's what M and L are; my two half-sibs are from my father's most recent marriage, and are 17 and 20 years my junior.)

My first few years were split between the rural Midwest, where Smother's family has lived since that state was a territory, and exotic locations courtesy of the Department of Defense. Smother — who was sick of winter, moving, Naval bases and the Midwest's dying economy — accompanied my father on a TDY (temporary duty) to Arizona. Smother decided she liked the desert, checked out the schools, picked out a house, interviewed for a job and that was that.

Smother says my memory is correct — she made the decision and most of the arrangements in about ten days. (And this before cell phones and the Internet.) I was starting third grade. My sibs, L and M, were just starting kindergarten (five) and nursery school (two) respectively. Smother worked full-time and XY was frequently TDA (temporary duty assignments) all over the world. (Seabee. Civil engineer. Concrete. Runways, roadways, bridges. The big ones.)

It's sometimes hard to recall what the 1980s were like, but one of the biggest differences between then and now was that it was fine for me to be a latch-key kid at eight. Two days a week, I walked home from school and hung out until someone got home. The other three days, I walked to my Catholic church for either Catechism class, youth group or Girl Scouts. Saturday afternoon, I went to Mass and on Sundays, Mom took M, L and me to First Day Meeting.

When we moved to Arizona, I'm pretty sure neither of my parents had any conception of Mormons beyond “The Osmond Family”. They certainly did not realize that Mesa was then (and is now) as much a Mormon stronghold as Provo or Salt Lake City (at the time). In the 1980s, about 60% of Mesa's year-round residents were strongly Mormon — including everyone on our cul-de-sac except us.

L and our neighbors' daughters became very close, so L tagged along to Honeybees (Mormon very young girls' youth group) and the Mormon church with her friends. L was never going to be introduced to Catholicism but L never could handle Quaker meeting, either. Meditation and sitting quietly still drives L around the bend, at 30-plus. Before we moved to Arizona, our Society of Friends congregations had children's groups, but the AZ congregation was small and mostly elderly. That wasn't a good fit for L.

My parents really didn't have a problem with L going to church with her friends; they assumed Mormons were some sort of Christian (mostly true), L would get Christianity 101 in an environment that did not drive her to tantrums, and eventually, would make up her own mind. Smother refused to let L be baptized, but Quakers don't believe in baptism by water. That I was baptized in infancy, like most Catholic babies, is part of what clued me in to the unreliable narration that is Smother’s version of events. (M, the baby of the family, handled First Day Meeting beautifully; at six accompanied me to Mass; at thirteen M picked up my Comparative Religion's Drawing Down the Moon when I was home over a winter break and has been pagan ever since.)

That first year set the pattern. I'd already had my First Communion and being Catho-Quaker worked for me. From then on, I made friends at school, churches and Girl Scouts; L’s came from whatever ward (equivalent to a parish) she was attending. In high school, I gravitated towards the Geek-Goth-Rebel set; L was an athlete and Prep Squad type. My friends reveled in the thrill of coffee, D&D and teenage Marxism; L and her giggle of friends wore CTR (Choose The Right) rings and went to LDS dances. So... when Lou finally converted and was baptized into the LDS church about 17 years ago, I was only surprised because it took her so long. It's where she feels comfortable and welcome. So far, it mostly works for my nephews, especially because my brother-in-law has been in South Korea, Iraq or Afghanistan for the majority of their marriage.

The Mormon Corridor (Arizona, Utah, Idaho and southern Alberta — AKA Morridor** or “The Jell-o Belt” because Mormons really like Jell-o) culture is remarkably homogenous — more than half of all active Mormons live in Morridor, and that group sends out runners like a strawberry plant, which tend to flourish with little regional or international variation. The homogeneity derives from a few sources — standardized religious and community material, decades of isolation, a suburban-to-rural population, oral tradition and folklore, and numerical domination in their regions — but the individual factors work synergistically.

When I talk about Mormons as a group, I have to be very careful to note this homogeneity is not my perceptual prejudice. Not all Mormons are alike, but Mormon culture is propagated in such a way that conformity to group expectations is strongly rewarded, and non-conformity is strongly punished.

There is an organization within the LDS church called the Priesthood Correlation Program (or more commonly, the Correlation) that consolidates and organizes the Church to codify the dominant culture. When people say that Mormon culture reminds them of the 1950s, that's an intentional product of the Correlation's current incarnation (dating from the early 1960s). The Correlation has effectively created an echo-chamber.

For fifty years, Mormons have been told what to read, what to wear, what to watch, what music they can hear, when to pray, when to work, when to serve the church, and their salvation depends on living up to these behavioral conditions. Local communities (called wards) are regularly (every 1-2 years) reorganized within the stake (equivalent to a diocese) boundaries. This serves two purposes — first, it disrupts any move towards independence by one ward, and second, it ensures that all doctrine comes from the centralized Church rather than the local communities.

Let me be perfectly clear — I have no direct animosity for the institution of the LDS church. I do not consider it a cult or a hoax. I am not Mormon, but I lived inside the culture from age 7 to 22. Even my rebel friends were Mormon. A step-mother, a sibling, two half siblings and all of my step-siblings are all Mormon. I believe the faith offers value to its members commensurate with what they put into it. Some of the people I love and many of those I like are Mormon and I do not want their solace taken from them.

However, I am a sharp critic of some of the theology, of many practices, and of Morridor culture. I am also critical of LDS, Inc, the not-for-profit corporate structure of the Church, specifically for ethical and legal concerns. But I'm critical of Catholicism in exactly the same ways, and of Christianity in general.

For most non-Mormons who don't live in Morridor, Mormonism is pretty much limited to Big Love (semi-accurate) and somewhat distorted rumors — they wear funny underwear (true), have lots of kids (often true but not strictly necessary) and sometimes practice polygyny (rarely true in the physical world). They send out missionaries (young men generally between the ages of 19 and 21, young women between 21 and 23, and retired couples) for primarily evangelical work.

Mormons do not have dedicated humanitarian missions. This causes some friction between Mormon missionaries and other, generally Christian, humanitarian missions in developing nations. Please see the historical sections of Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer for an accurate, although critical, history.

Mormons believe that, after death, the soul goes to one of three heavens, and within the lower two of those heavens, souls have the opportunity to learn the truth and accept the teachings that will promote them up the ladder. However, these promotions are dependent upon physical acts performed in life. Obviously, a soul, which is non-corporeal, cannot be physically dunked in water and baptised, but Mormons believe in baptism by proxy for the dead. Thus, L can be baptised in the name of our Great-Aunt Sally, and Aunt Sally's soul can then choose to accept the truth for herself in the afterlife. Mormons don't believe the soul is under any compulsion to accept the baptism, but they want every soul that ever lived to have the option to do so. The public rules on this are that one may only proxy-baptise for one's own ancestors, and only men can baptise for men, only women can baptise for women, but the former rule is observed more in the breech. The latter is absolute.

I'm somewhere between a Radical Pantheist and a Nontheist Quaker — I'm not entirely sure I have a soul, and even if I do, I'm far from convinced there is an afterlife, and even if there is, I pretty sure that the state change from bound to a body to not bound is going to be so completely outside of the person I am now that whatever happens after my body dies, my consciousness is not going to care. (And that’s my best case. I hope to all the nice gods there ever were that continuity of consciousness is not tied to the body. Think of what we do with dead bodies.)

I often have to give a quick primer in Mormon Theology 101, because it's Christian, and it's not. Mormons are non-trinitarians (They don’t believe in God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as three aspects of one deity) and they believe in the divinity, virgin birth, resurrection and assumption of Jesus. They believe in a literal End Times/Apocalypse, and in a Second Coming of Christ that has not happened, but is expected Any Time Now. Their standard Bible is the Authorized King James; they also have three other sacred texts: The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Mormons consider the BoM a mythic history of events in North America; the D&C is exactly what it says on the box, and PoGP is a collection of short works and commentary. They believe the KJV translation of the Bible was divinely inspired and guided, but that humans, being fallible, made errors in translation. In their theology, they're a Protestant sect of the low church variety. No statuary, no icons, no real body of liturgy. Most of their churches double as basketball courts — intentionally.

Half of the LDS' Church membership is in the US and Canada, and strongly concentrated in the Mormon Corridor of Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Alberta, one-third is in South and Central America, and the rest is scattered world wide, mostly in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Their missionary force is almost entirely evangelical, no matter where it is located. They don't have a lot of humanitarian missions. Mormons currently claim about 14 million members, but polling shows that only about 4 million, mostly in Morridor, are active at any given time.

They do not have a trained clerical class — all of their clergy are drawn from the laity. Only those above Stake President are paid, even part-time, although clerical duties can be as time consuming as a full-time job. Their priesthood is entirely male and overwhelmingly married with children. Unmarried men are rarely called to significant responsibilities, but frequently are called to time and money consuming ones. (This is also true of unmarried women.) Unmarried Bishops are vanishingly rare. The Church hierarchy looks like this:

President, Prophet, Seer and Relevator First Counselor and Second Counselor (selected from the Quorum of the Twelve) Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (selected by surviving membership of Apostles on death of Apostle) First Quorum of Seventy & Second Quorum of Seventy & Presiding Bishopric Quorums of Seventy (several, large regional) Stake President (regional level, always previously a Bishop) Stake officials (regional level) Bishop (head of local ward) Ward officials (Local level, men in good standing) Melchizedek Priesthood (all baptised men in good standing above age 18) Aaronic Priesthood (all baptised boys in good standing above the age of 12)

Their faith is strongly gendered and binary — they have no position on intersexuality, but do believe that males and females are different, with highly differentiated roles and responsibilities. Women's roles in the Church are entirely supportive — they have no access to the priesthood, and thus no official roles within the leadership.

Mormons believe in Hell, but they don't believe many people get sent there after death. Mostly, they believe exactly what the Swedenborgians believe (it's pretty obvious that Joseph Smith cribbed...): There are three Kingdoms within Heaven. Most people end up in the Telestial Kingdom, which is far better than Earth, but in comparison to the two higher levels, not great. It's Heaven's slum. Non-believers who didn't entirely screw up all of their second chances will go to the Telestial Kingdom after they've served a thousand years in a spirit prison. They'll be reincarnated into genderless bodies, will be the servants of the higher levels and will be regularly educated in correct Mormon theology so they can get the promotion. They are denied the presence of Jesus and God.

The second level, the Terrestrial Kingdom, is where back-sliding Mormons, virtuous gentiles [to a Mormon, all non-Mormons are gentiles, even Jews] who were either never exposed to the Book of Mormon or were honestly deceived or mistaken about it and other pretty good but not perfect souls go. There's no servitude here, but it's a lot like one of those time-share sales getaway weekends — one may have a few hours on the beach, but most of the time is sucked up by high pressure sales pitches. Jesus drops by occasionally (perhaps he has a time-share) but God never shows. Bodies are still genderless.

In the Telestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms, a soul has the opportunity to learn the truth, and can advance up the ladder to the better heavens, given that someone alive on earth is willing to perform the necessary rites by proxy. (Thus, having lots of descendents is an excellent strategy for maximizing one's chances of the Celestial Kingdom — even if one screws up in life, there's bound to be somebody willing to go through the rites on one's behalf. Yes, this does sound like multi-level marketing, or possibly spam. MLM and scams are strongly correlated with Morridor culture.)

Then there's the Celestial Kingdom, and that's the bestest best Heaven EVAR. This is where the doctrine of Exaltation comes in — a Mormon who complied cheerfully, faithfully and humbly with all of the doctrines and practices and who has kept his or her faith without doubt, shall, upon death, become a joint-heir to God alongside Jesus, and become a god/goddess. The Celestial Kingdom is where men will become saviors for their own planet. People are bound for eternity — husbands to wives (yep, plural is possible), wives to one husband (but at least, since the late 1990s, she has a choice if she had more than one!), children to their parents. Women create the spirits of those who will populate this new world.

What happens if a father, son and grandson are all sealed to each other, and their various wives and progeny, and all make it to the Celestial Kingdom? I don't know, and never got a firm answer when I asked. Do they have to share a world? Are they neighbors? Can son borrow Dad's fjord making machine to get the crinkly bits right?

And yes, women are essentially eternally pregnant and giving birth at the same time. Forever. L swears it is much better than it sounds.

Access to the Celestial Kingdom is based on six practiced sacraments (called ordinances) with behavioral control at the ward and stake level: Baptism and Confirmation, Ordination (for males in both priesthoods), Endowment (which acts as a second Confirmation, at about 18-19 — this is when sacred garments are introduced), Marriage and Sealing to the Spouse and Sealing to parents. Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination are local ordinances; Endowment, Marriage and Sealings are Temple Ordinances and must be performed in one of the 113 world-wide Mormon Temples. Access to the temple is controlled through the local Bishop and the Stake President, and is renewed annually by personal interview with those individuals. To be Temple Recommended, an individual must have attended weekly services, tithed at least ten percent of the household gross income to the church, avoided caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, professed faith in public testimony, remained appropriately chaste, and generally not be in conflict with God, the Church or others.

Access to the Celestial Kingdom is the big reason Mormons are genealogists — they believe that all people, even those long dead before Joseph Smith walked up Cumorah Hill to fetch down the disappearing gold tablets, must be baptised by proxy so they can reach the Celestial Kingdom. This is called Baptism for the Dead, and is a serious sacrament.

My partner, however, is a Militant Apathetic Agnostic — does not know, does not care, and will defend that position on the barricades if necessary. Spouse absolutely does not want to be baptized by proxy, no how, no way, and does not care if their ashes are three hundred years cold when it happens. Spouse believes that such a rite denies individual agency, and I don't disagree.

And thus, the long argument L and I have. If the Mormons don't have my partner's date and place of birth, they cannot add him to their future records [until after he's dead and in the Social Security Death Index...]. I respect my partner's wishes, told Smother and other sib [M, who is pagan] that my partner's date of birth is classified information to prevent L doing back-channel recon, and informed L that my partner and I are not to be included in Mormon family records.

L and I have this conversation about four times a year, so I suspect L gets regular pressure from her Bishop.

L: But what if you're wrong? You guys are virtuous gentiles so God will let you into the Terrestrial realm, but don't you want to come to the really great party? Me: Not especially. Already been to enough Mormon parties. Neither of us are fond of Funeral Potatoes, and heaven won't be heaven without coffee. [Funeral Potatoes are a Mormon culture food, made of shredded potatoes, canned cream soup, sour cream and cheese, topped with crushed corn flakes or potato chips. They get exported as part of the culture and are commonly served at funeral potlucks. I recommend the Oxacan — with chiles, tomatillos, cilantro and no cream soup — and Filipino — with adobo instead of soup, sour cream and cheese — versions. The regular ones are gluey and awful.] L: But you won't want it — Me: Also, not Heaven if everyone there looks like my high school reunion. Spouse and I happen to like diversity in our world, and ya'll don't let in many brown people, or probably Antarans or Vulcans. L: We do so. We're not racist — Me: Actually, yes. Men of color still can't get much past Bishop level. Thirty three years, and how many are in the upper quorums? You complained just last week that ElderNeph's Primary (Sunday School) teacher was talking about the Curse of Cain. They're still teaching Social Darwinism, just not when anyone with a deep natural tan can hear. And ya'll still import white men to other countries to serve as the upper leadership. L (hedging, because she knows this is true because I know it thanks to her): Well... the Priesthood does better when they have fathers to teach sons, and that wasn't possible until just this generation. And the international missions are because converts need continuity of tradition. Me: Yeah, to perpetuate Manifest Destiny, according to you. Per your own master’s thesis. Also, because the church ends up making some really interesting financial deals out of having retired execs on the ground, working for free. Besides, I don't want to be pregnant once, much less for all of time and eternity, and Spouse doesn't want any children, most especially not a whole planet full. L: But it will be different — Me: No. Please stop. Don't. Can we please just talk about your thesis? (which always distracts her. She is my little sib; I do know how to handle her.)

This has been going on for years now, but recently, it's taken a turn. L, in doing her duty, got hold of the genealogist in the Quaker branch of the family, and now has those records. Genealogy is not my thing — I love dusty archives as much as the next semi-trained historian, but I'm looking for something more than census records — but I understand how some people find it fascinating, as apparently does our third cousin twice removed. I find it somewhat interesting that we have records going back almost to George Fox and the foundation of the Society of Friends. But here's where it goes sideways: L never clicked with the Society. She likes and needs a level of ritual and activity mixed with her theology. Mom stopped taking L to Firstday services when L was small because Lou just couldn't cope with either the silence of the adult meeting or the separation from Mom for the Children's Meeting. By the time L had handled her separation anxiety (in about kindergarten) and her ability to sit still (still working on that), we no longer lived near a Meeting with a youth group. L never absorbed any Quaker theology.

Me: Lou, you cannot submit the QuakerFamilyName records to your church. Have you done it? L: No, I'm working on my thesis so I haven't had time to do the data entry. Why not? Me: Because all those people were Quakers. They didn't believe in baptism. If they end up baptized for the dead after they're dead, you're screwing with their theology. L (slowly): Well, then, they have to be baptized. I better get on that — Me: Hey! No. They don't believe. Or didn't. You'd be pissed if somebody performed a Namakarana (Hindu naming ceremony, not a perfect analogy) on you after you were dead. L: Yes, but that's because Hinduism isn't — Me: You don't know that. You believe it, but you won't know until you're dead. [Know and believe are used interchangeably in American Mormon culture. This has been an issue for Lou in her grad work because she absorbed that equivalency, but poli-sci cannot make that equivalency, so at her request, I jump on her when she does it.] Fifteen generations of Quakers believed so strongly that baptism was wrong that they literally moved to the other side of the planet so they wouldn't be forcibly baptized. Some of those people were tortured and murdered rather than submit. Who are you to mess with their beliefs? L: But they were wrong! Shouldn't they have the option — Me: They picked their option in life, just like you. Really, if your god is so merciful and loving and generous, is he really going to quibble over somebody else's soul based on your actions? L: But they couldn't have known — Me: And you think God is going to blame them for that? Sorry, you had bad timing. Sucks to be you. This is your idea of a loving god? L: They don't have to accept. Us baptizing them just gives them the option. They're still free to reject God's love and acceptance. Me: Well, that's just lovely. Here they were, content in their own heaven, well satisfied with their life well lived according to Quaker Principles, when you come along and mess it all up for them. Two hundred years they've been existing within their ideal, and suddenly, their souls get dunked by your proxy and some celestial bureaucrat walks up and says, “Excuse me, a different heaven says you belong there. Will you do God's will and obey or [in scary monster voice] Reject God's Love?” Nice, L. Awful presumptuous, don't you think? L: [sigh] You just don't get it. Me: [sigh] And neither do you.

And so this goes on, and on, and on. The nice thing about this is that L and I can talk about it without getting angry with each other, and because we have the shared culture, but I'm outside of it, we can make snarky jokes about Utah-Arizona Mormon culture. We have whole riffs about green jello+Cool-whip+pineapple salad, garmie-wedgie and Bad Bra Boob Sag [Mormons who are Temple Recommended are required to wear sacred garments next to their skin. Mormon women are not supposed to wear anything, including bras, beneath these garments (there is an exception for while nursing). Put on a thin tee-shirt. Put a bra over it. Really, nothing stays where it's supposed to stay.]. I'm the one she can complain to when it's 95 F and 95% humidity in Kansas City and she's wearing two layers and hating it. I'm the one who commiserates when she's had two 20 year old missionaries at her house three times in a week to feed them because their food budget has been cut to a point where the boys are getting malnourished and nobody else is inviting them over, and I'm the one who says yes, it is right to protest when you see injustice. These are things she feels she can't talk about in her faith community because most of her community aren't converts so they don't have her outsider perspective.

I get L's reasoning for wanting proxy baptisms — it's the Extra-strength version of Pascal's Wager, except she makes it on behalf of others. I understand how earnest she is, and how much social pressure she is under as a convert. We grew up knowing that Mormons have a caste system, with non-Mormons at the bottom, apostates next, converts in the low middle, and members with polygynous ancestors who walked to Utah at the top. Being a convert, married to another convert, with two and only two kids means L has to work harder for acceptance. Sixth generation Mormons don't have the responsibility to ensure their ancestors are proxy-baptized — someone has probably already done so, and their great-great-great-grandparents are already safe. Converts, on the other hand, have oodles of generations twiddling their thumbs in some Heavenly waiting room. All of these (female, anyway) souls are depending on L.

Aside from the fact that this argument gives me another opportunity to thwart my bratty kid sister, I find the theological implications of L's beliefs disquieting. Her god is so powerless that he must depend on wimpy humans to control the gates to his paradises. He relies on our ability to preserve records — which, from my historian side, is pretty miserable. Mormons are supposed to only baptize for their ancestors (since they've managed to annoy Catholics and Jews on this matter, though this is oops-ed quite often), but for the majority of LDS history, they've been unapologetically racist. The majority of active Mormons, even after decades of international missions, are still the descendants of white Anglo-Saxons. Genealogy takes time and money and leisure — resources commonly lacking in places without running water and handy supermarkets.

Baptism for the dead also requires access to a temple. Utah has thirteen temples, Arizona has four, three in the Phoenix Metro area alone... but the entire continent of Africa has three. India has none, though Indian conversion efforts have been on the uptick. Assuming there is some sort of waiting room, mostly white American souls are getting the ticket out. Does this mean heaven will be like Provo (98% white)? [I have to make the distinction between active and inactive Mormons — something like a quarter of all converts remain active for less than five years, (this is estimated to be above 50% in South America and Asia) and somewhere between a tenth and a third of all born Mormons spend a significant fraction of their adult lives inactive. Yet Mormons do not remove inactive members from their rolls without a fight. How many active members do they have at any given time? Nobody knows, but independent polling says about 3 million in the US.]

Of course, now African-Americans are admitted to the priesthood, but genealogy records from before 1865 are notoriously bad for the African-American community. (Being denied literacy tends to do that.) And going back further, most of sub-Saharan Africa was pre-literate during the height of the slave trade. What happens to all of the souls who cannot be named? Do they just hang out in the waiting room for all of eternity? L and I are WASPy — we've got William Penn-Pennsylvania, Mayflower, and Massachusetts Bay Colony ancestry — but that's only on one side of the family. On the other, our genealogy ends two generations back because our father's paternal grandparents were both New York City foundlings who were placed on an orphan train. They weren't so much adopted as indentured. They didn't claim their families of record; should L? If those ancestors are waiting on L (and my nephews' potential daughters) to find their records, it's not going to happen without a time machine.

Is her god so powerless and so vindictive that he will curse the generations because we failed to be better bookkeepers? What about the millions of records destroyed in the London Blitz? Do those souls get a pass because the Nazis did it? And even given our really well documented ancestry, we peter out in the 15th century. What about the generations that came before? Written human history ends, or begins, only about 5,000 years ago, but in the 100,000 years before, probably a billion people lived and died. Do all of those souls just wait, forever?

I realize that the Christian sense of both Heaven and Eternity are beyond my comprehension. That's the nature of the numinous and of mystery, and is the major reason that I have taken my hands off Christianity. My faith, such as it is, is in and of this world. The numinous is beyond me, and I'm a better steward of the world I've inherited when my focus is here. I do much better with the works side of the equation than the faith side. I cannot seem to stop mentally tinkering with faith's variables, but I always seem to be solving for the square root of negative one.

My foundation faiths taught me that I should question, that it's not a sign of pernicious doubt, but that's not true for L. I understand that my questions cannot be answered, but for my sister, merely asking these questions is considered a sign of weak faith. If I ask L these questions, I am putting her in a spiritual bind. She's required to discuss these questions with her Bishop or lie and say she has no questions about her faith. L is not intellectually dishonest; she both thinks and feels about her faith. I know that if I prod her too much, she will feel compelled to confess her questions, and the likely result will be that she's forbidden to talk to me because I am a threat to her peace of mind.

When it was just my partner and I objecting to our inclusion in her family records, it was more a game. L and I are three years apart — we've had major sibling rivalry all of her life. When my parents brought her home from the hospital, I asked them to take her back. From the time she toddled, she would not leave me alone. Now that we're adults, we're on more equal footing, but we have thirty-plus years of habit, and our relationship works. Unfortunately, with the addition of the Quaker family records, this matter is no longer entirely personal. Quakers have a history of persecution for our faith and proxy baptism denies us our agency. I know L is motivated by her best intentions, and part of me wants to believe that, if something does endure after death, then the people for whom she stands proxy will forgive her. I hope that I would.

Then again, there's the long history, and the reality of this world. Human records are friable. It's entirely possible that in two hundred years, the only remaining record of Zenobia Faraday Williams (b. 1749 in Offton, Suffolk) will be in the LDS archives. Right now, we have one paragraph about her, in an unpublished family diary. Zenobia immigrated to the rebelling colonies in 1777 because she was Quaker. If she's entered into the LDS archives, she will be rebaptised and enrolled in a church that did not even exist when she died. History has already silenced Zenobia. To have her faith stripped from her would be to lose her altogether.

The archivist in me considers the vast disaster of the LDS archives — they're enormous, and a volunteer effort with minimal standardization and oversight. They're not terribly reliable: there's a lot of duplication and record mismatch because of spelling or date variations. They contain misinformation because families can and do distort narratives in contradiction to the official records. Many records come from old cemeteries and scans of deteriorating records. In two hundred years, some historian may only have those archives, or in a thousand years, the origins of the Latter Day Saints may be lost. History now is liable to transcription errors and references to copies of now-lost manuscripts. No historian says information will endure.

Quakers are not the only ones affected by proxy baptism. Judaism, the Russian Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church have all had polite, terse words with the Mormons that translate to “Stop it. Stop it NOW.” The families of atheists — prominent and obscure — have campaigned and occasionally sued to get their late loved ones' names removed from the post-mortem baptism rolls. Jewish Holocaust victims have been misclassified as Mormon victims thanks to this practice. It is intolerant, but it's a hard practice to stop. World-wide, they perform around a million proxy baptisms a year. Yes, it'll take them a million years at that rate to baptize the entire 10 billion people who have probably lived on earth in the last 100,000 years, but those distant, unknown ancestors are not who they're targeting. They focus on those who have lived in the widely-literate centuries, and these people have living descendants for whom the practice is hurtful.

I don’t want Zenobia erased. And so I protect those Quaker records from L.

**Morridor = Mormon Corridor. It's a term L and I use to denote the area, and yes, it's an intentional pun on LotR's Mordor. Not because we think the region is evil, but because the physical region is dry, sparsely populated, generally hot, has mountain ranges on three sides, and has a hierarchical dominant culture.

Part II

#TailorSnarkWars Foundation (Original thread: October 6, 2018, on Twitter)

Let me tell you the story of the State Lege trips.

My mother comes from a small town; her family has been in the area for almost 200 years now. Her great-great-great-grandparents on both sides founded 3 of the small towns in the area. She’s related to everyone.

Yes, it’s possible to be both local aristocracy & white trash.

Smother is also one of those people who will claim someone else’s tragedy if it attracts attention to her, especially if she’s far enough away that she doesn’t have to actually DO anything about the tragedy.

Which happened. When I was a small child. A distant family member got HIV from a blood transfusion, got kicked out of school, and Smother became an HIV/AIDS activist, 2000 miles away from the actual sick kid. Her activism consisted mostly of throwing parties (aka fundraisers.)

The kid had been my sometimes playmate & was someone I loved as much as a little kid can love, when separated by many hundreds of miles & extremely expensive long distance.

But even fundraising is valuable. Somebody’s gotta hang crepe paper & make cheese balls, right?

So... at 8, I started being an activist. Which at 8, meant making soup & freezer casseroles for people who were too exhausted to cook & clean. I did laundry. I swept porches. Kid stuff. It was something I could do. It helped.

A couple years into this, mother got bored. That’s her mode. But by then, I had built relationships that I needed in the HIV/AIDS/LGBT community, so I kept up to the best of my ability. I had time after school, I knew how to use a phone, so I kept doing the work.

The best that can be said for my parents is they sure as hell made their kids self-directed. They wouldn’t pay for music or sports; they didn’t drive us to after-school stuff. If I wanted to do something, I was allowed, as long as I got myself there & back, & paid for it.

So I called the HIV center (at a local church) or stopped on my way home from school; I wrote letters & did chores & made soup. By then, we lived in a small, mostly base town, in a conservative state, but the advantage of a smallish town? Everything was walking distance close.

I was the latchkey kid, even during summer, because I was responsible enough to be left on my own, and my siblings were TOO young to be in my care, but the parents didn’t want to pay for daycare for a 10 year old, so I got to do pretty much what I wanted when not in school.

(No one said I have good parents, but benign neglect was preferable.)

Let me be clear: even in a community that small & remote from the big centers, I owned a funeral dress. At 10. And I used it, about once a month, in the bad years. Black cord jumper, white blouse.

There was no HIV funding; the federal government’s attitude was something along the lines of “let them die & god will sort it out.”

So sick people loaded themselves, and their oxygen tanks, and their IV bags, into minivans and lobbied the State houses, hoping for scraps of funding.

Articulate little kids who can talk about a ‘cousin’ & can sit still & have benignly neglectful parents & are willing to touch someone with AIDS?

Propaganda GOLD.

So... yeah, during summers when my parents weren’t paying much attention? I went to more than a few lege hearings.

3 hours in a car, 3 hours in the hearing room, 3 hours in the car.

In the desert southwest, 3 hours is not a long trip.

Those trips were treats for me: Air Conditioned cars & lege buildings. (My parents like 92 F. Me? 67 is getting a tad warm.)

I didn’t use much seat space.

Those trips were exhausting and shortened the lives of my friends, but it was that important to them.

Because they were literally dying.

This was the crucible, and all I can say is I still have my pin. And it still makes me cry.

That’s my first experience of activism: existential threat.

That warps someone, but in a good way.

It means that when things go bad now, I can look at the law & who is getting hurt, and that’s how I make my decisions. I’ve been lucky that for most of my adult life, I’ve been able to focus on mental health activism.

Yes, people with mental illness have been dying of police violence & suicide and social neglect, and for the last many years, we didn’t have BIGGER existential threats rolling around.

The last 20 years have felt so very easy compared to growing up.

But we’re back to bigger existential threat.

Children are dying from medical neglect. Respiratory disease thrives in confined conditions.

At least six* children have died because they didn’t get medical care. More will follow. (10, as of 12/2018)

We’ve got a TYPHUS epidemic breaking out in LA, because the SoCal housing market is so fucked that 15K ppl are living on the streets, which means body lice have a chance to spread, which leads to the disease that killed Napoleon’s army, and in the concentration camps.

(Correction: Closer to 100K. I found a better census.)

TYPHUS.

This BTW, is worse than regular typhus, because this is flea typhus. Which are harder to eradicate than body lice. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/typhus-outbreak-los-angeles-county-surpasses-100-patients-n926496

Women are being jailed for ordering grey market drugs to end pregnancies. Women are being neglected to death during and after pregnancy because we focus on the baby, not the mother. Women are being forced to continue pregnancies because their insurance doesn’t cover abortion.

People are medicating themselves to death because we don’t have functional health care, and when the medication runs out, they turn to heroin & fentanyl, because they’re available.

All of these are part of an intentional plan called Feudalism With Better Plumbing (for some).

I don’t know why some people turn money into score-keeping and desire control and domination over everyone else they can manage to screw.

Let it be they’re assholes & stop worrying about their motives. Their motives are selfish. That’s all we need to know about their motives.

Oh, and that they’re old and they’re dying.

This time, we can outrun & outnumber & outplan & out-organize & out-fight them.

We can make them waste their money.

We can annoy them into a stroke and irritate them to death.

And we have to.

It’s existential again.

We give them nothing.

If they’re family? No holidays at our table. No $5 token gifts. We don’t return their calls. We don’t babysit their kids.

It doesn’t matter if we love them. We must isolate & reject them because our attention is our only leverage.

If they’re customers? They don’t get second chances on their paperwork. They don’t get more assistance than we’re required to give. Follow every regulation, every single rule. No smiling. Their convenience is more than our job’s worth.

Cooperation & accommodation are voluntary.

A coworker? You only have to cooperate as much as your job description requires.

You don’t have to make the coffee. Don’t have to share cookies. Don’t have to participate in their party or plan their birthday. Why provide emotional labor to someone who would happily see you dead?

They’re your elected official? You do know that you can rent your own robocaller to call their office(s), right? robotalker .com (Use carefully, mostly with state GOP & county GOP offices. They’re not listening anyway.) Make their staff miserable.

(Lotsa cheap robot services.)

Never forget the goal of Simple Sabotage: make people quit hurting others by making them so miserable they capitulate.

Causing physical harm is counter-productive; better to humiliate & frustrate & irritate them. Make them waste their money and time and attention.

When my friends got Medicaid funding? It wasn’t because anyone in the state lege gave a damn about gay people. They still wanted my friends to die. But they didn’t want my friends dying in their office.

They didn’t want to see the Karposi’s sarcomas and feeding tubes.

We made them so fucking uncomfortable & ashamed of themselves that they gave us what we wanted so we’d go away and die quietly elsewhere.

By being dying people in their offices, we made HIV deaths untenable.

And we got what we wanted. Most of it, anyway. Research $$.

The existential crisis is here again. So spite them. Make their lives suck.

Thrive on oppositional defiance and anger and being a pain in the ass.

The time for demonstration and petition and asking nicely is over. We’ve spent 2 years being nice & it’s made conditions worse. It’s time to get to fucking work. And if our work breaks their shit? Oh fucky-darn. Better to frustrate their shit than break our lives. Better to frustrate them. Better to make them waste their time picking TP out of trees or scrubbing chalk off their windows/sidewalks EVERY DAY.

Non-violent action doesn’t mean pure passivity. It also means passive aggression.

Rosa Parks didn’t sit there because she was tired. She was a) making a damn point and b) being a pain in the ass.

We are now called to be pains in the ass.

SO: Think like a pain in the ass.

It is unnatural, but do your damnedest to figure out ways to frustrate and irritate your GOP neighbors, co-workers, family members & elected reps.

Especially ways that are perfectly legal but irritating as fuck.

Make it a game.

If you have the resources to afford a night in jail that is likely to be dismissed/misdemeanor, find your local Friends Service Committee or ACLU or Peace & Justice center, and get their training. Get prepared for it. If you can’t, then still contact those orgs, and be on the bail team. Because arrests and occupation and being difficult is what’s coming. Sorry. We have squandered our demonstration time. Now it’s all about direct action.

Welcome to Dresden. Sorry it’s Hell.

(Part III tomorrow)

I punch up.

I shouldn’t be punching at all, but I go back to a great-uncle’s advice, that he got from his uncle. Unc’s unc was a conscientious objector in WWI; there weren’t a lot of protections for religious objectors in those days.

Unc’s unc spent the war in federal prison.

Lots of Quakers just went to war or managed to get assigned to medic units. That’s the nature of being a pacifist in a war economy.

When WWII came round, my g’unc was in college, working towards being a doc. He could sign up for medic duty & got relative CO status. Not required to carry a gun or complete gun training. Not all Peace Churchers (Amish, Mennonite, Quaker, Christadelphian) had that privilege.

Many went to prison. Many went to be experimental subjects, to be starved and almost drowned in service. Many just... acquiesced and begged God for forgiveness.

(Much PTSD in those. Because they felt their sin as two distinct breaches from the Light.)

My unc knew he enabled the war machine. He also thought it was worth putting his life on the line, because he was a pre-mature antifascist, who had read widely enough to realize that this 1930s Europe thing was going badly.

He told me when I started my own activism that our job, as exemplars of peace, is to defend those being harmed by power. Our job is to be the shield. To put ourselves in the way.

But he also steered me around a certain aspect of human personality. (He was talking specifically about some of our shared (not Quaker) relatives, but widely applicable...) He told me that some people cannot abide kindness. That they turn it into a weapon.

Some people choose to see kindness as weakness & exploit any generosity or peace. When we encounter this, we need to be aggressive with our shielding. We give them 1 chance, then we meet them with equal defense.

After all, they CHOOSE to punch the shield. They can stop.

Let’s be clear: holding a shield hurts. It takes strength and resilience. When someone strikes the shield, the force of the blow travels through your arm & joints. Hold a shield for a couple hours? You HURT the next day.

Do it long enough, your joints take permanent damage. We wear blisters in our skin; if the force is too great, the shield can hurt us by backlash.

But it’s worth it.

And the metaphor of shielding a more vulnerable person by interposing oneself verbally or in writing between the vulnerable & the attacker also comes with pain. Because nice people don’t like to see attacks or defense.

Nobody (except those few who can’t abide kindness) wants to see a battle, be it street-fight or war of words or a public spat or Damascus under siege. It’s unpleasant. We should all get along. We shouldn’t stoop to their level.

The problem? When we aim high? They’re belly-crawling through high grass to cut our Achilles’ tendon, then slashing our femoral arteries. Because they DO NOT FOLLOW THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT.

Fuck nice. Be kind & tough.

My uncle didn’t teach me to be an ally. He taught me to be an accomplice. To share willingly in what we, as a group, drew. He said I was graced by the Light with education & health & wealth & the invisibility of a spy in the master’s household.

Privilege, in other words. And I should use it. I am the shield.

So yes, I punch up.

So should every urban, blue state white woman with education & wealth & security. Because we’re not the ones losing our children at the border. We’re not being shot in our backyards. We’re not malnourished on EBT or denied healthcare. The day comes when our privilege evaporates.

We can’t be nice to those who harm others. If their soft spot is their looks, their money, their greed? Savage it. Make it personal & make them punch the shield by mocking their soft spot.

If they’re punching the shield, they’re not punching someone they’ve already wounded.

But the wounded person hears your taunts and they’re the same taunts the aggressor was using on them.

Yeah, I know. Nobody said defense was easy. The compromise is on my conscience. We’re not talking about or to the wounded person. We’re talking about & to the aggressor.

What I wonder is how those nice, privileged people sleep while doing nothing? Yeah, their hands are clean. They didn’t stoop.

But their shoes are soaked by the river of blood at their feet.

I’ve got a PTSD study in need of crowd funding since the government won’t. We can start there.

(Not LITERALLY. I don’t even wanna try to figure out how to responsibly crowdfund human research outside of a foundation/institution. But there are foundations & Unis & so much else that needs money & time & hands. Pick something — anything — & give it 2 hours of your concentration/week.)

Part II tomorrow. (Original thread: 22 JUL 2018 Twitter)

Progress on the new trilogy has been too good for my own good.

I will admit that forcing myself to not write while I do things like move boxes from place to place, and letting the characters use my mouth to work out their dialogue is actually a working strategy (Basically, it’s exactly what stand-up comedians do when working out a bit) though it’s probably going to get a cop called on me for being in the midst of a psychotic break or something. Because yes, I am talking to myself. Usually in 3 voices, and those voices are often talking about murder, or other crimes.

No, officer, just 0-drafting dialogue for fantasy novels set in a world without fossil fuels and with magic cell phones pre-installed in most everyone’s heads.

The good thing about writing Galantier is it’s comfortable and well worn in. I know this place better than I know parts of my own city (because other people keep building stuff in the real city). Even with the changes at the end of the first series, I can still figure out how these people will react and work around what’s happened.

And yes, these are new focal characters. It’s not that the prior focal characters don’t have stuff to say, but they have other priorities right now. They’re still there, still working (or dead, because I could have killed them all, and if you haven’t finished the books, I’m not spoiling who gets to live). Just not being focal characters, and that’s good. They need some time off.

For the next month, though, Rebellion is on SALE. Have fun, enjoy!

Half off Rien's Rebellion through January 22!

Kingdom – always free Repudiation & Refuge – XU83B The Committed Ones – CT78S Wisdom's Fire – UU56B Redemption & Revolution – LH53X Foundation – RV83G

https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/35988

‪A love-hate letter to my brain.‬

‪We’re supposed to be working on the 2nd draft of Mars’ Rich Livery, which we know were it goes. Yes, we’re at the transition point where we grumbled & cursed last time, and yes, it’s still being a pain in our asses.

We both get that. You not wanting to write the fiddly transition point is not actually helping our shared reality that you mediate. So let’s just get it done so we can stop having to do it, and be better for having done it.

I know you want to write the new stuff. It’s exciting, we like these characters, we know that we’ve got people interested in the further performance we can accomplish with these characters. I agree, we have something really interesting in these specific characters.

Thus, though you delight me with your inventiveness, I am rather exasperated with you, Brain, because you kept cranking words last night, in the universe we’re not supposed to be playing in right now. 6500 of them.

Thanks, great. And hey, good start. I wasn’t actually planning for some of that for another 3-5 chapters, but... yeah, doing some of that early is going to help. But let’s not get them bogged down in their emotional lives, because they all need to WORK THE PROBLEM.

Let’s NOT forget what that problem is, and why THESE people are going to be working it. Because if it wasn’t for the PROBLEM, we could have a lot of other people addressing the Cimenarum Housing Crisis.

And let’s remember that we’ve got to keep a reasonable schedule. I’m 100% fine with cranking two chapters a day, but this time, we’re not doing 8000 word chapters. The goal is 2500 per chapter, up to 4000.

We’re not staying up late. It’s bad for us, and bad for Spouse.

I like writing Galantier, too! It’s comfortable and we know it well and I know we’ve had all sorts of ideas over the past year for this series. And I’m as much an outward oriented praise monkey as you are. I am equally aware that people are reading Galantier and want more.

But. They’re gonna love Sophia and Will, and Michael and George and Caro, too. They just haven’t met them yet, and they can’t meet any of them until we GET PAST THE TRANSITION POINT and work the problem.

I love you brain, but let’s work on the cooperative skill set some more. Because just doing what you want often means we abandon manuscripts. And that sucks because we like what we write.

We have cool ideas, and yeah I still wanna fix the Buffy As Mythos in Post-Apoc world. When we introduced the light warriors, we were ON TO SOMETHING. But you get so... distracted.

I love you, but I need you to focus, because we also have priorities. We need to finish the basement. Because we want to move all our work-spaces upstairs. And move all of spouse’s downstairs, so our dialogue stop irritating Spouse, and Spouse stops feeling like any movement will break our thoughts.

So I know you wanna be all up in the Ministry of Women & Children and the Cimenarum housing crisis and the deep mechanics of how to make a guild for sex workers work, but we have priorities. We gotta get the post-Napoleonic wars back on track.

And get all the stuff out, so the drywall guy can get in.

So the night theme is quite cool.

Also, I’m copy-pasting in a sex scene. Because NSFW content, baby. That’s the point of this. To see if I can get the hang of this platform, and if it’s a good replacement for the social media I currently use.

Warning: dudes happily fucking.

I don’t think I’m going to do scroll space.

I think I’ll do PSAs as scroll space.

PSA: Get over yourself if same sex NSFW makes you have issues.

PSA: Your hang ups are not my problem.

Also, Bran & Laarens are adorable together. 💜💜💜💜

OH! I can do emojis!

I need a cinnamon roll emoji. Apple, get on that. OO. Cinnamon croissant.🥐🥐🥐

PSA: Grown up people have sex.

PSA: What’s actually perverse is how curious straights are about grownup people having sex. Like seriously, people would have to be like BFFs to inquire into the details of how Spouse and I fuck, but when it’s two people who present as having a similar gender? Straights not only want details, they’ll go find porn of it.

PSA: If you’re curious, you should consider trying it. Be safe and consensual, but here’s the thing: grownups have sex. Being open about how sex works when it’s different from PIV missionary? That’s actually a form of self-defense. Because it gets the questions out of the way so that really important conversations can proceed.

OKAY! SEX! NSFW. A copy-paste.

He caught me midword, his mouth on mine. I didn’t want to react, but his tongue danced with mine, almost as if he knew what I wanted, needed. He backed me against a birch, pinning me against the trunk. I couldn’t have moved anyway. He was so hot against me, but not stifling. Enthralling. Hard and strong, his hands stroked my neck, unlacing my shirt as his mouth worked down my throat. “Don’t you ask permission?” I managed to gasp. “Must I?” he breathed into my breast and my nipples, always sensitive, turned hard and tender as he stroked my flank. “I think not. Burning ancestors, Bran, you’re gorgeous.” “Flattery gets you nowhere,” I said through gritted teeth as he cupped my prong, already full and unhappy with me, through my breeches. “Good gods, Laarens — ” “Yes or no,” he said into my chest. “One word.” I couldn’t say no. He might be arrogant, demanding, difficult, but he smelled right and felt better as he tore open my buttons. “Yes.” One flew away, forever lost, then his mouth was around me and I shattered in less time than complimented my stamina. I barely bit back the lightning yelp he summoned from me. For a long time, I thought of nothing but my taste on his mouth and his body in my hands. It might not be love, but it wasn’t hate. Not violation, no matter how demanding.