Moving my DNA

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It’s pretty great when you find some scientific, health-related justification for doing what you’re already doing, which is “whatever the crap I want,” as I once scribbled on a doctor’s form asking what I did for exercise. And that’s basically how I’m interpreting Katy Bowman’s book, Move Your DNA.

My approach to health and lifestyle for the past five years or so has been: Gyms suck, metrics suck, fat-pinching sucks, long bike rides are bad for you, triathlons are for nerds with wetsuit fetishes, and if you’re obsessed with anything you probably are going to wind up injured. However, being able to do whatever you want whenever you want is awesome. According to Bowman, the key to this is loading your body in different and optimal ways instead of using limited movements and loads. “Cycling athletes tend to have lower bone density than running athletes. Why? Because sitting on a bike creates less of a vertical load than carrying your weight on your legs does.”

Human illness is not so much a state of mind as it is a statement about the way we’ve been living: “in most cases, our physiology is responding exactly as it should to the types of movement we have been inputting. Instead of thinking of ourselves as broken, we should recognize our lack of health as a sign of a broken (mechanical) environment,” says Bowman. Sitting is a huge part of this: “Most of us have assumed the sitting position through most of our lives, and in turn our bodies have adapted to sitting.”

Bowman suggests an easy way to fix this: “There isn’t any requirement that you spend your sitting time in a chair. It takes no additional time to sit on the floor instead of on your couch. What do you gain from sitting on the floor? First there are the numerous ways you can position your joints — each one creating a unique load.”

Additional suggestions: walk more, wear minimalist shoes or go barefoot, make your life less noisy by ditching the iPod, relax your jaw to prevent TMJ, stretch, use a flatter pillow, sleep on different surfaces. And move more. Move, in different ways, as much as possible.

All of Bowman’s suggestions made me feel a bit smug since I already do most of them. It is probably no surprise that I will never be a world-class athlete and my cardio endurance is lacking. I don’t work out, I play. I snowboard, rock climb, walk around town, roadbike around town, mountain bike, hike, backpack, do yoga, do acro-yoga, practice gymnastics in the grass, mess around on playgrounds, slackline, play ultimate Frisbee, swim in the lake, dance, carry small children around. I do none of these things exceptionally, and some really terribly. However, one thing is consistent: I am drawn to whatever will connect me most directly with my surroundings and provide the most natural range of movement. Granted, this tends to be easier if you’re in a place like Sandpoint where all the social events are active. But I also do socially unacceptable things like go home, squat on the front stoop and eat blood-dripping steak with my bare hands. If you’ve never done this, try it. It feels awesome. Also, it keeps the neighbors from borrowing your hedge-trimmers.

One of the things Bowman hones in on is feet. She points out that the shoes you wear determine the posture of your entire body, and over time, this posture changes your body. Now, given all the above things that I do, particularly my lifelong attraction to dance, alignment has rarely been an issue for me. So I was shocked to discover that, like many people in the modern world, my femurs are twisted slightly inwards as evidenced by the fact that the backs of my knees point outwards — the result of a lifetime of wearing shoes with heels, even slight heels. So now, for example, as on my way to Europe a couple of days ago, I work out standing still in line at airports by externally rotating my hips until my knees are over my straight-ahead toes. This is actually reasonably difficult to maintain.

hikingI have also started going barefoot more, and wearing totally flat shoes. This last Sunday, I went on a ten-mile hike up the side of a mountain, through frigid streams and over sand and gravel. I did at least a couple of miles barefoot (bonus: this keeps your shoes dry when forging the aforementioned streams. Other bonus: you tend to look ridiculous, particularly if you’re already dressed like a mom from the 1990s, which encourages humility). The rest of the time I wore minimalist shoes. As Bowman points out, you need to work up to this. Your body has to adjust if it’s used to padding, especially on concrete, so easing into things is a must.

In sum, she says: “It’s clear that there is a major mismatch between the loads we make in modern life (sleeping in our beds, driving our cars to work, sitting in front of our computers, and vigorously exercising for sixty minutes a day, then sitting in front of the TV, repeat, repeat, repeat) and the loads we would have made (searching for, gathering and preparing our own food, walking for water and building materials, carrying our home and children in our arms, repeat, repeat, repeat) were we living more in nature. No, this is not the point where I tell you that the solution is getting rid of all your clothes and moving into a cave. The solution will be much simpler than you realize… even tiny adjustments to your loading habits can be worth millions in unspent healthcare dollars and bring about tremendous relief from your load-induced ailments.

“If you want your health to change, you must change the way you move, and the way you think about movement.”

Why Josh Duggar won’t say “victim.”

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Very consistently in the apologies that people like Josh Duggar and Doug Phillips offered the public, there was no mention whatsoever of the victims of their crimes. Duggar refers to “those affected by my actions,” as if he were discussing a game of Monopoly. This is not an accident. The word “victim” is rarely or never used in these circles, except in the phrase “play the victim.” It’s easy to play the victim; actually being one is next to impossible. Victimization, according to this branch of patriarchy, means one party abdicating responsibility in whatever happened. Everyone is a sinner, so in any given sin involving two people, both parties are probably partially at fault. Homeschool guru Bill Gothard’s message to sexual abuse victims suggests they may be partly to blame due to immodest dress or “being out from the protection of our parents.”

Patriarchy apologist Doug Wilson has said similar things publicly on numerous occasions, so it’s no surprise that, when dealing with his and three parallel churches that were somehow dragged into my divorce dynamics several years ago, any protestation of injustice on my part was met with a virtual roll of the eyes. I was being hacked and followed and my home was physically breached, to put it mildly. How and by whom was not completely clear. The churches had many of the details, and were passing judgement based on “data” thereby collected. Yet every time I insisted something weird was up, that this was not OK, I was met with some version of: “That’s not important. You need to focus on your sins. If you bring up anyone else’s, it means you’re passing the buck, being unrepentant and acting bitter. And we just can’t have that.”

Now, in divorce as in many other areas of life, I do think it’s important to be able to self-examine. However, there’s a huge difference between “think about how you affected things” and the strict refusal to say anything but that. It was keenly disappointing to realize that men I had previously thought wise were actually espousing the logic of three-year-olds too belligerent to see beyond their own demands and too short-sighted to understand a view higher than two feet up.

Because there are times when “think about how you affected things” should never, ever be said — molestation being one of them. The victim has likely asked herself (or himself) this a few thousand times and come up with some tantalizing alternate realities, but no real answers. It happened. There is no way to change that. Blaming the victim in any way (and “think about how you affected things” falls into that category) is counterproductive and, frankly, disgusting.

So is claiming victims need to get over stuff, forgive whoever wronged them and slap a smile on their faces. One of the most bizarre occurrences of my post-divorce fiasco was sitting in Jim Wilson’s living room crying and being told this meant I might not be a Christian, because if I were a Christian, I would be “in the joy of the Lord.” I protested: I was scared. I was upset. Jesus wept. But no: apparently, brief sadness (coupled with repentance) should be followed by “joy,” and a few weeks was well beyond the allotted time Christians were allowed to be upset, no matter how many unanswered questions they had about their situation.

This is why I always find the plastered-on smiles of people like the Duggars a bit suspicious, and all the more so when they’ve been hurt. I sincerely doubt the Duggar girls got to process what happened to them in any real way before they were told to forgive, smile and carry on. “The joy of the Lord” at all costs.

Consent, Theonomists and Josh Duggar

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The reaction of some of Josh Duggar’s defenders point to the larger, deeper problem of glossing over abuses of power because “all sins are equal in the sight of God.” Defenders ask, “Who of us didn’t make mistakes? Who of us didn’t sin as teenagers?” But the scandal is not about “sin,” in that it’s not about some normal teenage indiscretion like making out in the basement with your crush after taking a few hits off the first joint you’ve ever rolled. The scandal, as many scandals before it, is about criminal activity that got covered up and brushed under the rug. It’s about a male who molested minors while they slept, and the fact that he was 14 at the times does not make this legal. Him saying “I’m sorry, I made a mistake,” doesn’t make it legal either.

There is an interesting dynamic here, though, and that is that the Duggars and many of their followers tend towards the belief that Old Testament law is, in many cases, still binding. The Duggars were followers of Bill Gothard, and according to Gothard’s Advanced Seminar handout titled “Appendix on the Place of Old Testament Law in the Life of New Testament Believers,” “[Old Testament] Law is God’s infinitely wise and masterful ‘blueprint’ for success in personal living, financial decisions, marriage, family, health and community life.”

This is very similar to the ideas of Reconstructionist Theonomists, who believe US law should be based on Biblical law, specifically Old Testament law. Doug Phillips regularly featured the Duggars in his Reconstructionist Vision Forum conferences, products and marketing materials.

Here’s where it relates back to molestation: As Reconstructionist Theonomists themselves will point out, according to Old Testament law, rape isn’t really any more wrong for a man than fornication. Molesting your sister and having consensual sex with your girlfriend have the same consequences: in the case of an unmarried, unbetrothed female, the bride price is paid and the couple is required (in the case of rape) and allowed (in the case of fornication) to get married to fix the situation (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:16-17).

According to anyone who is taking the Old Testament literally, if women don’t “cry out” when they’re being molested around other people (and none of the Duggar girls did at the time) then it’s treated as if it’s consensual. And neither are raped women really having anything that bad done to them. “Women are not property, like tractors, but neither should they be exercising independent control over their sexuality. God has established whether a sexual act is sinful or not. The woman’s consent to it does not determine whether or not it is sinful,” one commenter on the Reconstructionist Theonomists rape discussion group stated. “God’s justice is restorative. The remedies we see in the Law are designed to restore the person, as much as possible for the damage which was done. In the case of the married or betrothed woman who has sexual intercourse forced upon her, what is her damage? We don’t see anywhere in Scriptures that sex is a harmful act, per se. So her damage isn’t that she had sex. The damage is that she now has a death penalty placed upon her for adultery. The remedy then, is to remove the death penalty from her because she was forced. In the case of a virgin who has sexual intercourse forced upon her, what is her damage? It is an economic damage, she is not longer able to command the bride price of a virgin. So the remedy is economic. In the case of an unmarried, non-virgin who is forced into sexual intercourse, what is her damage? She is not damaged. The sex act is not harmful. She already lost her ability to command the bride price of virgin. She is no worse off than she was before. Therefore there is no remedy in the law for her.”

The Old Testament case of Tamar, which Gothard drew some lessons on molestation from, bears some resemblance to the Duggar situation and the Old Testament laws mentioned above. In this story, Tamar tells her brother, who has just raped her, that sending her away instead of marrying her is worse than the initial rape. It should really not come as a surprise, then, that Duggar apologists are acting as if the situation is basically the same as Josh getting to second base with his girlfriend — because if consent is not the deciding factor, then any extra-marital sexual activity is equally wrong, if you are a man. This is a big reason why certain articles penned by Muslims, such as this one, claim that the Bible is morally repugnant and horrifically backwards, more backwards than the Koran. Christians often attempt fantastic mental and verbal contortions to explain away the bad stuff in the Old Testament, but why hang on to laws that are so clearly terrible? Why not just admit they’re terrible and move on?

Theonomists emphasize that women need to take any and all precautions, given these laws, to make sure they’re never raped. I think taking precautions to avoid being raped is a good idea, which is why, given the track record and beliefs of Theonomists and their ilk, I avoid hanging out one-on-one with them (or comatose with them) at all costs. Because, you know, merely by being an unmarried non-virgin female, I’m clearly asking for it, and everyone sins occasionally.

Josh Duggar and the pattern of scandal

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The Josh Duggar scandal is only the most recent of a disturbing trend in what I’ll call Cloistered Christian Patriarchy movements. Although the communities have differed in approach and tone, location and rules, there are a number of them who have seen similar scandals. They have all promoted strict authority structures, vilification of anyone who didn’t adopt the group’s core messages, isolation from outside influence and rigid gender roles. The Doug Phillips fiasco was one such example. Doug Wilson siding with child molesters (and essentially marrying them to members of his congregation) would be another. And then there’s Bill Gothard, the man whose homeschooling curriculum the Duggars followed, who resigned in a cloud of rumors with a whitewashed apology for being inappropriate with a number of young women.

I’ve addressed this before by speculating that particular kinds of sociopaths could easily be drawn to these movements, but what came first, the sociopath or the environment that encouraged him to be one?

The pattern of all of these scandals is:

-Perp gets caught molesting someone.

-Perp is wrangled into meeting with the elders of his church.

-Perp does one of several things: acts dumb, downplays the accusations or claims the victims were involved or being seductive — in each of these cases, minors; sleeping sisters; females under the perp’s direct employ who aren’t actually paid anything and thus have zero legal protection under employee-employer harassment laws; or some combination thereof.

-When pressed, perp confesses and “repents.”

-Since “repentance” is all that is called for, great lengths are gone to in order to ensure that the criminal aspects of this are downplayed or are not reported to secular authorities before the statute of limitations expires.

-The victim may be called upon to repent as well. If the victim refuses, says she is not at fault, or indicates that she is angry at the perp, she is labeled “bitter” and “unrepentant,” among other things, and if she continues to be “bitter,” potentially excommunicated.

-When word of this gets out, the faithful defend the molesters and the structure that protects them by saying things like “he made a mistake! Everyone makes mistakes! And now he’s sorry!” Or even “You’re just after him because he’s a Christian, you terrible liberal! Why don’t you get outraged over something that’s actually important, like trans people being allowed to use different bathrooms?” Or possibly “What about the girls? Why aren’t they getting called to task?” You know, similar to the assertion that an infant who gets his face blown up by a SWAT team is at fault for not just getting out of the way.

I’m not going to pretend to know why, according to police reports, Josh Duggar molested four of his sisters as well as an unnamed babysitter, but I sincerely doubt being raised in an environment where this was the pattern of dealing with abuse helped.

Failing to deliver

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I used to make lists of the qualities I wanted in a man. On paper, in my head. I judged myself by these lists: the perfect list, neither too long nor too short, meant that I myself was probably worth dating (and thus obviously marrying) because I was into things just-so. I focused on strength, or moral qualities, on intelligence and wit, but I had to sneak in hot, succinct as the X on a treasure map, and the draw of hot was stronger than any gold-lust there was. Hot like heat, like the smell of trees in summer, like the sweat standing out against bronzed musculature, like a close-cropped head shading my own. Hot represented the desire behind the neat lines of smart, loves children, employed. I felt shallow for including this, so at times I tried to leave it off. Hot made my list seem like I was treating my imagined relationship and my imagined partner like a commodity, like I was looking for Something instead of Someone.

But now it seems less that way than the other things, the things I really meant by smart, loves children, employed. Hot was the one thing on my list that represented a state of being, an undemanding constant, some ineffable animal quality — the gravity of the nose in heat. Hot meant it was real, that I was not just pragmatically checking off items from a list.

Any joke is funny because of the truth or pattern behind it, and “I want you because you’re rich” or “I want you because you will impress my friends” is no exception. Because in our culture, and perhaps in all cultures, we tend to define relationships (at least when we’re looking to get into or get out of them) by what we want the other person to do or like, and become distressed or annoyed when people fail to deliver in the ways we expect. We want someone who makes us feel superiorfree therapy, hot meals, idealized sex, a stable yet romantic sperm donor, someone to pay for our clothes, free labor. Real people tend to be a good deal messier than this, in bad ways and in infinitely good ways.

It would be great to end this with some pithy fix-it: do this and you’re ensured to have amazing relationships with amazing people all the time. When I come up with it, I’ll share it. Until then, I’ll be cracking jokes in an effort to crack the bigger egg of life.

I Don’t Want To Do Anything, So You Better Be Rich

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IMG_4411I’m pretty. Therefore I deserve millions of dollars and a husband who spoils me. If you’re a millionaire, keep reading; if you’re not, keep reading anyway in case you score an inheritance or a lucrative legal settlement in the near future. Did I mention that with a blonde wig on I look like Marilyn Monroe? Only classier.

Username: DiamondsRAgirlsBFF.

Turn-ons: Bathing in Dom Perignon, foie gras-caviar smoothies.

Turn-offs: Paying my own bills.

Hobbies: Studying the movie Priceless for strategic tips.

Body type: Trophy wife.

Perfect first date: We board his private jet for St. Tropez and spend the evening shopping and sampling aged wine. Probably red wine. Possibly rose. I go for a sunset dip in my new maillot de bain and Tiffany jewels. I shake my wet hair as I come out of the surf so that he is entranced by my beauty and thus forced to propose on the spot. We live happily ever after in a chateau. The end.

I’m Wearing This Hat Because I’m Going Bald

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Me in my bathroom mirror

32-year-old gamer seeks IRL relationship with bodacious female who will love him for himself.

Username: KnightOfYesteryear.

Turn-ons: Literally everything.

Turn-offs: People who assume I live in my parents’ basement (I live in my own room, thanks), shallow girls who are just into looks, the question “So, what do you do?” What do I DO? I slay foul monsters and rescue fair maidens as did the heroes of yore. Chivalry used to mean something in this country.

This is what I look like most of the time

This is what I look like most of the time

Hobbies: Trolling internet forums and YouTube videos; see above.

Body type: Athletic.

Describe your perfect first date: Lara Croft comes to life as a reward for me winning the game and thanks me for freeing her from her two-dimensional prison. She shows her appreciation by doing Adult 18+ level stuff to me involving Strong Sexual Content. Then she asks me about my relationship with my father. As it turns out, she’s also really good at making sandwiches.

I Have Six Venereal Diseases and a Bad Case of Scabies But I’m Definitely Healthier Than You

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IMG_128147-year-old hippie seeks energetic, enlightened partner with non-working nose for polyamorous marriage and help weeding the garden. Must be a passionate fan of using human waste as compost. Must also have capability of actually engineering this because so far nobody in my house has.

Username: HeartChakraGuru.

Turn-ons: Patchouli, hydroponics, sexual chi.

Turn-offs: Corporations, non-organic food, people who deny their human nature by refusing to be just like me.

Hobbies: Shamanic healing, using bodily fluids in the spaghetti sauce, telling everyone I meet that showers waste water.

Body type: Personification of the Buddha and the Buddha’s aesthetic.

Ideal first date: Our eyes meet across the singing circle. You lift your hands, palms up, and walk to me until our auras merge. We do not touch, but we let our energies cycle in and out until we have come to know one another completely. This is our spiritual union and ensures that we will love each other eternally. Then you surprise me by saying you are independently wealthy and that my other partners and I no longer need to rely on selling human-hair dreamcatchers at barter fairs to make a living. We consummate our union by light of the full moon.

Pompous Homeschooled Zealot Seeks Handmaiden With No Ideas Of Her Own

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IMG_255119-year-old patriarch-in-training desires helpmeet to provide things Mom has taken care of up until now. She must be a chaste, quiet keeper at home who will dutifully satiate me at all times using sexual intercourse within the bonds of covenant marriage. Any other kind would damn me eternally into the Non Virgin Pew at the back of the church.

Username: Quick_quiver_giver

Turn-ons: Modesty, giving up goals and aspirations to raise younger siblings.

Turn-offs: Sin. If you’ve ever touched another man in any way whatsoever, keep your filthy self away. See also if you’ve ever purchased anything with a credit card, listened to any secular or mainstream Christian music, ever used slang, or plan on using any form of birth control to prevent our God-ordained right to reproduce.

IMG_2541Body type: Extremely manly.

Perfect first date: Our wedding. Your father will walk you down the aisle and transfer his authority over you to me. Once we are wed in the sight of God and our community, we will share our first embrace.

Please Fix Me, My Soul Has Died

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IMG_0851Single father seeking warm, compassionate body to fill the gaping hole left by ex-wife’s ultimate betrayal.

Unsername: SadDad

Turn-ons: Making my sweet little Maddy laugh, the phrase “I’m not your ex-wife,” being hotter than my ex-wife.

Turn-offs: Anything that reminds me of my ex-wife.

Body type: Better. I’ve been going to the gym recently.

Perfect first date: Ice cream with Maddy, followed by a serious make-out shesh on the couch after I’ve put her to bed. Staring deeply into my eyes, you pause to tell me you’re here to take care of me and it will all be OK now. I cry softly in your arms and then the next day I cancel my $120-an-hour therapy session because I’ve got you.

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