@_GreekPhysique_ vs @I_Do_Not_Talk
but it comes out of oppressive cultural programming!
expanding on my response to this post and the article it links to
other things besides my kinkiness that come out of acculturation into my unjust and unequal society: my very consciousness and the awareness i call “me,” the language i speak, my name, my family dynamics, my tastes in food and art, the health and shape of my body, the education i’ve received, the polluted air i breathe, the polluted water i drink, the medications i take, all the songs i know, all my favorite stories, my job and ability to support myself, the status of my nation in the world, my class standing, the analytical tools i use to dismantle oppression, my capacity to dream of a different world
fucking seriously, people
if living with the pains and joys of knowing that stuff is messed up and that it’s messed up so deeply that of course it impacts everything about us and yet somehow we can struggle and strive to do our best and be just toward each other is sufficient in all other areas
then why is that not adequate for kink?
certainly, demand that people strive and work to be decent to each other in that as in every aspect of life
but pretending that it’s singularly embedded in systems of oppression when
the clothes i’m wearing and the keyboard i’m typing on and all the other desires in my head are too?
is the kinkshaming mindset of vanilla people who find kink unappealing and unrelatable and so decide to turn it into something that can be singularly blamed
practiced by people who can be singularly blamed
for the ways their desires are embedded in the same mess everything else is embedded in
the same mess that vanilla sex is embedded in too
there is no sex “pure” enough to escape the horrible, oppressive things we’ve all been raised with
it does not exist. pretending it exists and kink is its opposite is not an encouragement to hold kink accountable it is a form of denial around vanilla practices
and how embedded in power dynamics and oppressive culture they are
which can be clearly seen in the article where the writer goes on and on about the pristine quality of nature and how unnatural kink is
as if (a) nature and our understanding of it is not also mediated by culture or (b) vanilla sex is somehow closer to nature and less mediated and less embedded in power (c) the way the woman writing the article likes to fuck is good and special and superior and the ways kinky people desire and fuck are ugly, disgusting, and wrong
which is ignorant and fucked up and causes harm by pretending to be very concerned about stopping harm
I’ve said on this blog time and time again that my parents had five children but that’s not really accurate. Were I to be totally honest with myself it would be safe to say that they had six. My brothers and sister, of course, but also their business.
When I was three months old, my family packed up and moved from Aberdeen (a town I’ve never revisited while old enough to recall) to a small town in the southeastern corner of the state. In moving, they also bought a business, a pharmacy, to be exact. My father had worked for the years as a pharmacist in a large retail chain but a business of his own, that’s something that my mother and he could build together, just as they grew their family.
My mother, I think, was excited by this opportunity to make a fresh start with a huge venture, though doing so after moving three children and a newborn must have taken more gumption than I’ve been allotted in this lifetime. They worked hard, they met people, they put in long hours and weathered the difficult times that are inevitable for a blended family in a brand new locale. Curious neighbors were aghast that my parents had named my sister Jill Hill until their fears were assuaged with a simple explanation.
It was a different time back then. The town was still small but it was still the heart of the small community age. Walmart hadn’t yet started suffocating any and all small businesses in it’s wake and people wouldn’t dream of driving 35 miles just to get a prescription filled. To the extent that when my parents moved to Beresford they weren’t just buying a pharmacy, they were buying the other pharmacy in town. The sleepy little burg I grew up in was able to fully support two pharmacies and downtown was a thriving artery pumping lifeblood through the vibrant farming community. There was a flower shop and a Ben Franklin’s and a movie theater and a bakery and two grocery stores and on and on. It was a ripe grape of a place that was on the inevitable road to raisinhood.
But at that point it time, such a fate was largely unforeseeable. As I grew up I knew my parents as lovely but tired people. They gave their everything to everyone and it wore them quite thin at times. Time passed, my little brother capped off the family, and soon my parents were buying out the other pharmacy and moving to a more spacious location. Here, they could expand their business from just a pharmacy into more of a general store. My mother would make bi-yearly trips to Minneapolis for something we just called “market” where she’d make savvy business decisions about which lines to bring into the business and which to skip on. My sister accompanied her as a teenager and I did the same.
These were special trips for any number of reasons. Foremost may have been the opportunity to watch my mother in an environment so unlike the one I knew her in. She was careful with a razor-edged business acumen you wouldn’t expect in our small town. She’d get in that first day and start walking the monstrosity of a sales floor, going down each winding branch carefully and making sure to hit every misbegotten wing. She’d make note of the trends she saw repeatedly, tried to anticipate how they might play in Peoria and most importantly, kept moving. No orders were placed in the first two days unless they were reups for currently carried lines. She wanted all the information so she could make the best decisions she could. She was fucking brilliant.
I’m not entirely sure how she did it. I’d keep pace with her as much as I could but after a few days my feet would be aching and my back would be unmercifully stiff. There were times she went alone, but those were always quicker trips to the smaller show. I don’t know if she brought us with for her or for us. I hope both. I learned so much there that I didn’t even realize. To this day, I’ll walk into a business and have a sense of knowledge, a sense of what seems out of place. She taught me that through example but it wasn’t just that. She respected my take on things, as well. She walked a fine line between genuinely valuing my opinion but never wavering in the knowledge that ultimately, she knew best. Though it makes me smile to remember that every trip something I lobbied hard for would make it through, assuming the order minimum was low enough, even if it were only to provide me with a much sought after trinket a few months down the road.
It sort of went without saying that we all did our time working at the store, as well. While my older siblings all sought out other employment as well, I was content working only for my parents. It saved me the hassle of having to find another place of employ and provided all of the perks (and, of course, detriments) of nepotism. And they definitely paid better than anyone else would have. (Though much of that was probably hush money for not ratting them out for violating child labor laws.)
Working there feels like something I did from before I could even really remember, though that’s probably accurate as I’ve been regaled of tales of me toddling around the original place of business and “dusting.” Personally, I only remember hanging off the candy racks trying to see over the counter. But I’d put in time there when nine or ten, sweeping or dusting or cleaning windows. Or, god forbid, “fronting and facing.” (Fronting and facing was pretty much the worst. It consisted in it’s entirety of walking up and down the aisles and meticulously straightening all of the merchandise. And there was a lot of it. A lot.) Fronting and facing, while an absolutely necessary task, was most often used as punishment for standing around gabbing during slow times. And punishment it was.
I’d help out during the summer sidewalk sale, lovingly called “Crazy Days.” All of the downtown businesses would haul out their outdated, hidden, clearance items to the sidewalk and sell them all for rock bottom prices. We’d assemble grab bags, 1 for $1, half for boys, half for girls, made up of unsold lipsticks and eyeshadows, toys and jewelry and candy. Always candy. It was an event.
It’s where I started cutting my teeth on sales transactions and learning how to interact with people even when you didn’t want to. Starting at such an early age has made me gifted at… whatever makes a great retail employee. Except that I kind of hate doing it, despite it being one of the things I’m best at. I can turn it on, flip it like a switch, and it’s completely unconscious. And I’m sincere. I genuinely want to help people find things that they like or love or need or want. I want everyone to be happy. At least in that environment, when the switch is flipped. But when I’m away from it I feel drained, as though all of my energy has been siphoned by this alternate personality that operates entirely without my participation.
Soon I was working regularly, after school (when not burdened by practices of sport) and on weekends and all summer long. I liked the routine. I liked that I could be simultaneously my parents’ best and worst employee. I liked interacting with the older ladies that worked there who reminded me often of my own personal Golden Girls. They would bicker and tell stories and laugh to beat the band. Then they’d disappear up the street for coffee. (In a small town coffee is an event where a group of older people meet to nominally drink coffee, but more importantly, exchange important town gossip.)
I’d also make deliveries. Drive around town and drop off pills for elderly individuals who couldn’t make it all the way down to the pharmacy. They’d give me a check or it would be charged to their account and I’d visit with them as long as I could before having to move on. These visits wrenched at my heart. I’d be gripped with my social anxiety, then overwhelmed with empathy at how my (admittedly narrow-minded) teenage mind imagined their difficult lives. There was one woman who was so effortlessly kind, she absolutely radiated kindness. She crafted these intricate wreaths made of minuscule gift-wrapped boxes, roughly the size of a 6-sided die. They were lovely not only for the fine craftsmanship but for the fact that she made them all with hands fully gnarled and misshapen by arthritis. To know her was to know grace and to know shame for all of those minor setbacks you allow to derail your passions.
There were also deliveries to be made to the nursing home. Nursing homes I always felt intensely uncomfortable at, perhaps because I started accompanying my father on deliveries there long before I had the emotional capacity to deal with the ravages of age and disappointment. The facility was always well-run, the nurses compassionate and hard-working but patients ran the gamut of wellness. Some were senile or perpetually unsettled. Some would cry out or sit in a sort of catatonia. Others were friendly and always had a kind word. One was my beloved grandmother. (Another story for another day.) But I’d always leave the nursing home deliveries with my heart pounding in my ears from pure relief combined with deep sorrow, finding it impossible to reconcile the idea that the end comes for all of us, just in vastly different ways.
There were also times I would be allowed to work in the pharmacy itself, most often fronting and facing, checking and marking expiration dates on drugs, or refilling supplies. To be in that space was to operate under an entirely different set of rules. Answer the phone immediately. Stay out of my father’s way. No needless chatter. And if it suddenly got busy? Get out.
I laugh now because I never fully understood why my father was so picky about what the environment was like there but as an adult, I get it. I don’t work well in a lot of noise. I don’t particularly trust myself and need to recheck my work three times before letting it out of my grasp. I don’t work particularly fast when I’m trying to be careful. To look at my father is to know exactly where all of that comes from. And I respect him so much for it! He knew what he needed and he insisted that it be done correctly. Lord knows dispensing medication is a far more serious task than those that I undertake in a given day.
Being so integrated into my parents’ business was valuable to me on so many levels, especially as an adult looking back. As I started becoming more aware of the issues I had within myself, with the depression and beyond, it was easy (Actually, not that easy, but that again is another story.)to resent my parents for how little time they had outside of their business. But because I had been so close to them as they worked I was able to see exactly what they were doing when they weren’t at home catering to my every whim. They were building something beautiful and important, that they could look back on with a sense of pride. Though even more than that they were building something that not just our family could rely on, but an entire community, an entire region could rely on. I watched my parents field calls in the middle of the night and on holidays from people who needed them. Who needed the particular services they could provide and had enough faith in the system that they would reach out in their time of need. You know how people are. That’s not always easy for people to do. People, hundreds of thousands of people, believed in and depended on and trusted my parents because my parents proved time and time again that they were worthy of such.
It wasn’t an easy situation, in no small part because of “coffee” I’m sure, because in a small town everyone knows everyone else’s business. My parents would fret about spending money in too obvious a way, lest someone think they were nickel and diming the town. That may be why they funneled discretionary on dining out or other simple pleasures. Such things were easier to slip by ever prying eyes. And there were other calls on holidays and Sundays as well. Calls from people who needed hair dye or whining about not being able to get their Sunday paper. “Well, it’s Christmas.” “But how am I supposed to get it?” (Keep in mind, these weren’t subscription papers my parents were doling out. Just regular for sale at large newspapers.) On those occasions it was difficult to be so accessible, so transparent. We would settle back in and we’d all be thankful for the life the business and afforded us but wonder sometimes at the true cost.
As I aged, as my parents aged, times changed. Beresford changed. Downtown slowly began drying up as more and more businesses went under or relocated closer to the interstate. As the town slowly began transforming into a bedroom community for Sioux Falls, more and more people were commuting to said city and in keeping with the changes taking place across the country, got in the habit of shopping in the city where they worked. After all, they were already there and WalMart’s prices were ever so low.
It was a sea change and it was frightening. As I grew older and left for college the thought of my parents owning this last bastion pharmacy in a dwindling small town made my blood run cold. Horror stories would filter down of aging self-employed small-town pharmacists getting ill and their businesses languishing because no one wanted to invest in small town America. But then, a miracle. My parents had an offer from a regional pharmacy chain interested in purchasing their business and keeping my father on as pharmacist until he was ready to retire. It came earlier than they were ideally hoping but they were smart enough to recognize a good thing when they saw it. And so the era of Hill Pharmacy came to a close.
The pharmacy was where I learned how to treat people with kindness, no matter what. How to handle difficult situations and how to negotiate through them. It taught me how to count change back appropriately and do quick sums in my head. It taught me that being the boss’ daughter would afford you certain allowances but subjected you to higher scrutiny. It taught me that my parents were imperfect people in an imperfect world who worked day and night to inch all of the above closer to good. They sacrificed so much, time that they would have loved to spend with their beloveds, for the chance to build something great, something that could help people. Something they could take great pride in. They became pillars of a community and never failed an opportunity to give back, even if they didn’t always want to. Through the store, through my parents, I learned that it doesn’t cost anything to be kind and there are few times it can lead you wrong. That a smile really can turn someone’s day around.
And that there are few things as satisfying as cracking a burnt out long fluorescent bulb against the side of a dumpster in order to make it fit. And that if you keep yourself busy you’ll often avoid the worst assignments. Oh, and if you get a chance to work in the basement, take it because while it’s damp, it’s cool and people aren’t really going to check on you that often because who has the time?
But maybe the most important lesson I learned working for my parents in their warm, welcoming, place of business was this: Triple check to make sure you took the price tag off that gift you’re wrapping because oh my God no one is happy when you remember after the fact. Which is to say, if you laugh at yourself first, you turn the tide from people laughing at you, to people laughing with you. And that may be the most valuable lesson of all.