Aug 8, 2016

Buttwipes of Portland: #1 (Swipes Lovin Wipes)

"What ever happened to Taco Bells of Portland??" people are always asking me in my mind. And while ok I didn't review every Taco Bell in town, I did answer the most pressing questions of our time: Are all Taco Bells created equal (no) and where can you, dear readers, find the best grilled stuft burrito in a 10-mile radius (NE MLK and Lombard and SE 50th and Powell).

I may be done with that phase of my investigative journalism career, but I'd like to bring it full-circle and present to you a new series: "Buttwipes of Portland." By "of Portland" I don't mean these buttwipes can only be found in Portland. I'm going to review buttwipes that have a Portland feel to them, so not your Rite Aid options, but your Whole Foods and your New Seasons buttwipes. Perhaps there's an artisinal personal hygiene pop-up shop in town. I'll find out.

Why buttwipes? Well, it's summer, it's hot out there, and sometimes you just want a fresh butt, alright? Listen either you understand me or you've never used buttwipes before.

I'll start by saying I normally buy the Target-brand buttwipes, because I'm at Target*, sometimes they're on sale for $3.33 for the double-pack, and they do the trick.

*chances are I'm at Target right now.

But the other day I decided to treat my butt to something new, and I picked up the cucumber-scented Swipes Lovin Wipes at Whole Foods.

Now, if you're a cucumber lover like me, you want that stuff everywhere. On your face, in your water, in between where the sun don't shine. And let me tell you -- it is a delight! The scent alone makes these worth the extra $0.08 per wipe. Actually now that I type that I realize it's not true. BUT, there are other benefits to the Swipes. Gather 'round.

First, they're eco-friendly. The package says things like "gentler on the environment" and "made with pure water." Plus it uses 70% less plastic than the traditional pop-top wipes! Is that not worth almost a dime a wipe? ...Eh!

Here's the real clincher (hehe) for me, though: Swipes Lovin Wipes are made in the good ol' U.S. of A., which means someday you or I could work in R&D at Swipes Inc.! I didn't even know I had a dream job til now.

Finally, I like how Swipes tells you what it's for. Most buttwipe packaging beats around the bush (hehe again! killin it). I thought the "Lovin" part of the name just meant Swipes would be good to my butt -- is that not the definition of love? But these ones are marketed as a cleansing product for pre- and post-lovin! I love that!

That and so much more.

In conclusion, Swipes Lovin Wipes are worth the $4.99 at Whole Foods. They'll replace my generic up & up wipes once I get through the six packs I bulk bought last time I was at Target. That is... unless a new contender emerges.

Stay tuned for more Buttwipes of Portland, and stay fresh, everyone.

Aug 5, 2016

a thing that happened that was uncool


this is something that happened this week that i'm embarrassed to write about because it shows how naive i can be, but i think it points to a bigger issue and that is some people's (primarily women's) need to please others at the expense of themselves.

i was home sick from work wednesday when someone knocked on my door. you have to be let into the building to get to my apartment so it's very unusual for me to get an unexpected knock.

i walked toward the door and asked "hello?" i heard a man saying something on the other side.

"yes?" i asked.

"hi, can you um open the door so i can ask you something?"

i would've preferred to know his identity first, but he asked, so i opened the door and saw a man i didn't recognize standing in the hallway. there was nothing alarming about the way he looked and dressed and carried himself. 

"hi, can you feed my cat saturday?" he asked.

what he should have said was, "hi, i'm so-and-so from apartment 106. i'm leaving town for the weekend and was wondering if you're around, if you could stop by and feed my cat."

i could tell the guy didn't have some very basic social skills, but i don't believe he was being rude or creepy. that's all i can really say for myself -- my gut told me he was awkward but not threatening. 

seeing he was struggling, i replied, "sure! ...i have cats too!"

then he asked if i could come over to see the food setup now. which is when i did the second thing i didn't really want to do, and followed him to his apartment.

"i'm amber, by the way," i said on the way, attempting to normalize the situation. "oh i'm joaquin," he said.

i followed him into his apartment and he shut the door behind me. he shouldn't have shut the door behind me. i'm assuming he did this to keep the cat inside, but i don't care if your cat escapes -- you can retrieve your cat from the hallway. you should never shut someone in your apartment.

he showed me where the food was and told me how much to feed the cat. "what's your cat's name?" i asked, trying desperately to be a regular human in a neutral space with another human. "yoshi," he said, and i bent down to pet the cat. "oh you probably don't want to approach him from above, he doesn't like that and can get weird."

"ok well i'll steer clear when i come by saturday to feed him."

joaquin handed me his spare key and asked if he could leave me some booze as a thank-you. "nope!" i said, "you can just feed my cats for me someday!" i flat-out lied.

i walked back to my apartment, locked the door, and called my friend to relay what just happened. (saturday i'm bringing a friend along to go feed yoshi.)

here's the problem: i so badly want to live in a world where neighbors take care of each other. i want it so badly that i set aside all my discomfort in this situation to make it happen. but this guy -- and again i don't believe he had any ill intentions, he just literally did not know how to have a conversation -- put me on the spot repeatedly. i should've said "can you identify yourself before i open the door?" and "how about i come by later with a friend to check out the food?" but he should've known his questions, coming from a strange man to a woman alone, were inappropriate.

but what i'm most upset about is that i worked so hard for those few minutes to make that situation ok, and to make this poor guy feel like he wasn't messing up every step along the way, even though he clearly was. why? to be nice. i got nothing out of that interaction and i straight-up risked my safety for it. i'm embarrassed i did that and i regret it. it was dumb and dangerous.

i don't know know how to get to a point where i always stand up for myself as a default. i don't know how to stop prioritizing being nice over being comfortable. is it because deep down, i still doubt my comfort is as important as someone else's -- is as important as a man's? even a strange man who didn't even give me his name until i asked?

i'd like to think it's my inherent kindness that makes me naive sometimes, but i'm afraid it's deeper and more disturbing than that -- that i was raised in a society that teaches women to first and foremost be nice and take care of men, and despite years of educating myself otherwise, i still haven't broken free of that canon.

women, how do you stand up for yourselves? how do you learn to value your needs enough to request them every time, even if it makes someone else feel uncomfortable? that is the world we want to live in, right? it seems like it requires major brain rewiring, and i thought i'd made progress, but this interaction showed me otherwise. give a sister some help?

and men, realize every time you interact with a woman you don't know, she needs to gauge whether you're a threat to her or not. that is an unfortunate truth. so go the extra mile to assure her you're not, and don't be put off if she asks you to identify yourself through a closed door.

i'm hoping just writing this out is a step in the right direction, but if anyone has advice, please share it. i'm not looking for "carry pepper spray" -- i'm looking for advice on how to remember, in the moment, my needs are important.

Aug 3, 2016

i think: depression

today i heard an interesting piece on NPR about the genetic factors behind depression. the reporter suggested that maybe depression is an adaptation -- which sounds like a TERRIBLE thing for our biology to do to us -- but his theory was that back in the day, you might be struggling to find food to survive, and this helpful little reminder would kick in that the world's a rough place so don't get your hopes up, buddy. enjoy the taste of that stick. that's as good as it gets. and then you'd survive because you'd be like "alright, a stick!"

it was interesting to me because just last week i took my last dose of the antidepressants i'd been on since december.

i've been depressed a few times as an adult -- the first two times were tightly tied to situations i needed to get out of, but felt helpless to do so. the first time i didn't even recognize it as depression, because i'd never experienced it before and i'd always been such a happy kid, depression didn't even cross my mind. i just figured that phase of my life was over, and adulthood was dull and bleak and lacking. so first i needed help understanding that life could be better, and then i needed help getting there. both times i used a counselor to get there.

this last time, though... it was different. sure i was stressed about work, and it was winter in portland, but the feelings of sadness would come out of nowhere and utterly crush me. i remember describing to my new counselor, "it's like i'm going about my daily routine, not thinking about anything in particular, and then i'll notice this shadow creep over me. and i look up and there's a giant black anvil slowly descending from the sky, and i know i've got about 10 minutes to get home and get safe before it hits." like i'd have to leave the grocery store halfway through my shopping list so i could get in the car and hopefully back to my apartment in time. for a couple months there, you could often find me sobbing and unable to move from my driver's seat.

then there were mornings i'd wake up and without even having time to think a thought, i'd be crying. tears and snot and that pain that pinches your chest down to your stomach. i couldn't sit up, i couldn't get dressed -- at best i might be able to text a friend to ask for help not feeling so alone.

it was scary.

this time i couldn't identify the source of the feeling, and there certainly wasn't a problem worthy of its intensity. i didn't know what to fix so i could get to the other side of it. so my counselor suggested i go to the doctor to make sure nothing was physically wrong.

when my doctor found my physical health was in order, she made a suggestion: "why don't you try antidepressants for awhile and see if that helps?" now to a person who doesn't even take tylenol for a headache, the idea of antidepressants was hard to open up to, despite having educated myself about them and supposedly getting rid of my biases. i knew sometimes people's brains just chemically didn't work right, so treating them with chemicals made sense. but this was my brain.

this was also my very desperate brain, though, and my usual tools didn't seem to be working at all. so i started the antidepressants. i remember the day they kicked in (thursday, dec. 10, just two days before my birthday ball, which i'd been planning for months but had been secretly dreading). i felt... ok. i felt like myself. like i no longer had to fight against this powerful negative force to get through each day. i could just get up, put some pants on, and do life. (and my birthday ball was magic.)

most doctors will recommend staying on antidepressants for at least 6 to 9 months so your brain can get used to them. i had a really comfortable 8 months, with minimal side effects (except for all the wild dreams, which were actually kind of fun) and a general sense that i could handle things. more out of curiosity than anything, i recently decided to try to ease off them. that went fine too. the last couple days i've felt dizzy and tired, but those are just withdrawal symptoms as the drugs finally leave my system. i'm pretty sure once that's over, i'll be back to my old self.

i wish i didn't ever have to deal with depression -- it takes time away from my life. and i doubt that that was my last run-in with the old beast. but now i know not to wait, and to be open to treatments, and that even if depression is a biological adaptation, i don't have to be satisfied with just a stick.