Plague of the Damned

The last two months have been among the most stressful I have had since I started programming. It has been more stressful than writing my first book or working at my first real programming job or even as stressful as when I essentially dropped out of school due to a nervous breakdown.

In September, I took over the Swift tutorial team at Part of the reason for my decision taking over the team was related to my previous job. At the time, I worked for SonoPlot. I had worked for them for a year and I was trying to figure out where my career was going. I had spoken about this with the company a few times, and it was pretty well established that there was not exactly a lot of growth potential for me there. Most companies have management as a potential way for people to grow within their jobs, but at a company with a few people, that wasn’t exactly an option. Also, SonoPlot is a hardware company. Our software wasn’t the selling point, it was a peripheral. I was trying to figure out some way of staying there without feeling like I was just stuck in a dead-end job, and doing a part-time gig managing a team on the biggest tutorial site for iOS seemed like an ideal compromise. I would get some exposure, work with really smart people, and have a chance to impact the way that people learn this new language! Awesome.

Things did not work quite the way I expected…

I received an offer I could not refuse from Black Pixel. I had dreamed of working for Black Pixel eventually, but I didn’t think “eventually” meant “right now.” While I was talking to them, I realized I would be a fool if I didn’t accept the job. So in September, I started two new jobs, while also trying to finish working on a book.

I tried to get my start date to be after I finished a week of speaking at two conferences in two different states, but that was not considered an acceptable option. I have never traveled to and spoken at two conferences in the same week. I was home for only two days between them. I was really looking forward to doing what I always do after a conference, get right back to work and focus on getting things done.

This is not what happened.

My mom is the best. She brought me some medicine. And some stupid DayQuil.

My mom is the best. She brought me some medicine. And some stupid DayQuil.

A few days after I got home, I got sick. I mean REALLY SICK. I had had migraines in the past and just generalized exhaustion, but usually my body had the grace to have these things happen on weekends so I would just be annoyed that I didn’t work on my side project because I was stuck in bed.

I would wake up in the middle of the night coughing my lungs out. All of the muscles in my back spasmed. I was working from bed because trying to sit with my back muscles spasmed was just too painful. I took cold medicine that did nothing and I had to ask my mother to go to the liquor store for me to get some honey whiskey because drinking hot tea with lemon, honey, and a good slug of whiskey was the only way I could stop coughing for a short period of time. I finally reached a point where I simply could not work anymore and I had to finish my week early and take a weekend to get better.

That weekend was not enough.I was told to go to the doctor after that weekend to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia. I didn’t have a fever, my lungs were clear, and my weight was ten pounds over what my “overweight” marker is. I was not a happy ninja.

Don't mess with the Janie Ninja! She is sick and cranky.

Don’t mess with the Janie Ninja! She is sick and cranky.

Even though it’s good that I didn’t have pneumonia or consumption, it was kind of like, seriously? I feel like dying here and there is nothing you can diagnose me with that sounds really scary so that I am not just a wimp? I was offered prednisone, but that stuff scares the living shit out of me and I refuse to use it unless I am dying without it.

This past month has really sucked and been completely demoralizing. I am upset that my first month on my new job was taken up with me being gone then having the Plague that Would Not End. I am mad that I spent a weekend in bed trying to get better when it didn’t work and I couldn’t just start the following week bright eyed and ready to go. I am mad that I am still kind of sick and this will not fucking go away. I am traveling in a few days and I am afraid of picking up another bug that won’t fucking die. I am sad that the people I am working for have a bad first impression of me because everything I have been doing all slammed me all at the same time and my stupid body gave out and wouldn’t let me do anything.

I am grateful and appreciative of all the people I work for who were incredibly understanding about this situation. I know I have let people down and that vexes me tremendously. No one has made me feel bad about this. I am making myself feel bad because I hear myself giving this constant stream of excuses about why I am not getting work done and I hate this person I am being. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself and I am angry that it has taken this long to get better.

Here is what I am doing about it.

I am organizing myself. I am taking responsibility for the things I have not done. I am going through and trying to take stock of what I have let slide. I am working to fix it.

Take two pugs and snuggle in the morning.

Take two pugs and snuggle in the morning.

I have been pushing my body to its breaking point for the last three years, figuring it was just a crunch. I need to crunch to learn enough programming to get my first job. I need to kill it at my first job to avoid being fired. I need to kill it at this book to get a better job than that first job. I need to kill it so that I can learn all this awesome code from my programming mentor…

I can’t do that anymore. I need to make taking care of myself a priority. Yeah, it might mean that I miss out on some once-in-a-lifetime side project app opportunity that will only happen once that someone else might do or might just go away. I might miss out on an amazing conference. I might miss out on insert-cool-thing-here.

One reason that Xerox missed out on the computer revolution wasn’t just that they didn’t recognize the opportunity. They didn’t have the structure or the bandwidth to take advantage of it. Their business model and structure didn’t allow them to easily adopt producing personal computers. One reason Apple succeeded at this was because they gambled and went all in. Xerox could have done that, but it would have been a terrible business decision.

At some point, you have something to lose.

When I took up programming, I had nothing to lose. I had time. Time is important, but considering the return I got on that investment, it was a good decision. Right now I have basically made it. I am working at the company that was my dream job and I get to work with the people who taught me programming and to have an impact on how this new language is taught. I have career investments in things and as cool as it would be to learn virtual reality or electronics or even Metal, I need to offset the risk with the bandwidth it takes away from the things that are working for me now.

I am not going to give up on this stuff as a hobby. I simply have to acknowledge it for what it is and not think of it as an investment in my future. Making sure I have food and that my house is clean is more important right now than writing my own app or starting another book. I have people counting on me to do my job and I need to take care of myself so that I don’t let those people down and burn out.

Remind me of this in a month when I will inevitably talk about the next book I want to write.

One of these days I will play all of Mass Effect.

One of these days I will play all of Mass Effect.

Why Codes of Conduct Are Bullshit

For the last few years I have been watching people go back and forth about Codes of Conduct at conferences. I never really paid that much attention to them because I honestly didn’t care about them one way or another. I figured this would eventually go away, but it hasn’t.

There are a number of reasons I hate Codes of Conduct that I hoped I would never have to write about. I hoped that this would just go away or some other brave soul would address these issues and they would spoken about, but since it doesn’t look like that is the case, I am going to address the various elephants in the room no one wants to talk about.

Codes of Conduct are a Distraction

We are in the month of October, which, among other things, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I also think Breast Cancer Awareness is bullshit.

All those little pink yogurt tops that people collect at work and all the braless days don’t do a fucking thing to actually help cure breast cancer or help survivors of breast cancer.

Everyone is pretty aware of breast cancer and the dangers associated with it. I have the nice breast cancer pink Kitchenaid mixer and had my first mammogram when I found a cyst in my breast the week after I filed for divorce.

People are acting like CoC are some magical talisman that will suddenly make people behave. It’s like they picture Douchebag McBro sitting at his computer looking at a conference without a Code of Conduct saying, “All right! I can go rape at this conference!” You might as well hand out a rabbit’s foot to every conference goer.

All of this talk about making sure the wording is exactly right on your CoC is talking that we are not doing about addressing the underlying issues that make conferences unsafe.

Doesn’t Address the Way Assault Actually Happens

We have a collective fairy tale we tell ourselves about how rape and assault work. Pure virginal girl gets attacked in the bushes on her way home from Bible study by a stranger who attacks her. If something does not fit neatly within that narrative, it tends to get called into question.

Fact: Most assaults happen from people that you know well.

Let’s explore this scenario.

You are a woman have been going to conferences for five years. There is a cute, funny guy that you are friends with that you have seen a couple of times a year for the last three years. You’re both married, but you’re always happy to see him because he is your friend.

Suddenly, one day, after all these years, your friend starts touching you. You look around and you realize that you are alone with this person.

Your first thought is, “Fuck, why is this happening now?”

Your second thought is, “Fuck, how do I short circuit this situation to avoid losing my friend?”

Fact: Women are trained not to give a firm no.

Story time: When I was in fifth grade one of my male classmates would go around at lunch and ask people if they were done with their food because he was always hungry. After he asked all of us, he would ask everyone else in the lunch room, including first and second graders. After he did this for a week, the principal sat him down and said that he was terrorizing the little kids who were afraid to say no to this big fifth grade boy asking for their food, so they gave it to him because they were afraid he would beat them up. He genuinely didn’t think about it that way. He didn’t think about how his age and size would intimidate little kids and he felt bad because it wasn’t his intention to be a bully.

This is why some men who assault women don’t understand that what they did was assault.

Let’s go back to our scenario. I am 5’4. Most of the men at my conferences are over six feet tall. If you’re alone with a man who is a foot taller than you are, you are in danger.

Over the years, most women are socially trained to give a soft no. We grow up inundated with stories about nice guys asking out girls who laugh at them and treat them cruelly. We don’t want to be a bitch. More recently, we see stories posted to Facebook about ten-year-old boys shooting girls who won’t give them their toys. If you were born a woman, there is a constant cloud of potential violence that follows you everywhere you go.

When I go to conferences I have to sit at the end of the table or near a door because I am constantly figuring out exit strategies. I have trouble being on planes because of the number of people I am trapped with. I started paying extra to sit near the front of the plane and get off first because being surrounded by people with no ability to escape triggers panic attacks.

The person doing this is your friend and you think that you can find a way to shut this down where you don’t get assaulted either physically or sexually. So you try to put them off by saying it’s late and you’re tired or you have a headache.

The guy does not hear no. He hears, “Oh, she’s tired, that means that we can go back up to her room. She has a headache. I have some aspirin in my room. I can fix this.”

When the guy does not hear the soft no, or they start pressuring you into going with them, bad things start to happen.

I have PTSD. I was raped in college by a guy who talked his way into my dorm room. When we get to this point in the scenario, I shut down. My brain cannot deal with defending itself from an assault, so I basically withdraw into myself. Sometimes I black out because my brain will not allow me to record what has happened.

When I get assaulted, I don’t scream or kick. I shut down. I lose control of my body and go into shock. I don’t report my assaults because I know that the person assaulting me probably does not understand that they are assaulting me. They are waiting for a firm no. They don’t listen for a soft no or an enthusiastic yes. They start touching me, I shut down, they don’t hear no, so they assume that what they are doing is okay. Sometimes I don’t remember things after a certain point and that I can’t be used as a reliable witness about what happened.

I know within our narrative I am not doing my part. I am supposed to say no before the guy rapes me in order for it to “count.” But that isn’t how most women behave when they are being assaulted. We are afraid, we are disappointed that someone we trusted is doing this to us, and we are paralyzed because we do not know what to do.

It makes me angry when someone puts me in this situation. It is not fair. It rips out a piece of my soul every time this happens.

Which brings me to my next problem with Codes of Conduct.

No Talk of Personal Responsibility

I feel like the people in charge of the current tech feminist bullhorn are adopting the “Pedestrians and Bicyclist” form of personal safety and responsibility.

I live in Madison, WI. We have a university here where the students who walk and ride bike will walk into oncoming traffic without looking. Sometimes they will purposely look away from oncoming traffic and trust that the cars coming will respect their right of way and not run them over.

You cannot put your personal safety in the hands of other people.

In the case of the students, they don’t think about a driver that is distracted by their phone or their toddler in the back seat. They don’t take into consideration the crazy cab driver I had once who saw a student pull this and floored it and aimed the car at him.

Codes of Conduct talk about expected behavior. If you don’t behave the way you’re supposed to, you get kicked out. Seems fair, except it doesn’t address the damage done to the person being assaulted.

My understanding is that this recent push for Codes of Conduct are because of this incident.

In this incident, the person was assaulted in public. A bystander stepped in to break it up. The man lost his job. This is the best possible outcome that you can get from an assault.

Justine still is damaged by what happened.

It’s like the pedestrians and the car. Yes, you might have the right of way, but if someone is distracted and hits you, it doesn’t matter if they go to jail and feel guilty for the rest of their life, you are still damaged by their action.

Any conversation about safety at conferences must talk about what we can do to keep ourselves safe. No one fucking talks about this. Everyone wants to yell at men and tell them that everything they do could possibly be considered assault instead of talking to women about how to create our own safety net.

I want to see conversations where women exchange phone numbers to keep one another safe. I want to see women making their own network of people where you can all look out for one another. Girls do this in college when they go out, why aren’t we talking about doing this as adults?

The reason is that members of our community think we shouldn’t have to. They are not concerned about keeping women safe, they’re concerned with controlling the conversation and having this as a weapon to wield against anyone who isn’t completely on board with their cause.

Which brings my last point.

Shuts Down Open Communication

I recently read an article that says that boys going to college don’t know what rape is. I can believe this.

It is very difficult to give black and white, clear definitions about what assault looks like. I have tried to by explaining things from my own perspective and to give men an idea what to look out for. The fact that we aren’t having open conversations about this shit is one reason that it keeps happening.

Most men that I know are good guys who want to do the right thing. They don’t know how to do that. They are basically being told that everything they do could be seen as assault, so don’t do anything.

This leads to an environment where genuine predators can get sympathy for being rapists because everyone is secretly terrified that they will be falsely accused of rape.

There are very clear things people can do to make sure they are not assaulting someone. It’s not romantic, but ask if you can someone. If you’re a guy that I like and you ask if it’s okay to touch me, I will respect you for it. Quit following the “ask forgiveness rather than seek permission” shit. Also, if you are married and you’re trying to have an affair with me, I am judging you.

Alternatives to Code of Conduct

I was asked by Gem Barrett yesterday what I would suggest as an alternative to Code of Conduct. At that point I really didn’t know how to answer. I don’t think we should offload the responsibility of keeping ourselves safe to another person. I do not think there is much a conference organizer can do in the middle of the night if one of their attendees is being a dick. I can guarantee you that no conference organizer wants an assault to happen at their conference.

This is what I am going to do.

At every conference I go to, I am going to find all the women and any men that I trust and I will give them my number. I want to organize a support structure for the women attending the conference where they have at least one person they can reach out to if they don’t feel safe. If you go out, go with a buddy. Stick to your buddy. Both of you leave or neither of you leave. Call someone to make sure they got back to their room okay.

If you’re at a conference and you find someone who doesn’t have a support structure yet, be their friend. Introduce them to other people. Look out for them. I have yet to attend any conference where there was not at least one other woman. Stick together. Support one another. This should not be the responsibility of the conference organizer. It’s our skin in the game. We have the most to lose. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we are safe.

I am also saying on here that I will answer any questions that anyone might have about anything I have written here. I think people are too afraid to get information that they need and I would rather be asked than have someone live in perpetual fear that everything they are doing is wrong.

I love this community. One reason I joined this community was because people were tolerant of beginners. If I didn’t understand something, I could ask without anyone making me feel bad for not knowing something. This has been a friendly, supportive community and I want to see it continue to be so.

I am fucking sick and tired of seeing people argue about semantics on a form rather than having meaningful discussions about keeping our community safe for everyone. If this is going to devolve into a community where everyone is afraid of voicing their own opinion if it doesn’t correlate to whatever the loudest person in the room is, then I don’t want to be a member of this community anymore.

Thank you.

NSScotland Absence

Hi. I announced a year ago that I was going to be speaking at NSScotland. I had been invited to speak while I was still a student, but I was broke and couldn’t afford to go. I was incredibly sad about it and was really looking forward to going this year.

I have written on here about how I went through a divorce this year. I lost all the equity in my house and lost any savings I thought I had. I basically started out from zero this year. Honestly, it was terrifying. I have never paid my own bills or done a budget before. Having no buffer and not being certain that I would live within my means terrified the crap out of me. When we filed for divorce, we were $30,000 in debt. I was going to have less than half the money available to me to pay more expenses and I was honestly terrified.

I gave up a few trips this year to give myself some breathing room. I was told by a lot of people to go to Alt Conf when I didn’t get a ticket to WWDC, but I really couldn’t justify taking my buffer and spending it on that trip. I also couldn’t justify spending the money on Scotland, so I tearfully had to tell Alan that I couldn’t make it this year. He was very understanding.

I have been very troubled over many of the things I have heard about NSScotland over the last few months. I was at a conference where a friend of mine told me that Alan had gotten into a huge fight with Cate Huston over her attending NSScotland and had behaved rather badly.

This took me by surprise. I have not met Alan in person, but I have known him for two years and have not seen him behave this way. This friend of mine is very involved in the feminist tech community, which I am not, so I wasn’t certain what was going on. I didn’t defend Alan at that point because I felt it was necessary to hear all the sides of a story before I pass judgement.

I met Cate Huston at 360iDev. We spoke briefly. She mentioned not going to a conference because of a Code of Conduct issue. Having spoken to both Alan a friend of mine, I asked if she was speaking about NSScotland.

She became very hostile towards me and snarled at me, “How do you know about that?! I only told three people about that and one of them certainly wasn’t you!” I panicked a little and mentioned my friend who talked to me about it a few months earlier. She again snarled at me that she didn’t know this person. I was honestly a little frightened. This was, at this point, common knowledge among people in the iOS community and having someone act like I had hacked their email or read their diary was a little unsettling.

I thought all of this would die down, but it hasn’t. So I am going to defend Alan.

Running a Conference

Running a conference is a pain in the ass. People do not make money off of conferences. Conferences are a service that people do in order for our community to be an awesome place to be.

I have met a lot of amazing people at conferences and been able to maintain relationships that I otherwise would not because I get to see people a few times a year at a common gathering place.

I have become friends with people who run conferences and their selflessness always astonishes me. These are wonderful people who deserve to be treated with respect who are working to make the community a better place.

I really try to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt because of the work they do and the impact it has had on me personally.

I honestly do not give a shit about Codes of Conduct.

I attended one conference with a Code of Conduct where one of the keynote speakers made sexist remarks and insulted everyone in the audience. I live-tweeted what was going on and rather than taking my concerns seriously, the organizer pressured me into removing them rather than listening to the fact that he had hired someone to come and insult the people at his conference. I will never go to this conference again. I understand that he was under a lot of pressure, but the way he behaved was atrocious.

I know that Alan sometimes makes comments that could be considered inappropriate. I know that he knows that. We speak a lot and he is always worried about offending me. I am an adult and if he says something that crosses a line, I tell him. I have an inappropriate sense of humor and I don’t want people walking on eggshells around me worrying about offending me. If something offends me, I will tell you. If you don’t do it again, we’re good.

I only have problems when someone tries to exert control over me to manipulate me into doing something I don’t want to do. That is what happened and the previously mentioned conference, which is why I will never go back there.

I tried to get Alan to come on my podcast, but he won’t speak publicly about what happened. If Alan was a woman, this would elicit outrage and whoever was causing the issue would have a hoard of people spamming their Twitter feed yelling at them. I don’t think it’s okay for this to happen to Alan because he is a man. Bullying is bullying and it makes me angry that a member of our community doesn’t feel comfortable talking about what is happening with them.

I want people to lay off of Alan. He has been nothing but supportive of me since before I was anyone. He sent me a copy of “Smalltalk Design Patterns” by Kent Beck when I said I wanted to be a better programmer. He was very disappointed that more women couldn’t speak at his conference. I think he’s trying to make the community better for women and I am deeply disappointed that this is happening to him. He’s one of the good guys. I support him. I hope that this blows over and that his reputation isn’t irreparably damaged by this, but I don’t hold out hope on that front. I am saddened that this is happening in a community that I love and I hope that it can be cleared up and resolved without anyone being the bad guy.

I do not want to make this sound like a hit piece on Cate. I do not know her well and I do not want this to come off as me attacking her. I know that she has gone through things I have not. I can see a scenario where the two of them misunderstood one another and things escalated in a way neither of them would like. I am not saying that either of them are wrong, I simply think this is a situation that has grown out of control because no one has been willing to say anything about it.

I know this will probably earn me some angry responses, but I don’t give a shit. I will speak my mind. I am sorry if my opinion is different than yours, but it is my right to say what I think. I have become somewhat prominent in the community recently and I feel I have a responsibility to use that visibility to make this a better community for everyone. Making Alan’s life miserable doesn’t make things better for women.

Dutch Ovens and the Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe

Le Creuset

I have written about cooking on the blog before. I have also talked about my complicated relationship with food and my efforts to try and destigmatize food for the people I interact with.

Trying not to be super repetitive here, but I feel like some of the previously mentioned things bear reiterating.

I started teaching myself to cook back in the spring. I went out to Costco and looked for what packaged food I wanted to eat that week to find I had no appetite and nothing looked appealing. Everything in my life felt grey and dead. On a whim I picked up boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I felt like an idiot going back to my car because I figured they would languish in my freezer because I would never have the energy to cook them.

Not only did I cook them, but I cooked them enough that I got tired of them.

No more curry!! I can't do it anymore!!

No more curry!! I can’t do it anymore!!

For a few months, I basically made the same dish over and over again with a few slight modifications. I made a base chicken stew, then I would add Japanese curry roux to have curry. Or I would add Berbere to have Ethiopian Doro Wat. Or I would add peanut butter and tomatoes to have Sweet Potato Stew.

This last time I made Japanese curry, I was thoroughly tired of it. I wound up freezing half of my last batch because I just don’t want to eat the same thing anymore.

The last few months I have been craving braised meats. Roast beef, pork chops, skin-on, bone-in chicken with skin cooked crispy and then slowly cooked in wine and broth.

I used to have this a few times when my husband cooked, but he always made these things in our Le Creuset Dutch oven and braiser. When we were divvying up the kitchen stuff, he took most of the good stuff with him. He was the one who did most of the cooking and he had specially picked out everything that we had in the kitchen. I let him take most of the good stuff because I didn’t think I would be cooking anyway. I also didn’t get to pick out the color of the Le Creuset stuff and I didn’t want our ugly black ones.

My new little Le Creuset family.

My new little Le Creuset family.

The last month or so I have been seriously tempted to go out and buy replacement Le Creuset stuff. I hadn’t because that stuff is expensive! I just couldn’t justify the cost to myself of buying even one of those things because it seemed like a waste of money just so that I could make braised pork chops perfectly.

Finally, a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I don’t have to buy any of these things new. They’re designed to last forever. I could buy used ones that people were selling. I went on eBay and went a little crazy. I was hoping to get one Le Creuset thing, but I wound up with four. One was even brand new in the package and I paid less than half the retail price for it.

These are the reason I am writing this post. They are lovely, beautiful things, but I hate them.


I went through a divorce this year. The last few years of our marriage were this terrifying time of extreme dieting and extreme falling off the wagon.

On one of our first dates, my ex-husband made dinner. He had taught himself a bunch of French techniques and actually cooked things in butter, which was something my carb-nut father would never do, and still doesn’t.

No, this is mine that I bought yesterday. Why am I this person?

No, this is mine that I bought yesterday. Why am I this person?

He knew how to break down a chicken. He could make steaks that tasted like the ones you get at the steakhouse. He could make anything (except for baking, he was terrible at that).

My ex-husband has always been interested in cooking. We used to go to each other’s houses when we were kids and make cookies and sponge cake. It was a thing we did when we were friends. Instead of playing video games, we would cook. When we reconnected as adults, I was looking forward to doing that.

I only got to cook for a few months of our marriage. My ex-husband made it clear to me that he didn’t want to eat the food I prepared. I got busy with things and since he already knew how to cook, I just kind of let him take control of the cooking duties.

He did all the grocery shopping, so I never really knew what we had in the house. If he left, I couldn’t just cook something for myself because I never knew what we had around. I used to marvel that he could just open the fridge and make something out of what we had. I didn’t realize that he also knew everything else we had in the house and had a catalog of meals and techniques he knew how to do.

Then, around the time he turned 30, things got rather nightmarish.

This is "unhealthy." It has sweet potatoes. :p

This is “unhealthy.” It has sweet potatoes. :p

All of a sudden, everything in the house had to be organic. It had to be fancy. Above all, it had to be low carb. He went from making smoothies in the morning to eating a pound of bacon because it was “healthier.”

He wanted to lose a hundred pounds, but he wanted an easy answer. He thought if he just ate bacon cheeseburgers without the bun that the pounds would melt off and he wouldn’t feel deprived. Except it doesn’t work that way.

Eating low-carb takes a lot of time. You basically have to make a new meal every night. We both would get busy and tired and more often than not, the thought was fuck it, let’s cheat tonight. Since we’re cheating, let’s get lots of fried and greasy Chinese food. But we’ll definitely behave when this is gone. Totally. Not.

We rarely had chicken or steak anymore. Pasta and potatoes were banished from the house. Suddenly we belonged to a meat CSA and our freezer was full of lamb chops. He ordered organ meat online and had packages of sheep testicles in the freezer. For about two years we had an whole pig head in the freezer. It was wrapped in paper so you couldn’t see it’s lifeless eyes staring out at you, but I knew it was there, lurking under the paper.

Why I Didn’t Want to Cook

Baby peppers are a bitch to process. So why do I do it?

Baby peppers are a bitch to process. So why do I do it?

When he moved out, I told myself that I would not cook. I did not want to be consumed with collecting $400 counter top sous vides so that I could make rare, gelatinous pork. I did not want to spend hundreds of dollars on weird organ meats and doing weird French cooking.

I didn’t want to have a meat CSA for the sole purpose of telling strangers I met on the street that I had one to make it sound like I was more posh than I was.

I feel like the cooking thing reached back into another personality trait my ex-husband had even when we were kids: The need to feel better than other people.

We went to the prom together when we were sixteen. He and his friends rented a limo for the prom. In the back they brought along bottles of non-alcoholic white zinfandel. I asked them why they had the bottles. My ex’s best friend said that they were training their palettes. They said they were all planning to be rich and that one requirement of being rich was that you knew how to appreciate fine wine. I didn’t ingratiate myself to them at all by pointing out that no oenophile would consider any vintage of White Zinfandel to be fine wine.

New knives and bread book

New knives and bread book

I feel like my ex’s life was a giant performance art piece to try and convince everyone that he was better than they were. We had to buy art every year at the Art Fair on the Square so that he could casually drop in conversation that we had extra money to spend on art. He was angry when I had a prolonged period of unemployment when I went back to school because he couldn’t tell people that we went cruising every winter anymore.

I associate my Le Creuset cookware with all of the things we bought not because we liked them, but because we were showing off to people about how much better we were than them, even though we weren’t.

I noticed the longer our marriage went, the worse my ex’s food became. He started out cooking it because he wanted to make food he enjoyed. Towards the end, it became something he did to show off how much better he was than everyone else. Cooking is an expression of the soul. If your soul isn’t in it, then it shows.

The Best Laid Plans

I didn’t want to cook. I spent years trying to carve out time to work on programming or any of my other hobbies. I gave up on cooking. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to learn electronics and build robots in the basement. I wanted to join the local maker space and hang out with guys who built rockets and soap box derby racers. I had plans. These plans have not happened.

I am angry.

I am angry that I want to cook. I am angry that I just spent hundreds of dollars on cookware so that I could cook my chicken perfectly. I am angry that I bought new knives so that I don’t cut my finger off while processing a sweet potato.

Books I rescued from the basement. Still need to find the other Ruth Reichl one.

Books I rescued from the basement. Still need to find the other Ruth Reichl one.

I am angry that I wasted a bunch of time this morning looking through all of the books that my ex boxed up because he didn’t want my things in his house to see if he had gotten rid of my Ruth Reichl books. I found one, the other one is still MIA.

I am angry that I feel myself turning into this weird shut-in lady who doesn’t want to leave the house. I am afraid the neighbor kids will start saying I am a witch and that all the stray cats are going to show up at my house because I am going to be the weird crazy cat lady who lives alone. I am hoping the pugs help keep the cats away, but that opens up an entirely new possibility of accumulating a grumble of pugs.

I am pissed off that I have no one to cook for. I felt like there was an implicit agreement when I got married that my ex would agree to eat my food and not banish my cookbooks to the basement. I am angry that I have not gotten to bake a cake in years because I know no one who will eat it except me. I am angry at our society for telling people not to eat cake because I like making them and I would desperately love to share it with people who do not judge me for eating cake. I am angry that I want those things and I can’t have them.

When did I become a grown-up who eats salmon and brussels sprouts without being forced?

When did I become a grown-up who eats salmon and brussels sprouts without being forced?

I am angry that my brain and my body wants to do this right now. I wanted to want to go to the gym before going to the maker space and soldering circuit boards, but I don’t want that right now. I am tired. I am sick. Leaving my house drains all of my energy. I think the mailman hates me because I order canned tomatoes and flour from Amazon because I don’t want to put on a bra to go drive an hour to the grocery store to get those things.

I am angry that I haven’t lost any weight since my divorce. I am angry that even though I am going back to eating a normal diet with food I prepare myself, I am still heavier than I want to be. I am angry that it doesn’t bother me and I actually like how I look right now even though I know I should probably want to lose weight.

I am afraid. I am afraid this will never get any better. I am afraid I am pathetic. I am afraid to say I want this stuff because I am afraid it will make people think I am not the cool girl who builds robots and drinks scotch. I am afraid to stop going to conferences because it is the only time I am forced to interact with people and put on make-up and make sure I don’t just devolve into an animal. I am afraid that I go to too many of them and that it will affect my job. I don’t know how to explain to people that I need this in order to not just allow myself to be trapped in my own little world with my pugs.

I hate my new cookware. I hate everything it represents about me. I hate feeling this way and being this person, but I know it’s who I am right now. I know that eventually I will snap out of it and want to do other things, but that time is not now. Now I need to wallow in my own self pity and braise chicken thighs. I hate the fact that this is who I am right now, but it is.