The Fear Girls

Category: Author: Nusha


 By Nusha Ashjaee

The most private thing I’m willing to admit: I opened an OkCupid account.

Last May, roughly a week after graduation, I made my big move to Portland.  An exciting prospect for me because a) I have never lived outside of California, b) I would soon be starting my internship for a publisher I deeply admire, and c) Portland is supposed to be awesome. Also, considering I knew no one in Portland prior to moving there, it was another opportunity to start from scratch and reinvent myself. The last time I had that chance was four years ago when I first left for college, a chance I consider to have blown due to my crippling shyness. Thankfully, I’ve since been able to step out of my shell since then and can now introduce myself to strangers and hold a casual conversation with them without wanting to cry first (sort of).

However, this is the problem I’ve run into: How do you meet people outside of work and school? Every friendship, relationship, and acquaintanceship I’ve ever made were done so through either the classroom or the workplace. I’m out of school and don’t plan on returning anytime soon, and the job I have doesn’t give much opportunity to interact with other people. While I have matured enough to be able to talk to people, I can’t find a proper setting to utilize my new found skill.

At a friend’s suggestion, I decided to open up an OkCupid account as a way to meet some locals who could introduce me to the city better. At the time, this option made absolute sense to me considering every other aspect of my life existed online. I found my roommates and current apartment through Craigslist, communicate with my boss regularly through e-mail, stay connected with my friends back home through Facebook, as well as contribute to the Fear Girls and manage my own blog. It only seemed fitting that I should find friends online, too.
It’s part of the reason why I don’t feel ashamed admitting that I have a profile on this site because I didn’t have any romantic intentions with it. A bit of a paradox considering OkCupid is primarily a match-making/hook-up site, but it does give you the option to claim on your profile what type of connection you are looking for: new friends, short-term dating, long-term dating, long-distance pen-pals, activity partners, and casual sex.

What’s been unfortunate about trying to find friends on a free dating site is that very few people on there are looking for friends. They are looking for dates. Or, probably more accurately, they are looking for a fuck buddy. It’s what’s led me to compare the site to going out to a seedy nightclub or bar on your own. The only difference is that instead of having some greasy guy with a sole patch coming up to hit on you, you receive them as messages from the comfort of your home.

The sad part from that last one isn’t that this guy probably copy and pasted this line from someone else and sent it to every girl’s profile, but that he and I are a 75% match.Fortunately, those were the worst of the messages. There were a few more requests similar to that one (apparently opening up a dating profile is the universal sign that you want to get jizzed all over), but none were bizarre like any of these colorful characters. Still, while I’d rather keep my distance from some of these people, it did make me curious as to what the benefits to online dating are. While I can understand that finding a boyfriend/girlfriend can be difficult, if all these guys want is a lay, why not just go to a bar and find it in person?

Some of the answers are obvious. Don’t have time to go out. Too shy. Too broke.
However, the answer I’ve found to be the most satisfying is that online dating allows for instant gratification. You can pass judgment quickly and blaze through whether or not he’s cute (though photographs can be misleading), where he’s from, what he does, common interests, etc. “You’re a photographer? How cool! Oh, you like Dave Matthews? FUCK OFF!”


Girls: Post-Sex and the City

 By Nusha Ashjaee

As I have stated before in one of my previous articles, I love TV.  I was raised by it and continue my relationship with it to this day. Spending more time searching for great new shows than with my actual friends or trying to find a boyfriend.

One show that I started following is HBO’s new and controversial series, Girls.  Created by Lena Dunham (director, writer and star of indie dramedy Tiny Furniture), the show follows four twenty-something girls living in New York City, attempting to attain the dream set up for them by Sex and the City.  The main character, Hannah (played by Dunham), is a struggling writer who, after two years of support from her parents, has been cut off and now has to deal with the very real struggle of finding a job and paying the bills in one of the most expensive cities in America.  Not to mention she also has to deal with an unaffectionate boyfriend, sexual harassment in the workplace, an STD, writing her book, and the general woes that come with going through a pre-life crisis.

One of the more noted aspects of the show is the incredibly uncomfortable sex scenes Dunham sets up for her characters.  Jessa hooks up with a stranger in a bathroom stall only to have the guy discover she is on her period.  Shoshanna, still a virgin, gets eaten out for the first time, the camera focusing on her tightly wound face.  The most awkward one by far is the opening scene in episode two, titled “Vagina Problems.”  Hannah is in bed with her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver), humping away and role-playing.  Watching these two have sex is weird enough considering how uncoordinated Hannah is and the fact that Adam can’t keep their scenarios straight, and doesn’t seem to care about it either.  During their role-play, first they meet at a party, then out on the street, until Hannah is inexplicably an eleven-year-old junkie prostitute.

Again, the show gets a lot of comparisons to Sex and the City.  Like SatC, Girls centers around the friendship of its four female characters: Hannah, Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).  They confide in each other, offer advice despite their lack of life expertise, share beds, showers, bathroom time, and offer general support no matter the circumstances.  Also like SatC, Girls has frank discussions about sex.

What was so radical about Sex and the City when it first aired was the fact that these women—independent and successful—were speaking so openly and, at times, graphically, about their sex lives.  The show made it okay for women to talk about sex without being chastised for it or for being referred to as “whorish” for admitting to enjoying sex.  It was the Golden Girls for the 90s/early 2000s where the women were stylish, powerful, and sexually in charge.

Obviously, my issues with Sex and the City are not so different from most critics of the show—the characters were too concerned with finding a man and fulfilled too many female stereotypes. But my main issue with it is more personal. Admittedly, having watched a handful of episodes growing up, the show did make me more comfortable discussing sex, but it also added the pressure of having to be good at it. The women of SatC are thin, beautiful, and sexually confident women who know how to please a man. I feel this does not reflect who I am.

At the risk of offering too much information, I am not good at sex. I shy away from men’s attention towards me.  I tense up at the slightest gesture towards any private area on my body.  I don’t know how to give a proper hand-job.  The first time I tried to give a blow-job, I kept accidentally biting the poor guy.  I am far from being any kind of sex goddess.

Back when I was with my boyfriend, he asked me once to pose nude for him for his illustration project.  The poster he was drawing called for a sexy female figure–poised and happy.  Though we had already slept together, I still wasn’t ready to stand confidently naked in front of him, and knowing that his classmates were going to see this too didn’t help.  Still, I agreed to do it out of my affection towards him, and with a compromise that I could keep on my jeans since they were form fitting, and that I could keep on my bra.  He sat on his bed sketching away while I stood in the middle of his room trying to suck in as much of my stomach as I could and angeling my thighs to give him their skinniest profile.  He tried to ease my discomfort, every now and then coming up from his sketchbook and telling me how beautiful and sexy I was, but all I could do was try to eye his paper to see how big he had made my waist.  Even afterwards when we made love, I could only believe that he was doing it out of pity because there was no way the girl standing before him, stiff and bloated, was a woman that was able to turn him on.

This is why watching the sex scenes on Girls are such a relief to me. As painful as it is to watch Dunham’s character attempt to text her boyfriend a gawky topless photo of herself, she is a character I can sympathize with.  Just like Hannah–and the majority of girls for that matter–I do have the desire to be desirable, but when I do end up in the bedroom, I feel myself coming up short.  As much as I attempt to be that sexually adventurous woman, in the end, I feel like a little girl trying to wear her mother’s shoes.  Every moan, every dirty word that comes out of my mouth is forced out, disappointing myself for being so disingenuous.  The best I can be is loving and affectionate, but not sexy.  Whether it is right or wrong for me to forge this aspect of myself, I am grateful that there is a show out there that communicates my experience so honestly that it is painful and embarrassing to watch.

How The Golden Girls Taught Me About Homosexuality

 By Nusha Ashjaee

I watched too much TV growing up.  I don’t think I can remember a time when it wasn’t on accompanying breakfast, homework, fighting with my brother, or, really, just watching the damn thing. It’s where I developed my sense of morals. My mother was always there to offer sound advice, but nothing ever quite stuck with me unless it was coming from a talking sponge or Will Smith. Such was my attention span.

However, there were some topics my mother was too uncomfortable with to bring up with me, one of which was homosexuality. It would be unfair to say that this was because she was homophobic; my mother grew up in a time and culture where sex in general was a taboo subject and it was something you just dealt with on your wedding night. If talking about straight sex was too much for her, then gay sex was definitely off the table. I was going to have to turn to television for that lesson, and it was one I learned from The Golden Girls.

Running from 1985 to 1992, The Golden Girls was a sitcom following the lives of four single, of-age ladies living together in Miami: simple Rose, man-hungry Blanche, uptight Dorothy, and the sharp-tongued Sophia.  Aside from Sophia’s wit and Betty White’s fantastic comedic timing, the show can be best known for being a gay-friendly series and for presenting views towards LGBTQ rights that were decades ahead of its time. Though I was born just shortly before its cancellation, I still enjoyed watching reruns with my older sister. Most of the jokes went over my head—particularly the sexual innuendos—but I always liked Sophia’s moxie no matter what she said.

One weekend we were in my sister’s room, watching this episode. I couldn’t have been older than seven:

Again, the jokes went over my head (Why did Dorothy cover her mother’s mouth like that?  Who’s Butch and Sundance?), but so did the premise itself, leaving me as confused as Rose. All I understood was that Blanche’s brother, Clayton, was announcing his plans to get married, but I couldn’t see to whom, and I couldn’t see why Blanche was so upset over it. Where was his girlfriend? Why wouldn’t she be there with him for this kind of news? Luckily, my sister was there to explain.

Me: Wait. So…who’s getting married?
Sister: Blanche’s brother.
Me: And that guy?
Sister: Yes.
Me: To who? Where are their girlfriends?
Sister: What?
Me: They’re having a double wedding. Right?
Sister: Umm…
Me: What?

My sister then explained to me that the two men on the TV show weren’t going to marry their girlfriends, but, rather, were going to marry each other.

Me: But they’re both men!
Sister: So? Sometimes men marry men and women marry women.
Me: You can do that?!

She had no idea how much this news excited me. Up until that point, I thought my choices for a husband were limited to the boys on the playground who picked their noses and touched their eyeballs. I didn’t know I had this second option. This was perfect: I could just marry my best friend and have babies with her, maybe even adopt a kitten. I wouldn’t have to worry about any boy and his germs. This wasn’t a plan she seemed to be quite on board with, but I figured there was still time for her to warm up to the idea. Of course, once I went through puberty, I learned it didn’t quite work that way and that I was going to be stuck with boys.

Still, despite my initial confusion with the concept of homosexuality, the moral of the episode was not lost on me and it is one that still resonates with me today. While it took eight or so years for me to be able to confidently laugh at the jokes, the message stuck to my conscience. For that, I have to express my love and admiration for The Golden Girls, not only for introducing me to the topic of homosexuality when no one else was quite ready to, but for also acting as my personal moral compass when it comes to civil rights. And it didn’t hurt that all of it came from an adorable, smart-mouthed grandmother.

Recommended Reading: The Selves by Sonja Ahlers

 By Nusha Ashjaee

I’m not entirely sure how to refer to this book. Drawn & Quarterly published The Selves back in 2010, making me wanting to call it a comic book. However, it’s not a narrative in any traditional sense, and Sonja Ahlers isn’t a cartoonist. She’s a poet and visual artist known for her DIY style, collecting and rearranging found images to create provocative and feminist collages. This book is no different from those installation pieces.

The Selves is an examination of the role of women in pop culture. Collaging clippings of Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, a young Angelina Jolie, babies, children, fashion of the ‘70s and ‘80s, hamsters, kittens, and quotes from Sylvia Plath and Kate Bush, Ahlers attempts to create a portrait of the woman based on how they are portrayed in the media. As the title suggests, that single portrait is put together by many different versions of the self, creating a schizophrenic identity of the woman today. This book is the diary of the young girl; a portrait emulating the feeling of anxiety between her public and private self.

Visually, it is stunning. I would describe the artwork of The Selves as leather and lace. Ahlers uses the underground, punk-rock style of the zine and brings a sense of delicacy to it with overtly feminine clippings and photographs as well as including her own handwritten cursive and watercolors. The combination of these forms brings a sense of witticism on its own, but Ahlers has a knack for creating humorous compositions that carry a lingering sense of vulnerability and heartbreak.

Living in the midst of social networks and blogs where we are all consciously constructing our public personas, The Selves is a smart, funny, and intriguing look on how the external feminine self is put together and the tension it creates with the internal self.

Why I’m Still Mad at Susan G. Komen

 By Nusha Ashjaee
This week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me watching the drama unfold over Komen’s flip-floppy decisions on what their relationship to Planned Parenthood would be.

January 31, Komen for the Cure announced that they would no longer provide funding to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings for low-income women.  Their original claim was because PP was under congressional investigation and that it was against their newly adopted policy to fund organizations that were under investigation by either state or federal authority.  Most critics called bullshit and claimed that this was Komen giving in to the demands of anti-abortion lobbyists who have been pressuring them to cut their ties to Planned Parenthood for some time now.

The next few days would prove to be packed with drama.  Planned Parenthood started receiving more donations and support from men and women; Mollie Williams, Komen’s top health official, immediately resigned upon the decision; Twitter was ablaze with tweets of protest; people stood outside Komen’s headquarters to have their voices heard; Lizz Winstead was everywhere voicing her outrage.*

And then February 3rd, just a few days later, Komen announced that they reversed their decision and would continue to support Planned Parenthood.  More cries of protest, from conservatives this time; Karen Handel, an executive and vice president at Komen, quit.  Other than that, it seemed to be a win for PP and for the individuals who stood by them.

Though I am very glad that the Komen foundation did succumb to the public’s outrage, I feel this victory to be a bit flat.  I got what I wanted, but I am still angry, and it’s for two reasons:

One—watching and reading the reports this last week has reminded me how much I hate these religiously fanatic conservatives and the way politics insist on using a woman’s body as a battleground for political debate.  As Jill Lepore stated in her post for the New Yorker online, “In American politics, women’s bodies are not bodies, but parts.”**
 These lobbyists and right-wingers are so bothered by what women might or might not do with their reproductive parts that they are willing to jeopardize the other aspects of their health in protest.  They don’t want women having abortions, so instead, they cut off their access to screenings and preventions.  By they way, roughly 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides are abortions, while the rest include cancer screenings, treatment for STDs, and contraceptive services.*** So all these conservative delegates are really doing is cutting off access for low-income women to health care that everyone deserves despite your financial situation or your politics.  They are so blinded by their great Christian morals and claim to be pro-life when, in reality, they can’t see the existing lives they are harming.

Second—though Komen ultimately made the right decision, my image of them has definitely been tarnished.  What used to be pictures of pink ribbons, women running relays to bring awareness, and a foundation dedicated to saving lives is now just a bunch of submissive bureaucrats who are easy to bully.  Their intentions, their mission statement, everything they once stood for now rings false, making it unlikely for me to be able to shake off this sense of betrayal. Basically, in my opinion, the only way they can make up for this bad PR is if they find the cure for cancer.

*Read more about the top 5 reactions to the Komen decision

**Jill Lepore’s post for the New Yorker

***Pierre Tristam’s article for Hernando Today