Hello, Hello World!

 

hello-world-cover

 

Today is debut day for Hello World, a lovely piece of science fiction by my sister Pandamoon authors Tiffany Rose and Alexandra Tauber. Jack from Phaethon and Scott from Hello World are very much kindred spirits. What’s great about Scott, though, is that he also brings much-needed asexual rep to the world of sci-fi hackers.

From the official release summary:

Scott’s skills as a surveillance expert come in pretty handy when he’s breaking down firewalls. But hacktivism isn’t enough; he’s going after the holy grail—UltSyn’s Human Information Drives, human assets implanted with cerebral microchips. While plenty of hackers are trying to save the world these days, all Scott wants is to find his sister.

After following the clues to London, he makes a plan to kidnap the technical marvel heading into town. When this Human Information Drive turns out to be someone unexpected his nerve waivers. The HID, who calls herself Sonia, would be priceless on the market, but born out of joint self-preservation the two team up.

With her contacts, they travel across Europe in the search of personal secrets and leave a trail of industrial espionage all for the sake of misdirection. As the unlikely pair digs deeper into restricted databases, Scott discovers that those who enlist with UltSyn get far more than they bargained for. Not only is this secret HID program is much bigger than he had imagined, students are lining up for a future they only think this biotech wonder company can provide. Even worse, these leads are getting him nowhere closer to his own goals.

Plunged into a world of human trafficking, Scott is determined to find his sister no matter the cost, which tests Sonia’s fragile friendship with him. But when the information reveals the people closest to Scott have been working for UltSyn all along, he has to find them—before UltSyn finds him.

I got to read this very early, so the temptation to tell you all about it is strong, but to avoid spoilers, I got you a quote from Tiffany Rose instead. Here’s her response when asked about her feelings on going back over the book in light of today’s sociopolitically charged climate.

“When I first wrote Hello World, I gave no thought to the use the guns in the book. Every fictional action hero in America uses them. But after being a peaceful activist for years, I have a new perspective on the action in the novel. In no way do I support running around causing chaos, but upon editing the story, it became a study on violence.

Is a silent and suffocating oppression more or less violent than firing a gun? I live in a country that over-values the second amendment, but what is someone really promising when they vow to “protect themselves” with a gun? What about hacking? Is that a “violent” attack? Thought experiments like the trolley problem have been discussed at length, and in the days to come, I believe it will continue to be without a real answer.

In the end, I’m glad I got to explore these ideas in fiction, since the one thing that continues to truly break my heart as an activist is how often I am unable to protect a specific person from harm. Hello World’s action allows me to explore the possibility that sometimes, no matter what violence you could resort to, saving one specific person may not be possible…but even in that case, you put your heart into it and fight for them all the same.”

I love this book, and I strongly recommend that you pick it up. And remember to leave a review on Goodreads!

Rolling Your Activist Character

Problem: Every person who is distressed by current events is trying to do everything possible to fix it all at once, reducing efficiency and causing burnout.

Input: My friend Tiffany Rose says “Pick a lane and drive like hell.” A woman at a protest, whose picture ends up on Twitter, wears a cardboard sign on her backpack with her name and what she can provide (“I have charger cables, power strip, tampons, cough drops, ibuprofen. Please ask!”). These things swirl around in my head with my experience at the women’s march, trying to pack everything anyone could possibly need. One tiny backpack full of snacks, water, first aid kit, back-up batteries…too many things, making them all more difficult to get to.

Solution: Character sheets.

Start With Your Stats:

Are you strong? Creative? Agile? Huge? Smol? Fill out that part of your sheet to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. (You can print the sheet or make a new copy to edit from.) This should help you pick a class.

Pick Your Class:

Team Lead: The team lead makes phone calls, organizes events, starts chants, and has ideas. They know their friends & who has what skills, as well as how to put them to good use. They also have to be watching the news for new things to jump on. They have everyone’s emails, phone numbers, etc., and protect that data. Probably a job for extroverts.

Tank: If push comes to shove at a protest, you get to the front. Take serious self-defense classes and swear to only use your new skills to prevent harm coming to yourself or your friends. Try something (other than boxing) on this list. Get some good combat boots and a thick hoodie.

Medic: This requires training. Get an education in first aid, CPR, and household hedgewitchery. Learn your legal rights and responsibilities. You are the one who needs to carry a full first aid kit. This includes protest-specific things like L.A.W. You can find some resources here.

Supply: Carry all the necessary stuff. Bring food, water, phone chargers, ear plugs, bandannas, heat packs, basic first aid kit, hygiene supplies, and a little book of helpful phone numbers & addresses (like lawyers, hospitals, friends, local orgs, etc.). Get a good backpack and a quick-access bag. A little grocery cart or tough-wheeled wagon wouldn’t hurt, either. If you live outside a major city, you should also have a car. A van is even better.

Engineer: Those awesome LED protest signs? The messages projected onto buildings? Those are your job. If you can program an Arduino, you can do even better. You have the gadgets; flashlight, laser pointer, 2-way radios, multitool, anything you think might come in handy. It would also be good to learn basic household emergency skills.

Messenger: This encompasses artists, writers, and people papering the streets. Make sure any facts you use to craft a message are accurate before you use them. Run a blog, a Pinterest board, a local mini gallery inside a coffee shop. Make powerful art and make sure as many people see/hear/read it as possible.

Spy: Not as much fun as it sounds. Involves some technical setup (likely running TOR inside a vm, for starters) and hanging out in hate groups anon/pseudonymously. Would have to keep an eye on places like Stormfront, 8chan, and Breitbart, and report on them to their potential targets. Get lots of screencaps. Not for those with PTSD. Will be stressful. Can also spend time reporting hate groups on social media.

Specialist: You’ve got a skill that other people don’t. You speak three languages. You make phone apps. Somebody needs you. You might want to volunteer with a local organization who needs your skills. If your skill isn’t full-time useful, you can still choose one of the other classes and use your skill where you get the chance: teach your friends sign language, knit hats and scarves in cause-promoting colors and patterns, cook for a gathering.

 

It’s just an idea. But it might help.

For more protest advice, see this slightly older blog post.

Stay safe out there.

 

Ways You Can Resist From Home

  1. Cancel your cable. If the news won’t tell you the truth, stop supporting them. (Also, cable packages are designed to make you pay for junk you don’t want while showing you ads on every channel every five minutes. They could get away with this before the internet. Don’t let them keep getting away with it out of habit.)
  2. Subscribe to a good newspaper. We will need them. You can use the money that you save on cable to support real reporting. The Washington Post has been reliably defiant. The New York Times also seems to be getting their groove back after stumbling during the election.
  3. Take an hour or two to work on your digital security. Use a password manager and change all your passwords so that no two match. Install Signal on your phone. Learn about your Google settings and minimize how much they track you. Enable two-factor authentication wherever it’s available. Delete old accounts. Encrypt all of your devices. Research what more you can do. Remember, it’s not about whether or not you’re doing something wrong. The definition of “something wrong”to the government can change at any time.
  4. Delete your Facebook. It mines data on everything you ever do, and uses that data to turn you into a product. And that’s on TOP of advertising to you and spreading fake news. If you just can’t bear to delete it, do the next best thing: Delete all your posts, photos, likes, etc.,  and stop using it except as a contact book. This is also a good time to clear toxic people out of your life. Be not afraid: offending bigots is your job now. If they’re offended by being unfriended, maybe they should rethink their gods damn choices in life.
  5. Call your government. Put your senators in your contact list & call them whenever you need action from them. Ditto your representative, your governor, even your mayor. If they’re receptive to your calls, be polite. If they’re rude, be rude right back.
  6. Write to same. Flood your reps with hand-written letters and postcards. Let them know that you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore.
  7. Organize. Use collaboration tools like Google Docs to spread info and organize protests. Start a group chat (by text, Semaphor, or other means) with local activist friends. Even a local Twitter list is a good idea to keep you in the loop.
  8. Do your homework. There are free guides from orgs like the ACLU for legal stuff. Even Pinterest is full of revolutionary art (and nothing beats using a belittled millennial “girl thing” to foster revolution). Watch Netflix documentaries on civil rights movements and US history. Read more non-fiction.
  9. Donate. I know not everyone can do this, but if we all pick a cause and pitch in $10 a month to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NAACP, or similar organization, we can fund them through the next four years and nothing can tear them down. When the next election comes around, donating to political campaigns is important as well.
  10. Follow your government on social media. Not your president. Hell with him. But keeping up with Dem and Ind politicians who are resisting is important. You can get the news first-hand.
  11. If you are not registered to vote, GET REGISTERED RIGHT NOW. (If you can’t afford ID and need it in order to register, start a crowdfund and let me know about it. I will help.)
  12. Take some time to mark elections on your calendar. This means local elections, too. So few people turn out to vote in local elections that your vote has a LOT of power.
  13. Wear your causes on your sleeve. Go public with your causes by wearing pins, patches, tee shirts, hats, anything. Graffiti your own shoes. Make your power known every day. Break the social contract against discussing politics, because that’s how we got here in the first place.
  14. Make a boycott list. On your wall next to your desk, on your fridge, on a digital sticky note, anywhere: Make a list of companies that you will not buy from. Start by researching what the Koch brothers own. Find out who sells Drumph products. Put your reasons next to company names on the list. Make it public and tag it #MyBoycottList to share your research.
  15. Take care of yourself and your friends. You have to be in fighting shape to win.

The Protest Guide

The Basics:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes, preferably work boots. This is not a Sexy Protester costume. You’re here to work. Wear layers in cold to moderate temperatures. Hats are advisable. Before you leave, do three things: eat something light, pee (no, seriously, pee before you leave), and check yourself over using your logic brain instead of your mirror.
  • Take only what you absolutely need. This has three purposes: lighten the load, don’t risk losing your stuff, and don’t carry anything that will cause problems if you get arrested. Take a snack, a small water bottle (drink slowly & sparingly), and your protest sign. At least one person in your group should carry a phone, but not everyone needs to. (If you are the person with the phone, carry a charger pack.) If you may need life-saving medication, take that with you (in the original packaging, if possible).
  • Use the double buddy system: Go with at least one person, and let one person staying home know where you’ll be and what time you should be back. Have a back-up location to meet your march partner(s) if you get separated. Make sure your stay-at-home buddy knows what to do if you drop out of contact: call your march buddy, your lawyer, etc.
  • Police are trained to play on your trust and civility. If they stop you, ask “Am I being detained?” Ask until they answer. Say nothing else. If you are being detained, say “I want a lawyer.” After that, go peacefully, but you are done talking to them. The ACLU has some good guides on how to handle all of this. Practice your lines to prevent freezing up in the moment.
  • Beware the narc. Anyone who tells you to throw a brick is an infiltrator. Anyone who asks you questions without knowing you or IDing themselves is probably either an opposition “journalist” or a cop. If someone is acting sketchy, spread the word about them. Take video. Do not tell them a damn thing.

The Advanced Stuff:

  • If you want to secure your phone: Lock it with password, encrypt it (IOS and Android both have a built-in options for this), and use end-to-end encrypted messaging like Signal. Make sure that it locks immediately, not after thirty seconds, and that it locks when you press the power button. Uninstall any apps that are not vital, as many things in the app store are not as safe as you think. Find additional tips here and here. To be honest, digital security is a long and complicated game. You can go so far as to delete all of your existing accounts, open new ones with more secure services, and only use the internet via TOR, but most people won’t do this.
  • If you want to DRASTICALLY secure your phone: Start with a password manager, use generated passwords for all your accounts, encrypt and lock your phone, use Signal, and don’t install anything you’re not sure of. The next level is to stop things from tracking you: turn off Google Maps history, set DuckDuckGo to your default instead of Google Search, and nuke your Facebook because it’s a monster that tracks everything you look at. Beyond that is the land of TOR, and more education than I’m going to fit in this blog. Independent research is your friend. You might not think this matters all that much, but activists in some countries, in 2017, are covering their phone cameras with electrical tape because their government has used a selfie cam against them. Remember what your parents told you about scary strangers on the internet. One final thing: You can secure your phone physically as well as digitally. A Faraday cage (you can make one with some tin foil and copper tape) will interrupt signals. A serious case like an Otterbox can save the device itself from falls. Getting a case with a wrist strap isn’t a bad idea, either. All of that said, the best security for your phone is to leave it at home, locked, encrypted, and somewhere safe. Use a prepaid hunk of junk when you’re out and about.
  • If you want to be a street medic: You need training. I recommend starting with a Red Cross Adult First Aid & CPR course. They do cost money, but they’re worth it in both knowledge gained and certification carried. You can find more info here or a full manual here. You will need to carry some special stuff if your protests are likely to see confrontations with police, like L.A.W., earplugs, and face masks. Keep in mind that you are not a doctor or a Jane, and your job has legally defined parameters: you can render aid within your level of training, only with patient consent, and often your job is to stay with someone until EMTs arrive. This is not meant to discourage you. Street medics, hedge witches, and all manner of educated community care personnel are vital. You should become one to whatever level possible.
  • If you want to be a safehouse: You may want your home to be the one friends can come to in case of an emergency. Anyone can do this to get people off the street in the short term. For ongoing emergencies, though, I’ll be honest up front: doing it right is expensive. Some things are easy, like making sure you have bottled water, extra canned food, flashlights, candles, batteries, and a portable radio. Everyone should have those, as well as a B.O.B. If you want your house to serve as a real safehouse, though, you’ll need places for guests to sleep, at least one resident trained in first aid (plus a good kit), and a home with reasonable security in a good location unlikely to be affected by natural disasters. Truthfully, outfit yourself for the zombie apocalypse and go from there. If you’re storing supplies like food and medications, make sure that you cycle through them before they expire. Check at least once a year.
  • If you want to be an activist artist: Start anywhere, go everywhere. Graffiti is the language of the people, but be aware of your local law (whether or not you intend to break it) and don’t vandalize places like small businesses or schools. That’s just a lousy thing to do. If you somehow got the idea in your head to, say, photocopy the bill of rights and wheatpaste it on every flat surface in your neighborhood, you didn’t get the idea from me. Remember that art itself is still legal and there are many things you can do without risking a misdemeanor. You can stand on the sidewalk in front of city hall with a painted canvas for as long as you’d like. You can organize a human statue demonstration with your friends and a big bag of flour.
  • If you want to be a better activist: Watch documentaries. Read all kinds of nonfiction. Listen to people who are different from you. Do not believe everything you hear, and do not discount someone just because their beliefs differ slightly from yours. Start a group that meets every week with a mission: to talk about the world, to track local politics, to call your senators, to escort patients at Planned Parenthood, to share and discuss documentaries, to make art, or just to form a community and take care of each other. Watch, listen, learn, decide, act.

Go.

 

 

Anxiety & Making the Call

There are lots of ways in which social anxiety can come between us and our own well-being. It can make it hard to tell doctors what we need, to rent an apartment, to make new friends. We all achieve varying levels of success in navigating these challenges.

Lately, I’ve seen social anxiety come up in one aspect more than any other: calling government offices to get our voices heard. Phone calls are unnerving; you talk to a stranger, you can’t read their face or body language, and if you’re a millennial, you’ve probably heard from at least one debt collector that made you associate phone calls with stress.

But we have to call our representatives in government. It’s important.

Here are the tips I’ve collected from Twitter users and online articles on how to get those calls made despite the anxiety.

  1. Set a time. Set an alarm, if you have to, and don’t snooze it. Even if your decision is “In five minutes, I’m going to make this call,” you’ll feel more prepared.
  2. Get the number from a source you trust. If you’re calling a senator, representative, governor, or even your mayor, there should be a phone number on their website. There are also sites that can help you identify all of the government officials beholden to you.
  3. Take a deep breath. Remember, the person on the other end of the line will just be a human office staffer whose job is to be polite and take down your message. They do not breathe fire, nor do they have any power over you. (You might even get voicemail and not a human at all.) You can always hang up if you feel like it. You have the control.
  4. Write a script and practice it a few times before you call. “Hi, my name is (name), I’m from (city/town), and I want to (encourage or object to) (thing) because (reason). Thank you.” Dial. Read it. Then hang up and go back to your life.
  5. Give yourself a cookie. Or a bath, or a drink. Whatever you need. You did the thing. Go you.

There are even some organizations that are trying to help us make calls. Planned Parenthood will even call you and connect you to your senator (with a script at the bottom of the page, if you want it). Sites like whoaremyrepresentatives.org let you punch in your zipcode and see everyone who represents you in government, as well as their contact info in one click.

Once you know how to contact your reps, and that you can survive making the phone call (however unpleasant it is), save the numbers in your phone and start thinking of them like your friends. It’s their job to look out for you and your interests. Don’t let them forget it.

Winter Solstice (On the Whole)

Living with your own body as it devolves via chronic illness is, as I have mentioned before, no fun. It’s a bit like getting covered in layer after layer of ash until you feel heavy and small, until you start to wonder if this is your own personal Pompeii and soon you’re going to be a ruin.

So, that is a thing that happened to me for years.

And then there was this year.

This year, we lost icons. We saw war. We were set up for a political future that will try to destroy us.

On a separate plot line, I started to get control of my illness. I started to lock down the habits that would let me fight another day. I figured out what food was killing me and banished it. I swapped out the drugs that were killing me for ones that help my body get better.

Things were looking up, but my heart still felt the weight of all that ash.

Years of can’t. Years of worse. Years of no.

I didn’t think that part was getting better. But little by little, it was.

And sometimes that carbon layer over my core self cracks open a little wider.

I’m writing this to let you know that it can happen to you, too.

Maybe some night, you’ll be sitting at your desk, listening to “Out Tonight” and thinking about the people who care about you, not for you as an invalid, but about you as a human, realizing that even though you can’t stand up for long without fainting, you have nonetheless become a excellent and expressive chair-dancer. You will be absentmindedly poking around inside your memory and the rest of who you are will come back to you.

Maybe some night, Pompeii will crack wide open and you will shine out, remembering that you are still a force of nature.

***

Tonight is the Winter Solstice.

It will only get brighter from here.

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We Will Fix This: A Story of Writer Twitter

There is always a lot of need floating around on the internet. From massive organizations to one person’s medical bills, everyone turns to their expanded social network to raise funds. Many people in Writer Twitter can’t afford to donate, but we collectively have a network of millions, and sometimes, when life gives someone a flat tire, Writer Twitter steps up to fix it.

During #Socktober, I got tipped off to the event by another writer. As a result, my friends and I donated hundreds of pairs of socks to local shelters. Even my publisher, Pandamoon, got in on it.

When my writer-friend had emergency surgery, we crowdsourced the cost and turned a potential financial disaster into a mild inconvenience.

When a friend wrote a brilliant book but couldn’t afford the cost of self-publishing, Writer Twitter came together and got one job done at a time; editing, proofreading, cover art, and so on, until the book was released.

And right now, we’re doing it again.

A writer who has pushed for diversity and community in SFF applied for a grant from the SFWA to help cover the medical costs of a serious physical illness. She got a letter of approval…and then one that said “Oops, sorry, we didn’t mean to send you that. Best of luck!”

The amount of money is negligible to an established organization like the SFWA, but would have made a world of difference to a writer struggling with medical costs. The SFWA screwed up big time.

But Writer Twitter stepped up.

A storm of tweets and retweets blew in. Over the last few hours, we have raised $2000 of the $4500 it will take to replace the broken promise made by the SFWA. We’re still going.

People who do good, especially people who do good via internet, are very rarely noticed or lauded. They get to help someone else out, and know that if they need that support network someday, it will try to be there for them, too.

But that’s not good enough for me, so I’m going to boost some of the writers who stepped in and made a difference in someone’s life today.

If you want to help, the fund is here.

Below will be a list of people who stepped in to do a good thing today. This post will be updated over the next week.

@justinaireland, who went to bat with the SFWA to call them on their bad behavior.

@DailyJulianne, who started the crowdfund.

@FromPawnToQueen, who alerted me (and many others) of the writer in need.

@nickyoflaherty, who offered books for donors.

@CyborgN8VMari who offered to write custom insults for anyone who donated.

@KristineWyllys, who offered custom inspirational morning greetings for donors.

@LJSilverman1, who offered personal letters of thanks to donors.

…and many more.

 

msmarvelgood
Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson

 

 

 

What The Hell Is Our Problem?

Does anybody else feel like their well-being is suddenly dependent on winning a game of political Whack-A-Mole?

Or like they’ve been dragged out in the middle of the night and dropped into Rebellion Boot Camp, despite the fact that they need to go to work in the morning?

Or how about the vague sensation that someone spilled cheap coffee on the world we were working on for years and now we have to start all over?

Do any of those things sound familiar?

 

If you’re anything like me (and I suspect a lot of you are, because this blog attracts like-minded people), all of those things sound familiar. And maybe you also feel that you must act. That you must find who has caused this mess and shake them until they fix it. I wish it was that simple, too. The trouble is that it only works in small groups.

You are not a member of a small group with a problem to address.

You are one tiny white blood cell in a system that contains billions of cells, a system that also includes this constant barrage of hostile infections.

The job of a white blood cell is to detect a problem in the immediate vicinity and attack.

Millions of us have to do this. It will not be orderly. It will not be pretty. It will not always be the idyllic decisive victory of watching Captain America punch Hitler in the face. Sometimes it will mean writing a letter. Sometimes it will mean cleaning up graffiti. Sometimes it will mean telling your racist or sexist family member that they are wrong, even if it means committing that unforgivable sin, Making a Scene.

Sometimes it may mean putting your money, job, or safety on the line.

You have to do it anyway. Because if you—all of you—aren’t doing your job as white blood cells, this whole body is going under, and all the people you ever cared about or respected or admired are going with it. Free speech, access to medical care, your right to vote…if we don’t do our jobs, these things we take for granted will vanish, and we’ll be left groping around for them in the dark, saying “I know I just had it a minute ago…”

Are you ready?

 

Let’s say you’re ready. What do you do?
You’ve seen the thousands of ideas, right? Sign a petition, write a letter, go to a protest, donate to an organization, make a phone call (ugh). You should do as many of those things as you can. But don’t mistake them for a finished job. That job will never be finished, and it will also never be enough.

The title of this post was not hyperbole. I spent a lot of time thinking about it today. What the hell is our problem? Fake news? Corporate greed? Is it the fast-food-ification of organized religion, or a decline in public education? Sure, it’s probably all of those things, a little bit. But when we examine what allowed those things to flourish, when we really go for the roots, we start finding answers. Your discoveries might be different from mine. But here’s what I found after rolling it around in my brain for a while.

People have learned to think cynically, but not critically. They distrust the government because we created the perception that only a fool trusts the government, but they don’t know why. Everybody wants to seem smart. Not everyone wants to put in the work. Research is hard. Facebook is easy. This widespread cynicism, unpaired from critical thought, is why so many damaging and erroneous ideas have done so well. I tested this hypothesis against many of the mechanisms spreading hateful thinking. It looks to me like it panned out.

Which means the best thing we can do is to think critically, and demand that others do the same.

You’re never going to convince your racist uncle that his Facebook feed is wrong unless you force him to defend his position. Let him google things. Ask what evidence he has that his source is the work of reputable journalism. Ask him how he knows it’s true.

If an advertising company tells you that they work with a fake news site or a hate site because it is not company policy to screen clients, ask them why they are doing business that will damage their reputation. Ask if they would work with a client who came into their office and punched them in the face. Ask how that is different than working with a client who supports the abuse of women or minorities. Ask them for an official statement, because you are going to make it public.

If you write to a politician and get brushed off, don’t stop there. Get your letter printed on a giant poster and sit outside their office with it. Rewrite it and get it published as a letter to the editor, and then send the politician the newspaper with highlighter all over it. Rainbow glitterbomb the sidewalk outside their door. Persist creatively.

That’s my advice.

Think critically, strike tactically, act globally.

Rachel’s Rules of Cooking

Cooking is not one of my arts. Even baking is a project I grudgingly undertake in order to produce warm, sugary results (or use up spotty bananas). Being chronically underweight, I also do not—in the traditional sense—diet. I am allergic to several things that are considered basic components of American food, like gluten and paprika. I like overcooked burgers and consider really sharp cheddar cheese to be the height of refinement. Basically, I’m the last person you should listen to when it comes to putting food in your face.

But today, I made this joke:

And people said “Hells, yes. I would buy that.”

It’s good to have company.

All the same, I thought I might spare you the embarrassment of having it on your bookshelf by reducing this concept down to a blog.

***

Rachel’s Rules of Cooking:

For Millennials Who Gives No Fucks

 

Rule #1: If it makes you sick, don’t eat it.

This is, as I have regrettably discovered in my adulthood, a very good rule. If you feel sick a lot, you might be ingesting something that is causing that or making it worse. So be your own lab rat. (Not your own doctor. You still need one of those.) If you learn that gluten, dairy, corn, soy, spice, red meat, or an all-popcorn diet is making you feel bad, stop eating that thing. If someone tells you that you’re wrong, that you don’t know your own body, that x-intolerance “isn’t real” or “is extremely rare,” smack them with your lunch and move on. If not eating a thing makes you feel healthier, then don’t eat that thing. The end.

You will note that this rule says nothing about food that makes you “fat.” That’s because there is no rule defining a “fat” person, how “fat” a person is allowed to be, or at what point “fat” becomes “unhealthy.” Conflating the two is a concept driven by gross objectification and commodification of bodies. Eat what makes you healthy and happy.

Rule #2: Not all food has to be complicated.

You know what makes a great dinner? Pan-seared chicken with a flavor-thing on it. I’m sorry, were you looking for the rest of the recipe? That’s it. A piece of chicken. Salt. Maybe that lemon-pepper combo shaker thing they sell at most grocery stores.

I hear the objection that it isn’t “balanced” because it has no vegetables, but that’s okay. Tomorrow, I’ll have a bowl of corn with butter and salt. And then people can complain that there’s no meat in it.

There is nothing wrong with eating one thing at a time when you’re hungry. This habit of having a meat and a vegetable and a load of side-starch is just that: a habit. You don’t have to keep it up every day. It’s not manners, or prayer, or anything particularly important. It’s just food.

 

Rule #3: Make peace with rules 1 & 2, then eat whatever. It’s okay.

If you’re anything like me, just the thought of planning a week’s meals, shopping to that list, and preparing all the things is exhausting. I sometimes suspect that this laborious approach to food was invented to keep housewives drained of energy so they wouldn’t get ideas about equality and voting and such.

Don’t buy the idea that you must grocery shop with a complicated plan. Get some peaches because you like peaches, throw a bunch of store-brand staples in your cart, and go home. If you really want to cook something complicated, do that, as long as it’s fun, but don’t take it as a mandate. It’s an impossible standard.

You are still an adult if you eat microwaved meals. You are still an adult if you drink Soylent and keep some fruit around for variety. You are still an adult if every lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Even if you skip the sandwich part and just go straight at the jars armed with a spoon.

So eat whatever. It’s okay.