I Have Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 3 (Final)

This is continued from Part 2.

Hey, you removed the “(Not Really)” from the title. Does that mean you’ve really started this KonMari nonsense?

Yes, I have definitely started the KonMari path. I have finished selecting which socks, T-shirts, and pants I am going to keep.

How many are you going to keep?

13 pairs of socks, 8 T-shirts, and 5 pairs of pants. But those numbers won’t stay fixed because a) clothes eventually wear out and b) I may choose to add to this collection.

How many of those T-shits are ace T-shirts?

Two of them. I was originally planning to let go of one of them because I didn’t like that it was mostly white, but instead I mixed tara powder and iron sulfate to dye it purple. I like the purple color much better, so I’m keeping it.

This is what the t-shirt looked like before I dyed it.

This is what the t-shirt looks like now.


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I Have (Not Really) Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 2

As I said at the beginning of Part 1, one of the early obstacles to doing the KonMari method was figuring out which clothes in my room belonged to me, and which clothes belonged to my mother.

I had vast piles of clothing in my room (writing this sentence in past tense feels very good). 95% of this clothing was clothing I never asked for, never wanted, and if a fairy had come along at any point in my life and offered to make those clothes magically disappear, I would have enthusiastically accepted the offer.
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I Have (Not Really) Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 1

Though I haven’t seen Marie Kondo’s Netflix show (I don’t have Netflix), the buzz around the show caused me to read her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I am now in the process of going through the clothing-

YOU REALLY HAVE JOINED MARIE KONDO’S CULT! NOOOOOOOO!

Maybe I have joined, so what?

But it’s a popular hot trend of the type you usually ignore! Especially since it’s from TV!

I think it is cool that I’ve fallen in sync with a hot TV trend for once, albeit almost by accident.

But everybody is overwhelming the thrift stores at once!

The picture is more complicated that than in San Francisco (and I am saddened by the disappearance of the thrift stores in the Mission / SoMa). I do sincerely wish I had discovered the book a month earlier (or possibly years earlier).

But you’re an atheist!

I do not plan to do the part of the KonMari method where I set up a little shrine in my home.

But you’re going to be thanking objects! Inanimate objects!

Ummmm, I was doing that even before I heard of Marie Kondo or any of her work.

Fair point. But before you mostly kept that practice to yourself and told only a few people about it. Now you’re not just going to quietly thank inanimate objects, you’re going to try to push other people in the KonMari cult!

I promise that I will not try to push other people into the KonMari cult. I may talk about the benefits (as well as the negative effects) of the KonMari method, and I may counter criticism when I feel like it, but when people say ‘I don’t want to do the Konmari thing’ I will say ‘cool, then don’t do it.’ Continue reading

Odyssey of a New Bed, Part 4

When I say that I am worried about flame retardants, I am particularly worried about brominated flame retardants and chlorinated tris. I found this article from 2004 helpful for understanding the chemistry of these flame retardants. I find these types of flame retardants especially scary because a) they bioaccumulate (i.e. once they are in your body they are going to stay in your body for a very long time, possibly the rest of one’s life) and b) they generally are carcinogenic and disrupt the endocrine system. I don’t want cancer, and I already have a vulnerable endocrine system. Specifically, I’m in the grey zone between ‘does not have Hashimoto’s disease’ and ‘has Hashimoto’s disease’ and I want to preserve my thyroid’s ability to make hormones so that I don’t need to take prescription hormones.

Ironically, one of the household products with the highest levels of brominated flame retardants is plastic casings in computers – and hey, I’m using a computer right now. Here is an article about brominated flame retardants in electronics. It makes me glad that it’s been over 15 years since there has been a TV in my room (well, except when I was in Taiwan, but the TV was far from my bed and I almost never touched it), and glad that I insisted on keeping computers out of my room until my mid-teens. And my keyboard, which I am using to type this post, may also contain high levels of brominated flame retardants. Great. I’m going to wash my hands after I finish typing this.

But this is about my bed, not my electronics.

And the answer is, yes, my new futon mattress contains a flame retardant chemical.

BUT the only flame retardant chemical it contains is sodium borate, more commonly known as borax. Borax does not bioaccumulate, is not a carcinogen, and one needs a fairly high dose in order to be poisoned. I don’t plan to eat my mattress, so I’m not worried about exposing myself to a high dose. The borax will make it more complicated to compost my mattress after its no longer useful as a mattress, but it is still biodegradable in some circumstances (I’m almost certain a municipal composting facility could handle it), so it’s not going to poison the world for thousands of years or something. There are some who claim that sodium borate is not ‘green’ or safe to use at home, but upon further research, I did not find those claims convincing (here is an essay about that).

Besides being a flame retardant, borax is also a bed bug deterrent. I have never had a problem with bed bugs, and I want to keep it that way.

And borax is also antifungal. For reasons I explained in the previous post, I appreciate a little extra help keeping the mold at bay. Borax is not antibacterial, so benign bacteria are welcome to live in my bed (I think our living environments already have too many antibacterial chemicals – antibacterials in my mattress would be overkill).

Of course, I learn that pillows can have flame retardants too. Where aren’t there flame retardants?

I took a closer look at my pillow and found that 1) it is 100% polyester (probably a lot less flame retardants than foam pillows, but possibly still has toxic flame retardants) 2) it was moldy and 3) it was generally gross. The last two things weren’t really a surprise since I have been using this pillow since I returned to San Francisco in 2014, and it was probably an old pillow lying about the house back then (i.e. not new), and I’ve never cleaned it, and I drool in my sleep.

I decided to replace it with a millet hull / buckwheat hull pillow. Since buckwheat pillows are common in Japan, it’s consistent with the washiku aesthetic of the mattress and goza mats. I also liked the idea of being able to combine millet and buckwheat in whatever ratio was most comfortable to me.

I started out with having it be a full buckwheat pillow (not millet). A lot of people report that they need a night or two to get used to using a buckwheat pillow. Not me – I thought it was very comfortable right away. Then again, I also think paperback books are okay pillows, so I’m not the most discerning of pillow connoisseurs. Then I experimented with a few different buckwheat / millet ratios. I think the main thing millet hulls add is that they are quieter than buckwheat hulls. I think the thing where hull pillows really excel (for use/comfort) is that they provide excellent support for the head, which means I move my head less when I’m in bed. I did have a problem for a little while with my ear getting sore after lying on the pillow all night, but I fixed that problem by adjusting the fill.

I also think a queen size pillow is a bigger than I need. Not that having a big pillow is a problem – it’s just more than I need.

While I appreciate the versatility of being able to have various buckwheat/millet ratios in my pillow, I think in retrospect, I would have preferred to spend less money and just buy a smaller pure buckwheat pillow (BUT definitely one with a zipper – it is important to be able to adjust/replace hulls).

I still drool when I sleep. Thus, the hulls may eventually get moldy. In fact, they will probably get moldy even faster than polyester. I suppose if that happens I could just replace the hulls, and use the old hulls as mulch in the backyard.

***

Out of the five mattresses which were in my old bed, the two old futons and the feather mattress are now gone. We arranged a bulk item pickup with the local recycling/trash service, and we got rid of some other bulky items which are no longer usable (we can request ten items be removed per pickup). I assume they will recycle the parts which can be recycled, and send what cannot be recycled to a landfill.

The box spring mattresses – including the one which was poking me in the back – are now in our basement.

Since we easily have ten items for the bulky item pickup, I did not insist on putting the box spring mattresses in the pickup. But I am irritated because I want to have space in the basement for things which are potentially useful, not mattresses which we are never going to use again, and which will become harder to move as my dad loses physical mobility. My mom is the one who insisted on keeping those mattresses, at least for now. Yes, even the mattress that pokes people in the back. She says ‘what if we have overnight guests?’ Hey, we already have a guest mattress, and we would have to rearrange a lot of furniture to make space for a second guest bed. It would be easier to put people in sleeping bags/tents in the backyard than to place TWO guest beds in our home – especially since the mattresses in question have to be moved by two people (what if my dad is no longer in good enough shape to move the mattress at that time?) whereas I can set up tents/sleeping bags by myself. And why would we want to offer guests a mattress which pokes them in the back?

At first, she was even against getting rid of the moldy futons and the useless feather mattress. However, once it sunk it just how useless these mattresses are, she agreed to have them removed.

My mom has trouble letting go of a lot of material goods, not just these mattresses. My guess is that it has to do with her childhood experience of poverty, when getting adequate clothing for everyone in her family was a struggle.

And that is why my bed was piled up with all of these bad mattresses in first place. Those five mattresses were not there because they were each contributing to my sleep. I would have slept just as well with the bottom box mattress as will the five mattresses – better, because I would not have been poked in the back. Heck, I was probably exposed to even more toxins/mold with those five mattresses than I would have been if there had only been a single box mattress. All those mattresses were there because it was a place to store them, not to serve my benefit.

I do not think my parents really thought through all of the costs and benefits of keeping those mattresses in my room. I do not blame them, because until these past few months, I had not thought through the costs and benefits of all of those mattresses myself.

If we put in another request for bulky item removal, I am going to try to persuade her to agree to get rid of these mattresses. I really would prefer to have more space in the basement.

In the next part and final part, I will talk about three alternative types of natural/simple beds which cost less than 1000 USD (i.e. are not as outrageously expensive as most natural/organic beds sold in the USA), and why I decided not to try them.

The Impact of Who Shares Your Residence

This is for the September 2015 Carnival of Aces: ‘Living Asexuality’

I think one of the biggest factors which determines how being on the ace and/or aro spectrum affects one’s life is who one lives with. The people we live with are often the people we spend the most time with, and they are even more often the people who get to see the more of our private lives than anyone else.

I have been fortunate that, aside from brief periods, I have only lived with people who are totally okay with me not pursuing sex or romance, and who don’t try to change my lack of romantic or sexual activity (specifically, after the age of 12, I have only lived with my parents and my mother’s friends for longer than four months). Getting my mother to accept my asexuality has been more complicated, but ultimately it wasn’t a hardship.

Suffice to say, if I were living with family who had more negative views towards a lack of sexual/romantic activity, my life an an aromantic asexual would be a lot tougher.

Unless one has the agency/opportunity to build a chosen family, who is in your family is a matter of chance, and the possibilities are all over the map.

Excluding family (which, as I said, can be all over the map), I generally think that communal living environments are worse for aces and aros than a) solitary living and b) living with a few people who you had at least a limited choice over who they would be in advance.

The only time I have ever lived in a school dorm was at a summer school when I was 15 years old. I found that my romantic life (or lack thereof) was under far more scrutiny than it ever was at my high school. This is in spite of the fact that I was with some of the same people for almost four years in high school, yet I was at that summer school for a mere four weeks. It might have partially been a difference in the culture between the two schools, but I think it was more than that. I think a large part of it was the fact that I had two dormmates, and that my classmates didn’t just see me in class – they got to see what I was doing 24/7. I think the fact that we were living together encouraged more discussion of dating, who we had a crush on, who do we want sex with, etc. than we ever had at my high school.

And of course, with greater scrutiny of my romance/sex life, it became more obvious and more widely known that I was different. And that inspired people, in particular my roommate, to ‘help’ me. Thankfully, due to the time limitation, it didn’t get too far.

In college, I never lived with my fellow students, which helped me completely sidestep the situation that Laura found herself in in college. Granted, I was statistically unlikely to end up with a roommate who would constantly have sex in the room, but I suspect even a year in a freshman dorm would have applied far more pressure on me to deal with romance and/or sex than I ever had experienced for an extended period of time.

My next experience of communal living was the hotel I lived at for a little while. I had a bit more privacy there than I did in the school dorm – at least I got my own (tiny) room – but once again, my lack of a sex/romance life made me feel different and vulnerable. One of the people living there assumed that I had a boyfriend who was living elsewhere, and I never corrected this assumption because I was concerned about what would happen if it was revealed that I had never engaged in sex or romance.

I’ve never lived with roommates who I could choose in advance (we did have boarders when I was a child, because housing in San Francisco is expensive and my mother appreciated the money she could get by renting out an extra bedroom in our home), but my impression is that people who room together for economic reasons and don’t share a school / workplace generally are better at minding their own business, and if they aren’t, it’s much easier to get them out of your life.

I also spent almost three years living in a studio apartment by myself. Being an aro ace was not at all a problem in that situation.

In summary, living in a communal residence where one has minimal control over who one lives with is usually more problematic for aces and aros than a residence situation where one has a high level of control over who one lives with (including living alone). It is possible to get lucky – for example, I happened to be born into a family which is okay with me not engaging with sex or romance. However, there are pervasive social expectations that everyone who is abled/healthy/etc. is going to engage in sex / romance. With the reduced privacy which comes with communal living, it becomes more obvious that somebody is not engaging in sex / romance, and social pressures get amplified.

The best solution, of course, is to eliminate the expectation that people will/should engage with sex and/or romance. That’s way easier said than done.

My Mom’s Been Reading The Invisible Orientation (Part 2)

Here is Part 1.

Ever since my mom started to actually talk to me about asexuality (which was about a month and a half after I returned to North America) she has been very focused on dating. She told me I could start an asexual dating website as a business – I pointed out to her that asexual dating websites already exist. When she asked me about them, I told her I never bothered to register at any because I am not interested in dating. My mother interpreted it as ‘not interested right now’ rather than ‘not interested at all’, and I wasn’t prepared to have a long serious discussion with her about it, mainly because I’m not entirely clear what I want. She also seemed to think of me going to ace meet-ups as a way of *ahem* shopping for asexy dates, and she usually asks me if I met anyone I really like after a meet-up.

Fast forward to my mother reading The Invisible Orientation.

She came to me, and said that the most striking thing she found in the book is that asexuals can date non-asexuals, and that the writer does not recommend that asexuals only look for asexual partners (note: I have not read that section of the book, so I do not know whether my mother is accurately representing what Julia Sondra Decker says). I replied ‘Well, of course’. It turns out that my mother was under the impression that a) of course I’m interested in dating and b) that asexuals can only date other asexuals. She said that internet dating is a wonderful thing for niche groups, and that I would have to find an asexual partner through the internet because it would be too difficult otherwise.

This is where I had to say straight out to my mother that I do not want to date.

And I don’t. I’d like to form some kind of chosen family at some point. I’m not sure how I’ll try to do that, but it won’t be through ‘dating’. I have never felt any inclination to date anybody, except in circumstances when the word ‘date’ is being used very, very loosely (I had a friend who I would go on ‘dates’ with, but a ‘date’ was simply anything we decided to do in advance together at a specific time, like go to the Wanhua District of Taipei. She is heterosexual).

Even though I’ve told my mother before that I don’t want to date, I don’t think she actually understood what I was saying until just then. Maybe she still doesn’t understand. We’ll see.

She also said that one of the most interesting parts of the book is the list of novels with ace characters. She asked me if I had read any of them. I have only read Quicksilver. My mom went ahead and got a bunch of these novels from the library, but I think most of these books are not her cup of tea (she hasn’t said much about them).

The Invisible Orientation has been a helpful book. It is a lot easier to hand it to my mother than to try to educate her about asexuality myself. It has also sparked dialogue, especially about this issue of dating where she had some misconceptions about myself and I avoided talking to her about it because it was easier to avoid the subject and I only had a vague notion of the misconceptions she had. I am very glad that this book exists.

My Mom’s Been Reading The Invisible Orientation (Part 1)

For those who don’t know, The Invisible Orientation is the book about asexuality by Julia Sondra Decker which was published last year.

I’ve only skimmed through the book, and just as I’ve expected, I’m not in the target audience. It is mostly stuff which I already knew.

My mom, however, IS in the target audience. And she’s been spending a lot more time with the book than I have.

After I returned to San Francisco, she’s become a lot more interested in asexuality than she ever has been before. The background is, when I first came out to my mom, she said I was just a late bloomer, and a few months later I moved to a different continent and had only limited contact with my mom for a few years, and never discussed asexuality with her during this time. I do recall that, at the time of my departure, she had seemed to have already accepted to some degree that I was asexual.

She has tried to learn about asexuality on the internet but … well, let’s just that the internet is not a suitable venue for my mother to learn about asexuality. I have given her some Asexuality 101, but there is a limit to that because a) I don’t like giving people Asexuality 101 in general and b) it is particularly difficult with my mother because there is a lot of personal history, expectations, feelings, etc. – and we both have to get through that in a way which is not harmful to our relationships – which makes it more complicated than giving Asexuality 101 to a stranger. She actually asked me if there was a book about asexuality, which was the perfect opening for me to tell her about The Invisible Orientation.

One of her first reactions was “This book is like reading a dictionary”. At the time, she held a book which I’m guessing (but am not sure) is a romance novel, and I said “Uh, I think that’s the wrong book.” And then she said “I mean the asexuality book – I started reading this because I’ve had enough of reading about word definitions today.”

That is definitely one of the reasons why The Invisible Orientation is more helpful than the internet for educating my mom – even in organized book format, it was tough enough for her to get the hang of the terminology. On the internet, with its plethora of disorganized sources, it was overwhelming for her.

She eventually got through that section of the book, and then confided in me “When I heard you were asexual, I had two thoughts. The first was that, as you get older, and have more experiences, you may find that you are sexual. I’ve given up on that.” [I think coming out to her shortly before leaving North America was brilliant timing on my part] “But I still have my other concern, and that asexuals are so rare, 1% of the population, it’ll be hard for you to find a partner.”

To be continued.


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