Greetings from your long lost friend. I can't believe it has been almost a year since I have last blogged. What I can say is, that for the first time in over 2 years, my life seems to be quieting down. Don't get me wrong, I loves me a little drama, but my life was getting ridiculous.
I'm not sure how to explain it, but I don't think soul searching is the correct term. I guess I've been having a think about how serious issues like death and major sickness have affected me. One thing is for sure: I'm not certain I am the same Catherine. It seems so damn sad to admit that and even more sad to actually write it.
I'm someone who knows myself pretty well. I'm especially proficient with what I consider to be my faults or "things I need to work on". I know that I have always been a bit of a pisser and unruly. It's part of my charm and what makes me uniquely me. It's a bit like a swift kick to my vulva for me to fear that I have lost some essential components of my personality. I can only describe it as feeling less me. I'm absolutely less care-free, and a lot of the creativity that rattled around in my head seems to have gone missing. I'm also a lot less prone to giving a shit about certain things. Case in point, this blog post.
Just like my best friend, I have always suffered fools poorly. It would be lovely to break it down and me just admit that I'm a bit of an entitled bitch. Although it may very well be the truth, nothing in life is ever that black and white. Speaking of black and white, let me just touch on the very sensitive topic of race, privilege, and politics.
First things first. Many of you know that my best friend is an extremely smart (2 Master Degrees), handsome (Have you seen his pictures), athletic (He's a track & field star), and highly cultured (He's been to Gibraltar, people. To be honest, I wasn't sure if Gibraltar was a real life or mythical place) black man. He never refers to himself as African American, because, in fact, he is neither of these things. If anything, he is Canadian/Caribbean. However, he does refer to himself as the black sheep of the family because he is actually several shades darker than anyone else in his family. He is quite cosmopolitan because he comes from Toronto and Trinidad and Tobago, but attended a posh, private boys prep school in England. Seriously you guys, you have to see people's reactions once he opens his mouth. He has the most unique accent I have ever heard. The thing I love most about him is that we are two ethnic individuals who almost never talk about race and politics. It's not that we can't be bothered, it's more that we habve so many other things to talk about.
If you have been a former regular reader of my blog then you already know a bit of my ethnic and socio-economic background. For lack of a better word, I am mixed race. My father, and his father were US born Japanese American, and my great grandfather was the first Toyooka to emigrate to the United States. Even though my father and his father were born in the United States, he was cruelly subjected to a dirty little American secret that is the Japanese American Internment. My dad and eight other family members were converted from Buddhist to Catholics (he still had his first Bible with the hand written note stating he was now a Catholic), and resided for several years in what was formerly a single horse stall in the internment camp in Minidoka, Idaho. So you want to know the weirdest thing about all this shizz? I only found out about this when I was in junior high school. I didn't even find out that one of my aunties was born in another internment camp until I was in college! It's no mistake that my great grandfather dying in the internment camp due to a lack of medical care had a huge impact on my father becoming a doctor.
To me he was just dad, but to many, he was regarded amongst the finest anesthesiologists in the country. Indulge me while I tell you a short, yet appropriate story. Granted, the North Shore of Chicago (Winnetka, IL to be exact) is not the largest of villages. Nevertheless I was surprised to find out that one of my very best friends had known of my dad via her father. Her father was, and still is a medical attorney. Apparently, my dad's work was well known enough amongst the medical malpractice world that they had approached him to be an expert on more than one occasion.
My point being, and I believe I do have one, is that my dad carried on with grace and dignity. Growing up I never heard him talk much about the internment camp, and he certainly wasn't political about it. Even though he was 100% Japanese American, I never, ever got the impression that his ethnicity had ever kept him from achieving both great financial and professional success.
I say I'm mixed race because my mom was American born and of mostly German decent. The story I tend to tell is this: my white friends think I look really Asian, and my Asian friends think I look really white. Regardless of what Asian ethnicity I look like--and I've gotten the whole gamut--you can't get around my last name. Toyooka is a fairly uncommon Japanese surname, but you don't have to be a genius to see it and know it's Asian.
So why am I talking about having a sexistential crisis?
Ok, I'll get to the point.
The reason I am bringing up this stuff about my ethnicity is that I often feel like casper the
half-asian friendly sex educator when it comes to the sexuality community. Only instead of riding a broom, I ride a huge jet propelled dildo. True story--I once found myself dumbstruck sitting in the audience at a sexuality conference where a rather large and white appearing panel was discussing the topic of harnessing the power of social media (something I had thought I was pretty freaking savvy at). I could not believe my ears when the facilitator specifically mentioned that they had difficulty thinking of or even finding anyone in the sexuality community who was of color and could be added to the panel. Seriously?! All I could think to myself is "ain't that some shit!" Is it possible that I'm simply not "ethnic" enough?
Here's my deal; I've only recently come out of a deep and seemingly all consuming depression. No thanks to my former therapist, but that is a whole other blog post. It recently occurred to me that the people who stuck beside me during these horrendous years have not been my peers. I actually had a friend totally and completely bail on me at the exact time I needed them the most. That really did my head in. I mean, I expect that from people in high school, but not from full grown adults. Actually, let me take back that high school thing. Besides some obvious friends who live locally, the people who really, truly rallied behind me were those I grew up with. There is a strong, unique, and real bond that forms when you grow up with people during those formative years of junior high and high school.
I've always navigated a bit of a tenuous relationship with those in the sex educator community. In fact, the community is not unlike social cliques of yore. I'd like to believe that it is not done on purpose, but I can pretty much guess (with accuracy) who will be hanging out with who at these types of conferences. And talk about bullying! Geez, sometimes I find I have no desire to open my mouth for fear that I will have to listen to some forced political correct diatribe. It's a bit funny to me that there are people who claim to be all about inclusion and tolerance when they tend to be the same people who shame their peers into being politically correct. It's like Tim Gunn on some surreal project sex educator; you are either in or you're out!
Don't get me wrong, I am not without fault! Yes, I've made some incredibly bad mistakes in the past--one in particular--, but I slipped my big girl panties on and apologized as quickly as possible and with absolute sincerity. In some ways I feel like I have never regained my footing after my mistake, and that is a damn shame.
I've long felt that I never fully fit into the sex educator community. I'm not sure if my experience is unique, but it's mine, and has been formed over the course of about 12 years. While I like to think that I know my sex education shit pretty well, I often feel like I am a square peg being forced into a round hole (without the benefit of lube!) when it comes to my peers.
I've tried being friendly and helpful to those who contact me, I make amends to those I have wronged, and genuinely want to be accepted by my peers. While accepted might be a bit pie in the sky, I would settle for acknowledged.
I think where things began to go tits up for me goes back to the basics of economics and personal privacy. Do not underestimate how little sex educators get paid. In fact, it kind of reminds me of college stories of people trying to stretch their money by eating only ramen or rice, did clothing exchanges, and anything else to get by. This can be a source of something that bonds people together. There was a time in my life when I lived paycheck to paycheck and one check basically went to rent and the other check went to credit cards. I did not enjoy the experience. It sucked. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for me in the form of my husband graduating with a PhD in electrical engineering. His education allowed me to take more liberty with employment opportunities. There have been times when I haven't worked for years, times when I made over $70k, and times when I made a whopping $11/hour. Can you guess which of the above salaries belonged to my first job as a sex educator?
It's well known that people who choose this profession aren't in it for the money. Most of us start out paying out of pocket for training, taking non paid internships, or accept very low paying jobs. In fact, it is not uncommon for many people--those who have been working hard for many years--to find that they barely scrape by.
Not paying a reasonable salary to people who have had years of training and/or education results in something I have seen time and time again. Conferences and speaking engagements can be costly endeavours. To attend a sexuality conference, you must pre-pay the conference fees (it is more if you are not a current member) and cover your travel expenses.
Let's break this down a little bit more.
Conference entrance fees (must be paid even if you are a speaker) = $75 - $350
Taxi to/from airport = $45 - $100
Rental car for 3 days = $200 with taxes and surcharges
Hotel room (usually people prefer to stay at the hotel hosting the conference) for 3 days = $400 - $600
Food for 3 days = $100
Even for the least amount of money, your are still paying over $600 out of pocket. To many educators, that can be an awfully large sum of money.
What many educators choose to do is pool their resources by sharing rooms with either one or several other people. It reminds me of a time when a half dozen college friends booked a single room in Las Vegas. Call me picky, but this has never been appealing nor a real option for me. I love my down time, and rooming with people gives me major anxiety. However, can you imagine the amount of bonding time I actually miss out on. I sometimes feel like I'm not even thought about being included in events because I'm not always around or hanging out with a group. Believe you me, it's something I've often thought about, but still can't bring myself to become one of the gang. Similarly, many sex educators choose to stay with friends whilst they are travelling for workshops. I find it lovely and amazing that others can be so welcoming to visiting speakers, but it's another situation I will never find myself in. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I find it difficult I will ever fit in because I haven't had many of the shared experiences of those in the sexuality community. Sometimes it seems like the only thing we have in common is that we are working in the sexuality profession.
I can feel that the time is getting close for me to make some kind of decision as far as what I should do with my company and being a sex educator in general. I'm dismayed with the realization that there has been little that I have missed by being away from the sexuality profession. But because I'm stubborn and don't want to "fail" it's hard to think about packing up my dildos and vibrators when I get truly amazing letters from people who have searched me down looking for coaching because one of their friends took my fellatio course and said that it "changed her life!". It's not at all uncommon for me to hear that people and their friends still talk about a workshop I gave over 2 or 3 or 4 years ago. I mean, come on, that blows my mind.
I'm fully aware that some people in the sex educator community might read this post and thing I am even a bigger bitch than they thought. I'm not looking for a debate. In fact, if you are looking to engage in one, please go elsewhere. And if you still want to throw down with me, all I can say is "suck it!"
PS Even though I talk about situations and people, I would never publicly call any individual out on anything
PPS Yes, I am 12 years old
PPPS If you have gotten this far down, I absolutely commend you!