A Very Personal Ad For Project Co-Conspirators

two friends kittens dancing and speaking isolated on white background

After a five-and-a-half year hiatus, I wrote a Very Personal Ad last month, in which I was looking for a new desert home. It worked so well that I thought I’d try it again. Invented by Havi Brooks, Very Personal Ads are a way to practice getting better at asking for things and getting clarity about our desires by asking for what we want. Sometimes the things happen, and sometimes they don’t, but the point is to learn about our relationship with the thing we want.

Wish #1: A Podcast Collaborator

I’ve been running an intermittent podcast called The Elephant in the Room, in which I pick a theme and an amazing guest and pepper them with the questions everyone else has but is too afraid to ask. (Or sometimes I just ramble a lot and they say smart things.) I’d love to find someone to work with on this project. Ideally this person would be into the parts I’m not as focused on, like audio editing, but I’m open to a co-host as well. I only want to do one episode a month, or so.

I want it to be someone who would really benefit, personally or professionally, from helping me work on this project and who would be really excited about it. Part of me feels like I should be hiring somebody, but I want a collaborator, not an employee. I want it to be someone with strong opinions who’s not afraid to share them, but who I would work with well together.  We do need to have some shared interests, obvs.

Wish #2: A Top Secret Game Project Collaborator

I’m working on an educational game that people interested in privacy and security for activists, journalists, etc. would be really excited about, and I’d love to work on the gaming part with someone else who can help me hash out the nitty gritty details and is as excited about the project as I am. It would ideally be someone who’s really analytical but also grew up reading comics and playing AD+D. It’d be someone who would help me build on my ideas rather than tearing them down.

Ways This Could Work

I could meet someone who’s interested in one of these projects through an event or at a cafe or coworking space. I could meet them online. Maybe the right people are reading this. Maybe they’ll be introduced to me by someone reading this. Maybe it’s someone I know already.

My Commitment

I commit to being really open to potential people to work with, and to sharing credit, and to putting a lot of love into the project. To drop my own ego and be open to critical feedback. These really are labors of love and not for profit, so my commitment is to their overall excellence, despite the amount of time they take.

Progress Report

We have signed a lease for a new place to live in a safe area with a good vibe. It’s got a washer/dryer (so we’re giving away ours!), is pet friendly, has parking and central air, is in our price range, has a patio, and recycling, and a pool, and is near a cafe I like, and they’re letting us move in a day early–so it’s got pretty much all we wanted. It’s a relief to get to stop looking.

Feminism has a racism problem (and so do I)

800px-Ostrich,_mouth_openDisclaimer: This post addresses privilege, racism, gender politics, and other issues. It’s based primarily on my own experience, and I didn’t attempt to cover all potential scenarios and angles. I’m sure I left a lot of valid points out, and am hoping people who see my own blind spots will contribute to the conversation with their own writing if they feel moved to.

There’s this sentiment in many feminist circles that if someone feels uncomfortable, it’s likely due to some type of gender discrimination. And often, that’s true. Women for so long have had to deal not only with harassment and sexism, but with other people telling them it’s in their own head.

This is why feminist women’s groups can be so gratifying. Finally you can have the “am I crazy, or is this person being creepy?” discussion with people who support you. We’ve passed around copies of Amanda Hess’ post on “grey rape” and had nuanced, thoughtful discussions, sharing our own experiences without feeling the need to dredge up old memories or justify our clothing, our body language, or our existence. In a world where many of us find ourselves constantly put on the defensive, it’s refreshing.

But this isn’t just about validation. Plenty of women’s circles and groups I’ve been in have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to convince women that yes, the specific manifestation of non-consensual sex they’d described is rape, and no, it wasn’t their fault. That yes, their employer was harassing them and no, smiling didn’t make it okay or magically shift responsibility from the perpetrator to the target. That they’re not terrible people for reporting it or for not reporting it. That they can get help and things can get better.

I’ve wiped the tears of a woman who was drugged and raped but thought it was her own fault because she’d smoked pot earlier in the day. I’ve  made tea for a teenager who thought she led her stalker on and felt bad getting a restraining order because she thought it’d be too mean; this was someone she cared about.

Those justifications seem ridiculous to us but didn’t to those people at the time until they got a reality check from supportive friends. The combination of societal victim-blaming and high degrees of shame and guilt associated with sexual violence create a potent cocktail of self-blame, and as I’ve hopefully demonstrated, meeting with a group of like-minded women can be helpful for recalibrating one’s perception of reality. It can also be incredibly gratifying to be surrounded by people who aren’t trying to discredit your emotions and in fact view your experience through the lens of systemic inequality. Part of yelling and screaming that something wasn’t our fault is because a tiny part of us might believe that maybe it was. Fragmentary recall and difficultly making sense of what happened, among other things, can do that to a person.

But there’s a dark side to this, too, and it has to do with privilege. Almost every feminist group or women’s group I’ve been in has skewed predominantly white and predominantly financially privileged, and I think this really colors the dialogue and what we get from the groups in a way that may not be immediately obvious.

There’s this pervasive feeling in feminist circles that anytime someone feels uncomfortable, she’s being harassed. And there’s a tendency to erase white-on-white harassment from history. But feeling uncomfortable, no how you slice it, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being harassed. A very lonely male friend of mine once sent me an email that initially, instinctively made me feel uncomfortable. After giving it some thought I realized that not only were they not, in my estimation, doing anything creepy, that if anyone was contributing to an unfair power dynamic, it was me.

At some point embracing feminist rhetoric can extend beyond finding a group of supportive people who trust your stories as you tell them instead of invalidating them, which is problematic in and of itself. It can lean women towards a warped view of the world in which one views anything that makes her feel uncomfortable as harassment, and even fixates solely on gender issues while ignoring all other forms of systemic inequality.

What does this look like? It looks like Abby Dawson, a white Kennesaw State University academic advisor, telling black student Kevin Bruce that waiting quietly until an adviser was available was harassment. I, of course, don’t have a mirror into Dawson’s soul…but if someone equates feeling uncomfortable with being harassed, this is what it looks like. And I think it’s worth acknowledging the possibility of white feminist women thinking that they are being “harassed” because they are uncomfortable… and that they’re uncomfortable because they are racist.

But enough about Dawson. Let’s talk about me.

I was walking to a restaurant for an evening of bachelorette party festivities when some rando started yelling something or other at me. This is always an uncomfortable situation, but his funny and charming friend told him to stop, which made it all better. Right?

I mean, who the hell is anyone to yell things at me on the street? Getting all dressed up for a night on the town with my girls–an incredibly rare occurrence, I might add–isn’t an invitation to street harassment. The guy’s friend stepping in fit seamlessly into the “best party ever OMG!” narrative I was trying to create, and I could tell you all about why my very classy non-trashy bachelorette party was better than everyone else’s. I shared the video widely, and then forgot about it.

Until #BlackLivesMatter entered public consciousness, drawing attention to the death of unarmed black men by police officers…something that has been happening for decades but has suddenly gotten a lot more media play because there was video so it was harder to sweep under the rug or accuse people of lying.

The man in my video told his friend that harassing people was never worth it because the consequence could be a violent reaction by the state. I suppose one could argue that institutionalized violence in response to street harassment is unlikely since catcalling is pervasive and it’s not like we’re all calling the cops or waiting around for them to show up, anyway.

But it’s pretty damn hypocritical of me to say that rape jokes aren’t funny but police beating the shit out of black men? Oh, that’s hysterical.

I would like to stop street harassment in part because of the implicit threat of violence. But I don’t think that a heightened threat of violence towards harassers would stop this cycle.

In addition to a long history of police brutality that disproportionately affects people of color, there’s a long history of black men dealing with organized racism and excessive violence for committing the crime of flirting with white women. Perhaps you’ve heard of Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year old black teenager who was murdered in Mississippi after allegedly flirting with a white grocery store clerk. The woman’s husband and his half-brother beat Till, gouged out one of his eyes, shot him in the head and threw his body in a river. A grand jury declined to indict the men who did this. Justice was not served. Till was a human being and his life mattered.

Rewriting this narrative so that the female grocery store clerk is a victim of sexual harassment and Till is not a victim would be sickening. Rewriting a narrative so that I’m a victim of catcalling while ignoring police harassment of people of color is kind of missing the point.

Some guy pointing out that his friend could get tear gassed and arrested for harassing a white woman isn’t really funny in that historical context, is it?
I could come up with a convincing excuses for my own self-absorption: feeling a wee bit narcissistic on the day of one’s bachelorette party is hardly inexcusable, right? In reality, I am constantly coming face to face with ways that I manifest my own privilege without even being aware of it—often fighting tooth and nail to defend what I think is mine when it slowly dawns on me that I was once again stuck in my head and ignoring the systemic inequality around me. I like to think I want to confront the ways I contribute to systemic inequality, but I’d be lying if I pretended this is a smooth and seamless transition. In reality, time and again I’ll find myself fighting it kicking and screaming.

So what’s my point? My point is that we need to unpack and deconstruct our own narratives of harassment, or at least acknowledge the possibility in our own minds that we’re not always victims.

I felt so powerless as a kid that it was hugely surprising to me to realize that actions I took had an effect on others–and not always a positive one. Reflection is crucial.

At some point we have to stop blaming our own self-absorption—I have to stop blaming MY own self-absorption, that is—on gaslighting and fear culture and a history of abuse, on patriarchy or rape culture or societal norms that oppress women. We as white women should acknowledge that we have an enormous amount of privilege and take special care to not create narratives that discount intersectionalism and the experience of others.

And we need to find the strength and reflection to analyze our own victim narratives with the same level of fervor and commitment that we use to unpack violence towards women and the many ways it manifests.

Because it really isn’t just about us.

 

My Blogathon Analytics

1554349_675284659272230_4493339880744803822_nI don’t typically pay much attention to Google Analytics, since this blog is mostly for fun and not at all for profit…though I do sell the occasional ebook or video course and use it as a repository for my work. However, since the 30-day Freelance Success/Word Count blogathon is coming to a close, I thought I’d take a look at the analytics and share the results. Here’s what happens when you go from blogging once or twice a month to every day.

Subscribers

I’ve never had enough subscribers for anything happening with my email list to be statistically significant, since the vast majority of page views I get come from social media, but every time I do the blog challenge, I always lose subscribers. This year I lost eight, going down from 170 to 162. (Yes, total, not 162o or 16,200. I have a feeling a lot of people have as few subscribers as I do but are ashamed to admit it. Honestly I’m thrilled that 162 people subscribe to updates, especially since I don’t market to you guys and my blog is inconsistently updated and doesn’t even have a specific focus.)

Sessions and page views

Sessions increased by around 35 percent, which 23.86 percent more users. Page views shot up 42.27 percent (from 3617 to 5146), and unique page views went from 1690 to 2446. The average session went from 38 seconds to 1:03, and my page views went up from 2.34 pages per visit to 2.46. The average time per page rose from 28 seconds to 43 seconds. My bounce rate increased by 1/4.

Specific posts

My most read post this past month was a poem reprint, which got 727 page views. My home page got 628. Of the posts I wrote in June, the winner post on how to make more money writing got 466 page views. Other popular posts were my very personal apartment hunting post, the one listing all the creepy things I do, and one on how not to make a public records request. I also wrote about comments, anonymity protections for bloggers, a terrible restaurant not worth mentioning… I listed stuff I wrote in May, had a couple of food slideshows, wrote about small claims court and asking smart questions, about the Supreme Court decision, and about processed food. Those got the highest views, though a couple of filler posts (two weekly wraps, a scrapbook image piece, and music suggestion) got hits as well.

Some of my best posts are old ones that have gotten people’s attention, somehow–an outdated post on Pandora alternatives, some BJJ and Paleo and fitness posts and reviews of gyms, books, and DVDs… old posts on tree sitting and travel hacking and press releases and emoji and the Tarahumara, and even some on physical therapy and root canals (fun!) and things I learned the hard way.

As usual, the posts I didn’t promote on social media did incredibly poorly. This has always been the case–because I haven’t committed to blogging about one specific topic, my traffic is heavily reliant on social media. Some posts I didn’t share anywhere got less than ten page views!

Takeaways

I’ve always had a pretty ambivalent relationship with blogging, and trying to do so every day meant that the past month had a lot of meaningless filler interspersed with posts I enjoyed writing and got interesting feedback from. I think I’d like to update more (and am actually working on a minor redesign) but nothing crazy like this past month… though I do hope you enjoyed the posts!

 

Yael Writes’ Weekly Wrap

10329203_484081391725892_2009436025575136953_nYael Writes’ Weekly Wrap

Blogathon Posts From This Past Week

Around the Web

I also wrote the “Fitness Fix” and “Expert Answers” section of the July/August issue of Experience Life. Link forthcoming!

Music To Write By

41JQJXQWF2LThis week’s selection of music to write by is actually a 2002 album by Swedish duo Club 8 called Spring Came, Rain Fell. Perhaps I appreciate the sentiment since it’s the middle of summer in the desert, with our ten-day highs ranging from 106 to 111. Think dreamy/floaty, laid-back, melancholy and melodic…with sweetly wispy vocals. The perfect background music for writing up a storm.

 

We Won!

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Today, Supreme Court delivered an historic victory for advocates of gay (er, human) rights when it ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry, no matter which backwards state they happen to live in.

Remember when Obama invited known homophobe Rick Warren to deliver an invocation at his historic inauguration after rallying LGBT supporters for the vote? Things have really changed.

The Obama administration certainly is imperfect, with its war on whistleblowers, an unprecedented lack of transparency, and a near-obsession with drones.  And the queer community faces inequality in a myriad of ways, ranging from transphobic violence to housing discrimination. In many states, you can still get fired from your job for being gay.

But sometimes it’s nice to take a moment to celebrate just how far we’ve come, so here’s to incremental progress and savoring the victories!

Lead photo by Guillaume Paumier

How I Work

PreviewSometimes when I contact someone to get background information on something I’m researching, they’ll say something like, “Please tell me this isn’t for an article about me.” I can’t tell if they’re joking or not, but it’s happened often enough that I wanted to clear up a few things about how I work. I’ve tacked on some answers to a lot of questions I get asked on as well.

Researching Stories

I’m always poking around and asking questions. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m researching a story or want to write about the thing I’m inquiring about. My questions could be contextual, or just filling my knowledge bank.

If I am trying to investigate something, I will always contact someone accused of wrongdoing to ask them to respond to allegations. I will not do this in a sneaky or surreptitious way–I’m not going to ask friends questions during personal discussions and then sneakily write things up–but rather in an official email with a subject line that says something like “media inquiry: response to allegations,” and/or a phone call.

Allowing people to respond to allegations cuts both ways: it also means that if you make an accusation of someone, I will always need to reach out to that person or company for comment if I write about them. There are a lot of situations in which this might be unacceptable to a source, in which case I may not be the best reporter for the job, because this isn’t something I’ll budge on.

In general, if I want to quote someone on a topic, I’ll make it very clear that this is what I’m doing (and there’s a chance to say no or refer me to someone else). I may decide someone is a good potential source on a subject based on casual conversations, but that’s about it.

Quoting From Listservs or Emails

I do not quote from personal emails without people’s consent. It’s extremely unlikely that I’d quote directly from a public listserv or discussion without reaching out to the author of the comments for clarification and permission, unless it is a public statement. I have sometimes linked to Github bug report responses, though.

Public Figures vs. Everyone Else

I believe that public figures have less of a right to control information about themselves than private people do, and make reporting decisions based on this belief.

Off the Record vs. On Background

Many times when people say they’d like to discuss a topic off the record, they really mean on background, but balk when I make that suggestion. To clear things up, let’s go over some definitions.

On the record information means it can be used in a story which quotes the source by name.

Off the record means the discussion didn’t happen; the information can’t be used for publication. If it’s off the record, I can’t even discuss it with an editor who asks me if I reached out to someone to say “yes, they said X is happening but didn’t want to be quoted.”

On background typically means information can be published, but without the name of the source; for example, “a company spokesperson said XXX.” It can also be used to share, uh, background information without any type of quote.

There are, of course, a myriad of ways one can be attributed/identified or not, which are typically reserved for victims of crimes or other sensitive situations.  It is, in my opinion, unethical to ask a source to go on the record when there are reasons doing so would put them at risk. I will, however, sometimes ask someone who asks for off the record if they actually mean on background, if it seems that way to me.

Interview Recordings and Logistics

I typically conduct interviews in person or by phone. If it is a phone interview, I will ask permission to record the call. I record it using Voice Memos if in person or on a web app like Skype. I will use an app called TapeACall to record phone interviews.TapeACall says that it stores recordings on its server for one year. Depending on the length of the call, my budget, and the deadline, I will sometimes send calls to third parties for transcription. Recording and possibly transcribing an interview, of course, means that a third party or perhaps more than one third party has access to the call.

Sometimes sources will decide that specific information on a call is off the record after they’ve said it. This has happened to me on Skype and Google Hangouts and other mediums, in which information is already accessible by third parties. I will transcribe entire calls that have even one off the record sentence in them to minimize exposure, but in general I’d recommend not discussing off the record information on a phone call that’s being recorded by a third party app. This is particularly true if you are, for example, a human rights worker living in a country in which Skype is monitored.

When Will The Post Be Up?!?!

The short answer is, “I don’t know.” Also, not everybody I interview gets quoted in a draft, and not everyone’s quotes in a draft make it to the final piece. And sadly, not all of my finished pieces go live. Sometimes they get stuck in purgatory.

Reviewing Material

Depending on policies of the publication I write for and on how tight my deadline is, I can sometimes allow sources to review their own quotes. I do not show sources the entire article in advance, but can sometimes discuss specifics for clarification. For a thorough explanation on why journalists don’t share entire posts or articles in advance, and to understand some other options, see Steve Buttry’s post on this very topic.

Inaccuracies

Sometimes I get angry emails ringing the alarm bells because a reader feels the post was inaccurate. If there are legitimate factual errors, I do my best to correct them, though it is of course at my editors’ discretion. I will typically discuss any issues that arise with my editor, with a few exceptions. Some purported inaccuracies are simply a difference of opinion. Sometimes I summarize reports and the readers disagree with the actual research cited or source I quoted, which isn’t always a factual error. And sometimes information is omitted for deliberate reasons, such as reader interest or the target audience. There are also times in which information I receive in an email or a comment (yes, I do typically read them) gives me a broader view of an issue and may guide future work, but I don’t feel that the original post needs a correction.

Correction vs updates

If I reach out to a source for comment and they do not do so, but then contact me after the post goes live, I will add the comments into the piece, but this is typically an update, and not a correction. Corrections are reserved for factually inaccurate information, not for sources responding to request for comment after a piece has already been published.

Conflicts of Interest

I always disclose conflicts of interest, but sometimes they are ridiculous, like when I had a cup of coffee with someone three years ago and can’t remember whether or not they paid.

Branded Content

These days, there’s been a bit of blurring between journalistic endeavors and PR, with brands often owning websites and publications. (For example, I edit a fitness journal owned by a gym and have written for a website owned by an accelerator.) I have edited for a pet brand and edit for a lifestyle brand, and done a bit of content marketing (read: blogging) for brands covering content marketing (so meta). Where I draw the line is in writing sponsored content on technology and other topics I cover editorially. If I were to reach out to interview someone for sponsored content (which typically does not happen since the interviewees are pre-selected and before a writer comes on the scene), I would always disclose this upfront.

Stuff I have very little control over

Headlines. Stripped links. And some edits, though I do my very best to only write for publications that will allow me to see edits before they go live so we can have a discussion, if needed, about changes made.

Deleting Comments

I like to think I’m open to constructive feedback, but I am sometimes mercurial about blocking people on Twitter and do delete racist or even just annoying comments on Facebook. Now you know up front. I also moderate comments on this blog, which I have to approve before they are posted. I did this in response to abusive comments and because I don’t want to keep blocking Tor users. Oh, and speaking of Tor, as of right now, IP addresses are tracked for comments.

Contacting Me

There are a lot of different ways to contact me, listed below.

Email: [email protected]
Phone Number: +1-715-456-4273
Documents: OnionShare
PGP Fingerprint: 6E72 C713 979F 9EEA EFB8 A40B 5E34 C751 4A11 536A
Jabber/XMPP: [email protected]
OTR Fingerprint: 7D8A1972 94324731 C22D50EA 71AC732F 88BAD4DD
Jitsi: Upon request
PondContact me to set up a secret to exchange.
Signal/TextSecure fingerprint:  05 6d 1b 54 20 6f bd c9 75 27 a9 68 89 bb 2c 1f 60 3a b9 9c 9b 99 fe ce f9 2c f1 93 9a 91 8a 04 30.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yaelwriteshttps://www.facebook.com/yaelgrauerwrites
Twitter: @yaelwrites

If you are planning on disclosing tips or leads for investigative reporting projects I’m working on and believe that you may be at risk if the information is somehow traced back to you, I encourage you to consider the implications before doing so.

I will challenge any subpoenas or attempts by either government agencies or private sector organizations to gain access to any information I obtain, and will attempt to provide notice (unless legally prohibited from doing so) if legally required to disclose information, in order to give you an opportunity to object to the disclosure.

However, please be aware that there are numerous ways to trace individuals to social media and email accounts (even pseudonymous ones), that secure messaging tools typically allow any user to see who else in their phone’s contact list has downloaded the tool, and that even encrypted communications typically leak metadata (e.g. who you emailed, when, and with what subject line…or who you called, when, and how long you spoke).

For more information on secure, private communications, and on threat modeling, please seeAccess Tech and Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense Project. I have listed ways to contact me with a variety of tools (OnionShare, Signal/RedPhone/TextSecure, Jitsi, PGP, Pond, etc.) depending on what makes sense for your situation).

I hope to add more tutorials about these tools in the future.

Questions?

If You Hate Shopping But Love Cute Clothes…

imgresI’m not ashamed to admit that I spend a fair bit of time on men’s websites. Who doesn’t want to make sense of hair paste, pomade, and putty or learn how to train for an obstacle race? In fact, I’ve always wished that there were men’s sites for women that had the same no-frills, low-maintenance approach instead of overwhelming me with 29 ways to braid or 16 summer pieces on sale.

That’s because I want to look cute (who doesn’t?), but barely have time for all the regular primping and preening without making things more time-consumingly complicated. I barely remember to eat and sleep some days, and when I do wear makeup, I try to put it on in 15 minutes or less. Who’s got more time than that?

I also find shopping painstakingly depressing and far too time-consuming, especially since I have an annoying hourglass figure which is apparently traditionally chic and yet I can’t find anything I fit in and just try stuff on and can’t wear it and want to tear my hair out.

And that’s why I love Stitch Fix. Sure, it’s a little pricier than thrift shopping or discount department stores, but it’s so easy. You fill out some details about your style, size, and what you’re looking for, and a box of clothes appears at your doorstep.

It’s definitely a learning process–I rejected almost everything from my first few boxes–but as the stylists get to know your style and what you’re looking for–you get to leave detailed notes about each piece– you’re more likely to find more clothes you want to keep.

Here’s how it works: You pay $20 for the fix, subtracted from any item you buy. If you purchase all five items, you’ll get an additional 25 percent off. Fixes include slacks and jeans, shirts, dresses, skirts and sweaters, and also jewelry, scarves, and bags. You can sign up just once or get automatic shipments as often as every three weeks, or every month and even every other month. Returns are free–an envelope is included.

I’m recommending this because it’s quick and easy and fun. I get compliments whenever I wear items from my fixes. If you want a $25 discount, just use my referral link. (I think I’ll get $25, too.)

 

Scrapbook Diaries: TVs and Hippies

FullSizeRenderScrapbook Diaries is a series I started to share some more personal thoughts by annotating pages from a scrapbook that I kept in college.

If you can’t read the writing, it says:

“I eat twigs and berries
and I’m kind of furry.
I may not always smell so good.
But when you call me a stinky hippie,
Aww shit, it really hurts the team.” –Bull

I’m sure you can read the bottom part.

I’m posting this particular scrapbook page because I’m enjoying the endearing poem written by a guy I met who was just trying to be himself and fit in, juxtaposed against a very harsh and judgmental sticker urging TV viewers to read more.

I grew up in a family where an overworked parent was more interested in television, it seemed, than in interacting with her children, which I think is where my TV rage stemmed from. I still don’t watch a lot of it but I get plenty of screen time and no longer begrudge people their shows… just find the contrast between these two on one page and my apparent lack of awareness about it somewhat amusing.

 

But I’m A Creep….

I can’t count on both hands the number of conversations I’ve had with people about creepy creepers and all of the creepy things that they do…. but as I was driving to New Mexico the other day, I started thinking about all of the things I do that are creepy. Maybe they’re not objectively creepy, but reasonable human beings would probably perceive then as creepy…. or maybe I’m just lying to myself. I know I’m not the only one who worries about this, but I thought I’d put it all out there, because that is what I do. So, I’m Yael, and here are the creepy (or ideally, just quirky and weird) things that I do.

1.  I send people anonymous gifts.

The gifts are normal. I swear. But sometimes I’ll see a book or CD or something I want someone to have, but it would be weird if they knew I sent it. I don’t want them to think they have to send me something or that I have weird ulterior motives, so I’ll go to great lengths to send it anonymously. It’s becoming harder and harder since Amazon and Ebay totally sell me out, but at  least I can secretly and anonymously send people Reddit Gold. (Yes, that was probably me.)

2. I send people weird things non-anonymously, too.

I’m not as bad as my friend Billy, who once mailed me a doll he mutilated which he said was an art project when I told him we had to talk. However, I do have a tendency to send people strange things. Like, sometimes I use this comic book app to send people pictures of themselves as drawings, or I use Poetweet to create sonnets, indrisos, and rondels comprised of people’s tweets and then send it to them. I also sent someone a Unicorns Are Jerks coloring book to expose the cold, hard, sparkly truth, and I don’t know if he had the same reaction as I did when Billy sent me that deformed Cabbage Patch kid. I never know if people like what I send or are just too polite to complain about it. I also send people poems I’ve read that I think they’ll like, but nobody ever responds. So yeah. Probably creepy.

3. I’ve probably stalked researched you online.

Stalking is the new research, isn’t it? But sometimes I’ve taken this to extremes, looking at YouTube videos from 2007 or the 10th page of Google or those public Facebook pics from people who I don’t send a friend request to because we’re not actually friends. Whenever I find a new tool, I usually look up a dozen or so people I know on it. My “research” excuse is probably bullshit because I probably don’t need to know about an MMA fighter’s traffic tickets to interview them about an upcoming fight… (But I was trying to paint a picture! Yeah, no.) If you know me, I’ve probably looked you up on Crystal to figure out how to better word an email. I’ve also probably read your out-of-print book, if you have one, or even your ex-girlfriend’s book. I may have read your dissertation. I try to keep this on the DL because people would probably be totally weirded out if you knew how much I knew about them, but probably keeping it secret is even creepier. On very rare occasions, people have told me all sorts of things because they thought I’d know anyway, and they were wrong. So even writing about my, uh, research problem is probably creepy.

Oh, and it gets worse. In the past, I’ve used ToutApp and other tools to tell me when people were clicking on links I sent them or opening emails I sent. I’ve stopped doing this now because I write about privacy and people would kill me, and because it made several of my friends uncomfortable, but I think I still have the creepy gene that compels me to do this.

4. I hold onto my phone will showing you pictures and take my laptop to the potty.

Not only will I bore you to tears with photos you probably don’t even want to see, I’ll also make you feel like a criminal by holding onto my phone while doing so. I’ve also had a lot of strange looks and questions about why I’ll leave my wallet and such out on a table but take my phone and laptop to the bathroom with me. I guess you could call it being security conscious, but I figure if someone steals my wallet, it affects nobody but me. I mean, you don’t know what else is on my laptop or cell phone, or what it’s been on..

5. Oops, I called your cell…

Yesterday I called someone’s cell phone number rather than his work number. I would’ve been creeped out. I don’t even know how I got his non-work number on my phone, but there it is. He said it was okay but it was super creepy and I felt bad. Anyway, this is one of the creepy things that I accidentally do. Then I apologize for it profusely which is even more awkward and creepy. I’ve also been known to call what I thought was a work number at some weird hour hoping to leave a voicemail message before I forgot and gotten a real person. Oops.

6. I am super awkward.

When I’m not making jokes that people don’t understand or find funny, I’m taking things that aren’t literal way too literally. When there aren’t awkward silences, I’m rambling way too much. I’ve been known to stumble over my words, splain basic information to experts by mistake while trying to make conversation, and so forth. Good thing I can make a living writing from the confines of a secret, soundproof closet. I’ll lock myself in.

7. Remember that thing you said in 2009?

Sometimes I bring things up from ages ago. I remember tiny details people have forgotten about, much to their dismay. I mean, who does that? SO creepy.

8. I put 2+2 together. Oops.

One time I asked a housemate where she was hiking, since I noticed her filling up a water bottle and she only did that right before going on a hike, and it really freaked her out. I am often completely oblivious about things that should be obvious and figure out the hard ones, in my quest to fulfill the archetype of the absent-minded professor. (Are those guys creepy, or what?)

9. I try to interpret all those offhand things you say.

I am happily married, and my incredibly patient husband will always humor me and explain the minutiae to me of why he selected one word over another and why it may not mean what I think it means. This doesn’t stop me from obsessing over random things other people say, trying to figure out the hidden meaning. I’ll go to great lengths to try to determine the specific meaning of slang from other countries, ask people in similar professions if there’s another way to interpret something someone said, and so forth. I don’t do this all the time or with everyone, but some glitch in my brain makes me susceptible to this, and my close friends get to hear all about it. At least they accept me for who I am…

10. I really want to be OMGBFFs with people who don’t like me.

I took a StrengthsFinder test once and it told me that my biggest strength was WOO, which stands for winning others over. I personally think it’s my biggest character defect. I have this running list of people I think are really cool that I sense don’t like me. Maybe I think they’re cool because they don’t like me. Maybe we just don’t resonate, but I still want to be friends with them anyway simply because I can’t. One time a tech writer whose book I read blocked me on Twitter (long story), so I stalked him on LinkedIn, sent him a typo that I found, and tried to convince him that we should be friends (or at least to unblock me). One time I was at a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class and my teammate was talking smack (I thought playfully) and I gave it right back and he said we shouldn’t train together anymore (I swear I was joking). I spent the next few months trying to win him back over and finally asked him to train again and promised not to talk. We’re cool now, but I still have about three people on my list right now. I have no idea why I do this, but there it is.

I was hoping that by writing this, I’d make quirky but well-meaning people feel less creepy themselves, or even worry a little less about my own quirks. I’m not sure it worked, but…feel free to share some things on your list with me, either publicly or privately. Some of my best friends can be creeps, I swear it.