Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ovarian Violence

I know this is a point that is complained about often, and therefore overlooked, but today I'd like us all sit down and talk about the violence that occurs every month.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm talking about menstruation.

Fellas, I know a lot of us complain about this, and may or may not (but definitely do) yell at you for being so lucky as to have a penis. For us humans of the female gender, we do tend to overdramatize some stuff, but things are really not that easy.

First of all, ever notice how we all get so freaking cold? All the time? It's because our bodies perceive our uteruses (and other internal organs) as being the most important pieces to our bodies. That means when it's cold out, the blood flow keeping our extremities warm is suddenly diverted to our baby makers.

Humans are basically the only animal that truly has a menstrual cycle too. Most other mammals simply reabsorb the lining of the uterus, the endometrium. Chimpanzees, one of our closest relatives, can sometimes shed the endometrium, but it is often absorbed as well, and even more often, they don't have their cycle. Think about it. There's no birth control or marriage in the wild. As soon as a female ovulates, males take notice, and a baby is soon born. Then she must breast feed, which further prevents menstruation, until the baby is weaned and she is impregnated again. Thank goodness for our cultural norms, because nobody should a mom at 13, but it means we get to experience more periods.

But why do we shed the endometrium? I'm in Animal Sciences, and my Reproduction professor explained this phenomenon using words like "placental teeth".
Is that creepy or what!?

Humans have one of the most aggressive placentas in the animal kingdom. There are three main types of placental implantation based off of how many layers of the maternal tissue are invaded. Horses, pigs, and ruminants have it easy; their placentas lay on the surface of the womb digging into no layers. Dogs and cats lose their first two layers, the endometrial epithelium and connective tissue, to help anchor the placenta.

Humans and rodents have placentas known as "hemochorial". You might recognize "hemo" in words like hemoglobin and hemophilia. These words all involve blood. Our placentas invade three maternal layers, and actually tap into the mother's blood vessels. It is theorized that because our placenta rummages through so many layers, we have too much to reabsorb and thus it must be shed, including blood vessels that grow in response to estrogen (hence the bleeding).

I know that's a lot to absorb right now (pun intended). So here's a brilliant thing I found  to help explain:

When I was just beginning the wonderful journey of becoming a woman, I remember having menstrual cramps so intense I literally was forced to the fetal position on the floor crying. This is what the medical worlds calls dysmenorrhea. These cramps are caused by your uterus losing its sh*t and contracting too hard, cutting off blood flow and basically suffocating itself. It turns out that birth control is a good method for reducing this pain, along with Advil, heat pads, exercise, and avoiding salty and caffeinated foods.

I won't even get into the crazy roller-coaster ride that is hormones during the cycle. But obviously they cause a lot of unusual behavioral changes.

However, on a brighter note, I can honestly say our species has the most friendly looking penis. I have taken an animal reproduction course. You will not believe the morphology of some of the penes other species have. Specifically the pig, the sheep, and the cat.
  • The pig, or boar, is known for having a "corkscrew" penis. It actually locks into a female pig, or sow's, cervix during copulation. 
  • The sheep, or ram, is unique in that it has an appendage on its appendage, known as the filliform appendage. It's still not quite understood what this thing does. Are sheep aliens? Perhaps. 
  • The cat, or tom, in response to testosterone, grows keratinized BARBS on his penis. They rake the lady bits to induce ovulation. All I can say is that I finally know why my female cat is so angry all the time...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bronze Radio Return

I've turned a number of my friends onto a band called Bronze Radio Return, and if you haven't heard of them yet, you are going to now. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

BRR hails from Connecticut, and they have a brilliant style of music that is incredibly easy to start dancing to. Classified as indie rock, they are quite reminiscent of Mumford & Sons. The lyrics are crafty and sapient, and the melodies are simply delightful. They have a great span of really happy songs to some with more sentimental messages and serious tones.

This is the first song of theirs I heard was "Shake, Shake, Shake". I absolutely adore this song and the music video as well. Listen right now.

"Shake, shake, shake, the only mistake is if you stand still…"

A few of my other favorites (click them!): "Down There", "Everything Moves", "Sell It to You", "Melting in My Icebox", "Worth Wondering", and "World Spin, Home Spun". I won't lie to you though, every album of theirs that I've listened to I've loved, I could've just written the track listings in their entirety.

After I became thoroughly hooked, I did a search to see if they were touring. Knowing they were based on the east coast I was ecstatic to find that they had a tour going and would be hitting the west coast (best coast!) in October. Not only this, but they were going to be playing a small venue in Eugene, Oregon of all places! 

Last night, they rocked one of the best small venues I've been to, Cozmic Pizza, with their opening band Graham Colton. I am always a little worried that a band I love will end up only sounding good recorded, but honey, this is not the case with BRR. I had such a blast at the concert. The energy they put into their craft is remarkable and it is one of the best shows I've been to. They were energized and they looked like they had so much fun; it was impossible to listen without, at the very least, tapping your feet. 

I collect LPs and was thrilled to see that their new album, Up, On & Over, was available on vinyl. After the show I got this and their 2011 CD Shake! Shake! Shake! Being the slightest bit starstruck, my friend had to prod me to stop being a wuss and go meet them. I got to talk with them, tell them to stop messing around in Eugene and get to Corvallis, and their autographs now adorn one of my most prized LPs. 


Trust me folks, if these guys come to a town near you, go see them! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Naked Face

When I was in middle school, I was into drama.

Not like, "Oh my god, did you see Linda with Adam? They were *gasp* talking to each other. He's mine! I'm gonna go cry for the rest of the year."

No, not like that. Like musical theater.

Pinocchio, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast... Godspell... *shudders*

Participating in these dramatic productions taught me a lot, although the self-confidence lesson I think they were designed for never really took root until college. For all of you non-thespians, you can't always tell from the seats in the theater, but stage makeup is horrifying. It's a full two shades darker than your actual skin, full bright cheeks are encouraged, and there's enough hairspray on you to light a small boat on fire.

While this is all fine and dandy when the only people looking at you are on stage wearing the same thing or are at a distance in a very dark room (a very dark room) it is not, by any means, a good introduction to makeup for a young girl.

Big pile of nope right there. 

I was always sort of a tomboy growing up. Partially because I lived in the woods and had the most boss play fort and obstacle course ever (tightropes, trapeze, zip line, fireman pole, five-story-tall swings from trees, etc...), but also because whenever my parents doted some kind of girly toy to me, namely Barbies, I would massacre them. It is a little disturbing, but I can't hide it anymore. I was a Barbie-murder. There. I said it!

I like to think it was me trying to break the paradigm of the female gender role, but I can't be sure if those were my intentions at six years old. Don't worry, I'm not displaying antisocial behavior, it was just Barbies. Other dolls were safe, and I always loved stuffed animals and actually cut all their tags off because I thought the tags hurt them.

Anyway, being more interested in making roads for my hotwheels in the sandbox didn't leave a lot of time to be experimenting with makeup. Especially because these huge floods kept washing all the bridges out. Rebuilding was quite time consuming. I only found out recently that this sandbox was full of rough sand designed for mixing with concrete. Whatevs dad, it's cool.

This, in tandem with the drama, could've made for the perfect marriage of poor artistic skills displayed on the canvas that was my face. This would've been very bad indeed, because looking back on my pictures from these years, the ones I haven't destroyed, I'm surprised anyone talked to me at all. But that, my children, is for another post... you might have to take me out to dinner first…

Ultimately, my lack of interest in makeup and other beauty products extended all the way through high school and now into college. I did eventually learn some of the ways of this subtle feminine mystique for school dances and formal functions, but I have never been one to be an every day applier. This video by my favorite truth-teller, Jenna Marbles, pretty aptly describes what can be inferred from my makeup about me.

Once I was talking with one of my male roommates. I mentioned that I am far too lazy to apply makeup every day. And do you know what he said? He said he couldn't tell.

What the what!?

More surprisingly, for how much of a visual society we are (the makeup industry is 50 billion dollar industry in the US) I have not felt any hinderance in my social life because I don't wear makeup. I don't think a lot of people can tell one way or the other, they only notice if you go from wearing it every day to suddenly not, and vice versa.

Like I said, I'm never focused enough for that business in the morning. I don't really do much with my hair either. If it's washed, it's good. If it's brushed, then some real adult shit is going on. I refuse to wake up two hours early to apply mystery chemical pigments to my face, it's just not that important to me in the long run. I have to use that time to tend to my garden and feed all of my animals.

Also, I don't want to display too many false pretenses; I'm already wearing contacts and have had my teeth ratcheted into a more appealing conformation. I don't want to be dating someone, wearing makeup the whole time, and then skip a day and scare the bajeebers out of him with my naked face. That would be unpleasant for everyone involved.

Every once in a while, I do apply some mascara (a very tame shade of brown). This is just a mental confidence boost I need on some rainy days here in Oregon. Like, what up, I've got lashes today; I'm ready to take on the world.

I understand why a lot of people apply makeup and it can certainly be fun to experiment with. But, honestly, when it comes down to it, it's just one less thing for me to worry about every day.
Is my eye-liner too heavy? Nah.
Did I smear my mascara? Nope.
Do I have lipstick on my teeth? Never.

It's liberating.