Category Archives: Words in Print

Expectations and Harrassment, A Girl’s Thoughts

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I want to talk about the Aziz Ansari thing because, to me, it’s not about sex. Well, it is, but it’s really about gender expectation and all the pressure that comes with that.

I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t have one sexual encounter in their life diary that they regretted, felt shitty about, and/or wished had never happened. That waking up and feeling nauseous or violated. It’s so common that it rarely gets talked about, until now, and it has everything to do with feeling pressured to do something you are not comfortable with and don’t want to do, but you do it anyway. We often write it off, and the excuses are as varied as the situations: I was drunk. I was too tired to argue. It was pity. Blah, Blah, Blah…

Why do we feel the pressure? And this applies to men and women in a variety of scenarios, not just sexual ones, though that’s the one I will be speaking to because it is the reason I wrote Knowing Joe, a story about a Girl who doesn’t want sex, has no interest in sex, and was comfortable in her own skin until an extenuating circumstance had her questioning whether or not there was something wrong with her. Queue the Pressure.

How many guys have been out to the bar with their mates and felt pressure to pick up a chick and take them home because they didn’t want their mates to call them a loser or gay?

How many women felt the need to make restitution for a dinner or a movie or simply because they didn’t want the ‘nice’ guy to dislike them, or worse, tell all their friends that “that chick was a prude … a frigid bitch.”

How many girls go wild in their early twenties as a direct revolt against their parents’ beliefs about what girls should be and how girls should behave? The same applies to boys.

The mates might not have even been teasing the guy at the bar. The Nice Guy might have truly been one and would never have badmouthed her to his friends anyway, but the expectations of how a guy and a girl should behave was in their psyche, so even if the pressure was internal, it was still very very real, insidious, and manipulative because that guy could have told his friends to fuck off, and the girl could have just ended the date when her protests went unheeded. But they didn’t. Telling yourself to fuck off is a lot harder.

Why do people want to engage in sex with people they barely know? Is it some kind of biological imperative that we simply have no control over? Or is it pressure we feel? External and Internal?

Where does this kind of pressure come from? Our Peers. Society. Our Parents. Our Religion. Our Laws. Even Our Own Damn Psyche.

It comes from all those places because it comes from expectations. Expectations that have been cultivated down through centuries. Expectations that are entirely based on outdated gender roles. And by outdated, I mean, are no longer even remotely necessary for the survival of the species. Men are expected to be virile, aggressive, strong, and intelligent. A warrior. A hunter. Women are expected to be pure, beautiful, accommodating. A wife. A mother. A housekeeper. A concubine. Men are expected to want sex and take sex. Women are expected secretly want it and to give it when it’s desired by the man. And if men and women didn’t behave according to expectations, they were sick, and thusly sent for shock therapy. Then came the sexual revolution and the feminist movement and all hell broke loose. Now we have dating apps where we ‘order off the menu’ and we expect that what’s delivered is what we wanted.

Throw in the fact that sex is everywhere and you have a clusterfuck of epic magnitude. It was bound to go nuclear eventually. Movies, books, magazines, porn, strip clubs, nudie fireman’s charity calendars. Seriously people. Pressure.

When I started writing Knowing Joe, none of this Sexual Harassment stuff was in the news, and if it was, you barely heard about it. At that time, I was writing erotica under a pseudonym, and I bought one of the most quintessential books on the subject of male sexual fantasy for research purposes. I was interested in sexual expectations. How early were they formed, and how much they were influenced by external forces. Men in Love, by Nancy Friday is a difficult book to read when you begin to understand how young we are when our sexual impulses and expectations are subject to manipulation. Every proclivity, every fetish has a line that can be traced back to its beginning, which is often what an adult would consider benign: an off-hand comment, a mother’s shoe, a dad chiding his son to man-up.

The pressure was everywhere, and to make matters worse, I had bought a used book. The entire text was furiously underlined and annotated by a women who had very specific expectations of her boyfriend, Joe.

I felt for her. I felt for Joe. Both of whom were clearly under pressure and lacked the communication skills to resolve their issues.

We need to get better at this. We need open dialog. We need to stop blaming and shaming. We need to discard definitions. We need to discard gender expectations. We need to get better at articulating, up front, what we want and don’t want. We need to stop assuming shit. We need to stop putting pressure on people to be something they don’t want to be, to do something they don’t want to do. To dress, speak, or act in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s a psychological problem. It’s a definition problem. A communication problem, and it’s most assuredly a pressure problem.

Knowing Joe is about a Girl who felt that pressure all her life.

Knowing Joe is about a Girl who was brave enough to challenge what it means to be a girl.

So Kudos to all the Girls and Guys making that challenge right now. There’s a lot that needs to change.

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Fun Fact About Knowing Joe

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Joe3-DKnowing Joe has been in the works since 2012, but I was running Apocrypha & Abstractions Lit Mag at the time, so it was only getting pecked at really; then, it got put on hold for a year and a half so I could focus on Rupert’s rehabilitation and some issues I was having with my own health. I was able to eke out a first draft in August 2017, and it’s taken me four months to get through the beta read and editing process.

The story didn’t sit idle during the pecking days and that year and a half hiatus, though. I was nervous about writing a comedy (not my normal death, destruction, and mayhem) so I excerpted, rewrote, and submitted those excerpts as flash fiction so that I could test the subject matter and the stylistic approach to the story.

Those excerpts were subsequently published at Salt, The Legendary, Danse macabre du jour, Change Seven, and during The Lit Bulb Festival by Pure Slush.

I have to thank those Lit Journals for giving me the confidence in my writing and in the story so that I could keep trudging on to the finish line, which is almost here.

A Post Not About Cats – No Shit!

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I write a lot about relationships. Not Harlequin, daytime TV type stuff, but the other stuff. The subcutaneous if you will, or rather, I write about the sinew after the smile has been scraped off of it. Enjoy.

Hiatus Concretion

We roll up top-down-crumpled-clothes-empty to the motor court. It’s a relief. By cygk - Enjoy the sunny Midway Country Motel, CC BY 2.0We’d been screaming highway days long forgotten, and we both stunk of sweaty vinyl, cigarettes, and licorice. There’s so much desert on my teeth that my lips are permanently stuck smiling to them. You wipe yours on your shirtsleeve; smile back at me; tell me I have bugs in mine. I get out of the car, bones creaking in the shifting earth beneath my feet.

Shifting Memories.

Shifting Sand.

A parking lot of sand stretches beyond us, a lone tree clinging to it in the shadow of a snowy mountain range that overshoots the distance so far into the future it seems we might even get there someday. There’s a plaid lounge chair next to the tree, a shipping pallet, and a dog tied up, miserable barking in front of the office door, a rot wood screen door, whitewashed, hanging from one rusty hinge. “Like home,” you say, then you forty-four the dog in the face. The motel owner doesn’t mind. Says he didn’t have the heart for it, and the damn dog was an asshole.

The sickness is coming.

I can already see it in you, your hand shaking when you pay the man with a hundred dollar bill. You don’t want to let it go, and he isn’t sure. Two gnarled hands clasped through sunset over chipped Formica.

I ask him if he has a shovel.

I’ve never been good at running from things. I let a woman seduce me once at a discotheque. There was something about the way she moved across the dance floor, all quicksilver in crimson, nipples pressed tight against silky fabric. We had a few drinks. She flirted with the bartender, not me, so I told her I liked the way her skin looked against the lights and colored glass. Sparkling. Like she was covered in rhinestones. She wasn’t a she though. She was something like me, but more dangerous. She held out her arm. There was barely any flesh on it. Tattooed Bone. Black Market Ivory. The way she looked at me, kissed me in the alley. My Luciana.

It’s getting harder to breathe alms in this vortex.

It’s getting harder to breathe near you.

“It’ll only be a few days,” you say, but I know that’s a lie. The carpet smells of stale whiskey, and the shower drips chlorinated rust onto the floor. The TV is only black and white, but the bed vibrates — for a quarter. We do that a couple of times, pretend we aren’t who we are and giggle until we fall asleep to the coyotes snarling over and tearing at the dog carcass I forgot to bury.

I want to love you.

But I can’t.

Hiatus Concretion was previously published at Metazen, June 2014, and is included in the short fiction collection Kitsch.

Free Read – And Death Dreamt Us All

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Free right now at most web retailers, except Amazon. If you would like a free Kindle copy, please visit Smashwords (link is in the sidebar.)

Happy Haunting Folks, and reviews are always much appreciated.

Available in Print and eBook formats for Kindle, Sony, Nook, and iPad
Twisted Knickers Publications (January 10, 2012)
RTA, Mature Content, Reader Discretion Advised
Paperback 138 pages
ISBN-13: 978–0982214541
Copyright © 2010.

Book Description: Rowan lives at the edge of reality.  After witnessing a terrible childhood tragedy, her life has evolved into a shifting state of death and decay.  Barely a night without restlessness, barely a breath without torment, she exists in the periphery, her mind merely a footfall away from the abyss.  Within that abyss stirs a creature so vicious, so evil, and it lies in wait, staring back at her, waiting for her to fall. Read Chapter 1.

Is That the Kind with Lead in It?

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So there was this bench, wood, birdshit, nothing special about it. Just a bench on which we were sat. Waiting. Fall leaves in a swirling vortex at our feet. Dust and naked trees. Cooing winged rats all around us. Just a bench on a street. Just a girl. Just a guy. I’m the guy, and I had this thought. I’m really no good at thoughts and usually I get what I deserve when I have them. I’m kinda like the bench. She wasn’t. She was looking into this little compact mirror, which had been extricated from her handbag with great difficulty only moments before. She was looking into it all squint-eyed as she smeared and smeared and smeared her lips with color. That’s when the thought came to me, so I asked, “Why do you, well, why do women put that stuff on their lips?” She stopped her smearing long enough to look at me and smile. Then she went back to the task at hand. Smear, smear, smear, pucker, pucker, pucker, smear, smear, smear. “I don’t get it, you know. You have pretty lips. Most women have pretty lips, not that I stalk women’s lips or anything. I’m not saying that. I’m just asking.” This time I got a smile that was a lot like the bench. She snapped the mirror shut, chucked it and the lipstick into her handbag, and then turned to face me with lips that looked like those huge wax lips you get to eat at Halloween time. I didn’t say that though for very obvious reasons, and so there was this little bit of silence until she blew me a kiss with a “You really want to know?” attached to it. I did, and “I do,” was my reply because the bench and the birdshit and the pecking rats were all getting on my nerves and I was cold and benches don’t get cold, so that was odd, and she just looked at me like I was odd and said, very calmly, “Fellatio. Men like to see the little rings around their peckers when we’re done.” And that’s why I’m the bench and she is not. I wanted to kiss her, had to kiss her. I told her as much, so she asked for a tissue, but then the bus came and she said she couldn’t wait for me or the tissue, even if I had one.

© 2014 Cheryl Anne Gardner, Published as part of the Lit Bulb Festival

The Lit Bulb Festival is an online International fiction festival featuring new flash fiction, flash non-fiction, and poetry from across the globe. It features text, spoken word performance and other collaborative efforts across multiple sites for two weeks starting May 29th, 2015. Lit Bulb is supported by the SA Writers Centre, Inc. and Pure Slush. For more information and a programme schedule visit lit bulb here.

Kitsch, Our latest Flash Fiction Chapbook is Available Now!

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Cover_Kitsch

Yup. We’ve been busy twisting the old knickers over here. Cheryl Anne Gardner’s latest Flash Fiction Collection Kitsch is now available in Print and eBook at all Major online Retailers.

Available in eBook formats for: KindleNook, iPad, and also available at Kobo Books
Twisted Knickers Publications (May 1, 2015)
Paperback 104 pages
RTA Mature Content — Reader discretion advised
ISBN-13: 978-0991002726
Copyright © 2013.

Book Description: From fishnet stockings to lapel flowers. From transistor radios to lipstick to bleached-out skulls at the city dump, Kitsch explores the little things. The filthy, grotesque, inconsequential little things that make life interesting. The things we don’t see. The things we don’t want to see. The things we like to collect and keep in a jar by the bed.

Kitsch – Our Latest Flash Fiction Chap is Available for eBook pre-order Now.

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Cover_Kitsch

Yup. We’ve been busy twisting the old knickers over here. Cheryl Anne Gardner’s latest Flash Fiction Collection Kitsch is now available for eBook pre-order. The print edition of the chapbook will start hitting online venues in May 2015.

Pre-order available in eBook formats for: KindleNook, iPad, and also available at Kobo Books
Twisted Knickers Publications (May 1, 2015)
Paperback 104 pages
RTA Mature Content — Reader discretion advised
ISBN-13: 978-0991002726
Copyright © 2013.

Book Description: From fishnet stockings to lapel flowers. From transistor radios to lipstick to bleached-out skulls at the city dump, Kitsch explores the little things. The filthy, grotesque, inconsequential little things that make life interesting. The things we don’t see. The things we don’t want to see. The things we like to collect and keep in a jar by the bed.

Cheryl Anne Gardner at The Legendary — Gekkonidae

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gekkoHe didn’t like cream of wheat or wearing sandals on the beach because of broken glass or other stuff that could puncture his skin. He didn’t really like the beach at all. He liked to pretend to make tea in his room for his sister’s dolls. She liked it too; though he was convinced his sister wasn’t really human and didn’t belong in the family he didn’t like very much anyway.

He was only ten years old, but he had big ideas and big opinions, so come spend some time with the little gekko in Cheryl Anne Gardner’s latest flash fiction selection titled Gekkonidae now featured at The Legendary.

And on a side note: We’ll be taking a break from flash fiction for a while so we can work on our next novella. Yeah, you heard that right. Sid and Cheryl Anne are working on another novella. A friggin’ comedy of all things. So stay tuned.

Cheryl Anne Gardner at Foliate Oak – The Followers

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839610Heard the bells in the distance as rain fell hard on the clothesline, revealing strange cast off patterns in the tatty fabric you’d left to whip in the wind. Withered bone to dark skies held, an afternoon wilted upon your skin.

It might not be your lot, but come watch as they dig them under in Cheryl Anne Gardner’s latest flash fiction selection titled The Followers now featured in the March Issue of Foliate Oak.