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EVERYONE PLUG YOUR EARS > Feminism!

18 Jul

He said:

that girl has a chip on her shoulder–

a goddamn brick on her shoulder.

She’s a with-holder, she roll

like a boulder,

a freight train,

a bed stain .

It’s like she got caught in the rain

or acid. We can see she’s rancid.

She’s unchecked.

She’s a list. She’s in a mother fucking tryst

with power. She’ll devour

your metaphysical, your reciprocal

heart beat. She’ll start beatin’

you at your own game, has been

for too long—you mad bro? You

gonna slap a hoe? Get a hold on.

Yeah get a grip. She’s not a bitch.

She’s a mother fucking

feminist.

PHEW: You mad, bro?

Well, you shouldn’t be. As a feminist woman I’m not trying to usurp your power. I’m not trying to say I’m better than you. I don’t want your pants. Keep em. I hate Levi’s. But, what I do want is equality. I want recognition if I work equally as hard for a job I am just as qualified for. I’m not asking you to slam doors in my face, rather than hold them open and trample my dignity. I’m asking you to hold open a door for yourself, for your dude friends, for the crazy cat aunt we’ve all got. And, while you’re busy doing that. I’ll hold the door for your brother, you dad, your mother. I’ll walk your grandma across the street. I see feminism as equal opportunity kindness. I see it as feet free of the ratty slippers called gender. I see it as asking questions. I see it as engendering more questions. I see it as exploration. I don’t see it as defamation.

I don’t want to de-masculinize you. So stop crying about it on the internet.

The other day, I was at a bar with my friend, Zorn, and our other friend’s mom. The stomping grounds were quiet, so we birthed bloody into the night a raging debate about gender. Only, it took us a while to realize we were on the same side. Zorn—a pretty unique dude, rat prince, runaway, the wiser the better—was trying to explain that mine and Bea’s (the mom) examples of “anti-feminist” behaviors were essentialist and conversely anti-masculine. Initially, I didn’t understand. I was all bent out of shape because I dig that boy and I thought he was trying to tell me that my experiences weren’t legitimate. Also: he’s a fighter, yeller, etc. We had to slow down and learn the rules of listening—all of us. Eventually, once I realized what Z-baby was trying to say, I broke it down like this:

Bea and I both have worked jobs in which we were approached as men typically approach attractive women. IE: Heya baybay…lookin good in that uniform. etc. Yet, when we began to out perform the dudes/demonstrate our personalities—both of us being quite silly, fun-loving, yet take charge ladies—they denigrated us. They maybe called us bitches. And, they made us feel as though unless we are capable of acting like beautiful objects rather than real, hard-working people, then we weren’t fit to be women.

Can you see how Zorn would have interpreted that? He’s right in saying that our sample of men was small, that we might have made it sound as though all men are bad/denigrate women. But, here’s how I rationalize mine and Bea’s experience:

We live in a house. And, in the house, there are some things ok for women to do, and some things ok for men to do. Because we’ve been living in the house so long, it’s a little engrained in us to just naturally do these things. That’s called gender. While some people are perfectly okay performing the tasks assigned to them, others don’t understand the house. Others don’t see the reason for the house. There’s such a beautiful sky out tonight. When women (and men) cross the gender line, no one knows how to react to them. Women doing what was traditionally men’s work have to be framed by men in the only way they have ever learned to interact with women. Thus they are often sexualized. But if they can’t dig that, men don’t know what to do—especially if the woman does the job better. In this way, women (and men crossing lines) get compartmentalized and labeled bitches (or fags.)

So, how do we change that?

The fact of the matter is, a lot of people don’t care. Even women. It’s easier to make something from a box. To use a stencil. It’s less time consuming.

But, for those with qualms, those made uneasy in the shadowy recesses of the house, I suggest certainty. I mean, if you’re off put by gender expectations, then you have to seriously commit to living your life outside the box. Make yourself an example. I’m not saying you can’t be a mama. I’m not saying you can’t be the toughest, hairiest, Paul Bunyonesque dude ever. It’s more about support. Don’t laugh at jokes about women, or sexy queers, or racism. Be prepared to address supervisors who are not acting appropriately. Be prepared to start a million small fires.

That’s how you burn a house to the ground.

Baby Boomers & Hipsters: It’s How You Face the Music that Counts; or Maybe Hipster isn’t the Right Word.

5 Jul

Heya, quirky sweethearts.

Most of you reading this fall into that age gap where you remember Harriet the Spy and probably read Ramona books growing up. And, it might seem silly, but I want to start off this post asking you to fish through your memories, sift through your parent’s stories, your grandparent’s stories, and tell me what consumerism looked like from the baby boomer perspective and forward. I mean, post WWII folks consumed more butter than Paula Deen, they bought new furniture, new clothes, cars, houses, etc. Being young meant making a path for yourself in the world, a highway scattered with the flora and fauna of Fridgidaire and Ford.

take take take, eh?

And now, when faced with their past decisions, the baby boomers have begun to question their legacy. Forbes magazine conducted a poll back in 2009 asking the boomers what they believed their legacy to be—and just under half responded, “Ushering in an era of consumerism and self-indulgence.” However, the author of the article makes sure to point out the disparity in the era of the boomers. While other decades were united by massive events such as WWII and the Depression, boomers were divided by “Incendiary topics including the Vietnam War, civil rights, women’s liberation, sexual freedom and drugs.”

 

It’s also important to note the spread of media at this point in time. Look at the way marketing advanced and TV audiences became the prime targets of ads promoting consumerism. In putting all these things together, I wonder if this generation’s stratification and social climbing was a side effect of rampant acknowledgement and fear of differences coupled with television’s ingenuity. Do you see how purchasing the same goods as the people you respect makes you respectable—read, one of them? Then you can see how consumerism became a way in which people climbed social ladders both allying themselves with those they desired to represent and distancing themselves from the those  they disliked.

Now, my plan in this essay isn’t necessarily to hate on the hungry dreams of my grandparents. Rather, I’m making a verbal Venn diagram between them and myself. I’ve come to realize that I want to understand individual motivation and how that translates into social change or even large scale lifestyle movements. I mean, the Forbes article goes on further to explain the poll by breaking its pool down into demographics. This complicates the idea of most boomers being obsessed with commercial behavior and upward movement. The author points out that women and people of color tended to respond by choosing the more positive legacy option: “Helping to bring lasting change in social and cultural values and ending a war.”

seriously? I can only imagine being a woman in the 60’s and seeing this. Incendiary is right.

This probably seems like a convoluted break-down of an easy topic. But, I wanted to work through it because I’ve become interested in the lifestyle of the modern hipster, who falls into such a category, and what they are doing for the world. It’s not as unrelated as it seems.

Continue reading

“Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible!’ ” -Audrey Hepburn

26 Jul

So.

Here I am at work, trying to figure out my schedule for school this fall. It is pretty crazy: being a full time student, working two jobs, and balancing interpersonal relationships. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be this good at multi-tasking again. Really, truly, more than likely…

this is my golden age of getting shit done.

I’m really enjoying it though. I’ve learned how to take time for myself amidst all the things that need/want my attention. I’ve learned how to balance, something very near to my heart [me being a libra and all].

I wonder if anyone else feels like they can only get things done now. Right now. Exactly here it must be finished and perfect. Ya know?

I mean, I know plenty of pessimistic, procrastinators. I used to be one. But, at this point in my life I just want to excel. I want everyone to be happy with me and what I am doing for them. Sure, that’s a burden and it’s not necessarily even my responsibility. And how can I expect to continue doing things like this [writing, this blog, restoring a house, working, going to school]? Then I am reminded of friends like Christopher Newgent and our own Ashley Ford who continue to do all the things they want and most of the things people want of them.

They are two that truly know the secret to balance. [Perhaps…and even if they don’t, they are certainly putting on a convincing show.]

I suppose our quest now should be to devise a plan for balance, or at the very least, a sort of sketch that each person can take and shape to fit them.

The first and foremost rule: YOU’RE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU.

The second most important thing: Stay active. While it’s ok to take time for yourself and even something that I consider incredibly important, you need to participate in life. INVESTIGATE. Note the word “invest” tucked in gently. By considering details, you are investing in life. You are striving to avoid complacency.

Finally: Organize. Everyone needs a method of evaluating and ranking tasks. Everyone needs objectives/goals. And how you go about deciding what is worth your time is entirely up to you. But, it needs to be done if you are truly going to stay invested in your life and your plans.

What does everyone else do to stay fulfilled and busy and a part of something?

Is it more or less important to you?

Make this a discussion, I’m interested in what y’all have to say.

The Life of a Former Baby Genius

25 Jun

*It feels good to be back. Get ready for our new website design which should go live at the end of July. Love you all. Now read the post.

Lavender is my fave

My best friend is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met.

She got pregnant with my god-daughter, Aubrey, our junior year of high school and still graduated valedictorian. She gave birth to her son the summer after graduating from college (in four years) and started her first f teaching position about two weeks later. Then, she started and finished her Masters degree in two years–all while teaching ESL students full-time. This is normal for Ashley.

When we were seniors in high school, Ashley got in my face. That was not normal for Ashley. We were walking to class, she was telling me she was beginning to worry about another girl in our class who had been steadily creeping up our class rank and was clearly trying to graduate with that precious V. Ashley had held tight at number one all four years, but this girl had recently crept up to number 2. Before the pregnancy, since our freshman year, Ashley told me countless times she was going to graduate Valedictorian then go to Notre Dame, possibly with a softball scholarship. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to work for it. So, when her beautiful daughter came along and at least two of those three goals went out the window, she put all her energy toward the first one–and being a good mother, of course.

I was listening to her that day in the hallway. I heard everything she said about this girl. Ashley is in no way a mean-spirited person, but she is pretty competitive. This girl was coming for her and Ashley wasn’t angry–but she was dangerous. I did not share her love of competition. I mean, I got it. She was raised by a football coach. Our high school’s football coach. I was raised by…well, my mother. Who is also not competitive unless it’s in an argument. A character trait I, unfortunately, inherited.

I always thought a big part of the reason Ashley and I were such good friends was having nothing to compete over, which is why she surprised me so much that day on the walk to class. She played volleyball and softball; I was all about band and theater. She wanted to be valedictorian; I just wanted to get into college. We were both into leadership, but were involved in so many separate activities, we were never trying to be leaders of the same organization. There was never any reason to compete. We didn’t even like the same kinds of guys! The only man we’ve ever agreed on to this day is Optimus Prime.

In-between her hissing venom about the rank-crawler, she turned to me and said, “This is kind of your fault.”

“Um. Huh?”

“You’re probably the smartest person I know and you just refuse to work hard for anything. I shouldn’t even be thinking about her. I should be trying to beat you for valedictorian.”

I was pretty damn dumbstruck. Let’s be honest, my entire educational life, my teachers have been telling me that I was capable of more than I was giving them. Didn’t matter if I got an A or B there was still a note: Good job, but not your best. Specifically not MY best. Maybe your classmates best, Ashley Ford, but not YOUR best. And yeah, they were right. You see those little standardized tests aren’t just used to pinpoint and label the children who are a bit behind, they also stick a big fat gold star next to those students who might be baby-geniuses.

That’s right, Lucky Reader. You are now skimming the words of a bona fide baby-genius.

For all of elementary and middle school, I was given tougher books to read and more difficult spelling lists than my classmates. Then, I had to go to another classroom with a few other kids like me so we could learn at a level that was less boring for us. They eventually had to start busing us to other schools with better programs they couldn’t afford to offer us for part of our school day. I was usually the only black child in my “special” classes and definitely the poorest.

When the other kids brought in reports they’d typed on their computers at home, or had money for lunch and didn’t have to whisper, “free lunch” to the cafeteria workers who then had to look up your name in a big orange binder, I was embarrassed. I made up for my uncomfortable poorness by making the other kids laugh. I spent more time doing that than working hard, which meant I got in trouble for not doing assignments, but these classes were about potential not production so I never reached my goal of getting kicked out of the program. I missed my poor friends at my poor school a lot. I hated being a baby-genius when I was a baby.

Hear this, dear reader: I’m not a genius. I was a precocious child, I was funny, I knew much more about life than I should have or was expected to. I was a child who loved to read. I am an adult who loves to read. When you start reading your mother’s novels in the second and third grade, your ability to retain information is going to be better than your second and third grade peers. I was not great a problem-solving, seriously, fuck a context clue, I was just an exceptional remember-er. This definitely helped in school, but I wasn’t going all Good Will Hunting on the homies, or nothing. I was a smart kid, no doubt about it. Maybe even a little smarter than most, but by no means was I, or am I, a genius.

Still, my teachers, professors, mentors, and best friend were/are right. I haven’t done enough with my potential. I’ve settled in the most terrible way. I’ve settled for myself. I’ve rationalized my way into a life that’s nice, but not great. Instead of seeing stepping-stones, I see flat surfaces to rest on. Indefinitely. Not because I have no motivation, not because I don’t have desires. I do this out of a very real fear.

My greatest fear is actually having all that baby-genius potential firing through me, combining it with my secretly stubborn motivation, maybe even a little new-found competitive spirit, that elbow grease (which may actually just be cocoa butter) and missing every mark. What if I have to look into the faces of every person who pushed me up and up and up and see nothing there but disappointment in a fail investment. People are INVESTED in me. My life, my accomplishments, my failures matter to people.

I’m at this place in my life right now where I’m tired of giving people 75-90%. I’m not an adult genius, but I am kind of smart, and Haven Kimmel winked and told me I was “funnier than most”. I’m ready to try to blow somebody’s mind. Maybe not everybody’s mind, but somebody’s. Maybe even, a few somebody’s. I’m ready to start giving my life a whole lot more 100% investment.  I’m pretty sure that’s what baby-genius Ashley Ford would have wanted, the ability to be smart on her own terms. I’m pretty sure that’s what people who love me want. It’s what I want.

I’ll make good on those investments.

Oh, Last Night. Oh, My Heart.

16 Apr

Handsome is one of my besties. He was at VGR in spirit.

– Last night was (obvs) the CHICKLITZ reading at Village Green Records, and my goodness, so many people we love came to support us, and wow, that was just lovely. Having Jill Christman (the spirit animal of CHICKLITZ) introduce us, and love us, and be there was amazing. Moms, sisters, fiancées, friends, professors, and heart-dwellers all shhowed up to stand in our corners! We performed separately, we performed together, we had others perform our pieces (Spencer McNelly is EVERYTHING) and we did it all nervously, but with so much love for everyone else in the room.

That chapbook was beautiful, the girls were gorgeous, and the crowd was full of eye-swelling faces, making me feel some kind of way, you know? There will be pictures soon. I just don’t have any. I brought my camera then got too excited to document much.

– I got my very first rejection yesterday. Yep, right before the reading. I didn’t say anything to the girls because it somehow didn’t seem relevant until now. I didn’t get upset about the rejection. They said they liked my writing, but this story didn’t really work for them. It was a personal rejection. That made me feel better. The best part? I didn’t die like I’d somehow convinced myself I would if I ever received a rejection. Either I’m gaining some confidence in my writing or–wait, no–that’s exactly what it is. I know I’m a good writer. I’ll find a new home for that story.

-Last night I dreamt I found out I was related to Oprah. Like CLOSE related. She was my aunt, or birthmother, or something. She came to hang out with me in Fort Wayne. I took her to Hyde Brothers book store. We browsed for hours, sometimes running to different ends of the store to find one another and read some passage in a book that made our bellies drop to our knees. If she was really impressed, she’d hold the book above her head and yell, “BOOK CLUUUUB!” The smile on her face would be wide and real, and I would not be embarrassed. Not even a little. My birthmother/aunt/muse/fellow-book-lover was giving me something like purpose and I just want to make her smile again. Off in search of the next scalp-blowing passage.

Without Ramona, Where Would I Be?

13 Apr

I am newly obsessed with looking back on my childhood and trying to pinpoint events or even cultural landmarks in my life that made me who I am today.  There’s one thing I almost always come back to:  Ramona Quimby.

From the ages of seven to thirteen, I would wager, I Ramona weaved in and out of my life.  I listened to Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” books on cassette tape to go to sleep almost every night.  I feel bad for the other kids in the New Albany/Floyd County area who might have wanted to listen to those tapes, because I almost always had them checked out of the library.  I also owned all the books.  I especially remember “Ramona Forever,” which was perhaps my favorite.  My copy of it was slender and narrow, and it fit in my back pocket perfectly.  I carried it around everywhere.

Ramona appears in twelve of Cleary’s books, first starting out in the Henry Huggins series as Beezus’s annoying little sister, and then growing into her own series of novels.  In order, they are:

Henry Huggins (1950)
Henry and Ribsy (1954)
Beezus and Ramona (1955)
Henry and the Paper Route (1957)
Henry and the Clubhouse (1962)
Ramona the Pest (1968)
Ramona the Brave (1975)
Ramona and Her Father (1977)
Ramona and Her Mother (1979)
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981)
Ramona Forever (1984)
Ramona’s World (1999)

Tuesday was Beverly Cleary’s 95th birthday, and the New York Times did an awesome piece on her to celebrate.  One of the things Cleary set out to do with her children’s novels was to write books that she would have wanted to read as a child.  From the NYT article:  “‘I longed for funny stories about the sort of children who lived in my neighborhood,’ Cleary wrote in one of her memoirs, My Own Two Feet.”  Cleary treated the children she wrote about the same way she treated the adults, and I think that’s important.  It was almost revolutionary in children’s literature at the time, and maybe it still is.  The problems that characters like Ramona and Henry Huggins and Beezus had were very real; she never passed judgment or trivialized them because they were children and “children shouldn’t have serious problems.”  She realized that kids aren’t stupid.

When Beezus and Ramona’s father is unemployed, it affects everyone in the family.  Ramona and Beezus are all too aware of it, trying to make things easier on their parents, stressing about the situation as much as mom and dad are, and attempting to ignore their own wants and needs, feeling they are a strain on their parents.  I think these are sentiments most children can relate to.  Hearing my parents argue about money caused many of my adolescent stresses and concerns.  Cleary scarcely differentiated between adult problems and child problems, and as a kid, it was refreshing to read that maybe me and my worries and opinions mattered more than I was originally led to believe. Continue reading

Emily Dickinson Gets Drunk

12 Apr

(aka: unrelated post title…sorta)

Some things about living.

Last night, I was explaining to Lindsey that I want people to look at me and think to themselves, wow, she looks exciting! I am always wondering how people can look exciting…I mean, I have tattoos. I kiss my lady in public. But, what else is there? Sometimes, I think that I am moving too fast for people to even see me, let alone formulate an opinion about me.

I used to cross my arms hard over my chest. My  mother told me she never worried about me being kid-napped, I looked so tough. Now, I still do that thing… that thing where I intimidate people by staring too long. Where I move so quickly, no one can see me. I’d like to call it a compulsion: the itch to constantly move. I’d like to say it’s ADHD. But, I’ve never been tested. I don’t take any prescriptions. I thought the other day how people just want to sit still with me for a few minutes. But, those minutes feel like hours. My brain strains and screams, you’re wasting time!!!

Continue reading

My Inability to Read the Word “Ego” Without Thinking “Eggo Waffles” Is Not Important Right Now

11 Apr

I was part of a spontaneous reading Saturday night held in a campus parking lot, which was one of the most personally enjoyable readings I’ve gone to/read at in a long time.  (I think Elysia might put up videos from it.)  No scheduled lineup, no real promotion (two text messages + word of mouth), no emcee, no stage or podium.  Just boozy kids yelling O’Hara and xTx and our own stuff from a concrete ledge down to our friends, who yell back FUCK YEAH and MUNCIE.  Or stand quiet not because we’re polite but because we’re wowed.

 

The lack of expectation or competition or domination of one or a few personalities was insanely refreshing, as was the goofy and genuine affection we all had/have for each other.  This, this shared love for words/stories and people who love them is what drew me to poetry in the first place, and eventually the contemporary indie lit creature with it.  This reading might have been the best thing for my wordy heart since the first reading I ever attended, held in a martini bar two years ago, my first experience hearing my peers’ poetry and wanting to create similarly laugh and thought-provoking writing.

 

In the past year my writing head has shifted from “how can I entertain people at a reading?” closer to “how can I get published in (this or that kickass journal)?”  (The difference between the two mindsets was especially clear to me Saturday as I was printing lyrics to Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” to close my set.)  I don’t think that’s necessarily good or bad so much as just something to be aware of and act accordingly, now that how I think about audience has changed.  And the change makes sense, given goals I have for myself.

 

Continue reading

My love affair with television is one for the ages.

30 Mar

Okay, guys, I know I wrote recently about how I don’t “get” romantic love.  But there is another type of love that I do get.  I’m always the type of person to find pieces of pop culture and fall madly in love with them.  Songs I’ll listen to until I can’t hear them ever again, movies I’ll watch until I know every line, hours spent on Tumblr looking at cast pictures and reading what other people have to say about my favorite TV shows.  I’m obsessive, and mostly unapologetic about it.

Case in point:  I went through a pretty intense “Star Wars” phase (we’re talking posters, action figures, books, an actual lightsaber, a fan club membership… everything).  I was ostracized and ridiculed for it (particularly by one “friend” who is actually just a miserable human being) but I always tried to be honest about my obsession.  It was the purest kind of love.  It made me have swoopy stomach feelings thinking about it, I daydreamed about being a Jedi in class, I drew lightsabers in my notes like girls might write “Mrs. Justin Timberlake” in their notes.  I have a framed photo of me standing next to a Darth Vader and R2-D2 made of Legos (it kind of looks like a prom photo, no lie).

That's not me, but you get the idea.

Eventually my “Star Wars” fervor cooled down and I became interested in much cooler things.  Indie music, classic literature, foreign films, and all that pretentious shit.  I was still a pop culture obsessed dork, but I had diversified.

Except for when it comes to television.  I am in love with television.  I think it is the perfect artistic medium.  I think we’re in a Golden Age of television.  I think that television is a great way to bring about social justice and understanding.  When I picture my perfect job, I picture a job in television.  Let me expound on this. Continue reading

take #2

29 Mar

Guys,

interweb world,

It’s Elysia and I have a few things to say. (no collective sigh).

It was brought to my attention this afternoon that my earlier post could be misconstrued as offensive. So, I took it down. I am trying again. Stay with me readers. I will do my best to explain.

So, the main point of my post earlier was to teach people to think before they speak–I am trying to take a dose of my own medicine, here–and it’s time we get back to that original thought. The premise of my first post was that I had a conversation with someone I know about my choice to pursue Creative writing as my major and surprise surprise, I found myself offended. Now, keep in mind, it is important not to fly off the handle when offended. Don’t go out and publish a blog post for the whole world to sit and read and then think, hmmm I wonder who set that bitch off. Because, that is not the point. So many times, we ask questions of each other that are offensive and we don’t even realize it. My friend Natalie brought up the point, asking a writer how they plan to make money is almost the same as asking a med student how they plan to have a family and a life. Well, in both scenarios, it’s probably not appropriate to ask either questions. Really, maybe the writer doesn’t care about money and maybe the soon-to-be doctor doesn’t want a family.

That being said.

I am going to focus on the writer now.

If you are interested in finding out why a writer wants to write when, of course, there are so many more lucrative industries out there, then first things first:

1. watch your tone.

I know that I, as a writer, don’t want to be made to feel that my goals and dreams are not worth it. I don’t want to be made to feel insignificant because I don’t want to pursue business or math or science. And all it takes is some one with a poor tone asking a simple question to make me feel that way.

2. pay attention.

When people genuinely ask me a question, I will answer genuinely. But, I don’t want to repeat myself 70 different ways. If I say that I want to write flash fiction…and you don’t know what that means…ask me. I don’t want to have to continually explain that, no I will not be getting my novel published anytime soon.

3. keep in mind that money is a hard subject.

Don’t ask a writer how they plan to make a living. Please. That’s probably the most difficult thing to hear. I for one, will most likely get a 9-5 job until I finish my MFA. But, others won’t. Others will go straight to grad school. Others will be teachers. Others keep writing as a hobby. And others, they make writing their life. They blog, they copy edit, they find the ways to do what they love and have what they need. That is commendable.

Now. I’ve given a few things to avoid and I’ve tried to do it in a way that is straight-laced and up front. I want to be a writer. I don’t want to be a nurse, or a secretary, or a fast food worker. My job that is not writing, doesn’t define me. The questioners out there. The ones who don’t understand us…our passion for words, our apathy toward mainstream culture, our drive to do something that may appear meaningless…to those people, I advise not to ask anything. You don’t want our job and we will never want yours. Understand that. Accept it.

Now,

thanks folks for reading this. Feel free to ask whatever you want below. I will do my best to answer.