GuRu by RuPaul A Book Review

So to end out the week, I am opting for a lighter tone. Something that is  more fluff and feel good. Without further ado…

RuPaul

I realize that when you talk about RuPaul to the LGBTQ community you get varied responses. She is idolized by some and hated by others, but you cannot deny that she has been a major influence on LGBTQ culture for over 20 years. That is saying something. It is not often that any trend really survives in gay culture or any culture. From here meager beginnings as a go-go dancer to her stellar level of fame in RuPaul’s Drag Race, she is an indominable force. I was first introduced to her by the first love of my life in a movie titled Wigstock and have been an ardent fan ever since.  Coincidently, she is also the reason that I have been a huge drag fan, well that and because my first love was a drag queen, as well.

RuPaul Charles has built an empire around the brand of RuPaul. Music, movies, tv shows, podcasts, makeup, and now literature. Her newest work is called GuRu. It is simply a pocket-sized book that acts as a fearless and fabulous compass for your journey. It is filled with pages that offer brief glimpses into what created RuPaul’s fierceness and combines it with quotable outtakes to help you see things from a different perspective. It’s less the how to live manual and more of the “let’s have a kiki and dish some tea” perspective. The often-simple insights really just point us to remember that life isn’t as serious as we often times make it out to be.

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We live in a world that is so fast paced and “in our head” focused that we have forgotten that part of life is the show person side. This book helps in remembering to take care of yourself with those show person moments. The forward is simply titled “Everybody Say Love” and it is that simply phrase that can be some impactful. Love is the one gift we all need and the one gift that is much better given than kept. Simply allowing ourselves to love who we are can change our view on the world. I know, I know that sounds like some Dr. Phil bullshit right there, but that doesn’t mean it is any less true. We are told daily we aren’t good enough and that there are other people better. Many of us have come from abusive pasts that beat us into submission where we cannot see any good in ourselves. That is the lack of love

Yes, many of the quotes and sections can be kitschy, but there can be nuggets of truth found in each one. Take the quote on the inside cover, “By Fixing Only One Piece of the Jigsaw Puzzle, You’ll Miss Seeing the Whole Picture.” That is a great truth, when we focus on one small issue, we may be missing the larger that is causing the problem. Someone makes a negative comment to you while you are out shopping and you obsess over it, you can believe that person had the audacity to say such a horrendous thing. That in turn causes you to neglect more important issues, you’re being upset takes away from you focusing on driving in traffic and you make a lane change without looking causing an accident. All of this from one simple action, okay fine that is an over simplification, but the point is still valid.

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There are some great nuggets of wisdom in the book that I truly like “The Phrase ‘Please Refrain From’ should be replaced with ‘Bitch, Please’.” A simple statement that means do not let anyone or anything hold you back. If someone tells you that you cannot do it, it should become your opportunity to not only go ahead and do it but show them why you were meant to do it. My second favorite is, “Folks gonna talk shit about your anyway, so you might as well just go ahead and do your own thing.” That statement doesn’t need much clarification. We are a judgmental society, each of us, and it should not prevent us from living “our” lives in “our” way. After all, we won’t be answering to the nay-sayers of the world.

If you are looking for some sage new perspective on life and how to fix it, then this book isn’t for you. It is written with the whole concept of trying to show you that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Remember that you aren’t getting out of it alive, anyway. I really enjoyed the book and it is a quick read. Lots of chuckle moments combined with sharing of personal experiences that shaped RuPaul’s journey upward. I will leave you with one of RuPaul’s quotes and it is one that I truly believe in.” Never pass up on an opportunity to wear a fancy outfit, even if you’re the only one who appreciates it.”

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Code Switching

You wake up tomorrow morning and make your way to the shower, as usual. You stand there as the hot water cascades over you melting away sleep and you begin to compose yourself for the day ahead. You start thinking about how you are going to interact with various people throughout the day and you start planning what words you will use with each person, carefully dodging specific words that may talk about your life outside of work. As you towel off, you start thinking about how you are going to dress. What shirt, pants and accessories you are going to wear, careful on the image they present to anyone who make take in your appearance. As you start to move through your day, you are overly cautious about your handshakes and meeting people’s eyes making sure you do not linger too long. After all, you don’t want them assuming something or passing a judgement on you. You may have a doctor’s appointment and even there you actively prepare what you are going to tell them, making sure you don’t say certain words about your personal life, so as not to be judged. At work you consciously alter your vocal patterns or how you stand so people don’t make an assumption or react negatively to you. Every thought, every action, and every reaction scrutinized to make sure you fit in. Unfortunately, this is something that many LGBTQ people face daily.

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Sure, there have been positive changes over the years. We have made strides in LGBTQ equality, but sadly the trickle down effect to small towns or small communities aren’t felt. Many of us are gripped with fears in many days to day things that most people take for granted. We have pockets of sanctuary where we can be ourselves, without recourse. One of the biggest fears many of us have is holding hands with our partner in public. That simple act of affection has been enough, in recent news, to get couples beaten almost to death. In May of this year, a couple in Denver was stabbed for holding hands. They were taunted with homophobic slurs and attacked within blocks of their house, simply for holding one another’s hand. The man who attacked him was arrested but the police were investigating the charges. January 1st of this year, four men attacked and beat a gay male couple for holding hands. The four men have not been arrested or charged.

Transgender people constantly deal with the fear of using public restrooms. The backlash of a simple choice can have far reaching implications. The general public feels that they will be some type of sexual predator. There has been no reported case of any cisgender person being attacked by a transgender person. Also, there have been no reports of cisgender men pretending or dressing as the opposite gender to prey on anyone. Unfortunately, many cisgender people have the belief that transgender people are pretending to be what they are to prey on someone. January 10, 2019 two cisgender women were arrested and charged with sexual assault of a transgender woman in a bar in Raleigh, NC. The transgender woman had entered the restroom to check her hair and makeup when the two women began taunting her. They asked her questions like “do you have a penis?” One of the women lifted her shirt and asked her if she wanted to see her boobs. All three had exited the bathroom but one of the cisgender women continued touching and groping her stomach and buttocks. A bartender noticed the situation and asked her to stop, but the woman continued to harass the transgender woman.

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Being LGBTQ

Many don’t also realize that coming out doesn’t end with LGBTQ people. It is a constant thing that has to be addressed and that causes intense social anxiety. You worry about how someone will react to you and what will the long-term effects be. You may come out at work but as staff changes you have to think about coming out again. More work places are being more inclusive but if it is not communicated effectively, it can create stress. Companies cannot force an employee to have a mindset and while they may not openly oppose you for being LGBTQ, they may make small outward remarks that can create a negative environment. But there is the opposite side of that coin. Working so closely with people many start to feel a comfort level that gives them some ability to think they can ask you intimate questions that they would not necessarily ask their own counterparts.

One of the questions I have been asked more times than I can count, when I was in a relationship, is who plays the role of the woman? First, it seems that it is beyond the concept of heteronormative people to understand that as a gay male I don’t have to fall into the trappings of what they would consider a “normal relationship.” LGB couples do not have to be a “male” or “female” gender role, we can be and are fluid in how we express our love. Or the ever popular, “doesn’t anal sex hurt?” And it never fails that it is usually a woman who asks me that question. My response if usually asking them if their first time hurt? It is odd how people often think we are some alien creature that does not experience the same feelings and emotions they do.  

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It is as if because we are LGBTQ, we do not fit some mold that is predetermined by Caucasian heteronormative society. And because of that we are here to be on display like a rare animal at a zoo exhibit. Allowed to be inspected, poked, and prodded for the amusement and benefit of those observing us. Questions like “how do two women have sex?” or “Will you be my gay best friend, I need someone to help me shop?” First, Ireally don’t think asking someone about their sexual proclivities is appropriate, unless you are very close to that person. Secondly, if you aren’t paying me to be your fashion consultant, I doubt that I will want to stand around countless shops helping pick out an outfit that you are hoping I will tell you is FABULOUS on you. More likely, I will give you an honest opinion about it and you will not like it.

I am not trying to say that LGBTQ people suffer more than any other minority. Hell, LGBTQ people of all colors also have to deal with the imperialist attitude of the heteronormative Caucasian culture. Yes, it can be easier for many of us to slide by because the dominant culture tends to make sweeping generalizations based on their perceptions but make no mistake once they detect that there is a difference from who they are it is like blood in the water. Black men have said they notice when they walk down a parking lot that Caucasian women will clutch their purse in fear. I have watched Caucasian women pull their children close when they see me and notice the rainbow flag I may be wearing or inclination in my vocal patterns as if Iam some predator waiting to swoop in on their children. I have been called a fucking cocksucker and even had heteronormative men tell me to my face they are okay with me being gay as long as I don’t hit on them.

So, we may present an air of confidence to the world and that we are untouched by the stigmas that surround the larger percentage, but the truth is there are many small interactions with people that still cause immense about of fear or tension on a daily basis. Many people, even among our own community, take that for granted. We often beat ourselves up for feeling these feelings. We shouldn’t have to feel them, but it doesn’t change who we are. There is a quote from RuPaul’s book GuRu that says, “Folks are going to talk shit about you anyway, so you might as well go ahead and do your own thing.” I think it fits here as well. We can’t bog ourselves down but the judgement, we must move forward and be our best selves because we cannot change everyone’s mind. Be authentic to yourself and many people will see that and force their own change of mindset.

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We Have To Stand

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Normally I plan out most of my posts. I trying to find a topic that interests me and hopefully interests others, do some research, pull some sources, and write a post. Or I will scroll through some Ted Talks for moments of inspirations. After all, the reason that I write is to help others remember out history and hopefully make a few others think and lead to action.  However, after the news yesterday of almost 14,000 of our transgender brothers and sisters losing their jobs thanks to this inane transgender ban bill, I just don’t seem to have it in me to post one of the posts I had written before.

The very roots of a military organization dates back to the beginning of mankind, in reality. We have always banded together to protect our homes and people. IT started as a common good to ensure our survival. We have seen it move through history to become mandatory at times and some cultures that had an elite group of men and women to protect the powers that be. Most people considered it an honor to serve and protect their country and that even carried over to America. The military forces we made here were by the very people who sweated and bled to make sure their homes survived. Native Americans considered their warriors with honor and became a bigger honor to serve as a warrior and not kill an enemy, instead they counted coup.

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We have witnessed many changes to our military, over the course of this Country’s life. We have seen the Draft implemented, witnessed troops who served for the greater good be spit upon and shamed, watched women be able to serve openly beside their male counterparts and even the allowing of 18 years old people to sign up to serve. These weren’t always met with quick acceptance. It took until 1976 for women to be accepted into military academy and it wasn’t until 2013 that women were allowed at West Point. I remember the news in the 80s and early 90s about how the largely male military viewed women serving in combat. The debates about how they were too emotional to be able to make effective decisions. Not strong enough to have the backs of the rest of their squad, company, or platoons. But time after time, women proved they were as strong and stronger than the men they served with and while the resistance to them serving hasn’t went away, it is more accepted now than before.

LGBT people have had a similar struggle in serving. Almost twenty-five years ago, February 2, 1994 DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) was started. It was implemented and sold as a means for LGB people to serve without repercussions, but in actuality it gave a means to persecution. The military prides itself on rules and regulations, predetermined means of what something is or isn’t. Unfortunately, what is or is not a “homosexual act” is always up for interpretations and the military had final say so on it. Many men and women were dishonorably discharged from service over being homosexual. DADT lasted almost twenty years, September 20, 2011, before it was repealed. Finally, we were able to serve openly and with less fears or recrimination, in theory.\

During the time of DADT, we heard similar arguments to what women were faced with during their early battles. We aren’t emotionally able to serve, who wants to serve with a “faggot” who is staring at my backside instead of protecting my back, and worse. These fears haven’t really been alleviated, only pushed to the back. Not transgendered people are going through the same struggles. Our own Commander in Chief thinks they are not mentally stable enough to serve in our military. However, mental capacity is not viewed of heteronormative soldiers when they join. Ok sure, you take tests before you are allowed to join. I remember them, hell I tried to join the military when I was younger as a means of hoping I could cure the urges I had for men. The military puts more focus on physical abilities than mental. I guess that is completely okay since they are heterosexual men and women.

Wednesday I posted a link about the transgender ban and how the DOD did an independent research with the group RAND s a cost benefit analysis of transgender men and women serving in the military. No discernible cost difference was seen if the military took on the costs of helping a soldier go through transition surgery. No detectable strain would be put on the military for having them serve alongside of other soldiers, as long as they are doing their duties. No more could be asked of any soldier. Hell, they have been doing it for years already and suffering right along with serving.

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Our military doesn’t have the numbers it used to have and turning away competent and volunteering people who want to serve and protect their country is stupidity. All they ask in return is to be able to serve as who they truly are, a request that is no different than their heteronormative counterparts. Somehow our current government sees them as a threat, a threat in civilian life and in military life. The weird part is we cower away from that, instead we should remember that the government SHOULD fear its people. We have forgotten that we are part of the check and balances system. Too many of us live in the fear of the majority. Fear of the government, fear of their mindless followers/supporters. We watch violence played out against us daily, all minorities. If we want advancement and inclusion, we need to stop asking for scraps and fight for our place at the table.

We have got to stop watching from the sidelines. We have to move against those that would subdue us. We HAVE to come together as one body and voice. Division in our ranks isn’t helping us, we see what its doing but we just don’t seem to process it. Look around you and what is going on and make your voice heard. You are mistaken if you think the larger percentage views us as equal. Just because we have a larger presence on television and, for now, the right to marry doesn’t make us equal with the heteronormative society. We are still a part of their sideshow. Advocates or not, they will not make the change easily. We have to be there on the front lines. We have to get back to our roots of activism. To paraphrase a comic book, “We have to stand.”

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Ted Talk Tuesday

Greetings loyal readers, I apologize for not posting yesterday. With it being Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I felt it best to spend the day in contemplation about some of the words of Dr King. Also, to use his inspiration in looking at future posts. So for your enjoyment I am adding a couple more Ted Talk links for today’s post.

First up is LZ Granderson who sheds light on the Super Duper Gay Lifestyle and Gay Agenda. He shares, in no nonsense terms, what it means to be LGBTQ and misconceptions that the general populace may have. He discusses states where it was still legal to vacate you from your housing, fired you from  your job, and etc, for the simple thing of being LGBTQ. So, all you heterosexuals reading this, run for your lives. And for the LGBTQ click below to watch the Ted Talk, oh you heterosexuals can as well. Its a equal opportunity place around here.

 

The last Ted Talk today is from IO Tillet-Wright and Fifty Shades of Being Gay and how it applied to the life that IO lived. IO uses photography as a means to engage people in topics that are outside of their comfort zones. Topics that challenge your thoughts on sexuality, gender, and what it meant to be in this world as your true authentic self. Topics such as Prop 8 and how lines are blurred in identities. What it is like to live your life outside of any prescribed box versus what modern convention states that a person should be.

 

The underlying theme here is that our very own Declaration of Independence sheds invaluable light on what it means to be a person in this world. To live as who we are and how we interact with this wonderous world. Our forefathers gave us that inalienable ability when they came here, somewhere since that time we have lost our way. These people, not defined as an activist, show us the err of our ways. They state in simplicity on how it is to be ourselves and let others be who they are. We should celebrate our differences, not show hatred towards. I hope these two Ted Talks can shape some view you may have had and allow you to open up and realize that the limitations we place aren’t the ending of what it means to be human.

Dishing The Tea

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Hello Hunties, gather round while I Serve Some Tea. I have had people, even recently included, tell me that I always talk about “This Gay Shit.” You’re right I do and sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to. Truth be told I think we all need to focus on the human existence, but truthfully, we live in a world that pushing the segregation of others, even if it is do so without thinking. We are a minority group that has its own set of culture, speech/dialog, and behaviors, just like any other minority group. Our world is shaded by the experiences we have and doubly so if we live our lives out to everyone. So why do we get called preachy if we have pride in the who’s and what’s that make us who we are?

Sure, there are LGBTQ people who are perfectly content to ride the low-profile bench, to not stand out, or even have other take notice of the fact they are different. That is their way of life and no one can say it isn’t their choice, that the thing about life it is jaded by how we choose to live it. Then there are those of us who live life fully embracing who we are. We attend Pride events, we take part in activism in our own means of choosing, we live in the community and try to make it a little better. That, too, is our choice. We shouldn’t have to apologize for who we are or being excited talking about those difference to people. In a perfect world it wouldn’t matter if we chose to love and be with members of the same sex as us or partake in both, it would simply be an act of love shared among consenting individuals.

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Heteronormative society doesn’t exactly see it that way. Many are content with us as long as we aren’t always talking about our Gay Shit, but they never seem to fully be able to define what that really means. Does it upset you that I take pride in my culture? Maybe it is the fact that knowing and sharing our history is something I think is needed to help understand where we have come from and are going? Many times, I get my favorite response, which I am sure many of you have heard before but referencing a different minority group. “I’m not bothered by it because I have many gay friends, but…” Or the “I know what it’s like to kiss (insert sex here) because I was dared to once.” or “I kissed a guy/girl in college.” While these two instances may seem monumental or opening some earthy shattering revelation for you, they aren’t on the scope of what it would feel like to live it on a daily basis. The “I have a LGBTQ friend” always gets me as well, as you rarely ever see or hear about them, unless it’s to defend the fact that they are open enough to have said friend.

When you fall into the white, cisgender, heteronormative life, it is hard to truly understand what any other minority group may be going through. As equally as hard as it would be for me a cisgender, white, LGBTQ person to try and understand what it is like living as a person of color. We live in a world where it is still legal in 28 states to be discriminated against for being LGBTQ. I really don’t think people understand that. 28 states can decide if I have a job, a place to live, access to community resources, and recourse if any violence is acted against me. Sure, that means in 22 states we do have protections, but that can drastically different depending on the state and to what level. Out of the 50 states, hate crimes against LGBTQ people have not greatly diminished. But let’s not talk about the “Gay Shit.” We still move to neighborhood that are statistically LGBTQ for safety reasons or if we cannot find them, we go back into the closet to make sure we aren’t harassed or worse. How many times do you hear heteronormative people saying they had to move to a specific community so that they felt like that would not be targeted for some form of discrimination?

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One of the things that I have become most proud of is that I have been working to get an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce group to take office space at the place I work for and moving to get LGBTQ/Ally training for our organization. The organization I work for is fairly progressive, they already offer same sex benefits and give Racial Equity training to all of its employees, so for me I feel the natural progression was to have training that gave better insight on the LGBTQ community. A means to learn about discrimination and how to ensure we are fostering or pushing outdated mindsets to those we may come into contact with. After all, the business community touches all groups of people and we should be seeking to ensure that they are ALL welcome at the table. This has become very important to me, but there are those that do not share that sentiment.

Granted I am not a Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Barbara Gittings, or Christine Jorgensen, when it comes to activism, but I would like to think that I am doing a small part for moving things forward. I don’t expect my blog to be a major moving force forward, I am more content knowing that one person may find something the resonate with and help them through a struggle. These are the reasons that I talk about my “Gay Shit.” These are the same reasons that I will not stop. If it bothers you, I cannot apologize for that. What I can do is not waste that time on you. Because it would seem you have no desire to change where you are at in your journey. For that I am sorry, because no journey goes how we want or expect. We must be open to changing with the road and scenery. And that is Serving the Tea.

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Soul Food

Every now and then, it is good to just listen to words that help nourish the soul. Ted Talks are great for that, so check out a few and enjoy your weekend.

The first is Jok Church, originally from Stow, Ohio. Its short but very deep.

 

The next is Morgana Bailey and the danger of hiding your true self. It’s important to understand that we often times hide part of ourselves for reasons we self impose. Conformity becomes normal and hiding is how we cope with it. Each aspect of us is important to the very fiber of who we are, as a person. You may not want to be defined as a “gay” or a “lesbian” or whatever, but the very act of hiding what we are and not embracing it as a part of is can have just a severely negative aspects on our health and welfare. Not expressing and sharing it can also have consequences on others actions and welfare. Be an advocate, if not for someone else, be it for your own self and the effects it will have on your own world. Those very actions will cause ripples of change in the environment at large.

 

Lastly, Geena Rocero and her journey of coming out and becoming who she is as a transgender person.Its about the importance of not living by the boxes that others put us into. Gender is not the limitation of the labels imposed upon it. This is her struggle to become who she was supposed to be.

Spanking the Monkey or Flicking the Bean

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A recent study in May, which should come as a complete shock to everyone, released that LGB people masturbate more often than our straight counterparts, a whopping 23% more on average per week. This study was released by the pleasure brand TENGA, provider of male pleasure products. This survey also found that LGB people are more comfortable talking about sex and sexual behaviors. Again, this really isn’t a huge surprise, hell we have to make sure that our partners are comfortable with the same things we like and how we do them.

The survey was conducted between February and March and polled 18 countries, including the UK, the US, France, and Kenya. 86% of heterosexual people polled admitted to having tried masturbation at some point, while 97% of LGB people advised they had partaken in solo pleasure. While 71% of the Lesbian, Gays, and Bisexuals polled said they do talk about sex with their friends, only 42% of heterosexuals admit to discussing the matter. That in and of itself is a sad revelation of the world we live in.

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This survey is heavily skewed to UK numbers, as the research itself is from a UK company. This study found that more than one third of the UK population indulge in self pleasure weekly, there was no information for American engagement. The people polled were asked how frequently people masturbate regularly and they advised that they felt about 65% of the people did so weekly. The actual results from the survey show that it was actually 78% enjoyed it weekly. 49% of the UK respondents believed that masturbation had health benefits. We do know that men who frequently masturbate are at a lower frequency of prostate cancer. As an aside there is a recent study from the University of Arkansas shows that more women have more frequent orgasms with other women than they do with men. The study was called “Are Women’s Orgasms Hindered by Phallocentric Imperatives?” and polled 2300 respondents. The results found that 33% more likely to orgasm with another woman and on average 55 times per month. This survey is cognizant that women tend to focus more on women’s pleasure than men seem to focus. This study shows that in women having sex with men that it is far more phallocentric, meaning that it seems to be more about the male receiving pleasure. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise either, since there has always been a long-standing urban myth about the best orgasms or know how to please a person is achieved from members of the same sex.

Let’s take a look at some habits from the UK respondents. 15% of the British population admitted to having pleasuring themselves during their commute, whether by car, plane, or train, I have seen the videos on YouPorn and the like proving that result and I must say I ain’t mad. In the US, that happens to, but it’s usually the creepy guy that is urinating in the corners. This shorty study also showed that Brits are the biggest users of sex toys at 28% with the US only trailing at 27%. Makes me wonder who were sent these questions.

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The study also did a bit of probing into Sex Ed teaching practices. These touched some topics that are heavily discussed in the news today. People ages 18 – 34 were asked if they discussed sexual consent during their Sex Ed classes and 40% said they had. People 35 – 54 were asked the same questions and only 22% said that topic had come up during their discussions. Same group of people 35- 54 were asked about sexual assault being discussed and a mere 9% said they remember discussing it. 15% of the people asked in the age group of 55 and above about discussing masturbation in Sex Ed and results showed that only 14% had discussed it (or remembered). 16% of 35 – 54 and 22% of 18 – 34 years old people had remembered discussing masturbation.

What we can see from this study is that trends area moving to be more progressive in discussing a broader range of sexual health and behaviors. It does seem that, per the usual, American seems to be on the slower side of that trend. It shows that the topic is still fairly taboo and needs to be addressed and brought more into the light. Conversations earlier in life can lead to them becoming a much more relaxed conversation with our sexual partners and people in general. It is hard for many men or women to have discussions with their physicians about sexual dysfunctions or concerns. This definitely should not be the case, there is no need for shame in discussing such an important part of our human condition.

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Personally, I am more comfortable discussing sexual topics with people and that changed a lot after coming out. Though I do admit to tailoring that to the comfort level of people that I am around, if you aren’t as comfortable, I tend to be or react similarly. How about you? Are you comfortable discussing these types of things with those close to you? Are you shocked by the results of this study? How does this study make you feel? Let me know in the comments below.