Jen Girdish

Writer, editor, reformed shut-in.

We have the luxury of being done with Ray Rice, but Janay doesn’t.

There’s a small, sinister tree by my front porch that I have to keep cutting back every few weeks. It’s an invasive species that pummels D.C. with seeds every spring. It found a vulnerable spot in my yard–between the gas meter and the foundation. Every time I try to dig it out of my yard, the roots seems more snarled and tangled, still searching for water. I’m always so surprised how deep they go. I keep cutting the new growth back so you can barely tell there’s a tree there where there shouldn’t be.

When I think about the psychological impact of domestic violence, I think about those tree roots: How hard they are to get rid of, how deep they go. Abuse becomes so entangled in your way of processing information and learning how to respond. The coping mechanisms and survival responses become part of your landscape. The human capacity to rationalize is really incredible. Even if you can finally rid yourself of the unwanted tree—which is a long and hard path—you can never really get rid of the roots. It’s not a complete metaphor, but it helps me.

I also keep thinking about Janay Rice and how glad we all are that Ray Rice is out of the NFL and off our TV screens. We’ve been so thankful that he paid the price and we don’t have to deal with him anymore.

Janay’s still in danger. In fact, now she’s in more danger than she was before the video came out. In terms of lethality, leaving is the most dangerous time. Not to mention that her privacy rights as a victim were violated by posting the video, so the world outside of the relationship may not seem any safer.

Just because we’ve seen punch (and it’s frustrating that it took the video and not just the facts for the outrage to start) doesn’t mean the abuse is over. It doesn’t mean that she can just pull up the roots of the abuse and leave, and it doesn’t even mean that he won’t try to physically harm her even if she does leave. It doesn’t work like that.

We have the luxury of being done with Ray Rice, but Janay Rice doesn’t.

Nine or ten rejected puns about Anne of Green Gables.

In the last half decade or so, I’ve come to think of titles like bras: necessary packaging, holding everything together. The last thing I put on. Lately when I have to come up with a title, my husband and I play a game: he throws puns at me until one sticks. It’s quickly becoming my favorite game.

Here is the rejected batch from my latest column.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Marilla?
My Aunts Make Me feel Like a Marillion Bucks
Anne Shirley Temple of Doom
Anne, Shirley You’re Joking
Like Aunts at a Picnic
You Say I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I feel like a Marillionaire
Marilla Gorilla
John Carpeter’s Ghosts of Marilla
Virtual Marillality
Marillory Clinton (or, Ready for Marillory SuperPAC)

Inside Llewyn Davis, cat pee, and trying to give up.

There was a professor in grad school who was, in a sense, the Bud Grossman of our department: poker-faced, a kind of tastemaker. In an attempt at some #realtalk days before graduation, she told our class to raise our hands. Then she asked all but two of us to lower our hands.

“Only two of you will go on to be writers,” as if we were in a discarded scene from Wonder Boys. “The rest are going to stop writing because of family or jobs. Or life.”

At the time, I was so annoyed about how cliched this moment was. I was so annoyed that she waited until graduation, until I was dressed in a cobalt blue vintage scooter dress specifically picked out to feel distinct, to give this speech. For someone who lectures on acuity, I was annoyed that she didn’t offer a clear definition of “being a writer.”

Even after graduation, it’s never been clear to me whether or not my hand is up or down. I wrote about that feeling, cats, and Inside Llewyn Davis for The Morning News.

What I cried about when I cried about Prince Avalanche.

the suspicious activity
  1. I’m so glad this isn’t Your Highness.

  2. Paul Rudd’s moustache is really working for him.

  3. I miss Texas.

  4. I miss every person I’ve ever known in Texas.

  5. The last time I cried about a David Gordon Green movie, I was 20.

  6. The last time I cried about a movie, it was Pacific Rim.

  7. I cried about Pacific Rim because I was in the Minneapolis airport and it was early in the morning and I couldn’t articulate why I liked that movie and no one else did.

  8. I don’t own a single pair of overalls.

  9. I feel guilty for being so emotional about a connection between two men. Why doesn’t it bother me that this doesn’t pass the Bechdel test? Should I save my emotions for the ladies?

  10. I also weeped at the end of The Heat and Francis Ha, does that make up for it?

  11. This soundtrack is pressing on my heart.

  12. This soundtrack is pressing on my heart.

  13. Just like Emile Hirsch’s character, I also don’t know how to fish or hunt or be a real man.

  14. Just like Emile Hirsch’s character, I, “quite realistically, could never amount to anything.”

  15. Just like Paul Rudd’s character, I crave unhealthy isolation.

  16. These yellow lines on the highway are so beautiful.

  17. I feel guilty that I find this scorched forest so beautiful.

  18. I feel guilty that I find devastation so beautiful.

  19. I might be 40 the next time David Gordon Green makes me cry.

Economy Home Sales: What A (Relatively) Lot of Money Buys

Jen Girdish cashes out of Columbia Heights.









Writer and armchair feminist blogger Jen Girdish bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse for an insane amount of money for her, an unfathomable about of money for others, and still pocket change for others. In Brookland (not to be confused with Brooklyn), the rowhouse features original cooling units (also known as windows) and street parking. Girdish writes about music from the early aughts and Keanu Reeves for anybody who will let her.

Texas Women Forever


When Wendy Davis stood in front of the Texas Senate for 13 hours on Tuesday, bearing the condescending questions of men without sustenance or relief, I felt a strange wave of homesickness. I missed Texas.

Even though I was born in Pennsylvania, and now live in Washington DC, I oscillate wildly between identifying as a Pennsylvanian and as a Texan. No one should let me get away with that: I only lived in Texas for two years, and that was long ago.

I was four the first time I met Texas. My mom, grandmother, and grandfather drove from Pittsburgh to Austin in a big blue Oldsmobile. I sat in the middle on a seat that my grandfather had made so I could see over the dashboard. I watched the land slowly become flatter, the foliage stranger, the skies wider, and when we crossed the Texas state line, I saw bluebonnets for the first time.

My aunt had promised me cowboy boots if I made it all the way to her house, and by god, was I really going to make it. I was in love.

We repeated this ritual most summers. Texas is where I saw my first 80s dance movie (Footloose), where I saw my first concert (the Mike Love-era Beach Boys), and ate my first taco. It’s where I overheard my aunt refusing to order from Domino’s because of their rumored anti-choice leanings, and where I learned that a woman could be governor.


It is where I first started to feel the tiny fractures of rebellion against my staunchly religious mother.

And Texas is where I went to live in the summers between college when mom got remarried and I didn’t have a home to go to. Texas is where I learned to cook. Texas is where I walked through the office of Detour Films and peeked over the shoulders of artists rendering Waking Life, where I started working in domestic violence victim advocacy. It’s where I learned to handle my liquor and published my first essay. Texas is where I served Ann Richards her lattes at the Starbucks on 5th and Lamar. It’s where I met David Gordon Green, Elizabeth Avellan, and where Ethan Hawke winked at me. Texas is even where I lost my virginity.

But more importantly, Texas is the place where I met the women who shaped who I am. The first day of my internship at the Austin Film Society, I paired up with a girl who told me two things about herself: she came from the armpit of Texas and she wanted to make films about women. We haven’t stopped talking twelve years later.

I remember when I first moved to DC—still the George W. era—a dude in a button-down shirt crisp with East Coast elitism boarded the Metro and bumped into an older man wearing a cowboy hat who was standing in his way. “Go back to Texas, asshole,” the dude screamed in his face. I was embarrassed for everyone involved, but especially for myself, because I always want to go back to Texas.

Texas can be a religiously oppressive, sexist republic. It’s where an 11-year-old girl was gang-raped and then suffered two court cases where she was repeatedly told she was asking for it, and where a high school student was kicked off her cheer-leading squad after refusing to cheer for her rapist.

But it’s also the land of Leslie Cochran, the bearded, homeless transgender person who annually ran for mayor of Austin, 21-year-old Emma Tenayuca who rallied thousands of striking pecan shellers in San Antonio, Juana Gertrudis Navarro Alsbury was one of the few Alamo survivors, and the home of music icons Janis Joplin, Beyonce, and Selena. As Barbara Jordan, the first southern African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives said, “I get from the soil and spirit of Texas the feeling that I, as an individual, can accomplish whatever I want to, and that there are no limits, that you can just keep going, just keep soaring.”

I learned about feminism in Texas. The friends I have in Texas—the women I’ve worked next to—have gotten me through death, abusive relationships, and found a decent tomatillo salsa recipe.

Texas is the place I have always run to when everything is broken.

But I’m not a Texan anymore. Not really. It’s something I have to keep saying to myself: you are not a Texan, you are not a Texan, you are not a Texan. Especially now that I bought a house in DC, and it’s not likely that I’m going to be moving back anytime soon.

That’s why I didn’t start watching Wendy Davis and her filibuster against SB 5 in the Texas Senate until late Tuesday afternoon. I knew what was going to go down at the Capitol, but I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t a Texan anymore, that it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t my fight. Coupled with War on Women Fatigue, I didn’t want to get involved. And then at 5:00 p.m., a friend all the way in Gainesville, FL asked, “Are you WATCHING this?”


It felt like I had been holding my breath all day. If my friend is watching from Florida, I can let go of the reins. This is my fight.

I couldn’t stop watching, and I haven’t been able to stop crying since 5:01 p.m. that night. I had friends over for dinner and let the filibuster stream in the background, and I hurried them out the door when Davis was challenged for getting help with her back brace.

If SB 5 had passed Tuesday night, it wouldn’t have affected me, or directly affected most of my friends. They are over 30 and have the means and privilege now to get an abortion in another state. Most of my friends in Texas would still have the ability to carry pregnancies only if they wanted to.

But the idea that these women I know, and those that I will never know, would have their bodies up for debate, and their choices taken away from them, is unconscionable. The idea that if this bill had passed twelve years ago, when I could barely make rent let alone imagine buying a house, kept me watching. Or when my friend found herself pregnant at twenty-one and didn’t have the support of her parents would probably not have been able to get a safe and affordable abortion. Or when a coworker who got the smallest raise I had heard of allowed herself the luxury to get birth control from Planned Parenthood.

I watched and symbolically stood with Wendy because it would affect a friend’s one-year-old daughter whose face is plastered all over my refrigerator, or because it would force pregnant victims of domestic violence to feel like there was even less hope.

I watched and read along on Twitter, offered unsolicited advice when several people I followed who didn’t know which Senators were allies using stall tactics and which were trying to stop the filibuster, and I lied awake in my bed into the wee hours of East Coast time watching men quibble over parliamentary procedures while Wendy Davis kept standing.

In the morning, I tried to describe what happened to my husband, who tried to fight off sleep but dozed off just before Senator Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” I tried to tell him what the resonance of 1,500 women screaming for their reproductive rights sounded like, how it filled the shadowy soft corners of the bedroom at 1 in the morning. But instead, I wept as I tried to find a something clean to wear to work.


Later, when I tried to describe those last 10 minutes of the crowd-sourced filibuster to a coworker, I choked up and couldn’t finish.

Tuesday afternoon, when the news reported that Rick Perry called for a second special legislative session on July 1 to pass SB 5, I also choked up. Partly out of rage, and partly because several of my friends rallied on Twitter, “See you at the Capitol!”

It doesn’t matter where I bought my house, this obviously involves me, this involves everyone.

I can’t wait until a time when everyone thinks of Texas as I do: the land of Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, Wendy Davis, and Leticia Van De Putte, and not Rick Perry, George Bush or any of the men on the floor of the Senate would dare to debate what women should do with their own bodies. These women from Texas are used to having their rights being so callously considered, and are too familiar with a few loud men trying to speak for everyone. They are also used to, literally, standing up for themselves. The special legislative session might pass SB 5 next week, Rick Perry can use all the “small words” he wants but the ladies of Texas will not yield. History promises you this.

Between a dead raccoon and a pile of manure.


walk your bike

On my long run this weekend, I came to an impasse with a couple of cyclists on a narrow part of Rock Creek trail. Two cyclists were barreling down the trail in the opposite direction. There was only room for one of us.

One side of the trail had a rather large pile of horse shit, and directly on the other side was a belly-up, rigamortised raccoon. The cyclists were about the same distance from the poop/raccoon as I was. I thought about going for the right of way, but then had all the advantages of momentum, the privilege of assuming nothing would get into their way. It also seemed a little dangerous to jump into their path, even though I was actually closer.

Cyclists on Rock Creek Park trail terrify me a little. More often than not, they  don’t warn you when pass you, quite a few don’t pay attention to the Walk Your Bike signs in the windier areas. In the world of trail user hierarchy, cyclists tend to assume trail privilege—runners are second class.

I stopped to let the cyclists go so I wouldn’t get pushed to the side and step in shit or trip over the dead raccoon. Who by the way, actually had his tongue out like an IRL Wile E. Coyote cartoon. The cyclists took their time—at least 20 seconds. When you’re trying to run under a 9:30 minute mile, 20 seconds is a lot of time. I used to think the worst odor to inhale on a run was cigarette smoke and coffee, but I was wrong. It’s a cocktail of manure and rotting road kill.

I was pissed that I let them assume the right of way. I don’t hate cyclists, the ones I know are great people, but cyclist entitlement is a problem.

I thought about Adria Richards and the price of speaking up about sexism. Especially, when the other side has the momentum of privilege behind them. When a woman speaks up, she often has the option of stepping in shit or on a dead raccoon. She’s overreacting, she’s a bitch, or worse—she doesn’t have a sense of humor. She even gets fired, or receives death threats and rape threats. Or people spend 1,000 words talking about what she should have done differently, instead of focusing on what the people who made the sexists comments could have done differently.

It can be a lot safer to stand still and do nothing, and wait for it to pass.

But when you don’t say something, is it really any safer to stand next to a pile of poo?