(56) From Irresponsible Ejaculations to Shiplap with Gabrielle

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Gabrielle Blair (aka “Design Mom,” and the person behind the viral Twitter thread about the actual root cause of abortions) talks with me about how we prioritize male pleasure even at an extreme risk to women, men’s aversions to vasectomies, easy ways to make our homes more functional and enjoyable during a pandemic, and more, in this whiplashy episode.

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Brandy: Hello Adult Conversation Podcast listeners! From irresponsible ejaculations to shiplap, this episode’s got it all. Joining me is Gabrielle Blair, also known as “Design mom,” and the person behind the viral and mind blowing Twitter thread about the actual root cause of abortions (and it might be irresponsible ejaculations). Gabrielle talks with me about how we prioritize male pleasure even at an extreme risk to women, and just how ridiculous that is. We also discuss men’s aversions to vasectomies, and how to talk to your husband about getting one rather than putting all the birth control labor – and actual birth labor, too – on you. And then we totally change topics and Gabrielle shares her design expertise by giving us easy ways to make our houses (which we never leave anymore) more functional and enjoyable during a pandemic. Weird times! Oh, and I also cracked the code about why Target rules so hard.

Brandy: I want to give a special nod to my Patreon supporters. Thank you all for being my ride or dies. If you want to become one of my ride or dies, go to patreon.com/adultconversation. It’s super cheap, but it makes this podcast possible. On to the show.

Brandy: Today on the podcast, you may experience whiplash with the different topics we’ve got going on. And it’s because my guest is an all around badass, who not only wrote an amazing book called Design Mom: How to Live with Kids, A Room By Room Guide, and has a successful blog and social media following to go with it, but she is the lady behind that amazing Twitter thread that said, quote, “If you want to stop abortions, you need to prevent the disease, meaning unwanted pregnancies. And the only way to do that is by focusing on men because men cause 100% of unwanted pregnancies. Or, irresponsible ejaculations by men caused 100% of unwanted pregnancies.” It’s a work of genius, and we’re gonna unpack it today. And she’s also got six kids. So welcome to the podcast, Gabrielle!

Gabrielle: I’m really glad to be here. What an introduction. Thank you so much.

Brandy: I know, don’t you love your introduction including “irresponsible ejaculations” Did you ever think you would be introduced with “ejaculations?” Maybe you did.

Gabrielle: {Laughs} It is shocking to me how often I say the phrase “irresponsible ejaculations” in my life, for the last two years. I would never have guessed that that was gonna be a big part of my life. But there it is.

Brandy: See, if I were you, I would be shouting this at my husband all the time just for laughs, and maybe it wouldn’t go over so well, but I feel like you’ve got this piece of comedy, and you just use it until the day you die.

Gabrielle: Exactly, exactly.

Brandy: I’m so excited. Thank you so much for joining me today as we jump around to your different areas of expertise, like how to really prevent unwanted pregnancies, and also how to make your living space clean and bright if you do have a child unexpectedly! So we have both things covered, we have here’s how to not do this, but then if you do, here’s how to make your house very organized and — all the things.

Gabrielle Blair: {Laughs}

Brandy: But before we go any further, what do the listeners need to know about you?

Gabrielle: I think that’s such a great question. I would say, I am often told at conferences or in real life situations, when I’m interacting with people, they’ll say, “Oh, you’re so calm. You’ve got a lot going on. But you’re so calm,” and it catches me off guard every time. Because I am not calm. I mean, my brain is not calm on at – all those things you’re talking about, you know, jumping around to different topics – my brain is doing that constantly. I’m just constantly processing and making lists and mentally all over the place. So it shocks me that I present any kind of calm demeanor to people. But there it is. That’s what I’ve been told.

Brandy: You totally do, even in our first little exchange before we started started recording. You do have a very grounded presence. So what’s going on behind the scenes is like a scurrying, a quiet scurrying. That must be exhausting. Or is it? Is it hard to present differently than what your inner world is?

Gabrielle: So I don’t feel the presentation difference is hard for me, but I do feel like I have to manage what’s in my head. So I bring a notebook wherever I go with a pen and I have my phone handy to take notes. If I can get what’s in my head out of my head and onto some other surface where I can refer to it later, that really helps my brain.

Brandy: Okay, yes. And this relates to something that I was talking about recently with some people, and I don’t know if you have anxiety, but I was thinking about how overwhelm, irritability too, but overwhelm sometimes can present itself as anxiety. And for people who have mild anxiety, and I would call it functional anxiety, sometimes that can be a harder place to be than somebody who has full-blown anxiety, because that’s clear to everybody else. That’s clear to the person that, “I can’t live like this. I’m having panic attacks.” But when you have somebody who has a functional version of that, it can go on for so long, because it’s so hard to tell what the difference is between, “Oh, I have an overthinking personality, versus I have a mild or moderate anxiety.” That’s just something that I’ve been thinking about lately, and talking to people about and so I just wondered what your take on that was.

Gabrielle: Well, super interesting. I wish I knew more about anxiety. I do not, although…

Brandy: No you don’t! No you don’t, you don’t want to know more about it. It’s not great.

Gabrielle: I do know about depression, I take medication for my depression every day. And I know those two can often be related. So if a doctor were to tell me that I also have anxiety going on, I guess it wouldn’t shock me too much. But, whatever I do know about anxiety, I not recognizing that in myself. Again, I don’t know a lot about it. So it’s very possible.

Brandy: Yeah.

Brandy: I once somebody recently told me that depression and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. And I thought that was kind of interesting.

Gabrielle: Very interesting. Yeah, yeah. I can see that.

Brandy: Okay, so I would love to start with this Twitter thread. And I don’t know if it’s possible, but can you sum it up for us, especially the part about male pleasure. I considered reading it here, but it’s super long – but it’s so good. And I remember the moment I was reading it in my kitchen, so I thought maybe you can hit the major points for us, is that possible?

Gabrielle: Yes, I will do my best. And it is a long involved thread, it takes 15 minutes to read aloud, but I will do my best to give you some the talking points. Okay, I spend the first part of the thread going through female birth control and why women might not be on birth control, like why would a woman not be on birth control when she’s sexually active? And I kind of walk through some of the complications and why it can be so hard for women to get birth control. And then I contrast that with male birth control, which is essentially condoms. And I go through and kind of talk about the advantages and disadvantages of female birth control, and then of male birth control. And when you do that, if you’ve ever done that exercise, it becomes very clear how awesome condoms are and that they’re, well, they’re just incredible. Women are taking hormones every single day, even if they’re not having sex that day. And their egg is fertile for 24 hours, and they’re having to take medication every day, every day. Their sexual partner might be out of town for a week or a month, it doesn’t matter, you’re still taking this medication every day, or you have a shot or an implant or something that’s like feeding you these hormones, right? And with condoms, you only need them for those minutes you’re having sex. There’s no hormonal side effects, there’s really no side effects at all. They’re much more affordable than female forms of birth control. They’re available 24-7, you don’t need a prescription, you can often get them free if you drop by pretty much any college campus, or Planned Parenthood. They’re just really accessible.

Gabrielle: So I go through that and then basically say now when we consider that and how amazing they are, why wouldn’t a man just use a condom every single time he has sex, like what in the world? That’s just such a no brainer.

Brandy: Right. One of your points is that, like you said, a woman’s fertility window is really so small every month, and yet the male fertility window is every time they ejaculate – we’re gonna say ejaculate a lot.

Gabrielle: A lot, right. {Laughs}

Brandy: So it’s like, why are we making a woman do a daily intake of something that she maybe doesn’t want to take that maybe gives her lots of side effects, when when the male version of this would just be so much quicker and with no side effects?

Gabrielle: Right, exactly. So, a fertile male is fertile every single day, all day long, like they’re always fertile. So it’s bizarre, of course, in the history of birth control, that we ended up focusing on the women instead of the men, although I can see why that happened, obviously–

Brandy: Is it bizzare? {Laughs}

Gabrielle: So yeah, right. It’s not bizarre, but also it is from a medical standpoint, you’re like, why aren’t we focusing on the one that’s fertile all the time, that’s that’s actually causing the problems here? But basically, I end up asking the question, so why wouldn’t men use a condom every time? And the answer of course is because when men use a condom, they say that the experience can be slightly less pleasurable than without a condom. And, that’s been interesting as that discussion has happened, because those who have taken the time to learn how to use condoms correctly, will actually say, “No, no, it’s the same, there’s not really a difference, if you know how to use a condom correctly, if you have the right size, if you lubricate inside and outside the condom, your pleasure levels should be the same.” And of course, a lot of men don’t have the right size condom because they feel like they need to buy extra extra large, because that’s another weird thing– you know, there’s all sorts of like weird stuff around this. So basically, it comes down to men are choosing – and I don’t know if they’re consciously choosing this – but they’re choosing to put this their sexual partner, this woman, at risk – her social life, her income, her health, birth can cause a death, pregnancy can cause permanent damage to bodies. But they put all this at risk so they can experience slightly more pleasure, for the few minutes they’re having sex. And when you put it that way, of course, it’s shocking. And you’re like, “Whoa!” And a lot of men who read the tweet, were definitely kind of blown away that they hadn’t thought about it that way and were like, “Oh.” And you can see they’re going, “Oh, I’ve done that. I have chosen my own pleasure – and just a few minutes of my pleasure – over the safety, well-being, over the life of my sexual partner,” which is horrific. That’s a horrific thing to think of, and to do. And I even go on to say, “Look, if you really hate condoms, like, if you just cannot do it, there’s the pull out,” and everyone makes fun of the pull out. And I know pull out is not as effective as a condom, which is 98% effective if you’re using it correctly. But the Planned Parenthood site gives some stats on this, and the pull out method, again, if you learn to use it correctly, and we should expect everyone to learn to use it correctly, be responsible, and that’s not too much to ask. Women are asked to learn how to use their birth control correctly, from a very young age, you know.

Brandy Ferner

Gabrielle: So it is actually quite effective, and it’s just like built-in birth control men have, like they can always choose where to ejaculate. They always get to choose where they put their sperm. No one is taking their sperm from them and putting it somewhere against their will. I mean, that would be sexual assault, not sex. We’re talking about sex here, so they always can choose where to put their sperm, it’s always their choice. And even if they weren’t using a condom, they could choose not to put their sperm inside a vagina. And again, I ask the question, “So at the very least, why wouldn’t a man pull out before he ejaculates? And it comes down to, well it turns out, men would prefer to ejaculate inside a vagina than, say, on their partner’s stomach or into a tissue or wherever, an alternate location, because they would experience slightly more pleasure for the seconds that they’re having an orgasm. And, again, when you break it down like that, you’re like, “Whoa, have we really taught men, trained men, raised men to be that selfish?” and turns out that yes, we have, we have done that.

Brandy: Ugh, that was such an eye opener when you talked about okay, let’s say sex on the pleasure scale is a 10. And let’s say for some people who think condoms aren’t that great, let’s say that sex is still pleasurable, but it’s like a seven or an eight. So that person is refusing to have their pleasure taken down to a seven or eight, which is still pleasurable.

Gabrielle: It’s still so pleasurable compared to not any pleasure at all. And, and what they’re putting at risk is just enormous. And we’re talking about minutes of pleasure. We’re not even talking about a week of pleasure or whatever, we’re talking about risking someone’s life for years, if a child is born. You know, just like, oh my gosh it’s insane what you’re asking women to take on so that you can experience slightly more pleasure for a few minutes. It’s crazy. It’s just crazy.

Gabrielle: And, you know, there’s so much cultural baggage around condoms, like long before they ever had sex, I I felt like I knew that, “Oh, boys hate condoms,” you know? “Oh, yeah, condoms are the worst.”

Brandy: Yeah.

Gabrielle: Like, why would I know that? Why would I even think that? It’s just such a bizarre thing.

Brandy: Yes. Oh my gosh, so you have a part of your tweet that I thought was really interesting. And you said, “What this means is a woman can be the sluttiest slut in the entire world who loves having orgasms all day long, and all night long, and she will never find herself with an unwanted pregnancy unless a man shows up and ejaculates irresponsibly.” Like that’s at the heart of it.

Gabrielle: Right, there it is. So I can orgasm in any woman or anyone with a clitoris can orgasm as much as they want, all day long, all night long, as many times they want, as many partners as they want. They cannot cause pregnancy. No matter how many orgasms they have, the only orgasm that can cause a pregnancy is a man’s orgasm. And of course, it’s fascinating when you put this all out there because everyone has an exception. They’re like, “Well, technically, you can ejaculate without an orgasm.” You’re like, “Okay, okay, okay, I realize we’re talking generalities here. Don’t be pedantic.” But as a general rule, ejaculating for men is a pleasurable experience. It’s accompanied by an orgasm, so getting a woman pregnant is a pleasurable experience for them. But for women, you can get pregnant without experiencing any pleasure at all. Sex isn’t always pleasurable for women. There are lots of women that, you know, have never had an orgasm, have never figured that out yet, or haven’t been taught to or whatever it might be.

Brandy: Or their men haven’t been taught how to do that well.

Gabrielle: Right, or their partner doesn’t know how to help them. And also, people are impregnated through rape and incest and all sorts of traumatic things. The woman doesn’t have to experience pleasure in order for her egg to get fertilized. But the man does.

Brandy: That’s so interesting that every fertilized egg comes from a man’s pleasure, but not necessarily a woman’s pleasure.

Gabrielle: No.

Brandy: It’s just an interesting thing to think about.

Gabrielle: Absolutely. And women’s pleasure is– the clitoris is this amazing organ that really only exists for women’s pleasure, it doesn’t seem to have any other function. The more they study it, the more they’re like, “Oh, this just exists for pleasure. That’s amazing.” But it doesn’t cause pregnancies. It can’t cause a pregnancy. It absolutely can’t, so the idea that women get blamed for this, that women are shamed for unwanted pregnancies, they’re blamed for it, the whole abortion conversation centers on women being slutty. Like, that’s basically what is happening there. And it’s just such nonsense. It doesn’t matter if a woman’s slutty or not. I mean, I hope she’s having sex with people who respect her, just for me personally, I hope that for her, I hope that for all women. Honestly, her enjoying sex, her having orgasms doesn’t cause unwanted pregnancies. It can’t cause a pregnancy, whereas men absolutely can and do cause pregnancies with irresponsible ejaculations.

Brandy: Yeah, you have on here, “Women enjoying sex does not equal unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Men enjoying sex and having irresponsible ejaculations is what causes unwanted pregnancies and abortion.” And gosh, you talk too about, “Let’s talk more about responsibility. Men often don’t know and don’t ask and don’t think to ask if they’ve caused a pregnancy. They may never think of it or associate sex with making babies at all. Why? Because there are zero consequences for men who cause unwanted pregnancies.” {Sighs} There’s just so much here. There’s so much to be angry about. And you have like, lined it all out, you know, just so perfectly.

Gabrielle: Thank you.

Brandy: Yeah, reading this – obviously, as somebody who considers themselves a feminist, I had never thought about it in this way. And I thought, damn, everybody needs to read this. And then I saw how many people were reading it, and I was so happy about that. So I’m curious, what was the response? Like, when this Tweet thread went out, did it go viral immediately? What did people have to say about it?

Gabrielle: It did. It was the first Twitter thread I’d ever written. Twitter was the first social media I signed up for us because it was kind of the first one that existed that was accessible to everyone, but then my crowd wasn’t really on there. I was a design blogger. And at first, you couldn’t even do images on Twitter. It just wasn’t a visual thing. So as my social media career was developing, sites like Instagram and Pinterest were a much better fit for my audience. So I had a Twitter account, but I didn’t really use it much. And then like a lot of people, when the election was ramping up in 2015/2016, I was on Twitter more and it just seemed like lots was going on there. And then I got this idea to write a Twitter thread. Once you’re spending time on Twitter, it’s its own culture, right? And I don’t think I even knew what a Twitter thread was for many years. And then after following people for a while you were like, “Oh, it’s like an essay in these little bite-sized pieces,” and I don’t know, anyway, I was interested in it. And I found I enjoyed reading them, so I decided to write one, and this had been on my mind for quite a while, probably about six months. I had kind of written drafts of this. I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do with it, but I had put my thoughts down on paper, these thoughts on abortion. So interestingly, as I was pushing publish, my main worry wasn’t that I might get attacked or there might be trolls. My main worry is that no one would like it or see it and that I just put out a ridiculously long thread. I think it’s 63 tweets, which is just gross. Way too long for Twitter thread, as I understand now. I try to keep my newer threads much shorter.

Brandy: No, it’s great.

Gabrielle: But anyway, my whole thing was pride, was like, “Am I gonna need to go and quickly delete as fast as I can 63 tweets because people are like, “What the heck is this–“

Brandy: That’s a lot of work. {Laughs}

Gabrielle: Yeah, like is this just ridiculous? So that was really the thing on my mind. But I didn’t have to do that. It went off like immediately, it was so fast it sort of shocked me because I didn’t have a massive following. So basically it went right away and it was intense. I had been online for many years, I’ve had things go viral on Pinterest many times I’ve had, you know, very popular posts on Facebook and Instagram, but I’ve never had anything happen like this on Twitter. And it’s just its own beast. It’s just so different than every every other social media, at least for me, I’m much more connected in real life to the people on those platforms. Twitter, it’s just complete strangers, just absolute strangers, right? It was overwhelming for sure. Exciting too, you know. Tons of phone calls from in real life friends that were seeing this happen and so excited. Getting lots of reporters getting in touch with me. So that was all really exciting. And then I had a delightful time just getting on and like arguing with people. Like it was so fun for me.

Gabrielle: Because the arguments were so dumb. The arguments would come from basically typically a man that was just didn’t want to wear condoms, or was feeling guilty because he had a girlfriend he’s having sex with and he basically has left the whole birth control responsibility on her–

Brandy: Which is most guys!

Gabrielle: Which is most guys, and it never even occurred to him it should be the other way around, or that at least should be shared, for goodness sake.

Brandy: Right.

Gabrielle: So a lot of men feeling kind of threatened, but they don’t really have an argument. There’s not a lot to argue in the thread, it’s not like I was making stuff up. You can’t really argue like, men’s birth control is much harder to get than women’s birth control. It’s not, it’s just not. So people would try and argue with it, and there was just nothing there. And I had a great time just being as sassy as I wanted to. And it’s a very different personality than I usually express in these other forums, like on my blog, or whatever. I’m not sassy. I would never cuss, although on Twitter I’ll cuss all the time. it’s just a very different world.

Brandy: Yeah, that’s cool that you get to be in both worlds, that you get to be– a couple different versions of yourself get to exist in different platforms, right?

Gabrielle: So that really also was a turning point where I let my blog readers and my Instagram readers understand that– and I’ve given him hints of this. I mean, I’ve always talked about current events on my blog and things like that, but I don’t know that they’d ever heard me say “irresponsible ejaculations.”

Brandy: They’re like, “I thought we were talking about shiplap. Wait a minute…”

Gabrielle: Right. So it was definitely a turning point where the blog readership, they either had to decide, “Okay, she’s not holding back anything anymore.” Like, maybe I was holding back a little bit. “Now, she’s not holding back anything. Do I still wanna stick around? Or is this like, too real for me?” Generally, they stuck around. In fact, my readership has grown in huge ways, starting with that thread.

Brandy: That so speaks to the authenticity. You know, you lose some people when you when you do these things, but then the other people that you gain, to me, it feels so worth it. And there’s another piece of this that I’m interested in and that struck me. The thing that struck me was that you’re Mormon. I was surprised that such a progressive point of view would come, especially around abortion, would come from a Mormon woman. And so are you an anomaly in your faith? Or is there an insurgence of feminist Mormon women? And then how did your community react?

Gabrielle: That’s a great question. Yeah. I never have hidden that I’m a Mormon. In fact, I start that whole thread with, “I’m a Mormon.” Like the in the first sentence.

Brandy: Which is like, “If this lady’s saying it, we all need to listen,” because historically, as far as I’ve understood, Mormons are very conservative about abortion.

Gabrielle: Yes. So I was very intentional about including that. I include in the first sentence that I have six kids, to give you a sense of I’m aware of how pregnancies happen, how that works, I know what it is, but I’m a Mormon because I knew that conservatives who might not be willing to listen to any kind of discussion about abortion that wasn’t like, “It has to be illegal,” would be more open-minded to listen to me if they thought, “Oh, this is gonna be someone (I’m doing air quotes) on my side.” And it’s actually an argument that a lot of conservatives loved and that a lot of liberals loved.

Gabrielle: The conservatives like it because it’s real ways to reduce abortion, you know, ask men to step up, like this is the only way we can really reduce abortion. And liberals like it because it takes all the onus off making laws about women’s bodies – you don’t have to change the existing world, you don’t have to do anything to abortion laws, they wouldn’t matter anymore if you take this other direction, right? Like they just wouldn’t matter. So it really was quite well-received overall, and I learned very quickly how to block and mute and use the tools I had to manage it. And so that was great.

Gabrielle: As far as Mormons go, you asked if there’s like this feminist insurgency, and yeah, kinda. There’s a very large and strong– I wouldn’t call it an insurgency though. It’s just like a matter of fact, part of Mormonism. It’s a funny thing, because we have these very prescribed gender roles you’re taught and things like that, but you’re also really pushed to get an education. And what happens when you go out and get a bachelor’s and then a master’s, and a PhD, or medical school, or a lot of great languages, so many Mormon women have really great education – well, you learn other perspectives, right?

Brandy: Right.

Gabrielle: So you have a lot of really educated Mormon women who can definitely identify as feminists. And since blogging started very early in the beginning of blogs, there have been a quite a few progressive Mormon blogs that were kind of group blogs by Mormon scholars, by Mormon feminists. And so this has been in existence for a long time and nothing new, and I was right there with them from the beginning.

Gabrielle: So in general, there was a great response from many Mormons, but other Mormons were very stressed out by it. They just felt like I wasn’t representing them correctly, or who knows what, and they’d say, “I can’t believe you haven’t been excommunicated, or something.” And I’d say, “Please point out the thing in the thread that you feel goes against Mormon doctrine.” Because there’s absolutely nothing in the thread that goes against Mormon doctrine. Something Mormons forget – conservative Mormons who don’t want to look closely at the religion – is that the Mormon take on abortion is pro legal abortion. I think an approach that many churches have that are basically like, “Yeah, we hope you don’t ever have to get an abortion. And we don’t really want you to get an abortion. But of course, we understand there are times when women need to get abortions, you know, incest or health of the mother or whatever it might be, or rape.” And I know that’s not an unusual stance. I know that again, there are many groups that take that same stance, but that stance is pro legal abortion. If you can’t have those exceptions, unless abortion is legal, like those are legal abortions, and abortion because of rape, or incest, or health of the mother is a legal abortion. So when Mormons will argue with me, I’ll go, “Do you support the church’s current stance on abortion? If you do, you are pro legal abortion. So I’m not sure what to tell you, but that’s the liberal view. Like you are pro abortion.” And the other thing I’ll try to explain to them is that abortions go down under democratic leadership, because we understand that birth control, if it’s widely available, and free, it lowers unwanted pregnancies. And I’m talking about all forms of birth control, all the free condoms, all the free pills, whatever you need, is going to lower abortion rates. And so under democratic leadership, abortion goes down. And so hey, conservative Mormons, if abortion is your key political issue, then logically you have to vote Democrat, it’s the only way to go. They don’t always love hearing that.

Brandy: No, I’m sure not. And so it sounds like what you’re saying too, is that the– this is so interesting, because the Mormon women that you’re talking about that are supported to get a great education, and then as they become more educated, they’re like, wait a minute, I get to be more in the world than maybe what the religion has pigeonholed me as. But the interesting part to me seems that these women, I mean, of course, there are some who get out of the religion, but it seems like the women stick around because there’s probably a lot that’s really great about it that they love and they’ve grown up in, but they’re like, “You know what, I’m just not gonna do the parts I don’t like, but I’m gonna be in it for the parts that I do.” Does that sound right?

Gabrielle: A little bit. So Mormonism is this full lifestyle situation. It’s not a “I go to church twice a year” thing. It’s a pretty involved thing. When we’re in France, it’s not as involved. It’s just a smaller presence here. But in the US, I thought of it like it’s a 20-hour a week job, like it’s involved. Between your kids’ activities and your activities, and you have assignments at church called callings, where maybe you’re in charge of music or in charge of teaching this age group or you’re in charge of girls camp in the summer, or for the teen girls or whatever it might be, or you’re in charge of service projects. It’s just a lot of involvement. And the whole family usually has different assignments. And there’s just a lot going on and, and we really do– Mormons love service. So you’re out there at the homeless shelter, and you’re preparing meals, and you’re delivering groceries and someone’s having a baby and you’re taking a meal. And, oh, the church needs to be cleaned. Mormons clean their own, they do their own kind of janitorial work. So you go take your turn, everyone takes a turn cleaning the church, and there’s a youth center down the hill that needs yard work and landscaping and we’ll take the day and you know, the whole congregation goes and does all the landscaping. That’s just part of life as a Mormon.

Brandy: So that sounds like what the draw is for people, and a reason not to leave. Because in my mind, I think how do you make peace with, or how do you reckon with being a part of a religion that doesn’t treat women equally?

Gabrielle: Equally, right.

Brandy: So how does somebody stay with that, but then it also seems like it’s sort of acceptable from what you’re saying, to still be in it, and to still do all those things, and to still get all the benefits of it. But like I was saying before, you don’t have to believe all of those ways. And you certainly don’t have to live your life with those doctrines.

Gabrielle: Totally. And there’s more flexibility within a lot of that stuff then sometimes people want to admit and so the women have kind of figured that out, like, yes, it’s encouraged– they love the model of the women are at home, and the men are working or whatever. At the same time, our church leaders, if they get sick and they’re at the hospital, many of their nurses are going to be women because so many women are in the nursing field. And so they’ll make a point of saying, “Oh, actually, we love when women are working. We get it, we’re so grateful women work.” They’ve really tried to lift the stigma of women working. And there’s also this, you just have to reeducate everybody by going, “Hey, even if you want to be home with your kids,” and the feminist attitude is, “Do that, if that’s what you want to do, great. You have the choice.” It’s a short time, compared to your whole life. That intense time that you’re with your kids, because they’re home all day, is not that many years. And if that’s your entire identity, what happens when your kids are teenagers and then move out? You’re just supposed to still stay home? Like it doesn’t make any sense to act like that should be the whole focus.

Brandy Ferner

Gabrielle: I think it took not just Mormon women, but it’s a conversation America was having to have and still having to have about feminism. I mean, the Mormon church, for sure is a patriarchal system. But so is America. It’s not like if you leave the church you’re out of a patriarchal system. Not even close. So we can criticize Mormon women for staying in it, but I’m also like, “Well, I’m still in America. And even if I’m not a Mormon, it’s not like I’ve lifted myself out of the patriarchy.” So yeah, you make it work.

Brandy: Yeah, and you can take what works for you and leave the rest. I think that’s totally a reasonable, invaluable thing because it’s not all or nothing. All of those wonderful things that people get from it, you don’t want to just throw that away. So I think it’s great that it seems like – that’s why I was asking about this insurgent of progressive women in Mormonism – because it seems like there’s sort of an opening for that. Like this is the new generation of women who are like, “We like a lot of the things here, but the things that we don’t, we’re not gonna let it limit us.”

Gabrielle: Right. But basically, it’s like, “Hey, we’re here, and we want to stay here. And we feel tied to this. Maybe we’ve had a real spiritual awakening, and because of something we did at church and we just feel very tied to it. That’s great, whatever. But we’re going to question everything that’s not working for women, and we’re going to be vocal about that…”

Brandy: Yes!

Gabrielle: “…and we’re not going to just accept it,” and that’s what’s happening. It’s not perfect. Some women try and fight the fight and end up saying, “Yeah, can’t do it, too much cognitive dissonance,” or “I just, I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m done.” One thing that I think really affects it is how much of your identity is Mormon in the first place. And if it’s really high on your list, like as an identifier, if it’s like your number one thing when you’re ordering the top three or something of your personal identifiers, you’re going to have a hard time because the church is going to do stupid things. It’s a very earthly, mistake-ridden organization, as all organizations are. Sure, maybe it’s worse than an average organization. You’re gonna have problems if you’re analytical or examining anything at all, you’re gonna have huge problems. If it’s less high on your identifier list, it’s easier to let that stuff roll off your shoulders because it’s I don’t know– I think if you’re part of any group, if it’s not, if it’s not a super important thing to you, it’s easier to say like, “Yeah, that’s pretty dumb. Let’s not do that.” But it doesn’t like make or break your soul. Do you know what I mean?

Brandy: Yeah, that’s a great way to put it. Well, I’m curious too, the tweet that you put out, where did that come from, that understanding or that knowing? Did you have a specific experience in which you just realized that, were you having a conversation about somebody–

Gabrielle: About abortion?

Brandy: Yeah, like everything that you laid out there.

Gabrielle: I remember exactly.

Brandy: Oh yes, what?

Gabrielle: I remember that thought process exactly. So basically, I must have been reading an article about abortion, trying to understand the abortion conversation in America more than I did, and I felt like I had a pretty good understanding, but was reading more. And I saw the abortion numbers, and they actually surprised me. It’s a lot. It’s around half a million a year I want to say, abortions in America. And for whatever reason in my head, I don’t know why, but in my head that was higher than I expected it to be. So I really like the idea of problem solving. That’s how I approach design, it’s how I approach a lot of things in life is like, “Okay, well, this is the problem, let’s solve it.” It’s an equation, let’s solve it, you know? And so my mind started doing that, going, “Okay, well, why would this be?” And then I started thinking about like, “Okay, if you can get to a doctor to have an abortion, you could probably get to a doctor to get birth control.” And so I thought, “So why wouldn’t they do that?” And I immediately could see why, because I have tried every form of birth control, I’ve tried every form, I don’t think there’s anything I’ve missed. And I hate every single one of them. And I’m simultaneously grateful for every single one of them because they allowed me to choose when I wanted to get pregnant. I love that control and I’m so grateful for it. But, I hated what they did to my body, what they did to my hormones, I hated it. And I no longer have to use them, because my husband did the responsible thing and got a vasectomy, which all of them should do, as soon as you’re done having babies and maybe before because they can be reversed.

Brandy: We’re going to talk about that in a second.

Gabrielle: We can talk about it in a second, but immediately when I started saying, “Well, why– let’s just think about why wouldn’t a woman have birth control or be on birth control if she’s having sex,” and it was so clear to me why. Like, “Oh, I can give you 1000 reasons.” She can’t afford it, it takes so much time, you have to get off work to get a doctor’s appointment, have to get off work to go fill the prescription, you don’t have any money for the doctor’s appointment, don’t have any money for the prescription, don’t have a Planned Parenthood in your neighborhood because the government shut it down or whatever it might be, or you didn’t have a sexual partner, so you weren’t on the medication because again, wasn’t in your budget, didn’t have time to go to the doctor. All of a sudden, oh, turns out, I have a boyfriend and now I want to have sex with them. And you haven’t had time. Like it can take three months to get a freaking doctor’s appointment.

Brandy: Yes.

Gabrielle: And you have to have a car. It’s just so complicated to do it. There’s nothing easy about it, it takes time, it takes money. And then of course, I started thinking about from there, “Okay, so I can see why a woman wouldn’t be on it.” And then I start thinking about condoms and thinking, really started seeing the contrast there between like how easy and convenient versus expensive and hard to get, women’s birth control is. And then also really started thinking about the power dynamic that is present in so much sex, where the culture has told men condoms are the worst and that the man’s pleasure is the priority in all sexual encounters. There’s whole memes and jokes and literature about “Yeah, the man’s crappy at sex. He had an orgasm, but she didn’t,” that’s the whole thing, right? So thinking about that, and then pairing the men’s priority, the pleasure priority, with the pressure that women feel to please a man. So we’re not only like, “Lord, we’re taught to prioritize the men’s pleasure, we’re taught to make sure they’re satisfied. And part of that includes if they don’t wear a condom, or make it known to us that they don’t want to wear a condom, we would feel huge pressure to let them not wear a condom.” Like that’s a part of our culture. And of course I hope everyone can think of individual situations in their life where they can go, “No, if I told him that he had to wear a condom, he would wear a condom.” Good, of course, wonderful. But there’s a power dynamic that exists where women can’t say that, they would be hurt if they said that. But also, that’s not a thing to be proud of. If you ask your man to wear a condom, you ask your sexual partner to wear a condom and he does. That’s not awesome. Why did you ever have to ask him? Why in the world wouldn’t he provide and put on his own condom every time? Why would he assume that you’re going to take responsibility for the birth control? Either because you’re on birth control or because you’ll ask him to do it, that you’ll provide a condom or make sure he’s gonna put on a condom. Why is that the woman’s responsibility to make sure the man’s penis has a condom?

Brandy: Oh my gosh, that is such the the microcosm of the macrocosm right there. I can speed ahead to five years when it’s like, if he’s going to make dinner, why am I doing all the shopping for it and the prepping for it and the dishes afterwards? It’s like everything is on us. It’s part of this invisible labor thing that I talk about so much on here.

Gabrielle: One hundred percent.

Brandy: But even in sex it exists. I mean, it exists in everything.

Gabrielle: And even in relationships that you love, with a partner you love, that you think this is a healthy relationship, there’s probably some weirdness around birth control, where he has never given it a thought, or has never asked like, “Oh, do you need to go get the pills picked up, is your refill, okay?” Even if you are on prescription and are happy with it, I bet he doesn’t give it a thought ever. Or you’ve got to stay on top of your doctor’s appointment, make sure you’re taking it every day, make sure you don’t run out, make sure there’s a budget for it, all things, manage your own symptoms of any kind of side effects. You’re taking care of all that. And he’s just having sex, he’s never even thinking about it. And he may be a man you love and wonderful in many ways, but he probably doesn’t think about this.

Gabrielle: And I say this in the thread, but I should be more angry than I actually am. And my voice probably sounds angry now, but I have not been as angry as I should be, because we raise men to be this way. Yes, we participate in it. We we think about sex the same way. Think of every movie and every book that prioritizes the man’s pleasure over the woman’s. It’s in a million storylines. So why would they think anything else?

Brandy: Well, what you said about the medication, it’s interesting. My husband went on a medication for the first time last year. And his refill ran out, right? Because he doesn’t know that you have to, like do that. And he was like, “Oh my god, my doctor didn’t even write enough? I have to go back and talk to–” and I’m like, “Oh, you’re adorable.”

Gabrielle: Yeah, welcome.

Brandy: Yeah, I’ve been doing this for so long. What is it like, almost like 25 years of this, and I have health issues, so I’ve got other meds, multiple, but even just starting with the birth control that I was on when I was in college, you know that you have to be on top of it. And you have to think about it before you run out of it because then the whole thing will mess up. And you know that when you go to your doctor, you ask them to write you for a year of refills, so you don’t have to go back. All of those things that he’s just learning as a 43-year-old man that we just do silently. It’s like, we just know it. And I’ve had to teach him how to do this, “Ask your doctor next time if he’ll write you for more than three months so you don’t have to keep doing it.”

Gabrielle: And that girl in college that you were that lots of girls in college are, that are managing all this, they still have finals, they still have their job, these are all the same things, and they’re having to manage this in order to be available in case a man wants to have sex with them. Like it’s just so bizarre. And the men have no responsibility in any of this. It’s all just incredibly crazy. And we just teach people this, like this is how we’ve decided it’s gonna be–

Brandy: So we’re just managing irresponsible ejaculations, that’s what we were put here to do, apparently. {Laughs} Fuck! That’s not cool.

Gabrielle: It’s not cool and it should not be something we do and there’s nothing else like that where we manage someone else’s body for them. It’s just so bizarre that we’re expected to do this. Anyway, so that’s where my brain went. It started with, “Why would there be this many abortions?” I guess it even started before that because it was like, I know women. I talk to women. Every day I receive hundreds and hundreds, if not 1000s of emails, messages, DMS every month, right? I’ve talked to so many women, and one thing I know is we are aware of our bodies and are hyper aware of our bodies. We can tell you every flaw, every good thing, every everything. We’re very hyper aware of our bodies. Society has made us be, right?

Brandy: Yeah.

Gabrielle: And, I’ve never met a woman that’s like, “Love my visits to the OB GYN, love mammograms, love all the stuff that we have to do.” Like no, it’s all very invasive. Every kind of body thing at the doctor for women is so invasive. I don’t know anyone that likes it. Right? I’ve never met anyone that’s happy about this, even when they’re pregnant and you’re there all the time. It’s a lot, man. It’s just a lot.

Gabrielle: And so I was thinking of that, and when I saw those abortion numbers, thinking of that going no one wants to go to the doctor and have anything done in their whole genital area. Certainly no woman does. So no one’s like excited about an abortion. You know what I mean? The the whole idea that women approach this casually, I was like women do not even approach a pap smear casually. No. We are very aware of our bodies. So that was really easy for me to see. Like obviously that’s not true, even if you’ve been told it’s true. And I already knew that wasn’t true. But here was me, logically thinking through why it wasn’t true. And it was so obviously not true. And then from there going, “Okay, so no one wants to go have a gynecological procedure done, any procedure done, abortion or otherwise.

Brandy: Exactly.

Gabrielle: So let’s walk back from there. Why wouldn’t they be on birth control? Oh, yeah, that’s why, oh and then men, oh about pleasure. And then that’s where my brain went.

Brandy: There’s one part, just to hit home the the pleasure piece, that you have a great analogy. You said, “What if you found out that every time you indulge in that favorite food, you risked causing great physical and mental pain for someone you know intimately? You might not cause any pain, but it’s a real risk. Well, you’d probably be sad, but never indulge in that food again, right? Not worth the risk. And then what if you further found out there was a simple thing you could do before you ate that favorite food, and it would eliminate the risk of causing pain to someone else, which is great news. But the simple thing you need to do makes the experience of eating the food slightly less pleasurable. To be clear, it would still be very pleasurable, but slightly less. So like, maybe you have to eat the food with a fork or a spoon that you don’t particularly like. Would you be willing to do that simple thing and eliminate the risk of causing pain to someone you know intimately every single time you ate your favorite food? Of course, you would!” Gah that just–

Gabrielle: {Laughs}

Brandy: Yeah, for people who need analogies, especially around food to make anything make sense, it’s just it’s it’s so spot on. And so my next question for you, which you already touched on is, what is your take on men with kids who are done having babies, and who say they don’t want to have vasectomies? Like they’re scared of the pain or something? I’ve seen it coming up a lot in my mom’s groups. You know, “My husband, he’s scared, he refuses to get a vasectomy. He’s scared of the pain.” And I just can’t even wrap my head around it. And it should also be noted that my husband had his vasectomy a couple months ago, so.

Gabrielle: Well, congratulations. Welcome to your happy new sex life.

Brandy: Oh, my God. Yes.

Gabrielle: Very freeing. I loved it. So a few things. The same damaging culture thing that is telling women and men that condoms are the worst, and that it’s totally fine for men to reject condoms, which was the thing that we’re all taught whether we think we are or not, is the same thing that’s like, “Oh, and vasectomies are kind of off the table. They’re emasculating, they’ll make you less manly, there’s something about it that’s going to take away some of your manhood or something.” And it’s so bizarre, because for the man too, you’re not going to risk anyone getting pregnant, no one is ever going to call you and say, “Hey, we need to have a talk.” No one’s ever going to do that. It puts so much more control in your lap man, what are you doing?

Brandy: Exactly.

Gabrielle: It’s a very simple procedure. Of course, if you talk about it, you’ll definitely hear from someone who said, “Well, there were complications for me.” And yes, in in a sampling of 1000s of men, there will be someone that has a complication. It is a medical procedure. There’s no women’s procedure that’s even close to being as safe as this. It’s a very short, outpatient thing. You usually are back in business within 24 hours is what people can say. Again, it can take longer, but read the literature. It’s very common to be like, “Great, we’re good. Pop a couple Advils in 24 hours.” It’s very, very effective. You do have to flush the sperm out of your system for a minute. So even after the vasectomy, you might need a condom, listen to your doctor. But then you’re just free, and it’s safe. And it’s wonderful.

Brandy: And it’s wild to me to think that guys are – and I get it because we’re all human, and so of course, when a guy’s thinking about, “I might have to have this procedure. And I’m scared,” that’s totally right and real. But like I had to have this conversation with my husband a little bit too – and I had a very complicated second pregnancy where I was in the hospital for a long time and it was maybe not a great outlook. I’m like, “Do you realize how much risk I have put myself at to bring our children into the world? Not only that, but my body changes, my hormone changes, my bladder changes, so many different things. And you’re like unsure–“

Gabrielle: Of a fifteen-minute procedure.

Brandy: Exactly. And that’s really what it came down to. And I wanted to of course, validate his worry, because it totally makes sense that you would be worried about “what if I am the rare person whose balls fill with blood?” That’s a terrifying thing to think about? And it’s like, “Yeah, what if I’m that rare woman who dies? And remember that I was almost that woman? So I know and I feel for you. And also this is called bravery. And this is the sacrifice that you do for our best life that I’ve already done, like a million times.” And so my husband’s this feminist at heart and he so got it. And he did it and it’s awesome. You know, it took him a little bit to kind of like, feel back to himself. But I see these women posting about like, “My husband refuses to do it,” and I was like how disrespectful?

Gabrielle: That’s an incredibly selfish person

Brandy: Yes!

Gabrielle: I want to just talk about that a little bit more. If anyone’s really struggling with that, put some numbers in front of him, say, “Okay, this is how many men have any kind of permanent negative side effect from this procedure. This is how many women have a permanent negative side effect from pregnancy.” It’s 99%, right? When you talk about bladder changes, stretch marks, body changes, all sorts of things. Now let’s compare super serious side effects of men, like how many die from this procedure. Now compare it to how many die – by the way, no one dies from that procedure, from a vasectomy. But how many women die in childbirth? It’s not a ton. It’s way more than it should be.

Brandy: Right.

Gabrielle: So let’s just look at some numbers there. And then let’s talk about pain. You go in to get this procedure done, and they are going to administer painkiller to you and you’re not gonna feel this. They’re very careful about that. But, I also want you to be aware, all men and women too – and this one makes me so angry – the pain for getting a vasectomy (this is from a doctor) is very similar to the pain of getting an IUD. But for women, they don’t administer pain relief. So millions of women I’m sure, I’ve had one, get an IUD without pain relief. Getting it taken out was equally painful for me. No pain relief. They’re both horrific. I didn’t think to ask, they didn’t think to offer.

Brandy: My doctor offered, he was so nice. He goes, “I’m gonna numb you up because why wouldn’t I?” I’m like, “Oh my god, yeah.”

Gabrielle: Cuz why wouldn’t you? But it’s traditionally done without any pain relief. And it’s the same amount of pain, the doctors say, as what you would experience if you had an unmedicated vasectomy, but vasectomies are never done without pain relief. Like that’s not a thing. And so I just want men also to realize like okay, whatever this pain you’re afraid of, it happens to women systematically all the time with no thought. It’s just expected that we’ll deal with this.

Brandy: Yes. And the the conversation became, “If you don’t do the vasectomy and I end up getting pregnant, that either looks like an abortion for me, which is like a whole thing, and I don’t know if I’d even do that, or a pregnancy is nine months…” And when you really show that to them like, “You would be willing to put me through nine months and then nursing and postpartum, you’d be willing to put me through that, because you don’t want to go have outpatient–“

Gabrielle: But even abortion. Even if you chose an abortion, what’s the harder procedure on your body, an abortion or a vasectomy? For sure an abortion! For sure. 100%, by a ways.

Brandy: Sure.

Gabrielle: So either risk that he’s putting you at, even if you chose abortion, for sure you cannot compare a vasectomy and a pregnancy. One is 1000s of times harder.

Brandy: Yeah, right.

Gabrielle: But even an abortion, which is also an outpatient thing, you go to the office, then you leave, or you may even administer a pill at home, and then just have to deal with it for days at home. For sure it’s harder on your body, and the pain lasts longer, it has more side effects than a vasectomy. It’s just a fact. Anyway, it just kills me that this is even a conversation. And of course it’s a cultural issue as well. Why aren’t men taught by other men? “Oh, no, vasectomy is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” That should be advice constantly doled out in advance, “Vasectomy as soon as you can. It’s the greatest thing. It’s made my life better. It’s so easy.” That should just be in every locker room, right?

Brandy: Yes, and that’s what my husband’s urologist said. He said, “You have to tell every single one of your friends about this, and you have to tell them about how easy it was.” And so my husband comes home, he goes, “You’re going to love my doctor. He said I have to tell all the other husbands about how great it is because it shouldn’t be the woman’s job to figure out the birth control.” And I was like okay, I do love your doctor. And he was like that’s the thing, guys need to hear– and exactly what you’re saying is the story around it needs to be this is not a big thing. Sex life is so much better. We don’t have this worry. And I think even guys feeling like, “Hey, I showed up, and after all I’ve seen you do with the kids and the sacrifice on your body and all of that hard work, I did a thing. And even though it’s a drop in the bucket, it’s still a thing. Yes, I can contribute.”

Gabrielle: If you’re a woman who’s been on birth control for many years, talk to your husband, say, “Hey, this has been a gift to you that I’ve been willing to sacrifice my body, my hormones, all this to keep track of this. I’m asking you to do this. I’ve had to think about it daily for however many years. I’m asking you to do this, think about it for one day, and never think about it again. Like, please. I’ve thought about it for years, every single day.” And if you presented all that and your husband or your partner still doesn’t see it, take it to “Am I The Asshole on Reddit? I don’t know. Like, he’s not a good guy. He’s not a good guy.

Brandy: Yeah, I think he’s telling you–

Gabrielle: Or he has serious issues that he needs to see a doctor about, or a therapist about, or something if he really cannot imagine doing this for this relationship. It’s so much easier for him to do this than for a woman to manage birth control everyday for years, period. It’s just easier to do a vasectomy.

Brandy: Yeah. End of story, yes. Okay, so switching gears totally. {Laughs} Now that we’ve talked about– we’re going to move away from penises, I think. Okay, so I checked out your Design Mom page, and I loved it. And I saw that you had lunchbox recipes, and I was like, oh this is gonna be the litmus test for if she’s my people or not, and you are my people because your shit didn’t have smiley faces! Like you didn’t make scenes out of it, which I was so happy for. So thank you for that.

Brandy: So I have to ask you about this home design stuff. So of course, being stuck in our homes right now and having to use them in new and different ways, like as classrooms and offices and gyms. For those of us with smaller homes, our house’s shortcomings are glaring. And so I’m wondering, what do you think are the most effective ways to make our houses function better and be enjoyable right now? How do we organize and beautify our interior, since we are all spending so much time at home right now, during this pandemic? What do you have for us?

Gabrielle: Okay, so I would say first of all, I don’t know anyone that can just redo their house every time they want to. And as in depth as they want to. It’s a it’s a huge time consumer and a huge budget item. No one can do that. But what you can do is pick a spot in your house, it can be a corner of a room, it can be your bedroom, or your children’s room. I did this with a hallway in one house. I did it with a little loft and made a little reading nook. But pick one spot that you can perfect the way you want it, and perfect is what’s perfect to you. So it has just the right reading lamp if you’re trying to do reading place, it has a comfy blanket, or maybe it’s your desk, it’s a place to work. Pick a spot, maybe it’s a place for your kids to play, or when I talked about the hallway, it was a place to put backpacks and stuff. Pick a spot and get it just right. If you’re in that spot, if you were to sit there in a chair or a stool and be in that spot, there’s no mental list you’re making up, “Oh, I got to change that, we really got to buy some bins, I’ve really got to get the stain out of this thing. I really need to…” whatever it is there. A lot of people do that, you walk into a room, if you’re dissatisfied with your house, you’re sitting in the room and you’re making lists of all the things you hate about the room, all the things you want to do, your list of to do, your list of projects. So pick a spot where you get it right and it doesn’t have to be a big spot, and it’s your kind of mental relief. And you go sit there when the house is bugging you and you go sit in your spot and you can bring a cup of tea if you need to. And again, I’ve done this, it works with even spots that were designed for my kids. Still works if I go and just need to not hate my house for a minute. Here’s my spot. And it’s this reassurance to you that like, “Hey, I know how to do this. I know how to make a spot that makes my soul happy and I can expand this when I’m able and next do the whole room if I’ve only done a corner. And when I’m able, then I can extend it to the next room.” And even if you didn’t do that, it didn’t end up expanding, maybe a move or who knows what, it’ll still calm your mind. And ideally, you really can do a whole room. If you could just get one room right, pick the smallest room or whatever it might be, or the room that’s the closest to done, finish it. And then you have this place where you can kind of escape the house that’s bugging you, which houses bug us when we’re home all the time they’re gonna bug you so find a spot where the house isn’t bugging you–

Brandy: An escape hatch!

Gabrielle: Right. In most homes, you can do that with what you have around you, take all your prettiest things, it doesn’t have to be a let’s go spend money kind of thing. The second thing is try to be aware, spend a few days doing this: as you’re walking through your day, what things are bugging you? Do you have a trashcan that every time you step on the little foot pedal, the door comes off its latch and you have to fix it? Or is there a corner of something that you have flooring that you trip on? Or are your kids not putting their clothes in the hamper cuz they’re hamper’s weird and it collapses on itself or something? Think of the things that sort of irritate you through the day – every house has them – and try to attend some of those. Those are almost always very simple fixes. Those are design problems that you can solve. And they literally make your day better, they literally change your relationship with your family.

Brandy: Right. {Laughs}

Gabrielle: Like every time you trip on that thing and stub your toe, you’re now pissed off, and the next person you see you’re like, pissed off, and they can see you’re pissed off, and everyone’s pissed off, and it can poison the whole day, can poison the next hour, can poison just a few minutes.

Brandy: It’s so true. I love that idea that like a trash can, can make or break your relationship with your family, which is true.

Gabrielle: No, it absolutely can. Your house is a parenting tool. It’s one of your strongest parenting tools, and you need to remember that. If there are things in your house that are messing your relationship with your kids, things like the hampers not working or whatever, it’s worth addressing those things. And you don’t have to address them all today. But be aware of what they are. Even just being aware of them will make you less likely to let it affect your relationships. Like my son, we’re in this rental now, and we’re all sharing a bathroom, which normally we’ve had more bathrooms and we don’t have to share but we’re all sharing a bathroom. And I bought, I don’t know what brand, it’s a French brand, but it has like multiple colors of toothpaste in one tube, like Aquafresh in the US. And he was getting irritated because he’s like, “It’s like all the colors get mixed together.” Whoever’s using the toothpaste wasn’t doing it the way that he liked it, and when I figured out what it was, it wasn’t like they were pressing the tube in the middle or whatever. He didn’t like that these colors were getting mixed up, for whatever reason that was irritating him. Okay, I just bought another kind of toothpaste that doesn’t have colors, which costs $1.

Brandy: Right.

Gabrielle: And then the problem’s solved and he’s not irritated. You can fix some of these things! You don’t have to let them fester, and some of these things that really bug you, and you might be like, “Well, that doesn’t bug me, I don’t care like,” so help your kid, get a different toothpaste! There’s a way to solve this.

Brandy: And it’s just less people complaining. Same thing, my daughter and my son share toothpaste. And she’s not great about keeping it clean. And he just like loses it. And so I’m like, “Guess what, I got you your own toothpaste.” And so we hid it and of course I think she found it a couple days later. But yes, these minor adjustments– to look through your life like what are the most annoying parts about this house, or the things in this house (non human-related), and what can I do to limit those?

Gabrielle: Yeah, is there is there a fix for those? So that’s all.

Brandy: Right. Okay, so on this same topic, in your book, I noticed the pictures are so gorgeous. Oh my god, I want to live in all of those places.

Gabrielle: Thank you.

Brandy: And I don’t see a bunch of plastic toy shit everywhere that has lots of little pieces. So, we have a toy closet and most of the stuff goes there, but then my daughter is super into these LOL dolls. And they have tons of dolls. They have a giant RV camper and all the outfits and all that crap and it just goes in a corner in our living room. And I hate that. So what do you do about that? And why are your pictures so beautiful? Like what are you doing in those, is it just simply bins?

Gabrielle: So those pictures of course are not just my home, there are hundreds of homes, so I do not get to claim all the beauty of them. But look, if there’s stuff that you want to have accessible that you don’t want to be seen, there are cabinets for that, there are closets for that, there are things you can do that hide that if it really bothers you. But you can also say well, this is what it’s gonna be like. You can also say let’s call it out, let’s actually get a little table for it and make a little– here’s her little play area for this and almost elevate it you know?

Brandy: Let’s honor it, let’s put it on display!

Gabrielle: Why not, if this is what she loves? Of course, we all want to say, “Oh let it all be wooden toys and beautiful whatever…” but you know, these phases, like it’s not gonna last forever, believe it or not. Yeah, so really think about like, okay, let’s make it as enjoyable as possible. If she’s super into this, how do we help her celebrate that? Let’s keep the bins accessible and help her keep it organized. And a clean area is fun for the kids to do too, a clean organized area, kids are drawn to, they want to work in it too.

Brandy: Yeah, true.

Gabrielle: So if you embrace it and think about like, “Okay, well how do I make this even more fun for her?” that’s sometimes the way to go. And then if you’ve put effort into making it even better for her, now it doesn’t seem irritating to you. It’s like, “Oh, I can– I chose this. I made this,” you know, and you feel more ownership of it.

Brandy: Right, and now she’s using the thing that we built for it, and that feels good rather than like, “Why is this crap always out?”

Gabrielle: Right.

Brandy: Yeah, that’s a good reframe.

Gabrielle: Now it feels intentional instead of a mistake. Instead of irritation, it’s like, no, this is intentional. I chose this for her. I can see she likes it. And I’m helping her build out this interest. That’s lovely. That’s a lovely thing to do as a parent.

Brandy: Okay. I like that. You you said in your book, “The foyer rug is into is integral to our happiness. I’m dead serious.” {Laughs} Will you tell me more about that?

Gabrielle: Yeah, for me, it’s problem solving, which I know I had talked about before. You could say, “This play table we created is integral to our happiness.” Some of these things make it work for you. And when I say that your house is a partner and a parenting tool for you, it is, it really is. You’re teaching your kids how to take care of their things, their belongings, they have to know that their whole life you’re teaching them how to be organized, how to be a roommate, how to live with other people, help them help themselves, you know what I mean? Make it easy for them to put their backpack away, make it as easy as possible so it’s easier to put their backpack away than to not put their backpack away.

Brandy: So true.

Gabrielle: Think about what it’s like to come in a house with a backpack, and you do something similar with your handbag, or grocery bags or whatever. Think about where is the natural place to put this down? Where do I want to put this down? Well, that’s where the backpacks should go to. So do you need lockers? Do you need hooks? Do you need a bench? What do you need that will make it really easy for your family? Really think through, how does your family use this home? And make it as easy as possible for them to succeed.

Brandy: This is how I look at my home because I am a problem solver. I also love systems. And I love organization. It just feels like the pandemic is, you know, you can have it work so well. But then it’s like, well, I didn’t have the house set up so that we were going to be in it 24-7 now.

Gabrielle: No.

Brandy: So it’s like switching in which way it’s functional, like, oh, a whole different family moved in, one that doesn’t go anywhere, and does school at home.

Gabrielle: 100%. And you were probably doing this in a much less intense way anyway, like, I would notice with every new semester of school, and that’s elementary school, college and all everything in between, we’d have to reevaluate our schedule. It’s like the gymnastic lessons change, now they have to bring a lunch on Thursday and on Wednesday, or who knows what? So we always had to reevaluate the schedule, every I felt like every four months, like three times a year, like okay, what’s working? Do we need to change the childcare situation? Do we need to change the driving situation? Do we need to change any of this? Reevaluating how the house is working, and how your schedule is working. And you’re probably not even thinking about it that hard because it’s just naturally happening. And then the pandemic happened, and you have to do it in such an intense way because instead of like, slight changes, like a different day for bringing a lunch, now everyone’s home all the time. Like it’s just so much more intense.

Gabrielle: And so I’ve been doing house tours through the pandemic. And yeah, people have had to really problem solve in a major way in their house where, okay, I took a corner of the garage and I’ve turned it into a nice Zoom background with removable wallpaper that I got at the grocery store, like whatever. And, and that’s just universal right now, and everyone gets it. To use every corner that you can, really think about it, really move things around. It’s temporary, but it still ends up being a year or two of your life. You know, this is a really weird time.

Brandy: Totally. So we’re starting a downstairs mainly kitchen remodel, getting new floors, and I think we must hate ourselves because it’s like, oh, if the stress of the pandemic isn’t hard enough, and people being home all the time, now we’re doing a remodel. And so that begins quite soon, and it’s such an interesting experience because on one hand, the reason we’re doing it is we haven’t done it for six years since we moved in and we’ve known we’d need to, but because we spend so much time in our home now, like I said, all of its flaws are glaring. And so we need this to be more functional and we need this to work better for us. But it’s funny because I I love systems and I love figuring out a way to make things more functional, but I don’t love picking a bunch of designs. I know other people, they could look on Pinterest all day. And I’m the kind of person that give me like four options, and then I’ll pick which one, but if you give me a ton, I’m just like I just short circuit. Like the lady who’s helping us with our remodel came over the other day and she’s like, “Okay, so we’re gonna pick the white for the kitchen cabinets.” And so she opens up this thing, and there’s like 50 different whites. And I just looked at her. And I’m like, “That’s anxiety on a page. This is literally a visual representation of it.” And so she’s like, “So which white do you want?” And I said, “THE WHITE ONE. Whichever one is white.” And so I said to her, “Which one would you choose?” And she goes, “Well, we usually always choose this.” I’m like, that’s all I need to know, I didn’t even need the paper. But that’s been a trip because I’m worried about picking the total wrong thing that then I’m stuck living with, tat was a bad call on my part, which is why I have somebody helping us so that I can ultimately run everything by her.

Gabrielle: Right. Well, it is totally legit to tell this person you’re working with, which I’m sure is either part of the cost the kitchen or an additional cost to the kitchen, to say, “Hey, this is how I work. You bring me three choices. Yes, tell me the benefits and disadvantages of each one. And then I’ll choose.”

Brandy: We have had that conversation.

Gabrielle: So yes, let her know how you work. That’s gonna be easier for her in the long run right here. Definitely let her do that and tell her you need that, and she will do that. And the other thing is like, it’s okay to say, “Okay, I’m going to rely– I’m going to do this whole bedroom then from Target, because they’ve already narrowed down decisions for me.”

Brandy: So true.

Gabrielle: And be like, “I know I don’t like blue,” or “I know I don’t like these three colors. It looks like I’m down to these two. Okay, what do they have? Super, I’m gonna pick from– they’ve already narrowed it down.” And they have great designers, and they have great buyers. And you are allowed to do that.

Brandy: Oh my gosh, Gabrielle, this is mind blowing because I think we’re cracking part of the code on Target, and why we go there and spend so much money is because you have a limited amount of options for the thing that you want, and they’re mostly pretty good because Target has great designers. And so you’re like, well, I could go to home goods. I mean, I know there’s people who go to all the places – I could go to all those different places, but you’re at Target, and you’ve got three to pick from, and one of them is good enough or great.

Gabrielle: And this is you knowing yourself. That’s great that you know what you want. There definitely is someone that’s like, “Are you kidding me? That sounds like torture to me, I want to go to every store,” and let them do it. But if you know this is not where I enjoy spending time, that’s what Target’s for, or what have you. So do the same thing at Pottery Barn or whatever store you like. They’ve already narrowed down the choices for you. It’s totally fine to go in and say I’m doing this entire room from the same store. You are allowed to do that, it is totally fine. There’s lots of smart things about doing it that way. It’s convenient, it’s helps you make the decisions really quickly. Totally fine to do that. You absolutely can do that.

Brandy: Yes. And have you noticed– my husband, he is obsessed with baseboards and crown molding. And then I was talking to my other good friend and her husband also, he’s like, “Oh, I love crown molding.” Is that a thing? Have you noticed that dads love crown molding?

Gabrielle: I have not, but for me, I would connect it to the stereotypical thing that we love when men do any kind of woodworking, like they’re a lumberjack, they build furniture. There was a whole thing on Portlandia where there’s a guy that’s like a furniture maker and so all the ladies are in love with him. He’s actually makes horrible furniture. But it doesn’t matter because he makes furniture. I think maybe there’s something there like we love the guy out chopping wood and we love the guy with the table saw that’s building furniture or doing woodwork. So there may be a connection there for men, maybe they sort of have the same kind of instinct like this is what men do, we work with wood. I don’t know.

Brandy: Totally. I also feel like it could be some sort of founding father fantasy that was like, we’re in the, not like the White House, but some regal room from that era.

Gabrielle: Hey, look, it is absolutely true that a little bit of paneling or molding or chair rail can elevate a room really quickly. That and paint are probably your most budget items that can get a big bang – when you’re talking about renovation, they can get a big bang. If it’s already a furnished room, I’d say your biggest bang is probably going to be throw pillows, but if it’s if you’re going down to like paint and doing construction, any kind of wood trim, the more the better. Add that beadboard, add that whatever you can, if you’re into that, why not? You can usually do it in a pretty affordable way. And there’s all sorts of tutorials for doing on the cheap, if your DIYing it or doing faux paneling, there’s just so many options and it looks great. So hey, if he’s into it, awesome.

Brandy: So last question for you is, what’s your take on shiplap? Do you feel like this is on its way out after the Joanna Gaines sort of resurgence? Or do you think it’s a classic, timeless look?

Gabrielle: I mean, I love real materials, right? I think it’s lovely. Shiplap’s a very particular kind of wood paneling. But all sorts of wood paneling is still delightful. And it’s exactly what we’re talking about right now. Any kind of wood trim in the house, there’s chair rails, there’s picture rails, there’s crown molding, you can do the lower wall, kind of wood paneling, shiplap, it’s all wood paneling, right? And we want these materials. They’re they’re beautiful raw, they’re beautiful, painted up. It’s great.

Brandy: And I’m having a visceral reaction to you saying “wood paneling.” So I feel like, is shiplap the wood paneling of this generation? Whereas when I was a kid, we had that brown wood paneling, dark.

Gabrielle: And that brown stuff was not actually wood, right? It was some weird vinyl thing. And that’s right, everyone hated it was like super low quality. And we all had kind of crappy vinyl on our floor and crappy vinyl on the wall.

Brandy: And it was so brown. Brown!

Gabrielle: And then think of every picture you love on Pinterest of like some house in England, that looks like a cottage or whatever, look at every room, there’s some wood paneling. So I’m saying any wood on the wall is wood paneling, whether it’s covers the whole wall, or just like you see rectangles or shapes.

Brandy: I just need to let go of my aversion to the idea of wood paneling.

Gabrielle: And it’s all sorts of variations. The idea of wood trim building architectural elements into your house with wood trim is going to be around forever, especially if you’re talking about an older home. It just always make sense in older homes, too. That just looks right. You know, they look like Paris. They’re lovely.

Brandy: My husband will be so excited to hear this. He just got so validated. Okay, so where can people find you your blog and your book online, and just to let people know, you’re in France, but you’re an American, so you were here, now you’re in France. So you have all sorts of cool stuff going on right now.

Gabrielle: Right, so if there wasn’t a pandemic, we’d be more splitting our time between US and then France, but we can’t travel freely right now and we are in France. And we’re in the middle of a big remodel here of a house from the 1600s, and it’s awesome. Anyway, we love it.

Brandy: You’re living Belle’s life!

Gabrielle: We are 100%, it’s awesome. So you can find me, my handle on Instagram, and Twitter is @designmom. And that’s where I am the most as far as social media. I do have a Facebook page and I’ll share to it whenever I share on Instagram, but I’m rarely over there. So if you want to actually interact with me, Instagram or Twitter is the way to go. And then I write at designmom.com. I’ve had that blog for 15 years, I still write pretty much every day, and you can find me there as well. And the conversations there are always pretty incredible. I remember doing a survey with my readership, it’s been a few years, I should do another one, but I have a really smart readership. They’re smart, they’re educated, they travel, they’re interesting, they have careers. They’re just a really interesting group. And so the comments are universally better than whatever I’ve written. Their reactions and the discussion are always really great, so that’s a fun place to be. And then my book is available wherever books are sold, you can ask for Design Mom, certainly on any of the websites you can find it. And we have a parenting book that’s coming out, but it’ll be like another year, so I’m excited about that, too. But you can’t find that yet. It doesn’t have a title yet. So I probably shouldn’t talk about it yet.

Brandy: Oh, gosh. And on your website, you have slow cooker recipes, you have lunchbox recipes, there’s so many, it’s like all the things, it was just beautiful.

Gabrielle: There’s lots of DIY stuff. There’s a lot of before and afters every week, there’s a new home tour where it’s an interview about someone’s home, but it’s also about parenting. And sometimes these are really designer houses, but a lot of times it’s like very everyday houses, which is really appealing. And you kind of see how people live. Yeah, enjoy it.

Brandy: Yeah. Thank you so much for dealing with the timezone difference to come talk to me today.

Gabrielle: I loved it.

Brandy: Yeah, thank you. I had such a great time unpacking all of this with you. And thank you so much for speaking out about what’s really going on with unwanted pregnancies and you know, taking that risk of, am I going to offend somebody? I know that wasn’t necessarily on your mind, but you know, it takes bravery to say these hard things and to know that people are going to be threatened.

Gabrielle: Oh you’re sweet. I did not feel brave. I have so much support that it never even occurred to me to feel brave about it. So that is very kind of you but no one was going to reject me in my life that I actually care about because of this, so I can’t even claim any bravery for it, but thank you.

Brandy: {interlude music} As I was editing this episode, I wondered how many of you might have your male partner listen. I honestly see the same conversation all the time about wives whose husbands are scared to get vasectomies, so she keeps putting up with the birth control responsibility. And it makes me want to throw something. If we can educate men, and truly show them how selfish it is to avoid all personal risk, yet get to have a family, perhaps they will see how lopsided this balance has been. I also think men just aren’t aware of their privilege here. So, if you’re wanting to have this conversation with your partner, but don’t have the energy, maybe just point him to this episode, and let me do the work.

Brandy: And I’m wondering how you all are feeling after hearing what Gabrielle said about our house being a parenting tool, and picking one spot in your home to make your escape hatch? Or one thing to make more functional so that you’re not raging as much. What would that thing be for you? If you do a mental scan of your house, maybe there are many things, but what is at least one thing you could fix that would make your quality of life better? Whatever it is, do it! Especially if it takes you to the Container Store, which is my favorite place on Earth.

Brandy: If you enjoy this podcast, you will like my book, Adult Conversation: A Novel. It’s a darkly comedic story about a frazzled modern mother and her therapist who go on a Thelma-and-Louise-style road trip to Vegas, looking for pieces of themselves that motherhood and marriage swallowed up while they are also tested and tempted to make life altering choices. Yes, there are strippers, there’s weed. One Amazon reviewer said, “From the very first page, I was howling and had to turn and read it to my husband. It was my life! The author’s ability to evoke the real raw experience of motherhood from the euphoric highs and the oh-so lows is beyond anything I’ve read before. The grounding reality makes the engaging storyline exciting and cathartic as you feel yourself going along for the ride. Get this book and share it with your mom friends, now. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.