Straddler On The Street: Marika

Hi crush monsters, this is Straddler On The Street, a feature where I celebrate all of you incredible Autostraddle readers by hunting you down, demanding you chat with me, and then writing about you on the Internet so we can all crush on you. Get excited, because butterflies in your stomach 24/7 is a fantastic way to live.

Header by Rory Midhani

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Straddler On The Street: Marika, 26

If you have read Autostraddle even once, then it’s likely that you’ve seen some of Marika’s brilliance in the comment section. She is one of our most prolific commenters, and she always brings something excellent to the table, whether it’s a thoughtful explanation about something science-y, a funny joke about vaginas, a willingness to be corrected and to learn and listen, or just some simple validation that we’re doing an okay job and that someone is out there reading. And for that I think I can speak for the whole team and say, thank you, Marika!

Because of her prominent presence on this website, I feel as though I’ve known Marika for much longer than I actually have – we only just met in person at A-Camp in May! She hails from Crystal Falls, Michigan but is currently a grad student at Notre Dame in Indiana, working on her PhD in molecular biology. She likes bow ties and hammocks and science and is allergic to many things. When I asked if she’s single she said, “I have a jealous girlfriend named graduate school, but sometimes I sneak around.” I guess it’s up to you guys to find out how serious she is about that relationship!

Marika, 26

Marika, 26

Can you tell me a bit about your PhD studies?

We focus on protein secretion in tuberculosis. Basically, the world revolves around genes, which encode for proteins. And bacteria secrete proteins – push them across cell membranes – into the host that they are infecting, and those proteins are responsible for destroying things and/or provoking some sort of response from the host, like a response from the immune system. I spend my days basically playing Legos with proteins, seeing which ones interact with each other.

That sounds very complex, but I assume there are some likeminded science-y humans out there who totally get it. As one of our most prolific commenters, tell me how you found Autostraddle.

I found Autostraddle probably about three years ago? My then-girlfriend sent me a couple of articles – one was to make your own suspenders, one was to make a tie into a skinny tie – and I was like, “Where did this website come from? This is so cool!” The girlfriend didn’t stick, unfortunately, but Autostraddle did! Also, I have OPINIONS – hence all the commenting.

Haha, we love it, for real. Because you’re such a serious commenter, it feels like we knew a lot about you, even before meeting you in person at camp. Can you tell me your A-camp feelings?

Wow, I have so many camp feelings. Camp is really amazing for me because I live in an area without a lot of visibly queer people, and I am basically a 50 footer. It’s nice to sometimes be in a place with people who share your basic beliefs and don’t judge you by the way you are dressed/your haircut/your bow tie, you know? I find camp to be both relaxing and cathartic.

Plus, it’s so nice to meet some of the amazing people I interact with on the internet on a regular basis, you know? The AS authors are fantastic. Especially that one who always wears floral print crop tops.

Marika and Potter being bros at A-Camp May 2013

Marika and Potter being adorable at A-Camp May 2013

Oh my god stop you’re making me blush! But I must stay professional. Ahem. Aside from being married to grad school, what are some of your hobbies? I know you like making eggs

I really love eggs. We’re pretty much involved. I’m cheating on graduate school with eggs almost every day. Don’t tell.

But seriously, food is a major hobby for me. When I went gluten free, I was depressed for a while because I couldn’t eat food. Then I figured out what I could and couldn’t have and started baking. A lot. And now I bake pretty much all the time. Shannon posted this recipe for brown butter whiskey chocolate chip cookies a while back, and I like to make those with 6x the bourbon and gluten free flour. I got second place in a cookie competition with them. Also, I make a mean Nutella swiss meringue buttercream and pretty good cupcakes.

My newest hobby is cross stitching. I just sent my brother and my sister-in-law two Portlandia theme cross-stitches for their respective birthdays. I’m also in the midst of making several gay themed ones, and a Ke$ha cross-stitch that says “go insane, go insane, throw some glitter make it rain!”

Another major hobby of mine is hammocks. I have one in my living room in lieu of a couch, and another portable hammock that is currently strung across my back porch.

Okay WHOA. First of all I’ve totally made those cookies and they’re fantastic, even with the regular amount of bourbon. And hammocks! Can you give us some hammock wisdom, please? Once my roommate got a hammock instead of a bed but then she got bored and bought a bed.

Hammocks are fantastic! I would highly recommend that people just buy a portable double wide hammock and straps for it, because then you can hang the hammock between trees or posts pretty much anywhere. I have a Trek Light double hammock and adjustable straps from Eagle’s Nest Outfitters. It takes about two minutes and no knots to set up a hammock. It holds itself in place with physics. SCIENCE!

Also, never get a hammock with a spreader bar – not that kind of spreader bar – because they are not good for your back. Hammocks traditionally have gathered ends and are made from tightly woven cloth as opposed to rope. So the basic backyard hammock that we might think of is actually not the greatest hammock.

Also, I have discovered that you shouldn’t lie in a hammock in a straight line, along the line of the hammock? Because then you are curved like a banana shape.

I am really excited that we are talking about the Science Of Hammocks.

I know right? Hammocks are all about science! Isn’t it great how you can bring science into everything?

It is so cool! I am actually really impressed by people who understand science, mostly because it is so mystical to me. Okay on a much more serious note, I am wondering if you feel comfortable talking about your family and your dynamic with your parents?

I can share. A lot of people are going through the same thing, so maybe it can help.

I grew up in a very Catholic family and as my parents grew older, they became more conservative. I never really knew how they would react to me being gay, so I hid it from them for a couple of years. Then, when my older brother was getting married to a woman from a Jewish family, my parents said they wouldn’t come because they have a policy of not going to non-Catholic weddings. I wasn’t out yet, but that hit me like a punch in the gut. If they won’t go to my brother’s heterosexual wedding, they’re really never going to be okay with my future hypothetical wedding, right?

So through a series of convoluted family things, my aunt – who had it confirmed by my other aunt that I was gay – outed me to my dad, and I got this weird letter in a birthday card saying they were disappointed to hear I had “outed myself as a ‘homosexual’ on the internet.” That was awkward. We haven’t actually talked since. That was about two years ago.

Since then, they skipped two of my brothers’ weddings. Which is not cool. On the plus side, I have four really amazing siblings! And three really amazing in-laws.

Is it tough to not be in touch with your parents? Maybe that is a stupid questions – I just don’t want to assume any specific feelings you may or may not have about it, and am curious to know how it personally affects you.

Mostly holidays are hard? I’m really into Christmas. 100% pro-Christmas. I like stockings and cinnamon rolls and presents and trees and lots of Christmas carols. And so far I’ve always had people to spend Christmas with, which is nice, but I do miss home then. Also birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day… those are all pretty hard.

That makes sense. Do you wish that your parents would come around? If that happened, would you be interested in reconnecting?

I think there are a lot of apologies they have to make to a lot of people in the family. But yeah, I would consider it. I just don’t want to sacrifice my ideals and my identity for the sake of being in contact with them? It would feel like being closeted again, which was terrible and resulted in lots of crying.

That’s really understandable. Thanks so much for talking candidly about this – I think a lot of people deal with similar circumstances and I bet it will be helpful for others to read about your experience.

You’re welcome. It can be rough sometimes, for sure. I definitely hope it helps someone.

nutella buttercream frosting holy shit please come here and make that for me?

nutella buttercream frosting holy shit please come here and make that for me?

I really think it will. Now, onto some more lighthearted stuff. Can you tell me about your favorite books and/or movies?

I am a huge nerd with regard to books. I will read pretty much anything I come across, but one of my favorite authors is R.A. Heinlein. His stuff ranges from hard sci-fi to, well, not so hard sci-fi and I just really like his stories and the way he gets into characters’ heads. His portrayal of women leaves a lot to be desired, though, and I don’t necessarily agree with his politics. On that same note, I like Orson Scott Card, but I won’t buy any of his books new because I refuse to give him money that he can shuttle towards fighting gay marriage.

Also, one of my all-time favorite books is Love in the Time of Cholera. I’m a sap, and it’s very romantic.

With regard to movies and TV, I’m on a Joss Whedon kick right now and just re-watched Firefly and Serenity. Plus, I plowed through Orange is the New Black in a couple of days, which was fun and sleepless.

And I watch Jeopardy all the time, because again, I’m a nerd.

So rad! Do you have any celeb crushes?

Vanessa Friedman.

Oh my fucking god I am blushing again.

I was hoping you would ask that so I could use that line!

What a line! I totally fell for it. I can barely remember the rest of my questions I’m blushing so hard. Oh! I know. Where are some of your favorite places to buy bow ties?

Yesssss! Bow ties are one of my favorite things, if no one has noticed that yet. I buy most of my bow ties and a few regular ties from thetiebar.com, which has $15 ties all the time and I love it. The selection is just ridiculous. Actually, I heard their bow ties were just on an episode of Project Runway so that’s a thing.

For my birthday, my brother got me a gift certificate to The Cordial Churchman, which is a company that makes hand made bow ties. I got a really fantastic rainbow-y striped diamond tip!

Plus, you can’t really go wrong with the Macy’s clearance rack. I got a very nice basic black bow tie there.

I knew you would be the right person to ask!

I have a lot of bow tie feelings. Also, never wear a pre-tied bow tie if you are over the age of 8! This is my humble request. You will look so much cooler if you tie your own.

Noted! You grew up in Michigan and now you’re in Indiana… can you describe both places? Was or is there much of a queer community in either state?

There wasn’t any sort of queer community in my hometown, although I did make two guy friends who happened to be gay. It’s a pretty conservative area.

However, I went to college in the Twin Cities, which is incredibly gay. Even though I was at a Catholic school, my experience there was mostly – not entirely – gay-friendly. Plus, Minneapolis pride is honestly hard to beat. It was a really good place to come out, especially since one of my best friends from undergrad is gay and kind of took me under her wing.

Aw!

Moving to South Bend was kind of a shock. Notre Dame is somewhat more conservative than my first school was. There’s a queer community, but it’s a little bit more underground, which is getting better. The only decent gay bar in the area closed last year, which is a bummer.

However, on the plus side, South Bend is really being revitalized, partially through social networking and events. There was a Pride Prom event that was organized by community members in June, which was fantastic. Also, South Bend residents organize a monthly “Guerrilla Gay Bar” event, in which they take over a bar for a queer-friendly evening. Very fun. Being queer in South Bend has gotten much better for me just in the past three years.

The resources at the university and community level still have much to be desired, but it’s all on the upswing.

Yay, that’s so great to hear! And now, my final question: Do you have anything else you would like to share with the Autostraddle community?

Well. I guess I just want to say that you all are beautiful and unique snowflakes and I hope that you all work to make this community even better and more inclusive than it already is. Also, your hair looks really good today.


If you would like to be featured as a future Straddler on the Street, please email vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com. Include a few photos, 3-5 sentences about yourself and put “Straddler Submission” in your subject line. Approximately a million people have submitted so far, so please be patient as Vanessa goes through her inbox — you’re all sexy with really smart brains, and don’t you forget it!

Avatar of Vanessa

Vanessa is a queer feminist writer, NYU grad, crush monster, and Jewish Grandma In Training. She has a radical brain, a mushy heart, and a million floral print dresses. She's currently on a big adventure but she'll be back one day, pinky swear. In the meantime, she can sometimes be found on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 198 articles for us.

111 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    Great interview – appreciate you being so open and honest about your family situation – as someone going through something similar it’s always helpful to hear from others and share – so thank you!

  2. Thumb up 3

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    Crystal Falls! Whoa! Not many people representing the Yoop. My girlfriend is from Ontonagon. As you can imagine, her coming out was also rough. Thanks for sharing your story! It is so comforting to hear from others who went through similar situations!

  3. Thumb up 13

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    To re-purpose what you wrote on my first AS thingy:
    “SERIOUSLY THE CUTEST. Although I’m biased, I have Marika issues. Unf. Bowtiers.”

    My love, my sweetness, my huggles buddy, it’s one ton of joyfully exploding dynamite-exciting to see you on the front page, where you beautitude has always belonged. Thank you so much for the feels and shares and being the you do you you. Big squeezy embraces when next we meet, and if ever you need someone to steal a bowl of salad bar eggs for you again, you just gimme a hollah. ;) #sosayweall <3

  4. Thumb up 6

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    i’m actually physically unable to pronounce your name correctly – even in my head – because literally my entire childhood was spent correcting people from mah-ree-kah to mak-rye-kah. but enough about me, this interview was adorable.

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      You should lie in a hammock at an angle, probably about 30 degrees from the midline. When you do that you end up creating basically a flat space with no/negligible pressure points. No weird curving.

      And for two, make sure (first of all) that you have a double hammock, or that won’t work terribly well. And then you can do a head to foot thing or spoon. In my experience.

  5. Thumb up 3

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    YAY SCIENCE! I love when there’s a glimmer of science on AS. I think that description of proteins is the most sciencey thing I’ve ever seen on here and it makes me happy (although Vanessa insisting she can’t understand it makes me sad). Also Marika’s comments are always the best.

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      HI oh god oh god this is where i see that THE PATRIARCHY has totally fucked with my brain more than i ever even anticipated and i have to apologize to y’all. i didn’t mean to insist that i can’t understand — marika’s explanation totally makes sense and i do understand, mostly. i think i am just so used to years of being told that i wasn’t very good at science but i shouldn’t worry because girls don’t have to be good at science (FUCK THAT NOISE) that my default is to be like “oh haha science-y things, lil’ ol’ me isn’t gonna really know what the heck you are talking about, teehee!” WHICH IS AWFUL AND HORRENDOUS AND I’M SO EMBARRASSED THAT I ALLOWED THAT GROSSNESS TO SEEP INTO THIS INTERVIEW EW. anyway all i meant is, my brain truly doesn’t just “get” science in the way some people’s brains do, and i really admire and respect those science-y brains because it’s always impressive when a human can do a thing or know a thing that you yourself cannot do or know, BUT OBVIOUSLY i also have faith in my own intellectual abilities and if marika explains science to me, i can understand it, gosh darn it! but i do bet there are straddlers out there who have a natural propensity for science and thus understand it BETTER. ya know?

      i just don’t want to be responsible for furthering a generation of women who think it’s normal to hear “girls can’t do science, math is so hard lol.” GIRLS WHO GET SCIENCE ARE SO HOT, EVERYONE SHOULD TRY REALLY HARD TO UNDERSTAND SCIENCE (BUT IT IS ALSO OKAY IF, LIKE ME, YOU PREFER WORDS AND ART AND WANT TO HEAR ABOUT SCIENCE BUT DO REALLY SORT OF STRUGGLE WITH “GETTING IT” THAT IS OKAY TOO).

      oh my god you guys it is so early in the week for me to be having a meltdown. usually i save these for wednesday. i just am sad that i made you sad, @mirtle!

      also you should all know that there are going to be so many more glimmers of science on AS in the very near future. not even just glimmers, possibly star beams. bright, shiny, beautiful, glimmering star beams of science. for real. i won’t be writing the science content, but i’ll be reading it and LOVING IT. get ready.

  6. Thumb up 7

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    First off, Marika, I always love your comments (especially the ones where you diffuse the tension during arguments) and you definitely deserved this article.

    Also…totally nerding out over the fact that you are studying molecular biology. I’m a baby biologist right now (halfway done with my bachelor’s degree! Just finished orgo chem! :D) and I want to go to grad school for cellular/molecular/microbiology. Do you happen to have any good advice on getting into grad school/research, etc. for us junior scientists?

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      Oh fantastic! Good for you! We need more female biologists, for sure. First, congrats on o chem. That was a KILLER for me. Second, if you can get into a lab and do some undergraduate research, that should make it really easy for you to get into grad school, especially if any of it is published. Even if it’s not, it’ll give you some appropriate experience that you can write about on your applications (and good references!)

      Getting into a lab as an undergrad is tricky, but see if you can find something for next summer. Just go into offices and ask, or email people, or whatever. Also, there’s an NSF REU program that you might be a good candidate for next summer: basically you get to research for a summer at a participating school, and you get paid. Notre Dame is one, and our lab has hosted REU students a few times.

      Also, rock your GRE. You probably don’t need to take the biology GRE, so focus on doing REALLY WELL on the regular one. I’m pretty sure that was a large factor for me getting into grad school.

      And when you get to the interview part, or even on the applications, look at faculty and see who lines up with your research interests. Read a paper or two by them so you have something intelligent to talk about. Interview weekends are also to see if you fit in with the department. So be social. There will be booze. Don’t get trashed (you’d be surprised…)

      GOOD LUCK!

      • Thumb up 1

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        Seconding the REU thing. I did one and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had while doing work, and I’m pretty sure it got me into grad school. And they’re free to apply to, so you can apply to as many as you want! (Or as many as your adviser is willing to upload a recommendation for. I’m sure there’s a finite limit)

        My actual nerdy life is intersecting with autostraddle right now and it’s weird.

  7. Thumb up 3

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    Science geeks are so cute!

    Thanks so much for sharing about your fam Marika. While it obviously sucks more than a little to hear about your parents, it really makes my heart feel a little warmer to hear of your close relationships with your siblings. I really think there are very few things in life better than having a brother or sister who genuinely knows you and unconditionally has your back

  8. Thumb up 10

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    What a perfect Monday. I wake up, apply to a job in South Bend, get excited thinking about how Marika and I are going to be best friends because I’m a creep and already know that she lives there, log on to Autostraddle, and BAM! Straddler on the Street. Marika. It’s fate, I tell you.

  9. Thumb up 13

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    Marika is just too adorable. I knew that at camp when you needle-pointed “I Love Science”? She’s just too cute! Like in the I just want to gay adopt her! Can I do that? Can I gay adopt you Marika? I’ll send you Christmas stockings stuffed with…Hell, I don’t know? Whatever you’re not allergic to and won’t kill you. But to be safe, I’ll include an epi-pen!

  10. Thumb up 5

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    Dear Marika,

    Please share all of your shirt secrets with me, because I have yet to figure out how to find/wear men’s shirts that will make me look as good as you and not like a short 14 year old boy with boobs.

    Thank you.

  11. Thumb up 2

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    Marika, you are awesome! It’s especially great to read about your experience with Notre Dame/South Bend, since I’m thinking about applying there for grad school. I’m a huge language nerd who wants to be able to work on literature in Irish (Gaelic), which makes Notre Dame one of the top choices in the US for me academically, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle the conservative-ness. It’s good to hear that there is in fact a queer community in South Bend, however hidden!

  12. Thumb up 6

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    You are a cool cat. Any science person who explains science things to humanities people in a not-condescending way gets, like, all the chocolate. And glomps. This was a seriously fun interview to read.

    Also, those whisky-everything chocolate chip cookies. *needs a drool bucket*

  13. Thumb up 3

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    I thought you were so fly at camp, Marika, and it took me a whole day to realize (and say out loud) “Oh you’re THAT Marika!” And every time I learn more about you, I esteem you even more. Cross stitch, damn.

  14. Thumb up 7

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    Oh hai Marika! I don’t know you obvs, but like Vanessa said, I kinda feel like I know you since you are all over AS all the time. I always enjoy reading your comments and you seem like such a delightful human. And you are rulllll cute, I must say :)

  15. Thumb up 5

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    In addition to convincing me to go to grad school and possibly move to Minneapolis, Marika also ensured my “never been to a city this damn big” self did not get lost on our adventure to get In-and-Out burgers after camp.

    In other words, Chuck Norris takes notes from Marika on how to be a bad ass :)

  16. Thumb up 5

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    Oh my glob Marika, you are so cute! Internet celesbian status :)
    Ahh I love how I didn’t even know you, but you just gave me hugs and made me feel better about life at the airport post-camp while I was breaking down. You were pretty much my hero.

    Basically, you’re just a really spectacular being and I’m still so grateful for your kindness :3

  17. Thumb up 11

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    Marika, today I saw this post and saw that recipe and suddenly I realized that I, whose favorite foods are fresh fruits, cheese, and wheat products (in that order), could actually possibly not starve if I dated a particular hottie who is certainly allergic to the second two, and possibly the first as well. So I dashed to the store and got all confused about what GF flour to buy, and substituted her fave M&M’s for the choc chips, and whipped up an absolutely DELICIOUS batch of those cookies you mentioned, and when she came home tonight I was sitting outside her door and she said nobody had ever baked for her, certainly not since she became GF, and I think she was wooed. A lot. So, thanks for that. ;)

  18. Thumb up 0

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    “I live in an area without a lot of visibly queer people, and I am basically a 50 footer.” — I laughed out loud at this awesome mental image. BOW TIE BOI RAWRR. A gentle giant, of course.

    I recently became visibly queer myself after years of being inspired by all the brave queermos who wear their gay hearts on their sleeves for all the world to see. You all make the world a better place.

    Also Marika thanks for sharing about your family — I’m also estranged from my parents and I feel so guilty about not just caving in so we can be together for the holidays. I think it helps everyone when people can share their experiences so thanks again.

    And Hooray for gay science nerds! 8)

  19. Thumb up 5

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    remember that time i as watching jeopardy just now as i am wont to do and tweeting about the dapper cute human who was rockin’ it. and riese was like, “duh that’s Marika, ya goof!” and i was like OH MAH GAH LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL WHAT A WORLD WE LIVE IN.

    yeah that just happened and i needed to share it somewhere.

  20. Thumb up 0

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    Oh, wow!! I cannot tell you how excited these comments are making me!! Not only did they bring your fabulous interview to the top of the AS stack again, Marika, but now you are my hero. (I’m waiting on an invite from Alex and will totally hit you up for tips if that happens!). I am now going immediately to watch the recorded episode and gush! (work in the morning? what work in the morning?)

  21. Thumb up 1

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    I saw you on Jeopardy!!! Please do an update about what being on Jeopardy is like? And if Alex Trebek is as wonderful as I’ve always believed?

    Also, you’re super smart.

    Also, way to be the best dressed contestant.

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