Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do, you apologize for the truth. – Benjamin Disrael

Author: Laura G Owens Page 6 of 15

Separation of church and state, including Satan’s coloring books

Satanic coloring book in Orange county schools

Public schools shouldn’t be allowed to distribute Bible’s or Satanic materials

 

Separation of church and state, including Satan’s coloring books

Personally, I don’t care if a religious or pagan or atheist group distributes materials at public schools.  If my daughter’s old enough to decide what does or doesn’t sit well in her soul, she ‘s old enough to take it all in.

But I do care on behalf of others, in separation of church and state.

Orange School Board bans outside Bibles, Satanic materials in schools. 

Ideas thrust into in the minds of thinking people doesn’t destroy beliefs, they might in fact, expand them.

But we have to protect the original intent of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to ward off potential abuse of religious power over non-Christians and the non-religious, so I come down on the side of separation of church and state. 

As for the Church of Satan giving out coloring books in Orange County Florida schools, for obvious reasons I don’t want little kids taking their box of Crayolas and making pretty rainbows in Satan’s fiery abyss, nor do I want them reciting The Church of Satan’s 9 Satanic statements (#5 Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek! (emphasis not mine))

I happen to believe Hell isn’t a place. I believe Hell is of our own making (and that Mother Nature just does her thing rather than vengefully make our lives hell) but kids don’t deserve gruesome Satanic images pages stuffed inside their little Dora the Explorer back-packs.

The Church of Satan worships some seriously creepy stuff and if for no other reason than I can’t shake my childhood superstitions that monsters lurk under my bed (and neither can kids) I don’t want Satanic materials circulating in our schools.

Equality opportunity disgust for all gruesome religious images

I wasn’t happy when years back my then 4-year-old daughter came home from her Methodist pre-school and tucked among her jelly bellies were crucifix images (on a bookmark or daily reminder page of Scripture, I can’t quite remember) during Easter time.

Gruesome is gruesome even (or especially) because it’s in religious context.

Little kids are too impressionable to easily process the image of Jesus’s wrists and feet nailed to a cross with little drops of blood dripping down as he looks in agony towards God. We can sweet it up all we want with adult justification phrases like He died for you little one, but it’s still a half-clothed man — on a cross — nailed — with a 4-year-old who didn’t ask Jesus to die for her.

In fact, I’m pretty sure 4-year-olds don’t want anyone to die for them.

When I saw crucified Jesus in my daughter’s hands I almost forgot my usual laissez-fair attitude about not jumping down a school’s throat for doesn’t-really-matter-in-the-long-run missteps. I’m very selective with my school outrage, in fact I can’t think of one time in 15 years I went off on staff or faculty except when my 2-year-old’s teacher wouldn’t give her lunch because my daughter and her criminal 2-year-old boyfriend threw their piece of pizza on the floor just because, you know, that’s what spunky 2-year-olds do.

But here’s my issue about religious materials in schools, Christian groups don’t get to cherry pick what gets distributed in state schools — Jesus in, Satan out.

It’s all or nothing.

And so, nothing.

Source: Orange School Board bans outside Bibles, Satanic materials in schools. 

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Good girls don’t get the corner office

Image: Wikipedia

“Teach your daughters to resolve conflicts, take risks, tout their strengths and “check your good girl at the door,” writes Rachel Simmons in her book, The Curse of the Good Girl.

Gender stereotypes start young.

Instead of taking risks and honing their leadership skills young women unwittingly sabotage their success by questioning their abilities and diminishing their potential, explains Leslie Mann in her article, Family duties make women executives prone to depression: study. “The result is a ‘psychological glass ceiling.'”

So, say good-bye to the nice girl. But let’s be clear, the not-nice girl isn’t the often mis-labeled bitch.

Bitches have nothing to do with corporate America, although you might find one there or down the street or in the grocery store.  A bitch is, pure and simple, a personality that can crop up anywhere, but she’s not the assertive, confident, authoritative woman doing her job. Bitches are aggressive, petty, underhanded, mean-spirited, back-stabbing and so it turns out, bitches are also men.

“Definitions of “feminine” and “masculine” must change, Pudrovska said. “When women in authority are assertive, dominant, powerful and confident, they’re viewed as unfeminine,” she said. “Men don’t have this conflict; these are ‘masculine’ traits.”

Women with a firm confident demeanor are sometimes seen as having “some nerve.”

Indeed, it takes some nerve to speak up. Assertive women exude authority, they challenge long-held gender expectations and status quo. Status quo is cozy comfy predictable, it tells us how we “should” operate as boys and girls in society.

But no one ever changed anything worth changing by staying within the confines of “should.”

In other words, as the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history, or get the corner office. 

Successful women don’t speak in meek diminutive tones, nor do they yell or bull-doze over everyone else in the room.  

I have what I think is a pleasant enough and also firm voice. No whispering mouse lives inside my voice box (anymore I kicked her out decades ago). I speak politely but with an audible strong tone if I have something meaningful to offer in meetings.  I challenge points diplomatically. And if I make someone uncomfortable with my “masculine” qualities that individual needs to ask why what his or her male peers exude is threatening, only when I do it.

“Women excel at compassion and empathy, which complicates their leadership roles, Breathed said. ‘When men get to positions of authority, they’re like the chest-beating silverback gorillas; they’ve made it!” she said. “But women say, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to fire a woman with two kids.'”

I respect businessman who exhibit among other traits, “female” qualities (known typically as empathy, compassion). I don’t see this as lacking the cojones to be effective leaders. When the hammer has to come down then they bring it down, until then, they listen to the human at the other end of their desk.

Ultimately, business men and women can learn from each other by recognizing the value of “male” and “female” traits and when best to use them.

 

 

 

 

 

Vicious closet cyber bully converts

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Warning: A small part of this post below is deeply disturbing, but if you hang on the emotional investment pays off.

Converted bully: Hey Lindy, I don’t know why or even when I started trolling you. It wasn’t because of your stance on rape jokes. I don’t find them funny either. I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self. (a “passionless life” he called it).

Bullied: It’s frightening to discover that he’s (the bully) so normal. He has female coworkers who enjoy his company. He has a real, live girlfriend who loves him. They have no idea that he used to go online and traumatize women for fun. Humans can be reached. I have proof. Empathy, boldness, kindness, those are things I learned from my dad, though he never knew how much I’d need them. Or maybe he did……….I still get trolled every day. If I could get through to one troll, the meanest one I ever had, couldn’t I feasibly get through to any of them, all of them?

Laura: If you haven’t experienced cyber bullying, thank God.  The Internet’s spawned some vicious verbal warfare thanks to the distance and cowardice of the keyboard. 

No one’s ever cyber bullied me but I’ve had a few nasty attacks out of the blue (I say out of the blue because no one else on the thread, that I knew of, seemed upset, just this one man or one woman and with such spitting anger you knew the issue — wasn’t the issue. 

The rare times someone came at me swinging before I answered I spewed George Carlin’s 7 dirtiest and dumped my anger into the air, or I ran like hell (left the forum or ignored the post). You can’t stop people from beating you up online unless you disappear or convince them there’s a living person at the other end of their poisonous pen. Conversion can happen.

Cyber bullying bothers me for the obvious. It’s mean. But more, I can’t figure out who these trolls are (trolls are online posters who slay people with relentless verbal attacks sometimes to the point of stalking or threatening violence).

I assume these piranhas have mothers, maybe kids, a cat, a friend or two, that they cry, bike, garden, kayak, make all day spaghetti sauce, call their grandmas.

A recent This American Life podcast gifted me with a stark and hopeful A-HA moment.  Moral: If you’re miserable, making someone else miserable won’t help. Not even a little. If you apologize, come clean, remember the human at the other end, you’ll feel better, at least a little. 

Here’s the story:

Writer, blogger, feminist Lindy West wrote a piece in response to dialogue circling the Internet, do comedians go too far when they use material about violence and rape against women? Lindy wrote yes, these topics should be off-limits to get a laugh.

As usual she wrote her honest unapologetic opinion.  As usual she expected a boatload of misogynistic hate email because she got them all the time, but one person went too far. 

“One midsummer afternoon in 2013, I got a message on Twitter from my dead dad. I don’t remember what it said exactly. And I didn’t keep a copy for my scrapbook. But it was mean.

And my dad was never mean. So it couldn’t really be from him. Also, he was dead. Just 18 months earlier, I’d watched him turn gray and drown in his own lungs. So I was like 80% sure.

And I don’t believe in heaven. And even if I did, I’d hope to God they don’t have fucking Twitter there. It’s heaven. Go play chocolate badminton on a cloud with Jerry Orbach and your childhood cat.

But there it was, a message. Some context– in the summer of 2013, in certain circles of the internet, comedians and feminists were at war over rape jokes. Being both a comedy writer and a committed feminist killjoy, I weighed in with an article in which I said that I think a lot of male comedians are careless with the subject of rape.

Here’s just a sample of the responses I got on social media. A quick warning, these are internet comments about rape, so it’s going to suck.

“I love how the bitch complaining about rape is the exact kind of bitch that would never be raped.” “Holes like this make me want to commit rape out of anger.” “I just want to rape her with a traffic cone.” “No one would want to rape that fat disgusting mess.” “Kill yourself.” “I want to put an apple into that mouth of yours and take a huge stick and slide it through your body and roast you.” “That big bitch is bitter that no one wants to rape her.”

It went on like that for weeks. It’s something I’m used to. I have to be. Being insulted and threatened online is part of my job, which is not to say it doesn’t hurt. It does. It feels– well, exactly like you would imagine it would feel to have someone call you a fat cunt every day of your life.

I wrote about Paul West Donezo in an article for jezebel.com. I wrote sadly, candidly, angrily about how much it hurt, how much that troll had succeeded. And then something amazing happened.

The morning after that post went up, I got an email. “Hey Lindy, I don’t know why or even when I started trolling you. It wasn’t because of your stance on rape jokes. I don’t find them funny either. I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self.

I have emailed you through two other Gmail accounts just to send you idiotic insults. I apologize for that. I created the paulwestdonezo@gmail.com account and Twitter account. I have deleted both.

I can’t say sorry enough. It was the lowest thing I had ever done. When you included it in your latest Jezebel article, it finally hit me. There is a living, breathing human being who’s reading this shit. I’m attacking someone who never harmed me in any way and for no reason whatsoever.

I’m done being a troll. Again, I apologize. I made a donation in memory to your dad. I wish you the best.”

They attached a receipt for a $50 donation to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where my dad was treated. I guess he found that out in this research too. It was designated Memorial Paul West.

I didn’t know what to say. I wrote, is this real? If so, thank you.

The troll wrote back one more time, apologized again, and this time, he gave me his real name. I could have posted it online, which he knew. But I didn’t. And I’m not going to be saying it here either.

That was almost 18 months ago, but I still think about it all the time because I still get trolled every day. If I could get through to one troll, the meanest one I ever had, couldn’t I feasibly get through to any of them, all of them?

Was he special? Or did I do something right? I wonder how he would tell me to respond to the people trolling me today. I wish I could ask him. But then I realized, I could.

Lindy West

I don’t know. I guess I’m just kind of nervous. But it’ll be OK, right?

Chana Joffe

Yeah.

Lindy West

This is me in a studio with producer Chana Joffe-Walt and a phone.

[TELEPHONE RINGING]

 

Man

Hello?

Lindy West

Oh, hello?

Man

Hello?

Lindy West

Hi. How are you?

Man

I got to tell you, I’m really nervous at the moment.

Lindy West

I’m a little nervous also.

Man

At least I’m not alone.

Lindy West

No, no, not at all.

I asked him why he chose me. He’d said in his email that it wasn’t because of the rape joke thing, so what exactly did I do?

Man

Well, it revolved around one issue that you wrote about a lot which was your being heavy– the struggles that you had regarding being a woman of size, or whatever the term may be.

Lindy West

You can say fat. That’s what I say.

Man

Fat. OK, fat.

Lindy West

I write a lot about body image, about the stigma and discrimination that fat people face, about being a fat woman. He told me that at the time he was about 75 pounds heavier than he wanted to be. He hated his body. He was miserable. And reading about fat people, particularly fat women accepting and loving themselves as they were, infuriated him for reasons he couldn’t articulate at the time.

Man

When you talked about being proud of who you are and where you are and where you’re going, that kind of stoked that anger that I had.

Lindy West

OK, so you found my writing. You found my writing, and you did not like it.

Man

Certain aspects of it.

Lindy West

Yeah.

Man

You used a lot of all caps. You’re just a very– you almost have no fear when you write.

Lindy West

Yeah.

Man

You know, it’s like you stand on the desk and you say, I’m Lindy West, and this is what I believe in. Fuck you if you don’t agree with me. And even though you don’t say those words exactly, I’m like, who is this bitch who thinks she knows everything?

Lindy West

I asked him if he felt that way because I’m a woman.

Man

Oh, definitely. Definitely. Women are being more forthright in their writing. There isn’t a sense of timidity to when they speak or when they write. They’re saying it loud. And I think that– and I think, for me, as well, it’s threatening at first.

Lindy West

Right. You must know that I– that’s why I do that, because people don’t expect to hear from women like that. And I want other women to see me do that and I want women’s voices to get louder.

Man

I understand. I understand. Here’s the thing. I work with women all day, and I don’t have an issue with anyone. I could’ve told you back then if someone had said to me, oh, you’re a misogynist. You hate women. And I could say, nuh-uh, I love my mom. I love my sisters. I’ve loved my– the girlfriends that I’ve had in my life. But you can’t claim to be OK with women and then go online and insult them– seek them out to harm them emotionally.

Lindy West

In my experience, if you call a troll a misogynist, he’ll almost invariably say, oh, I don’t hate women. I just hate what you’re saying and what that other woman is saying and that woman and that one for totally unrelated reasons. So it was satisfying at least to hear him admit that, yeah, he hated women.

He says he doesn’t troll anymore and that he’s really changed. He tells me that period of time when he was trolling me for being loud and fat was a low point for him. He hated his body. His girlfriend dumped him. He spent every day in front of a computer at an unfulfilling job. A passionless life, he called it.

And then gradually, he changed. He enrolled in graduate school. He found a new relationship. He started teaching little kids. He had a purpose.

Slowly, his interest in trolling dried up. We verified nearly everything that he told us about himself. Except, did he really stop trolling? I have no way of knowing, but I believe him. It felt true. And if this was all a con, it’s one that cost him a $50 charity donation.

We talked for over two hours, and I spent a lot of time trying to get him to walk me through his transgressions in detail– the actual physical and mental steps and how he justified it all to himself. I felt like if I could just get the specifics, gather them up and hold them in my hands, then maybe I could start to understand all of the people who are still trolling me.

Lindy West

How did you even find out that my dad died? How did you–

Man

I went to my computer. I googled you– found out you had a father who had passed. I found out that he had– you had siblings. I forget if it was three total.

Lindy West

I have two siblings.

Man

So–

Lindy West

Did you read his obituary?

Man

I believe I did. I knew he was a musician.

Lindy West

Yeah, I wrote that. I wrote his obituary.

Man

What I did was this. I created a fake Gmail account using your father’s name, created a fake Twitter account using his name. The biography was something to the effect of, my name is– I’m sorry, I forget the name– the first name.

Lindy West

His name was Paul West.

Man

I wrote, “My name is Paul West. I’ve got three kids. Two of them are great, and one of them is an idiot.”

Lindy West

Yeah, you said embarrassed father of an idiot.

Man

OK.

Lindy West

Other two kids are fine, though. And then–

Man

That’s much more worse.

Lindy West

And you got a picture of him.

Man

I did get a picture of him.

Lindy West

Do you remember anything about him? Did you get a sense of him as a human being?

Man

I read the obit. And I knew he was a dad that loved his kids.

Lindy West

How did that make you feel?

Man

Not good. I mean, I felt horrible almost immediately afterwards. You tweeted something along the lines of, good job today, society, or something along those lines.

Lindy West

Yeah.

Man

It just wouldn’t– for the first time, it wouldn’t leave my mind. Usually, I would put out all of this internet hate, and oftentimes I would just forget about it. This one would not leave me. It would not leave me. I started thinking about you because I know you had read it. And I’m thinking how would she feel. And the next day I wrote you.

Lindy West

Yeah. [INAUDIBLE].

Man

And I truly am sorry about that.

Lindy West

Yeah, I mean, have you lost anyone? Can you imagine? Can you imagine?

Man

I can. I can. I don’t know what else to say except that I’m sorry.

Lindy West

Well, you know, I get abuse all day every day. It’s part of my job. And this was the meanest thing anyone’s ever done to me. I mean, absolute– I mean, it was really fresh. He had just died.

But you’re also the only troll who’s ever apologized. Not just to me, I’ve never heard of this happening before. I mean, I don’t know anyone who’s ever gotten an apology. And I just– I mean, thank you.

Man

I’m glad that you have some solace.

Lindy West

Honestly, I did have some solace. I forgave him. I felt sorry for him.

It’s so difficult to believe that anyone ever really changes. And he did it. I found immense comfort in that.

Toward the end of our conversation, I remembered that in his email he had confessed that he had harassed from multiple troll accounts, not just Paul West Donezo.

Did I ever write back? Was there anything I didn’t know? He said, yeah, one time he’d sent something mean from his personal account, and I retweeted it to all of my 40,000 followers. He was mortified.

Man

And I’m trying to remember what it was about. I think you had mentioned a comedian. You had tweeted about a comedian who had threatened to throw his girlfriend down the stairs?

Lindy West

Oh, no, he said he wished that I would fall down a flight of stairs.

Man

Oh, OK, and I think I said– I don’t know if I retweeted it or I– what did I say?

Lindy West

Oh. Oh my god, I remember you.

Man

Yeah, OK.

Lindy West

Oh my god.

Man

What did I say?

Lindy West

You said something like, I wish I could be the one to push her, or something. Or–

Man

Or I thought it was, too bad Lindy isn’t your girlfriend.

Lindy West

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh my god, I remember you.

Man

Yeah, that’s me. I’m a dick.

Lindy West

I can’t believe– I mean, there’s so many trolls. I can’t believe– I can’t believe I remember you.

Man

Yeah, that was me.

Lindy West

At this point, my producer Chana, who’d been listening, couldn’t stop herself from jumping in.

Chana Joffe

God, hearing you guys, you sound like you’re like, oh, you went to that high school? I went to that high school too. Holy cow.

Man

Yeah.

Lindy West

Well, you know, I mean it’s such a normalized part of my life now. I mean, honestly– and it’s kind of a relief to talk to someone who really knows what I’m talking about, even though he’s coming at it from the other direction. There’s almost no one who understands–

Man

Well, you know what, as a former troll, I’d never told a single living human being until now that I did this. So it’s good, in a way, to get that off my chest to get my secret life– my old life– I don’t know. It just feels good to exercise these demons.

Lindy West

It felt really easy, comfortable even, to talk to my troll. I liked him, and I didn’t know what to do with that.

It’s frightening to discover that he’s so normal. He has female coworkers who enjoy his company. He has a real, live girlfriend who loves him. They have no idea that he used to go online and traumatize women for fun.

Trolls live among us. I’ve gotten anonymous comments from people saying they met me at a movie theater and I was a bitch. Or they served me at a restaurant and my boobs aren’t as big as they look in pictures.

People say it doesn’t matter what happens on the internet, that it’s not real life. But thanks to internet trolls, I’m perpetually reminded that the boundary between the civilized world and our worst selves is just an illusion.

Trolls still waste my time and tax my mental health on a daily basis, but honestly, I don’t wish them any pain. Their pain is what got us here in the first place. That’s what I learned from my troll.

If what he said is true, that he just needed to find some meaning in his life, then what a heartbreaking diagnosis for all of the people who are still at it. I can’t give purpose and fulfillment to millions of anonymous strangers, but I can remember not to lose sight of their humanity the way that they lost sight of mine.

Humans can be reached. I have proof. Empathy, boldness, kindness, those are things I learned from my dad, though he never knew how much I’d need them. Or maybe he did.

He was a jazz musician. And when I was born, he wrote a song about me. And listening to it now, it feels like he wrote it for just this moment. I’ll give the last word to him.

Paul West

Music playing, Paul West singing….”You’ve got a lot of nerve, little girl– bundles of nerve, little girl, to come here in a season full of doubt and tattered reason in a world you don’t deserve. You got a lot of nerve, little girl.

(HOST) IRA GLASS: Lindy West in Seattle.

Paul West

You got a lot of stuff, little girl. I hope it’s enough, little girl. Cause in a world so full of greed, it’s pretty likely that you’ll need it all and still have to be tough. 

Your original perfection

reachingoutAll of us it seems, have two voices in our head. Sometimes all we hear is the critical nudge who insists we’re never enough, that we find a new job or new relationship or lose weight or parent better or volunteer more, that we make more homemade or wipe away more piles of dust.

It doesn’t matter how this voice got a hold of us, whether our mother or father or 8th grade math teacher or failed business or best friend or partner convinced us they were right until eventually we believed the lies and kept trying to please, it only matters that we shoo the voice away or we’ll never be fully full despite mounds of evidence of our built-in, born with it awesomeness.

But within us also sits a whisper, the gentle voice who insists that whatever they think, the others, and whatever we haven’t done yet doesn’t matter much. What matters are the multiple seconds of good we do that are more powerful than our imperfections and anger and fear or failures or never-accomplished triumphs.

Think back to Monday when maybe made you made your child laugh until she fell down or on Saturday and most days, when without thinking you smiled at the stranger on the sidewalk who looked vacant and sad or when you gently spoke up for a friend at a party who wasn’t around to defend herself against attack or when you let a woman cut in front of you at the grocery store and sucked in your righteous griping, and that you always, without fail, apologize when you make a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings.

Your tiny angel efforts touch lives by spectacular inches.

If we pay close attention despite the noise of our day, if we reflect on gratitude for not only what we receive but for what we give, we begin to notice that we do more than merely ‘do no harm,’ we make a positive impact on others because we somehow sense that if we need to feel joy and hope, or at the very least not dreadfully alone, so must everyone else.

When we realize we make a difference in small but significant moments that add to the good emotions of someone’s else’s life and that the accumulation of these good emotions very much has a ripple effect; we begin to know that we are indeed, enough.

In a world filled with viral images of airbrushed perfection, with wars and global devastation and mean politics and pedophile priests and top 10 lists of hard bodies and high bank accounts and posts filled with lives that seem to shine brighter than ours, the applause from our internal cheering section sometimes fades to silence.

Instead of accepting ourselves as Original Sinners who chronically miss the mark, let’s notice our Original Perfection, times when we hit the bulls-eye of grace and care and compassion, times when we held our tongue with near impossible patience. Maybe then we do good from our gut rather than from guilt-of-falling-short which leaves drumming scars of never-enough.

I know people who can’t write checks to charity or can’t find time to volunteer between jobs, kids, colds, dying parents or too little sleep but they give the whole of themselves with daily decency. These are the people who ask “How are you?” to the stressed out cashier or somber man standing alone in the corner at the business meeting who looks awkward and uncomfortable.

This is enough. This is your God-given Original Perfection.

Maybe our kinder gentler voice is the divine tapping us awake, nudging us to notice our fleeting and seemingly unimportant gestures that add to the world rather than subtract, that leave a soft footprint of quiet radical radiance.

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Trash TV: When kids catch you in the act

kimkThe other night my daughter looked over me lying on the couch. “What are you watching?” she asked.

I guess I fell asleep in front of some movie called “House Bunny.” I need to be more careful when I watch trash. My daughter is of the age (nearly 17) when she sees herself as my morality judge and jury.

Once your kids notice you don’t always follow your own advice, you’re doomed.

You see, “House Bunny” wouldn’t fall under my “empowered woman” content but if you watch the entire movie, you can find a good message.

My advice for my daughter to be a strong, independent woman runs the gamut from “smart is cool, to find a job and pay for your own life before you marry and have kids, to run (fast) from the mean boy to women aren’t sex objects, but.

(Image credit)

I tell her that being sexy by degrees as you get older is fine and that you and your friends shouldn’t call girls “sluts” because funny thing, we don’t call men who sleep around with a few women sluts (she seemed confused by this at first but then agreed with my theory. Sexuality hypocrisy for men and women runs so deeeeeeeep we barely notice).

But I also told her, you gotta have self-respect. Be very selective. Care deeply about someone (if) before you sleep with him.  Watch the image you put out because you’re your own brand. (“House Bunny” had piles of women who at strictly face value weren’t role models but it was an entertaining movie and we can’t over think the plusses of shows that relax the tired mind).

House_bunny

My daughter flagrantly cuts me off when I try to talk about sex but I know she hears me.

Everyone once in a while I remind her to wait until she’s married. I’m supposed to say this. Abstinence messages are Responsible Parenting 101 and the terrified protective side of me agrees. Sex opens up all sorts of dangers and complicated emotional doors.

But pounding the drum of abstinence also puts our grown children at risk that they’ll marry their best friend — with no benefits. So after I throw out the requisite wait-wait warnings my daughter and I silently snicker to ourselves and then move on.

Fortunately she seems to have a firm sense of self and almost palpable disgust for in authenticity in friends and pop icons.  Also, she still hasn’t had a single boyfriend and I think honestly without meaning to brag, she very easily could.  She’s smart, quite attractive, quiet yet sort of self-assured and if I do say so, pretty damn nice.

She dresses All American with that slight twist I keep my eye on. Her tops aren’t too low and her shorts and jeans maybe a smidge too tight, are for her age, passable.When she hit the Embarrassed by My Parents phase (long since gone) she’d tell me to pull up my Friday night tops. If I didn’t she’d just reach over and do it for me.

“I’m married. You’re not. And, I’m older,” I told her. “If I want to show some leg or cleavage I will. You’re too young for all that.” I give her my version of When Measured Sexy is Okay and When it’s Not. My version might not go over well when I’m 85.

When I tried to explain why I wasted my time watching “House Bunny,” that the movie definitely had some feel good lessons (Mean girls try (and fail) to get high IQ socially awkward Nice sorority girls kicked off campus by Mean Girl President because Mean Girls want Nice Girls’ sorority house), she shrugged me off.

I think by now she gets that her parents are sometimes mild hypocrites and that probably even Gloria Steinem (if she remembers who I told her she is) watches mind mush from time to time. I don’t think we’re meant to fill up every inch of our brain with high-minded matter,  just most of it.

In the movie the Nice Girls’ house is run by a sweet woman-child who chronically under dresses and has the most grating baby voice ever conceived by a director. Shelley is a former Hugh Heffner Playboy playmate kicked out of the mansion for being too “old.” (ironic because I thought Heff was half in the grave). She winds up homeless until she finds herself house mom to the “misfit” sorority girls who look to her as their make-over mentor (they never knew they needed).

The moral of the story: looks fade but solid character and good friends last. When my daughter walked in I had the moral to the story ready in case she pulled another Kardashian-scold on me.

A couple weeks ago she caught me watching “Khloe and Courtney take the Hamptons.” The Kardashians already took New York and California and other places around the globe so I thought they might have some insights on the often misunderstood Hamptons.

The fact is, it’s very fashionable for people to say they hate the Kardashians.  I’m supposed to scoff and announce I’m too good for all of them, especially that fame-sucking mother. I’m supposed to lean on high ideals and group agree these women are shallow airheads famous for just being famous. I’m supposed to be outraged and yet, I’m not. (The Housewives Of….. another series I sometimes watch(ed), truly outrages me because frankly the jealous infighting gives rich cat fights and first world “problems” a new low low low).

I’m a former psychology major so I’m drawn to all kinds of social situations and the Kardashian petri dish is alive and multiplying. The family happens to be rich media royalty but they’re extremely close and I like that. Kim is gorgeous (beauty is indeed only skin deep, but beauty of all kinds, still draws the eye), sweet and a brilliant marketing machine. Chloe is outspoken and ballsy and Courtney never changes her expression; I mean never. Poker face perfection. Ecstatic is the same as depressed is the same as jealous is the same as disgusted. Who can’t wonder what lies beneath?

“Why are you watching THIS?”  my daughter asked.

For a second I thought she was about to plop down on the couch and watch with me. Mother-daughter admitting our mutual attraction to fly on the wall TV.  I should have known better. My daughter hates reality TV (but insists the 13 “Saw” movies she watched have lessons if I’d only give them a chance (I won’t). Choose between say, saving your own life or sawing off the arm of the woman chained to you).

She and I just started sharing “Modern Family” and “Black-ish” but I wasn’t ready to share Kardashian OMG moments when one sister is incensed for 10 minutes because the other sister didn’t show up in a “super cute” outfit when she knew very well they were going out to lunch. 

“Uh, well it’s been a long time since I watched the Kardashians (a month?) but I just felt like something mindless and entertaining. But I mean it’s been a long time.”

“Yeah but this? Such a stupid show. There’s better mind mush you could watch. Like one of your sitcoms you love.”

Noted. I live on stupid sitcoms, movies, non-fiction books and documentaries. Funny beats reality TV, but neither beats Saw?

My child softly shamed me into turning the channel because well frankly she was right. I could have chosen better, but sometimes I don’t want to choose better.

She knows perfectly well I don’t just ingest important content. My list of crap is impressive: the Golden Girls (radical for their time) to Big Bang Theory, Frasier, King of Queens, Mike and Molly, The League (my husband still can’t believe I like it), Vogue, sometimes an airport People and yes movies like, “House Bunny.”

Once your child becomes your morality police you’ve either done something terribly right or terribly wrong.

You can cover up content when your kids are young because they’re too busy coloring or playing Legos to notice. But by the time they hit double digits (really much earlier thanks to the Internet) they’re lens become all high and mighty. They see your weak attempts to hide your guilty pleasures.

For the most part I try to beat my daughter to the punch and expose myself before she’s too disappointed. Sometimes however, she gets there first.

This past Christmas was the first year she noticed how many wine-themed ornaments I have.

“Gifts from friends. Everyone one of them,” I pointed out, as if friends thinking “wine” when they think “Laura” is better than if I bought the ornaments myself.

“Guess that doesn’t say much about me, eh? Or the fact that one time when you were in Kindergarten your teacher told you to make something that reminded you of your parents and you made a tiny paper wine bottle?”

She didn’t look the least bit worried by my half a dozen wine bottle ornaments.  My daughter is now chronically amused at my anxious attempts to make sure I haven’t screwed her up. Maybe because my guilty pleasures haven’t changed her day to day life or ruined her sense of continuity or safety or sense of self.

Maybe she’s old enough now to see her parents as expectedly but manageably flawed, trying not to wobble her life too much despite ourselves, which in the end, is our way of big messy love.

House Bunny Image credit: Wikimedia

 

 

Whores-de-vores

appetizers

Have you ever butchered a word?  I mean just bloodied the poor thing?

I took French for 7 years and I still can’t pronounce sommelier, the wine expert at restaurants.  I’ve asked. I’ve sounded it out. I can’t do it. I give up.  There’s been plenty of non-foreign words I’ve mangled but I can’t remember. I’ve blocked them out.

My step mom told me she once heard a man order a “seizure” salad (Caesar salad). These word missteps are called malaprops she explained,  “an amusing

error that occurs when a person mistakenly uses a word that sounds like another word but that has a very different meaning.” (Merriam Webster). I think they’re more than amusing, they’re hysterical.

When you read this story you might think I’m a snob, crass or not a nice person. 

Crass, yes sometimes.

But I’m not a fancy mean lady and I think most people will relate to this story either because they’ve butchered a phrase or two, or they heard someone make mince meat out of a perfectly fine sentence.

My husband Andy told me this story and when I want to renew the chuckle I ask him to tell it again and again. The 10th time feels as hilarious as the first but laughing makes me sort of feel like the Mean Girl.

For about two months Andy dated a woman he refers to as Nurse Smith (she was actually a nurse but lets just say her last name was Smith). That he doesn’t use her first name always sounds a little porno star but I think he really forgot her name.  And the fact is the entirety of their dating existed inside his apartment at 11pm after she got off her night shift while she was still in uniform, so their relationship had some slight porno undertones. 

Nurse Smith was, how do I say it? Seriously horny. Andy could count on late night, early morning non-stop round the clock sex till sometimes he had to tell her help, stop, no, I’ve gotta get up for work.

I know, you’re crying him river.

Beyond the rampant romping Andy genuinely liked Nurse Smith although they weren’t spending much time outside the apartment or getting serious.

One night when they did manage to put clothes on they went to a party, one of those outside tent affairs with stations filled with food and drinks.  After a few minutes Nurse Smith said, “I’ll meet you at the whores-de-vores tent.”

“You mean hor d’oeuvres,?” Andy said.

“You know what I mean, whore-de-vores, appetizers.”

He broke up with her the next day.

The man dropped his late night sex kitten because she said whores-de-vorse, because she butchered the French word for finger foods.

Not nice. But I admit, I get it.

There’s a few things hard to overlook as much as you want to, you really want to. Bad breathe and yellowed teeth. Butchering words is another one or at least it is for Andy who is hardly Mr. Wordsmith Elitist. He’s a smart guy but not that blow-hard pompous know it all type. He’s a laid back unmacho sort of guys-guy who wears jeans and t-shirts for the most part. Sure, he likes sophisticated stuff, food, wine, travel but without pretense.

How we use language conveys a sense of sophistication. Sophistication without the she-she snooty is kind of sultry. Sultry is sexy.

I’m not saying someone needs to be Rodeo Drive rich, a tenured professor or Hamptons sophisticated. Nose in the air is a buzz kill for sincere relationships but we can at least try to “Make language our friend,” as Oprah once said to an audience who argued the plusses and minuses of being street talk real. 

But, there’s also no need for putting on verbal airs.  Personally, I can’t say this one word everyone I know uses when they for example, spot a great pair of shoes. The word is “fabulous.”  Every dress, restaurant, painting, sunset is “just fabulous.” It feels Hollywood phony even coming from the 99.99% of non-phonies I know who say it.  And if I hear “Fab” I almost throw up in my mouth.

Sometimes I like to pretend with my teen daughter that I’m street talk rap funny. “Yo bee-atch whasssup?” She laughs, then tells me to stop. My window for rapster around my child is narrow.  Old people doing hipster makes teens cringe like whores de vores makes me cringe.

It hurts because they’re doing it all wrong.

I’m not much for people throwing out Ph.D words so they can puff up or stomp on someone’s self-esteem. I’m also not about dumbing down because someone thinks I sound pompous. I go with what naturally falls off my tongue at the time depending on who I’m with.  I might be rapster hipster with my daughter, use raw foul language while I rant or tell a story to my close friends and family, or use college words in context.  

I once used the word “condescending” in a sentence with a woman I worked with and she told me to “stop using my fancy college words.” I had fancier words in my pocket but “condescending” is hardly National Spelling Bee big. See, now I sound condescending, I mean I sound like a bitch.   

I wish my husband’s story about Nurse Smith didn’t make me laugh. I’m taking a cheap pot-shot at someone for an innocent and harmless slip. 

But I come from a long line of wordsmiths and warped sarcastic humorists. We laugh at wildly inappropriate things that comediens Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers (RIP) and Sasha Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell find so hilarious. Half the people agree, half the people think they’re disgusting.

I tell my teen daughter who mimics our irreverent humor, she can laugh all she wants at the inappropriate and the verbal missteps. She can use street words, bloody the language (teen text, RIP language) but you should only loosen your word standards with your parents and your friends, in private, out of ear shot, away from school essays or anyone whose heart your mocking might pierce.

No exceptions.

If she wants to use whores de vores or say that lady has “big ole breastissis” (breasts) at home have at it, but when she gets outside our walls or her friend’s texts, the sentence is “big old breasts” and the word is hor d’oeuvres, thank you very much.

Image credit pixabay.com 

 

Impolite Conversations: Talking about hard issues without cringing or screaming.

politics sex religion race money

 

Can’t WAIT to read this book!

“Here’s a thought: it is truly difficult to have a conversation without really listening to the person we are talking to. Not only do we no longer listen but, we thanks to a new technological innovations, we don’t have to. Instead we enjoy making our points so much that we only listen long enough to poke holes in other people’s arguments. But that’s not truly hearing them. Honest listening is rally the lost art. So let’s talk. And listen..”

Take a look at the chapter titles below.

Cover your reading ears because you might cringe, which is to say you’ll either be turned off or too intrigued to look away.

Obviously the chapter titles are designed to provoke but there’s meat behind the topics we avoid at dinner parties (Personally I love talking religion. Not what you “should” believe but “What do you believe (or not).” 

The chapter “Let’s pray for sexually active daughters” isn’t about asking Jesus to make our girls promiscuous (I briefly heard Cora during an interview about this chapter.

Cora wants girls to experience sex as pleasurable.  She’s not worried if her daughter will have sex, she’s worried her daughter will like sex. We assume men like sex. Men say they like sex without apologizing or snickering and we all nod. Yep, that’s a man. Thinks with his crotch. If a woman admits she likes sex without apologizing or snickering she’s a shameful harlot (and a unicorn). 

But if women put all their sex eggs in the marriage basket they might be disappointed.  Sex for the first time on their honeymoon and ever after might mean women (and men) married their best friend who suddenly in the sack feels like their beloved sibling not lover. Raw deal. 

I’m not saying couples get their numbers up before nuptials. But saving sex for marriage is a problem if they find out the chemistry was never there.  Couples can work through a whole bunch of baggage and behavior issues but chemistry is chemistry.  Primal visceral stuff. Either it’s there — or it’s not. 

So check out this book.

Two authors. One a journalist (Cora) one an anthropologist (John). Good stuff.

Chapter 1 Sex:

Cora: Let’s pray for sexually active daughters
John: There’s a conspiracy to hypermasculinize black boys.

Chapter 2 Money:

Cora: We’re not moving on up
John: Watching TV is better than listening to jazz

Chapter 3 Religion

John: Is Twitter the new religion (Laura: Oh God I hope not)
Cora: Can a nation still have faith if it has lost its hope?
John: Are black people still overchurched?

Chapter 4 Politics

John: I could be a Republican
Cora: It’s time to rethink the American Dream
John: Obama makes whites whiter
Cora: I don’t care about first black presidents
Cora: It actually is Mama’s fault (Laura: WTF? Better read this one with wine)

Chapter 5 Race

John: We’re all haters
Cora: One box rule
Cora: Color wars!
John: All my best friends are light-skinned women
Cora: F* the N-word-bring back the word “nigger” (Laura: just to write that hurt).(Cora is black,btw).
John: Nigger, please (Laura: Again, ouch).
John: Is half as good better than nothing?
Cora: Mediocrity Nation?
John: No more Soujourners

Jesus and Jello. Why I liked my religious buffet growing up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image credit: Wikipedia  

Excerpted from my essay “Jesus and Jello”

I was raised with a la carte religion, a buffet line of a little bit here, a little bit there, mostly Methodist with a dash of Presbyterian. From time to time my mother brought my sister and I to our local church’s Sunday school or services while my father read the Sunday Times and kindly shrugged off our efforts at faith (At least as far as I knew, they could have been quietly dueling Kids Need God vs. Why Bother?).

I don’t remember feeling pressure from my mother or the church that I’d rot in any version of Hell or from my agnostic father that belief was pure nonsense. The most I remember of my father’s view about God was benign indifference with a hint of “Hey if that’s your thing, have at it.” What I perceived of God was my own mish mash of “That nice guy Jesus might have a point,” thinking I was something special to play an angel in our Christmas play, watching sweaty evangelists on TV who looked more feverish and angry than settled and divine, and my own supernatural superstition.

When I was about eight or nine I prayed in bed every night. Eyes closed I chanted silently words that warned me that at any moment darkness could turn to death even for the little ones, a sort of self-propelled ghost tale of comfort and discomfort, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray my Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”

I prayed to ward off worry that God might be extra busy or angry that night and forget to handle with grand decency, the dead girl at 6 Prospect Street who forgot to pray at 9:06 on April 4th, 1974. Around the same time I avoided cracked mirrors, ladders, black cats and without thinking I lifted my feet as our car passed over railroad tracks and then I made a wish. God for me was about performing lucky charm OCD rituals and if I forgot any of them, He’d lower the boom.

As a sprouting seeker, back then God needed to be tangible in my hands and as far as I could tell the Catholics had a better deal than the Protestants, fancier robes and a flair for dramatic church decor. One of my closest friends Kathleen had the coveted saddle shoes which I had too, but hers were permanently new to match her tartan uniform and starched white shirt (that I didn’t want to wear).  If God ranked dress code I had to figure the Catholics’ won first place.

Kathleen’s school I recall, opened with impressive iron gates, a looming presence in our small preppy town in New Jersey where anything bigger than a General Store or Pappagallo was monolithic. A religious school on Main meant the people behind the gates must be extra protected and special, and even though the nuns were humorless finger-wackers (from what I’d heard), to me they seemed to float over the school grounds inside their habits, wings from God elevating them an inch.

And while Kathleen took weekly CCD classes (a huge drag) she was paid back with a spectacular white dress that I envied, a party full of “atta girls” and mounds of cash and presents, all of which I thought weren’t bad trades off for daily damnation jitters…

Ice bucket challenge ‘narcissism masked as altruism?’ Oh for Pete (Frates’) sake.

Ice_Bucket

“It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity,” writes Arielle Pardes at Vice. “There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but the most annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism.”

I might have slung the same cynical attack until I saw the ESPN video about the man who inspired the ice bucket challenge (Pete Frates).  

If Pete isn’t criticizing people for wasting water or calling the selfie videos narcissism, why should anyone else?

Even if this me-me-me video isn’t your style and the ice bucket movement makes you want to vomit because it’s showy or “slactivism” rather than hands-in-the-trenches activism, focus on this: 

To date this “narcissism masked as altruism” has raised $15 million dollars.

But for a moment, let’s notice the elephant in the room. 

No news here. We’re a selfie, narcissistic generation.  And for those of us raised without chronicling our everything on Facebook and Insta-me+us, many a thirty-something+ it appears, likes it (Facebook that is, not Instagram where the youth ran to hide from parents who invaded Facebook).

I admit sometimes I’m visually overexposed on Facebook but to be fair I’m usually tagged by someone else. 

This clearly begs for a bullshit call-out.

“Then in the name of give-us-a-break, humility and if nothing else, self-respect untag  yourself!” If I like the picture I don’t untag myself.  I of course, am the only woman my age powered by vanity, a particularly loathsome trait among some old guard feminists who rail against today’s feminist in unapologetic stilettos. 

(My brassiness is inspired by my forty-eight year old midlife confidence and (probably) because I’m reading Erica Jong’s “Fear of Fifty” and literally gasping and applauding at her balls to wall candor and dissection of double standards). 

As far as “overexposing” ourselves for a cause, its working

Social media moves mountains faster than email or the newspaper in your driveway.

If social media antics didn’t send ripples across the nation corporations and non-profits wouldn’t bother, noting it as a fad by a few (million) self-absorbed non-buying consumers.    

The success of the ALS ice bucket challenge understandably upsets other charities but it wouldn’t be the first time righteous jealousy spawned new ideas and made a radical difference in fundraising. The sand in the oyster irritates itself into a glorious pearl.

Social media posts gone wild inspires and irritates people into bantering it out, the requisite cow pokes to get us off our apathy.

Say 50,000 (I’m just guessing) people did the ice bucket challenge for fun and 10,000 coughed up money, who cares?  The video loosened wallets (many of them high-profile celebrities).

Generation Next. Social media is how they hear. They listen. They watch. They feel. They share.  And some of them, do. 

P.s. After my daughter did the ice bucket challenge I asked her if she was willing to donate some of her own money to ALS because that was the bigger point. She said yes. Days later when I asked her for the money she reminded me I still owe her money from last week when she wen to the mall but she would donate anyway. I told her I got her covered. 

Image credit

Robin Williams: Our brilliant masked man.

Robin_Williams

I couldn’t figure out why I woke up this morning still thinking about Robin Williams. My husband offhandedly asked me yesterday why he thinks he did it, and maybe he asked me because no one can grasp why this beautiful brilliant man who made us snort laugh took himself from his family and fans.

Or maybe he asked me because he knows when I battled post-partum depression 16 years ago that to explain the abyss as Anne Lamott calls it, is nothing short of impossible.

Your brain is hijacked by forces outside your highest self, that one thing bound to rescue you when you’re alone and yet surrounded by everyone. Your rational thoughts are cruelly re-arranged by random neurochemical screw-ups until what you know  to be true becomes a big confusing lie.

Worse, part of you still senses that good stuff exists, hope, family, laughing, all those energizing, life and hope sustaining feelings get buried under numbness and sludge until the you that is you suffocates.

So while everyone and every beautiful mundane moment tells you “Hello Sunshine, it’s all good,” you don’t believe it because you don’t have the operating instructions to believe it. It’s like describing the feel of bright yellow to someone who only feels in black.

By the outstretched arms of my needing child and desperate trying of my husband, by the angels and God forces and my own stubborn belief that I better claw back up for them AND for my own inherited joy, I climbed out of that hellish abyss and I now encourage women (and men) to do the same.

Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression and yet men are more likely to take their lives.  Is depression still “female,” and for men merely a momentary mental wobble to “suck it up” or “buckle down” or “just pray the sad away?”

Strength comes when we manage to poke a pinhole through our impenetrable fear until the light inches in, and by our bravery to ask for help.

And yet, I’m positive Mr. Williams was brave, long fighting demons and addictions; he asked and got help and asked and got help until one day he sat alone for one moment too long and forgot his sunshine and the sunshine he gave millions.

They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary ~ John Keating played by Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.

Youtube: What will your verse be?

 

Image source: Wikipedia

 

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