Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Category: Social Issues Page 2 of 4

Heritage or hate?

Confederate flag’s half-century at S.C. Capitol ends – CNN.com

Yes it’s true, taking the Confederate flag down won’t end racism as banning the swastika in Germany didn’t stop Neo-Nazis from bleeding white supremacy. But why would anyone willing to face the Confederate flag’s history want to add insult to injury?

“The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate. But why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population?” Southern historian Gordon Rhea, 2011.

“It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations,” writes Rhea, “from the Klu Klux Klan to the skinheads. They did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals: ‘that the negro is not equal to the white man‘. “ Wikipedia

So let’s think about honoring heritage for a moment.

Honoring heritage is about memorializing the sacrifices of soldiers, cause aside.  Heritage symbolism however, shouldn’t make anyone’s stomach lurch.  And yet, the Confederate flag makes plenty of black and white people shudder because it’s seeped in hate. That’s just documented history, not anti-white paranoia.

“The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.” Southern political scientists James Michael Martinez, William Donald Richardson, and Ron McNinch-Su. Wikipedia

Unfortunately it took the recent tragedy in Charleston to pull the flag from the SC state house. Like many issues shamefully overdue for change, Charleston was the Confederate flag’s tipping point.

Private property citizens can wave the Confederate flag all they want. They can line their flatbeds with it, dot their lawns or paint their mailboxes, but what’s the message they hope to send?

The South will rise again?

Rise over who?

The South should have won?

Won what? To hold onto slavery, segregation and white supremacy?

Ask yourself if you can show deep pride in your heritage without waving a flag that causes some people to reflexively cringe in fear. And the answer is, of course you can.

Staring down the dark origins of the Confederate flag doesn’t dishonor our soldiers, nor does it take away from the glorious good of our southern citizens who are some of the warmest most polite people I know across a culture of community strength, beautiful lands and heart-filled comfort food.

We aren’t separatists and yet the Confederate flag separates.

While we can honor our state and the unique pieces and parts that define a region, above all we’re the UNITED States of America represented by one flag to remind us: our sordid history doesn’t have to define us, but our current decisions most assuredly will.  

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The other

rainbow hands

It’s a rare and glorious moment to witness a Supreme Court ruling that makes rights for some, the law of the land for everyone.

I wasn’t around when slavery and segregation ended or when women were given the vote. My rights as a citizen were fought for me and have been readily available, although gender equality still isn’t done.

I can hear my future grandchildren say as I once did about women and the vote,  “You mean gay people couldn’t get married at one time? That’s just stupid.”

Today’s Supreme Court ruling was fast-tracked social justice (in contrast to other social change) and a sign I think, of our evolving consciousness as humans.

Believe it or not we’re getting closer to getting ourselves right, faster. This, despite the daily dousing of negative media images that distort our self-perception to one where humans are an innately decent well-intentioned species rather than merely a survival-based selfish creature DNA-designed to repeat the horrors of our past.

On the whole (not to dismiss the ugly realities of racism or extremists) I think we’re less threatened by the “other” seated next to us in schools, churches, government and business. We spend time with “other” in our day-to-day and it turns out, they’re not so unlike us.

They bleed. They breathe. They want safety, food, love, validation, prosperity and to smile.

As well, we’re increasingly becoming an ambiguous blend of “contradictions” which in turn breaks stereotypes and opens dialogue. The gay conservative Republican. The self-proclaimed feminist male from the South. The conservative in favor of immigration reform. The Democrat not convinced by man-made climate change. The pro Obamacare Republican in favor of upping the minimum wage and gun control. The Democrat against all three.

Brown skin, black or Asian. Atheists chatting with Hindus at my UU church. Muslims and Christians sharing coffee with surprising opinions that wander from expectation. Modern Family is our family or at the very least, our neighborhood or our town. We remain distinct individuals, one of a splendid kind, and we still align with our culture or gender or religion or race or sexual orientation because humans are tribal creatures who crave connection inside our homogeneous circles.

While extremists grow more paranoid with the “other,” and so more emboldened, the majority seems to accept we’re a mixed bag with increasingly a la carte views.

The rational among us know factionism keeps humans from our original design, to cooperate through kinship, rather than conquer through tribal warfare.

But for people afraid of losing their distinctive identity, not to worry.

Whites won’t disappear. Christians won’t fade. Families won’t disintegrate. Marriage won’t wither in favor of singledom. God won’t ever go out of fashion.  Conservatives will remain. Liberals will stay.

I wasn’t old enough to consider the impact of birth control and reproductive rights that changed the lives of women whose trajectory was decided by one unplanned pregnancy after another. Even so, I never had to consider what it would mean not to control my own baby-making because my biology made the choice for me.

At 19 I learned I had a benign pituitary disorder that meant if I ever wanted to get pregnant I’d need fertility intervention. I’ve only had to consider reproductive rights for the future of my daughter and other women.

I’ve never had to fight for the vote, child labor laws, worker’s rights or marriage equality because my birthright and the work of others before me, did all the work.

And yet, the rights of “others” have always felt for me, like human rights. Without defending theirs how could I deserve mine? 

Op-Ed: Our Weddings, Our Worth

 

 

 

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One drop Italian and so, Italian

 

DadandmeNewOrleansI’m Italian-American, only one-quarter Italian, one drop. But that’s all we need to decide who we are, one drop.

“… Barack Obama has become the most high-profile personification of the one-drop rule extant. That “rule” holds that any degree of African ancestry makes one completely black. The pressure on Americans of partial African ancestry to deny their European lineage and identify solely as black is enormous,” writes  Charles Byrd.

Perhaps our first bi-racial President should remind his nation we’re all ancestral mutts of one blend or another and so one human race. But we identify with a race or ethnicity for a variety of emotional reasons that transcend reason, sometimes as a statement of genuine protest or pride, by what’s fashionable in a movement or from seeds planted by our parents.

As for my ethnic origin if it comes up I cling to my one-quarter Italian because I’m drawn to Italy’s ethos. I crave the food and landscape and rich artistic history because I was raised to appreciate Mediterranean culture.

When I was born my father gifted me with the name “Laura Giovanna Politi” (Giovanna translates to Joanne) which out of my three brothers and one sister was the only “ethnic” middle name given in our family. My father left half his lineage for me to cherish and so, was a little hurt when years before his death I stupidly told him I used to hide my middle name from my friends at school. 

Back then I needed my name to blend as I needed to blend with all the waspy Beth’s and Carol’s and Anne’s.

Later however, as a young adult determined to declare myself with anti group-think bumper stickers like my “Why be Normal?” where “normal” was printed upside down, my middle name fit with the independent-minded person I wanted to advertise.

And so I made Giovanna proof of my Italian kin by convenience, clinging to roots planted by my father and perhaps imprinted from genetic memory carried through distant ancestors.

Before I got married I struggled over whether to drop my maiden name Politi in favor of Giovanna, but Giovanna won me over because it felt like the pseudo name of a novelist.

When I talk to Italian waiters here or over seas however, I pull out both names as one might with ethnic garb or a heritage pin. Invariably every waiter smiles and repeats “Giovanna Politi” in full accent, a polite gift for a paying customer who pretends her name spoken in native tongue somehow transcends our ethnic divide.

Growing up my father embraced the European/Mediterranean food lifestyle. For hours he prepared dinner with fresh local ingredients, meals where healthy substitutions that might dilute the recipe’s signature were strictly forbidden (no margarine, skim or pretend oils).

Italian food

Image: Pava

Silently my father entered the kitchen and ritually sharpened his favorite black-boned knives across a flint into slivered angles. He expertly diced shallots inside the small space between his steady fingers, de-glazed a brown sauce in his copper saute pan and finished all day spaghetti sauce with butcher-stuffed spicy Italian sausage.

Despite grumblings and noise from five hungry kids, my father moved into a meditative trance with whatever Craig Claiborne Times’ recipe he picked that morning. Cooking Mediterranean food was his only form of sacred worship and so, dinner always came with a serious glare and verbal warning, don’t waste your appetite on the bread, slow down.

Before I visited Tuscany a few years ago I romanticized Italy as many novice visitors often do. Even now I idealize a country where although I have no desire to live, I have a visceral attraction to its sensory pulse.

My father was third generation Italian-Russian and my mother is third generation German. Yet my own blood runs German-English and Irish-Italian, a European blend inherited from biological parents I’ve been trying to find for more than three years.  At times I proudly pull out my middle and maiden names, Giovanna Politi, clinging to my two drops Italian as I cling to the invisible lineage between my two fathers, men who unaware of one another, created a daughter long drawn to Italy’s familial heartbeat.

Fiesole Italy

 

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Vicious closet cyber bully converts

Image credit

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. 

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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

 

 

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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

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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. 

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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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Entitled? Of course veterans, and our hard-working willing.

Few issues on the American landscape are more sacred, more immune to partisan feuding than supporting our returning soldiers.

Most people, pro-war or against,  wouldn’t dare deny soldiers accessible, affordable quality healthcare, nor should we willing to let even one soldier suffer or die waiting months to see a doctor.

Who isn’t stopped in her tracks by the sight of a soldier at a gas station,  grocery store or on the street? We’re stirred by what the uniform means to us as Americans and what the uniform means to our soldiers, their physical and psychological lives often permanently re-arranged, their minds chronically on alert and out of sync with the non-combative world.

And so we thank our soldiers for their service, a quick respectful acknowledgement for work too profound and unfamiliar, yet directly responsible for our freedoms.

Yesterday our nation actualized gratitude to our soldiers when the President signed a $16.3 billion plan to help ease health care delays at Veterans Affairs facilities.

Soldiers we can all agree, are entitled.

And yet when we think of non-military citizens and entitlements, they are The Lazy, The System Parasites. And indeed, parasitic people exist.  Families who grow up in a cycle of poverty and payout or for the first time get a taste of free money and despite small avenues and alternatives that (might) peek through the cracks, they forever remain on the dole. 

Or, perhaps someone is the first in his/her family to get food stamps, disability, Medicaid or WICA due to a series of events that unraveled their once economic stability. Suddenly the taste of something for nothing addicts them to the payer system like Pavlov’s dog, forever enjoying jobless checks and alas, the disincentive to self-motivate and break free perpetuates.

Be poor, get more.

But the facts are, the number of working poor, working homeless, of homeless who want to work and get off the dole, staggers the number of people who can, but won’t.

While veteran entitlements are earned sacred cows, yet we also have men and women who while they don’t fight to protect our nation, they fight to protect their families. Touched by catastrophic illness, job loss, mental health issues, children with special needs, a series of unforeseen unfortunate events leaves thousands of our hardworking willing at the mercy of a hand up.

And so I I argue that if our hard-working and willing veterans deserve a hand up so do our hard-working willing non-veterans who want nothing more than to cut ties to government support and feed back into the payer system that helped them recover and stand proud.

National Alliance to End Homelessness

homeless

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Pregnancy ‘warm and fuzzy,’ birth control ‘immoral?’ Mr. Potter, snap out of it.

bcClick here to sign petition against Eden Foods

I’m curious if Eden Food’s CEO Mr. Michael Potter ever had the “immoral and unnatural practices” he says birth control promotes, before he got married?

“Michael Potter, Eden’s CEO, claims, among other things, that contraception ‘almost always involve[s] immoral and unnatural practices.’ That’s one of the reasons why he filed suit in 2013 against the mandate of the Affordable Care Act that classifies birth control as preventative healthcare for women.” “Shocking: Eden Foods vs. Birth Control.”

Or is it just women who have immoral and unnatural pre-marital practices? The unmarried men of superior morality aren’t anywhere near the bedroom of such women. It is a person of undetermined gender who lays with and impregnates the hussy.

I’m a bit confused, but I’m a little slow.

“After filing the suit, he went even further, saying that the government has ‘no right’ to extend coverage for birth control, comparing birth control to Jack Daniels, and saying that pregnancy should be covered but birth control should not because pregnancy has ‘more warmth and fuzziness.’ When the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision was announced, Potter said he was “grateful” for the court’s decision while calling President Obama a “dictator” who wants to take away Americans’ rights.”  “Shocking: Eden Foods vs. Birth Control.”

Gosh golly, had we known birth control leads to the uncontrollable loosening of the chaste just as drops of whiskey inevitably part the lips of the committed teetotaler and transforms them into guzzling alcoholics, I would have banned this Devil’s lure called birth control myself.

“Pregnancy has more warmth and fuzziness?” than birth control?

Mr. Potter I’d suggest until you experience the warm and fuzzy of pregnancy and childbirth firsthand (the latter anything but and the former (while not in my case) 40 weeks of misery for some women) you might want to keep your Hallmark fantasy adjectives to yourself.

I’d appreciate it if people (those in the know and the clueless) would stop romanticizing baby-making.

A child when wanted and loved and cared for by responsible loving parents is still hell-hard but yes, all-out storybook romantic in parts, and worth every hair-pull.  Insuring birth control coverage gives babies and women (and men) a civil society, one that promotes reproductive choice and timing.

Babies are not merely the Will of God, they are a real life living breathing responsibility.

Also Mr. Potter, have you ever heard of a 17-year-old impoverished uneducated girl determined to keep her crack baby? Say for instance, she lives with her verbally and physically abusive drug-dealer boyfriend who when mom isn’t home has his way with her little one?

Yes, maybe mom knew better about birth control, about abstinence, about her adoption options, about the dirt bag she had sex with unprotected, but she said okay anyway and hell no, I’m keeping my baby. Maybe she was ignorant and knew none of the above, which is why we shouldn’t be focusing on banning company-provided birth control coverage, but on teaching our kids abstinence, self respect and  protected sex.   

Morality wish list crossed with reality. 

While I’m all for teaching abstinence as a desirable and viable option, it’s naive to insist everyone keep their legs closed until marriage. And like it or not, people in love (and people in pure unfettered lust) like to test the sexual compatibility waters before a lifetime of monogamy.  

But let’s look at folks you approve to copulate. Married couples. Take for example, the 50-year-old husband and wife who had their kids and now want to move on to their empty-nest phase. They want a hundred percent (okay 99.9%) guarantee that their baby-making days are over. 

Should they remain celibate? Okay Mr. Potter, you first. 

Oh yes. Condoms. While I’m not familiar with the growing list types and textures, my guess is condoms don’t rank high on every couple’s Top Ten Ways to Add Sexy Time Excitement. Add to the worry the chance the condom fails, which isn’t a high probability but is possible (and yes, the Pill isn’t 100% either). 

Next up, the self-control Pull Out Method where an “oops” might be to some merely “God’s will” to let a baby shine through. But perhaps the woman (and man) would like to invoke their own will for making a baby, seeing as they’re the one’s raising the baby, not God. 

Excerpted from: “Eden Foods CEO Doesn’t Know Why He’s Against Contraception, but He Is.”

“Ian Millhiser, a legal analyst for Think Progress, noted that Potter’s utter lack of religious conviction undermined his already-thin case. When Carmon called Potter back for comment, he seemed very confused by his lawyers’ claims about devout religious faith. Carmon asked him what particular religious belief led him to sue, and his answer is surely one beloved by his lawyers:

“Well, there isn’t any one particular religious belief, Irin,” he said, sounding irritated. “I find it hard to get my head around the question.”

He then went on to claim that his employees could get “free” contraception elsewhere, because of the HHS mandate. In reality, they cannot, because the HHS mandate doesn’t offer alternatives to employees whose employers have told them they can’t use their own insurance benefits.”

Mr. Potter, you find it hard to get your head around why you deny birth control coverage?

Is your free floating squeamishness that you feel sort of yukky, gross, dirty and wrong-ish about any tool that allows sex to occur without a baby the end result? I’m guessing that if you got pregnant every time you had sex you might feel less ambivalent about making sure you didn’t.   

You fell asleep Rip VanWinkle, woke up and forgot what era we live.  

Birth control doesn’t promote sex. Birth control gives reproductive choice and sexual freedom to half the populous who has it by default. This is not to suggest I promote willy-nilly free love. But men have always had sex without worry of getting pregnant. Women are entitled to the same freedoms.

I-thought-we-all-assumed-this, by now.

Mr. Potter, heavens to Betsy, women are having sex in and outside the marriage. Some of them (take a deep breathe) even like it.  Moreover, women who have sex (with men who are having sex with them) may not be ready (or ever) to have a baby.

Try to process that you’re not part of the immorality problem when you cover birth control.  You’re part of the problem of denial and judging women when you romanticize baby-making and insist “moral sex” is only between married couples. If a baby is conceived from a married couple who isn’t ready or wants to remain childless what do you say? Blessings abound?  

Babies deserve to be born to people who want them.

Women deserve the dignity and respect to decide if and when they get want to have a baby.

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