So much to dissect and discuss this week. All under the title, “Euphemisms.”
For instance, Sayreville, NJ. Previously known to me only as the hometown of the forever-gorgeous and lovely Jon Bon Jovi. Now known as the place where 7 high school boys were sexually assaulted by other members of their football team. The place where these incidents are being referred to as “hazing.” Hazing?! Hazing is swallowing goldfish or drinking 12 beers or wearing stupid clothing. This is not hazing. Being held down in a darkened locker room while some upperclassman forces his fingers up your anus is not hazing; it is sexual assault. Legally and morally. If you don’t agree, please leave your address in the comments and, at a time of my choosing, I’ll send a couple of large guys to your house to “haze” you by surprise. It’ll all be in good, harmless, male-bonding fun.
As if the town could not look worse, there are of course parents who are outraged that the football season has been cancelled as a result. Well, perhaps you can use the now-free time to teach your children how to not behave like animals. And maybe take a long, hard look at yourself too. How, once again, small-town sports contributes to rape culture in this society. Now even your sons are not safe from it. When you create a culture wherein adolescent boys are afforded special treatment and power because they can throw a ball, you create a whole lot of opportunities for them to abuse that power. It’s a goddamn mess, and it’s not “hazing.”
Next up is the “nude photo scandal” involving actresses such as Jennifer Lawrence from a few weeks back. Her account was hacked and nude photos she had taken for her boyfriend of four years were released by the hackers and posted on various web sites. In the upcoming Vanity Fair, Ms. Lawrence refers to what occurred as a “sex crime.” And she is correct. There is no “scandal” here, unless you count our society’s prevailing view that famous people are not human, are somehow owned by us, and have no right to privacy. Her boyfriend did not release these pics. She did not get naked in public. This woman’s personal bodily integrity was violated via hacking. The people who should apologize are the hackers and the web sites who made money off this clear violation of her privacy. Our laws need to catch up to our technology; to recognize that this woman’s personal property was STOLEN. And disseminated. She was sexually violated via technology. And it is wrong. It’s not a scandal. It’s a crime.
And finally, on a lighter note, there is this: http://jezebel.com/american-horror-story-in-real-life-creepy-clowns-stalk-1645289423?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow
As a person who quite rightly views clowns as sinister, malevolent, ghoulish incarnations of evil, I submit to you that we stop calling this a “prank” and instead call it what it is: terrorism. Domestic terrorism most foul. We should pray for the residents of Wasco while hunting down these perpetrators, searching every henhouse, outhouse, doghouse and funhouse until they are caught. Let none of us rest until the scourge of clowning is erased from this great land.
Finally, finally, I leave you with this palate-cleansing photo, which I hope will encourage you to vote on November 4th. Because, while we can euphemistically call this woman “artsy-craftsy” or “freedom-loving” or what Sarah Palin termed “a real American,” I think we should go with the obvious: “dumb as fucking dirt.” I mean, she writes “bisexual” like it’s a bad thing! This lady will be voting. Make sure you will be too.
Settle down, everybody.
Believe me when I say that you do not now have nor will you soon contract Ebola. You can trust me because you will recall that I am the Canary in the Coalmine. Whatever community-acquired disease is out there, I get. So if I’m not afraid of getting Ebola, YOU don’t need to be afraid of getting Ebola.
You are not going to get Ebola. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to scare you for their own nefarious reasons. I find it richly ironic that the same individuals/”news” channels that were tut-tutting those poor backward Africans for allowing superstition and distrust to prevent them from seeking treatment are now the very ones peddling those same notions here in the U.S….after ONE case. One!
Obama is allowing Ebola into the US as payback for slavery. The CDC is hiding the fact that it can go airborne. The big pharma companies have a cure but only for white people. Do we hear ourselves? When in doubt, folks, your best bet is to trust in science. In evidence-based research. The stuff that tells you important, verifiable information such as: you are not going to get Ebola. Unless you are in the habit of directly handling the blood, vomit, sweat, semen or feces of an actively-infected person. Which sounds like hell on earth beyond just the risk of freakin Ebola. But if you don’t usually dabble in the bio hazardous bodily-fluids game, then feel free to go about your business safe in the knowledge that this is one global disease outbreak that’s gonna pass you by.
Your mother is a Dirty Whore.
You heard me.
A Dirty, Stanky Whore.
What?! You’re offended?
Why are you being so oversensitive? It’s a statement of respect and honor!
Dirty Whore refers to the noble traditions of those women who give love freely to all.
It’s a compliment. An homage!
You still don’t want me to call her that name?
But you don’t understand.
I have the best intentions. I consider the name Dirty Whore to be the highest honor I can convey.
In fact, 90% of the Dirty Whores I polled said they don’t mind that name at all. So why are you resisting the honor?
I get that you and your mom don’t like that name and have asked me to stop.
I get that you somehow think you know more about what should honor your mom and family than I do.
This mystifies me.
I have determined that calling your mom a Dirty Whore should not bother you for all of the reasons I have already repeatedly enumerated.
Why would the fact that, according to you, Dirty Whore is hurtful to your family, at all dissuade me from using that name?
*I* am telling YOU how you should feel about your family being called Dirty Whores.
How YOU feel about being the child of a Dirty Whore is irrelevant. I am telling you how you should feel about it.
Please stop being so sensitive.
In fact, you know what? You are now infringing on MY rights, on MY traditions!
YOU are being the jerk here! Bestowing the honor of DIrty Whoredom Is something I want to pass to my children as a point of family pride. My father was a proponent of Dirty Whores. His father was a proponent of Dirty Whores. We call ourselves Dirty Whores with pride! Every Saturday our family got together, ate some barbecue, put on our Dirty Whore t-shirts, and did our Dirty Whore dance (the one where we imitate what we imagine your mom does while being a whore). Respect! Your mom should therefore be delighted to be numbered among the Dirty Whores so honored.
Hail To The Dirty Whores!
Moral of this farcical tale? Change the name of your team, Daniel Snyder.
Be a man. Be a mensch. Because, right now, you are a Jew Behaving Badly. You are making us look bad. And you are a disgrace. It is truly distressing to witness Jews and African-Americans rally behind the current team name. Two groups of people who have NO BUSINESS telling another minority group how to feel about a slur upon their culture, how they are oversensitive, how they need to get over it. But you know what’s worse than that? Everyone else who isn’t taking a stand. Acquiescing. As our own Elie Weisel said, ” The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference.” Standing by and allowing this name to continue, when we all know some of us would be first in the outrage line if some group of athletes were called the Washington K*kes or the Washington N***ers, is wrong. You can pretty it up, diminish it, gloss it over however you like in order to not feel like an asshole hypocrite. But the truth–and you know it–is that this team’s name is a moral transgression, Because if you substitute any other ethnic group for the Native Americans, what you have is an obvious outrage.
It is time for those of us in the majority to stop telling minorities what they are allowed to be upset about. To stop, as in the example above, deciding what various symbols and words mean to us and declaring all who disagree oversensitive or uneducated in the finer points of said symbols.
We recently had a play date at a house that had a life-sized lawn jockey in the entrance foyer. You read that correctly: a lawn jockey. In 2014. In America. In a seemingly-regular person’s home. I could not get my kids out of there fast enough. My 5th grader was like, “what in the woooorrrrllldddd?!?!” I replied, “never mind.” She continued, “No really. Why is there a cartoonish black person statue in that house?” I have no freakin idea. Clueless? Willfully ignorant? I have no idea. But a location my kids will never enter again? Believe it. I’m not saying the people are racist, but I am absolutely saying that their statue is. As I researched lawn jockeys I found all manner of attempts to elevate the item from racist artifact (found nowadays in The Museum Of Racist Memorabilia) to noble symbol of African-American bravery. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. If black people tell you that lawn jockeys are offensive, you don’t get to overrule them based on some apocryphal piece of wishful thinking. You say My Bad and you remove it.
What if I’d walked into a non-Jew’s house that was full of swastikas? Not to worry! These are Sanskrit symbols of plenty and auspiciousness!! Yes yes, Nazis blah blah. But the meaning *I* prefer is the Sanskrit one. I’m sorry if you interpret my swastikas negatively. Jews are so sensitive! I mean no harm with my swastika collection. I am even 1/12 Jewish, so how can you say this is not appropriate?! I am telling YOU what the swastika should mean to you, even though I have no experiences related to its negative associations. Geez! It’s just a few wall hangings. A couple of swastikas and everyone gets all politically correct…
You see my point. Non-Jews do not get to tell me to settle down about swastikas. Whites do not get to tell Blacks to settle down about lawn jockeys. None of us gets to tell Native Americans to settle down about ethnic slurs on t-shirts and flags and in a national athletic league. It’s basic decency. It’s basic Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. You don’t want the symbol for the genocide of your people to be common and accepted? You don’t want crass racial caricatures of your people kept as home decor? You don’t want a hurtful slur printed on products and chanted by people who cannot even begin to understand your historical experience? Then don’t do it to others. Don’t stand idly by watching it happen. Don’t financially support that enterprise. And, most importantly, don’t think you can support a team named with a slur and think you won’t be judged. It’s wrong it’s wrong it’s wrong. You can pretend it’s not. You can probably even pretty capably convince yourself it’s not. You can even reach the height of douchebaggery and OWN the team and make word-like noises that sound like justifications telling people it’s not. But it is still wrong. It’s still wrong.
Hail To The Right Thing: Change the name.
This is my country,
The land that begat me.
These windy spaces
Are surely my own.
And those who here toil
In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh,
And bone of my bone.
–Scotland, Sir Alexander Gray
Today is the day. The referendum on Scottish independence. Many of you have asked me how I would vote on this issue, and my answer is……..snare drum roll, please!….
It doesn’t matter.
I was born Scottish by the grace of God. But we moved to the USA and I am now American. I have less than zero business telling anyone in Scotland how they should be voting on an issue of such tremendous import.
But I will say this.
To those who say that a free Scotland would struggle economically: you are probably right. But it has always struggled economically as part of the UK. That struggle is precisely why my family moved to the US when British Steel went tits up. Things were bad and not looking to get better; thank you, Mrs. Thatcher.
To those who say that the disentangling of these nations would be immeasurably complicated: you are probably right. What about the currency?! What about the EU?! What about the oil and gas?! The mind boggles at the details. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
To those who say that this entire independence movement is based on emotion: OF COURSE IT IS. For the love of all that is good and holy, OF COURSE the independence movement is emotional. Has any independence movement ever been anything but? But why does that make it any less credible?
The answer is that there is no easy answer.
My sense is that NO will win.
My sense is that Scotland will persevere regardless.
Scotland, as nations go, is a tough old broad. People love to quote that Alexander Gray poem, but never in it’s entirety. They should:
Here in the Uplands
The soil is ungrateful;
The fields, red with sorrel,
Are stony and bare.
A few trees, wind-twisted –
Or are they but bushes? –
Stand stubbornly guarding
A home here and there.
Scooped out like a saucer,
The land lies before me;
The waters, once scattered,
Flow orderly now
Through fields where the ghosts
Of the marsh and the moorland
Still ride the old marches,
Despising the plough.
The marsh and the moorland
Are not to be banished;
The bracken and heather,
The glory of broom,
Usurp all the balks
And the fields’ broken fringes,
And claim from the sower
Their portion of room.
This is my country,
The land that begat me.
These windy spaces
Are surely my own.
And those who here toil
In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh,
And bone of my bone.
Hard is the day’s task –
Scotland, stern Mother –
Wherewith at all times
Thy sons have been faced:
Labour by day,
And scant rest in the gloaming,
With Want an attendant,
Not lightly outpaced.
Yet do thy children
Honour and love thee.
Harsh is thy schooling,
Yet great is the gain:
True hearts and strong limbs,
The beauty of faces,
Kissed by the wind
And caressed by the rain.
It describes a place that has historically been hard to live in and hard on the people who love her anyway. It captures the essence of Scottish-hood: a love of country borne of struggle. A terrain at once mesmerizingly beautiful and mercilessly unforgiving. A history at once profoundly inspiring and relentlessly heartbreaking. A culture and a people who always have been and always will be unique and powerful and inimitable.
With or without their sovereignty.
*msybe yes, maybe no
Someone recently asked me if I had changed since having my transplant, a question I’ve been asked on the regular since 2007. Leaving aside the question of why me experiencing some kind of transformation seems to be important to people, I decided, now that I have some distance from it, to actually ponder what I did learn or change about myself. Well, I wish I could be all Deepak about it for you and claim increased awareness of all things or expanded connectivity to all beings. Or even a commitment to flossing more than once a day. But I can’t.
“You’re probably nicer now? More peaceful?” the guy offered sanguinely. Oh, honey. You’re mistaking me for a country song. I did not go sky diving or Rocky Mountain climbing. I did not pray to be a rainbow shining down on my mother. And I very truly never spent a moment Hoping You Dance. He didn’t know me pre-transplant, so can be forgiven for imagining that I’m now somehow a kinder, gentler version of my 2007 self. But he’s still a bit wide of the mark.
The transplant simply was what it was: an effing terrifying health crisis. The kind people have every day across my town and across the globe. One that I, thank you Jeebus, survived. A privilege denied to many.
My primary memories of that time involve worrying about Bambina, who was 3 at the time, calming her fears and meeting her needs as best I could in order to keep her world as predictable and boring as possible. I may have psychologically survived the whole ordeal simply because I didn’t have any bandwidth left after chemo and transplant exhaustion to navel gaze about Poor Me. I just wanted my kid to emerge from it as unscathed as possible, and so any energy I had went towards her. Days I was certain I could not get out of bed lasted about 4 minutes until I saw how badly she needed to see me get out of bed. So I got up and got on with it, dragging my ass out from the covers and into the daily grind. Then as soon as the door closed behind her on the way to preschool I went back to sleep for 3 hours, then got back up and showered before she got home. Mama is down, but she ain’t out. Mama is wearing sweatpants but she’s no slouch. Mama may be a wee bit bald, but she is the queen of the combover! Recognize!
So, if pressed to identify some kind of metamorphosis, I can cop to a couple of things. On the philosophical side, I suppose I am simultaneously more afraid and less afraid of everything. I’m more afraid of dying in one sense because I don’t have the intellectual fiction of most people that it won’t happen to me. I fully know that I could go tits up in the next 5 minutes for any number of reasons, and this terrifies me to my core only because I have kids. The thought of leaving them is the third rail in my brain that I’ve had to touch several times already. No amount of time or distance ever makes approaching it easier. It is the darkest, blackest, most soul-devouring prospect in the universe. It is the Harry Potter dementor made real, a malevolent specter that, when pondered for more than a fleeting moment of “what if”, leaves me fighting for breath, certain that I will never feel joy again.
On the other hand, I’m less afraid of dying because, well, it is what it is. Come at me, bro. I already know I can’t control it, evade it, fight it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. I made my uneasy peace with it years ago. It’s like finding out at 5 years old that there really is a monster under your bed. It’s real, it’s always there, but it’s not going to devour you tonight. Or tomorrow night. Probably. And so you just learn to coexist with it. You know it’s there, you wish it weren’t, but you just busy yourself with other things and try to ignore it. You turn that clock radio up, turn the box fan on and go to sleep because that’s what people do. In my case, the creature crawls out about once a year, flops on my bed and scratches its balls while announcing “mah bed now.” And I (with the assistance of vancomycin) wrestle it back below. Yeah, it is unsettling and disquieting, but that’s how the monster and I roll. But I also don’t fret too much because I know in my heart that, should the world continue inexplicably to spin without me, those I leave behind will be just fine. A parent’s job is to prepare your kids to live a happy, fulfilled, productive life without you. I just do that anyway with a little more urgency than I otherwise would in a different world.
Beyond the mortality question, I’m also a mixed bag of compassionate understanding. In one sense, I just give everyone the benefit of the doubt because I have needed it myself so many times. I’m skipping the parent meeting not because I’m lazy or uninterested but because I just returned from my pheresis appointment that physically ruins me for 24 hours. It’s dialysis for the white cells, with all the fatigue that implies. I’m sending regrets to your dinner out not because I don’t want to come but because I can’t eat at buffets or consume sushi. And I for realz cannot eat at your sushi buffet! I’m a bit scattered in replying to emails, not because I’m a jerk who thinks you aren’t important. I just always plan to respond once the kids are in bed, and some days I am too tired to even slide one finger across an IPad, even though I KNOW you need a response. I really am sorry about this. Fatigue is kind of a constant in my life, mostly due to treatments and meds. When I can drop some meds, I’ll be more on the ball. But the truth is that every single day I open my eyes I feel like absolute shit. Really. Tired, nauseous, a bit dizzy, and Not Ready For Prime Time. I just need an hour or so to ramp up, get my head right, and tamp down the barfies. Then I’m off like the rocket you have come to expect. But I really truly no longer remember what it is like to awake and feel normal. Someday! Someday. But not today. If it were not for people in the meantime choosing to assume the best about me, I’d probably have not a single friend and people would avoid my kids like the plague. So I understand the desperate importance of humility in my judgments of others, the acknowledgment that I really truly don’t know what challenges they may be facing quietly and courageously in service of needs greater than themselves.
Having said that, complaining bitchasses need to stop complaining. :) Or, more politely, I simultaneously have LESS patience and compassion for malingerers. To be fair (refer myself back to “humility” statement above), I can often be too quick to slap the “that’s BS” label on some nice person’s valid complaints. I own that. But by and large I just cannot listen to anyone bemoaning their Rich People Problems. All I think while hearing the, “and then she totally waah waah, and my sandwich was boo hoo wrong, and the paint color was two shades too dark, and can you BELIEVE the vacation beach house had no garbage disposal?!” Is 1. Are your children healthy? 2. Are you? 3. Do you all manage to eat every day with a roof over your head? 4. Do you have one person in the world who loves you? If yes: THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP. You are already more fortunate than 98% of this planet’s population. Take your good fortune and RUN, Muthaf$cka!. Let all of this petty stuff go, take a look around, and enjoy your family’s health. Because when it’s gone, no shade of paint or type of beach house or insufferable coworker will matter. You will look back and regret every second you spent on mental and emotional dysentery when you suddenly have a real problem that can’t be fixed by whining.
On the more practical side of things, I have learned one key thing. To never ask a sick, injured or bereaved person “What can I do to help?” I now just show up with food. Or rides. Or babysitting. And then I leave. My job as the friend of a person facing something is to unburden that person. Requiring that person to ask me for help, however well-intentioned, is about the most burdensome thing I can do. In all my years of dealing with health challenges, I have possibly managed to actually ask for assistance about 4 times. And each time was truly difficult and stressful because I knew the people I was asking had full plates of their own (eternal gratitude to a heavily-pregnant, ready-to-birth Nancy for almost single-handedly ensuring the contents of our DC house made it into the moving truck to Boston). So now I know to Do rather than Ask. I used to say, “Let me know if I can bring you dinner.” As if the sick person is going to call me and be like, ” Yeah, my kids would love a large cheese pizza tomorrow night. Could you do me a solid?” Never going to happen. So now I call and say, ” I hope your kids want pizza this week because Auntie Esther is delivering, baby! What night works best?” Unburden the already-burdened. Just show up and help. Don’t stay. Don’t hang out unless specifically invited. In my case, don’t expect homemade (I’m the ho that made it!) because any food I’d prepare you would be another form of affliction. So I’ll just be of service via takeout and then move along.
So, with all respect to people who really do have Regarding Henry stories, I just can’t claim the same. I’ll paraphrase the late, great Robin Williams describing the agony and ecstasy of cocaine use: “It expands your personality!…..But what if you’re an asshole?!” So I guess my answer to “how have you changed?” Is that I subscribe to the Williams Theorem: That transplants, like cocaine, expand your personality. Whoever you were at your core before the transplant is who emerges from the rubble of the transplant. People who are bitter now were probably bitter then, or predisposed to it. People who are generous and kind now probably always had the capacity whether it manifested or not before. Me? I’ve pretty much always been a judgey, impatient woman who loves well and cooks badly. Seven years later, as much as I wish I could claim otherwise, you all are just getting More Of The Same.
Since the apparent suicide of Robin Williams yesterday, social media has lit up with tributes rooted in profound disbelief that a man so funny could have been in so much pain. In every outlet, people are sharing memories of adolescence informed by Dead Poets Society. Memories of childhood on the couch with grandparents enjoying Jonathan Winters and kids enjoying Mork. Memories of all of his varied and influential roles on the big screen. These tributes are often accompanied by lists of “favorite Robin Williams quotes.” Only, the quotes are not Robin’s. They are his characters’. A difference with a significant distinction.
The power, appeal and danger of celebrity is that it makes us feel like we know someone we have never met. It gives us a sense of ownership of that person based on what their work has meant to us in our lives. Robin Williams becomes special to us because Mr. Keating spoke to something in us. Because Mork evokes memories of our childhood. Because Adrian Cronauer spoke to the hopes and heartbreaks of a generation. We felt like we knew Robin Williams. We obviously, sadly did not.
How often do we bring this same false sense of knowing to our personal lives? How often do we assume we know someone based solely on what they have effected in our lives, rather than on what is actually happening in theirs? That’s my brother, the doofus. That’s my sister, the earth mother. That’s my cousin, the yuppie little miss perfect. That’s my niece, the child who always achieves and makes me proud. Families have a way of setting up narratives, story lines. With characters who are expected to play their defined roles. We see it played out at Christmas dinners across the land. You arrive at your childhood home a grown man and within the hour you are the Kid Brother from 1986. You arrive a fully-realized professional woman and leave an insecure 14 year-old. We see the peace rupture when a “cast member” no longer plays their assigned role. When they no longer recite the words we expect them to say, that we need them to say in order for our continued role-playing to make sense. We think we know people. We really, truly don’t.
Just for today, resist thinking that you know someone. Ask yourself “What DON’T I know about this person? What could I learn about this other, precious human that might have absolutely nothing to do with me, my needs or my expectations of them?” See beyond the public laughter and witness what remains privately when the laughing stops.
While you are doing that, consider dropping even one element of your OWN character’s facade. Back in the day, in the midst of personal and professional turmoil, I called a friend to lament my situation, my inability to get out of the hole I had so spectacularly dug for myself because doing so would reveal my current abject failure. Abject failure was not part of my character’s back story, not in the approved script. My role in my family and in my life was to be the Golden Girl. To achieve. To be smart. To be successful. Failure was for other folks. My role specifically called for near-perfection. My friend, the amazing JMW, changed my whole life simply by giving me permission to go off-script: “What’s the worst that will happen if the world finds out you are a sometime fuckup just like the rest of us? You don’t owe anyone a cleaned up version of yourself. You owe us the real you. People who can’t deal with the real you can just move along.” Boom. That script? It’s not worth the imaginary paper it’s written on. It’s not gospel. It’s not canon. It’s something I can rip up and rewrite at will. Yes, that will throw the rest of the cast into chaos, maybe. But they are responsible for their roles. Not me and not mine. From that moment I began to rewrite my script. Began to blog about my fuckups. Began to laugh about them. Began to unload the weight of carrying the hopes and dreams of previous generations on my back. I will achieve what I achieve. The ghosts of my poor, striving ancestors will be proud either way.
So today I’m giving you the gift my friend gave me: permission to flip the script. To rewrite it, delete entire sections, rip it up, burn that mother and all its expectations down. You don’t owe the world a funny, happy, shiny version of yourself. You don’t owe the world a Facebook-ready photo shoot of contentment and joy and fulfillment. You don’t owe the world a damn untrue, inauthentic thing. You owe yourself the opportunity to be the real you. The unscripted you.
The amazing, talented, loveable, fucked up you.