Maybe she went on to describe the ways in which The Bible has been bastardized by Christian rhetoric. Maybe she means the parts where Jesus is an all-around good dude who had positive ideas about how to be a human in the world. But what is more likely? Her team of Election Manipulators have encouraged her to say shit like that so as not to fully alienate the Religious Right (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days).
Which, as a mother of a female child, TERRIFIES ME. I’m scared to leave her out of my sight when not in our home. I’m scared some mentally ill person she goes to school with will decide this fall is the fall to tote a little firearm to school and rain bullets.
I’m pissed that I have to worry about that.
I’m angry at how powerless myself and all the other people in the whole country who are worth less than several million dollars are.
And today I’m really fucking sad because a kid I grew up around (our grandmas were BFFs), went to school with, who had loads of friends and was a genius at fixing cars, killed himself.
He killed himself because his dad shot his mom when he was 4. He was there. He killed himself because of domestic violence. He killed himself because of somebody else’s mental illness and gun violence.
I am so wound up today that, after I couldn’t locate my previously existing Yoga DVD, I went to Target and bought two. I did about 50 minutes worth of cardio Yoga and Yoga for stress relief and I feel reasonably calm now. For the rest of the afternoon, I am going to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love, and I am going to try to figure out how to move to space in between frustrated crying jags.
The last bit of this reads like I’m a PhD. I’m not. I have a BA in English. In the larger piece, that is clear before you get here.
Hanging out with some friends this weekend, we were talking about our parents and how it’s easy to say, “I don’t care what they think,” but that we never mean it. On some level, no matter how grown up and independent and smart and knowledgeable we become, we will always crave our parents’ approval. I am no exception, but I guess I don’t want their approval enough to engage in things I think are barmy. Onward.
There are two classifications that are deeply important to my parents. The first is Christian, and if you can claim that one, you get a pass on everything else, even if you do not also espouse the second, Republican. It helps if you are the Rush Limbaugh sort of Republican, because like a lot of my peers with Jon Stewart, My parents’ only source of news and analysis is Rush. They use terms like “feminazi” and “Slick Willy” without irony. I stopped paying attention, but I shudder to think what that lunatic is saying about Obama beyond “produce your birth certificate, Towel Head!”
When I told my father that I didn’t think I believed in God anymore, he wrung his little hands and said, “Where did we go wrong?”
I have attended a couple of holiday church services with them since leaving home, and each time I do, my poor dad gets this watery-eyed hope on his face that breaks my fucking heart. It is so important to him. I want to rub his back and say, “Dad, I love you, but this is not the answer for me. Don’t worry. In my own religious absolutism, my soul is just fine.” I also want to shake him and say, “If all this supernatural shit you believe about God is true, isn’t it reasonable to expect that god can be anything to anyone? How can you presume to understand anything about God?”
My father used to be my guide in all intellectual pursuits. To his credit, he gave me the sense of what it means to engage in critical thinking. He was just not expecting that to backfire on him. He was expecting me to continue to inoculate myself in his traditions and rhetorics and do the correct kind of critical thinking. He cautioned me as I announced that I’d be starting college not to let those “liberal idiots” in academia turn me into one of them.
I can’t be sure, but I think he got the following from Rush, which he repeats with glee whenever anybody mentions educated people’s opinions. BS PhD = Bullshit, Pile higher and deeper.
And so it is that I am a massive disappointment to my parents.
It has taken me nearly 32 years, but I have finally become a fully initiated, angry, emotional, pissed off, pissed on feminist liberal. It is embarrassing that it’s taken me this long, and there are some embarrassing explanations, and it may help you to know that I’ve been on the road for a good decade, but I’m not going to go into that now. I’m saving it for my memoir. We can talk about it later.
Right now, I want you to watch the hell out of this video.
Seriously. Right. Fucking. Now. Especially if you’re in New York or LA or very close to either. Please. Pretty please. I’m not typically a beggar, but I’m begging. Do it. Now. Because tomorrow is the reckoning. It’s the day you could march on some jackass big money bank that’s allowing Romney to commit public assery cubed.
Then, once you’re done, I want you to click here, and go give these people a little bit of your money. It’s a little bit of money that will probably help to make you a happier, healthier citizen of the world NONVIOLENTLY.
Child goes to a school that is full of poor kids. Child is a poor kid.
I am proud and resourceful, so Child’s experience of being a poor kid is different from some of the poor kids she goes to school with. We are also not always poor. We are never rich, but we are sometimes lower middle class instead of poor. It is the way with freelancing.
Child’s first grade teacher told me that she typically loses about half of her students to moving for reasons of financial hardship.
That totally blew my mind. When I was little, we got maybe one new kid a year, and occasionally kids wouldn’t show up for the following year, but they NEVER left in the middle of the year.
Another thing that blew my mind?
Last year, Child was in a special reading program. So every day, we did the hour’s worth of homework Child got from her reading help and from her regular class. Her reading teacher thanked me repeatedly for helping her with her homework, for holding her accountable.
I thought, “but that’s what parents do.”
I take child to school every morning because we live too close for her to get bussed.
And every morning, we working poor people kiss our kids goodbye in our work outfits, some of us are in our pajamas. Some of us are incredibly young, pushing strollers, or pregnant, or too skinny, or too round, or wear clothes that were obviously somebody richer’s castoffs.
A lot of the parents’ voices rattle from smoking too much. Have kids whose backpacks smell like stale cigarettes. A lot of the parents have stringy, unwashed hair. A lot of the parents leave the dropping off to the grandparents. A lot of kids come with somebody else’s parents. But there’s a real feeling of community and teamwork in these moments.
They feel like home to me. They feel like moments full of people coming together in a ritual.
Yesterday morning, it was raining. I often think it’d be a fun view from the air, all the bobbing umbrellas, then the clusters of them at the entrance to the school while people keep themselves, their kids, other people’s kids dry.
When I was little, I barely had to go ten feet from my front door to another dry spot. I was released within inches of my elementary school, under an awning.
The kids at Child’s school know about trekking for blocks, and they see the value of an umbrella, which is something I had no concept of until I was in my 20s.
And as I crossed High St. on the way to the Pajama Factory, I saw a dad on crutches, getting drenched, shuffling five kids across the street, and I thought, “maybe it’s anecdotal, but there’s a guy who recognizes the importance of getting his kids to school safely & on time.” He stood, impervious to the rain, watching the kids, made sure they got onto school ground safely.
And as I thought more, I think it’s not anecdotal. The poor parents I see interacting with their kids obviously love them. They obviously care about the education. The trouble is, it takes a lot more hours at $7 to make a living than it does at $30, $100.
And all this ridiculous rhetoric about how poor people are lazy, and Romney’s denial that he’s dismissive toward Americans who don’t pay taxes make me crazy with anger and frustration. I wonder how many times Romney, not his hired people, helped his children with homework.
How is there any universe in which somebody parenting multiple children and working full time for minimum wage–regardless of the choices, circumstances, etc that led them to that life–could be considered to be lazy? Working part time for minimum wage and parenting a single child is a greater task than anyone sane would take on outside of parental love.
The fact is that the working poor do not have the time or energy to deal with their kids’ homework. When the greater pressure is making sure the kids are dressed and fed, who gives a shit about a math worksheet?
It’s not right that our world is like this. It’s not right that anybody would complain that people who live in poverty don’t have to pay taxes. It’s not right that there are individual humans who receive enough money annually to pay for private educations for every single one of the underserved kids in my county. Or that those same humans are pointing their bloated, greedy fingers at the poor–of whom they possess no realistic conception–and saying, “You’re the problem. You are. You’re the reason America’s broken.” How can a group with no voice break America?
But people–even the working poor–listen. Why?
I would love to understand. Please help me. Do you understand how it happens that the filthy stinking rich people who hang out in their luxe mansions, summer homes, golf courses, race tracks, and order more food get to blame and criticize people who have so little they can’t even see to their kids’ educations properly? And why anybody with a modicum of sense would agree?
I am annoyed and saddened by the limitations of the scope of the rhetoric.
I am convinced that my vote simply doesn’t matter (though I show up at the polls, just in case), and that rich people are totally in charge of this country, whatever histrionic of republic in which we choose to believe we participate.
And since I’m reasonably certain that unless I get 1% rich (and when I do, boy oh, look out white dudes), I can affect no change, even if I experience wild success in American Letters, I’ll still be a woman, I’ll still be a kooky arty liberal (by appearances, though I am an anarchist/libertarian in my soul), and I would seriously prefer to spend my energy and intellect on more spiritually/culturally rewarding pursuits.
Despite all of this, I could not control myself when the very tippy top of my Facebook News Feed said, “Wanky McWank Pants and 10 other friends like Mitt Romney.”
So I posted the following status update:
So facebook just told me that several of my friends *who will remain unnamed out of respect for their freedom of speech* “liked” Mitt Romney. For a fleeting moment, I considered unfriending every single one of them.
In my mind, I was being flip. I was pointing out the beauty of our illusion of freedom of speech.
When I re-read my status update, I was maybe a little chagrined to realize that, to Romney fans (i.e., humans without critical thinking skills), my status update would be offensive.
But my chagrin was short lived. It was quickly followed by a belly-sinking sense of my own doofus-like state. I should’ve kept my typing fingers still.
I pride myself in staying out of political discussions. I try to maintain a professional attitude and presence in social media. Like to as I might, I do NOT talk smack about people (except for fans of Mitt, apparently), and I do not make personal statements about my relationships, friends and relatives with whose actions/behavior I disagree, or my innermost feelings, dark as they may be.
This Me, of whom you get a sense on my blog, is about 70% persona. People who know me in life can identify the differences between the Me who writes here and the Me who lives in a place and does mundane things like put on socks and go up and down staircases.
I think that any writer would tell you that she inhabits a more perfect self, or a less perfect one, depending on the scenario, when she writes anything.
I think this is why people publish the letters that writers write to people and each other. We are never simply sharing the news. We are always spinning.
This post is supposed to be confessional. I think I lost a “friend” over the facebook status. Based on his ranting, I’m not sure I mind, but I would like to hope that that above-quoted status will be the last thing of a political nature that I personally write on Facebook. Henceforth, I shall only share news articles and comment on other people’s political statuses.
I can’t imagine now what my parents must’ve thought, but I knew what I was doing back then, and wouldn’t be dissuaded. Plus, I got to move to New England. HUGE bonus. It had been a dream since I read Cynthia Voigt (I think it was her, anyway) in grade school.
There was no need for my parents to worry, but now that I’m a parent, I’m sure they did. Lots. Probably they lost sleep over my antics. They don’t read this blog, so they’ll probably never know I’ve acknowledged it. Ah, well. Their loss.
I’ve had pretty good taste in some friends along the way (pretty bad taste in others), and my first roommate, Steve, is definitely good people. We were best friends from high school, kindred spirits, and he was a student at Quinnipiac College (now Quinnipiac University) in Hamden, CT. Quinnipiac is like New Jersey North. It’s a campus full of high-end SUVs and boys with carefully manicured facial hair. Or at least it was back in 2001. Now they’ve probably got Priuses and boys with artfully shaggy bangs.
Here’s what I mean about Steve being good people:
I had a job at The Olive Garden in Orange, CT (incredible money, seriously). I loved it. And I worked with some interesting people. One such interesting person was a black lesbian named Tina.
She had a son who was five at the time, and who wasn’t in her custody. She was from Reading, PA.
She had a partner, named Donna, who was the daughter of a preacher man.
These two managed to find themselves without a place to stay. Their homelessness had something to do with Donna’s parents catching her and Tina doing it. So I invited them to stay with us temporarily. Probably without consulting Steve. I don’t know that for sure, but I know myself, and I can imagine myself at 20 being more concerned with the well-being of casual acquaintances than peace in my domestic arrangement.
But Steve was on board. I reckon he’s still about as laid back as they come.
We set Tina & Donna up on the couch cushions in our living room, and I learned some stuff:
1. What “ashy” means with regard to dry skin. I used this term once, many years later, about my own skin in front of a black person. I wasn’t even thinking of it, just that ashy was a precise adjective. My audience adopted the same air of bemusement my black ex boyfriend did when he discovered that I use a washcloth to clean myself. Like, “White people aren’t allowed to do that.” Good times.
2. Hair Extensions. This bumpkin had no clue. I swear to you, I was shocked. Like I was about plucking eyebrows. I came home one day and Tina and Donna were sitting there on the floor, half of Donna’s hair was in her lap. After I realized that it hadn’t fallen out, I was deeply curious. Both Tina and Donna were amused by and patient about my naivete.
3. Arbor Mist isn’t really alcohol. Here’s awesome about Tina. She was pregnant. Yup, pregnant. From cheating on Donna with a boy from high school. ?! I know. She was the cautionary tale for the phrase, “It only takes one.” Donna wanted to help her raise the baby. Tina didn’t have too much qualms about imbibing Arbor Mist. Here’s another awesome thing about Tina: she had just gotten out of jail. Yes, jail. For what? I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I ever did.
But I will say this: in New Haven, I don’t think I ever saw a white person being pulled over. Pretty sure the cops there throw anybody not white into jail indiscriminately. Sure, Tina was probably doing something she ought not have been doing, but who hasn’t? Feel free to be all hoity toity in the comments if you’ve never done anything that you would’ve gone to jail for if you got caught. Some of us are lucky on two counts: being born white, and not getting caught.
And before you freak out because I said it’s lucky to be white: I’m saying that it with a heart-squeezing dose of guilt. I don’t think it’s right, good, or fair; and it’s insane especially because it’s 2012–it’s supposed to be the future, isn’t it?
I liked Tina. I still wonder about her. She was funny and calm and had great teeth and a cool speaking voice. I never got to know Donna as well, but she was nice, too.
Here are other things that I remember from our brief cohabitation with Donna and Tina:
1. I had my first experience getting felt up by a dude at a gay bar. I am reasonably sure I was underage.
2. I came home from work a few times to find Donna, Tina, and Steve on the couch in front of the evening news studying their Powerball tickets with something like reverence and suspended enthusiasm.
3. Proper dreadlocks are high maintenance and require some pretty unpleasant smelling product.
4. Tina was the easiest-to-be-around pregnant person I’ve ever met.
5. I’m pretty sure that I did not tell my parents that I had a pair of temporary roommates who were both black and lesbians. I don’t know how that would’ve gone.
6. Looking back, I can’t believe how incredibly cool Steve was about the whole thing. I think if the shoe were on the other foot, I would’ve been hopping mad. Maybe not, though. I prize privacy and caution a lot more these days than I once did.
Anyway, after they moved out, Tina wasn’t working at the Olive Garden anymore, and I have no clue where the two of them wound up. But I still wonder about them. And since the names in this post (except for Steve’s, but I used his proper name with permission) have been changed to protect the innocent, I don’t know if I’ll ever find out what happened to them.
How about you? What’s your best (or best material) roommate story?
This is a picture of a place I used to go a lot in college. It’s where all the writer wannabes go after readings, after class, after anything one might possibly muster an excuse for drinking.
In retrospect, I have no clue how I afforded so many fancy beers.
I believe the address is New Haven, but it’s in an area of New Haven that’s called Westville. Next to it is an adorable breakfast nook, a jeweler, and a fancy salon. In college, I worked at a now defunct restaurant called 500 Blake St. Cafe right across the street from Delaney’s.
Delaney’s has some absurd number of beers on tap, and the food is a notch better than most pub fare. Most notably spicy calamari.
Places like this are one of the many things I love about New England.
Here are more:
1. I love driving fast, and the freedom of three lanes.
2. Houses painted or sided in pretty colors.
3. 24-hour diners with Mediterranean faves like spanikopita, gyros, souvlaki, and real kalamata olives on the Greek salads, as well as burger, grilled cheese, and broiled fish.
4. Falafel Houses with proper shawerma and baba ghanouj.
5. Wide availability of light cream for coffee at public coffee venues.
7. TONS of Universities and the cultural opportunities & political leanings they embody. Plus, the way all the Univerity’s smarty-pantses are part of the community.
8. Never more than an hour from the ocean.
9. It’s only like 5 degrees, but it’s cooler here than it is in Pennsylvania & south of the Mason Dixon.
11. Massive ethnic presence, so massive ethnic grocery options.
12. Social liberation. In New England, it’s harder to find people who hate the gays or the brown people or whomever, who would assume a woman on birth control is a whore, or who would care one way or the other if an adult wore her hair in a strange way or had facial piercings. In public school, the rhetoric accounts for non-traditional families, etc.