Thursday, September 30, 2010

You Can't SayThat!

As Banned Books Week draws to a close, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the concept of forbidden fruit and the sweetness thereof.

Every year, when the list of books that have been challenged is posted, I shake my head in wonder. Then I make sure I've read everything on said list that I care to read. Sometimes something new and salacious slips under my radar. If someone (who I imagine with facial features pinched so tightly that eyes, nose and lips all merge into one scrunchy almost indiscernible feature in the middle of their face) thinks it needs to be removed from the shelves, well, it must be something worth reading. We certainly watched that happen when Tipper's folks succeeded in slapping parental warning stickers on recorded material. A parental warning sticker is as attractive to a kid buying albums as a big red clearance sign is to a bargain shopper. (I know - albums - blah blah blah - shut up and let me enjoy my crone years... and get off my lawn. Damn hoodlums.)

I am particularly offended by books that are challenged for using words that have since been deemed politically incorrect. Ok, here's the thing: I cuss like a sailor. I'm not particularly proud of it, but I'm not particularly ashamed of it, either. I cuss. A lot. But I never say the 'N' word. Never, never, never. That offends me. HOWEVER... to pretend that it was a word that was never casually used is revisionist. Attempts to ban books like Tom Sawyer or To Kill a Mockingbird or Gone With the Wind (to name just a few examples) based on their use of this word is ludicrous. That is how it was and this is how it is. We need to have enough faith in our kids to believe that they will be able to sort that out. Hey! We can even act like parents and teachers and responsible adults and HELP them sort it out. The offensive nature of this word (and others like it) is not nearly as dangerous as the offensive nature of ignorance. We can't ignore history just because it's sometimes ugly. Those who ignore history... aw, you know the rest...

I am not offended so much as I'm tickled when I hear criticisms of books that refer to menstruation, or erections, or sexual curiosity that are geared towards the 12-15 year old reader. Boy, howdy, you better believe that these books are not INTRODUCING these concepts to kids this age! Kids this age are just entering this world and it can be confusing and scary. Books can provide validation.

The last point I want to make is that parents know what is right for their child and certainly have a right to tell their own child, "I don't want you reading this." When I was in fifth grade, The Exorcist was hot. I wanted to read it in a bad sort of way. My mother said, "Absolutely not." Well, of course, that only served as encouragement. I got my hands on a copy and devoured it. Surprisingly, sleep did not come easy after I turned that last page. My mother refused to offer me any comfort. I'd made my (levitating) bed and I was going to have to lie in it. My mother, of course, was right. This was not an appropriate choice for me at that point in my life. But I did exactly what human nature compels us to do when we're told we can't have something: I sought it much harder than I would have had it been offered freely to me.

So go ahead. Keep challenging those books. It's the best way in the world to guarantee that they continue to be read.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meat is Murder (Tasty, Tasty Murder)

Thus reads the T-shirt of my eldest. My youngest, as you may remember, is a vegetarian.

Yeah, Liv has taken a little ribbing (mmmmmm....ribs.....) about her vegetarian lifestyle ever since she made the decision to follow it. It is usually not meant to cause offense. Sometimes people ask her questions about her choices and she's always been able to answer them. As I've said before, she is a cool little chickadee who has never tried to impose her beliefs on anyone else. She has, however, always held firm to her own personal convictions.

So today Liv comes home from school and says to me (she says), "I hate the boys at the next table at lunch."

I nodded for her to continue. A story about obnoxious behavior from Jr. High boys isn't exactly ground breaking stuff. I didn't even put down my knitting. "What happened?"

"Well, this boy, he said, 'why did you made a cow backpack?' and I said, 'because I like cows and it's hug a vegetarian day.'" (actually, that's not till the 24th - but it's hardly the point...)

"Did he hug you?"

"Not exactly. When I got up to put my tray away, I came back to my seat and there was half a hamburger on it."

I put my knitting down and gave her my full attention. "That's bullying, pure and simple."

She shrugged. "I guess. People throw meat at me all the time in the cafeteria when they find out I'm a vegetarian."

"They THROW meat at you?" (That sound you hear is a momma bear being poked with a stick...or - more accurately - the sound of a momma bear who has just heard about her cub being poked with a stick...)

"Yeah. Once it hit my baritone mouthpiece and I almost cried because I have to put my mouth on that every day."

"You need to talk to your school counselor about this", I said, trying rather unsuccessfully to remain calm.

She shrugged again. "I don't even know exactly which boy it is. It might even be a couple. I'm not even sure what table they sit at."

"Liv, sweetie, this is NOT OK."

Another shrug. She's resigned to it. No big deal. I can tell she's already regretting having mentioned it to me.

So here's my dilemma: I don't want to be THAT MOM. I think kids should fight their own battles OR go through the proper channels at school. Mommy doesn't have any place in that chain. But DAMMIT - people are throwing MEAT at my sweet little tree-hugger and SHE'S COOL WITH IT! That's where it becomes ok to become THAT MOM, isn't it? I can't call the school till tomorrow. I have tonight to think on it.

I think I need to call, though.

Just don't start calling me THAT MOMmakin...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cheesecake and Cupcakes

So Tom has a gig tonight playing at a burlesque show. I thought it might be a good chance to break out of my frumpy shell and wear something fun - not that anyone will be paying any attention to a middle aged fat chick, no matter WHAT she's wearing - at a burlesque show - but it was my thought and I was entitled to it. I went to Kohl's, because I heard that's where ALL the sexy big gals shop. Or maybe it was just because I had a coupon for 30% off my purchase and there were door busters. It's hard to say. Anyway.

I hit clothes first. Obvious, right? But no - there was nothing there I couldn't imagine my mother wearing - and that didn't go a long way towards making me feel like a hottie. Not that my mom isn't an attractive woman, because she certainly is. But - well - oh, come on - I don't need to explain this to you.

On to shoes. Oh. They had some cute shoes. They had some hot, sexy, cute, cute ca-ute shoes. None of which were made to support the ankles of a woman who has been carrying this much weight for this many years. Leave the cute shoes - like every other fucking thing - to the young 'uns. But wait! What's this? Super-cute shoes with a stacked wedge heel and a little peep toe. And on CLEARANCE!!! My hands were shaking as I pulled a pair of those little stocking things out of the box so that I could try them on. Not in anticipation, just 'cause my hands generally shake. But I thought I'd amp the drama. It's a trip to Kohl's, for Pete's sake, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. I put the shoes on and they were a perfect fit. Comfortable too. But the shape - right at the peep toe - was just wrong.

It was then that I realized I was going to cry. My arms are too fat for sleeveless, my ass too big for tight, my knees too old and fat for short, my belly too - just, too... I've come to terms with all of that, more or less. But now my FEET are flawed? This just takes unfair to a whole 'nother level. And in 5 hours my handsome husband was going to be surrounded by bodacious babes. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!!! I looked for a quiet spot in Kohl's in which to indulge in my breakdown without alarming my fellow shoppers and it was at that moment that a hot flash hit. Oh, good! Because I was paying so much attention to my body flaws that I'd almost FORGOTTEN how freaking OLD I am! It wasn't one of those gradual ones, either. I was fine one second and the internal flame was turned up to eleven the next. I gripped the handle on my buggy - prepared to ride the trip to hell and back out - when I heard laughter. I looked around to see who it was and, much to my surprise, it was me.

Because you laugh or cry. And laughing is almost always better.

So I laughed.

I laughed till I had tears.

I don't know if anyone noticed me or not, I was pretty self-involved.

And then, when the heat subsided and the laughter died down and the tears were wiped away, I bought a new muffin tin.

Because I may never be able to be sexy again. Or young. Or relevant.

But I can have cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All We Need is Love

My girlies went to school with LOVE written on their arms today. I normally don't approve of them writing on themselves (not that that stops them), but today I encouraged it. September 5-10 is Suicide Prevention Week and today is Write Love on Your Arm day. Don't cut your arm - write LOVE on it.

Severe depression doesn't discriminate based on age, gender, race, religion, national origin or sexual preference. I bet you know someone who suffers from it - maybe a few someones. I know a few someones. A few someones who I love very dearly. The knowledge that the world sometimes feels like more than they can handle breaks my heart. I want to hug and comfort them. I want to slap them and shake some sense into them. Neither of those reactions has a very good track record.

But I can love them.

And I can support them.

And I can encourage them to seek therapy and professional help. It's out there.

And HERE'S something we ALL can do: We can work to erase the stigma of depression and mental illness so that people are no longer reluctant to seek treatment. We can stop talking about it in hushed tones and treating sufferers like pariahs. We can wear our hearts on our sleeves and our love on our arms.