Thursday, September 25, 2008

What to say?

I'm tongue-tied. Word-bound. Fuzz-brained.

World events seem, simultaneously, perilously close and impossibly distant. Palpably meaningful and totally facile. Organic and constructed. 

The audacity with which (almost exclusively) men in suits are playing with lives about which they know next to nothing is both frightening and fascinating. It bears no resemblance to reality yet is reality.

My nature is to believe in authenticity, but I'm finding it only in the worried looks of friends in unguarded moments.

So, I'm "going dark" for a few days. 

I need to let things coagulate. And get some rest. Watch this space. 'Bout a week?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Plugs

Hey....they're better than hair plugs, right?

I have a few quick moments before the off-to-school drama takes off, so I thought I'd offer the love to a couple of wonderful books.

First, Momma Zen. The subtitle, Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, may scare off men. It should not. Anyone, with or without children, will benefit from the gentle lessons in mindfulness and peace this book provides. The author, Karen Maezen Miller, is a Buddhist priest, but thinking humans of any faith (or none at all) will find grace here.

And now we turn to a sadder place. The most poignant literary place I've been in thirty, maybe forty least so far. Why so far? Because I can not make it past the first seven or so chapters without starting over or flipping back for selected bits. This fact, in and of itself, is astounding. After all those years of careful close reading in college and grad school, I now take my books at a quick clip. But Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is new country. I've been put off for two years by the back cover copy, which suggested a "look at me" extravaganza of mixed media and stunt writing; nothing could be farther from the truth. Some reviewers have compared him to Vonnegut but, so far, I find that comparison facile, at best.

Fall is not here yet, but those of you lucky enough to live where the air is crisping now have two excellent reasons to curl up in front of the fire.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twenty Questions

I find myself, this lovely Saturday, with exactly zero resources. How convenient, then, that Molly has so graciously tagged me and solved my content crisis. 

  • People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs & replace any question that they dislike with a new question. (note, you’ll need to pull the list of questions from Molly's site if you want to see which one I switched out. But I'll save you the trouble... I didn't change any because doing so would take energy that I do not have. My slug-like state also explains the fairly boring quality of my answers. Some days are like that.).
  • Tag 8 people to do this quiz.

1. How many songs are on your iPod? 2796

2. What music would you want played at your funeral? Depends on my mood. Today I'd say "Goodbye" (Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle) "Court and Spark," (Joni Mitchell) "Tangled Up in Blue," (Bob Dylan) "Alison," (Elvis Costello) "Sleeping in Paris," (Roseanne Cash) and "Ventura," (Lucinda Williams). By the way, I have other genres and other decades in my repertoire; these just suit the mood.

I've had better weeks.

3. To what magazines do you subscribe? These magazines come every month and go unread: Vanity Fair, Texas Monthly, Food and Wine, Travel and Leisure, Gourmet, TNR (online). Recently Lapsed: New Yorker, Reason, BrainChild

4. What is your favorite scent? Lavender, sandalwood, cinnamon, Niven-Morgan "Gold" and Bulgari "the' vert"

5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it? Practically? Retire debt and start saving for a craftsman cottage in the San Juan Islands. Bitterly? Personal trainer, cook, plastic surgery, legal fees. Fantasy wise? That craftsman cottage.

6. What is your theme song? Probably "Left of Center," by Suzanne Vega or "Fruits of My Labors," by Lucinda Williams

7. Do you trust easily? Far too.

8. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think? In action, it's often way too much of the former, and I miss the good stuff; in conversation, alas, it's usually the latter.

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? She laughs until she cries about this one, waiting for the world to shift on micro and macro levels.

10. Do you have a good body-image? Of course not. 

11. Is being tagged fun? Of course.

12. How do you spend your social networking (Facebook, etc.) time? Being geeky and hoping I do not appear so.

13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately? Email, iced coffee, and political blogs I find depressing.

14. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? Creative, smart, dedicated, and an outstanding mother. Oh, I forgot... she's lucky enough to live in America's finest city.

15. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head? A song Small Child and I created to celebrate Large Dog's propensity to uncover and consume cat poo. We are an alternative lyrics household.

16. What’s your favorite item of clothing? I don't like much of anything in my closet right now, thank you economy. The most reliable things, however, are a black jersey skirt that falls swingily just below the knee and my Dansko clogs... not together, of course.

17. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy? No.

18. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? Pick it up. Get a massage.

19. What items could you not go without during the day? Laptop. Iced Coffee. Protein. NPR.

20. What should you be doing right now? I'm trying to change my thinking, to believe that whatever I
am doing is what I should be doing. But I'm still a child of the western world. So here is my Should list. Facing Reality. Buying groceries. Tackling one of many organizational challenges. Working on my Beatnik costume for a party tonight. Checking on my mother. 

I tag Lori, What I Saw Today, Old Roman Symbol, Her Other Evil Twin, and Juvenesence. I know that's not 8, but I have a small circle. Participation is optional; no calamity will befall you if you choose not to participate.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

50-Hate: The Tennis Ladies

Prologue: I remember All in the Family. I saw the phrase "The Generation Gap" defined in my childhood home. I heard the battle cries, "Don't Trust Anyone Under Thirty!" and "Question Authority!" I may not have been old enough to shave my legs, much less burn a bra, but the message came through loud and clear: young = forward thinking; old = backward looking.

I see them everywhere in the county where Small Child attends school: The Tennis Ladies.

Toned, tanned, tended, and tenacious, they meet for coffee and lunch and conversation. Somehow, even after vigorous exercise, they always look put-together, earrings dangling and makeup intact. Yes. They play tennis in makeup. And lipstick. It's different here.

I've always been an outlier where this kind of girl is concerned, "in the corner" as Suzanne Vega once put it.  And "in the corner" was where I was Monday, at La Madeleine to be exact, in my version of exercise wear (black yoga pants, shapeless PTA t-shirt, sans earrings and makeup), shielded by my laptop as a trio of tennilicious ladies lunched at the table next. Definitely the kind of folks for whom "economic downturn" means "Lesser Lexus."

After a quick scan (two late20somethings, one working the ponytail-through-cute-ball-cap look and another with the best blond highlights I've seen in ages, and an oldersomething close to my age with the best matte red lipstick I've seen in ages) and a quick listen (kids, blah blah, car, blah, blah, kids), I returned to the chicken Caesar salad that has been my comfort food lo these many years. Move along, Blue. Nothing to see here.

Then suddenly, this:

"..for Obama."
"You've got be be FUCKING JOKING."

Up popped my head.

And there, calmly smiling with those beautiful matte red lips, was my mid-life sister.

PONYTAIL: Oh, no. No. Why?
MATTE RED: Because McCain and Palin scare the shit out of me.
HIGHLIGHTS:   Oh, come on.
PONYTAIL:   No, really, why?
MATTE RED:   Well, for one thing, they want to overturn Roe v Wade
PONYTAIL, SCOFFING: You know THAT will never happen. They're [the dems] just trying to scare you.

At this point, Ponytail and Highlights unleashed a stream of anti-Obama vitriol the likes of which I have never heard apart from AM talk radio. Vicious. Untrue. Unadulterated Hate.

Matte Red never lost her cool. She continued, pointing out that Sarah Palin is, essentially, stupid. That her presence on the ticket is pandering and insulting. It was clear that Obama would not necessarily have been her first choice. But she has been around the block. The others have not.

Matte Red glanced at me. I mentioned that perhaps the younger women didn't understand that the freedoms they take for granted have not always been universally enjoyed (okay, I may not have been that slick). I agreed that an Obama victory was critical, if only to shift the court. Matte Red shook her head in agreement. Ponytail launched again.

Their party was breaking up, and their spirited debate continued as they made their way out.
As they reached the door, Matte turned back, gave me the thumbs up, and said, "See you at the victory party." The other two were not amused.

In an instant, I passed through some kind of time warp, some kind of bizarro reversal. At that one point in that most red county in this most red state, the Generation Gap flipped.  

And I thought to myself, "Never trust anyone under 30. At least not anyone in a tennis skirt."

Afterword: I know. I said I wasn't going to write about politics anymore. So sue me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tragedy and Travesty

Of course, you've all seen the CNN and Weather Channel footage of Hurricane Ike.  And the coverage of the horrendous train accident in Los Angeles. 

My heart goes out to all those who suffer, and my gratitude is immense that my friends in Houston are safe, even if their homes sustained damage. 

On a micro scale, things aren't much better. One friend has been forced to hospitalize a child, just to make certain that insurance will "kick in" for the residential treatment the child needs. Two other families, both connected with the school system in different districts around the state, have insurance that is so worthless that their health is being compromised.  

And, in the face all this national pain, those who wish to be our leaders continue to smile and lie - so very certain of their position, facts be damned.

I see Sarah Palin, and I am reminded of Reagan - a plastic face with no relation to reality. My biggest fear is that the press and the public will continue to present more and ever more evidence of her unsuitability for any public office, but that none of the evidence will matter. Reagan, once called the "Teflon President," will appear - in retrospect - to have been covered with Velcro instead.

What can we do?  

Tonight I want to throw up my hands. 

But tomorrow I will try to remember that all I can do is live where I live in a way that demonstrates my beliefs. I can walk slowly, think clearly, and speak carefully. 

And I can try to find hope.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cops and Donuts

What kind of mid-life crisis yuppie cops, I ask you, park their big hunking motorcycles outside of a Starbucks for their "coffee and donut," and then hang out on the terrace, drink Frappuccinos, flirt with blondes and - I'm not making this part up - let them play with their radar guns?

The ones I'm watching right now, apparently.

Tax dollars at work, baby!

I'm not looking closely enough, though to tell if there's lipstick on the .....

Nope. Won't do it. Won't rise to the bait.....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fast Forward: 2008

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved school.

Before she could even walk she loved school, loved it so much that she refused to nap while she was there (unless one of her teachers - and she loved them all - held her), loved it so much that, sometimes, she would cry when the morning ended because she didn't want to leave. The school had a cook, and the cook baked fresh bread and cinnamon rolls so the halls smelled delicious and she would always cut up extra fruit for the girl or make a special no-cheese pizza just for her. After the little girl learned to walk, she loved school even more because she could run in and out through the almost always open door to find grass and sand and water and every kind of weather. Grand messes were expected, even welcomed. She was learning, even if she didn't know it.

Then her family moved, and the little girl had to find another school. The first one wasn't so great, but when she was three she found a new school to love. Again, the door was almost always open. Again, the food was fresh and tasty. She even learned to prepare her own snack when she was hungry, not when someone said it was time to eat. She loved her teachers. She loved her friends. But, most of all, she loved to work. Planets, continents, every bone in the body, biomes, reading, math...nothing was off limits. Cicadas leave cool exoskeletons behind. Orange peel takes a long time to turn into compost. Carrots you grow yourself taste especially good. Some things are symmetrical and some are asymmetrical. No one ever told her she wasn't old enough to learn something. Every child was capable, and every child was gifted.

One hot summer May day, she said goodbye to her beloved school and her teachers and some of her friends. She had grown up too much for this school. It was time for kindergarten.

And on another hot August day later that year, the little girl who loved school began to disappear.

Last week, I
shared some memories of my first day of school. Now it's time to fast forward from LBJ's Great Society to Bush's No Child Left Behind. If you had told me three years ago that I would abandon the public school system, the system that gave me a strong education, the system I consider to be a cornerstone of our country, the system I have advocated until folks wanted to stuff a sock in my mouth I would have laughed you all the way to the Mexican border (and that, my friends, is pretty far from this part of Texas). But it's happened. I'm Blue, and I'm a private school mom.

You've been spared a very long post, detailing - year by year - Small Child's journey through public school (unfortunately, I wasn't spared writing it; deleting it was a pleasure.). Let's just say this: with every day, every month, every year, every grade we saw less joy. A girl who often was asked to stop working because the school day was over transformed into a girl with page after page after page of unfinished work in her chair pocket. She climbed sullenly into the car at the end of each day with nothing to say about anything.  I expected to see that kind of behavior near puberty, not in first and second grades. 

We approached the problems from all the expected angles. Positive reinforcement changed nothing (nor, I'm sorry to admit, did scolding). Her pediatrician pronounced her in perfect health. Spurred by her veteran teacher's suggestion that she might have ADD, the kind that presents as "sometimes just not there, kind of day-dreamy," we subjected her to a full neuropsychological evaluation midway through second grade. 

The verdict?  "That's one extremely smart girl you've got there. She's a little anxious and a lot bored. Three hours of GT pull-out a week is simply not enough for this one. If I were you, I'd put her in Outstanding Private School 90 Minutes Away or move back to Oregon ASAP because she misses it very much [In the interest of full disclosure, the psychologist had spent a good bit of time in our former town.]. Plus, she's seriously grieving for her best friend, who moved far away. She needs to learn to complete the stuff she doesn't like, but you can't eradicate her personality type, which simply doesn't have much patience for nonsense. The focus on testing in this school district is going to be a big problem for her."

So we worked on the "self-discipline" stuff and saw improvement. She was selected a year early for chorus, and along with four of her friends had a piece of her art appear in a national publication. She earned more Accelerated Reader points than anyone else in her grade (granted, many of the points resulted from family reading time, an advantage many children don't enjoy, but still). 

That sums up the good news.  The bad news? Two new elementary schools were scheduled to open the next fall, and the district was taking a hard line on intra-district transfers. Small Child would not, under any circumstances, be allowed to remain with her cohort, many of whom she'd learned with for over five years. She would lose her art, chorus and GT teachers, a much more significant issue that that of new classmates.  And the "Mean Girl" phenomenon reared its ugly head, which made the loss of Best Friend even worse. None of us were expecting Mean Girls for at least another year. Naive much?

Locally, we had two private school options. One, the good Catholic school her cousins attend, offers no GT enrichment and only one class per grade. The other, a K-12 "Christian" school, promotes the kind of elitist evangelical dreck we abhor. While some affluent individuals of hell-bound heathen non-Christian faiths may choose to simultaneously shelter their children from reality and laugh over the day's silly dogma around the dinner table, that just won't work for us. Luckily, the universe helped us find a true Montessori school within a reasonable distance. While we would have preferred a truly secular option, we are comfortable with the gentle, Episcopalian theology on offer. But what to do?

Agony ensued. Hand-wringing. Were we selling out? Turning our backs on the community in which we lived? Sheltering our child rather than insisting she face the world's realities, even those that may not fit her "personality style?" Insuring that Small Child would lose her hometown friends? Taking our marbles and sulking home because things weren't exactly the way we wanted them to be? 

I'd recently read several beautiful essays about families' decisions to choose public school, and I understood and agreed with them wholeheartedly. But my child. My child. The public school system I remembered, the one my teacher friends labor tirelessly to create, the one I still believe is possible, is not the reality in our town, no matter how much I want it to be. All the philosophy and political theory in the world wouldn't mean squat if the still-slightly-flickering light of curiosity I could see in my girl's eyes truly disappeared. 

For once, I left analysis behind and just was. And then I knew that she needed a change. We all did. And we chose a place of peace.

The result?

After the first full day of third grade, when her mother arrived to pick her up, the little girl who loved school miraculously reappeared . She opened her mouth when she got in the car and didn't stop reporting for 40 miles. She sang all the way to school on the second day then smiled, "The other girls are unusually like me."

One week in, she was equally enthusiastic. She hopped into the car and said, "Today, Millie*? [note girl inflection] You know, my friend? She did, like, the biggest thing on the bead frame, it's like millions in multiplication and division, [note on-going run-on sentence problem] she was so proud of herself, and I started multiplication today, but I like division better, I've decided to call it, 'multiplication minus' since it's the opposite, everyone always talks about how multiplication is so challenging and I thought it would be but it's not because, like, you know, it's just like addition and addition and addition and addition?"


"And we had P.E. and played monkey ball and mosquito tag? You know, boys are, like, so weird? You know, annoying? They , like, pretend hit each other and stuff, like punch the air where no one is? Weird."

Thus ends our best back-to-school ever. 

And, I gotta say, she just may be right about boys.

*The name of the friend in question has been changed in my endless quest for privacy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

North of Achilles' Heel, Somewhere in Tendonville

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned somewhere in this blog that approaching fifty makes me feel like an American car with 100,001 miles on it; things are starting to go just a wee bit wrong, becoming marginally less reliable, slightly less predictable.

The most disturbing of these changes rests somewhere deep within my metabolism. While it's been decades since I willingly displayed my stomach on a beach, I've always been able to knock off  some pounds with exercise when I wanted to. And even when I didn't want to exercise formally, I've stayed pretty active.  

Appearances can be so very deceiving, and if you saw me walking down the street you might think I was the queen of lazy (especially if you couldn't see my legs). I love the look on a new doc's face when, expecting to deliver a standard lecture on cholesterol and blood sugar and the error of my ways, she sees my lab results and then, just to be sure, double checks my blood pressure.  "Still 108/60?" I inquire. "Yep," she admits. Another good one? When a massage therapist, expecting to plunge his or her hands into peanut butter or jelly, encounters instead the muscles in my legs. "So what do you do to work out?" I hear, kind of, as I drift off to a half-sleep.

But my body? She's a traitorous bitch. My new best friend, menopause, apparently has 15 surly cousins....the pounds that have snuck in since March. Yes, you heard me, SINCE MARCH. They're stealthy, well-distributed, not really enough to move me up a size, just enough to make me feel cumbersome and lumpy. 

The summer in Texas may be a contributing factor. I missed the walking and hiking and biking availble in Oregon. About all the outdoor exercise I'm willing to do around here from June until mid-September is uncork a bottle of wine. 

I am fiercely anti-scale, so I only met these slatternly additions today at my doctor's office. Why was I there?  The title says it all.

I am pissed, royally pissed, at those pounds.  I refuse to believe that I cannot sweat them off. I will not take estrogen to make it easier.  I will do it the old fashioned way, and I will even give up cheese.  So I joined the YMCA near Small Child's school. And I did not start slowly. Nope, not me.  I visualized every one of those pounds as a frumpy Sarah Palin in elastic-waist pants (this made easier by the fact that the only cable news show available in the room was FOX) and went after them like an Alaskan shooting wolves from a plane. After ten days, nothing had changed.

Except my left ankle.

I was going to ignore it.  After all, I thought, what could I have possibly done to injure it? I'm no athlete. I wasn't even running. Maybe the double cardio sessions were a bit much, but given the circumstances that was probably what it was going to take to see results so I might as well suck it up. I settled with a couple of days off. After the second one, things weren't any better. Just the opposite.

So, Wednesday night, I casually mentioned the pain in the back of my ankle to The Man.  He didn't look up from his book (Who does when his wife complains about something? And I should probably mention that he is an ex-jock from the "tape an aspirin to it" school of athletic training), but muttered, "Is it swollen?" I said I couldn't tell and asked him to take a look.

His reply?

"That looks nasty. You need to see Our Doctor tomorrow."

That's when I actually looked at the Achilles tendon areas of both ankles and noticed that the left one had an obvious bulge. I rolled my eyes, said I'd think about it, and tugged on a compression sleeve the next morning. No improvement whatsoever.

So today I gave in.

Diagnosis: tendonitis. Pretty bad (I think that's a technical term). The good news is that it isn't partially ruptured...yet. I'm banned from the treadmill and consigned to the bike, which Our Doctor adores but which I despise with every fiber of my being. I begged for the eliptical and she relented as long as it didn't get any worse. I get to bop about town in lace-up shoes (fashionista!) with a gooshy heel cup. I left with a month's worth of Celebrex samples. If it doesn't improve with TLC, I'm off for an MRI and PT.

So, for all of you with odometers in the lower ranges...enjoy your young, reliable bodies while you can.

And don't forget to stretch.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A first (and likely only).

It seems I've been nominated for a blogging award. Her Other Evil Twin loves my blog. How do I know? She emailed this to me today:

I feel like Sally Field.

Like a chain letter, such awards should leave my blog quickly, according to The Rules:

1. The winner can put the logo on his or her blog.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

Who to nominate? This is where my shyness kicks in. (Stop laughing! I'm an introvert. It's true. Really. Ask the MBTI.)   I read many blogs, but I don't feel comfortable nominating high-traffic blogs I frequent, particularly since many don't post such awards.  So I will nominate my blogrolling friends:

If the award doesn't fit in with your site's aesthetic, I understand completely if you choose not to display.  But know you are loved.

Old Roman Symbol and Bookkeeping, I left you off because you, ahem, need to blog already! I had to choose between Northward Leadership and Savvy Navigator, but since they're related I went with the new addition.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rewind: 1965

The sun wearied the paint on the green and white VW van in the driveway of the small red brick house, on the first street over from the wooden ones. A nail-bitten hand clenched the handle of the side door, and a little girl looked up, home cut brown bangs tracing a crooked line above her squinting eyes.

She wore a red bandana print dress with an elastic waist. Its open neck flared to a little collar and its cap sleeves revealed arms not particularly tanned. Silver-colored Concho buttons tipped its sash. Another new dress hung inside, blue and white checked with eyelet trim, but this was the one for today. Laura Ingalls Wilder always had to wear red because her hair was brown, too. Blue was blonde Mary’s color.

It was the best day of her life. Why wasn’t it a holiday, she wondered, like Christmas or Halloween? It was more exciting than the World Series, even the Olympics she’d watched last year, all the way from Japan and Austria. The other girls on her block could run faster, and weren’t afraid to climb trees. But she wouldn’t be last today. She’d been practicing for as long as she could remember for this and knew it was her time, her chance.

The click of the camera startled her.

It was her first day of school and she never looked back.

As a young child, I wasn’t such a great fan of summer vacation. First of all, it was a frigging inferno of climatic misery. And chiggers. Sure, it was fun to play with the other three girls on the block, until the inevitable “mean girl” nonsense reared its ugly head every third day or so. By the middle of July, it was all about the library’s summer reading program for me. My name is Blue, and I was a nerd.

But by then joy loomed on the humid horizon. The run-up began when the Rexall Drug a few blocks away ran its annual “Back to School” ad with the all-important coupon: buy five dollars of school supplies and get a free milk shake at the soda fountain. We’d go up and down the aisle and I’d hold my breath. Mother, a child of the Great Depression, often did not see the need for a new box of crayons each year. Why should we buy a box of No. 2 pencils when we had perfectly good ones at home? And wasn’t last year’s bottle of Elmer’s Glue still half full? Even so, we usually made it to the magic number, especially when interesting items like mucilage began to show up on the list, around third grade.

School (the learning part of it at least) was a haven to me. It still is, I suppose. I began first grade as a fluent, advanced reader. I could also add and subtract. No doubt this shaped my attitude. Even in the hellish period (grades four, five, and six) after the popular girls had black listed me for my intelligence but before I’d found a like-minded peer group, I could take refuge in achievement and the attendant praise.

Looking back, I realize how very fortunate I was. Although I attended public school in what was then a not particularly desirable Dallas suburb. I received an outstanding education from well-prepared teachers in structured classrooms within safe, orderly facilities. [Insert obligatory liberal disclaimer here: Perhaps my teachers were outstanding because intelligent women had few other career options at that time. Perhaps students who were not tracked in GT classes from grades 1-12 did not fare so well. Perhaps my district practiced
de facto segregation through its “neighborhood schools” policy. ] To this day, I believe in the mission of public education and trust the intent of most classroom teachers.

Parents all have dreams for our children. While every pregnant woman demurs, “I just want a healthy baby,” we all keep our true thoughts to ourselves. My big-bellied fantasies did not center on soccer games and slumber parties and shopping-bonding. I dreamed instead of sitting side by side with my brilliant daughter, reading or writing, and watching proudly while she – ravenously curious – took the academic world by storm, free of the constraints I’d encountered.


Tune in tomorrow, for the fast-forward.

And something else...

 From yesterday's Salon:

MONDAY, SEPT. 1, 2008 13:54 EDT

Abstinence-only educators

Both Sarah Palin and John McCain back abstinence-only education. No surprises there.

What's galling is this: When the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, minority teenage mother growing up in some (presumably Democratic) urban area, that pregnancy becomes fodder for lectures from conservatives about bad parenting, the perils of welfare spending and so on. But when the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, white teenager from some small town in a Republican state, that pregnancy is...a celebration of the wonders of God's magnificence--and choosing life!

― Thomas Schaller

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sadness and Rage

I feel sadness for a young woman, alone in a spotlight in Alaska, who made a mistake many young women make. My sadness is increased exponentially by the cultural policies of the state in which she was raised, policies shared by my home state, policies which deprive young men and women of the information they need to protect themselves from disease and pregnancy.

Oh surely, you say, she knew how not to get pregnant. Perhaps. Even likely. But I grew up in a home where such things were not discussed, not for religious or political reasons but for generational ones. I am forever grateful for the good sex education I received. Along with memorizing the symptoms of primary, secondary and tertiary syphilis, I had to learn all the then-available methods of contraception and their efficacy.  And then I took a test. And that test was averaged in to my seventh grade health mark on my report card. Yes, in Texas.

But the rage? That is directed directly at her mother.  Yes, I know that children act independently of their parents' wishes and expectations. I certainly did. But I detect more than a whiff of disingenuousness. 

I know I just took a vow of political silence.  So I will let the beautifully eloquent words of  Karen Maezen Miller speak for me. I quote today's post from her blog, Cheerio Road, in its entirety and with her permission:

Seeing the soft bigotry of low expectations

With apologies to those who expected more or less of me.

There was once a
supremely arrogant and idiotic man who mouthed this line of someone else's melodic prose – "the soft bigotry of low expectations" – to decry the educational imprisonment of the underprivileged. Nevermind that by his every action he condemned these underprivileged to further generations of poverty, invisibility, exploitation and pain.

Now I see what those words mean.

When you blithely send your firstborn to war and call it foreign relations.
When you leave your three-day-old at home and call it working motherhood.
When you don a dimestore tiara and
call it a star.
When you adamantly
oppose sex education in public schools and silence comment on your daughter's teenage pregnancy by calling it a private matter.
When you cynically manipulate the future of the world and call it a game.
When you ignore the rules of reason, experience, wisdom, truth, legitimacy, decency and public trust and call it a

I see what it means.

Call me a bigot. But do not expect me to take any more or make any less of this.

Thank you, Karen, for your wise and passionate words. 

And, to that young woman in Alaska: I wish you well.