Archives for September 2018

Casual Sexism In Heartland America

Tire Swing

Just trying to get into the swing of things!

Hubs and I have been taking the kids to an Episcopal church. I’m even less religious than he is but in a small town it’s about the only way to get to know anyone.

The Episcopalians are nice. They preach a lot about being accepting of differences and emphasize the eternal life part over the hellfire part. They are a small but friendly bunch.

Somehow. everyone there seems to be over 50 or under 20, but I’ve almost gotten used to that (where is everybody, anyway?)

There’s nothing much in the services I relate to. Plenty of familiar faulty arguments and false dichotomies. Then last week they opened with a reading of Proverbs 31:10-31:

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain …. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away …. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue …. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a [capable wife] is to be praised. Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.

My husband wasn’t there to smirk at me. He’s been working and going to school and was tired and sore. Plus he had homework. But I sat up a little straighter in my seat. Finally, something relevant to my life. Feminist passions do not much change the practical details of raising a

Ripcord

Well, that went nowhere fast!

family.

If I were looking for something Christianity had to tell me, even as a parable or metaphor, I might begin here.

A little while later when the Preacher started his segment, he opened by saying how glad he was that lesson from Proverbs was read by a woman. “I don’t know if a man could get away with that.” Pause for laughter.

“And I’m not even going there! It’s a minefield and I’m not going to go into it and risk saying the wrong thing.” Or words to that effect.

Wait, what? I’ve been sitting here week after week for six months and that’s the first passage that sounded like it was written by anyone who had ever met anyone remotely like me. And you’re just gonna roll on by it with a wave and a lame excuse about not wanting to offend people?

As if the teachings of the church aren’t problematic! St. Paul the apostle wrote, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Our church also runs a school, which is headed by a woman. The deacon is another woman. They pick and choose which parts of their gospel they follow, just like all religious people. And thank goodness! Trying to follow the whole thing, even just the New Testament, would be insanely impractical!

Burnt

Too hot for you to handle. darling?

And they will happily explain how all this makes perfect sense and isn’t implicitly admitting they know it’s just an ancient rule book. Why they go on about death all the time because of eternal life. About how studying the story of a brutal execution made them a better person.

Sure, whatever. I may not feel like you’re doing the world many favors pouring your energy into a tradition that oppresses millions, but it’s not my responsibility to save your soul any more than I want you to try to save mine.

But then don’t stand there and tell me that the topic of what makes a good wife is too controversial for you.

After service they meet for coffee and cake, it’s all terribly civilized. It’s the part I actually enjoy because they really are nice people.

One of the older members just happens to be the guy who owns the local paper. The paper for which I’m supposedly a correspondent but I never so much as saw a contract. After my interview, I called back a couple times a week for three weeks before giving up.

My husband made sure to introduce me to this old man as a writer. I was prepared to kiss his ass but he never gives me the chance. He said one sentence to me when he gave me the name of the editor to talk to.

Which is fine. Maybe he’s forgotten who I am. Maybe he doesn’t care. I can deal with one more old white man not caring about me.

But he loves to talk to my small son, in that high-pitched repetitive coo that doesn’t expect an answer. Often while the baby is in my arms. And we are the only redheads in the place so, even if he didn’t live on my hip it would be hard to forget who he belongs to.Kreon

I can’t help but wonder, if I had a penis, if this old man and I would be friends. Or he might at least acknowledge my existence once in a while.

These and my innumerable similar experiences together don’t begin to compare with what some women go through. This story isn’t looking to illustrate how hard my life is (I’m doing alright!) but to show the attitudes of nice, everyday people.

Too often topics dealing with women are brushed aside as complicated or ignored as unimportant. Even I didn’t say anything in the moment, being the one cantankerous person in a room of nice people is not how to engage anyone.

So I’m saying it here on my little soapbox.

And while I was writing, Hubs was sitting beside me reading Antigone for a school assignment. Scrawled in the margin was the idle thought of the previous owner of the book, “Kreon’s casual misogyny bores me.

And after a while, it does get boring. Just being left out of lots of little things in life because, for some reason, only males are felt necessary to be included. Because, as crazy as it seems, too often people just don’t seem to notice you.

It’s nice that there are so many executive women in this church, and sometimes they are the ones on the deas. It’s a perfect example of Liberal Feminism in action, I think — They are powerful as any man, in the system men designed in the first place. The system that encourages them to stay silent.

I’m digging into the Woman’s perspective and expressing it as best I know how. I feel no loyalty to making a God happy who would give me a voice I may not use. 

Casual Abuse: Mothers, What Are We Doing?

That’s right, Moms, I’m talking about you. About us.

 

Global

It’s as inescapable as the synthetic hormones in our drinking water!

Recently I argued that Radical Feminism can be compatible with being a mother, and I will be building on that again later. Childfree ladies out there, I love you and your life is yours to live as you like.

For those of us who have taken on the challenge of bringing up the next generation, I want to talk a little about what that really means.

We are going to be leaving them a mess to clean up, that’s for sure. Global pollution obviously, but that’s just a symptom of what I want to focus on. 

The journal European Psychiatry recently published the results of a long study of all the published material they could get their hands on. That’s 2,650 separate studies, with only 25 meeting their strict criteria. Looking at these diverse data, it turns out 85% of people with major depression reported being abused as children. 

Same with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. 

This abuse seems related to the part of mental illness that medication can’t reach – “Deficits in social cognitive function” – meaning not understanding social subtleties. Large parts of interpersonal life are out of reach for them. The children whose parents mistreat them often remain isolated into adulthood, unable to feel the connection they so desperately need.

As mothers we have a great responsibility that generations before us have failed at. The state of the world should make it obvious that too many kids are being treated like shit and growing up to become assholes. Abusing a kid sends their brain on a negative developmental track that’s hard to recover from. If they can even see it. 

If we want to be able to effect change in the world, first we have to learn to change ourselves.

Little Cook

I’ll just follow the recipe Mother gave me! What could go wrong?

I believe I embody the change I have worked for within myself. I believe that our approach to life has a great bearing on where we end up. I’ve worked hard to detect, embrace and work through my hangups. I’m still working on it and I accept that I will never be finished. I will never be perfect. The art is in the refining. Be the best you can be right now and build on that.

A big part of this is finding and facing your demons. Often they aren’t even as bad as they seem. If you stop being afraid long enough to really look at it, the shadow is robbed of its power.

Too many people I know don’t do this. Whether they can’t or choose not to, I usually can’t tell. And I’m not sure what the difference is. Do the ignorant get credit for not knowing better than to abuse those close to them? Maybe, but not a lot.

How do you tell someone the world isn’t necessarily what they think it is? They can see what’s right in front of them, thank you very much! I have seen older people as their mind closed in on them like a hungry wolf and I am desperate to avoid that fate. 

The root of Feminism lies in the experience of living a woman’s life. In our perception of our place in the world. Our main example of this is our mothers. Whether we become one ourselves or not, maternal relationships have an elemental influence on our life’s context. If she teaches you that the world is a scary place full of people you can’t trust,

that’s going to shade your perception. 

Early Morning

Duty calls!

As mothers, we make the impression in the wet cement that is a small child’s mind. We leave our footprints all over it and we ought to tread lightly. 

Moderation in all things (including moderation!) Listen to what they have to say and respond in kind. Ask questions. Make them think! Show them it matters that they can. Don’t take the easy way out (too often….) Let them be bored, even when it’s annoying.

Squeeze the budget and buy them an instrument. Go to the concert. It’s not the London Philharmonic but to them, it’s Rosebud-level epic.

Imagine a world where people believe what they do matters. 

Be kind to your children. That shouldn’t be a radical idea, but a worldview forged in fear stifles communication. Radical change is impossible without strong communication. A worldview forged in fear is the type to embrace rigid social roles as a cozy box to keep that world in.

Be gentle with your children. Face your demons and don’t impose your shit on them. The world will kick them in the gut soon enough, we need to give them a firm foundation to stand on while they fight the good fight into the future.

Tripping The Fright Craptastic Pt. 5: Mommie’s Dearest Things

This is the final installment of my Summer Of Hell series. Thanks to everyone for reading, your support has meant my world to me these past few months.

Caught In The Draft

I was unprepared for this!

Not sure why, but this one is the hardest. There’s no heroics or heartwarming lessons. Just some cathartic shit I need to get off my chest.

Read on, if you dare. 

If life were a movie, this trip would have been one of those reunions where people get together under less-than-ideal circumstances but pull it together in the end. It’s a difficult experience but it bonds them in their shared adversity.

This wasn’t any movie plot.

I showed up ready to take on some hard work. I left feeling defeated and angry.

Mom was attacked by a dog back in May. She’s had cardiomyopathy for ages and this stress was the last straw. She went into full-blown heart failure, her medicine wasn’t working and she was in ICU for several weeks. She’s been put on the transplant list and given an electric pump to keep her alive till then.

I texted and called regularly during her three months in the hospital. I talked to her surgeon on the phone. I was fully prepared to take the trip to help when she got home.

Or so I thought.

The first part of this post is excerpts from some text messages I sent to a friend during the visit. Not brilliant writing, perhaps, but it’s too raw to weave into a narrative just yet.

Thursday

I’ve been trying to clean and organize and watch Oliver and deal with my mother, basically by myself, for a week. I’d like a baby break. That’s

Kitchen Table

Won’t you join us for breakfast?

not gonna happen so I’m taking a break from everything else.

Last night around 3am Oliver woke me up yelling. He had thrown up all over himself! He seems to feel better today but still wouldn’t eat much this morning.

My mom asked when she got up, “the baby’s sick?”

I confirmed.

“Oh, fabulous.” And walked the fuck away.

After I run to the store here in a minute I think I’m going to be drinking the rest of the day.

Lemme try to explain things simply:

The living room has a bunch of shit in it that belongs upstairs in the crafts room.

The crafts room is packed like a rabbit warren. And that’s after I have been working on it.

I can only work when Oliver is sleeping, because he gets into everything and no one here can watch him for any length of time. My mom and stepdad are both too infirm to keep up and my sister just won’t because she has so much sewing to do.

Which, okay, I get that you have deadlines. That you make your living doing this but,

Crafts Room

Where is the line between pack rat and hoarder?

you came up here. Why don’t you have time to help me?

To be fair, I didn’t anticipate the house being completely unsafe for the baby to move around in.

So it’s taken me 3 days to get done what I have, and I haven’t even moved anything upstairs yet. I’m going to be here forever!

But the things geeks have laying around!

Saturday

So the fun continues. Last night Mom ordered pizza and didn’t get me any. I’m pretty sure it was because I snapped at her earlier in the day. I didn’t even know pizza was coming and had already made Oliver and me something.

Quinn is off visiting friends today. Hubby’s sister is supposed to come by but I haven’t heard from her. Mom is so fucking ungrateful and self-absorbed I just wanna punch her. I’m still the only one actually working on anything around the house.

Tuesday

She mostly acts like having us around is a pain in the ass. And I’m having to accept the fact that she really does care more for her precious stuff than people.

I have found shopping lists from 30+ years ago. Random crap like Refrigerator magnets I remember from when I was a kid and three

Tivo Harddrive

It’s labeled ‘Tivo.’ Wow.

separate stashes of paper clips. More empty notebooks than I have ever seen outside of a store, just randomly thrown in with other stuff.

Giant piles of empty boxes. Those are all over the house.

But it’s really about the living room.

So she has 2 loveseats in the living room. They had been set catty-corner from the wall with boxes stacked behind one and a table with a printer and stuff behind the other. It’s always driven me crazy – it’s a big room, but what a waste of space!

But if she gets a new heart, she’ll be on immunosuppressants for the rest of her life. Having big areas like that no one can reach to clean is a bad idea. So I moved them against the fucking wall. Wasn’t easy, either.

Water Jug

She saved our beloved childhood water jug!

The space behind them was a gruesome scene of dust and hair and cat leavings. Which I also cleaned up.

And she will probably be angry with me about it till the day she dies. She didn’t speak to me for 2 days.

Wednesday

I couldn’t live here. I didn’t even realize how stressful and emotionally draining it is being here. My stepdad is pretty detached from the whole thing. He’s also the only one who expresses any interest in the baby.

I’ve lost almost ten pounds since I’ve been here. Five pounds a week is too fast. I can’t eat much when I’m stressed. It may look glamorous but you feel like shit fast eating one small meal a day.

Thursday

Oliver has been urpy since we got here and this morning he threw up again and had diarrhea that was very watery. But yesterday he was chowing down on peanut butter cups so I am really confused.

Baggies

A collection of plastic baggies…. In a ceiling fan globe.

What kind of stomach bug only makes you vomit once a week, and lets you eat candy??

Then Mom and Quinn were telling me that whenever they travel the local water makes them nauseous. I was thinking he was just nervous and homesick, but the diarrhea really scared me because it’s easy for little ones to get dehydrated.

I gave him some bottled water and he has been acting like he feels much better. He even ate more than a couple bites of breakfast.

Sunday

Omg she’s such a miserable old bitch and after we leave she’ll be alone here with her husband, who she doesn’t like, and she won’t have me to complain to because I have had enough of her shit for a while.

My sister left yesterday. I knew being here without her was going to be interesting.

So I’m making a PB&J, she’s puttering around in the DR and mutters something about she can’t get something off her cookbooks

Under The Rug

Not sure how much more I can sweep under the rug!

“Do you need help with something?”

“No,” muttering, “I’ve had enough of that, thank you.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.”

Like, she’s seriously 12.

So I go to at least finish in the LR and make it actually usable as a room. She comes in all wide-eyed and tells me the only thing she wants me to do is put her guest room back together.

Because I moved a bunch of stuff – including the bed – to babyproof the room because Oliver is very curious and I needed at least one room where I didn’t have to chase after him constantly.

She sarcastically thanks me for mixing her stuff all up and making a project for her.

This room was a fucking disaster area before I started. Craft supplies and papers everywhere, dust and hair and cat vomit and just awful.

So, ya know, it was a project anyway.

One that I would have finished by now except for the total unhelpfulness of various individuals and a serious drain on my motivation in the form of her spending at least 75% of her time bitching about petty shit.

YOU ALMOST FUCKING DIED. Like, for real. Getting stuck in traffic would have been the end.

Marshmallow

Okay, I’m ready to roast this bitch!

YOUR ADULT CHILDREN TOOK 2 WEEKS OUT OF THEIR LIVES to come here and help you.

I had the gall to actually take charge of the situation and do what I thought was necessary without getting approval from someone who was struggling just to climb stairs and make it to the bathroom on time.

And for my trouble, I’m getting treated like I burnt the fucking house down.

This is the same woman who left me alone for 2 weeks during Summer School to go to a party in California. Long story short I got a big cut on my wrist and the school called in Child Services.

My mother never asked me about why or how I got a big cut on my wrist. All she said to me was how pissed she was that I had “those people” breathing down her neck.

But ya know, that was almost 20 years ago. I guess I wanted to believe she’s mellowed with age but, if anything, she’s adding to the pile. She’s also a borderline hoarder and a germophobe now. Extra fun!

Monday

Back home at last after a grueling drive with a tiny boy who didn’t understand any of it and seemed on the verge of despair when we finally pulled into the driveway 11 hours later.

I texted Quinn to double-check some thoughts that had bubbled up during the ride.

“So Dad used to do this thing where he would spout flowery language about how smart and beautiful we were, how we could do anything and he’d always be there to support us, all kinds of stuff that, in retrospect, was clearly love bombing but I don’t remember Mom even doing

anything like that.

Fix Your Hair

Mom. Mom! Ma! ….Hello?

“I’m trying but I can’t even think of an example of her being complimentary to me like that. No, wait, I thought of one. It was pretty good, too. But it was like 6 years ago and I was shocked.

“When is she either not rambling about whatever is on her mind or complaining about something? And what’s on her mind never seems to be trying to really understand anyone.”

Yeah, I don’t remember her doing anything like that.

It was more:

Me: <waits until a commercial break so I don’t get yelled at, finally gets her attention to show her something I made>

Her: <looks away from her book she’s reading with the TV on that I still had to wait for a commercial break on so I didn’t get yelled at> “Oh, that’s nice.” <goes back to reading with no further discussion>

Me: <quits showing her things I’ve done because why bother?>

“Basically all the time. In order to get her attention for any length of time, it had to be made about her somehow.”

Yup.

“Okay just checking. That it was consistent and not me cherry-picking. That explains a lot.”

Nope, not you cherry-picking and not her playing favorites. Did she ever make that call to DCS? [regarding a story about our Dad’s shockingly flagrant porn use. Because no, that storyline hasn’t resolved, either.]

“I don’t know and I really don’t want to talk to her right now. Based on her not even wanting to hug me goodbye, I suspect the feeling is mutual.”

Redhead Phone

Something seems to be wrong with our connection…. I stopped listening

Omfg that woman. I don’t blame you not wanting to talk to her.

Yeah…. so, that last morning, she was down in the kitchen by 9:30. After waiting a few minutes I said, “How are you today?”

To which she said rather dramatically, “Who? Me? Oh, I’m fine.”

It was just her, me and the baby. Yeah, obviously you.

I’m not sure what she was in a snit about. The night before while I was packing, she was up and down a few times before finally settling in around 2. Somewhere around the Ohio River Valley it occurred to me maybe she was waiting for me to come say goodnight.

But she could have easily come to me. I had a room to pack and rearrange and a very unhappy little boy to care for. I didn’t have energy or patience for her games.

My mother discouraged independent thought while simultaneously telling us it was important to understand things and be Independent Women. Have your own job. Fix your own car. But don’t stir the mashed potatoes that way, that’s wrong. And don’t follow my instructions without detailed directions because logic is relative, despite its reputation.

So, understand the situation but don’t use that understanding to enact a strategy because I will criticize it for not being exactly like mine.

Eventually, after years of trying to find a way around this or come to some kind of understanding, I started shutting down. I can’t stop thinking any more than I can stop breathing and, by the time I was 20, the feeling of everything I did being wrong had me trapped in my apartment.

I put a lot of work over the last decade into building a functional relationship with my mother. In the past few years as things on the other side of my family unraveled, this became that much more important. I wanted at least one parent I could talk to.

Kitten

We’re never gonna have deep conversation I’ve been hoping for, are we?

None of the heartfelt conversations or nights by the bonfire mattered after I moved her sofas.

It occurred to me that I’m almost 35 and I do just fine without living in fear of her negativity. And maybe I don’t need that in my life. She cut off her own mother and I have always hated that as a solution. It’s a melodramatic pain in the ass.

But maybe not working so hard at it would be a good thing.

I’m only just starting to absorb the level of dysfunction starkly exposed by the contrast with what I have become accustomed to. These people aren’t perfect but they don’t keep score. Loyalty isn’t constantly reevaluated. I have started to find the traces of my own vision, started to find my voice.

But after two weeks I was a shellshocked specter of myself.

I think the familiarity of it all bothers me the most. As much as I hate to admit it, this is the person I grew up with. Literally no explanation will get any traction.

For most of my life I have struggled with the feeling that nothing was good enough. I found myself justifying things endlessly to myself, even when no one was around.

She’s been better for a long time, at least to me, so my all-consuming insecurity was left as something of a mystery. I think I’ve solved it.

But what do I do now? I can’t wrap my head around her attitude. The last couple days were untempered passive-aggressive rejection. It’s embarrassing how much it hurt.

But I’m not a kid anymore. I can clearly see just how petty it is. And I can honestly say I don’t need her approval. I have my own life and I like

Whisper

You’re missing it!

it pretty well. I am tired of her holding her affection hostage to keep me in line. A line only she can see.

I’ve had to learn to trust myself sometimes, out of necessity. It has a revolutionary thrill to it. She is bitter and lonely and maybe I’d do better with less of that influence.

It’s difficult to explain just how much she has hurt me with her crap during this visit. I could probably go on forever, there are so many anecdotes that suddenly snap into a clear pattern of criticism and neglect. It’s imposing and heartbreaking. Relationships are very important to me, and I often miss the feeling of having any with the people who brought me into this world.

But I will have more to give those who appreciate me if I stop beating my head against that wall. At this point it’s a natural progression, it will be pretty easy to keep them at a metaphorical distance with hundreds of literal miles between us. And I’m certainly busy enough.

Knowing me, I doubt it’s permanent but I need some space to absorb all this. I don’t understand why they don’t love me and, deep down inside, a little part of me is just weeping.

I hadn’t thought about it for years, but my fondest wish since I was about 10 was to get away from her. There’s actually a lot about my life these days that would make kid me very happy looking forward to.

So, I guess I was wrong. The heroic bit is me walking away as the house explodes behind me and not flinching.