Casually Dismissed

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I’ve listened to the song a few times, and I liked it. I added it to my Spotify list. It’s a huge hit and seems generally harmless. Then I noticed just when it’s almost over, the singer throws in, “Bitch, say my name.”

When I finally heard that line, I thought, “Oh. I am not this song’s intended audience.” It is catchy, cute, and kind of funny, and casually misogynistic. The song is a good time for everyone except the kind of woman who doesn’t like being called a bitch.

I have this feeling that lines like this are a test. (Come on, don’t take things so seriously. It doesn’t mean anything.) If you do get upset, you are, in fact, a bitch. I don’t know why something like this would bother me more than obviously, outwardly misogynistic songs, and there are tons of those. Like tons. But I think it’s because it’s so unnecessary, and because it is casual. “Just wanted to point out that I have no respect for your gender. Now back to my song.” (Oh come on, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s just being funny.) Haha.

I’m not raging, demanding him to change it or even suggesting that other people don’t listen to it, you know, with my HUGE influence. It actually just hurts my feelings. I feel like an awkward kid at a dance who is having a great time until he notices everyone is making fun of him. I’m part of the audience and part of the celebration until I am suddenly not. Then I am asked to either laugh along with the joke or leave so my weakness and sensitivity can be mocked. (Bitches, man. AmIright?)

This happened to me a couple of other times this past year with music. My son liked the song from the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It’s got a great beat and is just about four brothers fighting together as a family. Then, again at the end, it talks about the female reporter: “She takin’ pics for me, told her smile fo’ me Pass her off, I’m a real team playa.” Oh. Well OK. We’ll just throw in a little rape there before we close out the song. (Oh, come on. It’s probably not rape. She’s probably just a willing sexual play thing.)

Since I am trying to raise a boy who can identify and speak out against misogyny, these lessons are important. I just wish there weren’t so many of them. Plus, at what point do I start? Should I explain to him why “bitch” is a bad word? Should I just leave it until he’s older? For now, I have stopped playing those songs. Fortunately there are so many talented, respectful musicians out there, that I have no problem filling in the gaps.

My current favorite, Hozier, is brilliant, compassionate and an amazing musician. I need to get in touch with his mother to find out how she did it.

Hozier: You grow up and recognize that in any educated secular society, there’s no excuse for ignorance. You have to recognize in yourself, and challenge yourself, that if you see racism or homophobia or misogyny in a secular society, as a member of that society, you should challenge it. You owe it to the betterment of society.

Hozier: You grow up and recognize that in any educated secular society, there’s no excuse for ignorance. You have to recognize in yourself, and challenge yourself, that if you see racism or homophobia or misogyny in a secular society, as a member of that society, you should challenge it. You owe it to the betterment of society.

Here he is talking about then singing Sedated

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It’s Not You, It’s Me

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How long since I’ve had a whole night of sleep? A few days, I think. Sleep and I have an unhealthy relationship. I want it more than it wants me. The unevenness of it makes me seem desperate. Nobody likes desperate.

I try to seduce it with romantic music and silk-soft sheets. Sometimes it works, and it’s magic. Sometimes it accuses me of trying too hard. Sleep says I don’t really mean it and that I’d rather spend time with my computer than it. I don’t know how to convince sleep I’m true.

I don’t want to talk about the times I’ve popped a pill or had too much wine and sleep and I have gotten a little crazy together. It’s never as good as it could be if we just let things unfold naturally, but neither of us really regret it. You have to experiment a little to keep things fresh.

Occasionally, I can slip in a quick nap in the afternoon. Sleep likes that and obliges, even encourages me. Maybe it feels naughty. Maybe it’s just tired of only having my attention in the middle of the night. Who knows. The fact is, it has all the power in this relationship. I admit it, I’m barely conscious when we’re together. I’m not paying it enough attention. Oh, but I say such good things about sleep when we’re apart.

Quick Story About My Dad

A Superbowl ad has given new play to Harry Chapin’s “The Cat’s in the Cradle,” which has me thinking about my dad. I’m probably not alone.

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Some of my “way with words,” comes from my dad. My mom is eloquent, erudite, and a good story teller, so I like to think I am like her. But, my dad is clever, stoic and just a little profane, as mentioned here before, and I like to think I’m like him, too. I’m not sure I do either justice.

Nobody in my family is super good with emotion. We try not to cry or yell, but of the two, yelling is more acceptable. We laugh a lot though, and that’s better than both anyway. Emotion baffles my dad more than any of us.

When my husband died, my dad gave me a fifty dollar bill. He offered it with a tilt of his head and one eyebrow lifted, as if he was going to say something, too. He might have had a speech planned, but nothing ever materialized. That’s O.K. I didn’t need the money, and my dad wasn’t suggesting it would really fix anything. He just didn’t know what else to do.

A year later, my brother experience a horrific personal tragedy. There might have been another fifty dollar bill. The year may have given him time to think. Along with the money came words this time. “I…I feel like I have my head up my ass here,” he counseled.

My dad drove my brother to college, a three hour trip that can become a little tedious. The radio is necessary on a long car ride with my dad, because conversation can be scarce, but sometimes it feels a little like there should be conversation. Silence intensifies that tension, and the radio helps. The only station with a signal strong enough for the whole drive down I-93 in New Hampshire is an easy listening station, which can trend toward emotional oldies. When they were most of the way there, the haunting opening notes began. Then the words, “A son arrived just the other day…”

Hearing it, my dad took a deep breath, turned off the radio, and not quite looking at my brother, said, “That’s enough of that crap.”

We love you too, dad.

Fifty Shades of I Don’t Know

Let's Talk About It

Let’s Talk About It

The movie is coming, the books were a hit, and the opinions are strong. Many of the brilliant women writers I respect have spoken up about this, so of course it has me thinking. The movie and the books didn’t, actually (have me thinking).
In the past week I have read several strong opinions on it, all different, and all from feminists. I think they all say the same thing: Women should be respected.

The question or conflict comes in when we talk about how that respect manifests itself. I’m not a fan of the eye-rolling and calling women who read the books “silly” or “giggly.” It is undeniable, there is something compelling in the story line; women I know, smart women who make tough independent decisions all the time, are drawn to it. I personally don’t think it’s because those women secretly want to be dominated by a man. In fact, the women I know that enjoyed the books are very much equals in their relationships.

Is it dangerous? Well, from my safe perspective of nurturing relationships I don’t think it’s realistic enough to be dangerous. I’m lucky. But today, I heard the opinion of someone I respect very much who is the survivor of domestic abuse. In my limited capacity to see it through her perspective, I can see the answer as yes.

In the book, the male lead was abused. He acknowledges himself as a mess. (The title, for those who didn’t read it, comes from him referring to himself as “Fifty shades of fucked up.”) Their relationship is clearly co-dependent. There were lots of times when the plot should have devolved into something more sinister than it did. That it didn’t was part of the fantasy.

We can fear for some young women with this plot being in the spotlight right now. I sure as hell didn’t know who I was when I was in my teens and twenties. This plot, plus ridiculous social pressure to look a certain way, to deny certain parts of themselves to be likable, and to not be seen as a bitch, is the perfect storm for terrible relationship choices, possibly even dangerous ones.

Do I think it should be censored for these reasons? I don’t. (BTW, nobody I’ve read lately has suggested it should be.) I strongly believe that having others decide what is good for us to see, read about, or know is the reason dominance and control occurs. What I think should happen (and yes, the whole world is queuing up to get my opinion on this), is that we should talk about it. We should talk the hell about it.

We should all talk about sex, pleasure, control, trust, dominance and domestic abuse. That last one, we should talk about a lot. Shaming and silencing one another, even subtly, gets us further away from that goal of respect.

Let’s talk about it. And let’s listen. And (this would just be a bonus, I suppose) let’s be nice to one another while we do. I will try harder.

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If you or someone you know is in danger at home, help is available.

In the U.S:. National Domestic Abuse Hotline:  1-800-799-7233 TTY 1-800-787-3244 or Online www.thehotline.org/

In the U.K: National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or Online  www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/ 

In the rest of the world: International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies http://www.hotpeachpages.net/index.html

Disappointing Elmo

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He looks so innocent; he makes you want to protect him. Last night, I failed him. I had the bucket as close to my little guy as it could get, but he still managed to throw up all over Elmo.

Now, I can hear him (Elmo, not my little guy), the *thunk, thunk, thunk* of his hard, plastic eyeballs clanking against the dryer.

The kiddo is better today. He just high-fived his own foot, because he’s four and weird, like a four year old. The day was filled with bland food but lots of giggles, goofiness and smiles. But if I feel like I failed Elmo last night, it’s nothing to how I failed my kiddo.

Nobody ever warns you about how terrifying it is to be a parent. Maybe they know that doing so would result in the end of the human race. Or maybe they do tell you, but there are just no words convincing enough to convey the straight-frigid panicky terror that accompanies having a kid.

There is science behind that terror, the love hormone oxytocin, the genetic drive to carry on the lineage, the chemical reactions that lead to this ferocious protective fear. But I can’t really accept that this is science. It is magic, possibly dark sorcery, and it feels too good and bad to care or even try to understand it. Those little chubby cheeks and those trusting eyes, that laugh, those hugs… they have me under a soul-deep spell.

When something bypasses my vigilance, no matter how minor, it feels like failing. That threatening terror when it mixes with thick, late darkness, is crazy-making. The deep chill night makes even a cold or a tummy ache seem treacherous. Last night was no big deal (knock wood — and you know I did). By two it had worked itself out, and he was sleeping soundly.

The time before that, it was a virus that caused a breathing problem; it was a trip to the emergency room, then all night watching, and putting medicine in his nebulizer and gripping his hand maybe too firmly. It was being too tired to think and to terrified to sleep. It was a night of constantly checking, bargaining and fighting blackness. That night was a month long. Never has the sun been so slow or so welcome.

That night gave birth to this paragraph which made its way into my work in progress:

“It usually happened after dark, during a night that decided to be bleak and relentless. Some nights were like that. They were greedy and parasitic. They clawed at the hands of clocks dragging them backward, devouring minutes or even hours that belonged to the daytime. She had been trapped in some acrid, poisonous, predawn hours for so long that when the morning finally broke, she was sure it was just part of another cruel dream.”

My character and I understood each other so well after that night. Neither of us was thrilled to.

Tonight (knock wood — and you know I did), my son sleeps soundly, and once Elmo stops clanking around the dryer, he will be none the worse for the wear. And tonight I say a prayer, whisper a spell, and send a bright light to any parent who is trapped in a terrible night. May dawn be prompt and bring joyous relief.