Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Promise to Laney

God, the internet is just full of parents publishing their promises to their kids.  It's so tiresome, right?  Feel free to agree vis a vis the tiresomeness; it won't stop me from being tiresome.  I have good reasons to be tiresome. I am very insecure.  93% of all tiresomeness is born out of insecurity (I just made that up). I share thoughts and tips among parenty peers as a secondary bloggy pursuit.  Primary is reassuring myself via peer assessment that I don't totally suck at the whole thing.  Parenting is some seriously humiliating work, y'all.  And sometimes I blog about it and people suggest that I am amazeballs at the whole thing, which is an excellent counterpoint to how I feel entirely unequal to the task almost all the time.

Laney's been super sick with some kind of GI bug the past few days.  It's been a rough few days and I've spent a lot of time worried about how my girl is.  And laundry.  I've spent a lot of time worried about how my girl is and doing laundry.

Everyone knows what happens when you have a stomach bug.  We are all aware of the various ways the body expels cooties.  It is not, in a word, pleasant.  And during this particular round I turned into  the worst stereotype of a mother.  I was like a sitcom mother of an adult character on a Chuck Lorre sitcom.  I pried and asked dozens of inappropriate questions.  Laney would go to the bathroom and I (I swear I did this) would hover outside the door, urgently inquiring "Is everything OK in there?"  And then when she'd emerge, I'd ask "Are you OK?  What happened? Did you pee?  Was it diarrhea?"

Poor Laney.  I mean, not only does she have to suffer with a stomach flu, she's got to deal with me prying into the intimate details of her bathroom habits, which I do, of course, because that's what parents do.

Laney told me I was embarrassing her.  And, of course, I was embarrassing her.  I was being totally embarrassing.  I am her mother and still think nothing of licking my fingers and wiping dirt off her face.  I have grabbed boogers off her nose in public places.  I am AWFUL.

But there's a distant part of me that remembers what it was like to be embarrassed as a kid.  Do you remember how awful it was?  It's like how you enjoy eating spinach now.  But it legit tasted terrible when you were a kid.  And just because you you've been buying tampons like a boss for 30 years now, that bloodstain on your pants in 7th grade was still cripplingly embarrassing.

Let's face it: grown-ups don't have the same capacity for embarrassment that kids do.  Would that they did!  I bet that whole Iraq debacle wouldn't have happened if Dick Cheney and George Will were capable of shame.  But it is an excellent exercise to recall your own childhood capacity for embarrassment and afford your own child the respect of accepting that their feelings are real.

And so I have come to realize that is not funny to embarrass your kids.  And I will not do it (unless Laney really super duper has it coming).

Upon realizing that my bathroom questions were making Laney suffer even more, I made this deal with her: I told her that if she promised to tell me when she was sick, if she promised to be honest with me about things her body was doing that she didn't understand or that made her uncomfortable, that I wouldn't ask her embarrassing questions.

We'll fail at this.   Laney will not be able to stand telling me about some things without me leading her there.  And I won't be able pry myself away from the bathroom door the day after she gets IV fluids in the E.R.  But we'll try.  And it's the effort that'll give it meaning.

I won't Facebook Laney's stuff.  And I won't blog it.

This doesn't count, right?

Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Too Late for this But...

I just finished a typically excellent episode of Breaking Bad in which the last line of dialog was one character telling another character to "get the fuck out of here and never come back."  It was a shocking moment.  Not because he said "fuck."  This is a show for grown-ups.  It was shocking for [rest of sentence redacted for spoilers... but if you're caught up through episode 9 of season 4, let's fucking dish!]  Also, he didn't really say that because Breaking Bad is on basic cable, so he really said "Get the [inaudible]k out of here."

I am rarely if ever offended by swearing.  But even if you are, I doubt you'd have been here.  The word use was not at all gratuitous, completely in service of story and exactly what the character would have said.  If you'd made it to episode 9, season 4 (and if you have.... seriously, let's dish), you're not even a little bit likely to have noticed that it was an unusually naughty word for basic cable because you'd be too busy thinking about [redacted... spoilers].

This line of dialog followed a stunningly violent fight scene.  A fight scene that was, at least to me, genuinely upsetting.  But while upsetting,  this fight scene was not at all gratuitous, completely in service of story and exactly what those characters would have done.  It was meant to be upsetting.  And we saw every gory second of it. And then the delicate sensibilities of the basic cable viewer were protected from the word "fuck" by crafty, but still obvious sound editing.

So stupid, right? I mean, aside from the obvious fact that every single viewer of Breaking Bad is not only familiar with the word "fuck" but likely to have uttered that word that very day (my guess is that right after that line was delivered the entire BB viewership said, at once, "Holy fuck!").

Again, I know I'm shouting down the same well countless others have shouted down before, but why is it OK to show almost any level of violence on television, in movies, in video games, but bare a breast or let slip an f-bomb and suddenly the game changes?  The rating is different?

Sometimes, I swear it seems like the whole of American pop culture is basing its rules of conduct off of a handout the biggest asshole teacher in elementary school handed out in fifth grade homeroom.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Blog the Third: Just Call Yourself a Liberal, Already

The Villagers love to talk about Centrism.  I get the appeal of the concept.  In a tidy, sensible country, two powers from equal points away from the center push and pull against each other with equal might and vigor so that we as a nation would never move too far away from that sane, sensible middle.

But we do not live in that country. We live in a much much crazier country.  We live in a country where it is reasonable that people die from lack of health insurance and it is reasonable that corporate profits not be regulated in any meaningful way.  We live in a country where it is reasonable that a woman be forced to undergo a medically senseless transvaginal ultrasound before receiving a legal medical procedure and it is unreasonable to have any but the most toothless federal gun control legislation.  We live in a country where it is reasonable for 1% of the country to take home 24% of the national income and it is reasonable for 14% of American households live with food insecurity.

What I'm saying here is that the sane, sensible position is not smack in the middle of the current left and the current right.   What Bernie Sanders would do to America would make America a better place than what Paul Ryan would do.  Also, the area in the middle of what Bernie Sanders would do and what Paul Ryan would do is not a better, more sensible place than the Bernie Sanders place.  Also, our country is right now way more skewed to the Paul Ryan place than the Bernie Sanders place.

I get the appeal of the term: a centrist sounds like someone who isn't playing for a side, someone unswayed by talking points and soulless politicking.  But "centrism" has become a thing like electrolytes.  There are some scenarios, there was some time, in which it could be a boon to health (personal or social).  But now it's mostly used as a way to sell you crap.  And if you worship at the altar of centrism, soon enough all the plants will die:

Blogpost the Second: Why Are People so Mean?

In this Sunday blogpost, I am going to write about something that has been written a billion times since the Internet has become a thing.  Because what is the internet for if not endlessly rehashing the same issues?* 

Why are internet commenters so fucking mean?

Every Saturday, Gawker publishes a post by someone who is generally not a professional writer under the topic of "True Stories."  I really enjoy this series.  The writing is generally good and the topics, while sometimes lurid and confessional, are often fascinating, and never merely desperate-for-attention shocking.

Invariably, the first comment on these posts will be from someone complaining that the person who wrote it is either a terrible writer or a terrible person.  Almost every time.  And then the dogpile stars.  And it's always so fucking MEAN!

Here's an example of comments to an essay that I actually enjoyed a lot:

I get the buzz for feeling smarter than someone else.  And I understand that the commentariat at blogs like Gawker feel a more immediate ownership of the site than the commenters at something like CNN.com or HuffPo.  But why so ugly, why so mean?

No one reads my shitty blog.  I've gotten maybe 100 distinct views on my most popular posts.  But I think the days of wanting a vast readership are done.  I can't stand it when people come at me like that.  I've posted comments at blogs like Pajiba and Gawker and had people come at me like this; been called an idiot and a cunt.  And I just can't take it.  It hurts my feelings.

My friend Paul has written (much better) on this topic than I have here.  Go read it.  But despite his good advice, I can't seem to stand having my feelings hurt by mean people on the internet.

*The internet is really for hilarious videos of sloths.

Blogpost The First: GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS!

I've had three things on my mind this week but have lacked the energy necessary to commit them to internettia.  But I slept for ten hours last night.  I know that's excessive and that normal people thrive on seven hours.  I am not one.  I can sleep like a boss.  If I were a superhero, sleeping would be my power.  I would be Lady Sleepsalot.  Or Narcolady (which, to be fair, sounds like a-whole-nother superpower).  Sleeping is a stupid superpower.  But, hey, remember the Wonder Twins?  Shape of a Tiger (empirically awesome)!  Form of an Iceberg (what?).

Here's my other sleeping joke:  If I lead a good life I will be reincarnated as a sloth.

When I get enough sleep, I am less manifestly hilarious.

Anyhoo, what it is I'm saying is that I have the energy to commit the three topics that have consumed me to the Blogosphere.  Enjoy!

Topic the First: GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS
Laney scorns and maligns anything that she deems "girly."  I confess that I could have fun with a kid that was into lipgloss and fixing her hair. Instead I have a kid who acts like I'm trying to get the nuclear codes every time I run a brush through her hair.  I like sparkles and flounces and makeup.  But this is not Laney's jam, and I'm cool with that.  I never try to talk her into dresses when we shop, although she may catch me sighing wistfully when we walk past something like this.

But it bugs me that the word Laney uses to express her derision is "girly."  I do not want the word "girly" to be her pejorative.  We have a long social history of casting female things as frivolous and silly and male things as substantive and important.   And this is one of the ways that patriarchal hegemony is sustained.  To continue in this proto-feminist vein, I am totally over gender essentialism.  I don't want my daughter thinking that the thing that makes something worthy of her disgust is that it is something for girls.  I am lobbying hard for her to abandon "girly" in favor of "princess crap."

Whenever we get Happy Meals (which is rarely. Don't judge me), and the checkout person says, "is it for a girl or a boy," I say "she'll have [whichever toy she wants]." Yesterday she wanted the Hexbug toy.  The checkout lady gave her the Barbie toy.

Apparently, McDonald's has a way to go before it catches up.