Friday, September 29, 2006

so while prancing around the blogosphere, tiptoeing through the tulips of Belledame and Kactus (hi, you guys!), I came across Glenn Greenwald, where I learned the disturbing, but not at all surprising, news that Sen. Lieberman voted FOR the Reversal of The Constitution Act of 2006.

ew. Seriously? ew.

Normally, I don't comment on politics, not only because I don't want to offend folks but because frankly I Just Don't Get It. I don't understand any of it deeply enough to actually be offensive to anyone (well, maybe offensively ignorant...).

And this issue is no different - I just don't understand how any individual who survived 8th grade civics could possibly see this as a good idea. Does nobody read Sinclair Lewis anymore?

I feel like someone told an elaborately dirty joke but all I heard was the punchline, a little too late and wildly out of context.

"No more habeas FUCKING corpus! get it? Bwa-hahahaha!"

Huh? Idungeddit.

I need help with this. Normally in cases where I don't understand the controversy over something I do one of two things -

1)I research all the pros and cons and lefts and rights and all the opinions from all sides of the story (even the truth). I look very carefully and thoroughly into the position of the viewpoint I oppose, and try my very hardest to see the Other Side of the Story, as objectively and reasonably and fairly as I can, with all the civility and rationality I can muster. Because I can't understand my own point of view completely unless I also understand the other guy.


2)I ignore it all completely.

Now this issue seems to demand a third option, which I can't seem to grasp at the moment.

any thoughts?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Are you having a bad day?

Do you feel a little uninspired? sluggish between the ears? Having trouble releasing the genius within? Feeling creatively constipated?

Are you "stuck"?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Patron Saint of Writers Block:

Don Music!

No matter how discouraged you get, be grateful that at least you weren't created for the sole purpose of banging your head against a keyboard.

I do this in honor of National Novel Writing Month, which is hot on our heels, beginning on Wednesday, November 1.

Last year I managed, by the skin of my teeth and on a crazy-ass technicality and with more help than I ever deserved, to actually come up with 50,000 words loosely arranged in what could be called, more or less, a novel, if you really stretch the definition. I mean, the rules were 50,000 words. that's all. Not 50,000 good words, or 50,000 correct words, or 50,000 beautiful words, or 50,000 finely-wrought words of staggering genius elucidating the human condition with an innovative grace and artistry - nope. Just 50,000 plain old words.

So by hook and by crook, so to speak, I made it all the way to 50,000 words. And I'm not much of a finisher, so it felt like something of an accomplishment.

But I haven't actually looked at it since Nov. 30, 2005. It was a lot of work, but I haven't even peeked at so much as one lousy word out of the 50,000 I wrote.

Because of course it sucks. Because it's a festering heap of garbage. Because it's a great majestic soaring tower of shit, only barely disguised as a novel through the sheerest of pretenses. Because if I look at it again my eyes will explode from the sheer thermonuclear craptacularity of it.

Because, of course, I'll never get it! Never! Never! (ke-bannnnnggggg!)

But, even though all I was able to do with it was create a reliable and efficient Random Garbage Generator last time, hope springs eternal, doesn't it. It's a whole new year, a whole new experience. Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away...

So, go light a candle, pray to St. Don Music, dig that letter "Q" out of your eye, and get going!

Be! Creative! B-E Creative! Whoo!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

So, Blue at Alas, a Blog, has an interesting discussion about Andrea Dworkin and disability. Here's a tiny bite:

I’m not a big personal fan of Andrea Dworkin’s writing, but I appreciate her contributions to feminism and her work as a radical thinker. When she died in April, 2005, I read a couple dozen obituaries and blog posts that celebrated her life and learned more about who she was as a woman and activist. The Guardian released “Through the Pain Barrier,” reportedly her last piece of writing, completed just a month before her death. I was excited to hear that the topic was her experience with disability, and I couldn’t wait to see what the woman whose writing and speaking style had been described as “apocalyptic” might say about disability and civil rights.

And although the author of the post admitted to being disappointed, in the comments Blue also allowed as how maybe some expectations were unreasonable in the first place. So the post and its comments offered an opportunity for learning and growth, which is good.

However, I just gotta be a troublemaker . Not even a great big storm-the-castle damn-the-torpedos bull-in-the-china-shop troublemaker-of-influential-significance (like AD herself). Nah, I'm just a tiny little annoyance of a troublemaker, a mosquito on the hide of the rhinoceros of thought, an eyelash in the eye of all that is good and true and noble about the blogging process.

I had to go and ruin it for EVERYBODY, like this:

Somewhere in the comments, I think it was #129, I said:

Dworkin’s work in “Our Blood” was just plain groundbreaking - the discussion of the “real” vs the “true” absolutely shook me to my foundation. I find that particular book, and much of her other work, brilliant beyond question.

This does not stop me from wondering if she was at any point in her life mentally ill, in addition to physically ill, and whether such mental illness (if any) informed her politics and her writing to any observable extent.

And if so, when we read her work, should we adjust for mental illness? Or should we consider it (whatever mental illness as may have existed) simply part and parcel of the radical experience of her life as she lived it?

Now, the discussion could have gone a number of ways from here.

Someone could have spoken up and said "Well, she was clearly not mentally ill, as evidenced by X, Y, and Z - so what's your point?"

Or, someone could have said "no, her mental illness did not affect her work, as evidenced by A, B and C - so what's your point?"

Or, someone could have said "Well, mental illness can inform one's politics and writing, and may have influenced her opinion on fuba, fweeba and bleen, but nonetheless..." etc.

But instead, there was very little discussion of the actual question, and some significant response of the "OMG! STOP IT! STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT!" variety, and accusations as to how the thread had dissolved into rape-victim-disbelieving, Andrea-bashing, aspersion-casting, etc.

I don't really think the participants in the thread were much into Andrea-bashing. But I invite y'all to read it if you have the time and decide for y'allselves. Maybe I'm reading it entirely wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

But I feel compelled to strongly state that I NEVER CALLED ANYONE CRAZY.

I believe there's a big difference between calling me crazy (with all its attendant cultural baggage) and discussing my behavior, or writing, or political opinions, in light of mental illness. I really believe it's a different thing. If some people don't believe there's a difference, that's okay too; but if I'd meant to say "Crazy Andrea is full of shit", believe me - I'd have said it. (maybe I'd have phrased it more politely, but I'd have said it nonetheless.)

I also feel that it might be an interesting exercise to determine what aspects of the larger physical disability discussion may be generalizable to mental illness, if anything.

And I further feel that questioners teach us to question. AD was a questioner. She taught us to question. As much right as someone has to question my behavior or opinions in light of...oh, I don't know, patriarchy or privilege or religious belief or any other sort of cultural myth - I have as much right to question the behavior or opinions of others. ANY others.

Ultimately, I have this to say, and invite comment upon: since when is it a crime to examine our favorite authors in light of what personal information we are privileged to know about them?

more politely (if clumsily) phrased - how does knowledge of the personal lives and beliefs and experiences of authors (or artists, or performers, or any other arbiters of aesthetics and opinion) affect the experience of writing/viewing/hearing them?

have at it. have at me. do what ya gotta do.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Kill Bill, vol. 33 1/3 (or Hothead Clinton, Homicidal Expresidential Terrorist)

So everyone's achatter about the Clinton/Wallace interview. I saw it, and of course dug it. Yay, rah, up yours Faux News, stick it to the man, go team.

But did anyone else but me notice how many times Expres said "kill"? and with such a bloodthirsty glint in his eyes?

He was like Arlo Guthrie with a tie and a better haircut.

I found it really interesting, his choice of words. He said "kill"; not "catch", "capture", "apprehend", "detain", "bring to justice" or "neutralize", but straight-up kay-eye-double-hockey-stick KILL. Make living thing dead. Crush out of existence. Take life from. Kill.

And the way he said it, with that look in his eye, I believe he felt capable of doing the deed with his own bare hands, not simply signing an order, giving a command, pressing a button, flipping a switch.

Either that or he was dangerously close to sending Mr. Wallace himself to join the choir invisibule. It was hard to say.

I don't know what this says about Clinton, that I was prepared to take him quite seriously for the first time in his public life, nor about Bush fils, who sadly lacks credibility on all counts in my estimation - but in any case, that was what stood out for me about the interview.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So yesterday I went in for the big scary neurology appointment, for to further examine the brain cloud and check out all my neuros.

It was somewhat anticlimactic.

There was a lot of waiting involved, in a very tiny waiting room crowded walker-to-wheelchair with neurology patients of various stripes, the walls of the room covered with helpful informative posters:

"Know the Warning Signs of Stroke!"
"Living! with Parkinson's Disease"
"Alzheimer's Disease and Your Loved One"
"You and Your Seziure Disorder"
"So You've Suffered a Work-Related Traumatic Brain Injury"
"Ten Signs You Have A Railroad Spike Embedded In Your Brain"

All very reassuring.

At long last Frau Doktor Helga Von Brainenstein* came out and called my name, and we went down a long ominous hallway into her tiny ominous office. She asked a hundred questions, we played those same games doctors always seem to play when checking out your neuros, and then she said:

"well, it might have been a stroke. OR a migraine. OR a seizure disorder. OR anxiety.

OR it could have been any of those in combination.

We'll know more after we run more tests..."

Jesus Evil Christ. I could drop dead before they figure out what's gone awry in the vast empty space between my ears. But Dr. Von Brainenstein was very gentle, very nice, very reassuring, all in all, at least for the moment.

*Name changed for privacy purposes - Actually, her name was very American-sounding, but her German accent was almost impenetrable.

Hahahaboobs. All else is commentary.

I turn my back for a minute and the whole blogworld goes batshit crazy.

Everyone's had a lot to say about the whole exprezbloglunch, and all said more eloquently than I can. I mean, it's been a real gift to the blogosphere - everyone can find something to complain about!

Amananta said what I would have said if I were more light-on-my-feet and timely:

How can men expect us to take them seriously when they so consistently try to draw attention to their genitals? Surely if these guys didn’t want to sexualize themselves, they would have in some way tucked themselves so they wouldn’t have that unsightly bulge, right? Clearly they want to be objectified in hopes of stealing the thunder from the intelligent and appropriately dressed women around them. They know they aren’t decent writers and thus it is only by striking these voguish poses that they can hope to win any attention or recognition. But who do they think they’re kidding - they aren’t even all that attractive. They should cover themselves up more, no woman wants to be tormented by the sight of their old, flabby bodies. What, do they think if they show off their crotch bulges we won’t care about how they write? Show some self-respect, dudes!

But I have to mention once more, in my function as Queen Goddess High Commissioner of the Ministry of Civility, Niceness Police Division, that the whole problem with Ann Althouse's series of posts is that her message:

"Jessica at Feministing does not represent the whole universe of feminism, does not represent me, does not speak for me, ought not to be interpreted as speaking for all feminists everywhere, is not the representation of contemporary american feminism in the blogosphere as THE WORLD WOULD REALIZE IF ONLY CLINTON PICKED ME, ANN ALTHOUSE, THE TRUE REPRESENTATION OF THE AMERICAN FEMINIST BLOGOSPHERE!"

gets all up in her medium:

"Oh-my-god, Becky, just look at that girl's boobs! hahahaboobs."

Seriously - dog-only-knows how much innocent bandwidth was sacrificed so that Ann Whatzerface could go "hahahaboobs", when what she really meant was "damn, I wish someone would recognize me for the unique snowflake and amazing voice I truly am, and stop giving that other girl attention that should be MINE!"

Now, most of us learn in elementary school that making comments about someone's personal appearance is considered rude, un-civil, not nice. And really, such behavior is not worth commenting on.

But you know, if you think that you're not being represented fairly (or at all); if you perceive inaccuracies or misinformation out there that you feel should be corrected; if you feel like shouting to the skies "HEY! THAT'S NOT FAIR!" - that's all okay to do. It's not just "okay", but healthy and positive, because that's what's true and honest. And more importantly, that's what's real.

Why discuss Jessica and her chest, when such discussion a) isn't going to diminish Jessica's cup size, nor should it, b) doesn't really address what's really going on, which is how Ann Althouse feels about being overlooked, c)obscures other issues of importance, such as how it happened that no Bloggers-Of-Color were included in the lunch, and d) makes you look like a big rude jerk?

This is just another example of why being civil is important, to my mind.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

From the Department of Too Much Information:

Sofie is chatting up a storm about the UK violent-porn ban.

And it's got me thinking.

Somewhere out there in the internet there's a picture or two of me doing things I sure wouldn't want on the front page of the New York Times. They're out there, just floating around in the web-o-sphere, waiting to land in someone's inbox or slither their way through someone's spam filter or NetNanny.

I'm not real comfortable with the thought of my sunny-side-up invading the sanctity of someone's happy home, but that's life, I guess. I mean, I should have thought of that before. I am also uncomfortable knowing that someone somewhere may be taking those photographs wildly out of context to further their own agendas.

Someone out there might be saying: "See? This girl in the picture? She really likes (sexual behavior that some might consider deviant). Why don't you like that? She's clearly enjoying it. What's wrong with you that you won't do that?"

And at that very same moment someone out there might be saying, about the very same picture: "See? This girl in the picture? She's obviously been coerced and forced and is in tremendous pain and - see? See how she's suffering? That's real! There's no way you can tell me she's not suffering. What's wrong with you that you don't see that?"

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. But it's what it doesn't say that makes us all so damn crazy. What was I thinking, just before that picture was taken? just as the shutter clicked? just after the flash faded?

(Who knows...probably something along the lines of "this corset is itchy...I'm hungry - what's for lunch?...I wonder if I could get these cuffs in purple...hey, watch the kidney shot, pal!")

Seriously - both interpretations have an element of truth to them. And both are wildly off-the-mark. Both at the same time.

And I want to say:

Hey! British Home Office! Don't ban me! Don't erase me!

Don't try to remove all evidence of my experience from the record of all human experiences.

Don't make it a crime to look at me!

Monday, September 11, 2006

So I get the sense that I'm supposed to contribute something profound and meaningful today.

But jeez - could anything be profound enough? meaningful enough? especially from someone who was miles away from any actual trauma, well-insulated and safe as I was?

I could piggyback on other people's suffering, I suppose. That's always poignant and moving.

But there's no shortage of actual survivors with actual tales to tell. So I'll let them tell, if they desire, with not-a-lot of noise from me. As they say, better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

so please accept my moment of silence.

Friday, September 08, 2006

someone's in the kitchen with Dinah, and Sage, and Jean:

says Sage:

Okay, ladies, Jean, over at You Are Here is calling for orgasm-precipitating recipes. I hope she meant that literally, because here's mine! (Gosh, I'll be so embarrassed if it's just a euphemism for really good recipes.)

and this is all funny because I collect cookbooks. Old cookbooks, ethnic cookbooks, obscure-ingredient cookbooks, advercookbooks (the Campbells Soup cookbook, the Pillsbury cookbook, etc.) - I really dig them.

Imagine the diversity of the Orgasm Cookbook...

Homestyle Orgasm
Barbecued Orgasm
Veggie Orgasm
Lentil Orgasm
Gluten-free Orgasm (with carob chips)
Orgasm Casserole
Orgasm a la King
Orgasm Surprise
Orgasm Creole
Orgasm Salad
Orgasm Like Mama Used To Make
Dad's Favorite Orgasm
Danish Orgasm
Sun-dried Orgasm with Tarragon
Orgasm Tetrazzini

How long 'til the Food Network gets hold of this?

I wanna be on Iron Chef: Orgasm! (well, who doesn't?)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

So, Hexy said:

What 4 blogs are you tagging with this meme and why?
Anyone reading this who has an E in their first name.

Of course, she means my fabulous self. Me, Heidi.

Why do you blog?

people ask my husband all the time "why do you play guitar?" he answers them "why don't you?"

I could say the same, I guess.

More seriously - I've deluded myself into thinking I have a lot to say that's of vital importance to the rest of the world, and a blog is a great place to indulge that delusion. It allows me to fully explore and fully realize my exaggerated sense of self-importance with absolutely no restrictions of time, space or quality.

That and it allows me to interact with people without worrying that I smell funny or have spinach in my teeth. It's just enough human contact to satisfy the need for human contact, at a distance great enough to prevent the bowel-loosening panic I feel at the prospect of human contact.

Because I'm really shy. If I didn't have to go to work I might never even leave the house.

Some days I think I may be playing some weird humiliation game with myself and the rest of the world. Maybe I should get that checked out by a professional of some kind...

How long have you been blogging?

Five or six months.


I posted one a while ago. I guess I'll post the same one again. it's a rerun.

Why do readers read your blog?

Oh, they come for the teapot tempests, but they stay for the schadenfreude! I wonder if people tune in just to see whether I've finally succeeded in constructing a post so monumentally dumb that it causes the entire blogosphere to cave in on itself in a great big black hole of stupid.

What was the last search phrase someone used to get to your site?

Huh. Don't know. I've never bothered to check. if I could remember how to use the site meter I'd have some sort of answer, I suppose. Of course, that assumes I was ever able to get the site meter to work in the first place.

Which of your entries unjustly gets too little attention?

Hexy said it best: "I think they all get a bit more than they deserve. *grin*"
I can't improve on that.

Your current favorite blog?

Wow. Well, I have lots of favorites. I can't pick just one. it's like picking your favorite child, or your BEST best friend. Seriously, what kind of question is that?

(yeah, I'm an emoblogger. wanna make something of it?)

What blog did you read most recently?

Hexy's, duh.

Which feeds do you subscribe to?

What's a feed?

What blogs are you tagging with this meme and why?

AdequateDer, Belledame, Amber, EL, Jean, Kristin

because I dig them. They're some of my pals. I like to know what they think. And I think they'll feel happy that they were tagged. I always feel all warm and fuzzy when someone tags me or links to me. And I'm intrigued to learn whom they might tag, and follow those links, and discover someone new.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

sure, more on race why not?

I mean, more on race such as I know, which could fill maybe a bee's rubber boot.

I've had a few slightly strange experiences which directly address race. I hesitate to even mention them at all, as taken together they're only eversomarginally slightly less trivial than when they're considered separately.

eta: And, as my commenters have pointed out, they do nothing to prove white privilege.

but such is my privilege as a white girl, I suppose, this idea that race doesn't weigh on me. Whether it does or does not weigh on people of color, I can only gather from outside sources. Primary sources, sure, but outside sources nonetheless. I can sympathize with whatever the truth is, but never really empathize because I'm not a person of color. And I suppose race does weigh on white people too, in different ways, but that's something I can't really put words to, since I don't even realize it. I've been told I'm a fish, but I don't know I'm wet.

White privilege - I'm soaking in it!

So these couple-a three crazy random funny trivial things happened to me, totally in a non-life-threatening, non-important, non-political way.

Thinking more about my old friend Regina, I remembered the first time White Privilege was made evident to me. (not that I hadn't experienced it, but this was the first time I actually noticed.)

We were about ten years old, giggling and giddy about the summer rainstorm beshimmering our dismal apartment building and mitigating the dogawful humidity.

"Let's go outside," I said.

We raced outside to splash around in the puddles, slide on the slippery grass, play in the iridescent pools of motor oil and rainwater (the only rainbows we could find)...we had a blast.

The next day Regina refused to speak to me. Now this was unprecedented. We'd been best friends for five years - my entire conscious life. And now, suddenly - nothing but a hostile silence.

I asked her what was the matter. "I got in trouble," she said, sullenly.

I asked her why. "Because of YOU," she said, and burst into tears and ran away from me.

A little later I asked her mom why Regina got punished. "Well," said Mrs. Hillman, in her gentle Georgia lilt, "I say - she knows she's not supposed to go outside in the rain after she's had her hair done."

"How come?" I asked.

Mrs. Hillman then patiently delivered a 20 minute educational presentation on why black-girl hair is different than white-girl hair, and why it shouldn't get wet, and why Regina got punished for wasting money and ruining all her mother's hard work and time and energy. Though Mrs. Hillman seemed to lay the blame squarely at her daughter's feet, I still felt guilty and foolish for not knowing that thing about the hair.

But I understood that mothers had a lot invested in the hair of their daughters. Judging from the pitched battles that took place over the violent assault on good taste that grew on top of my own head, that seemed universal. I wondered why my mom didn't punish me, as she certainly spent the same amount of time and effort trying to tame my hair as Regina's mom spent on hers. But apparently black-girl hair and white-girl hair were different and that was just How It Was.

So I went to apologize to Regina for ruining her hair, which eventuality had not even entered my mind at the time of those blessed cool raindrops falling from the sky. We made up, but we were never quite the same.

Fifteen years later hair was to figure prominently in the second weird/funny/trivial race-related thing. I was on a late Metro going to Silver Spring, MD one night, and I was alone on the subway car with three Howard University men. I knew they went to Howard because of their backpacks, their T-shirts, their fraternity brands rising boldly and proudly from the skin on their upper arms. I was brushing my hair - well, wrestling with it would be a more appropriate phrase, I suppose - and slowly the three guys came incrementally closer and closer to me, whispering to themselves, peering at me, inspecting me, and creeping ever closer to me, the only other person on the train car.

I was starting to feel a little uneasy, as I was sitting there trying to untangle the hairbrush from my hair. Three giant little me...three giant little me...I concentrated real hard on pretending they weren't there, weren't even in the car at all, just me and my hairbrush, no threat looming and growing ever closer, none at all...finally when one of them got close enough he said, after an uneasy pregnant silence -

"excuse me, but we were wondering - are you part black?"

I was astonished. Here I thought I was going to become a "lone woman on the subway eaten by pack of maurauding males" type statistic. Really all they wanted to know was my ethnic heritage.

Well, that seemed reasonable.

"Um, not that I'm aware of, no," I said. The spokesfellow then told me that his sister had hair like mine, it gave her no end of trouble, she finally had to cut it short, and on and on about his sister, and the other fellows about their sisters, until finally my stop came and I took my leave. But it boggled my mind, how these three guys, who assumedly knew from Black Nubian Princesses, could have gotten me confused with a pretty girl of similar ancestry.

As I said, trivial, random, funny. Not at all political or important.

Most recently, about five years ago, I worked with this woman named Betty, a churchgoing Woman Of Color and a Good Girl by anyone's definition. She walked the righteous path at all times, in thought, word and deed. Mostly, she winced at what could be termed "foul language" and taking the lord's name in vain and references to sexual behavior and so on.

One day I walked into the office wearing a bright emerald green knit dress, very curve-huggy and clingy. (This was back about fifty-some pounds ago.) Boy, when I wore that thing I felt gorgeous, glamorous, shit-hot, just beeYOUteeful. So I sashay into work and Betty is staring at me. She's staring at me all day long. Just sort of assessing me with her eyes. Finally, just before it's time to go home, she pulls me into her cubicle and goes

"No offense, but has anyone ever told you you got a black girl's booty?"

"Well, does she want it back?" I snarked. I totally thought she was being funny.

"no, seriously, you got a black girl's booty." She seemed to want some sort of explanation for my ass.

I couldn't say anything. I felt so strangely ashamed. so exposed. that she used the word "booty".

I left that job soon after, but I tell ya - I never wore that dress again, for fear that my ass might be offensive somehow.

So, that's all that I am able to say about my own experiences vis-a-vis racial privilege. Those three trivial things which I've never been able to fully understand.

I wish I had more to say on the subject.

I have lucky teeth.

I mean, they're straight, they're not completely full of holes, there's plenty of them and the ones that are missing are missing from the back, in invisible and non-embarrassing places. I have teeth that tell the world that someone with money looked after me when I was a kid.

I have lucky skin.

It's white. Mostly, this helps me out in situations where having dark skin might cause me problems. Not that I really know for sure what situations those might be, as I can only go by what I read or hear from people who aren't me, but I know that having white skin at the very least allows me to not really concern myself with what having dark skin might mean in the first place.

So I'm lucky. Privileged, so to speak. Teeth and skin can be class markers. And despite my downwardly-mobile bank balance, I still have it a lot better than many who are darker-skinned and/or more dentally-challenged than I am. At least I'm not fighting the outside world's perception of me as somehow "less than" - in fact I'm often fighting the outside world's perception of me as somehow "more than"; more educated than I really am, more financially stable than I really am, more healthy than I really am. (I guess that's one of those "good problems".)

This privilege, I guess, somehow allows me the luxury of valuing "niceness" in addition to honesty, intelligence, insight and creativity in my blogosphere-related interactions. Call it White Woman Syndrome if you must - although such phrasing makes me want to demand a telethon or federally-funded research or at the very least a non-profit organization...which is funny because nothing speaks to the fact that I am simply choking to death on my white-lady privilege better than demanding something.

So, I have this...this syndrome. (We can pile it up with all my other syndromes.) I get easily offended. I sing out when people are mean. I care about hurting my own tender little fee-fees and the tender little fee-fees of others. I'd rather make my point without personally attacking people who disagree with me, and I am strongly in favor of others doing the same. I don't like to see viciousness even in service to a position I agree with. And I rapidly lose respect for individuals who are, for lack of a better word, mean. I stop listening, even to people who are right. It's not that I don't want to learn. But the "I'm-just-being-brutally-honest-and-if-you-can't-take-it-that's-certainly-not-my-fault" rhetorical style teaches me all about the speaker and nothing about the subject. Is that because I'm white and privileged and have lucky skin and lucky teeth?

Here's the crazy thing. The woman who taught me everything I could possibly contain in my feeble and inadequate brain about "nice" was not even close to white by any definition. Mrs. Hillman, our downstairs neigbor, mom of my best friend Regina, stay-home neighborhood goddess and hands-down authority on Politeness, Civility, Ladyhood, Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice, was african-american.

A diversion:

Regina and I, when we were five or six years old, were fascinated by the differences in the skin on our hands. Fascinated. We'd turn over our hands, backside to palm, backside to palm, comparing and evaluating and wondering for hours. We knew (because we were five or six and therefore knew everything worth knowing) we were actually sisters, real sisters, real twin sisters from outer space who were magic, waiting for our real parents to come back for us, and it was just a matter of time before we looked as alike on the outside as we felt on the inside.

Of course, this was 1972 or 1973, in a more-or-less-industrial New England town. And Regina and I comprised the center of the universe, or at least the universe that mattered.

But I digress.

Back to the concept of civility and this terrible syndrome that has me in its deathlike grip.

Mrs. Hillman had the authority to administer justice as she saw fit, when I was playing with Regina at her place. One day one of us committed some crime of profanity against the English language - the "N" word? the "F" word? one of the "S" words? I'm unsure at this late stage who used what word. But I do recall that justice was swift and severe and doled out in equal measure to the both of us. Because Mrs. Hillman thought it was important for little girls to learn to be nice.

In 1972 or 1973, her actions were not considered particularly "mean" either in actuality or in spirit. Children were spanked by authority figures, and it was not necessarily considered cruel by adults or by the children themselves. It was sort of routine, the cost of doing business. After our spanking she made us kool-aid and said she loved us both, but that young ladies should not use that kind of language. It wasn't nice, and people would get the wrong idea.

As I grew up, my mom and my stepmother (caucasian both, practically translucent) taught me all I ever needed to know about "mean". They were, so to speak, brutally honest both of them, each in their own special way.

And here's the thing - when I attempted to be brutally honest back, following their precedents, justice was swift and severe. Because it was important for me to learn...something. I don't know. It was important to be pushed back in my place? It was important to respect blustering authority and not examine closely what the blustering authority was really saying? It was important to learn that this particular rhetorical style was off-limits for me, for reasons I have never understood? Whatever it was my stepmother and mom were on about, I didn't listen. I might have if they had kept a civil tongue in their mouths. But apparently I was too weak or too lazy (or too white?) to persevere. Whatever the lesson was, it was lost on me.

So over time, I guess to cope with all these crazy mixed messages about appropriate manners of communication, I developed this terrible syndrome that forces me to be nice and care about people's (eeugh) feelings. It's too bad, really. I'd be a lot healthier if I wasn’t compelled by some melanin-related pathology to give a shit.

So where's my telethon?

Friday, September 01, 2006

My good friend AdequateDer is a songwriter - well, a composer, really. He wrote a song titled "Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg", which, if we're all very very nice to him and say "please", he might someday let us all hear, if we're good.

According to Wikipedia,

The longest place name in the United States (45 letters) is Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, a lake in Webster, Massachusetts. This is incorrectly said to be Algonquin for "you fish your side of the water, I fish my side of the water, nobody fishes the middle". (It actually means "Englishmen at Manchaug at the Fishing Place at the Boundary").

I had the (I now know) apocryphal meaning in mind this morning as I hummed the very catchy tune composed by my good friend, and ruminated about the general atmosphere of the blogosphere.

Seriously - we're clearly none of us responsible and grownup enough to carry on constructive conversations with one another. I'm the first to admit I'm weak and timid and unable to withstand rigorous critique. Guilty as charged. And I'm also hypersensitive, touchy, overemotional and neurotic in a way that makes others uncomfortable, especially those others who are particularly aggressive, judgmental, shortsighted, unimaginative, sadistic, unsympathetic and lacking in empathy.

I just can't see for shit in the feeding frenzy in the middle of this lake.

So I'm going to go fish on my side for a while. And in so doing, I hope it is clear that I respect both the fish and the fisherfolk on the other side, and their skill as fisherfolk, and the long and rich cultural history embodied in their fishing traditions, which are different from mine but no less fascinating, and the delicious culinary achivements that sprung from the abundance of fish out there on their side of the lake.

But I'm spending way too much time messing around on the other side of the lake, clearly, when I should be paying attention to my own side.

Oh, who am I kidding. I'll be back in the middle right there along with everyone else.

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