What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I’ve heard this question before—at church, in an occasional motivational business seminar, on my Gmail quote of the day. I’ve never had an answer. I’ve never really understood the question.
I mean, I’m doing it ... my life, I mean. I’m doing my life. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m making the most of my business degree; I’m getting out of bed everyday and making sure my children are clothed, fed, and are dropped off and picked up on time. I’m checking their homework and making their lunches. I’m grocery shopping, taking care of the dry cleaning, balancing the checkbook, tithing, doing the laundry, shaving my legs, brushing my teeth, and coloring my hair. And then I do it the next day and the next day and the next. And most days I do more than not fail at these things. Most days, I do these things so well I don’t even have to think much about them. So it seems perfectly clear that I’m doing my life and I’m not failing at it.
But the question still nags. Why? Why does this question plague me so? I think because, for me, the question really should be what would I do if I knew I could succeed? Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere. The question is still not exactly right. Let’s tweak it a bit more. How about what would I do, that I’m not already doing, if I knew I could succeed? Okay, the question almost makes sense to me now. Let’s fine-tune it a tad bit more and see what happens. Let’s go with what would I love to do, that I’m not already doing, if I knew I could succeed? The answer: write.
I’ve almost always known the correct answers to the questions that my life has presented me. There has been one notable and very painful exception and it changed me forever. The circumstances surrounding the loss of my first son and the choices I made for him taught me more than I believe it to be possible to document in one lifetime. However, one of the most important lessons his loss taught me was about questions. I learned very delicately that if I am having difficulty answering a question, I am probably trying to answer the wrong question. And so it is with this question.
I have never been able to answer what I would do if I knew I could not fail, because I was doing exactly that at which I would not fail. I know this is a bit of mental u-turn, but stay with me. The distinction I’m trying to draw here is a critical one. The question my life is currently asking of me is what would I passionately, lovingly, surrender my life to if I would succeed beyond my wildest dreams. That question, I can answer, not because I have the right answer, but because it is the right question. The short answer is to write. The long answer with all the messy details of getting from point a to point b, I’ll figure out as I go. Sometimes the short answer is all you need in order to choose your path ... getting on the right path to begin with is the hard part.
Last week, the music blogger of the Dallas Observer made note of an article I wrote about my sister who plays flute in the rock band, The Polyphonic Spree. The blogger knows a lot about my sister, but had never known I existed until he read my article. In his blog from December 22, he described me by saying that I was a writer. A professional writer wrote in his widely read publication that I was a writer. And since that day more than a week ago, I’ve been trying to get the question right. Pete Freedman of the Dallas Observer had provided me with the answer. I just had to figure out what question went with the answer.
So in 2009, I will write. I will write on days I’m happy, days I’m not, and days I’m just generally irritated. I’ll write on days I can’t stop and on days it takes forever to get started. But now that I am a writer and have started down the writer’s path, the rest should be easy.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I’ve heard this question before—at church, in an occasional motivational business seminar, on my Gmail quote of the day. I’ve never had an answer. I’ve never really understood the question.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Stepford has a new Target that is one half-mile and five minutes from my driveway. And it’s not a regular Target either, it’s a TarGucci. This is very, very bad for me because, well … my name is Kristi and I’m a Target addict. Say it with me now, “Hello, Kristi.”
I seriously believe I could survive shopping no where else but TarGucci. Starbucks, check. Sushi, check. Shoes and clothing, check. Lip gloss, hair color, dental floss, tampons, check, check, check, and check. I’m trying hard here to figure out what I could possibly need that is not contained within the walls of my drug of choice. Nope, nothing is coming to me.
So yesterday, my eight-year-old daughter (the Christmas Elf) and I went to TarGucci under the disguise of grocery shopping for Christmas dinner. What we were really there for was to buy me some cute t-shirts and sweat pants to wear during the holidays. It was freezing in Stepford yesterday. No, really it was way past freezing. It was 27 degrees when the Christmas Elf and I hit the store, neither of us wearing a proper coat. It’s very hard in Texas to get in the habit of dressing appropriately for cold weather because it comes and goes so quickly. Twenty-four hours earlier, it had been seventy-two degrees.
Teeth chattering, the Christmas Elf and I hit Starbucks first. Hot chocolate for her, grande hazelnut latte with two equals for me. I never said Stepford was all bad. Then off to find the hip Ts I had seen a fellow Stepford Wife sporting the day before. I was quickly able to locate what I needed and was only slowed down by the Christmas Elf’s unfortunate mishap with her hot chocolate. I didn’t see exactly what happened, but my impression was that she squeezed a bit too tightly on the cup, ejecting the lid, which startled her into dropping the entire cup on the floor. The hot chocolate exploded. It’s crazy how a small cup of liquid looks like gallons when its spread across TarGucci’s floor. We quickly moved to the Christmas Elf’s section to buy new tights.
And there in the girl’s section we hit a snag. On an end cap there was a display of little girl t-shirts. They were knock offs of the classic I Heart NY Ts. Except these didn’t say “I Love NY.” One said, “I Love Fashion.” Another, “I Love Candy.” However, the one the Christmas Elf set her little beating heart on said “I Love New Stuff.” She whipped a sized-medium off the rack and held it close to her body as if it were life itself.
I said, flatly, “Uh, no.”
I was thinking, “Hell no, over my dead body no, no f’ing way no.”
She said, “Why?”
I said, “Because, I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to walk around in a T-shirt that says you love new stuff.”
I get the irony here … I know, really I do, I know I was in TarGucci getting my fix of new stuff because I’m addicted to new stuff, because, well, I LOVE new stuff.
She said, “But Mom, it’s the truth. I really do love new stuff.”
Good Lord, not only am I two bricks short of being a fully-loaded Stepford Wife, but I’m looking down at one in training.
I said, taking a deep breath, “I know you do. I do too. But it’s kind of boastful and braggy to wear it written on a t-shirt.”
She said, “Because if someone couldn’t ever afford new stuff, my t-shirt might hurt their feelings?”
I said, “Yes, honey, something like that.”
So we left TarGucci with the “I Love Candy” t-shirt. Last night as I was tucking her into bed she said, “Mom, do you know what my favorite thing is about Christmas?” I said, “What?” And, once again, without knowing it, this beautiful child validated me as a mom by saying, “It’s not the presents. It’s my family. I love my family.”
And her family loves her, too.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
My sister rocks. No, really she does. My sister plays flute in the rock band The Polyphonic Spree. People infinitely more qualified than me have tried, and in my infinitely unqualified opinion, have failed to describe The Polyphonic Spree with words. People who write words for money in publications that are widely read, like Rolling Stone for instance, have failed to capture the essence of this band. While music is my sister’s genre, words are mine. And words are inadequate to define or even adequately describe The Polyphonic Spree. Seeing this band live is an experience like none other that exists in my Stepford life. Last night I took my eight-year-old daughter to see The Polyphonic Spree’s annual Holiday Extravaganza. Last night was exactly what my soul has been craving.
I’m five and half years older than my sister and that’s older enough to remember her clearly as a toddler. From the moment my own daughter was a toddler, I began seeing my sister. There is a picture of my sister as a small child on The Polyphonic Spree’s Web site and the first time I clicked on it my breath was taken away. I have photos of my own daughter that would be hard to distinguish from the one on the Web site. My daughter’s personality is also much like I remember that of my sister’s personality as a child. Perfectionist, independent, passionate, and gifted. My sister’s gift is music. My daughter’s gift is soccer. The gifts are different. The commitment to them is the same.
My daughter loves music, I’m not sure she has a gift for it yet, but she certainly has an appreciation. So, yesterday she and I climbed into the Palinmobile, cruised out of Stepford and headed into the city. The concert was at Dallas’ renowned and beloved Granada Theater on lower Greenville Avenue. The minute we hit Greenville Avenue from the highway, I felt out of place. My SUV is entirely too large for this part of town. The narrow lanes carved into the skinny streets were not created with my vehicle in mind. The tight turns required to get into the parking lot behind the Granada necessitated me to take a few curbs along the way. Actually parking the behemoth that I drive inside a parking space in this lot was not physically possible. The gigantic truck tires protruded over the yellow lines on each side. Thankfully, a VW Beetle and a Honda Fit slid in neatly on each side.
Inside the theater, I fit in no better. I immediately wished I could trade my leather blazer for a crocheted sweater, my Talbot’s khaki’s for ripped jeans, and my Italian leather boots for vintage sneakers. The problem is I don’t actually own any of those things. At least I had only pulled my hair back into a messy ponytail rather than blowing it out and straightening it with the flat iron. I searched the crowd and was struck by what I did not see—I searched every shoulder for a Louis Vitton only to come up empty and I saw no evidence of silicone or botox. I saw no one who I perceived to be worried about his or her 401(k) or the looming financial crisis. I saw no Stepford Wives. I saw no one who looked as if they were trapped inside a gilded cage. I saw no mirrors.
The Polyphonic Spree began to play and I was swept up in the moment. My sister’s flute, playing delicately and at times roughly, the harp, the cello, the choir, the pied piper himself, Tim DeLaughter and my daughter on stage with the rest of the children singing Happy Christmas (War is Over) I was suddenly slipped back into my groove that I so often cannot find in Stepford. I felt as if I was in a room with the only happy people left in the world. I knew at this moment that I was not alone on a desert island that is the left wing of the Democratic party, but for a few hours was surrounded by those who would consider me a moderate. I was surrounded by those who get what I get and still believe in those crazy little concepts like hope, love, and peace. I was in a room with people who know they can make a difference—who are empowered not by money or the bars they have constructed into the cage that holds their lives, but are empowered by their beliefs and take their power from their truth. I don’t know a lot about music. I do know this … there is something very special about a band that can, through their music, welcome a Stepford Wife home in a room full of strangers.
My sister and I began our lives at much the same place. We took two separate roads. She followed her passion. I followed my head. She lives in the world of The Polyphonic Spree. I live in Stepford. My prayer this Christmas is that my children will follow my sister’s example and live their passions while carving a groove so deep for themselves they never lose it.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Last week a fellow Stepford Wife and I were IMing about a juicy little piece of Stepford gossip. Once I was finished describing to her what I believed to be the sad, sorted details, she responded with one word: “Karma.”
I said, “Do you believe in Karma?”
She said, “Yes, when it happens to other people.”
I said, “So, if it’s happening to you, it’s just random bad shit with no explanation?”
She said, “Exactly.”
Since this conversation I’ve been thinking a lot about Karma. I probably don’t believe in it in the true, pure definition of Karma. I do, however, operate my life under a loose set of rules centered on the notion that if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, my life goes along pretty well—for the most part. I also believe that if I get off track, I get subtle messages—like the kids will be whiny if I’m not spending enough time with them, if I’m over-scheduled I’m sure to forget an important meeting—things like that. I understand that if I ignore these subtle messages, I do so at my own peril. As sure as the day is long, if I ignore the small messages a larger, harsher one is surely headed my way. I try to pay attention.
And like my friend, I can of course spot Karma in other people’s lives much more quickly and accurately than in my own. My mother used to tell me when I was a child, “What goes around comes around.” I always understood this was a doubled edged sword. I mean, great, if what’s coming around is coming for someone else—but bummer if it was coming around for me. And then there were always that handful of people who I witnessed behaving so badly that I would wonder, Where’s the Karma for them?
Well, today I received an answer regarding one of those people who, it seemed to me, has always been able to dodge Karma—Ann Coulter. MSNBC, as well as the blogosphere, are reporting that Ms. Coulter has suffered a broken jaw in a fall down some stairs. They are further reporting that the broken jaw has had to be wired shut. Now, I have absolutely no way of knowing if this event in Ms. Coulter’s life is Karma. I will say, I’m awfully suspicious.
My whole life I knew that I would settle in the suburbs. Apart from a small and grossly underdeveloped fantasy about New York City, a place I’ve never been, I never even considered another destination after college. My college sweetheart and I lived in two different apartments during the first three years of our marriage. Each of these apartments were located in the no man’s land that is the far north edge of the city. They were close enough to see the suburbs and far enough away from anything that could be considered the eclectic life of the city proper.
At the age of twenty-four, I bought my first house in Stepford. It wasn’t really Stepford at the time. Stepford grew up around me in the intervening seventeen years. I did realize that I was buying my little piece of the American dream in an up and coming suburb—translation: my starter home was going to be a very good investment. And it was.
The reason I wanted to live in the suburbs was very simple. I naively believed that normal people lived in the suburbs and I wanted a very conventional, normal life. Ah, the misguided dreams of youth. I grew up in rural East Texas, which I un-affectionately refer to as Redneckville. My dad calls it the “Mental Illness Capital of the World” and I do not disagree—Redneckville is just more compact.
Redneckville was messy. Very messy. Redneckville was a small town and everyone had their role that they played in our town’s melodrama—the successful attorney who cheated on his pretty young wife; the workers from the nearby lignite plant who were functioning alcoholics; the waitresses at the local diner who were in desperate need of a dentist; the Deacons from the First Baptist Church and their uptight wives who all lived in the nicest neighborhood in town; the black population that all lived in the part of town where white people never went—you get the idea. I have theory that the same exact people live in each small town in East Texas. I believe the melodrama of to be exactly the same, with just the names of the actors being changed.
I escaped Redneckville a few times a year to visit my dad in the suburbs. Because I was just a visitor, never staying longer than a week or ten days at a time, I came away with the fallacious perception that the suburbs were as normal as they looked. I couldn’t know until later that just because they were wrapped in a prepossessing package, what lied beneath the surface could be every bit as disquieting as Redneckville.
There are lots of things about Stepford that are disturbing to me. One of the most troublesome is that Stepford seems to have been sanitized of all things unpleasant. Yes, I am well aware of the irony that I left Redneckville because it was messy and now I’m equally as upset about Stepford’s profoundly ordered society. Except that it’s not exactly devoid of unpleasantness; it just appears that way. In Stepford, it is the pretty young Stepford Wife who is cheating on her successful attorney husband; it’s the PTA moms who are the functioning alcoholics (I believe more wine is consumed at play dates than at the local wine bar); and no one is in need of dental care unless you count being a couple days late for your latest teeth-whitening treatment. No one seems to age in Stepford thanks to breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and Botox. And in Stepford, if you die, you disappear. I’m serious about this—your dead body seems to vanish into thin air. This makes me crazy.
I’m old enough that I’ve known a half dozen people who have died since I’ve lived in Stepford. I have yet to see any of them dead. I’ve actually not ever even been to a funeral. Stepford has sanitized death by a) removing dead bodies to some unknown location, and b) replacing funerals with something called a “Celebration of Life.” This is not what I want to happen when I die. I’ve given my friends and my minister to following list of instructions that are to be followed, to the letter, upon my death.
1. My body is to embalmed and put on display.
My friends, coworkers, and the nosey Stepford Wives who didn’t care for me while I was alive are to be given the opportunity to see me dead. I want my observers to lament to each other how good I look, that whoever fixed my hair got it all wrong, and speculate that it was my mother-in-law who chose my color of lipstick. I want people to touch me so that they know that an embalmed, dead body is hard and cold. I want them to be able to say goodbye.
2. I want people to cry and be sad that I am dead.
I do not want the program at my funeral to say “A Celebration of” anything. No, my funeral is to be a sad occasion. I am dead. You will never see me again. Cry, blow your nose, sob, and if you faint in the aisle on the way to my open casket, I’ll cheer you from heaven. If you really, really, loved me, kiss my body goodbye, then wail loudly without restraint when the casket is closed for the last time. Afterwards, go home and crawl in the bed for the rest of the day. Grieve for me. Under no circumstances are there to be balloons in my favorite color released outside the church. This is for weddings, not funerals.
3. I want a graveside service.
I want people to drive in a long line of cars with their headlights on, behind the hearse carrying my body. If cars in the opposite direction do not pull over to the side of the road as a show of respect, you have my permission to flip them off. If it is cold and rainy, you are not excused from huddling under umbrellas around my casket prior to it being lowered into the ground. Before you leave, take a flower from my over-priced casket-spray, press it between two pieces of wax paper, and then press it in the pages of your Bible near a verse that I liked.
4. I will not spend eternity in a thong.
If you are close enough to me that you are consulted regarding what my body is to be dressed in for all eternity, here are the rules. No thong. I do not care how much you love your thongs. I am not a thong lover. Put me in my old, stained, comfortable big girl panties and move on to what people will see at the funeral home. I also do not want shoes on my feet—warm socks, no shoes. If you can convince my husband and kids to put me in the sweats I sleep in each night, I’m good with that. Otherwise, choose the most comfortable regular clothes you can find in my closet. I do not want to be dressed as if I am going to the office. I’m dead. I should not ever have to wear work clothes again.
5. Sad songs are required.
I want “Amazing Grace” with all its verses sung at my funeral. I wanted this sung at my wedding, but was deprived of the opportunity by my mother. I also want “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Asleep in Jesus,” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” played for me. I know they’re sad songs, and that’s the point.
Death is messy, permanent, and you don’t get a second chance to properly say goodbye to those you’ve lost. Embrace the grief, let it wash over you, and then eventually past you. Even in Stepford, people die. It’s okay.
Friday, November 21, 2008
One of the funniest things I have ever heard happened in Stepford this week—and let me assure you that is saying something. In an effort of full disclosure, I was not an eye witness to these events. My knowledge of these events comes from a fellow Stepford wife through her email, voicemail, and telephone recounting of what actually happened. However, I do know this Stepford wife extremely well, so I am going to attempt to do this story justice. And before we go any further, I want to reassure all you dog lovers out there that the dog in question is perfectly fine … now.
If you’ve read much of my writing, you know that I happen to own the absolute best, most adorable, lovable, loyal, sweet dog on the planet. You also know that I believe it is no coincidence that this dog is a yellow dog. I believe my dog’s color to be of importance and most appropriate because I have been known to describe myself, on occasion, as a Yellow Dog Democrat. I’ve owned my yellow dog for just short of two years. Prior to that, I was not a dog person. I didn’t dislike dogs, but I just really didn’t get it. I would have probably lived the rest of my life without a dog, if it had not been for my kids.
However, after my daughter dug a doodle bug (that’s what we Texans call a roly poly) out of our flower bed for her preschool’s Pet Day, the guilt became too much. Actually, that’s not exactly true. Had the doodle bug made it to Pet Day, I would have probably not acquiesced on the dog issue. However, somewhere between my house and the preschool, my daughter dropped the doodle bug onto the fast-food littered floor of my minivan and, tragically, he was lost forever. My daughter took this opportunity to point out, through her angry sobs, that had we owned a dog it would have been impossible for her to have lost him in the van on the way to Pet Day. You can’t really argue with that logic—alas, we obtained the wonderful Yellow Dog.
Prior to obtaining Yellow Dog, there was one other dog in my life. Tanner is owned by a friend of mine and Tanner has always had a fetish for the lavender lotion I use on my legs. Tanner seriously must love the way this lotion tastes, because whenever I visit he does his best to lick as much of it off my legs as I will allow. Now, you have to absolutely adore anything that genuinely loves the way you smell and taste, so before Yellow Dog, I had a thing for Tanner.
My friend, her family, and Tanner live in the quintessential Stepford neighborhood—Stepfordwood. You know you’ve finally made it as a Stepford wife when you obtain real estate in Stepfordwood. I’m consistently threatening to never visit her home again because of the irritating and ever present security guards posted at the gate to the entrance of Stepfordwood. I mean, seriously, what in the hell is the point of gating a neighborhood in Stepford? Who could they possibly be trying to keep out? Less rich people? I suspect it’s Democrats, but I have no proof of this since I’ve never been asked my party affiliation at the gate and my Obama sticker-laden SUV has been allowed to pass through. I was in Stepfordwood the week before the election and I lamented to my friend, “It looks like the McCain/Palin campaign threw up in here. Who are these people trying to influence? Anyone who is not voting for McCain isn’t allowed to live here.” That’s not exactly true; my friend is a secret Obama girl. Her yard had no sign at all.
Okay, so you get that if a house is located in Stepfordwood, that it is nice—very, very nice. We’re talking fifty-two hundred square feet of wrought iron light fixtures, hand-scraped hardwood floors, hand-troweled walls, custom-painted crown molding, stainless steel appliances, rock pitch granite countertops, a mudroom, and master closest larger than some apartments, and a master bathtub that I know from experience can comfortably fit four six-year-old girls with plenty of space left over.
The master bedroom in my friend’s house has what I call a pool door. It’s a door that leads to the backyard, so that if you are coming in from the pool to your bedroom, you don’t drip water all over the expensive hardwoods. At night, the pool door becomes the Tanner door. Around midnight, night before last, after my friend had taken out her contacts—thereby making her legally blind—Tanner needed to go out.
She let Tanner out the pool door and left it open a crack so he could come back in at his leisure (even pets in Stepford live the good life). Well, when Tanner came back through the door, he launched himself into the middle of my friend’s king sized bed and began rubbing his face frantically into her new comforter. Before my friend could even register what was happening, it hit her—skunk smell. Yep, poor Tanner had apparently sniffed the south end of a skunk and the skunk showed its appreciation for this boundary violation by spraying him in the face.
Now, I don’t know a lot about dogs and I know even less about skunks. But, this week my friend and I both learned that if a dog gets sprayed in the eyes by a skunk, they go temporarily blind. So let’s review what we’ve got here—one Stepford wife, legally blind for lack of her contacts, dressed in a nightie (I added that to my long list entitled “why I don’t wear nighties”), in her Stepforwood mini-mansion, holding a blind, skunk-smelling dog while screaming at her husband “Oh my God, he’s blind, he’s blind!” Wait, wait, wait ... I’m not even to the best part.
Through a series of frantic middle-of-the-night phone calls to my friend’s aunt, the dog expert, it was ascertained that Tanner needed to be bathed in tomato juice. Now, my friend does not cook, unless you count heating up bagel bites in the microwave, so her husband had to get dressed, get in the car, go to the grocery store, and procure the much-needed tomato juice while my friend found her glasses. After the husband arrived home with said tomato juice, my friend made her second fatal error of the evening. This really wasn’t completely her fault. Her dog expert aunt had left out a little teeny, tiny detail regarding the tomato juice bath—but we’ll get to that in just second.
My friend proceeds to deposit Tanner into her luxuriously large master bath tub. She then takes the recently purchased tomato juice and pours it all over Tanner while attempting to massage it in. Now, if you know anything about dogs, you can see in your mind’s eye what happens next. Yes, the little detail Auntie left out was that the tomato juice bath should have been performed outdoors. Because Tanner did what dogs do, he shook like holy hell and sprayed my friend, her glasses, her nightie, and ninety percent of the custom-painted, marble-clad bathroom with minuscule droplets of tomato juice. Her maid, most likely, will begin speaking to her again sometime around the end of Obama’s first term.
The upside to this story? Surprisingly, none of my friend’s Stepfordwood neighbors called the police. I can assure you had Stepford’s finest happened upon the scene in my friend’s master bath, it would have taken them hours to figure out that what they were seeing was not produced by a double-barreled shotgun.
And who said the suburbs were boring?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Can someone pleeeease tell me what kind of a world we live in where a woman who cannot form a cohesive sentence is getting a $7 million dollar book deal? Honestly, who is going to write the abomination? Is seems logical enough to me that in order to command a book deal at all, much less one that is as lucrative as this, there are certain faculties an author should be required to possess, such as:
1. A command of the English language.
2. Not only that the author can read, but that, in fact, she does read.
3. And what about the book tour? Shouldn’t an author be required to posses the capability to speak intelligently while promoting a $7 million dollar book?
I am outraged. Was it not enough of an insult to thinking, educated, and intelligent people everywhere that this woman was even put on the Republican ticket? Now, the train wreck that was the McCain/Palin campaign is going to be documented in excruciating detail for all of perpetuity in a written form. This is absolute literary blasphemy of the highest degree. It is bad enough that I cannot turn on the television in my own home with out seeing her face and hearing her voice. Now she is about to intrude upon the sanctuary that is my local bookstore and library.
Oh, I know this is all about money. But is there nothing sacred left in the world at all? I have long list of questions compiled that I intend to pose to God when I get to heaven. Most of these questions center around my perception of the lack of justice in the world. I’ve just added another question to that list.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I have had a long and winding parade of narcissists in my life. Their presence has actually been one of the themes of my existence. My mother was the first and continues to be the most maddening of the ever-present narcissists. After having suffered through the masochism that was a three-year stint on a therapist’s couch during my early thirties, I’ve come to accept that the narcissists in my life (other than my mother, which was the roulette wheel of biology, rather than psychology) are as attracted to me as I am to them. We are like magnets that are drawn together and not easily pulled apart. The narcissist needing to be complimented, pumped-up, promoted. I, always needing to self-deprecate because I’m all too uncomfortable with praise or recognition, always believing I somehow have not earned it.
I’m not a psychologist, but I do possess what I’ve come to think of as a working knowledge of narcissists. I’ve experienced a lot of different types … the mother who “won’t apologize for loving her children,” the best friend from high school who seduced my boyfriend just because she could, a boss from my early career who once asked why I would ever consider taking a promotion and leaving since “he took such good care of his baby.” The list goes on. I’m always on the lookout for narcissists because I understand I am attracted to them, that I enjoy standing in the light that they so often emanate, that I am comfortable doing so because it is a light for which I can easily take no credit. I understand this is not healthy for me.
I’ve struggled these last two months to get some perspective on my vexation over Sarah Palin. The obvious reasons brought no explanation or resolution. The obvious reasons are valid enough, but this is something way deeper … guttural, in fact. I have referred to the “awesomeness that is Sarah” in a few of my writings about her. I have used this phrase to describe how I perceive she feels about herself. This morning while thinking about my use of this phrase to describe Palin, a dawning realization occurred. I believe Sarah Palin to be a narcissist.
Palin is not an exact type of narcissist of which I’ve ever become entangled. She is not the type that I would be overly attracted to if I knew her in person. All of her talk about “God making a way” and “showing her open doors” would be red flags enough to keep me from getting too close. However, I do believe all the signs are there. And for this reason, I believe her to be very, very dangerous indeed. I told my husband a few weeks ago that I thought Palin had the potential to be the most dangerous politician of our generation. When he pressed me for why I believed this, my response was less than articulate … more of something that I just knew rather than could explain. Being a lover of words, I hate it when that happens. But alas, the word came … narcissist.
Narcissism is an actual personality disorder. It has definable and observable characteristics. The following is a list of those characteristics from the Web site narcissim101.com. The Web site indicates that a person suffers from narcissism if they exhibit at least five of the following characteristics:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Foreign policy experience equals I can see Russia from my house?
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
$150,000 shopping spree?
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
Believes “God will show her an open door” to run for the Presidency?
4. Requires excessive admiration.
Continues to give exclusive interviews with the press a week after the election has concluded?
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment, or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
Expects the press to not ask hard questions and is offended when they do?
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
Troopergate? Abused of her power as Governor?
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
Expected to make a speech prior to McCain’s concession speech—on the night that was perhaps the most painful of John McCain’s political career?
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
Believes people from inside her own campaign that are now criticizing her are doing so because they are jealous?
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Raises the Bill Ayers issue during the campaign without the consent or prior knowledge of John McCain?
Does Palin truly suffer from narcissism? I think if we watch very closely, we will soon find out. And if she indeed suffers from narcissism, we must be very wary. Narcissists in any position of power are very dangerous because their sense of entitlement and of being ordained knows no limits.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Yesterday, Sarah Palin boarded a plane that took her home to Alaska. It’s what I had hoped for, dreamed about, and was all too afraid would not happen. However, now that she has left the lower forty-eight, I don’t feel all that satisfied about it. I do have a great deal of satisfaction and pride about the outcome of the election. I have great hope and enthusiasm about Barack Obama’s pending Presidency. However, Palin continues to nag at me.
Part of this feeling comes from the certainty that we have not seen the last of her. My money is on her somehow ending up in Ted Stevens’ U.S. Senate seat. I can see the comparison now of Palin launching a Presidential bid with exactly the same amount of U.S. Senate experience as Obama had when he launched his successful bid. The other thing continuing to nag at me about Palin are the many lessons she left for smart working women during her sixty-eight days on the National stage. Here are the top ten things concerning Palin that I will be teaching my daughter:
1. Know your limitations.
Seriously. I can write, I cannot sing. So, I write and I don’t sing. If my daughter wants to be a singer, I’ll check out her singing voice prior to driving her down to the American Idol auditions and letting Simon Cowell crush her spirit on National Television.
2. Appearance matters, but you can achieve it on a lot less than the price of a single family home.
It is important to look your best, but you do not need to spend a fortune to do so. A lot of my professional clothing actually comes from Target. Anything else I own was bought on sale. I will occasionally splurge on a pair of expensive jeans, because, well, cheap jeans don’t make my ass look as good as the expensive ones. However, this is the exception, not the rule.
3. Enunciate, enunciate, enunciate.
The first semester of my freshman year in college, I was fresh out of small town East Texas when I landed in a Speech Communications class. The very first feedback I received went something like, “You have the potential to communicate effectively, but you will have to lose the accent first. No one will ever take you seriously if you continue to enunciate your words as if you were unintelligent.” I immediately dropped all “y’alls” and “dangs” from my vocabulary and began paying attention to how I formed words before they left my mouth. It is one of the most valuable lessons I learned in college. Why Palin was unable to pick up on this when her major was Journalism is an enormous mystery to me. We have a rule in my house that goes like this “Thou shalt not speak like a Redneck.”
4. Your children are not accessories.
If you are a mother, be a good mother. If you are a good one, no one ever needs to see you doing it. They will just know.
5. There is no substitute for an education.
Hard work can get you a long way and without hard work, you probably won’t get far. However, an education teaches you about the world at large. This is not something that you can obtain from on-the-job training. My biggest fear is that Palin will return to Alaska and actually attend a university for the next four years.
6. Confidence is a good thing, but over-confidence can be deadly.
Think about when you first learned to drive a car. You had to have enough confidence not to get run over by other drivers. However, it would be a very bad thing to get in the car and pretend to be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. There is a big difference between being confident in your abilities and over-confident in abilities you do not possess.
7. If you want to be taken seriously, drop the giggle.
C’mon girls. We know this, right? Men may like it because it signals something to them about your intentions, but if this is not the message you’re trying to send to the President of France, don’t do it.
8. Work to find your own voice so as to no end up as a caricature of who you’re trying to be.
Authenticity takes time and a certain maturity.
9. There is a middle ground between Caribou Barbie and a snarling Pit Bull.
Everything in moderation.
10. Hurtful words matter.
And, in my experience, hurtful words are the ones you typically end up having to eat. Speak thoughtfully.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
To my beautiful children,
I know we’ve talked a lot about what today will mean in the context of our lives, your future, and the future of your children. I’ve tried to impress upon you that today you will be a witness to history. I want to put my very personal feelings about this day in writing so that when you are adults you can look back and better understand, through grown up eyes, your mother’s intensity about this day.
I know at the ages of eight and eleven, it is still hard for you to comprehend that I lived a very long time before you were here … thirty years, in fact. Those thirty years to me are like an old black and white film, my life not turning to color until I became your mother. And now that I am your mother, I love you more than any heart has a right to love. The two of you, each unique and yet so similar, are indeed the very air I breathe. Every beat of my heart is for you.
What you really need to understand started long before I was born. Your grandpa who picks you up from school each day, guides you through your homework, and plays video games with you was born in 1945 on a small farm in East Texas. You have no reference point in your lives for how poor Grandpa’s family was. Your grandpa went to work in the fields on the family farm when he was just six years old. He grew up in a two-room shack that had no running water, insulation, central heating or air conditioning, or a toilet. These conditions had not changed when he left the farm against his father’s wishes in 1965 to go to Jr. College. Your grandpa worked and went to college part-time all through the 1970s and 1980s while I was growing up. He finally obtained his Bachelor’s degree in 1988 and five years later he obtained a Master’s degree in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience. He is one dissertation short of a PhD. You, my precious children, are but two generations away from abject poverty. Your grandpa’s drive for an education changed not only his life, but mine and therefore yours.
I’ve chosen to raise you in Stepford because I want you to live in a safe neighborhood and have the best public education I can provide. I want you to live in a nice home and have nice things. I’ve brought you up in a church because I want you to have an extended church family to love and care for you spiritually. However, I need you to understand that these things are blessings that have been bestowed upon you, not because you have earned them, but because of the sacrifices of those who lived before you. You are not entitled to any of your blessings. Everything you have has all been given freely out of love. You each have bright, limitless futures ahead of you, you much choose to make the most of them.
With any blessing, comes responsibility. Your blessings are great and, therefore, your responsibilities are as well. You must never forget that there are those less fortunate than you. You must always lend a helping hand where you can, sacrifice for the greater good, stay informed and engaged with the world at large, and set an example for others to follow. You must constantly monitor those who have been elected to lead our Nation. If you feel our Nation has drifted off course, you must speak up and say so. You each have a voice inside you. Work very hard to find it, listen to it and act upon it.
Today we elect a new leader for our Country. You came with your dad and me ten days ago and watched as we cast our votes for the first person of color to ever be nominated on a major party ticket. This morning you watched Barack and Michelle Obama as they cast their ballots live on television. I believe it is not the fact that Barack Obama is black that is of importance today. But rather the fact that we have been privileged enough to watch a man transcend his race while so many expected him to fail. He has done all that I have asked of you in the paragraphs above. When you remember this day, I pray you remember a man who lived up to the responsibilities of his blessings and then changed the world. I expect nothing less of each of you in whatever way, large or small, you are able.
I Love You Always,
Monday, November 3, 2008
Halloween in Stepford was, um, let’s say … interesting. My husband seriously “frowned” upon my planned Sarah Palin costume. I mean seriously frowned. I haven’t been happily married for over twenty years because I make a habit of doing things he seriously frowns upon. I’ve drawn the line a few times, but he’s a pretty reasonable guy so I acquiesced ... within reason.
My husband called from the car to tell me he was twenty minutes out just as my daughter—the Devil—and I were leaving the house. I told him “no worries,” that we would still be only a few houses down when he arrived, because I knew we’d spend at least some time chatting with the neighbors who had gathered out in front of their homes at the end of our street. Since my Palin costume was vetoed, I decided I would go as an understated Yellow Dog Democrat. I wore my new chocolate brown Obama ’08 t-shirt, my husband’s favorite jeans that might, truth be told, be a half size too small, and of course, I put our beautiful yellow lab on his leash to take him with us.
We stopped at our next-door neighbor’s house first. I like these people. They are kind and friendly and sweet to my kids. I view them as “Good Republicans.” I stopped to speak to the man while the Devil skipped up the sidewalk to get candy from the wife. The man says, very kindly, “Well, I had been wondering if you were the one who took your Obama sign down because you had come to your senses, but I can see that may not be the case.” I laughed and said, “No, my Obama sign was taken from me and I am, indeed, still an Obama girl.” He laughed and we moved on. Just as we were crossing the street, my husband’s mid-life convertible sports car pulled up in front of our house. Our eyes met and he gave me his “Seriously?” look. I beamed. He smiled a bit, in spite of himself.
Things were going well when two streets and fifteen minutes later, who does the Devil spy with her little eyes, but Sarah Palin. Not my version of Palin either ... the “I seriously want to be Sarah Palin” version. The Stepford Wife version. The Devil, bless her little soul, ran right up to Sarah and said, “Sarah! Look at my mom!” My husband shot me a look that needed no words. I was to play nice for the Devil. Sometimes having kids is very damned inconvenient.
So Sarah looks at me and I can see it in her eyes—she thinks I’m not for real. How stupid can you be? I knew immediately she was not a Tina Fey version of Palin. So Sarah grabs her dad, who has a very expensive looking camera, and says “Hey dad, get a picture of me and the Obama supporter,” and when she says “Obama supporter,” she uses air quotes. Yes, air quotes. You know the very same air quotes McCain used in the third debate when he mocked the health of the mother when discussing a woman’s right to choose?
At this point, I’m just trying to breathe. Sarah bounces over to me and purposely places herself on my right side while saying something to the effect of “I’ll let you stand on the left.” Sarah’s dad says, “Smile! This may be in the paper tomorrow!” Sarah says, “Wait! Let’s hold up peace signs together in a show unity.” I said as quietly and seriously as I could, “I don’t think I can do that.” The camera flashed and Sarah looked at me and said, “You’re for real?” I said, avoiding my husband’s eyes “Yes. Are you?” She said in a cheerleady voice, “Yes! Vote McCain!” And off she bounced. Good Lord. Even in Stepford this was almost too much.
The Devil was highly amused by the whole exchange, so at least I had apparently done my motherly duty. However, my husband indicated that I had been subtly “rude.” I let him know that I had all but been assaulted by Sarah, and that under the circumstances, he should be at least relieved, if not happy with my behavior. I brooded over this for the next two streets. Pouted about it actually. Thought about throwing a full-blown temper tantrum about it once the Devil was tucked into bed. And then something happened that made it all okay. As we neared the end of our trick or treating route, we came upon a home with an Obama ’08 sign in the yard.
The Devil all but danced to the doorway to ring the bell while my husband, the dog, and I waited on the sidewalk. When the lady opened the door, the Devil yelled, “TRICK OR TREAT! YOUR OBAMA SIGN ROCKS!” The lady looked up from the Devil and saw me. She smiled, waved, and held up the peace sign. I returned the favor.
I think my little Devil rocks as well.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I’ve made no secret of how much I loathe Sarah Palin. She has gotten under my skin in a way Newt Gringrich could only dream of. Dick Cheney and George Bush can only aspire to achieve the level of agitation that Sarah produces. Really, the only other person that is even in same league with Sarah is that purveyor of political pornography, Ann Coulter. However, even Ann Coulter can’t hold my ire like Palin.
It has not been lost on me that Sarah has actually been good for me in one small way. She has, after all, compelled my compulsion to write to whole new level. And because of this, much to my surprise, a few people have actually started reading what I write. So, because I typically try to show my appreciation to those who do something nice for me, I’d like to offer the following to Sarah as a thank you gift. May it serve her well.
A Reference Dictionary for Sarah Palin
Liberal (lib-er-uhl): noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
This is kind of like being a maverick, except you actually reform something.
Vice President: the officer of this rank who is elected at the same time as the President and who succeeds to the presidency on the resignation, removal, death, or disability of the President.
This is kind of like being the first runner-up in a beauty pageant, except you can cause damage to the entire free world if you’re not up for this job.
Newspaper: a publication issued at regular and usually close intervals, especially daily or weekly, and commonly containing news, comment, features, and advertising.
In case you ever need some examples: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal.
American: of or pertaining to the United States of America or its inhabitants; an American citizen.
Please note there is no distinction between ”real” Americans and whatever, might possibly be, the alternative. See “American citizen.”
Pit Bull: A strong muscular terrier of an American breed with powerful jaws, a broad skull, and short hair, originally developed for dog fighting.
Perhaps you’ve got this one down.
Terrorist: a person who terrorizes or frightens others.
See “Pit Bull” or the closest mirror.
Feminist: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
This does not mean trading on your looks.
Satire: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
See your appearance on SNL.
Barack Obama: the next President of the United States.
When my daughter was a baby, she cried. A lot. She slid out of me crying and for almost the entire first year of her life, if the child was not eating or sleeping, she was crying. She cried in the car, the grocery store, the bathtub, and church. I would have missed an entire year of sermons if not for friends who, obviously seeing how weary I was of the crying, offered to walk my daughter around and out of earshot of the congregation on Sunday mornings.
One particular friend, Janet, encouraged me to relax. Her blunt and easy manner, as she held my screaming daughter, was hard not to be attracted to. She told me more than once, “Kristi, if I did it with triplets, you can do this.” I believed her and I survived.
Later, as my daughter turned into a toddler, we attended a weekly Bible study together. My often pointed and unusual questions concerning the nature of God were trumped only by Janet. How refreshing it was to be in a room with someone who spoke her mind more than I did. What a relief it was to hear a woman I respected and admired admit, “I asked God for a baby and he had the nerve to give me three. AT ONCE.” Perhaps my sometimes ambivalent feelings about motherhood were normal after all. As I listened to Janet’s honesty, I relaxed and survived my children’s preschool years.
One Thursday morning, Janet brought my three-year-old a pair of pink cowboy boots. My daughter wore them everyday for months. Wore them with pajamas, shorts, dresses, and tutus. Janet enjoyed this very much. I have many pictures of my daughter in what have become known in my mind as the “Janet boots.” One day when my daughter becomes a mom herself, I’ll tell her stories about how Janet was a mentor-mom to me. How Janet helped me survive her screaming and how much she enjoyed those pink boots.
Later, when Janet’s triplets were about to leave for college, Janet called me late one evening. This was unusual because we didn’t have a phone call kind of relationship. She was calling because her daughter was leaving to attend college where my younger brother was attending law school. She wanted to know if my brother would mind being a kind of emergency contact in Houston, if her daughter were to need anything.
After assuring her my brother would be more than happy to provide help to her daughter if needed, we talked for a long time. Her nest was emptying all at once. All three children leaving home at the same time. She encouraged me to enjoy my children while they were at home. She knew how fast they would grow. I listened, relaxed a bit more, and have happily transitioned into being the mom of two elementary schoolers.
It’s a sunny day here in Dallas. I cannot see a single cloud in the sky. The temperature is seventy-five degrees. It would be an otherwise beautiful day, if not for one detail. You see, my friend Janet died just after lunch today. She died after fighting a long battle with breast cancer. The last time I saw her, before she eventually moved into Hospice care, I hugged her and said, “How are you?” She said, “I’m doing okay. We have it all planned out. I’ve told Jim and the kids where I want my ashes spread.” I looked at her thoughtfully and said, “Janet, you know the whole cremation thing doesn’t work for me, right? You know I really need a body to say goodbye to.” She laughed and said, “Well, too bad. I’m doing this my way.” I would have expected nothing less.
Thank you, Janet. Thank you for your kindness, your honestly, and for being my friend. I’m a better mother for having known you. I will miss you, but carry you with me always.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The day a few weeks ago, when our Obama ’08 sign arrived, it was a good day. The kids and I arrived home and we were very excited to see the cardboard box sitting on the kitchen table. I yelled to my dad in the living room (he listens to MSNBC at a decibel level I’m not sure is safe for the dog) “HEY! IS THIS OUR OBAMA SIGN?” He clicked off the television (ahhh, blessed relief) and said, “Yep! I think so. Where are going to put it?” I said, “Out front, why?” Seriously, where else would you put a yard sign? He looked surprised and then said, “Are you sure you want to do that?” My eyes narrowed and I said, “Why not?” He said, “I bet you twenty bucks it won’t still be there on Election Day.” I gave him an eye-roll and said, “Come on Dad. Bring your hammer. Kids, grab the camera.” It was a good day.
Since then, each morning I’ve walked by the sign, its mere presence lifting my mood and reminding me of the hope I feel about the upcoming election. Each night when I’ve arrived home, it’s been waiting for me, welcoming me back.
This morning I scrambled out the door with the kids, schlepping all my stuff trying to stay balanced in boots that sport a three-inch heel. I ran up the sidewalk, toward the Palinmobile and then stopped. Stock still. Not breathing, not blinking, my mind racing. The sign was gone. All that was left in the yard was one of two metal sticks. I stood staring until I heard it. A tiny sniffle from a beautiful angelic nose that stood right behind me. I turned slowly to look at my eight-year-old daughter’s face. Tears had welled up in her gorgeous light brown eyes, overflown, and were streaking across her pink cheeks. Her tiny chapped lips trembled. She turned her head and looked down the street. I knew instantly that she was looking to see if our neighbor’s McCain/Palin sign was still in their yard. When she saw that it was, a little sob escaped from her mouth. She then looked at me and whispered, “Why?”
Why, indeed. I can replace the sign. However, there is nothing that I can do to erase this experience for my daughter. Oh sure, I’ll use this as a teaching moment for tolerance and common courtesy, not even mention decency. But my heart is a little bruised that I couldn’t protect her from getting a taste of something cruel and petty.
To the Stepford Wife who I suspect is responsible for making my daughter cry: You better hope I don’t get confirmation of my suspicions. For the pen, is indeed, mightier than the sword.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I received an email this morning that has snapped the tenuous hold I had on myself until Election Day. It has been a long eight years. Eight years that have required me to converse calmly and with restraint with most people in my life. I’m smart enough to know that you catch more flies with honey, and receive more respect with intelligence than belligerence, but I am done now.
Do you hear me self-righteous, non-working, Louis-toting, Palin-loving, PTA Stepford Wives? I am done. Do not approach me, speak to me, email me, or otherwise engage me for the next seven days. You do so at your own peril. I’m no longer amused by you. And to my loyal reader who so recently commented “Just another angry Democrat,” I’d suggest you back away from the keyboard as well.
I would post the email I received this morning so that those of you who are intelligent and informed could commiserate with my pain. However, I’m refraining from doing so because, well, I don’t want this abomination going any more viral than it already has with any help from me. My description, which can in no way do this email justice, will have to suffice. The subject line was “Taxes” and the Stepford Wife’s personal introduction read “Don’t think you won’t be paying your ‘fair share’ … He plans to get all of us, one way or another.” Basically, the email was supposed to be a comparison of the McCain and Obama tax plans. That would not have been a problem. However, neither the facts attributed to Obama or McCain were accurate. Totally wrong ... no basis in fact whatsoever. What made it even worse is that I know enough personal information about this Stepford Wife to know she would be better off under Obama’s tax plan. Oh, the sad cruel irony of that.
Stepford Wives, listen up. Here’s what Kristi, the paralegal, is proposing. For those of you who are voting for McCain solely because you believe Obama will raise your taxes, I have a deal for you. Once Obama’s tax plan is in place, if you see any decrease in your taxes, don’t take it. I mean, why should you benefit for something I voted for? I’m the one who went to the polling booth, cast an informed vote, and help elect Obama. Why should you see any benefit from that at all? I mean, wouldn’t that be, oh I don’t know, a “redistribution of the benefit derived from my vote”? We wouldn’t want anything crazy like that going on. We wouldn’t want to spread the “hope” around, would we? Surely there won’t be enough Obama for us all? Surely I’m entitled to keep that all for myself ... no?
Don’t fret. I’ll reengage you after the election and be back to satirizing your frivolity by the end of next week. I’m sure your behavior in response to Election Day will provide much fodder for my keyboard. For now, I need a break.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I had a secretly Democratic Stepford Husband ask me a few weeks ago, “Do you ever feel like you’re going to wake up one morning and Al Gore is going to be finishing up his second term as President and the world will be right-side up again?” I paused at this question for quite a while.
First, it’s not everyday that you have a Stepford Husband, who also happens to be a successful attorney, mention Al Gore. Second, after the trauma of the 2000 election and all that has happened since, I have not allowed myself to play the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” game with this scenario. I am an “it is what it is” girl. I split my time between the present and the near future. I don’t spend time looking back because 1) I’m happy with where I am and I know if not for my past, my present would be different, and 2) I do all I can to live without regret—and regret lives in the past—so I don’t visit that dark place very often.
And now, after eight years, the scenario of a two-term Gore Presidency is just too far away for me to get a clear picture of in my head. I tried for a minute, but it was like trying to look through a window someone had painted black. I knew that there was something on the other side, but I was blind to it. So, I answered him honestly, almost in a whisper, shaking my head, “I can no longer imagine what that would have been like.” He nodded, as if he knew this was painful for me.
I had an overwhelming sense of sadness for the rest of that day because, well, his question prompted me to take an unscheduled road trip to regret’s hometown.
As I roll in past the city limit sign, there on the right side of the road is the best job my husband ever had. Although now, it looks like a gutted crack house, seven years after the company that had provided the job closed down. I look away, not wanting to think about the eighty-hour weeks my husband is putting in now to keep us afloat. I know if not for us—me, the kids, and my dad—he would take something, anything, that paid less.
Across the street, sitting on the curb, are the Batman and Superman action figures my then-four-year-old son insisted we carry everywhere in the weeks after 9/11. I turn my head away as I remember his big brown eyes pleading with me from the backseat “Mom! Turn around ... I left Batman and Superman. We can’t go without them.” When I protest, he tells me, “But Mom ... we can’t leave them! If they had been there to hold up the buildings, the bad day wouldn’t have happened.” My daughter doesn’t even remember the “bad day.” I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not.
I cross over a bump in the road thinking about how my dad lost his job at fifty-five and how sure he was another would follow. In the rear view mirror, I can see the remnants of his retirement account, busted open early to finish getting my brother out of college. I catch a glimpse of the roofline of the house he paid on for twenty-eight years. The same house he lost when the thirty-year note only had nine thousand dollars left on it. I speed up.
I reach the cross streets of Iraq and Katrina—the images of each melting together in my mind. Both war zones, both avoidable, both a failure of leadership. Both responsible for so much human loss and suffering. I feel a little carsick.
I move into a nicer, but bittersweet, part of town. There on a hill is the house I thought my kids would live in until they had homes of their own, the house I thought we would retire in, the house I thought I would die in. The sold sign still sits in the front yard. Sold for an additional bedroom and bath so my dad could join our family. That, at least, as been the good that has come out of the bad.
I realize I’m almost out of town. I just need to get past the line of boarded up banks on the right and foreclosed homes on the left. The fear of the economic crisis makes it hard for me to breathe. I roll up the windows hoping to keep the stench out. The uncertainty of this edge of town mocks me from the passenger’s seat. I stop, open the door, and push him out. I speed off before he can get back in. He chases after me. I can hear his footsteps.
I cross out of town and back into the present. And there on an election sign in my new front yard, the sun shining its gossamer rays down upon it, is something audacious. HOPE. And while I can’t change the past, I know I can affect the future. One letter, one syllable, one word, one article, one reader at a time.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Dear Right-Wing Republicans,
You have some articles that belong to me and I would like to politely ask you to return them. I’m not exactly sure how it is that you ended up with them, but as long as they are promptly returned, unaltered, unharmed, and in their original condition, I’m willing to not ask any further questions. I don’t want this request to take on an accussory tone, so I’d like to explain to you why these articles are so important to me and why it is in your best interest, as well as that of the Nation, for you to return the articles you’ve taken. I’m sure upon some serious self-reflection; you’ll agree it is of the utmost importance that you immediately and without hesitation release them back to their original owner. The articles in question are as follows:
Article III. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Please stop pretending this applies only to white Evangelical Christians. It also applies to Muslims, Jews, Agnostics, and Atheists, as well as anyone and everyone in between. And while I’m on the subject, I know a particular United Methodist that would also like you to release Jesus. He has some social justice work to do that has been severely neglected since you absconded with him during the Reagan Revolution.
Article IV. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Please stop pretending like this does not apply to private telephone conversations. It does. I understand you’re worried that people may be talking about you, but that does not supercede this Article. If you’ll play nicer, they may talk about you less.
Article X. “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel, and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Even if you set the last eight years aside, your mere nomination of Sarah Palin constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Article XIV. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
I need this Article back along with the my penumbra before you succeed in completely outlawing a women’s right to choose—even in the most heinous and hearbreaking of circumstances.
Very Truly Yours,
The Constitution of the United States of America
P.S. If it is too uncomfortable for you to drop these Articles off to me directly, I understand. Please just leave them with Barack Obama on your way out of Washington.
Monday, October 20, 2008
My whole life, I’ve been accused of being too serious. I confess this is umm, probably, mostly ... okay, okay … it’s totally true. My kids have lightened me up considerably. However, I am still very serious about lots of things. I’m fiercely loyal, have an obsession with social justice, and am compulsive about seeking out whether or not the people I know or come into contact with have any substance.
I’ve been accused of being aloof and that’s probably fair. I like to observe people before committing to as much as a conversation. I’m not a grocery-line talker or a ladies fitting-room chit chatter. I can be charming, but I’m really not good at frivolity. And Stepford is nothing if not frivolous.
Okay, so it’s through this lens of substance-seeking that I view the world. It has shaped my love-hate relationship with Stepford and created the environment where I can count on one hand the number of people whom I actually call my friends. There are lots more people who I’m friendly with, but when I says friends, I mean someone I would actually wake up in the middle of the night if I needed something and who I wouldn’t curse if they called and woke me up. It is also the lens through which I view Sarah Palin. Hmmm … it has been a less than flattering lens to use on her.
My reaction to her surprised even me. It was immediate, harsh, and unyielding. I was, for lack of a more eloquent word, revolted. Now, my rational brain told me that this was ridiculous, that I shouldn’t feel any worse about her than I do, say Dick Cheney … or George Bush. My rational brain also told me that my overreaction to Palin should be telling me something about myself. Hmmm … now this is getting interesting. I love introspection. So for the last seven weeks while I’ve been ranting, raving, and throwing what we call in Texas a “hissy fit” about Palin, my brain has been working over time trying to put my finger on exactly what it is about Palin, besides the obvious, that has nearly made me lose my mind.
As with most things in my life that I over analyze, the answer felt tantalizingly close, on the tip of my tongue, my fingers brushing against it as I reached out to grab it, a dream that faded from my memory quickly upon awakening, a familiar face I just couldn’t place. Until … Saturday night. I hadn’t planned on watching Palin on Saturday Night Live. However, my husband really wanted to see it, so I watched. The opening segment elicited nothing more than an eye-roll from me as Alec Baldwin told Palin, “You’re so much hotter in person.” Seriously, can we pleeeease stop talking about how “hot” the potential Vice-President is? Can we not show a little respect at least for the office? At this point, my husband fell asleep and I went back to my book.
Then the Weekend Update began and I once again turned my attention to the television. Palin feigned changing her mind about the rap she had planned to do and Amy Poeler agreed to step in. Poeler then began her rap about Alaska. And then it happened … the camera cutting to Palin as Poeler rapped … Palin dancing in her seat, raising the roof, giving an “Ayers” to Poeler’s “Obama” … and the allusiveness of my outrage revealed itself as nothing more than this—familiarity. Oh yes, no doubt, Palin’s deficits in education and experience, her out of touch policy stances, her dialect, all that still bothers me … would be enough on its own to make me speak out against her. But what was making me lose my ever loving mind was the surface-level similarities between us.
Her age, her brunette hair, her goateed husband, her children, her clothes … her SUV … all of it was just too much like me. EXCEPT … I can’t find any substance. I keep looking and I don’t see it. And for me, there would be nothing worse than looking in the mirror and seeing no substance beyond the hair and makeup … looking in the mirror and seeing nothing more than an average everyday Stepford Wife. So, has my objective opinion of Palin changed? No, not a bit. But now that I’ve located the source of my revulsion, I can relax, content in the knowledge that just because I think Palin is all hat and no cattle, I am under no obligation to be the same.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
There’s an old joke in Texas that goes like this: “What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican in Texas?” Answer: “A thin layer of paint.” As with most jokes, there is an underlying element of truth or the joke wouldn’t be, well, funny. And so it goes with this joke. However, there are parts of Texas where being a Democrat is not usually spoken of in polite social circles. Where being a Democrat is viewed with suspicion and with the assumption that the Democrat in question must be, well, (gasp!) a liberal.
I’ve always been amused, and yes, occasionally irritated, at the reactions I’ve received in Stepford upon revealing I’m a Democrat. There is always a great deal of confusion of how exactly it is that someone who chooses to lead a personally very conservative life could have politically liberal views. However, for the most part, I’ve been amazed at the lack of understanding that exists regarding exactly what it is that Democrats actually believe. So with the help of the Democratic Party of Stepford County (yes, one actually exists), I’d like to share with you what we believe. I’m hoping that by sharing this list, it will make us scary liberals a little less scary and perhaps illustrate, in this very divisive political environment, that Red and Blue, Republican and Democrat, Conservative and Liberal do not necessarily disagree on everything. We may disagree on the path we would like to take to achieve our goals, but at the end of the day, perhaps there really are more things that unite us than divide us.
Government can be as good as the people. We have faith that democracy, built on the sacred values of family, freedom, and fairness, can afford every citizen, without exception, the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential.
Democratic government exists to achieve as a community, state, and nation what we cannot achieve as individuals; and that it must not serve only a powerful few.
Every citizen has inalienable rights that even a majority may not take away:
the right to vote
the right to fair and open participation and representation in the democratic process
the right to privacy
We believe in freedom—
from government interference in our private lives and personal decisions
to exercise civil and human rights
of religion and individual conscience
We believe in equal opportunity for all citizens—
to receive a quality public education, from childhood through college
to have access to affordable health care
to find a good job with dignity
to buy or rent a good home in a safe community
to breathe clean air and drink clean water
We believe a growing economy should benefit all citizens—
that the people who work in a business are as important as those who invest in it
that every person should be paid a living wage
that no person who works full time should be paid a wage below the poverty level
that good business offers a fair deal for customers
that the burden of taxes should be fairly distributed
that government policy should not favor corporations that seek offshore tax shelters, exploit workers, or pollute our environment
We believe that our lives, homes, communities, and country are made secure—
by cooperative efforts of involved citizens, law enforcement, and emergency personnel
by retirement and pension security
by encouraging job security where it is possible and providing appropriate assistance and re-training when it is not
by the preservation of our precious natural resources and quality of life
by compassionate policy that offers a safety net for those most vulnerable and in need.
We believe America is made stronger by the men and women who put their lives on the line when it is necessary to engage our military to secure our nation.
We believe America is made more secure by competent diplomatic leadership that uses the moral, ethical, and economic assets of a powerful, free nation to avoid unnecessary military conflict.
We believe in the benefits derived from the individual strengths of our diverse population. We honor “family values” through policies that value all our families.
We believe an honest, ethical government that serves the public interest, and not the special interests, will help all citizens realize economic and personal security.
We believe many challenges require national solutions, but talented and resourceful state citizens, blessed with economic opportunities provided by agriculture, “old” and “new” energy sources, renowned medical and research institutions, and high tech industries, should not need federal action to make progress in providing quality education, affordable health care, a clean environment, economic growth, and good jobs.
Based on our belief in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, we recommend specific policy goals to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Granddaddy this week. He died twelve years ago and I still miss him terribly. I particularly miss him at election time. He taught me as a child that “we” were “Yellow Dog Democrats.” He explained to me that “we” would vote for an old stray yellow dog in the street before “we” would vote for a Republican. He would laugh every time he said it. It wasn’t until later that I realized that by “we,” he meant he and hopefully, me, once I was old enough to vote.
And once I was an adult, we did talk a lot about politics. And before anyone gets the idea that my Granddaddy was some sort of straight-ticket voting, closed-minded liberal, hold on a second, because he wasn’t. Despite his self-proclaimed Yellow Dog status, he occasionally voted for Republicans, mostly on the state or local level, every now and then for someone he knew personally. But basically, he was a Democrat and voted as such. He taught me to care about politics and that voting was a privilege and a right that he had taken a bullet for one sunny afternoon in Italy during World War II. He was fond of reminding me, “If that bullet had hit two more inches to the left, you wouldn’t have to worry about what you were going to wear tomorrow.”
He had a fabulously serious sense of humor and he passed that along to me. He was a good, honest, tolerant, decent, hard-working man who loved his country and cared about basic fairness. He wore an American Flag pin on his lapel until the day in 1996 when he died. He always drove a Chrysler, for which he paid cash. I stood at his bedside and held his hand as he took his last breaths with seventy-five-year-old lungs that had been overtaken by cancer. His crystal blue eyes had clouded over twelve hours before as he slipped into a coma. The last words I spoke to him were, “I love you” and his last words to me were, “I love you too, Babydoll. And don’t you forget everything I’ve tried to teach you.” I wish that I could have responded with “I won’t,” but my sobs closed my throat. He signaled he knew what I meant by squeezing my hand. It’s still hard for me that he is gone.
So, a lot has happened in my life in the last twelve years. I’ve become a mother of two wonderful children and I’ve set about the task of teaching them the important lessons my Granddaddy taught me. We talk about politics, social issues, the war, the economy—lots of serious stuff. And we talk about all of these things with a great deal of humor and sarcasm. My eleven-year-old son has gotten pretty good with understanding and coming back at me with a sense of humor. My eight-year-old daughter struggles a bit because she is a more literal child. However, both of my children have a good sense of basic fairness and tolerance. I’m extremely proud of their developing sense of social justice.
I’m raising my children in Stepford because it is a safe place with good schools and nice neighborhoods. I’m fortunate to be able to do so. Stepford is certainly not the real world. The median household annual income is over $100,000 per year and the majority of those households only have one working adult. It’s not Beverly Hills, but no one I know is having to choose between buying groceries or putting gas in their SUV.
I’ve been writing on DivineCaroline for just over a year now. DivineCaroline has given me a wonderful outlet for expressing myself and it has been a wonderful form of therapy. I’ve met a lot of talented writers, some who are like-minded and some who are not. I’ve met and enjoyed interacting with thinking men and women who bring me new ideas to mull over and consider. Some I accept, some I reject. However, I always try to do this with an open mind and even if I disagree, a kind heart. If I read an article that upsets my sensibilities, I move on and usually don’t make it habit of reading that writer’s subsequent submissions. Chit Chats are a bit different ... they are meant to be an exchange of ideas and if someone’s post is offensive to me, I’ll let them know.
Now, thanks to the fact that one of my recent Stepford articles was included in DivineCaroline’s Digest, my writing has received a lot of attention in the last week. Understandably, because of my views concerning Sarah Palin, not everyone who has read my articles has appreciated my sense of humor or my opinions. I get that and because I choose to live in Stepford, I’m used to it.
What I’m not used to is being labeled as angry, intolerant, or close-minded. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I’m rebelling against in Stepford is not that the Stepford Wives are Republicans or Palin supporters. I’m rebelling against the fact that they assume that I am the same and act as if there is something defective about me because I am not.
I had a secretly Democratic Stepford Husband who had seen my “Obama ’08” sign whisper to me, “Why do you bother in Stepford?” I’ve really thought about this question. Why bother? Why not just go to the voting booth on Election Day and quietly cast my vote? This morning while reading some of the less than kind and very personal comments that have been left about my admittedly biting articles regarding Sarah Palin, I’ve thought “Why bother?” I’ve often thought while casting a national vote in Texas, “Why bother? The State will be red no matter if you vote or not.” And every time I get asked or ask myself why I bother, I think of my Granddaddy. I think of him teaching me “Every vote matters. Every voice matters. No matter if that vote is cast for the winner or the loser. No voice lifted ever goes unheard.”
So, to those of you that I have offended, perhaps my writing isn’t for you. To those of you who enjoy it, I’ll continue to bother as long as you continue to read.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I’ve gone temporarily insane … at least I hope its temporary. If I awake on November 5th to find that Sarah Palin is replacing Dick Cheney, I’m sure my insanity will be permanent. I’m obsessed with Palin. Something deep inside my being is so completely revolted by her that my normally composed exterior is cracking. I can’t live like this much longer. I’ve completely lost the finely crafted filter that I’ve spent my entire adult life developing. My mouth is betraying me. My Republicanesque exterior, so necessary for surviving in Stepford, is peeling back. I’m saying things I would have previously only thought, written, or at least whispered to a safe audience. Cases in point:
1. This morning, just as I was pulling into the parking garage at my office building, my cell phone rang. On the line was a like-minded friend and I immediately tore off into a post-debate rant concerning Palin. I was so completely absorbed in this conversation that I hardly noticed my walk into the building or stepping into the elevator. Under normal circumstances, I’m a “I’ll call you later, I’m getting into the elevator” kind of girl. Not today. Today I barely noticed the five other people in the elevator as I hopped in. That is until I slapped my flip phone shut after saying something to the effect of “If that bitch in pumps gets elected, this country deserves what it gets.” At this point, I realized in the sudden silence created because I finally shut the hell up, that these five people were all staring at me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. What’s worse is that I knew instantly they were thinking that I was the “bitch in pumps.” I slunk out onto the tenth floor thankful none of the five followed me.
2. Last night, my eight-year-old daughter and I arrived home after her soccer practice just in time to catch the beginning of the debate ... and unfortunately, complete her second grade Tall Tales project on someone named Library Lil. I don’t think for a single solitary second there was ever a Tall Tale written about someone named Library Lil. I mean c’mon people—Johnny Appleseed. That dude that rode around on a blue ox, sure. But Library Lil? Whatever, I digress. While working on construction paper cutouts of Ms. Lil’s books I was listening to the debate and giving a running commentary, out loud, to myself … apparently forgetting my daughter was right beside me and listening. Now, as far as I remember, I kept the profanity in check, but that was about it. I had commented on her clothes, her hair, her voice, her dialect (I can actually “do” a pretty good Palin), her confusing and maddening sentence structure, anything slightly or outrageously inaccurate she said about Obama, you get the picture.
Then my daughter says: “Mom, why don’t you like her?”
Me, checking myself: “Well, the main reason is because I don’t think she is qualified to be Vice-President.”
My daughter: “What does qualified mean?”
Me: “I don’t think she knows enough to do a good job.”
My daughter: “She’s pretty.”
Me: “Yes, but being Vice-President isn’t about being pretty. You have to be smart and have a lot of experience.”
My daughter: “Soooo, it’s kinda like she has a fat, ugly brain?”
And me, before the filter could kick in: “It’s exactly like that.”
Not my best parenting moment. Thanks, Sarah.
3. I’ve recently had to get rid of my minivan. I’m still grieving it and it’s possible that I’m a little bitter. My husband needed what he calls a “commuter car” and I needed him to stop putting $500 a month in gasoline into the Chevy Avalanche he bought last year before gas hit $4 a gallon. So, I inherited the Avalanche since my commute is less than half of his. I call it the Palinmobile. Anyway, I play this little game with myself while commuting each day where I count the number of Obama or McCain bumper stickers I see on other cars. I have been overjoyed that even in Texas I see way more Obama stickers than I do McCain stickers. There are those days, however, that I see more McCain stickers than I would like, and yesterday while on my way home was one them.
I had just pulled into Stepford when I saw it—a minivan exactly like the one I had just surrendered that had been defiled in a previously unprecedented way. The minivan had five McCain/Palin stickers circling the bumper ... three on the back and, for some bizarre reason, one on each side of the front. Then, there were two “Drill, Baby, Drill” stickers on the back glass, one on each side. The grand finale was the “Palin!” sticker that sat in between the two on the back glass. I was horrified.
Further complicating my issue was that the light in front of me turned red and I pulled up directly beside the van. I looked into the driver’s side window to see a typical Stepford Wife behind the wheel. She turned and met my gaze which must have been a sight to see because she immediately rolled down her window as if she was going to speak to me. Sooo, I rolled down my passenger side window to see what possibly this chick might want. And then she committed her fatal error. She wrinkled her nose, pursed her lips, and said “May I help you with something!?” And before I knew it, I said, “No, I was just wondering who you pissed off that they would have pimped your van like that.” If she had been carrying a concealed weapon, I’m sure I would have gotten acquainted with it right away.
Thanks again, Sarah.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Last week while ordering my super-cute, chocolate-brown “Obama ’08” football tee that I’m planning to wear to every Stepford soccer game from now until election day, I instant messaged a friend of mine who has not yet realized she is a Democrat. I offered to purchase her a tee shirt, to which I received an overly polite “No, thank you.” I was feeling particularly mischievous that day, so I continued offering everything on the Obama ’08 Web site until she “hung up” on our chat session.
Well, today I paid the price for that little bit of fun. If you read my “Oh No You Didn’t” Stepford Story, you know I’m constantly forced to interact with Republicans who could care less they are offending me. Well, this morning the attack came from my friend, who knew exactly what she was doing. I’m not sure what got her Stepford thong in a knot, but she took it out on me. What follows in this article is my actual instant message conversation, only edited for spelling, punctuation, and the removal of her name for her own protection.
Her: “Okay, I know you’re not a Sarah Palin fan, but there was a spread on the whole McCain/Palin thing in People a couple of weeks ago and Sarah had on these ROCKIN’ shoes. Unfortunately I threw away the magazine and can’t find the picture on the People Web site. Any suggestions?”
(“McCain/Palin thing”? It’s a “thing?? Yeah, I have some suggestions.)
Me, taking a deep breath: “I have absolutely no problem with her shoes. I actually really like the way she dresses ... those shoes were on the front page of the Wall Street Journal—red patent leather peep toe pumps. Don’t remember where they came from, but I am SURE with all the media coverage on her Japanese glasses that if you Googled ‘Sarah Palin’s shoes,’ they would pop up.”
(Two short minutes later.)
Her: “I LOVE Google!!!!!”
Me, with an eye roll: “Me too.”
Her: “BUMMER!!!! Zappos is not offering my size.”
Me, exasperated that so many women have apparently ordered these shoes they are in short supply: “And why do you think that is? There is a two-month wait on her glasses.”
(Three blessed minutes of silence ...)
Her: “I’m on the phone with the boutique in Alaska where she bought them and am putting in my ‘hold’ for their next shipment. The brand of shoes is ‘The Naughty Monkey.’ I told her she needed to open another boutique in Stepford.”
(Father in Heaven, I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve this, but I assure you I am very, very, VERY, sorry ...)
Me: “I may not be able to talk to you until November 3rd.”
Her: “You HAVE to look up this shoe line. It’s incredible.”
Me: “I’m about to unfriend you.”
Her: “I seriously need ALL of these shoes ...”
Me: “You seriously need someone to throw some cold water on you.”
Her: “Did you SEE the Web site?”
Me: “Noooooo. Out of principle I’m unable to click the link.”
Her: “You’re seriously missing out.”
(Umkay ... I’m done … I can’t take it anymore.)
Me: “How could I possibly wear the exact pair of shoes that she wears without that making me a hypocrite? I’ve only dissed her and her sanctimonious pumps under my real name on a national Web site.”
Her: “You dissed her shoes?!”
(OMG! It’s seriously okay if I dis the VP candidate on the Republican ticket for which she is voting, but NOT her shoes?)
Me: “Well, I’ve referred to her pumps on several occasions and how if her updo gets any taller, it will be an actual bee hive.”
Her: “Okay, I agree the hair needs some attention, but HOW could you dis her SHOES?!”
(Umkay ... it really is the dissing of the shoes that is offending her. I’m so sorry, but I have to say this.)
Me: “BECAUSE SHE IS F’ING WEARING THEM!”
Her: “It’s not the shoes’ fault that you don’t like her.”
(How, how in the Hell can I make this stop?)
Me: “True, but it doesn’t mean I want to wear the ‘signature’ shoes of someone I so publicly and fundamentally disagree with and could possibly—God help us all—be President.”
Her: “I’ll let you swoon over mine when I get them.”
(WHERE is that letter opener?! If I don’t find something to poke my own eyes out with soon, I’m going to scream.)
Me: “And I’ll allow you to silently enjoy the improvement in the well-being of our Nation when we ship her and her Naughty Monkeys back to BFA.”
Her: “Or I’ll buy you a pair when she moves into the VP house in Washington.”
(Is it even worth mentioning the Vice President lives at Number One Observatory Circle and they don’t call it the “VP house”?)
Me: “Make sure you buy me your own size, ’cause I won’t be wearing them.”
Her: “You’re going to be jealous!”
Me: “Very doubtful.”
(Okay, enough! It’s time for a threat.)
Me: “I’m about to cut and paste our conversation for my next Stepford Story.”
Her: “You can use my real name.”
Me: “You shouldn’t say things you don’t mean.”
Her: “As long as you’re not dissing ME ...”
(OH LORD ... by definition, if you get a Stepford Story written about you—you’re being dissed.)
Me: “Publishing this conversation would be read as dissing you. So, because I love you, in spite of your misguided shoe fetish, I won’t.”
Her: “Now, see, you’re assuming that people wouldn’t see MY side?”
(AAHHH … I’m going to hyperventilate at any moment.)
Me: “Okie dokie, that’s fair enough. I’m going to publish it, not using your name just in case I’m right and you’re not and we’ll see how it comes out, deal?”
And there you go—just another day in the lovely, “unsuperficial,” high-minded city of Stepford.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I may harm myself before the election gets here. Truly the only thing worse than being a working mother in Stepford is being a Democrat in Stepford. So needless to say, since I am both, sharp objects seem to be calling my name. I was doing pretty well this election cycle … right up until the Republican Party nominated a Stepford Wife for Vice President. Sitting at my desk reading the announcement, all I could think was “Uh oh. Here we go.” So, the last two weeks having pretty much been a living Hell. I’m trying to get my groove back, so I’ve decided to share the eight most ridiculous things said to my face by people I know regarding politics this year:
1) From my mother: “I think we can at least agree that Cindy McCain has the most beautiful clothes.”
I responded, “Yes, mom, billionaires tend to dress well.”
2) From my husband who apparently never wants sex from me again: “That’s John McCain’s wife? She’s hot.”
Umkay … and you are attracted to me because … ?
3) Again, from my mother, the most ironic sentence ever uttered in the history of mankind: “Kristi, Obama is such a racist and if I have to look at Michelle’s lips for four years I’ll vomit in the trash can.”
Upside? I’m living proof racism is not a genetic disorder.
4) From my husband: “Kristi, I think you’re overlooking why Sarah Palin might be appealing to some people.”
WTF? I only live in a community where every woman thinks they are her. The remainder of this conversation did not go well.
5) From my mother: “Let me tell you one thing, my little Sarah came out a swingin’!”
Your little Sarah? What followed, I will admit, was nothing short of a screaming throw down over Palin.
6) From a friend’s mother over Easter Brunch: “I think its pretty clear Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ.”
After receiving my blank stare, which is my standard “OMG that is so ridiculous I can’t find words” response, she followed up with “Oprah has started her own religion.”
Good to know.
7) From a coworker: “Did you see Hannity and Combs last night?”
I followed that question with the obligatory blank stare and “Uhhh, no. What channel is that? Oh, Fox. No, I missed it.” I then proceeded to the restroom and talked myself out of jumping from my tenth floor office window.
8) From a friend’s child: “My daddy says Obama is a thief and he is going to steal all our money.”
This is child abuse.
Here is how I’m keeping myself sane until Halloween. I’ve ordered a hot pink “I AM Sarah Palin” tee shirt off the web and am planning to wear it with a bee hive hairdo, pumps, a pig nose, glasses, and red lipstick while handing out candy to my neighbor’s children on Halloween. I doubt anyone will notice. Of course, there is also the possibility that I will get no trick-or-treaters at all due to the Obama 2008 sign in the front yard.
Friday, September 12, 2008
We don’t wear no mini skirts,
We just wear our soccer shirts.
We don’t play with Barbie dolls,
We just play with Soccer balls.
And so begins my eight-year-old daughter’s soccer team chant. It’s a little different from the “Firecracker, Firecracker, Boom, Boom, Boom” hip-shaking cheer I was doing at her age and that’s just fine with me. Another difference between my daughter and me is the fact that I never heard the term “sexism” as a child. However, two days ago she asked me what it was and I did my best to explain it to her. She, of course, heard this term on the news this week. I had actually expected the question to come from my eleven-year-old son since he is now at the age where even the slightest inference of sex makes his ears perk up. Alas, it was my daughter and I felt prepared and qualified enough to discuss the topic with her. After all, I’m college educated and a professional working woman. What I felt utterly unprepared for was explaining to her exactly how sexism applies to Sarah Palin. She hasn’t asked about Sarah Palin yet, so I left that part of the discussion for another day. The conversation did get me thinking and whenever that happens, writing usually follows.
So, lots of accusations about Sarah Palin being the victim of sexism have been tossed out for us, the American voters, to chew on this week. I’ve paused more than once to really think about this. I admit, I’ve had more than a little difficulty wrapping my mind around what exactly it is that is going on here. After careful and thoughtful analysis, I’ve determined that the reason I’m having a hard time with this is that I don’t have a word in my vocabulary that describes what I’m observing. It’s definitely not sexism. The American Heritage Dictionary defines sexism as “The belief that one sex (usually the male) is naturally superior to the other and should dominate most important areas of political, economic, and social life.” Nope, she’s definitely not suffering from sexism. Actually, it seems to me that she is suffering (Read: benefiting) from a perverted twisting of sexism that I don’t have a name for.
Here are my observations and questions related to this:
1) Is it actually sexism to choose a woman for a job just because she’s a woman? If the answer to this is yes, then I have to conclude that Tim Pawlenty is actually the one who has been the victim of sexism and not Sarah Palin. Palin it seems has been the beneficiary rather than the victim.
2) When Palin went on national television and described herself as a hockey mom and then further went on to say the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick, is that sexism? I mean certainly no one would ever say the only difference between a hockey dad and a pit bull is lipstick.
3) Is using the phrase “lipstick on a pig” sexism? If the answer is yes, is it the “pig” part or the “lipstick” part that is sexism? If it is the “pig” part, I’m going to have to stop using the phrase “happy as a pig in the sunshine.” If it is the “lipstick” part, Palin needs to stop telling her pit bull joke. Oh wait, maybe it is the combination of pigs and lipstick that makes this remark sexist? If the answer to that is yes, what on God’s green earth does any of that have to do with the economy, health care, the war, or taxes?
Here’s the point. Sarah Palin can’t have it both ways. She can’t put on the “Mantle of Motherhood” in her national political debut and then expect no one to ask questions about how she mothers and governs at the same time. She can’t be the “Pit bull” of the Republican Party and expect no criticism to come back her way. She can’t disclose the name, rank, unit, and deployment date of her son, as admirable as that may be, and expect no one to ask about her pregnant daughter. She can’t just say she’s qualified to be Vice President. She must open herself up to the media like McCain, Obama, and Biden have done. And come to think about it, like Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama have also done. And if the media asks her tough questions, here’s a news flash: they are doing their jobs, not attacking her because she is a woman or a conservative. Sarah, if you can’t run with the big dogs, you need to get back on the porch with the Barbies, I mean, puppies. Surely the pit bull hockey mom, rifle shooting, moose-stew eating Sarah Palin isn’t going to turn out to be whiner. After all, as she should know by now, there is no place for whining in hockey, motherhood, or politics.