Monday, December 10, 2007

Gender Disrespect, or Low Self Esteem?

Why are so many people dis-satisfied with who they are?

After numerous false starts to this blog post, I open with the above question: is it true self dis-satisfaction, or is it reactionary immediacy that brings people to spend huge amounts of money, and risk unhealthy side effects by changing their looks?

With sarcasm and humor I approached this topic because as a woman of middle years I too find that I spend more time being concerned with this wrinkle or that streak of gray in my hair. I often justify this by saying I have lived with this face and hair for 55+ years and I am taking observant steps at retaining the looks that I have appreciated all of my life. Yet is are my small vanities the same as augmentation or full plastic surgery? Is taking care of what you have the first steps to altering who you are? I personally don't think so - I think there is a line to be drawn between keeping up your appearance and altering it because you can not stand to live in your body.

Is it disrespect for gender that rushes women to breast enhancement? Is it disrespect that makes people think that they must look one way or another? I recently watched a program about employment opportunities in China. The program followed one young professional woman who believed that she had reached the Chinese equivalent of the glass ceiling in her career. The reasons had nothing to do with her gender, they had to do with her appearance. The woman profiled believed that the competition in the work place was so fierce, in order to get ahead in her field, she would need to have exceptional looks. In Chinese white collar hierarchy, that translates to "a more Western look". The woman in the program under went plastic surgery to improve her skin, give her eye folds more of a westerners look. She also had extensive cosmetic surgery done to her mouth, so her 'bite' would not be so prominent.

The problems of dis-satisfaction with who we are are not confined to the United States. Plastic surgery and body enhancement is a bigger business in Asia than in the USA or Europe. How did the Chinese so quickly come to the same spot as American woman have? Is it pursuit of money that makes people desperate to conform to whatever the populist concepts of 'beauty'?

Does this have anything to do with beauty at all?

No one, especially when young, is perfectly happy with how they look. People with curly hair pay to straighten it. People with straight hair pay to curl it. People with too little hair seek to thicken it, those with lots of hair seek to reduce it.
And no one likes their body when it first goes into bloom. However, many of us grow to appreciate who we are, we like our small physical idiosyncrasies, we embrace our individuality. Once we develop our own sense of style, we become more ourselves.
We do not understand how so many people can be searching for the perfection that is truly, nonexistent.

It is difficult to ask of Americans, who have been pampered for decades from whence comes this dis-satisfaction when China, the land of equality for all comrades has fallen prey to the same problems. If China was not able to instill self worth in it's citizenry, how can it be expected of 'gotta have it now' Americans?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tits Up

Somehow the topic of TITS has been pretty high on the list of many people these days.

My friend Staci Backauskas of Tampa emailed to talk about something she was working on, an essay about a promotion being done on either a TV or radio station in Tampa FL. The promo, actually a contest, has the dubious title of "Jingle Jugs".
Apparently, 12 "lucky" women will be chosen from all entrants, to receive breast augmentation, just in time for the Holidays!

Where to start, where to start....

A local group of concerned mothers, calling themselves The Carmel Moms, have appealed to Victoria's Secret to tone down the soft porn look of their display windows in a local walking mall. The "Moms" are concerned because they do not wish to explain the clothing on the mannequins in the store windows to their toddlers or preteen kids. The Moms also believe that while trying to teach their kids sexual values, it is hard to do so when sex and what to wear when or to have sex is confronted by those same kids in the ubiquitous store front windows. Personally, censorship is a touchy issue. I don't like being censored and our constitution says that we all have the right to free speech. I am not sure if that right extends to inappropriate clothing choices being flaunted in malls though. My take on this is if the clothing can't be worn in the mall, then it doesn't belong in the store window at the mall. It is inappropriate attire for that time and place - so why market it out in the open. Surely, every adult man and woman knows that Victoria Secret sells intimate apparel.
They also know that if someone wants to pump up their tits, (or lack of them), they can buy just such a product at Victoria's Secret (VS). I have never been able to purchase anything from VS other than panties. But since I can buy a half dozen pair of panties at a department store for what one pair from VS costs, I don't shop at VS. Not personally having a lack of breast, I don't need a pump up bra. VS is, in my opinion, one step away from having breast augmentation. It is a cry from women who feel they have missed the tit bus to get on board.

Why is it that so many people are so utterly dis-satisfied with their own selves that they would endanger their lives with breast implants anyways? And when did immediacy take precedence over common sense? Will those same plastic surgeons that implant fluid filled bags in the chests of American women also help those same women hold those droopy bags up in 15 years? Will they help those women deal with backaches that come from tits that are too big? Or will they help with the medical costs when those bags deteriorate and fill the chest cavity with saline solution or silicone?

Now we'll take this one step further: recently I read a blog by someone who said "I am now officially a FATTY. At 150 pounds I now qualify as a FAT person". Is this idiot for real? Well yes, HE is. He is considered part of obese America at 150 pounds. Now, honestly, the author did not say how tall he was. Unless he was REALLY short, there is a chance that he isn't fat at all. He is simply succumbing to the labels being applied to those of us walking the earth whose thighs touch each other. Or who have tits, or hips or an ass. I am not talking about people who can't get up because they are considered by the medical professions as "morbidly obese". I am talking about real people - people who might be five and a half feet tall and weigh about 150 pounds. 150 pounds on someone of that height is about a size 12, maybe a 10. Until recently, a size 12 was considered NORMAL.
My conspiracy soaked mind has begun to believe that "FATTY" is a label invented by people who used to be called things like BEANPOLE, or SKINNY, or TOOTHPICK, or QTIP.
Yeah, you people who are SOOO 'thin' are still beanpoles. And how funny are you all going to look with tits as big as mine perched on your chests?

Why is it that when I walk into a womans clothing store, I can not find shirts or 'tops' that are cut generously enough for my tits? My tits are not humongous. They are cup size C. Yet, stores such as J. Jill do not carry tops that button over my tits. Clothing THAT HUGE must be ordered from the catalog. Hey, come one - are you stores afraid some fucking beanpole is going to come in and be offended that you sell clothes for FATTIES? Can someone tell me where all the breast augmented women are going to be shopping? If a cup size C is just too big to stock in a retail store, where will all the DD cup enhanced women get shirts to cover those jingle jugs?

Are Americans so disenchanted with intellect that they willingly trade it in for foolishness? Is what we are, less important than how we look? What about liking yourselves? Is that too much to ask? Can we please stop dissing those with things we'd like to have, as being less than we are - even as we scurry about trying to lay our hands on those very things we have laughed at and labeled? BTW, keep your hands off my tits as you hunt for the perfect pair. I may not have much use for them, but they're mine and I like them and have never wished for others. I could hope the same for you and yours but my gut tells me that this is just the beginning.

Next, we'll talk about face lifts - you know, those things ALL the celebrities (and the wanna be celebrities) are getting which make them look like their made of plasticine, or at best, like they are suffering from Bells Palsy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Plague then and now

What more can the ancient past teach us about our future? Plague in medieval times was the pandemic that people fear now and media uses as scare tactics.
Often archaeologists work in quiet solitude rendering the minutia of artifacts into living and breathing history.
With the advent of DNA gathering and study, archaeology is a whole new field of study - one that may give us insight into how some populations fair better than others in the face of pandemic.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Still Happy to Not be a "Mother"

Some anonymous person left a comment on my poem "Mother's Day" about how sad it was that I did not have love in my life and could write a poem such as that.
Here's a bit of news for you: I am still glad not to be a mother. And that has nothing to do with being loved or loving in return.
If all of your life is wrapped up in children, then I feel sorry for YOU. You have never self actualized.
Additionally, these days, it is almost irresponsible to procreate because you need love. The world is already over populated with people who can't or won't admit that they are using resources faster than they can be replenished.
So the next time you want to sit in judgment of someone else's choices regarding having and making children, consider what you can do to alleviate overpopulation, over use of natural resources and how you intend to afford to raise kids in todays climate of Bush Economics.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The New Collosus - 2007

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
~ Emma Lazarus

Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I'll piss on em
Thats what the statue of bigotry says
Your poor huddled masses, lets club em to death
And get it over with and just dump em on the boulevard
~ Lou Reed, from "Dirty Boulevard"

Oh Land of plenty and home of the free
that gave birth to pilgrims and innovators,
opening horizons to children of the blessed, like me:

Where is your mercy, your compassionate acceptance
of those huddled masses and homeless
now echoing with hushed tones of grievance?

The veneer is fading from the face of our fathers
as the rich get richer and the poor get their
tongues ripped out in the wave of profiteers and new fuhrers -

which the "greatest" generation fought to eliminate.
Where is the compassion which opened the arms of
the new colossus whose lamp no longer illuminates?

Hunger and illness litter streets once paved with gold
empty eyes and hearts filled with despair and longing
for a land of milk and honey which made them emboldened

to cross rivers and oceans, risk death and separation
only to land on cold shores with little opportunity
outside what was left behind and abandoned.

Raise your lamp high, perhaps the light will blind
those coming to these shores to look for a living wage
and conditions better than substandard , or red-lined

by industry and cheap labor. In fields and in factories
they toil for their family's well-being
picking lettuce and grapes and strawberries

thin, polished women in large SUVs shop at upscale
markets in communities manicured by the sweat
of their brows. For minimum wage they daily travail

while at night suburbanites sleep in sheets of percale
believing they've brokered the best price for labor.
Elected officials seek to assail

the tenuous hold on life immigrants have,
talk of walls and guards and jail
for those who believed what lady liberty promised as salve

for the dispossessed. This nation, sweet land of liberty,
now bought with the currency of the elite,
no room in the melting pot for a new decree.

Part 2
The children of our nation now outfitted for war
by lying politicians and corporations anxious
for stock holder accountability, greed, to the core;

of values once held in highest esteem
parlayed like collateral in a new economy
that buries all thought of the American dream.

Alone on a proscenium stage of inspection
by past allies, and those forced into
subjugation, now at war with the bedouin,

replacing one monster with another, civil
war and death to economies in the name of
oil and sweet inside contracts, wearing the laurel

wreath of failure. Young people promised higher
education in exchange for their homage to flag
and memory. In sand and death they become mired

in your new democracy ideals and citizens believe
what is expeditious today, false security and
homeland pork spending in the name of what can be achieved

in that land of sand and sun and sunni / Shiite self hatred.
Blood and red hand prints of women and children
printed on walls, like graffiti left from hennaed

sorrows. While in Cuba, subterfuge and torture
seeks to pull secrets from prisoners like thorns from feet
while denial of human rights float free of the zephyr

of news. Hide the coffins of the dead
returning home; cover them with flags that will not
wave in a vacuum of dissent and dread.

What cost our democracy to the world?
To citizens lost because of vendetta
ultimately, what flag will show unfurled

in this new world order?
In the new democracy?
In the darkness now descended upon us?


"My country 'tis of thee
sweet land of liberty
of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!"
~ Samuel Smith

Lasting Impressions

Before sunrise, with walking stick in hand, I begin to hike the trail leading to the pond's bridge. Brushing large, be-dewed spider webs from the path, I lighten my footsteps so as not to frighten the sandhill cranes into flight. The morning air smells 'peat-y': I notice a new path cutting across the trail and into the bog. Long, pale hairs stick to brush stands waterside. Somewhere, a white tail deer is splashing across the flowage.
Approaching the bridge I slow my steps knowing there are two crane 'colts' somewhere in the tall grass. As the sun vigorously comes up, it lights the young, tight headed cat-tails decorated with still sleeping dragonflies. Sleeping there, the dragonflies' emerald eyes do not close but glint with an green iridescence in the sun.

I take a seat on a large rock on the west side of the bridge, the silence is tangible. Splashing on my left in the deeper part of the pond are pickerel; they are heading to the lake; their journey is a slow one across shallow creeks which disappear into dark stands of cedar. Somewhere on a farm over a mile away, a rooster voices indignation.

The Door County peninsula is a rock outcrop of granite and limestone insulated between the shores of Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay. At it's very tip, it says hello to lake Superior; this is where it gets it's name: Death's Door - watery graveyard for many ships.
A decade or so ago, some enterprising group of naturalists began an experiment to determine how water is exchanged from Green Bay to Lake Michigan. Dyes were dropped into the waters of Green Bay as it enters the limestone cliffs on the west side of the peninsula. Some time later, as it washes through the porous rock of the peninsula, the dyed water exits on the Lake Michigan side. This is a special place of deer, martin, badger, bear, coyote, fox, raptor, crane ....

A child growing up on the peninsula might feel confined by it's isolation and neglected by fast paced advancement that happens elsewhere. An adult introduced to Door County will likely fall in love with it's beauty and freshness. In 1990 I married into a family which held 80 acres in the center of the peninsula. The tracts of land included field, forest, flowage, seasonal pond, bog and a wonderful sand hill - home to the namesake cranes who returned yearly to nest and raise their young.

Crane 'colts' are whimsical creatures of hill and swamp. Omnivorous, they consume anything that is not too big. Frogs, other bird eggs, salamanders, bugs... dragonflies. Hines emerald dragonflies, whose flashing green eyes capture my attention this morning.

Returning to my walk, I come to an area that is densely treed with cedar and white pine; the ground is dry and covered in pine needles, cedar rosettes and dwarf lake iris. There is a hollow sound to the path here; proof of the presence of that limestone sponge beneath. Tiny toads live here too; I am careful not to step on them as they lazily leap out of my way and into an open area where the ground is covered with tiny wild strawberry.

As I exit the pine and cedar forest, the cranes see me. In unison they begin to call - to trumpet in voices loud enough to wake those who chose to sleep in back at the farmhouse. One crane takes to the sky and is suddenly above me, scolding me for the interference. The other crane leaps into the air over and over, while moving southward towards the swamp. It wants my attention; the colts must be close by.
I see the colts everyday from the farmyard with my binoculars. I have no desire to disturb them or the nest area. I head back on the trail and towards the pond.

In the six years of walking the trails of the property, I have seen more wildlife than I ever had before in my 40 years. I have heard warblers sing and pileated woodpeckers try to dismantle cedar homes on the cliffs over looking the bay. I have watched as the cranes stage migration on farm fields they share with dairy cows as they come out of the mist on a chilly autumn morning. Now, those paths are closed to me. Instead of a private family sanctuary, they are home only to the Hines, to the cranes and the pickerel. And they will stay that way as they are now protected by TNC. The timeless quality which gave my heart such joy now belongs to the future of the creatures that live there and the trees which sweeten the air and the birds which serenade the sky.


Apparently I have not blogged here in some time. That's what happens when you get greedy and have accounts at way too many communities.
Well I have been prolific lately. Too prove it, I am posting two new pieces, one poem and one essay.
Life is good.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Laura and Phil

My friend of many years called me to tell me that her husband is dying of cancer and has perhaps six months to live. One of the first things she said to me is: "I am going to be a widow."

Those seven words were spoken in a similar fashion to: "I had fish for lunch.", or, "I am going on vacation." It was quite matter of fact. What else was it that I heard in her voice?

My friend Laura has been married since 1968. Laura and her husband Phil have had their ups and downs over the years. I met both of them when my ex husband introduced us in 1970 - you remember what 1970 was like; we all partied like it was 1999. Laura and Phil are both six years older than I. We were all on the forefront of the hippie years. To call us all dysfunctional would be kind. Dysfunction followed us all, like shadows. Some of us walked away from the druggie lifestyle. Some of us did not.

Laura and Phil spent a couple of years separated while Phil languished in jail for possession of drugs. Laura, never one to wait patiently, began an affair with another friend while Phil was incarcerated. The affair was known to many of us in our circle of friends, yet it was discreet. However, Laura's first child was a product of the affair.
When Phil got out of jail, he and Laura took up where they left off. No one was condemned in those days for 'fooling around'. Fooling around was something everyone did, some of us were more careful about it than others. These were the days pre-AIDS. Phil and Laura may have been reunited, but their habits did not change for many years. As long as there were drugs to be had, many of the people in our circle of friends did them. I do believe that a few of us had the sense not to fall completely into the drug trap. Phil, Laura, myself and my ex husband never got into injecting drugs. A good thing; it may have been pre-AIDS, but Hepatitis was rampant.
When all the fun, and home brewed drugs began to disappear, pharmaceuticals were eagerly chased. These made for interesting times; they were legal, they were cheaply had and it seemed that every doctor wrote prescriptions for them. In hindsight, although I don't recommend drug use to anyone, todays alternatives are not much different. There are drugs to make you sleep, drugs to make you thin, drugs to give you an erection, drugs to make you not feel pain or depression. Some things never change, except that now, all those drugs are advertised on the nightly news ....

Laura and Phil rode along on this train of drugs and existentialism for years. When the effects of the drugs began to take their toll on their children, they distanced themselves from most of them, and many of the people who had been part of the circle of friends. In the mid 1970s many of us, a bit more mature and needing to move on, took jobs and blended into regular society. We would all still see each other now and then, but weekends were not spent on speed highs at which no one slept and things got a bit out of hand. I've heard it said that the hippies all went to work for IBM; there is a line in an old Eagles song that goes something like this:
"I saw a Deadhead sticker on a cadillac". In my case this was almost true; I went to work for a Fortune 500 company, it could be said that I started late on my career goals. Phil got a job too, and began working as an engineer in the city. In those days, engineer jobs in high rise apartment buildings were very cush. The hours lent themselves well to the ex-druggie and there was lots of freedom as long as the work needed to be done was accomplished.

In 1980, AIDS raised its ugly head and we lost more friends to infection from dirty needles. In 1982 I lost track of Laura and Phil as I left my ex-husband to find a more upwardly mobile life.

It was years before I connected again with the old friends and by that time most had either died, were in jail, moved away or went 'straight'. When I saw Laura and Phil again, they had bought a house in the suburbs, were raising their two boys and except for a bit of marijuana, had stopped doing drugs. Life became pretty normal except for the fact that we survivors seemed to have Xray vision of a type - we saw through the ordinary, we reached beyond the suburban life of our parents.

Since 1982, it seemed that although Laura and Phil had stopped doing drugs, they did not grow. They did not seek beyond the home and sheltered life they built for themselves. It was a sad life in which they both missed those party days - the days of staying up all night, all weekend, of excitement and enthusiasm. They missed the companionship of the circle. Now and then, someone would return to the city for a visit and we would all get together and talk about who was doing what, where they lived, how many kids they had. Eventually talk got around to things like: "Remember when we all went out and did such and such with so and so". "Remember when we had the head shop on Lawrence Ave?"

More years rolled by....

When I married my current husband, it was mostly Laura who I remained friends with. Phil seemed to have lost a lot of his life juice. He became withdrawn, he didn't want to go out much, do much other than watch TV when he wasn't working.
It was like he came down from a heavy weekend of speeding and never quite found his natural energy again.
Laura and I would talk about things; she always hinted at being rather unhappy in her life. Her health suffered, Phil's health was not what it once was. Phil was abusive, or so she claimed, he wasn't interested in sex anymore, he spent too much time at work. The two boys were no longer boys anymore, but they still lived at home and were a drain with their constant drama and angst. It seemed that "Empty Nesters" would never be something that Laura and Phil would experience. One of their sons was diagnosed as having some sort of mental disorder, probably brought about by Laura's drug use when she was pregnant. The second son, Phil's child, showed great promise, but he too grew up in a home where lack of energy or enthusiasm for life was never ending; he had no goals, no dreams, no desires.

A point in my life came when my husband, (who was never part of that circle of friends), and I decided it was time to move on with our lives. A circumstance had greatly changed our lives, and the direction we had been taking. We moved into a smaller, nicer home, put some money into it, renovated and decorated it. It was pretty nice - quite the change from my hippie girl years. More and more I found myself divorced from the remaining friends from so long ago. But Laura and I still stayed in touch.

A couple of years ago, out of the blue, Laura called to tell me that Phil had lung cancer. She was worried about him, he was taking chemotherapy and not doing well. Her words and predictions about his health were dire. But Phil hung in there - two years of radiation and chemotherapy, medical marijuana and part time jobs.
It was last summer that Laura told me that the cancer had returned and Phil was terribly ill.

When Laura called today to tell me that Phil was put into hospice, that the doctors had told them there was nothing further they could do for him and at best he had six months to live, she told me she was very sad.
Now, I understand sad. It is sad to watch anyone die, and sadder still to be the principal caretaker of someone who has a terminal disease. But what was that sound in her voice as she told me she would be a widow soon?

Was it relief that Phil would not have long to suffer? Was it relief that she would be free of the weight of caring for him after these years? Was it perhaps that she could see some change coming into her life?
After all, unless both a husband and wife die at the same moment, we all are destined to be either a widow or widower. Perhaps it is best that this happens while we are still vital enough to seek another lover. Perhaps the long death that is anticipated is worse for the one who lives than it is for the one who dies.

I remember going out with Laura and a number of other girlfriends long ago on a Friday night. We used to all like to dress up and go out together to nightclubs and dance and drink and flirt. Most of us did nothing more than flirt. Others of us did much more than flirt. I guess it could be said that we tested our desirability in the marketplace of the singles bar. Laura was one of those.
One night, there were six of us women out for fun. We all agreed to stop drinking and leave the club by 1 AM and go out to breakfast, then go home. All of us but Laura were at the appointed place at the right time. Laura had come to me, hanging on some disco boy and begged me to wait at the restaurant for her. She was going to have herself an adventure.
Hours later, disheveled and looking radiant, Laura showed up at the restaurant. We were all beginning to worry a bit about her - as well as wonder what our husbands would say about being so late. It was the last time we all went out together. It may have been the last time that Laura felt desired as a young hot babe. I don't know. It never mattered.
Just as it doesn't really matter now, except that I wonder about the despair in the house where Laura and Phil still reside.

One of their children, the youngest son, Phil's son, still lives at home. Laura has been progressively falling apart for most of 10 years. Knee replacements, hip replacements, carpal tunnel surgeries, you name it - Laura has probably had it.
My husband and I have thought that some of Laura's problems could be summed up as due to lack of attention from Phil. Lack of self esteem too, Laura never had it in spades anyways, and as she has aged, it seems to have taken a vacation.

So what is in the words "I am going to be a widow."? Am I hearing a sadness that such an integral part of her life is going to soon be gone ... maybe when passion is gone from marriage, the comfort of a long time friend still remains. Is that what Laura will miss? Will she miss the companion that knows her so well - in fact, knows her so well that he can ignore who she is for years?

I hope that Phil's death doesn't drain Laura of that life force she once had. That same life force which made her cavort with disco boys and have affairs and dance all night. I hope that at the end of it all, Laura is not lost to despair or anger. I hope that all of the years of caring for Phil, for their kids, which weighs on her today, is replaced by a measure of security and satisfaction.

The words: "I am going to be a widow" are words that we all might be uttering one day. And who can say how we will feel about them as we say them?