Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Feminism and I Don’t Care that You’re Different

I’ve been swept up in the #YesAllWomen whirlwind.  I actually heard about this before I heard about the incident that helped push this hashtag activism to the top of the Twitter trends.  As a busy mom, sometimes I get a little behind in my news.

Since I was a teenager and first heard of the Riot Grrrls, I was secretly hooked on feminism.  I loved punk already and this next step was inspiring.  But, because I was a follower who so very much wanted to fit in, I left my brooding and my secret love of Liz Phair for my private time and shopped at the Gap and wore my boat shoes with those little culry-cue tied laces in my public life.

At college, I was raped, but that wasn’t the most important thing that happened to me during my time there.  I met the man who would be my husband there and this has proven to be far more significant to my life.  However, I also remember being dumb-struck when I looked out of the window of my freshman dorm to find a mini-mock-cemetery erected to “show respect” to the “babies” who had “died” from abortion.  I was sickened.  And, my festering feminism grew.

I had always been self-conscious and bordered on a having a bit of an eating disorder until my adulthood.  Yet, there were always men who ogled, cat-called, or bought me drinks.  No, I didn’t find any of it flattering.  It all scared me in a way I couldn’t quite define then, even if I made jokes about it.  In fact, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that sarcasm is my defense mechanism.  When I’m cornered, I crack jokes.

Still today, when I walk alone, I am always acutely aware of when there are men around.  I hold my purse tighter.  I listen to the pace of their footsteps behind me to gauge whether they are “gaining on me.”  I check my rear-view mirror often to make sure I am not being followed in my car.  Once, I am certain that I was followed.  I was about 19 and pulled into the completely empty parking lot of the tanning salon where I worked as a cleaner on Sunday mornings.  No other businesses were open in the shopping center.  The car that followed me into the lot couldn’t have been an innocent shopper.  I high-tailed it out of there before putting my car in “park.”

A few years back, as a precaution, I was asked to have a breast ultrasound as a semi-routine part of my women’s health check-up.  The technician found an unusual clump of fibers that turned out to be nothing at all.  But, she needed to call in the doctor on staff to double-check her work.  I am pretty sure that as he moved the ultrasound wand over my breast, he let his pinkie finger rest along side of it, rather than on top of it with the rest of his hand.  This allowed his little finger to stroke my breast and linger over my nipple while he worked.  I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining things or if I would be overreacting to a medical professional just doing his job.  So, I said nothing.  I still feel like this was wrong today.  I am angry that I didn’t say anything.

I never hold the elevator for anyone if I am alone.

I carry my keys between my fingers if I am in a parking lot by myself, regardless of who is around.  I never enter my car without checking the back seat.  In parking garages, I check under the car before approaching it.

I am shocked by how much fear I live in and I never thought about it until the hashtag revolution of All Women.

And, I am shocked as I look back on my life and realize how much I wanted to be a feminist, but how afraid I was to be a “feminist.”  I am sad that I still avoid using the word “too much” because it might make me seem like a “man-hater” or a “feminazi.”

What made me solidify the idea that I was finally (after, like a quarter of a century) ready to embrace my feminism came when I realized that the “other” people I was looking to shelter from the harshness of my equity search just didn’t have a say anymore in my politics.

You’re different?  Great.  You’re a man who doesn’t rape, oppress, kidnap, assault, attack, belittle, misjudge or objectify women.  I actually don’t fucking care.

I mean, that’s nice and all.  And, I totally know a ton of you guys.  Really, the vast majority of men I have come into contact with personally are of this category.  You’re not different.  I truly believe that you are the norm.

But, it so very sadly does not matter.  Or, does not matter enough.

One armed psychopath killing pretty girls because they don’t love him and killing innocent men because he’s jealous of their happiness is one too many.

One fucked-up Clevelander who held women hostage for over a decade in his home, repeatedly assaulting them is one too many.

One court judge who tells a woman she ought to forgive the husband who repeatedly drugged and raped her is one too many.

And, when we add in contraceptive tampering, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, honor killings, sex slavery, forced prostitution, bride-buying, human trafficking, female infanticide, rape and the slew of other crimes that “some” (a few? a small number? a relatively small percentage?) of men commit world-wide, it makes me grab my handbag and remember what my 11th grade gym teacher taught me about popping somebody’s eyeballs out if I were ever attacked, even though 95% of my personal experiences with men have been positive (or at least neutral) so far.

You’re different.  Super.  You being different didn’t help any of the millions of women on this planet when they were beaten, enslaved, mutilated, raped, tortured, sold, murdered, held captive or made to live in fear.

It is not your fault.  You are not responsible for the men who ruin your sex.  I do not blame men as a unit for their part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Men as a unit have no part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Indeed, it is not *all* men who treat women like shit.

But, because even a very small few have, I don’t walk at night alone.  I don’t blame you for this, but it is something we should talk more about.

Feel free to leave me your comments.

 

 

 

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POETIC DUET

A collaboration with Hasty Words

 

Waxy colors rained down
Turning bright colors
Of greens, reds, and blues
Into those of muddy brown,

And in war and strife, I drop anchor here
In this sea so soft with murk,
Thinking of how much better it is to let the children
See this world than the one that lies beyond.

There’s shelter, though, in my arms,
For they have already weathered far more.
Healing comes in all forms here
And my forgiveness covers every hurt.

We will start over; we will persist
Where the sun is merely a lantern in the sky
By weaving the ground into baskets
And singing tapestries into butterflies.

Now there’s beauty in the eyes of dragons
For they know not how to extinguish
That which makes them monstrous.
So, the only difference between us is how we use our fire.

I provide solace here as we float together yet
Tethered to the silty floor of a world burst
Into glory in skies painted
With monarch wings in golden disguise.

 

 

Interested in a “Poetic Duet”?  Catch Hasty Words here.

Reality as a Geezer

There is no doubt I have lamented the aging process.  Having small children reminds me of how much energy I don’t have anymore.  And being a teacher of early high school students reminds me of how uncool I am.  These kids don’t even use the word “cool” anymore.

I am much nearer to 40 than I am to 20 (and to 30, for that matter).  I had never pictured myself at this age.  It’s kinda weird.

But, here are some realities I have come to understand about the aging process:

  • My body is older than my mind.  When I see a long hallway, I still want to do cartwheels all the way down.  I don’t, however, because I’d have to stretch for a half an hour beforehand and then take a bottle of Advil afterward.
  • My concept of time has shifted dramatically.  The concept of “a long time ago” has changed quite a bit.  I remember when Friends first came on the air.  It doesn’t seem that long ago.  It was 20 years ago, though.
  • My concept of “young” has shifted, too.  I once cried when I turned 24 because I felt so OLD.  Now, I work with people who have advanced degrees but are not old enough to remember the Challenger explosion.
  • I feel less grossed-out by plastic surgery.  I once wondered why people didn’t just “grow old gracefully.”  Now, I sit in front of a mirror and pull my face up manually and sigh as I wonder what it would cost for a nip and a tuck.
  • I actually care what I eat.  In high school, I came home almost every day and ate an entire family-sized back of potato chips (or an equivalently-sized snack of another type).  I wore a size 6 that my mother tailored smaller through the hips for me.  Now, I still love my potato chips, but each crunch comes with a side order of guilt, self-loathing and fourteen more pounds on the bathroom scale.
  • Nobody likes my music.  Two decades ago it wouldn’t have been hard to find someone who liked The Pixies, LL Cool J, Blondie, Nine Inch Nails, and who knew how to do “The Hustle” and understood that you were never supposed to “trust a big butt and a smile.”  Nowadays, we’re harder to locate.  Some of us came to enjoy modern music.  Some are stuck with the soundtrack to “Frozen” on repeat.  Some people switched over to “Adult Contemporary.”  Yeesh.
  • I’m okay (for now) with my glowing pale legs.  This time of year in my twenties, I was running to a tanning salon on rainy days and spending every damn minute outside to alter the color of my skin when it was sunny.  Nowadays, I don’t really have the time or the patience.  So, I just revel for now in the idea that I am staying away from skin cancer and/or wrinkles for one more day.
  • I don’t feel old.  This one is weird.  I don’t know what old is supposed to feel like.  I mean, I feel weaker and slower and fatter and more tired.  But, those things don’t alone signify an elderly status.  Are my knees supposed to ache when it rains?  Am I supposed to forget what day of the week it is?  Am I supposed to wear white button-down sweaters on 80 degree days?  I am not sure if I am doing this right.
  • I still feel like I am in high school — emotionally.  When all the stay-at-home moms gather to pick up their kids in their Lululemon or their Hunter rain boots and their big diamond earrings — and completely ignore the existence of those outside of their social circle, I remember feeling like this before:  for four straight years.

I still want to learn how to surf and speak a foreign language and read more books and run a 5k (no — actually RUN it this time — like, the whole time) and get a PhD. and a six-pack and a nose-piercing.

And I wonder if I will do any of those things.  Or even if I should

*Poop*

Why don’t people want to talk about diarrhea?

No one ever has diarrhea, you know?  I mean, people have “stomach problems,” but never just the shits.

I know that it’s gross and smelly and sometimes painful and embarrassing.  But, so was childbirth and every vagina-owner who has ever pushed a baby into the world wants to tell you the details:  vomiting, water breaking, perineal tearing, stretch marks, back labor…you name it, baby mamas wanna share it with you.

These same moms have been peed on, kicked, farted on, have strained peas thrown into their hair, and have cleaned up more bodily fluids (and not-so-fluids) than any HazMat worker will in a week.  But, still no one ever wants to admit to ever having the squirts.

I have seen some of my friends get blind-drunk and vomit all over themselves.  But, none of those people EVER had the green-apple-quick-step.  Supposedly.

Now, I am not necessarily proposing that we all come out of the shart closet and start sharing the details of these unpleasant experiences.  In real life, I am actually fairly modest and truly value my privacy.  There is a reason why I don’t share my real name when I blog.

But, I just find it really amusing that the only thing that is truly off limits in conversation (even among your better friends) is diarrhea.  Religion, politics, abortion, capital punishment, our diseases, our surgeries and our mental health issues are all far less taboo than this thing that occasionally happens to every human on the planet.  I mean, all kinds of yahoos want to espouse their so-called knowledge on the education/justice/healthcare/political/environmental/immigration systems in this country, but no one really wants to talk about something they actually KNOW.

 

Go figure.

Mother’s Day Post #2

“Embarrassing Things I Hope My Mother Hears About Me.”

by Meredith Bland

from Pile of Babies

I was walking the dog when I slipped on a manhole cover while crossing the street and fell right in front of a car that was stopped at the light. I tried to do the “mime climbing stairs” move when I got up to entertain the driver, but don’t think I pulled it off.

My son started screaming at a puppet show. I went to the front to rescue him and slipped on the wet floor right in front of a person-sized cat puppet. I landed in a perfect split, so I raised my arms over my head like a gymnast after a back handspring. No one laughed.

My husband served me a tamale last week. I didn’t know how to eat it. I had to ask him if I should eat the husk.

I love these stories. These are the moments of my life that I treasure like rare, exquisite gems; gems that most likely fell off the back of a truck and into a pile of cow manure being shoveled by a man in capri pants – they’re that special to me. And when these things happen to me, the first person I want to tell is my mom.

My mother raised my sisters and me to be humble. It was made clear to us while we were growing up that the world did not, in fact, revolve around us (she almost has me convinced.) That has turned me into an adult who does not take herself seriously. At all. In fact, I revel in my mistakes and stupidity – those things we do that connect all human beings because they are moments without planning or pretense. Moments where, more often than not, I make a quick and awkward descent to the ground.

And there is no better audience for those stories than my mother.

I love telling my mom about embarrassing things that happen to me. Whether she groans with me or laughs at me, it is one of my greatest joys. It’s one of the main reasons I started writing humor – I’m always chasing the high I get from my mother’s laughter. That’s especially true because she has a lot of laughing to make up.

My mom has not had the easiest of lives – though she loves me deeply and always has, I was part of the reason for that while I was growing up. I’m a pretty good person now, but I was a terrible, horrible child. I mean, I did not make that woman’s life easy. Not by a long shot. But I could, from time to time, make her laugh. And to this day, when I can make my mom laugh, it feels like the acceptance of a long-overdue apology. I still have a long way to go before I’ll be able to compensate for the time when I was seven-years-old and ran across the street in front of the UPS truck so I could show her how fast I was, or the mean things I said to her as a teenager, or all of the tattoos and bad boyfriends of my early twenties. But I’m going to keep trying.

Mom, you are not going to believe what just happened to me…

 

 

Mother’s Day Series #1

Guest Post

by:  Anonymous Blogger

 

“I Hope My Mom Never Knows…”

It rained in October and where I live this in itself is not unusual.  But, it felt like it had been raining ever since forever ago started.

I was 19 and bored.  I had no good reason to be, mind you, since I was into my 2nd year of college at a fairly prestigious university my parents were all too quick to brag had accepted me just two rainy fall seasons ago.

My girlfriends and I bundled up into cozy cable-knit sweaters and decided to go shopping in one of the trendier sections of our city’s downtown area to relieve our doldrums.

We wandered into a small boutique that had a mysterious “back room.”  The boutique itself was rather pretty and had lots of things that were pink.  Mostly comprised of high-end lingerie, we weren’t off-put either by the salesclerk (who was an ordinary 30-something woman with curly hair and a satin blazer over expertly-ripped jeans) or by the products.  Everything seemed to be on the up-and-up.

My friend, Jasmine (no, not her real name, but a moniker she actually did adopt later that day), was very feminine and was drawn in the front door by a pretty crystal necklace and full-length satin robe-thinga-ma-jig that was hanging in the window.  When we looked around the store, though, we didn’t see the necklace anywhere.

Jasmine asked the clerk who smiled and let her know that it wasn’t actually a necklace, but was really a belly chain.  It was the 90s and this alone wasn’t terribly weird, though I had never seen a belly chain that ornate.

The clerk invited us to see the “other” merchandise in the back room and we thought what you are probably thinking:  there’s sex toys and weird crap back there.

There actually wasn’t.

Instead, there was a slew of rather risque, but altogether uncreepy, Middle Eastern garb fit for what we assumed (and we were right) were bellydancers.

The city where our school was located is known for being somewhat conservative.  I mean, it wasn’t too conservative to have a lingerie store right on a main street, but it was a little too conservative to openly cater to clientelle who were interested in objectifying women in a way that was historically relevant but altogether insensitive to the more modern sensibilities of Middle Eastern culture.

It turns out that this was something of a costume shop that catered to fetishists interested in involving themselves in ancient “art” and was THE place where the bellydancers outfitted themselves for their gigs at the local Egyptian hookah bar and restaurant.

Now, none of us knew that this place had bellydancing.  This is because it was an…unadvertised service.

Jasmine and I over the course of just a matter of maybe 20 minutes found ourselves signing up to perform at what later became a strip show disguised as a “cultural event.”  What cultural event takes place in the basement of a bar and grille, I will never know but it all sounded very unboring at the time.

Jasmine and I performed together a very amateurish strip show where we went full-monty in a room full of middle-aged foreign business travelers.  There was no pole in the room and no stage, but there were interesting things done with finger cymbals.

Thank god there was no such thing as camera phones and Twitter.

I am not entirely embarrassed by this totally out-of-character foray into the seedy underbelly (ha!  see what I did there?) of exotic dance.  But, my mom would fucking murder me if she ever knew about this.

I swear I became a totally normal adult with two Master’s Degrees and 4 kids.  I have a good job and this has somehow not come back to bite me in my now very jiggly ass.

Yet.

Don’t tell my mom, though, K?

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

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