Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Don't Discredit Me, "Reverend."

Because we can't go one entire season in Detroit without two or more bizarre happenings on the political front, last Friday we were treated to the news that subliterate school board president Otis Mathis resigned after being accused of touching his penis -- and touching it, um, affectionately -- during meetings with the district's superindendent. Who reports to him. The final straw was him whacking it during a meeting discussing her employment contract.

Sounds like a massive sexual harrassment lawsuit waiting to happen, no? Especially since she says she informed other people about his behavior and documented each incident, to no avail.

Mathis' conduct is despicable and gross and creepy, of course. But what truly has me infuriated is the following, from board member "Reverend" David Murray. Who changed his first name to Reverend so idiotic Detroit voters would vote for him, and who also has had foster children removed from his home for various reasons (and, for that matter, who shares a name with the husband of a friend of mine, who's about the polar opposite of this jackhole).

Murray's been quoted locally, and of course right now I cannot find it, as saying that such behavior is something "some women" might find offensive and that "maybe he thought she liked it."

Rage. Raaaaagggggeee.

Here's the deal: I've been sexually harrassed, both in the workplace and elsewhere ('cause guess what, guys? Catcalling a woman as she walks down the street is HARASSMENT, no matter how funny you think it is). Ask any woman who's old enough to have been in the workforce for any length of time, and she'll tell you the same, I'm sure of it.

Even acts that don't rise to an actionable level are just fucking irritating because men NEVER EVER EVER have to put up with this shit just to earn a paycheck. Or, you know, go outside. We've all experienced this: Men who have entire conversations with just our chest. Men who feel the need to comment on our appearance in any way, positive or negative, because that reduces us to JUST appearance, not a person.

And when we have the temerity to stand up to it, to inform the Dick in question that their behavior is unacceptable, they do just what Murray did. Discredit us. Imply that we somehow encouraged the behavior. Suggest that maybe we liked it, and if we don't we're just too sensitive. "Hey, it was just a joke." "God, lighten up, bitch." "She has at fatal attraction crush on me and that's why she makes up lies" (Murray suggested that, too, about the superintendent, that maybe she had a little thing for Mathis).

I'm not talking about joking around here, or complimenting a friend or coworker. I've worked in newsrooms, for fuck's sake, and the easily offended and the embracers of victimhood do NOT do well there. I can unblushingly discuss my sex life and breast size with certain male friends.

But the difference between joking among people who know and like each other and creepy, uncomfortable sexual harrassment is this: The guys I joke with are seeing ME first, a woman with likes and dislikes and a whole personhood that has nothing to do with my status as a female. They're as likely to give me a hard time about my political affliations or my taste in music as they are the length of my skirt or height of my neckline -- and respect my feelings and apologize if I tell them they've crossed a line. Creepy sexual harrassers see Woman first, and it might be added "Inferior." Because to reduce us to just a place on your do-or-not-do list is fundamentally insulting. And to discredit our standing up for ourselves is just simply outrageous.

On a side note: Many people have questioned why the superindendent continued the meeting after becoming aware of Mathis's actions. Her letter informing the board of his behavior recounts her trying to block him from her line of sight.

I can tell you why, having been given The Full Mathis by not one but two random flashers back in college (yes, it's okay, you can laugh). First, there's sheer horror, just the desperate desire to have this Not Be Happening. Secondly, it's the "don't reward bad behavior" approach -- a big reaction just rewards and reinforces the behavior, and trust me, this is not a situatin you want to escalate. Also, I'm sure she was just hoping if she made it obvious she was on to him, without having to actually look at it, oops, him, he'd stop.

Finally, let's not gloss over the fact that the superintendent reports to the board, and so Mathis, as the president of the board, is her boss. That's a pretty intimidating situation, to say the least.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Fuuuuu--(thinks better of it)--dge.

So I turned 40 this weekend, and overall, it's not too bad. Reaching the day itself was sort of like pulling off a band-aid--I'd had all this angst about it and once it hit, it felt no different than being 39...or 38, for that matter. I may have been somewhat numbed by the aftereffects of staying up very late the night before with some of my favorite people in a typically deep and interesting conversation which wrapped up a fun birthday party, but overall I think I've pretty much found my Zen -- or at least the path there.

One thing that helped ease my mind a bit was, of all things, a silly parody of "Single Ladies" a friend of mine posted on Facebook. It was as you'd expect, but had a couple of lines that hit me pretty hard. Specifically, one that talked about these lines on her face meaning she's lived her years, and also "You can't change it so you'd better make your peace with it."

And damn, that's harder than you'd think. In my darker moments, I want my 25-year-old body and face --but I wouldn;t want to actually be 25 again. I'll keep my 40-year-old maturity, perspective and experience, and with knowledge that the stuff that kept me up at night then would mostly all turn out just fine (and be replaced with a whole new set of worries).

I'm not thrilled with the physical aspects of getting older, I'll admit. This surprises me, because I've never really had the looks to run with the pretty girls (despite having some really good-looking friends), so being out of that race completely bothers me more than I like to admit. I acknowledge it's all patriarchal society bullshit, but still. I've always been more of a brains over beauty kind of a person, and my brain still works (more or less, and that which doesn't has more to do with being a parent than being 40). I'd just like it to function well in a body less worked over by 40 years on this planet, the last six of which included gestating, birthing and nursing two babies.

I've been exercising at the Y pretty frequently for the last year or so, which has helped me reconcile with my 40-year-old body in more ways than one. Not only am I stronger, tougher and more flexible than I was five years ago, but I have had a glimpse into the future. See, I shower there most days, and am frequently hitting the locker room as the older women who swim or do water aerobics are getting ready or drying off after class. And you know what? They show no shame, no angst, no self-consciousness at all about their bodies. There are wrinkles, there are sags and bulges and cellulite, there are scars -- and yet there they are, in all their glory, casually gossiping with their friends while wearing only a towel and sometimes less. They just don't care.

I don't know if it's because they're active and thus feel good about themselves, or if it's being so far outside of what society considers attractive that they aren't bothered by it anymore, or that they just have enough perspective on life to not give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks (although I'd vote for the latter). They may not be what the world considers beautiful, but they are magnificent. And I hope it doesn't take me until my next big birthday to be just like them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Well hello again

yeah yeah. Facebook, work, not much to say.

So I've come back, and I think today is an opportune time. See, my darling boy is going to be two tomorrow, and so it just feels right.

He's as cute as can be right now. Paul and I say frequently that he is made of chocolate, because he's just delicious. He talks a ton more than Maggie did at this age, and has to say! Everything! at the top of his lungs! for no apparent reason. He's obsessed with trains, dinosaurs, and trucks. He loves to announce to us what he's doing (I running!! I spinning!! I dancing!!). He does this goofy little grin that he's figured out is kryptonite to his mother, so he unleashes it on me all the time. And his favorite game of late is to give me big wet kisses with a mwwwaaahhh sound, over and over.

The thing that really melts me, though, is that after ignoring him for the first year of his life, Maggie and her brother have become best friends. He adores her and always has, but now that affection is returned. Lots of kisses and hugs and games.

Of course, there's a lot of Two. He refuses to eat pretty much anything except pasta and cheese, we've dubbed him NoCan the Contrarian (after a Word Girl character) because everything is No No No, and he has these enormous tantrums that are almost funny in their drama.

So overall, things are good. My little girl is a kindergartener and doing even better than I hoped, we have somehow acquired a kitten, we have some tough decisions to make about our house, and I sense some big job changes coming up. All of these are things I'd like to write about. So hello, again.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

How Things Have Changed

Last year, Maggie got, in her Easter basket, chocolate and Matchbox cars.

This year? Chocolate, a little purse with yellow flowers on it that matches her Easter dress, and a some piece of plastic collectible crap.

The four year old gender identification thing has begun, and it's really funny. The girl is a tomboy and has been since day one -- she loves to be on the move, run, tussle, and generally be active. Sitting still is not her thing, to say the least. But suddenly the pink, the sparkly, the flowery and the girly have become irresistible. She wants to grow out her chin-length hair and loves "jewels" aka anything applied to any other thing.

This also comes with a bit of a bonus for me. She loovvvveesss me right now. As she tells her daddy at night "Only persons with long brown hair can lay down next to me." My hair's not that long (nor is it all that brown any more, which is a sob-choked subject for another post). Frequently she talks about how we are on the Girl Team and Will and Daddy are on the Boy Team.

And I admit, I eat this shit up. She's been a bit of a daddy's girl for a long time, and now having my delightful little daughter decide I am her best friend ever makes me really happy. Plus, well, if the preschool years are previews of the teens, things are going to be jusssttt a bit stormy around here. My own teenage relationship with my mother is the stuff of family legend -- slammed doors, screaming matches and general fury marked the years. Maggie makes me look chill, temper-wise, and is about the most stubborn and rebellious little person already. So I am trying to enjoy this closeness while I can.

I like to think, and hope, I am a better mother than my own. I've spent a lot more time acknowledging my own weaknesses and working on them. Reading "Raising Your Spirited Child" was so soothing to me, more because of my own childhood than Maggie's. I realized that I wasn't some sort of horrible bad out of step child, I was just me, made this way. I understand that a little better with Maggie than was understood with me, and so I have a slightly better ability to give her what she needs because I understand it. Do I always do it perfectly? No, nowehere near it (witness the pitched battle today over getting her to put her shoes on and help me go get Paul from work, featuring screaming (her), swearing (me), and in a truly superior Parenting Moment, threats to return the Easter presents I got her. Please send my mother of the year award c/o Blogger).

But mostly? It's awesom being on the Girl Team around here. And I hope, even through hormonal upheavals and adolescent turmoil, on some level we always will be Girl Team.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Parenting Moment

Parenthood is about the only type of relationship I can imagine where you not only wipe someone else's nose, but think "Oh boy. I do not like the look of that mucus."

(I think Will's gearing up for his seventh or eighth ear infection in his short life. And Paul will be gone tonight. Send prayers and Shiraz, please).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Boys Vs. Girls

I've never really dealt that much in gender stereotypes, especially when it comes to my kids. I want Maggie to be Maggie and Will to be Will, and am trying really hard to not make my kids relieve or fix my own childhood (and I'll let you know as soon as I figure that out to my satisfaction).

But it's funny to see the kind of things I hoped to avoid play themselves out right in front of my eyes.

for example, Maggie was always been more of a tomboy and less of a girlie girl, which I am actually very proud of. When I pick her up from school, most of the time she's barrelling around the playground with the boys or scaling one of the climbers while all the other little girls are clustered in one corner, playing some cooperative, imaginative, well-regulated game.

But. As she's gotten older, the influence of the older girls is starting to meld with the normal gender-identification stuff they start doing at this age, and suddenly there is LOTS of pink in my house. Maggie insists that her favorite colors are pink and purple, she is super attached to me because we are both on the "girl team," and yes, those evil princesses have made their debut in my house.

I hold the line on that one -- no clothing with their images on it, and very little of the avalanche of plastic crap that lines Target. However, one cannot attend a birthday party without the goody bag being filled with princessy trinkets, and I have caved on things like a book at a mom-to-mom sale for 25 cents.

Of course, she also has dinosaur PJs clearly meant for boys (why aren't dinosaurs gender-neutral? Annoying), loves her baseball mitt, and has, um, hitting issues at school.

Will, however, is such a boy. And I hate saying that, because why wouldn't girls like to bang every single toy they touch on the floor, or play with cars, or climb like little monkeys? And as a matter of fact Maggie did some of that -- her Easter basket had Matchbox cars in it last year, for example. But she hasn't done any of those things with the single minded determination with which Will does it.

Of course, he's also obsessed with her light-up wand she plays with in the tub, loves anything sparkly and likes her My Little Pony.

I know their personalities will grow and change as they do, and that their likes and dislikes will be informed by a million things in addition to gender. But it's funny to see these very gendered behaviors from both of them right now, and equally funny to see the ways in which they deviate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Morning After President's Day


I wake up, shift in bed, trying to get a little more rest before what will be a momentous day. The baby starts to move and kick and squirm. I try to burn this feeling into my brain, knowing this will be one of my last pregnant monents probably ever, and whisper, "Will, today we're going to get to see each other for the first time. I finally get to see your face, and you get to see the person whose voice you've been hearing all these months."


I am awake, but wish I wasn't, and shift in bed, trying to get a little more rest. The baby starts to move and kick and squirm. I open my eyes, look at the bed next to me, and see this:

You're almost one, little man, and I can't believe there was a time you weren't here.