Hamster in a Blanket

My friend George told me there’d be days like this. When I spoke with him 3 years ago about starting my blog, he knew me well enough to know I can get too focused on always bringing my A-game to my writing, or at least die trying. Having done social media for his fabulous knitting and crochet pattern business 10 Hours or Less, he also knew some days I’d be lucky to get out of bed and get dressed, never mind post some quality writing that will make people laugh and cry and give them a push to get their own ass out of bed. Some days a B or even B minus-game will do.

George is a wise man, and today is one of those days. So I give you Marble, the amazingly cute hamster in a blanket, because that is all I got this week. Oh, and hey, I’ve been doing this blog for 3 years — thanks for being a part of it.

Marble2

Take a Right, Left, Then a Dogleg at the Dunkin’

This week I wanted to lighten things up, and the universe gave me what I wanted.

I was walking to the train after work last week, and as I waited at a light to cross the street, a young man sort of looked in my direction, looked away, and then looked back. He was cute, so I entertained myself by thinking he was going to flirt and turned my head, smiled, and looked full at him. He noticed, and asked, “Can you tell me how to get to the North End?”

The look on my face must have been that New England “can’t get there from here” look. Depending on where you are in Boston when the hapless, lost person asks you, giving directions can be almost cruel. “Follow Cambridge Street until you come to the third Dunkin’ Donuts on the left — the road curves and becomes Tremont Street, but don’t worry about that. Just ignore it and follow the road…” By this point, the person has that blank look on their face, and you both know they’re not going to even make it to the first Dunkin’.

I pondered which of the ways I could tell him that would be least likely to lead him astray. Then he said in a more pronounced New York accent, which I hadn’t caught before, “This place is worse than New York!”

I started laughing. Encouraged, he proceeded; “There’s no math, just old English names!”

This tickled me to no end. My work in hospital communications is the sole reason I even admit numbers exist, and over the past 9 years, I’ve come to appreciate the usefulness of numbers in the world. However, make no mistake. I’m a word girl through and through, and my world is rocked by letters and words. But I have never considered streets being math- or word-oriented. I was delighted to be in a word city.

I laughed even harder and added, “Yes, just old-ass roads with no logic.”

Now he was into it, laughing too, as he said with the perfect New York point of view: “Yeah, it’s like, fuck you, take a right!”

I got my laughter under control enough to point out the way that made the most visual sense–not the way that would have been shorter.

“Walk down this street, and at the light take a right (I skipped the ‘fuck you’). Follow that road, you’ll go under an overpass, and you’ll think I’m sending you to the devil, but just stay on it. Then you’ll see Faneuil Hall — ”

At that his face lit up. “I know that place!”

“Great!” I wished him well, and we both walked in opposite directions, laughing our asses off.

So, this is my new way of directing people in Boston: “Look, there’s no math, just old-ass English names. Fuck you, take a right.”

Image credit: From this delightful blog about Boston cartography. It’s how you have to drive to get from a point A to point B in Boston. You can see why we walk!

Racism: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I’ve been thinking a lot about racism lately, and that’s my unfair advantage as a white woman: I get to think about it in an abstract way when I have time, interest, and energy. I don’t have to step out the door every day and deal with it myself or worry about a male child or a man in my life being followed, threatened, or shot for simply existing.

I’m a bleeding heart liberal from a genetic pool of people who are pre-disposed to giving others breathing room–the Dutch, so that shit’s genetic and deep. And right now pretty much everyone and every group is under fire, so how’s a lefty girl to choose? There is a macabre buffet of social, political, and environmental issues to choose to fight for. It’s an embarrassment of riches: immigrants, women’s reproduction, the environment, the political collapse of the Democratic Party that lost its focus on helping people without a voice. And then there’s the stuff to fight against, like white supremacists, people who shout using all caps in electronic communications, and Kellyanne Conway–call me conservative, but I don’t believe cyborgs should have full human rights until they can be better calibrated for balance, oh, and have a functioning brain.

So in this Cheeto flea world I’ve been darting around like a dog chasing rabid squirrels and collapsing in a corner panting until I catch my breath. Then another Cheeto flea tweet crosses my Facebook feed and I’m off and running again.

And I don’t even like exercising.

So what can I do? Where should I put my energy, because at 51, I can’t be giving it away for free like I did when I was 25. Except if you’re a hot man, then please step up to the front of the line.

Where was I? Ah, right, stop and focus. Recently a few conversations with my friend Sonia have helped clarify for me that race underpins so much of this–this fear that some white people have of losing ground they only got by 1) existing and 2) pushing down everyone else. This fear made Cheeto flea number 45. This fear continues to openly hate Obama, which is the most fucked up kind of ignorance and blatant racism. I can fight for gays, women, immigrants, and religions, but if Blacks are still considered subhuman, then everything else I do is just a Band-Aid. I should know. I went for marriage counseling around year 10, and that Band-Aid prevented us from getting to the root cause. 10 years after that, we got divorced. I’ve learned I can’t wish this crap away or think it’s one and done. That’s just for romantic comedies, and that is some of the fakest news ever.

Meeting Sonia in college and having some illuminating discussions about everything from rock ‘n’ roll to race inspired me to later read a lot of Black history that I was never taught in school, like the Civil Rights Movement. In 1986, smack in the middle of my conversations with Sonia, Spike Lee came on to the scene with “She’s Gotta Have It.” That was also life-changing–a whole movie about black people just doing regular things like trying to find love from a Black perspective. That shit was radical. Still is.

Eventually Sonia moved away, and I didn’t meet another Black person. Well that’s not true. I bonded with a nice, funny guy at a bad job. We had a lot of fun at work, and I still make this great potato salad recipe he gave me. I proposed that he and his wife hang out with my and my then husband a few times, but he politely declined. I thought at the time of something Sonia had told me about Black people having trouble trusting white people–some of us are pretty sketchy, after all. But now that I’m thinking about it, the same thing happened a few years later with a white couple, so maybe we were just a boring white couple no one wanted to hang around, Black or white.

You see how confusing this race thing can be?

After Sonia left, the gay people decided they did want to hang around with me. That worked because I don’t really think like a straight, white person. I never was big on getting married, although I did try it–it didn’t take. I’m not into working for big companies, climbing ladders, or having a big house. My one kid is great, but if he were not possible, I would have been OK not having a kid. My Moroccan friend once told me, “You’re a weird American.” And she was a weird Moroccan, so she would know. I got to know the struggles of gay people trying to define themselves outside of society’s norms–I was trying to do that too. If you’ve ever heard someone’s coming out story, which usually involves the terror of revealing your true self to those closest to you, knowing you may be rejected out of hand, then, straight, white people like me should be grateful for what we have. I just wanted to work in a nonprofit and be a writer, which meant squatting on the outer edges of American prosperity–most families don’t kick you out for that.

And so I have been to the Gay Pride parade in Boston every year, and was at Cambridge City Hall when they handed out the first gay marriage licenses, and benefited from lots of gay men giving me their cast off furniture. And then we got a Black president, so what could be better? Gay marriage! Black president! This lefty girl was snug as a bug in a rug.

Until, um, now. Cue “Home Alone” screaming kid–note that he’s white.

I’m getting back to where I started all those years ago freshman year talking into the night with Sonia about the difference between black and white hair and ashy skin. She was brave enough to let in this crazy white girl into her life and that changed me forever for the better. It’s time for me to speak up and talk about race, rock ‘n’ roll, and hair–I learned from the gay rights movement that’s what being an ally is. I have the socially acceptable attributes like being white and straight, so I need to use my ninja skills to help others and look at my own biases along the way. Yes, even the Spike Lee-loving liberal has biases. Nobody needs a clueless ally, and white, straight cluelessness can be the worst.

So what are you being called to do? We will most likely intersect and join up at some point in a big-ass massive rally that could maybe fill Rhode Island. We’re going to need all our passion and commitment to make these long-term changes. And while you’re doing your thing, try to also to hear out whatever it is others are saying, even if it makes you uncomfortable. When I hear about the environment, sometimes I want to yell, “I stopped using aerosols, I recycle, I cut up the damn plastic rings around a six-pack of soda! What more do you want from me!?” And when I put my big girl pants on, I can say, yeah, I know there’s more to it than that. Fight, and listen, and if all else fails, laugh at yourself, and keep moving.

Photo: Sonia and I getting our U2 groove on 2 summers ago.

A Little Help from My Friends

My head is full of thoughts and ideas. This is pretty much a normal state for a writer, except right now very little of it makes any sense: there are a lot of competing ideas, a lot of unfinished random thoughts, a fair number of WTF exclamations, some stuff that’s just plain wrong, and there are a few usable ideas, but most of it is scary–it’s kind of like Facebook in my head right now. And nobody needs that, least of all me. I do think there is a coherent thread forming about how I want to move forward, and I wish I meant, should I write more blogs about bad dating or funny work stories?  Oh, the good old days.

But no matter what state the world is in, I can count on my annual girls’ weekend. We all went to high school together, and two of us have been friends since 4th grade. We gathered in Boston this weekend and enjoyed the weather and walked in the city, talked, laughed, ate, drank, ate more, drank more, and laughed again. Luckily, we are all on the same side as far as being horrified by what’s going on–that is not the case with our larger circles. It also came in handy for when we started playing the card game setback. None of us could bear to say trump, which comes up a lot in that game. I’m pretty sure it’s in the rules that you have to frequently ask, “What’s trump?” during the game, and it’s definitely not because of wine consumption. So, we took a stand and refused to say it, and instead said obama. In addition to asking what was obama, every time someone laid down a you-know-what point card, one of us shouted, “obama!”

We agreed to not dwell on politics and try to stay positive, that is until the third glass of wine; then it’s open season for dragging out old, embarrassing stories. But that’s where the healing laughter comes in, and we are very fair in making sure everyone gets laughed at. We’re good that way. And I want to be clear that even though we are all of a similar political persuasion, we did not discriminate and were inclusive: we had wine, beer, cocktails, and we even had an educational, in-depth lively discussion about the origins and making of scotch, whiskey, and bourbon. So stick that in your obama.

I always feel lucky for knowing these women, but this year I feel it even more. Here’s to you Colleen, Gloria, and Sue. No one makes better fun of me than you guys or plays a better obama card game.

Intermission

In today’s episode of Where the Fuck Are We Now, I’ve decided to take a break and showcase the handiwork of other, very capable individuals. I’ve been talking with friends and plotting next steps. I should have an update next week. But for this week, I need a break from the ongoing shenanigans of Cheeto flea. And why can I take a break? Because the Boston scientists were out in force on Sunday, and for a word girl, I seriously love science nerds. Maybe I kinda wish I were one. Maybe I never got over that college major (biology) that got away from me. Maybe their clever use of words makes a word girl swoon. Whatever the reason is, I thought you might like it too. Don’t forget your self-care, your friends, how to laugh, and when in doubt, go straight for the kitten, puppy, and baby goat pics. Then get on with the panning and plotting of how we get through these next 4 years. We can totally do this.

Best signs from the Boston science rally    

altfact

 

It’s Black and White

So in between the pussy grabbing, alternate fact posturing, and Saturday Night Live nailing it (a show, BTW, that has been on the air for 42 years), I’ve been distracted by some other key facts I should be paying attention to. One is this business of the 53% of white women who voted for Trump. After the election, when the headlines popped up and the accompanying inevitable social media outcry appeared, I was pissed off. Women in general get blamed for a lot of shit, much of it involving working/not working and having children. The childless women don’t get a free pass either, so at least the women-blaming is equal. You really have to be grateful for the small things. But when one of my favorite female bloggers was talking about owning up to this complacency of white women, I had to put my hand up and say, NO.

I was having none of it (I said with my chest puffed out, and my voice rising up two octaves.) I have not been complacent–for the past 15 years, I’ve been fighting alongside my gay friends for marriage equality, signing petitions, marching with Black Lives Matter, joining anti-gun groups. Then I remembered my 4th grade teacher’s long diatribe about how disappointed he was in the class’s test grades. My grade was a 95.  The Catholic guilt kicks in immediately whenever a shortcoming is highlighted. Eventually my brain poked it and said, “Hey! He’s not talking to you! Everyone else is the problem.” That works for all of 10 seconds, then the guilt reasserts itself and the nerdy data gathering begins.

Ok, 53%  sounds impressive, but lots of people voted, so surely the white women totals were less impressive? If you look at the results in broader terms, yes, Donald Trump won; however, if only 50% of the eligible voters voted, and 50% voted for him, then only 25% of people want him. That made me feel better until then I then got pissed off at the non-voters. We always have to find someone to blame, right?

But in this case of the damn white women who voted for Trump and smeared my good name, the actual numbers of women voters haven’t yet been released. That’s annoying because the percentages come from somewhere, right? Someone has the damn numbers, but I can’t get to them.  53% of white women is headline grabbing, but what if it’s only a small number,  like, say 100,000 white women voted, then only 53,000 white women voted for the Cheeto Flea. Then I can sleep at night knowing it wasn’t my fault. I know, I’m delusional, but that’s how math works. But since I’m a word girl and numbers make me tired, I moved on to the next phase of my soul-searching: Forget about the white women who voted for Trump. If the pussy-grabbing thing doesn’t make them throw up in their mouths, then their souls are already lost, and there is nothing I can do to help them. Cut and run, I think is the correct tactic.

So I went to the women’s march to join the women who didn’t vote for Trump. I got a much-needed rest respite and recharge, and  it was totally awesome for about 4 days. Then my friend Sonia posted a New York Times article about how white the marches were. The subtitle was: “Who didn’t go to the women’s march matters more than who did.”

Damn. Here we go again with the effin’ white women thing. The article acknowledged that many speakers in the most visible marches featured women of color on stage to speak. In the actual crowds? Not so much. And then there was this hard truth: “While black women show up for white women to advance causes that benefit the entire movement, the reciprocity is rarely shown.” My friend Sonia, who is my only black friend, commented on my Facebook post about the march, “You know I support you #butitscomplicated.”

It is complicated. And it starts with me and those damn white women who voted for Trump, and those who didn’t vote for him and who, until now, have never protested a damn thing. I’m being lumped in with them, and I don’t like it, but guess what, Buttercup? The black folks are saying. “Welcome to my world of being held responsible for your race.” So, this Buttercup is sucking it up.

I can’t do anything about the women who voted for Trump. They just think I’m an Obama-loving, Hillary-supporting a-hole. But I can start with myself. I have one black friend, someone I’m met 34 years ago and who changed my life, and that’s great. But that’s not good enough.

I need to do more, and I’m still figuring out what that looks like. It’s taking some time, because in addition to my usual stress-reduction routine of gym, yoga, and meditation, I’ve had to add 15-20 minutes of random sobbing 2 to 3 times a week to deal with the constant flood of humanity-hating presidential directives. I’m a highly sensitive person. Seriously, it’s a thing–go Google Elaine Aron. I’ll blog about it sometime soon. Suffice it to say, when I’m happy, I cry. When I’m mad, I cry. When I’m sad, I cry. It’ s time-consuming. I feel other people’s emotions in addition to my own, and you all are being wicked emotional right now. It’s a wonder I can get through the day.

Anyway, the last thing Black women need is a weepy white woman at their door step in the guise of “helping.” Step 1: Get shit together. Step 2: Cry on your own time. Step 3: Nevertheless, persist.

 

Week Two

It was kind of a rough week. I don’t recall the last time a president’s executive order increased my work load in hospital communications. So you can blame the Cheeto for this short post. His nonsense took up most of my energy this week having to write something to calm employees and patients about the immigration ban. Meanwhile, inside I felt like an old school journalist, sweating under deadline, in a cloud of cigarette smoke, and wishing for a Mad Men-like flask in my drawer. The week did end well, though, with a family gathering for my son’s birthday, and a Planned Parenthood meeting at a friend’s house. Some quality family time and political action does a girl good. I learned a number of things at the meeting:

  • Planned Parenthood provides Pap tests, breast exams, birth control, HIV testing, health care for men and women, and more.
  • In many communities, especially rural ones, Planned Parenthood is the only safety net provider of family planning.
  • I need a group, a glass of wine, and tasty snacks to help me write political letters. A while ago I had put in a reminder to myself to write to my US representative Katherine Clark about something. So, I thought I’d finally do that as well. When I pulled it up on my phone, it said “Thank Katherine Clark for not going to the inauguration.” Um, yeah, so clearly I can’t be trusted by myself to get the job done. In addition to asking her to keep funding Planned Parenthood, I was sure to thank her for all she was doing. Better late than never, I suppose.

So, that’s all I got this week. That and the photo from a long ago, far away vacation (back in September) with my sis and bro-in-law on Hilton Head island. That is my current happy place.

If you’d like to help keep Planned Parenthood funded, go to www.istandwithpp.org/call .