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The Friend I’m Not Praying For

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“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with someone in outer space, they’d put you away.  But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”
-Sam Harris

prayer

I seeing miss my sweet, witty, intelligent, compassionate, bawdy, hugs & sloppy kisses friend, HUL.  She gets back here (she used to live in Oregon) to visit when she can, and although it seems like there’s no distance between us when we phone or email or text, she lives 1300 miles away.  And she is having surgery today.  I will be thinking of her, and talking to her after the surgery as I’ve talked to her before and after her cancer diagnosis, commiserating about the shitty situation and brainstorming treatment options, colorfully cursing the brusque and clueless medical personnel she’s encountered and lavishly praising the smart, kind and competent ones.

I will not be praying for HUL. Nor will I be

* burning special incense for her
* anointing her head with oil
* finding a faith healer to perform a laying on of hands
* doing a Wiccan or Tibetan healing chant
* performing a Haipule [1]or smudging ceremony [2]
* sacrificing a child
* using crystals to balance her energy
* casting a voodoo healing spell
* sending her to a Hakim (traditional Muslim healer) for Unani medicine [3]

Or singing her favorite soccer team’s fight song….or performing any of the rituals many human beings once somehow (and, sadly, still) thought might cause the gods/spirits/cosmic energies to look upon them with favor and cure their maladies.

What the heck. I could pick one of those things, or cover the bases and do ‘em all, as they have an equal likelihood of affecting the outcome of HUL’s surgery and subsequent prognosis.

HUL, righteously religion-free babe that she is, is not asking me, or anyone, to pray for her.

Not even moi?

Not even moi?

Her first surgery will be done in a Catholic-run hospital. HUL told me the only activity resembling praying that she might do is to beseech the friend who’s picking her up after surgery to refrain from vandalizing crucifixes and the like, should said friend spot any Catholibilia [4] in HUL’s room.

HUL will not be posting the news of her illness and surgery on any social media sites.  She wants to control access to this information and maintain a modicum of privacy.  She also wants to avoid the jaw-clenching, energy-sucking vibes produced by People Who Mean Well ® and who express their sentiments, even to those of us whom they know are religion-free, via the hackneyed expression [5] ,  I’ll be praying for you.

praying

She and I – and just about every atheist-agnostic-Bright-humanist-skeptic-freethinker on the planet – have commiserated over this phenomenon.  We realize the expression is a kneejerk, cultural/social, nicety response, and that not everyone who says “I’ll pray for you” literally intends to do so.  It’s similar to the way “How are you?” is used as a greeting – as a substitute or equivalent for Hi or Good morning.   If you take that “How are you?” query/greeting at face value and actually talk about how you are,  [6] you may be surprised by the WTF expression from the one who has greeted you and who now acts like they want to leave skidmarks as they flee from your discourse.

When it comes to being on the receiving end of I will be/I am praying for you, Those Of  Us Who Think About Such Things mostly grin and bear it, with various degrees of enthusiasm and anemia.  Here’s what we’re likely to say (even as this is what we’re likely thinking):

Well-Meaning But Ignorant Person:  “I am so sorry to hear about your upcoming hammertoe surgery! I’ll pray for you.”

Us: “Oh, okay. Thanks for thinking of me.” (You’re going to pray…uh…yeah, knock yourself out…but…really…WHY? Am I supposed to thank you for doing…well, nothing…when what I could use is a casserole, or for someone to mow my lawn while my foot is in a cast?)

I know, I know, IKNOWIKNOWIKNOWIKNOW.  People “mean well” (I’m trying to remember that great Lily Tomlin quote, something about thank goodness for kids, they never mean well).  But those of us who are fond of reality don’t just shelve it in times of crisis.  We we know about the efficacy [7] and therefore futility of prayer, to any one’s deities, for anything, and our bafflement at the announcement of the practice is often hard to disguise.

answered prayer

Skeptics more articulate than moiself have pointed out that while many religious people claim to truly believe that prayer can cure a variety of illnesses and injuries, they only pray for maladies that are generally self-limiting (and thus, they can attribute the cure to miraculous intervention).

I’ve never heard of religious believers petitioning their god to cause the boy with 3rd degree burns to grow new skin overnight (or even over the course of a few months), although I have heard them pray that the boy’s skin grafts will take.

An illness that gets better over time (and most do), a mood that improves, believers can and often do attribute these events to a “miracle” or divine intervention.  But hard physical evidence – the burnt, necrotizing flesh, the amputee’s stump– is a slap in the face to the “power” of prayer.

My theory is that deep down inside, even the most fundy believers have reality check neurons (besieged, but not extinct), which occasionally whisper to them, “Now, let’s not get carried away, you know this stuff is just mumbo jumbo.”

How else to explain the fact that, while believers fervently and publicly ask their god to heal the spirit and speed the recovery of the Iraqi war veteran whose leg was blown off by an IED, or of the diabetic who lost a foot to gangrene, they do not pray for their god to regenerate these sufferers’ limbs. In the case of Christian believers, their scriptures are filled with stories of “miraculous” events and healings performed by their god, including restoration of sight to the blind and movement to a paralytic, instantaneous curing of leprosy and healing of a soldier’s amputated ear and so on. Why should the production of new skin or a new leg be so difficult for an omniscient, omnipotent, responsive-to-the-heartfelt-petitions-of-his-flock deity?   Especially considering the fact that several species of our fellow animal inhabitants of our planet, including skinks, sea stars, conchs, and crayfish, can regenerate amputated appendages, and (presumably) do this without prayer.

"Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!"

“Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!”

Check out this site, for a more entertaining (and thought-provoking) examination of…well…of why this question is – or should be, to any sentient being – so important:  Why Won’t God Heal Amputees.

I get it; all of us who smite even the idea of prayer get it:  in times of adversity it’s often hard to know what to do or say.  Bad news makes everyone uncomfortable. You hear about someone’s misfortune, you care, you want to do something…but, think about it.  That “something” you do, if it’s praying (or just saying that you will pray), is more about making you feel better than about what prayer might actually accomplish.  Praying may provide you with the comforting illusion of having done something, but in fact you’ve done Absolutely. Nothing. Of. Substance.

If you really care, do something. Praying, or the secular version –  “holding a good thought for you” – doesn’t count.  Talk (and thought) is cheap; actions speak louder than – oh, don’t make me type it.

getwell

When HUL told me about her disease we cried and laughed and raged and cried and laughed some more. Here is what I will do for you, I told her, if you will let me, and if you need me to.[8] The list is a work in progress, based in part upon what other kind friends, neighbors and co-workers have done for me in times of need.  Like all such lists, it will and should be modified to fit the situation.

* Be there before, during and after surgery [9]
* Bring you healthful meals

"Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator."

“Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator.”

* Clean your house, hold your hand, feed your cats (and scoop their litterboxes)
* Donate to reputable, efficacious [10] cancer research funds
* Send you links to really bad jokes and visual puns and baby sloth videos
* Rent you some DVDs for a Daniel Day Lewis film festival [11]
* Encourage you to document what you are going through…

About that last one.  Although not a professional author, HUL is a pithy, articulate and entertaining writer, and I’ve urged her to record not only the logistics of her disease but her attitudes and reactions to it as well.  However, I have promised to refrain from referring to her dealing with cancer as if she’s on some kind of spiritual excursion.

I just can’t help it: when I heard phrases like, “Tell us what you’ve learned from your journey with pancreatic cancer,” it makes me want to kick Oprah in the ovaries.

 *   *   *

And Now For Something Completely Different

 Department of Making It All Better

When I serve a dish containing Brussels sprouts – to anyone, but mostly to MH and moiself – I also serve champagne.

sprouts

*   *   *

About Last Week’s Shirt

Receiving slightly less attention than the Rosetta mission’s landing of a probe on a comet was the PR meteor storm created by one of the project scientists.  This scientist dude chose “the most important day in spaceflight since Curiosity landed on Mars” – a day when he was slated to be speaking about the project on a worldwide live-stream – to wear a tacky bowling shirt covered in comic book-style images of half-naked women.

REALLY

Same dude also went on to describe the difficulty of the Rosetta mission: “She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.”

facepalm

Read this, for one of the more coherent takes on this brouhaha, including the dude’s [12] apology, and the (surprise!) internet-troll backlash aimed at those people [13] who called out the dude on his astounding inappropriateness.

“If you think this is just a bunch of prudes, you’re wrong. It’s not about the prurience. It’s about the atmosphere of denigration….. If you think this isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. It comes when there is still a tremendously leaky pipeline for women from undergraduate science classes to professional scientist. It comes when having a female name on a paper makes it less likely to get published, and cited less. It comes when there is still not even close to parity in hiring and retaining women in the sciences.”
 (Phil Plait, Astronomer and “science evangelist,” from his Bad Astronomy blog)

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

*   *   *

May your choice of bowling shirts be workplace-appropriate and face-palm-worthy-free, may well-meaning folks have no reason to pray for your recovery, may your cruciferous vegetables always be champagne-escorted, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A Hawaiian healing ritual.

[2] A Native American practice involving cleansing a person with the smoke of sacred plants.

[3] The use of food and herbs to reestablish balance, based on a theory of wet/dry, hot/cold humors in the body.

[4] Yeah, I made that word up, but you know what I mean: crucifixes, rosaries, framed pictures of Jesus and saints and John F. Kennedy….

[5] and seemingly obligatory Facebook response to bad news.

[6] Like many a bewildered newcomer to American culture has done, and discovered that the Howareyou supplicant  did not really want to hear about your latest triumphs and travails. Or, as one European traveler put it, “Why do Americans ask how you are when they don’t want to know? Why don’t they just say, ‘Hello’?”

[7] That would be: zero.

[8] Make sure your help is practical and actually wanted, and not yet another task for the afflicted to manage.

[9] HUL has friends lined up to help, and graciously deflected that offer…although she’s made me promise to fly out for her “Yay, I’m all better!” or “I need more treatment, so kiss my hair goodbye!” party – whichever one she throws.

[10] Check out any and all charities to make sure they are legitimate and use funds wisely (Charity Navigator and Givewell are just two of the organizations that provide such evaluations), and fuck the Susan Komen industry ’cause festooning your body with plastic pink crap made in China does not cure breast cancer.

[11] Do not underestimate the power of watching your favorite movies featuring your favorite, fine-looking actors – ’twas repeated showings of Last of the Mohicans, not the antibiotics, that cured my pneumonia, I truly believe, brothers and sisters (somebody say, Amen!).

[12] Nah, I won’t use his name. I don’t think he was evil or even (consciously) misogynistic, just incredibly puerile.

[13] Every sentient being with an IQ larger than their hat size and their heads out of the sand (and not up their asses) – which I assume is an accurate description for y’all.

The Riposte I’m Not Stifling

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Department of I Just Didn’t Want To Go There

Dateline: Tuesday, on my morning walk.  Three blocks from home, I turned a corner and detected the stench of tobacco.  Fifty feet ahead of me, holding a lit cigarette in his hand, a boy who looked to be about 14 years old was checking a curbside mailbox.  As I crossed to the other side of the street to avoid walking through his smoke, the boy turned around to look at me. He gestured at my Nordic Trekking poles and called out:

“Why are you ski-walking?” 

“Because it’s more fun than regular walking,” I replied.

I’d stifled the riposte that sprang to my petty little mind – Why are you smoking? – but as I continued toward home, I found myself wondering, what if I hadn’t?  What would have been his reply?

“Because it’s more fun than regular breathing.”

smoke

*   *   *

Diamonds Are Forever [1]
But Porcelain Crowns Last Twenty Years, If You’re Lucky

 Aka, Department of Causing Your Dental Hygienist to Declare
“In All My Years, I’ve Never Heard That Answer Before.”

For some reason, Sean Connery had entered the rinse-and-spit conversation [2] between the dental hygienist and moiself.  A brief discussion of James Bond movies ensued as we waited for the dentist to finish up with a patient in the adjoining room.  The hygienist said she liked the Connery-era films but was not a fan of Roger Moore in the role. I told her I’d never been a much of a Bond movie fan, until the easy-on-the-eyes Daniel Craig was cast in the role.

When the dentist entered the room we exchanged our usual jest-filled chit-chat before he lowered the exam chair and began his inspection of my cheap whiskey and fine Cuban cigar-stained chompers pearly whites. [3]

“So, how are things going?” he asked. “Any complaints about your teeth?”

I raised myself up on one elbow, grinned at the hygienist and said, “Only that Daniel Craig hasn’t licked them.”

"About those fluoride applications...."

“About those fluoride applications….”

*   *   *

Department of, If You Have to Ask…

Prologue:
So, what do you do?

I’ve never liked that question, when used as part of an introduction or conversation starter, and try not to ask it myself when speaking with a new acquaintance.  One of the many things I’ve noticed and enjoyed in my [4] travels abroad is that Other Peoples of the World ®  (i.e., not Americans) don’t care so much what you “do” – they’d rather hear about who you are in terms of where you choose to live, where you’ve been and where you’d like to be (travel-wise), and what you think about _____ (insert favorite political or cultural interest).

Also, there’s the published author thing.  If I answer the what-you-do question truthfully, I often receive some chunk of cringe-worthy (and totally unjustified) adulation –   “OMG, you’re an AUTHOR!” [5] – accompanied by obsequious expressions of admiration…or, worse, the “Really!? That’s fantastic; you know, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Maybe you’d like to look at some of my story ideas?”

Friend/fellow writer SCM has suggested I answer the WDYD question with, “I’m an editor.”  Which would be a deflection but not technically a lie (I do edit my own work).

And now, the anecdote:

Last Saturday MH and I participated in an educational and tree-planting volunteer event at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.  Volunteers were divided into six units and given name tags stamped with a picture of our unit’s “mascot” – one of the many animals that can be found at the JB wetlands.  MH and I were sorted to unit #2, the Canada Goose group, which I accepted after some mild grumbling about the irony of having the mascot of the #2 group be the planet’s most prolific producer of…well… #2.

"You got a problem with that?"

“You got a problem with that?”

As we trudged over the muddy wetland trails on our way to the tree-planting area, a woman in our group made small talk with MH and I. She volunteered the fact that she is an OR nurse at a local hospital, then asked, “So, what do you do?”

Using my oft-times-literalist interpretation, I replied, “When?”

She looked at me blankly.

“Well, at this moment I’m volunteering at the….”

“No, I mean, as in work.  For money.”

I momentarily considered using my friend’s suggestion, but our fellow volunteer seemed nice and level-headed, and I bailed. “I’m a writer.”

Her eyes lit up like a venti-chugging lemur.

Kind of like this.

Kind of like this.

“A writer!? she gasped.  “What kind of writer?”

“Mostly fiction.”

“Are you famous?”

(Ay yi yi). “Are you?” I replied.

Her blank look resurfaced.

“You know – when you walk into the OR, do the other people there say, ‘I know her!’ “

"If that woman is famous, the terrorists have won."

“If that woman is famous, then truly, the terrorists have won.”

*   *   *

Department of Bright Ideas

The Brights are an international internet constituency composed of individuals who have a naturalistic worldview.  This is the organization’s logo:

brights_icon_100x100

Their motto: “Illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview.”

I was stuck for pumpkin-carving inspiration this Halloween, until I got a Bright Idea.  I emailed a picture of my creation to the directors of The Brights, along with my best wishes for a “Happy Halloween from a Bright (if not so talented) jack-o-lantern carver.”

"Illuminating the natural world...and the porch, for trick-or-treaters."

“Illuminating the natural world…and the porch, for trick-or-treaters.”

*   *   *

My Work Here is Done

On Wednesday I received the following email from daughter Belle:

“Happy post-election day!
Don’t forget to set your clocks back 40 years in honor of the new senate!”

While we’re on the subject, the following is suitable for a few laughs, even if not quite SFW:

*   *   *

 

May your teeth be white and your celebrations Bright, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The last of the original James Bond films to star Sean Connery.

[2] As in, is he still alive, or what?

[3] Which, while neither whiskey nor cigar-stained, are not even close to being pearly white. In case you were wondering.

[4] Comparatively or relatively few (at least, compared to some people I know).

[5] Sometimes accompanied by squeals of excitement. Really. The squealing…it’s just…embarrassing.

The Bass I’m Not All About

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At first the man seated behind me (@ Portland Center Stage’s auditorium) spoke in normal, muted, waiting-for-the-play-to-begin tones to the woman beside him. I caught the phrases, “attempted to,” “many months,” and then…gulp…”decided to self-publish.”

If only these were earplugs....

If only these were earplugs….

Aye yi yi.

Unfortunately, that was when he began to raise the decibel  level.

“…’Below the Surface’ – I came up with the title when I was watching sea turtles….” 

He’d figured out something so authentic, so, like, deep – as in, below the surface – he felt compelled to share it with the world:

…you know, it’s that what’s underneath a person, the part you don’t see, is your authentic self, and you must discover this before you can find your authentic self and purpose, and until you do, every part of your life cannot be authentic [1] and you are doomed to frustration and annoying strangers sitting in the theatre waiting for Dreamgirls to start….

Amazing, isn’t it, that he’s going to have to self-publish – amazing, that no established, reputable publisher jumped at the opportunity to print his shallow commentary disguised as insights cribbed from every other self-realization/actualization help book published in the last twenty years profoundly authentic revelations?

WORD

*   *   *

The Department of How Many Copies Has This Song Sold?

Yes, I know I’m late to this particular party.  But really, I hadn’t heard the song until recently.  After a late afternoon workout session, I ejected my exercise CD. The media box reverted to TV mode, and lo and behold, the host of a popular talk show was introducing a singer/songwriter. S/S proclaimed that after she’d watched a certain segment of that certain talk show, S/S had been inspired to write a song about “body image and acceptance.” [2]

I’m somewhat suspicious about any song that is marketed as any kind of anthem.  I am really suspicious when the performance of an alleged anthem about body image and acceptance – or, as per the singer/songwriter Meghan Trainor, “female body empowerment” –  is accessorized by provocatively clad and twerking dancers and backup singers.

Yeah, that seems right.

Yeah, that seems right.

Gotta admit, I thought the song’s melody was catchy.  Then I made the mistake of paying attention to the lyrics, which included the affirming, anthemic, progressive, we-shall-overcome lines:

“Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
but I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do.”

‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
 And all the right junk in all the right places 

 Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
 She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold tonight.”

 You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
 So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

 I’m bringing booty back
 Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that…”

So, uh huh. Acceptance involves dissing other women – excuse me, stick figure silicone Barbie dolls & skinny bitches – while an empowering body image means thinking that shaking your ample boom boom that all the boys chase is not only what you’re supposed to do, but is a good thing because that’s what boys like….

REALLY

My junk musta been in the wrong place – ya know, me and my fellow skinny ass bitches musta been AWOL – when Gloria SteinemFlorynce Kennedy,  Letty Cotton Pogrebin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan FaludiPhyllis Chesler and other great minds of 21st century feminist thought collaborated on this particular Female Empowerment memo.

*   *   *

☼   Captured by the KGB   ☼

Aka, Masterpiece Theatre Presents Great Performances in Child abuse Child Management
(Setting: A Medical Practice near Stanford Hospital, circa 1988)

She was, simply and profoundly, one pest of a kid.  The girl was around eight or nine, obnoxious as hell…although her temperament should not have mattered.  A child should not brought to her mother’s medical appointments and left to fend for herself.  Woman, you either take your daughter in the exam room with you, or get a sitter. [3]

But This Particular Woman never got a sitter for her daughter. Four years in a row, TPW brought her daughter to TPW’s annual exams, each time assuring me and the rest of the OB/GYN practice’s staff that “she (daughter) is really quite mature and no trouble at all,” and each time following that patently false statement with the balls-out (so to speak) request, “If you all don’t mind watching her while I’m in with Dr. ___….”

Four years in a row, the staff told her in so many different ways, As a matter of fact yes, we do mind, and even if we didn’t mind we are WORKING and that work does not include babysitting, and this is a medical practice and there are hazardous instruments and chemicals and….

Four years in a row, TPW ignored us.

TPW resided in a tony Bay Area suburb. Given her address – and the vacations she bragged about taking with her husband – it was reasonable to assume she could easily have afforded to hire a sitter (hell, a 24 hour nanny service) for her daughter. [4]   But, noooooooooo.

She’d tell her daughter that if she needed anything or got bored to ask the “nice office ladies” for some help.  And while TPW was in the exam room with Dr. ___, TPW’s daughter would run around the waiting room, annoying other patients waiting for their appointments, and barge through the door to the staff area and pester the staff. [5]

Year five; TPW’s annual exam. Lather; rinse; repeat.  TPW’s daughter ignored the children’s magazines our office manager had purchased especially for the occasion, as well as the receptionist’s directive to remain in the waiting room. While the receptionist was on the phone retrieving lab results and the office manager was making a return appointment for an OB patient and I was readying an exam room for the next patient, TPW’s demon spawn bad seed daughter pushed past the waiting room door, banged on the receptionist’s typewriter, then prowled the hallway that led to the exam rooms.

bad seed

I exited the second exam room, carrying an instrument tray which had been used for an IUD insertion, and bumped into the kid, who nearly ended up with a speculum on her head.

That was that.

“Come with me,” I directed the girl. She followed me as I walked to our small lab room, dumped the instruments in the sink by the autoclave and stripped off my gloves.

“You’ve got quite an imagination, I can tell. Would you like to play a game?”  The girl beamed affirmatively.  “I gotta warn you, it’s a very special game and takes a smart, strong person to play it.  Not every kid can handle…”

“Oh-oh, I can! I can do it! Let me play!’

“All right.”  The office manager had left for her lunch break, and I pushed her empty chair to the corner of the staff work area, next to the copy machine. I instructed the girl to take a seat.  “The name of the game is, ‘Captured by the KGB.’ “

KGB

“I am a KGB agent, and you are an American spy.  You have been blindfolded and tied to this chair, and are waiting for the head of the KGB to interrogate you.”  I showed the girl how to wrap her arms around the back of the chair, as if her wrists were tied together.

“All the other KGB agents” – I indicated myself and the receptionist, who gave me her Robyn, WTF?! look  [6] –   “are trying to get you to confess. But you are strong! You will not betray your country! And you do not say one word.”

The girl squinted shut her eyes and giggled as I pretended to fasten a blindfold around her head.  “That’s right!” she exclaimed, “I’m strong, and I…  “

“Uh uh uh – not one word, remember?”

I returned to my work.  The girl was a brave little spy for a few minutes, then began to softly whine.

This is boring.

I reminded her that she had been captured by the KGB, and that there is nothing boring about espionage.  That bought me another two minutes.

I don’t like this game anymore. She opened her eyes, but kept her hands behind her back.

“You have been captured by the KGB.  They don’t care what you like, and they’ll gag you if you do not stay silent.”

Another minute passed.

I d-d-don’t wanna play this anymore.  I – I don’t like this game.  There was a catch in the girl’s voice, and her eyes filled with tears.

The receptionist gaped at me, her eyes widening – in astonishment or admiration, I couldn’t tell – just as we heard the distinctive squeak of exam room three’s door.

“Mommy!” The girl ran to TPW and buried her face in TPW’s skirt.

“She missed you.” I said to TPW, and flashed the most disingenuous smile ever to grace Dr. ___’s hallway.

crocsmiles

*   *   *

Epilogue:
The girl apparently said nothing to TPW (at least, not while she was in the office) about being captured by the KGB.

Epi-epilogue:
TPW did not bring her daughter  to her subsequent appointments with Dr. ___.

Epi-epi-epilogue:
The statute of limitations has passed, so don’t even think about reporting me to CPS.

*   *   *

May you be all about everything but your bass, may your behavior stand up to KGB agent scrutiny, and may the above-the-surface hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And did I mention he seemed concerned with authenticity?

[2] Shame on you, Ellen.

[3] Nope, I don’t know why she wasn’t in school. Almost no one was homeschooling back then, and certainly not the wealthy.

[4] Why is it always the ones who can afford it who try to get something for free?

[5] TPW’s and her daughter’s behaviors were noted in TPW’s chart, as a warning for future staff members. TPW was the only patient who, when she called to make her appointments, was reminded to procure child care. And yes, the practice’s staff spoke to the doctor about the situation (he was reluctant to handle “patient behavior issues.”  Read: he felt that was not his problem, it was ours.)

[6] I’d seen that look more than once.

The Nose Hairs I’m Not Trimming

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Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

There is a certain beauty to these disparate messages in this week’s spam file – a mélange of subjects I find peculiarly compelling:

 * A scary number and an awesome cat
* Weird food KILLED my blood pressure
* John Kerry With Egyptians Over Gaza
* My hips went from a 40 down to a 35 in seven days
* Mail from CIA (Congratulation) !!!
* [SPAM] is NOT SPAM!
* Free Viagra for under $5!

And this, from a company that helps inventors turn their innovative ideas into branded product…this, to me, is the most poignant spam of all:

 * Tangled, messy garden hoses are a thing of the past

Please, say it ain’t so.

How will I ever convey to my offspring the contentment that can only arise from laboring to transform a tangled, messy garden hose into a straight and tidy irrigation tube, if the former no longer exists?

I swear, those entrepreneurs just want to suck the mystery out of life.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

 *   *   *

Silent But Deadly =  Recuperative

Readers with such totally meaningless lives they must fill the void in their souls by reading my blog excellent memories may recall last week’s blog, wherein I mentioned the mini-strokes that have afflicted my mother.  Those Wacky Scientists ® may have come up with a non-surgical, non-pharmacological, totally natural treatment for her.

I am, of course, referring to fart-smelling.

As reported in The Week:

“A new study …suggests that exposure to hydrogen sulfide could prevent mitochondria damage….. Hydrogen sulfide gas…well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,”  a professor at the University of Exeter, said…. the study suggests that “a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria.”

I can’t help but wonder: is there is a corollary effect for gas emissions of the northern orifice; i.e., does listening to belching have mitigating effects for auditory or other sensory disorders?  In other words, any excuse to play this:

 *   *   *

Why I Never Ran a Lemonade Stand  [1]

Lawston 2

*   *   *

Apparently, my calling, where my true talent lies, is writing Amazon reviews. Such as the one I penned for my “manatee tea infuser.”

I love the way my manatee looks; I love the very concept, and I love the way she perches on the rim of my teacup, with her loose tea-laden nether regions soaking in the hot water, infusing the teacup with…well, with very little actual tea.

The holes in her silicon trunk are just not holey enough to allow for proper circulation. The only thing that comes close to the disappointed look on my face when I sip what I am hoping will be a freshly brewed cuppa, and taste instead a week mug of almost-nothing (hey, did I mistakenly order the homeopathic tea?), is the forlorn expression on the manatea herself. I think she knows what’s going on. She is a tea infuser that does not infuse; she is forlorn, bereft of purpose, just another pretty (if bewhiskered) face.

The review itself received several glowing reviews, and is currently listed as the most helpful review for the product.  I may now return to Antares with a clear conscience. My work here is done.

 manatea

“(Moiself) has written one of the most informative and creative reviews of any product that I have ever had the privilege to read. Thank you for a review that not only provided the information that I needed and also managed to be very entertaining.”

 *   *   *

Tonight is Hillsboro’s Bards & Brews.  Bards & Brews is a last-Friday-of-the-month literary event, co-organized by Jacobsen’s Books and hosted by the downtown Hillsboro restaurant/wine bar/retail shop, Primrose & Tumbleweeds:

Join us for a celebration of the written word! Local authors of every flavor will gather for Bards & Brews to share their works in a series of talks and readings, while you enjoy a meal or a beverage from the world’s largest collection of Oregon wines and beers. 

As I mentioned last week, I’d rather be home trimming my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than do author appearances, but since the nose hair situation is under control and my name is on the list, I’ve no excuse but to show up.  I’ll read a couple of passages from my featured book and be available to talk afterward. [1]  Here’s the slate (author and book title) for tonight:

 *  Robyn Parnell (The Mighty Quinn)
*  Caitlin Claire Diehl (First Daughter)
*  Tammy Owen         (House of Goats)
*  Paula Stokes            (The Art of Lainy)
*  Paul Gerald (60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland)

I hope to see your friendly faces (perhaps made even friendlier by the beverages?) tonight.  If nothing else, you may pick up some hiking tips from Paul Gerald (aka that Portland hiking guy).

 Bards & Brews, Friday July 25, 7 – 9p
Primrose & Tumbleweeds
248 E Main St.
in old town Hillsboro, one block north of the Hillsboro Transit Center

 *   *   *

Department of I Am So Not Making This Up

And the Golden Wingnut Award goes to….wanna-be nurse Sara Hellwege.

GOLDEN WINGNUT

 

I will really, really try not to refer to her as Sarah Hell-Wedgie.  So, please, erase the following image from your mind.

hellwedgie

 

Dateline: Tampa, Florida, where not-yet-graduated-or-licensed nurse Sara Hellwege  (not Hell-Wedgie) has apparently fallen out of the bounteously-limbed Tree of Illogic and Absurdity and hit every branch on the way down.  Despite the obvious signs that Hellwege is suffering from TBI ( theological bullshit instruction), she was able to apply for a job in Tampa medical clinic, and is now blathering “religious liberty violation” because she did not get the job after she said she would not be able to do the job.

REALLY

No shit. [2]

Sara Hellwege is a member of a conservative religious “medical” organization that believes, contrary to all medical and scientific evidence, that birth control causes  “the death of a human embryo.”  When asked by the clinic’s human resources director about her affiliation with the group, “Hellwege admitted she would refuse to prescribe the birth control pill to anyone who wanted it. She was summarily told that prescribing the birth control pill was part of the job and was not hired.”

All together now: Sara Hellwege does not want to prescribe birth control, but she applied for a job at a family health center where prescribing birth control is a job requirement.

Uh huh.

 "I'll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough."

“I’ll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough.”

*   *   *

Best. Vandalism. Ever.

Portland is just so, you know, Portlandia.  Eleven miles west, we Hillsborons [3] struggle to have any kind of identity, other than our unofficial city motto, [4] “Yeah, we’re not Portland, but at least we’re not Riverside.”

Oh, but that was then, and this is now:

 “In my 25 years in police services, I have never investigated or seen a criminal mischief involving pastries.”
- Lt. Mike Rouches, Hillsboro police spokesman.

It seems a Hillsboro neighborhood has been plagued – or blessed, depending upon your POV – with a unique form of vandalism.  In a kindergartener’s dream titled article, “Donut Caper Hits Hillsboro Neighborhood,”  The Oregonian reports that in the past six weeks, vandals have plagued Northeast Farmcrest Street and neighboring areas, “scattering doughnuts around” and other food, too, including red potato salad, “…But doughnuts have been the most common food found.”

And just in case you’re wondering,  I HAVE AN ALIBI FOR THE PAST SIX WEEKS.

Here the breaking news reporting gets more species-specific:

 “Maple bars smeared across cars. Two chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles sat atop the windshield wipers of one vehicle.”

DONUT

With sprinklesI love that this important forensic detail is mentioned.

As you can imagine, Hillsboro’s finest detective squad exists only in our dreams has been assigned to the details.  Read the article in its entirety, and you’ll shudder to think of the hypoglycemic sickoes behind these and other incidents:

On July 18, a Hillsboro sergeant found a box of Little Debbie Coral Reef Cakes strewn in the middle of Farmcrest Street. The dessert was the yellow cake with chocolate creme version, which is topped with brightly colored starfish and fish-shaped sprinkles.

 The next day, July 19, a woman told police that…she found doughnuts thrown around her yard…. Mysteriously, a “Twilight” book was also left in her driveway.

Now we’re talking.

Hello, CSI Hillsboro, do I have to spell it out for you?  Crimes of pastry side-by-side with one of the worst crimes against literature – this is no coincidence.

As one befuddled resident put it, “Can the world get any more cruller?”

*   *   *

R.I.P. James Garner

Murphy's

If you haven’t already, treat yourself to a viewing of one of the actor’s best (IMHO) if underappreciated roles, in Murphy’s Romance. I love this movie for so many reasons, including the realistic, well-written the role of a kid, where kid gets to be a kid and not a sitcom-ish sassy-talking, wiseass Hollywood version of A Kid ® . The chemistry between Garner’s and Sally Field’s characters is mahvelous; also, the movie has one of the best ending couplets [5] in cinema history (spoiler alert):

SF: “So, how do you like your eggs?”

JG: “I’m sixty.”

*  *  *

 May your Romcom dialogue be convincing,  your wedgies be heavenly, your neighborhood vandalism be hypoglycemic-neutral, and may the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Cartoon by Mary Lawton. Her work is featured in many venues, including the aptly named Funny Times.

[2] Except for the batshit crazy kind.

[3] For some reasons, residents of Hillsboro have resisted my attempt to label us thusly.

[4] Hillsboro has no official city motto.  And since I’m about as unofficial as they get, I feel totally justified in coming up with an unauthorized slogan.

[5] I’m probably using this poetic reference incorrectly.  So, sue me.

The Doves I’m Not Angering

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Sight of the Day

Thursday afternoon: returning from New Seasons market, I was entranced by the sight of our two resident, usually docile mourning doves, who swooped down from the tippy-top top of our deodora cedar and engaged in a coordinated attack upon two much larger crows.  The crows flew nonchalantly, even as the doves chased them to our rooftop, from where one crow safely launched itself up and away from the doves.  The other was chased off of the roof and then down the block.  The doves took turns dive-bombing the crow, forcing it to fly lower and lower until it found shelter in a neighbor’s shrubbery.

Protecting their nesting site?  Impressive courtship display (“Oh baby, you know how I love it when you harass the corvids)?  Or just feeling bodacious?  Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the doves’ aerial show.

angrydoves

*   *   *

WTF, SCOTUS?

I’d like to send some angry doves to Washington to peck some sense into a certain group of chickenhawks.  The SCOTUS’s four Resident Retrograde Catholic Assholes [1] were at it again, and were joined by swing asshole Justice Kennedy in their latest yep-we-done-lost-our-shit 5-4 ruling, this one involving Christian prayers at government meetings.  I’ll sum up the majority reasoning rationalization: You see, boys and girls, violating the Constitutional, if someone has[2] been doing it for years, ceases to be a violation and becomes protected “tradition,, “history” and/or culture.

PRAYHYPOCRITES

Now that they’ve reamed the First Amendment a new one, let’s all go out and have our way with the others.

Yessum, Mr. U.S. Attorney, we-all in Bunnyboner, Mississippi kinda heard ’bout that Fourth Amendment  prohibiting warrantless searches and all, but our Sherriff’s department been bustin’ into houses and ransacking shit for decades – it’s our law tradition.

*   *   *

Another religion-politics face palmer was brought to my attention by MH, this one involving Monica Wehby, the Portland doctor who’s thrown her neurosurgeon’s cap into the political ring for Oregon’s Republican Senate primary race.  Wehby is apparently not conservative enough for her party’s wingnuts, who’ve criticized her stance on abortion, which is a teense too prochoice for their tastes. Oh, yeah, and she’s identified herself as a Catholic.

We’ll likely never know if Wehby is a practicing/believing Catholic or merely a “cultural Catholic.” Or, she might be the kind of self-identified RC (as I suspect many politicians are) who no longer practices and/or believes the tenets of her religion, but who doesn’t want to rock the ark and does want to claim a label that (used to) guarantee a bloc of votes.  As reported in The Oregonian, in an early primary debate, when the subject of abortion came up, that’s when she played her RC card:

Wehby said abortion should be a woman’s choice – although she’s also quick to emphasize that she’s a Catholic who is personally pro-life. 

Some of us would like to quickly emphasize that the proclaimed Catholic Wehby is divorced, and is sympathetic to gay marriage [3] and that, like abortion, both divorce and gay marriage are ginormously big no-nos in the Catholic religion.

Some of us would also just as quickly prefer never to have to think about a politician’s supernatural beliefs, never, ever again.  We are a secular democratic republic; we elect people to be our political leaders/servants, not priests (or doctors, or…).  But Wehby dragged her religion into the public arena, so her hypocrisy, or at least inconsistency, is fair game.  Because, really, Roman Catholic-influenced thought and strategy of any kind is just what we need to bring justice, evenhandedness and stability to our halls of government.

abortion-hypocrisy

(Threatened with a lawsuit for failing to perform potentially life-saving abortion, a Catholic hospital’s defense was: life begins at birth, not at conception – a complete reversal on the Catholic church’s long standing anti-choice position that human life begins at conception.)

*   *   *

When politics is too effin depressing, and writing coherently about it would involve – nay, require – way too much profanity, it’s time to think about art.  Specifically, the theatre.

MH and I are season subscribers to two local theatre companies, Portland Center Stage and Hillsboro’s Bag & Baggage Productions.  This gets us typically one to two plays every four to six weeks, but an unusual set of circumstances/reschedulings have us attending three plays in eight days. [4]  Last Sunday we saw the PCS production of The Last Five Years, a two-person musical that depicts the story of a New York City couple’s relationship in an unusual, innovative way (the woman’s story is told backwards, while the man’s is told chronologically.)  Tonight we’ll take in B&B’s version of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, and then Sunday we’re back at PCC, for Othello .

Our seats were just three rows back from the stage for The Last Five Years, and the actors’ prodigious saliva slinging reminded me of being in the splash zone at the Sea World Shamu [5] shows.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve no phobia about being pelted by thespian bodily fluids.  In fact, I proudly claim to have been showered with the saliva of many theatrical performesr, including twice on two separate occasions by Lily Tomlin. [6]

splash

*   *   *

bye-bye goodie boxes..for now

I sent the last care package of the academic year to son K, to mark his last week of classes at UPS , which stands for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and should not be confused with that other UPS, which is my favorite method for shipping packages to…that other UPS.

Several of the employees in the local Office Depot’s copy/print/shipping department have come to know me the past three years, and they prep a computer monitor for their shipping system as soon as they see me enter the store.  One of the employees, herself a college student, chats with me about the latest Star Trek: TNG episodes she’s seen [7]  while I type in my answer to the contents of package question on the shipping form.  I love listing the package contents as “junk food,” although, really, Pepperidge Farm Milano Mints should not accurately be described as junk.

Finals week survival rations. 

Finals week survival rations.

Good news from K this week included learning he’ll be home in two weeks, gainfully employed for the summer [8], and that he got a research grant for his senior year!  The grant entails helping a chemistry professor do…something.  Like, chemistry-researchy stuff.

Good news for Belle included surviving AP hell week.  She had Advanced Placement tests three days in a row, starting with AP Calculus on Wednesday.  This weekend she’s blowing off steam by attending her high school prom.  There may be prom pictures posted on this blog next week, a sentence I could never have imagined myself writing several years ago.  Also next week, Belle is having another I-could-never-have-imagined-myself-writing-about adventure, for which photographic proof will definitely be needed .  That’s all I’m allowed to say about it, for now.

*   *   *

Department of Hey, Nice Try

Although I have a rule to never donate to panhandlers, I wavered when I saw the sign held by a man in Portland, who was standing by the 16th St. entrance to the freeway.  Just for one moment I thought that the originality was deserving of reward:

Ninjas captured my family.
Need money for karate lessons.

*   *   *

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
(Lily Tomlin as Trudy, from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. [9])

May your reality be stress-free, and may your hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito.

[2] It is really, really, way past time for those old white (and one black) men to die. Too bad they have the best health care our money can buy.

[3] (“I don’t have a problem with gay marriage. … I think it’s not a government decision. I think it’s a personal decision”) – from the same debate.

[4] Three Plays in Eight Days – sounds like the premise of an off-Broadway satirical revue.

[5] Yep,  I’ve seen Blackfish, and even before that, had sworn off seeing animal shows for ethical reasons.

[6] During her one woman play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

[7] She and her boyfriend are going through the entire seven year series.

[8] And there was much parental rejoicing.

[9] Written by playwright/director and Tomlin’s longtime partner, Jane Wagner.

The Munchies I’m Not Curing

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It’s unanimous (and it rarely is, in my family):

K, Belle, MH & I agree: the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics should be awarded to Danielle Lei, the Girl Scout who decided to sell cookies outside a medical marijuana dispensary.

 On my honor/I will try/to help all people/ cure their medical munchies...

On my honor/I will try/to help all people/ cure their medical munchies…

 *   *   *

“Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, sixty was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that?” 

( from This is What Eighty Looks Like  by NY Times op ed columnist Gail Collins )

Gloria Steinem turned eighty this week.  I’ve always thought of her as timeless if not ageless, and so it was strange of me to ponder, as I did upon hearing her birthday news, that Steinem is only five years younger than my mother.  Chronologically, Steinem belongs to my parents’ era…although, in comparison to most of what would be considered her peers, Steinem’s forward, forthright thinking and activism would mark her as belonging to another planet,  rather than to their generation.

GLORIA

Among Steinem’s many talents, she’s always been quick on the verbal draw.  One of my favorite Steinemisms came from her reaction [1] to an announcement by the New York Times.  Background: women’s rights advocates had long objected to the practice of designating women by their marital status (“Mrs.” or “Miss”) while men were identified by the status-neutral “Mr.”  The Times, a bastion of conservatism when it came to acknowledging linguistic evolution, had refused to allow the use of “Ms.” in their articles.  When in 1986 the Times editorial board finally announced a change in editorial policy, Steinem quipped,

I will no longer be referred to as “Miss” Steinem of Ms. magazine.

 Steinem has always been adept at using humor to highlight the politics of injustice and the absurdities inherent in social and societal gender disparities…

If men could menstruate…clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much…. Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of (purchasing) such commercial brands as Paul Newman Tampons, Muhammed Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads, John Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields—”For Those Light Bachelor Days.” [2]

…and she was never far off from sharing yet another click!-moment [3], the kind of observation that makes you gasp aloud, in one of those-truth-telling/recognizing moments:

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” [4]

GLORIAAGE

Happy birthday, Gloria. I hope you have your cake and eat it, too.

 *   *   *

Oh, you gotta love this.  In the spirit of truthiness and other stunt words, may I present, courtesy of Republican senator and “Tea Party identifier” Ted Cruz (or his publicists), a new phrase, that, IMHO, is worthy of  the coveted Picard Face Palm.

From the introduction to Ted Cruz to the Future – Comic Coloring Activity Book, from Really Big Coloring Books (no, I am not making this up)  (my emphases):

In a continuation of the company’s popular series Tell the Truth – Tell it Often – Tell the Children…Really Big Coloring Books®, Inc. turns complex challenges or issues into a relevant format with an emphasis for youth. The Cruz to the Future book is a non-partisan, fact-driven view of how Texas Sen. Cruz became a U.S. senator and details…his ideas for what he believes will help America grow…..

Fact-driven view.”

facepalm

The book about Cruz does not claim to present “facts,” nor even to be “factual,” but it will present a “fact-driven view” of Cruz’s agenda. [5] Kinda like the idea of using a fact (“Our solar system has a sun”) upon which to justify any lunacy view you can then refer to as fact-driven (“The sun revolves around the earth because that’s what my Iron age twaddle holy scripture tells me, and oh yeah, I can see the sun go around the earth, ’cause I’ve seen it set and rise, every day. Fact!“).

But seriously, Ladies and Germs. The intent of the coloring book is, of course, to instill extremist conservative viewpoints in young children.  And as always, the Internet strikes back, in the form of brutally funny reviews posted on the book’s Amazon page (including one by yours truly…can you spot it?).

"Look kiddies, it's the Tree of Life – er, I mean for conservative-approved political freedoms, not that crazy evolution stuff."

“Look kiddies, it’s the Tree of Life – er, I mean The Tree of Conservative  Political Freedoms, not that crazy evolution stuff.”

*   *   *

Are We Having Fun Yet?

There are a smattering of for-profit corporations that, citing special instructions from their imaginary friend religious objections, want to refuse to provide some (or all) of the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the FDA in the health plans these corporations offer to their employees. Because there is nothing else to do during the first week of spring, the SCOTUS [6] began hearing arguments from these company’s lawyers, including the hired guns of Hobby Lobby , one of the leading arts & crafts retailers in the USA.

PROTEST

Hobby Lobby’s CEO, founder and SRDOTUS [7] David Green openly espouses Southern Baptist, conservative “Christian” values, and proclaims that his corporation is committed to “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles….We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.”

Really.

REALLY

Yes, Really.

Check out the company’s “mission statement” on their website.  Hobby Lobby asserts that its god, this same deity who remains deaf to cries for help from its believers who endure horrific assaults in rape camps around the world, [8] somehow keeps itself busy doling out its “grace and provision” to an American craft vendor.

Once again, I digress.

Hobby Lobby wants to get out of providing full health care coverage for its employees;specifically, HL want to not cover forms of contraception it  mistakenly [9] believes are abortifacients, and argues that the ACA’s contraception “mandate” forces them to violate their religious beliefs.

UTWERUS

Let’s check in with someone more articulate than moiself; i.e., someone who is less likely to out-and-out use the term bullshit, but whose know-how on the issues at stake (e.g. tax laws, insurance coverage and what the ACA actually says) enables him to refute such bullshit nonetheless (my emphases):

 There is no contraception mandate.  Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all. The regulations imposed by the ACA are on insurance plans, not on the corporations per se.  What is erroneously described as a “mandate” simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards.  As is often the case with specious religious freedom arguments, the corporation wants it both ways, to get the tax benefits without providing the full benefits to employees.
(Scott Lemieux, professor of political science at The College of Saint Rose)

It might be interesting for y’all, no matter where you stand on the ACA/contraceptive coverage brouhaha, to consider the fact that majority of Hobby Lobby‘s inventory comes from China.  Thus, I ask my faithful flock to meditate upon the irony if not the blatant hypocrisy of today’s homily:  Hobby Lobby sells goods they import from China, a country that not only provides abortion on demand but has also coerced and forced women to have unwanted abortions[10],  China’s policies and the forced abortion incidents are well known by international human rights organizations and religious communities, and yet, such knowledge has not induced Hobby Lobby to refrain from profiting off of the cheap, slave-wage-factory-produced crap inventory they import from China.

CHINESE

One last thought on this issue, courtesy of a business owner’s musing (on a Facebook posting):

“I am Jewish; can I withhold the amount of money from my employees salary’s that they use to buy
pork products and Christmas decorations?”

JEWISH

 

*   *   *

May all of your personal and political inventory be politically correct (or at least justifiable), and may the hypocrisy-free hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Quoted in Newsweek, June 30, 1986

[2] From Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate,” Ms. (Oct. 1978). You really need to read this, if you haven’t.

[3] A term for the moment of truth, in which the need for feminist consciousness raising – on both a world-wide and personal level – becomes irreversibly clear.  Jane O’Reilly depicted many “click!” moments in “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth,” (Ms. magazine preview issue, 1971); e.g., as a hostess and female guest finish washing the day’s dishes, a male houseguest enters the kitchen, asks, “How about something to eat?”, then waits to be served. “Click!” The hostess replies that they both work all week, and if he wants to eat, he can make himself something and then wash up.

[4] Steinem, in an interview with The Humanist, attributed that remark to an older, Irish, female taxi driver she and feminist activist Flo Kennedy encountered in the early ’70s.

[5] Hint: Tea Party friendly, pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-equal rights….

[6] Supreme Court of the United States

[7] Spewing Religious Doofus of the United States

[8] This assertion is (surprise!) not part of Hobby Lobby’s mission statement.

[9][9] As per the science behind how such methods actually work.

[10] Chinese officials claim forced abortions are not official policy, yet documentation of such incidents, enforced by local government officials as part of China’s One Child policy, have been verified.

The Prom Dress I’m (still) Not Wearing

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Last Saturday Belle requested that I go prom-dress shopping with her. For those of y’all who know me, feel free to take five until the laughter subsides

LAUGH

As per a recommendation from her friend AX, Belle made an appointment at a formal dress shop in Portland that specializes in prom/bridesmaids/quinceañera dresses.  The appointment was as per shop policy (no walk-ins), as was the requirement that The Mother be present if the dress the DS (Dress Seeker) is seeking is a prom dress. [1] Thus, Belle’s friend AX and I were Belle’s ladies in waiting.  Belle swore she’d asked me because she really wanted me there, and not just because the shop required my presence (and Belle desired my credit card). [2]

To anyone in the know, having me consult on selecting a prom dress would be akin to asking Donald Trump to recommend a hair stylist.  Not only did I not attend any of my high school’s proms or formal dances, I was one of the founders/ chief organizers of the LNGTTPP (Let’s Not Go To The Prom Party). [3]

The closest I’ve come to wearing prom-like attire were the four times in my twenties when I was somebody’s BridesMaid.  The choices for BM (ahem) attire were, of course, made for the BMs. I gulped, repeated my calm-down-and-don’t-run-away-screaming mantra (“grin and bear it…you are supporting a friend/your sister…this too shall pass”).  Four times I swallowed my pride and donned the BM’s monkey suit, managing, each time, to refrain from compromising my dignity (too much) by lying therough my teeth repeating the Bridesmaids’ Little White Lie. All together now, ladies:

No, really, it’s quite nice/yes, I’m sure I can wear it again, with a few alterations….

Yet again, I digress.  The Little Shop of Horrors formal dress shop was in Portland’s SW warehouse district, an appropriate locale, seeing as how the shop was in fact a warehouse. A warehouse filled with Foo-Foo Dresses. FFD Warehouse had rules: DS had to make the afore-mentioned appointment, show up for said appointment “freshly showered” and sans makeup and wearing regular “full-sized” underpants (the shop had a strict NO THONGS policy, for which I was later to thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster.).

Upon arrival, each DS, along with her guest and The Mother, were escorted from the front/check in room to the backstage/warehouse area. Each DS was assigned her own Valet Girl, [4] who helped the shopper peruse the racks and racks and racks and racks of gowns, make a variety of appropriate size/color/style selections, take DS to a backstage area and help her don the gowns.

No no no, it's Valet Girl

No no no, it’s Valet Girl

Meanwhile, shopper’s guest and The Mother took seats, along with other guests and mothers, in a semi-circle of chairs arranged in front of the entrance to the dressing area and adjacent to a three-way mirror.  This audience had the opportunity to whisper snide comments helpful observations as other DSs emerged from the dressing roomed to check out how they looked in their respective dresses (there was no mirror in the dressing area).

This year's Prom theme: Piñata Power

This year’s Prom theme: Piñata Power

I settled into my preferred mode for fish-out-of-water situations:  I am an anthropologist, here to observe the habits of this strange culture.  As such, I was able to

(1) marvel at some truly and irritatingly beautiful young women [5] being persuaded to try on some truly unflattering styles (really, does anyone look stylin’ in a dress that looks as if it survived an explosion at the meringue factory?);

(2) savor the petty joy of noting that the gorgeous, blonde cheerleader-type trying on the green mermaid dress has grotesquely long, prehensile, downright ugly toes;

(3) admire the bravery of the hefty gal who had the unfortunate timing to emerge from the dressing room alongside a slinky, preening, would-look-ravishing-in-a-laundry-sack, I’m-too-sexy-for-my-school supermodel wannabe.

Competent (if fake) social scientist that I was, I paid special attention to what I considered my initiation into the hitherto secret world of Female Costume Terminology.  Translation:  I lost track of the number of times I heard, from either the Valets or mothers or friends – sometimes, all three – as they commented on the fit of some young woman’s dress:  “She’s going to need boob tape/nipple shields with that one.”

breast

Yet another cogent observation:  Due to, I imagine, the fact that the DSs emerged from the dressing rooms more or less scantily clad, with their undergarments often visible (thus my afore-mentioned thanking of the FSM for the no thong rule), no menfolk were allowed in the back room…except for the two OFFBs (Obviously Flaming Fashion Boys) who worked at the shop.  And, as both Belle and AX remarked, the OFFB really just seemed like two of the girls, what with their evident fashion sense and helpful, supportive commentary (“Oh, honey, she really rocks that dress!”).

Yes and well then.  I survived the experience, and really, truthfully, admired Belle’s choice: a stunning, sophisticated, deep blue dress that should require a minimal amount, if any, of…don’t make me type it.  (Boob tape.)

*   *   *

Gay Croissants and cupcakes, good; Gay wedding cakes, bad

GAY CAKE

My feminist-allergic reaction to the prom dress shopping experience was countered several days later by Belle’s request to help her with some statistical research for an upcoming debate in her People and Politics class, the topic of which will be the efforts of Some People In America to restrict abortion access for Everyone Else in America.  Which brought to my mind related issues currently in the news – related as in, a certain kind of relative, say, the cousin who was dropped on his head….

Here’s where you cut me some slack and envision a more graceful segue.

“It would be an America in which access to birth control
would be controlled by people who never use it.”
– Georgetown U Law student Sandra Fluke, re the (allegedly) celibate Catholic bishops who opposed the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Yes, I'll be fitting your IUD, ma'am.

Yes, I’ll be fitting your IUD, ma’am.

Imagine America in which community blood drives are organized by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the 1964 Civil Rights Act is revised by the White Citizens Council, the USDA beef inspection monitors are trained by vegans….

Or, consider the recent efforts in several states, in the form of lawsuits and attempted legislation, [6] to allow businesses to discriminate under the guise of exercising religious freedom, whether it be a bakery that cancelled an order for a wedding cake [7] when the owners found out the cake was for a wedding of a lesbian couple, or a pharmacist who refuses to fill a prescription that somehow offends the pharmacist’s notions of sexual/reproductive propriety.

 What these issues have in common is the yapping of the Religious Right, who apparently and almost totally miss the effing point when it comes to the “rights” and responsibilities inherent in the concept of “freedom of religion” (hint: it means you can decide religious stuff for yourself, not for everyone else. And BTW, freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion).

WORD

A tricky business, it is, arguing the “right” of a business to refuse service, to anyone, on any grounds.  It can be made to sound reasonable on the surface.  Of course, it wasn’t that long ago in this country that it was deemed reasonable, even deity-ordained, for business owners to have the right to refuse service to “coloreds,” to make black citizens sit in certain sections of the luncheonette or bus, to designate separate washrooms for “colored” and “white” patrons….

As Rob Boston [8] writes in the current issue of The Humanist, some people question the point in compelling shop owners to serve people they don’t want to serve, but the point is that discrimination, especially on the basis of things people cannot change, is an injustice our society has been working hard to eradicate.

“Legally, businesses are ‘public accommodations,’ which means they must serve the public. If you don’t want to serve all of the public, don’t open a business.”

I remember the brouhaha several years back when a Target pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for a customer’s “Plan-B” script.  I was livid, and boycotted the store for years, [9] even after the store tried to reassure customers that steps would be taken to ensure there would always be one pharmacist on duty who was willing to actually do his or her job (no, this is not how Target’s PR minions phrased it).  However, I seem to recall that the second-largest discount retailer in the U.S. also made some kind of accommodation for pharmacists who had a “moral objection” to filling certain kinds of prescriptions.

A “moral objection” to filling a prescription.  It still boggles my mind.

facepalm

Yo, Target pharmacist:  your job, as a pharmacist, is to dispense orders for patients. These orders are prescribed by patients’ physicians; you have neither the training nor the authority to diagnose, treat, or prescribe (repeat after me: “Not my job.”). Perhaps you have a moral objection to filling medication for someone with Type 2 diabetes, or any of the myriad of diseases and conditions caused or exacerbated by obesity and sedentary habits, because you think such ailments are due to immoderate lifestyles and should be treated with modifications of such. Or, perhaps you do not want to fill a prescription for emergency contraception, because you think the prescription taker’s need for Plan B might have been brought about by carelessness…or, well, even if it was due to rape/abuse/coercion, you frankly don’t care because you just don’t like the thought of anyone having sex, consensual or otherwise, or…

What do you think, when you presume to make such judgments?

Oh, wait, that’s right – there’s nothing in a prescription form that acknowledges the relevance of your thoughts regarding the prescription.

So, pharmacist, you have a moral objection to filling a prescription for ___________?  Tough titties.  None of your beeswax.  Fill the Rx, or find another line of work.

beeswax

May your all of your garments be boob tape-free, may prying noses be kept out of your beeswax, may your bees wax to their hearts’ content, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Yep, even though Belle is 18, she had to bring her mommy.

[2] Belle had leftover money from holiday gifts; MH and I agreed to a minimal financial contribution, and anything above that, she paid for.

[3] The most memorable LNGTTPP was during my junior year, when we snuck into the prom venue’s parking lot and tied tin cans, shoes and “Just Married” banners to the bumpers of select cars…and almost got caught, when several of the car’s (male) drivers – prom attending friends of ours – came out into the parking lot to drink the beers they’d stashed and take a leak behind their car’s rear wheels.

[4] I didn’t catch the official title.

[5] With bodies that make even us middle-agers who have kept ourselves in shape think we are doomed to eat nothing but packing peanut salads for the rest of our lives.

[6] Arizona, go bitch-slap yourself.

[7] The bakery owners admitted they’d filled pastry orders for gay clients, including the lesbian couple, prior to the wedding cake brouhaha.

[8] Boston, a member of the American Humanist Association, is also Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

[9] An action that didn’t exactly have Target accountants quaking in their boots, as I shopped at Target only when there was no other alternative.

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