Department of Not Surprised, But Still Sad

I recently read Junot Diaz’ acclaimed article in the New Yorker (The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma), wherein he revealed publicly for the first time his own history of childhood sexual abuse . [1]    It was a stirring account, to say the least.

I’ve never been fond of nor impressed by Diaz’s short fiction – and haven’t read but a few of his stories because the ones I did read left the proverbial bleech taste in my mouth, due in most part to the male-female dynamic found within. His style and themes reminded me of a more contemporary, multicultural Norman Mailer (and other acclaimed alpha male writers whose work I loathed, fiction writers who used their supposed hyper-realism narrative styles to impart their own loathing for women in any roles other than as their objects of sexual desire ). Ah, but for years Diaz was the new/exotic literary sensation in town, so who was this middle-aged white lady to judge?

Having undergone  sexual abuse seems particularly difficult for men to admit to; thus, my cynicism at his revelation shamed moiself. Cynicism as in, I thought that perhaps this (his essay) was his way of explaining/justifying (what I saw as) the sexism in his writing (a phenomenon too often explained/excused, for male writers, by literary “talent”    [2] )…

But that bit o’ skepticism was not my first response to the why reveal this now?-ness of his essay. My immediate, gut reaction was,  He’s laying the groundwork….  Translation: someone is going to accuse him of  Metoo conduct, and this (I did what I did because of what was done to me), overtly or implicitly, will be his defense.

And shame on me for thinking that.

I kept my opinion to moiself – now, there’s an admission you won’t often hear  – and was glad I did so.

 

 

yeahright

 

 

 

Then came the story in last Friday’s New York Times, wherein Diaz was speaking at a writer’s conference:

The writer Zinzi Clemmons stood up. Without identifying herself by name, she asked Mr. Díaz about a recent essay he had published in The New Yorker detailing the sexual assault he experienced as an 8-year-old boy. She then asked why he had treated her the way he had six years prior, when she was a graduate student at Columbia….

Ms. Clemmons said she believed that Mr. Díaz had tried to pre-empt accusations like hers by writing the autobiographical essay in The New Yorker last month 

Other accusations of his misconduct have since surfaced;  Diaz resigned his position on the Pulitzer Prize board as the allegations are being investigated.

I feel bad about this; I take no joy in having my cynicism validated. I am not questioning the validity of Diaz’s report of childhood abuse. And the thing of it is, and it could be true that he abused his power over women as a direct (or oblique) result of his own history of being abused.  Or, these could be separate issues. Either way, all ways, it’s just….sad.

*   *   *

 

We Interrupt The Ranting For A Moment Of Gratitude

Deep thought of the day: a rubber chicken does not, in fact, have to be made of rubber, to embody the essence of the rubber chicken.

Translation: Mere words cannot express my feeling that there is an ultimate rightness to the universe, when I am presented with evidence that some mahvelous people, when they encounter an object which reminds them of a rubber chicken, are reminded of moiself[3]

Thanks, JWW.

 

 

jww

Whaddya think, is she’s one of us?

 

*   *   *

We now Return To The Previously Scheduled Ranting

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Scream At A Screen
Adjunct Department Of  Yes, I Should (And Do) Know Better

My afternoon exercise sessions often occur around the time when the local Decades TV station runs episodes of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. If I am not working out to one of my exercise DVDs, I’ll tune in to the Laugh-In reruns. I’ll admit to thoroughly enjoying the retro fun of it all, including memories of watching it when it originally aired.

 

 

tinytim

Can we ever forget – or forgive – the show that introduced the world to Tiny Tim?

 

 

 

I remember how moiself and my buddies would take turns watching Laugh-In at each other’s houses, sprawled on our stomachs on the living room floor, usually with our parents seated behind us, sitting in their armchairs, also watching the show.  Our fun was enhanced by the prideful, barely stifled giggles that can only be produced by eleven-to-thirteen year olds who realized that the grownups and were laughing for different reasons (and at different times) than we were. Translation: many of the naughty jokes/double entendre‘s Laugh-In was known for– and almost all of the drug references – zoomed over our parents’ heads.

Fast forward to the present, and I am finding that for every skit or joke I enjoy and relive, I also marvel at how dated much of the show’s humor is.  [4]  What is particularly striking to me is how Laugh-In  – considered ahead of its time by tweaking the customs and prejudices of society – trafficked in so much hackneyed humor that was beholden to its time, in many cases reinforcing (not critiquing) stereotypes of ethnic minorities and gays and (especially) women.

Once again, I digress.

 

 

DUH

 

 

So. The danger to television-as-backdropexercising is that I am often in the middle of, say, lifting a dumbbell when the show goes to commercial, and thus am unable to hit the remote’s mute button. The commercials for daytime TV shows can be particularly odious, as the demographic is obviously considered to be the target audience for Certain Products For Those Of A Certain Age (read: elderly/infirmity drugs and diet plans).

One particular/frequently running ad is exceptionally…oh, how can I put it? It frosts my butt.  The second time I saw it  [5]  I realized, between biceps curls, that I had begun yelling at the television screen, at the two perky, formerly in shape and now chunky, E list celebrities (a former actor married to a former football player)  [6]  reduced to hocking a snake oil potion enthusiastically promoting a weight loss product. With no sense of irony and a surplus of golly gee this seems too good to be true, but it is! pride, they actually recited the following dialog:

 

* We eat our favorite foods and still lose four times more weight!

*Nothing in your lifestyle needs to change!
(as a picture of the implied favorites, foods-that-once-may-have-been-many-different-colors-but-which-now-are-all-deep-fat-fried-yellow ®, flashes by on the screen.)

 

 

hearyourself

 

 

 

And there I am, screaming at a screen, at the asinine and totally bogus “promises” repeated, again and again, about how “nothing in your lifestyle has to change….

but it’s your fucking lifestyle that got you this way in the first place  — it’s that junk you’ve been eating that did this to you and but now you’re boasting that you can continue eating the same rubbish ?!?!?

And of course, the grammar cop in me is irritated by the ad’s claims that a person using the weight loss supplement can “lose 4 times as much/more weight!”

Okay…I’m waiting…but there is no follow-up. Excuse me, aren’t y’all forgetting something?  “As much/more” are comparisons, and thus require comparatives.

 

 

Grammarcop

Hold still and this won’t hurt as much.

 

 

 

“Lose 4 times as much/more weight!”!”  As much or as more as what, pray tell? As much as a person who’s never used the product but keeps scarfing their favorite foods faster than a hotdog-eating contest competitor on death row?  More than a herd of weasels on an all-kale diet?  More than twelve three-toed sloths on a treadmill?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Only You’d Had A More Interesting Childhood

My mother once told me that she viewed cooking as the least favorite of (what she considered to be) her duties as a homemaker. Although her family never went hungry, that attitude was revealed in terms of the variety (read: not much) of dinners she served to her family. She was the target audience for the advertising mad men – the  marketers whose mission was to convince 1950s – 1970s homemakers that the roles and tasks to which women were relegated were tedious and burdensome.  Convenient, an adjective heretofore not associated with food, became lauded — packaged meals and prefab  “food products” would save her from the drudgery that was cooking (and, these salesmen assured her, these food products were ultimately “better” – as in, more nutritious – for her family than anything she might be able to cook).

And she bought it –  hook, line, and Hamburger Helper sinker.

A recent Fresh Air podcast featuring an interview with chef Chef Lidia Bastianich made me think of my childhood culinary “heritage,” such as it is.  [7]  Chef Lidia is yet another foreign born cook of humble beginnings who came to the USA and made her fame and fortune (in both the TV cooking shows, cookbooks and restaurant businesses) by presenting the cuisine and heritage of her youth to Americans.

When Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked Lidia about the ironies of serving peasant food in top-tier Manhattan restaurants, I wondered if I had missed my chance do the same. However, unlike Chef Lidia, moiself did not have an exotic Italian-Croatian background. What would be the peasant food of my SoCal childhood that I could make seem trendy – Tang? Cool Whip? Rice a Roni? Spaghetti-os?

 

 

 

swanson

With the right marketing Manhattan gourmands will pay $95 for this.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you realize the futility of screaming at screens;
May anything rubber chicken-related make you think of…someone you love;  [8]
May you maintain an embarrassed fondness for the peasant food of your youth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Raped at age 8, by a trusted adult.

[2] to wit, see Junot Díaz And The Myth Of Male Genius – How a male writer’s “brilliance” is used to explain away his obvious misogyny…

[3] Even better when they acquire said anything and present it to moiself.

[4] No surprise and to be expected, with any show that tacked political and social topical issues.

[5] The first time, I couldn’t quite believe I was hearing what I was hearing. And it was not an ad for hearing aids.

[6] To protect their privacy, I’ll call them Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete.

[7] It isn’t, really.

[8] Betcha you thought, if only for a second, that moiself was going to write, “moiself.”