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The Important Life Decision Change I’m Not Regretting

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Department Of Do Something Guaranteed To Make You Feel Smarter
(Or Maybe Just A Little Less Oblivious)

It’s much easier than you think.  Just listen the Ologies podcast (Cosmology: the Universe, Part I, with Katie Mack) in which host Alie Ward chats with theoretical astrophysicist Katie Mack about way cool things about the universe and how cosmologists study them, including by using The Large Hadron Collider.

You’ve heard of the LHC; you vaguely recall that it’s that huge, circular, underground, atom-smashing thing, somewhere in Switzerland.

 

 

But wait, y’all protest:  “Uh…trying to understand that stuff will definitely *not* make me feel smarter – I remember atoms but haven’t been required remember specifics since high school.”  Not to worry.  Writer, actor, science geek and podcast host Ward has got your back.  In her own entertainingly profane inimitable way, she makes it easier for you, with her Cliff Notes® take on the LHC, which includes a story offering a bit of cosmic perspective (my emphases):

Alie Ward:
“… The Large Hadron Collider is…a circular tunnel…over 500 feet deep in some parts and is 17 miles around. It is the largest machine in the world. This thing consists of over 1,200 magnets, and they’re cooled to a temperature colder than outer space. The magnets accelerate protons to almost the speed of light and then the protons are bashed together….

…Matter is stuff. Molecules are some atoms stuck together. Atoms are made of a nucleus – a little cluster of neutrons and protons. Protons have a positive charge – pro. Electrons have an equal negative charge, and electrons are…zooming around…outside the nucleus. The neutrons and protons…in the nucleus, those are made of smaller particles called quarks. The quarks come in a couple different varieties.

What gives these particles their mass? What are they? Where do they come from? We’ve got all these tiny things that make up matter….
there is a field called the Higgs field….How a particle interact with the Higgs field gives it its mass, kind of like drag in water. Higgs bosons are particles that are an excitation of the Higgs field, kind of like a drop of water splashing from an ocean. The Large Hadron Collider smashed protons together to see if they could prove that the Higgs boson exists, and guess what, bitches? It does.  The Large Hadron Collider, one of the things it does: smashes protons together in to smaller things to figure out why matter has mass. There you go.

Also, the Large Hadron Collider accidentally has its name spelled wrong on its own website as ‘Large Hard-on Collider.’ Once would be mortifying, but what if they did it more than once? Like twice? Or five times? That’s impossible. Is it? Because a search on their site revealed they’d spelled it “Large Hardon Collider” ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE times!… . So whenever you’re like, ‘I don’t understand this stuff. Maybe I’m just not smart enough.’ Just think: someone typed in ‘Large Hardon Collider’ over 150 times. And they built the thing.”

 

(I decided against googling for a picture to illustrate a ‘large hard-on collider.’  Y’all will have to settle for this image of a hard-headed objects collision, which (fingers crossed) won’t get my internet search history forwarded to the FBI.)

 

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Department Of Sometimes Say Never To Never Saying Never

“Dyanna Volek was never someone who dreamed of becoming a mother.
From an early age, she knew deep down that she didn’t want children…. 
‘I’m always looking forward to the next thing,’ said Volek, who works in local government in San Francisco. ‘Being a parent was never one of them.’ ”
( excerpts from “Why more women are choosing not to have kids,”
CNN 9-25-23 )

* I’m afraid that I’m going to end up like my biological mom.
* I don’t like the idea of giving birth and changing my body.
* I feel like I am too selfish to have a child.
* I don’t want to lose myself as an individual.
* Having kids would mean having to be in that caring position for the rest of my life.
* I think the world is going to shit.
* I don’t want to subconsciously become like my mother.
* Honestly? I don’t like most kids.
(excerpts, 19 Women Got Brutally Honest About Why They Don’t Want Kids; )

 

 

“I can’t stand the way social media has idealised motherhood
at the expense of women and children.”
( wearechildfree.com )

“There should be no guilt in choosing a life path without my own children, yet I still…can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing some vital part of womanhood because I have never felt ‘baby fever.’ … I will not have kids, and I believe the decision is the right one for me, full stop. ”
( excerpts from “I don’t want children, but sometimes I want to want them,”
insider.com )

“____explained that the main factor for her (in not wanting children) was the disproportionate amount of work she would have to do as a mother compared to if she was a father.  She explained that dads get to be the ‘cool parent’, while mothers are categorized by any number of misogynist tropes like being overly smothering or nagging.  And also, just having to do a lot more work.
‘People have always asked me, do you have kids?…they love asking me if I have kids.  And I say, ‘No, I will not be having kids. And would you like to know why?’  And they say, of course.  And I say, ‘I would love, love, love to be a parent. I would love to be a dad. I don’t get that choice.’ ”
( excerpts from Single Woman Explains why she doesn’t want kids…;   )

 

 

Moiself has been seeing a lot of these kind of articles recently.  [1]  Is it just my imagination, or is there an increase in stories written about young women deciding not to have children,   [2]  and articles written by the young women in question, defending/explaining their decisions to be childfree?

“I love children…. But I don’t plan on having any of my own.
It took me a long time to be able to say that out loud. And by ‘out loud’ I mean whispering it with a hint of uncertainty so as not to offend. Because when you’re a married woman of a certain age with no kids, people have questions. Fertility advice. Pity. Judgment. Lots of judgment….

…the pressure to procreate comes from so many directions I’m considering pitching a ‘Walking Dead’ spinoff where the child free are the living and everyone else are zombies trying to turn us. But it’s a comedy so no one dies, except on the inside….
My mom-friends often confide in me the inequities of motherhood — how the childcare duties fall mostly on them and their bodies have shifted to the side and down. They lament the loss of time for personal, career or creative pursuits of their own. So, when I told one friend in an uncertain whisper that I wasn’t planning to have children, I was shocked by her reaction: ‘Telling people you don’t want kids is like telling people you’re vegan. It’s not about your healthy choices. It’s about making other people feel bad about their choices.’ And then she prayed I’d change my mind because having kids is the best.

I promise she’s not a monster. She’s a zombie, and that’s just what zombies do….

Life is about choices. Having them (or not). Owning them. And sometimes regretting them — but I would argue even that’s a choice. Because often there’s really no right or wrong decision, there’s just the one you make and you do your best to be happy.”
(excerpts from Opinion: “I chose to be child free. (The correct response is ‘Congratulations!’)” 
LA Times 8-19-23 )

I read these articles about and by young women explaining themselves – and BTW, it’s *always* women doing the explaining.  Men, too, can struggle over the decision to have children, but there are nowhere near the same cultural pressures and expectations for men to become fathers – it is not locked up with society’s definition-as-a-person as it is with women.

 

 

I understand, and agree with, many if not most of the reasons and observations, both personal and societal, that the I-am-not-going-to-procreate women recount in these articles.  And while I am supportive of these decisions, many of them often seem to be…missing something…in their reasoning.  And moiself  can’t help but compare and contrast the stories they tell to my own situation and decisions.

For the first three decades of my life moiself  declared (and honestly believed) that I did not want to/was not going to have children, and probably would not get married.  Then, I went and did both.  I met MH when I was 28; we married when I was 31, and welcomed our son K and then our daughter Belle    [3]   when I was in my mid-late thirties.

As MH and I raised our very-much-planned-and-wanted   [4]   kids, when it was age-appropriate to do so, moiself  shared with them Robyn’s Realities ®  about marriage and family:  There are no Everyone-must-do-this/live-like-this-to-be-fulfilled rules:

* You can be single and be happy;
* You can be single and be miserable;
* You can be married and be happy;
* You can be married and be miserable;
* You can be happy if you and your spouse have children;
* You can be happy if you and your spouse are childfree….   [5]

But it wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized something key about my earlier, I-will-not-be-a-parent mindset.  It was not that I merely changed my mind about a major life issue.   [6]  It was that I had based that decision on my life – from my teens to early thirties, and how I viewed the trajectory of that life – as the single person I was. It was a decision made totally out of context of being in a committed relationship, which is the only way I would have even remotely considered having and raising a child.  It was a decision based on what I (thought I) knew about moiself, and not moiself-and-MH…because there was no moiself-and-MH.   [7]

 

 

There are people, men as well as women, who claim to have known from an early age that being a parent is what they’ve always wanted.  There are women I’ve known who said they’d “always” wanted to have children, and if that opportunity did not arise within a relationship, they vowed to pursue single parenthood.  Then there are the rest – the majority, in my opinion and experience.  When it comes to having or not having kids, these not-yet-married-or-partnered girls and women express slight to strong preferences either way, but acknowledge their decision might ultimately depend on their relationship with their potential parental partner.

Let’s say you’re one of those women:  you are single, and when you consider parenthood or are asked by friends/family/coworkers/your doctor/your barista about your procreative plans,    [8]  you say that you would do so only within the context of marriage/a committed partnership.  As in, even if you had a strong preference for having and raising a child someday you know you will never pursue that as a single parent.  So, if you are single and you consider the option of having children and conclude, “I’m not going to have kids,” you are making the decision sans complete data.  That is, you are imagining something you would never do, so your imaginations are going to be negative – what you think about what being a mother would be like could only be about what it would be like for you, alone, because you have no parent-partner.  There is no Other Parent (yet), to imagine how you would be a family, together.

Am I making sense here?

 

 

When I met the man-who-would-become-MH, as our relationship deepened we began to talk about Such Things ®.  MH married me with the understanding that, although he would like us to have children, for moiself  it was not a sure thing.  I married MH with the understanding that, while I’d always thought being a mother was not for me, MH and I would consider this parenthood adventure thing.

Our decision to have children was an outgrowth of *our* relationship.  It was vital to moiself  to see how we worked together, as life partners.   [9]  In my years of working in women’s reproductive health care, I saw too many  [10]  married women who were essentially single moms, with regard to their husbands’ participation in the physical, intellectual, time and emotional investment in child-rearing.  After five years of marriage to MH, I was assured enough to take the reproductive plunge.  More significantly, I also anticipated the rewards, the adventure, of being “part of it all” with him, part of the circle of life (take it away, Elton!), which is why all of us are here in the first place.

 

 

Despite having no time travel/alternate reality technology with which I can confirm this belief I am about to state, I believe that I would have had equally significant – just different –  highlights and low points in my life if I’d remained childfree (whether with MH, or another partner, or as a single person).  That being said, raising my offspring – watching them become the kind, intelligent, curiosity-filled, artistic, witty, science-oriented, free-thinking, compassionate, nature-appreciating, cat-loving, do-the-right-thing people that they are – has been a, if not the, highlight of my life.  I look forward to knowing them for as long as I can:  it has been has been and is a challenging, rewarding, exhausting, energizing, surprising, sometimes agonizing, and more often kick-ass-fun, pee-your-pants-with-laughter  experience, and remains an ongoing source of joy. 

When I read these I-am-never-going-to-have-kids articles, having been there moiself  I can identify with many if not most of the sentiments expressed therein.  I also understand that few things can be more irritating that the smug, condescending responses which are all too commonly flung at the declared child-free woman:  “Oh, you’ll change your mind, after all I/she/they did….”  I moiself have had those experiences and heard those comments (and I moiself  have changed my mind, moiself ).  Even so, I’d advise any young woman who would ask to keep an open mind: never say never….and congratulations, on whatever you decide.

 

 

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Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week    [11]

“The main goal of education should always be to learn how to learn, to become an independent thinker….
…evangelism of children seeks to cut off the process of independent thought before it begins. It’s this aspect of religious indoctrination that is most unacceptable—the idea that doubt is bad, that unquestioning acceptance is good, that there is only one possible right answer, and that someone else has already figured out what that answer is…
(1) Always question authority;

(2) when in doubt, see rule 1.”

( professor, writer, philanthropist Dale McGowan; excerpts from
Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion )

 

 

*   *   *

May you carefully consider the contexts of your major life decisions;
May you enjoy your own particular dance steps in The Circle of Life;
May you be daring enough to do an internet search for “large hard-on collider”
(and discreetly let moiself  know the results);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Some of these articles are written about demographic studies that show that “nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s.” (Pew Research center)

[2] As opposed to having no children due to infertility issues.

[3] They are three years apart, lest you think this was some kind of Irish twins situation.

[4] More than one longtime acquaintance of myself, knowing I’d never expressed any interest in parenthood, when hearing the news of my pregnancies had a kneejerk reaction of spewing something along the lines of, “Uh, was this intentional –oops, sorry, of course it was, or must have been…I mean, she worked for Planned Parenthood…okay, I’ll just shut up now….

[5] And I always refer to the state thusly, instead of the vile (IMO), lacking-something label, “childless.”

[6] as I have done throughout my life and doubtless will do again.

[7] I had other boyfriends/potential life partners pre-MH, most of whom made it known that they wanted, eventually, to have kids.

[8] And if you are a grown-ass woman who has not yet had a child, someone will always ask you.

[9] And If I had married someone else, it is entirely possibly I’d also be happily married at this point and be childfree.

[10] Any is too many.

[11] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Food Seasoning I’m Not Afraid Of

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Dateline: Monday, 5:40 AM scrolling through a newsfeed to get to one of the columnists moiself  reads every morning.  I skip past many ads, then find moiself  scrolling back to one in particular, as my brain needs conformation that…no… it didn’t just say what it said, right? Sure enough, there is a drawing of a brassiere, accompanied by the following WTF/seriously what does this have to do with anything? product descriptor:

“These bras are designed to empower those with smaller chests.”

 

 

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Department Of Back To The Future

“We have serious problems and we need serious people to solve them.  And whatever your particular problem I promise you ______ (right wing candidate) is not interested in solving it.  He is interested in two things and two things only:  making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

( excerpt from speech in the final scene of “The American President” )

 

 

My latest quest for sanity maintenance is to ignore the news as much as possible.  I do open my news apps on my phone in the morning, to scroll past the headlines to get to my games (Wordle; the mini crossword; Letterboxed; waffle…). While doing so I glimpse the headlines, streaming… And lately it seems to be a lot of screaming headlines, as in anti-LGBTQ parents and protesters screaming at school board meetings.

Regretfully, this sounds quite familiar to moiself.  Some readers may not be old enough to remember California’s Briggs Initiative of 1978. Those who are and do…ay yi yi.  Once again, Conservative Christian Voters ® are being manipulated.  If you are a CCV, someone is exploiting you; someone is trying to make you fearful.  Why do the Someones use such tactics?    [1]   And why do *you* continue to fall for it?   [2]

I’ve lost track of how many people I ‘ve met – from relatives to friends to acquaintances and coworkers and neighbors – who went to Catholic schools, and guess what? Not one of them went on to become nuns or priests.   [3]     Lest you think that is merely anecdotal, look up the statistics for yourself.

No public school teacher is “teaching” your kids to be gay (or trans, which is the right wing politician’s bogeyman of the moment).  If teachers had that power, whether by their words or the mere example of their existence, there wouldn’t be a shortage of nuns in the Catholic Church now, would there?

 

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Department Of That Which Delights

That would be, “The Show of Delights,” on one of my fave podcasts, This American Life.  Starting at Act II, starting ~16 minutes into the podcast, is a delightful story (well  duh, as that is what the episode was all about).  Do yourself a favor and listen to the story of Cole, a delightful five-year-old, who is oh-so-very excited about an everyday task – commuting – that most adults merely tolerate.  Ah, but this is Cole’s first bus ride to school.

Cole’s story brought me back to when both of my offspring attended our local elementary school.  The school was a half mile/eleven-minute walk from our house; thus, they did not have the option of riding the school bus.  In my school years in So Cal, neither did I. My elementary school was a half mile walk from our house, junior high a little over a mile, and high school 1.6 miles.  School buses weren’t a thing then, I guess.   [4]

It came as a surprise to me that my kids were so eager to ride a school bus and so disappointed to learn that wasn’t an option for them.   For some reason, they’d decided that riding the school bus was an iconic, essential part of the school experience. Later, when they were in high school, there was the option (which they took until they made carpooling and other arrangements) of riding the school bus… But by then it had lost its magical appeal. I’m wondering, do they remember this?

Once again, moiself  digresses.  Cole’s delight…

 

 

Yes, I know, but it’s just so dang appropriate.

Delightfully precocious Cole shares his enthusiastic anticipations (and trepidations) about as he walks to the bus stop with his mother.  When was the last time you said, or even thought of saying, something along the lines of “I can’t wait – I’m a bus rider now!”

If your delight is not satiated by the story of Cole’s first bus ride, stick around for the story which follows, wherein an adult daughter interviews her mother, who has finally discovered the joys of doing what she wants to do in her older years.

“After the kids are gone, and your dad is gone, finally, I can live my life.”

Chapter III of the podcast centers around a Japanese-American woman who lived her life as a wife and mother of six children, and who now at age 72 has created joy and delights in the most profound and simple aspects of life, from the discoveries of world travel to the humble comfort of the “warm Japanese toto toilet” she uses first thing in the morning.

 

Whose heart – and other regions – wouldn’t be warmed by such a device?

 

Also delightful to me, about that segment, is the rarity and clarity of the mother’s description of her present state of mind vs. that when she was younger.  With regard to her family, she says to her daughter that although she was “glad you [her children] were born, and safe,” raising her family and caring for her husband never gave her joy. This is quite an admission, particularly for an older person, but also for any woman in this “your-family-is-the-be-all-and-end-all-you’ll-never-know-true-joy-or-love-until-you-have-them” world.

As this newly joyful woman tries to define her feelings, she mentions several times that she “feels light.” I thought perhaps that was the best and most succinct of the definitions I could think of, for the word, delight. That which lightens your heart, or your burdens – that which makes you feel… light?

 

Sometimes the most delight is when the light is “setting.”

 

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Department Of Another Thing To Do For Yourself

Moiself  can’t begin to explain it; just trust me, watch The History Of The World, Part Two, the follow-up to Mel Brooks’  History Of The World Part One.  My fave is the skit, “Khancestry.com,” which features a variety of purported descendants of Kublai Khan in a satire of 23 and me, ancestry.com, and other DNA-using genealogical services…

Oh, never mind the promo – it’s got Wanda Sykes in it, as both a performer and a writer.  What else do you need to know?

 

 

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Depart Department Of STFU And Stop Pandering
Sub Department Of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Dateline: last week; 8 am-ish; returning from a walk; listening to ologies, a podcast moiself  usually finds quite entertaining. This episode began that way, then turned into an exception.  The episode is  Black American Magirology (Food, Race, and Culture).  [5]    Here’s the episode’s description from the podcast website:

“What’s the difference between Southern cooking and ‘soul food?’ Is there a correct type of mac and cheese? And whose business is it what you eat? (Hint: no one’s). Culinary historian, scholar of African American life and culture critic Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson is a professor at University of Maryland College Park and department chair in the Department of American Studies. She also authored the books Eating While Black: Food Shaming and Race in America, and Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power. We chat about everything from oral traditions to ‘soul food’ in popular culture, gendered roles in cooking, hyperlocal produce, systemic oppression and why someone would make chicken without seasoning it…”

Podcast host Alie Ward and her guest and talked about the racism which they see as implicit or subtle in criticizing the unhealthfulness of soul food (to which I’m thinking, Sorry, but *any* cuisine style laden with saturated fats and sodium are unhealthful, no matter who is doing the cooking or consuming), and the difference of the white and yellow cornmeals used in cornbread and what culinary historians say about the matter, and, as Ward put it, “how people judge each other” based on ingredient usage…. Then  there is this gem of an exchange:

Alie Ward:
You know, from an historical and anthropological perspective, so many European nations colonized other areas under the guise of looking for spices.  Why are white people so afraid to season their food?  We can’t flavor for shit – what’s up with that?  How does someone go on Oprah with an award-winning chicken recipe and no salt or pepper?  Do you remember this clip? Tell me you remember this clip?

Psyche Williams-Forson (laughing):
Yes…yes…yes..yes…..

Ward plays a clip of an Oprah show guest (a cook of some kind) who is asking of Oprah, in almost a pleading way, “Do you like it?” Oprah equivocates, finally saying, “I do like it…I like it very much…did we add salt and pepper? I think we needed salt and pepper.”  Guest: “Nope; there’s no salt and pepper in it.”

Ward and Dr. W-F go on to talk about co-opting foods, as if the usage of mere salt and pepper, those all-over-everywhere ingredients can be co-opted.

Yeah; it’s supposed to be funny.  But imagine a pronouncement like, “Why are white people so afraid to season their food?  We can’t flavor for shit,” reversed:  “Why do black people over salt their food?  They can’t control their blood pressure for shit.”

Also, speak for yourself, Ms. Ward, and not *we*, as in, all “white people.”  Moiself  has never been “afraid” (seriously?) to season my food.   [6]    Also also, I for one do not consider slathering a casserole with salt and pepper to be adequate “seasoning.”   [7]

 

So, there.

I’ll probably pout for a week, then check out next week’s ologies podcast.

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Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week    [8]

“This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort
to be less horrible to one another.”

Elliot Page, nee Ellen Page, actor and LGBTQ activist

 

 

*   *   *

May you delight in feeling light;
May you never conflate empowerment with undergarments;
May you enjoy scrolling past screaming headlines;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Because it works, at least for a while.

[2] This “you“ is rhetorical, as I am not sure of that many, if any, right-wing/conservative Christians read my blog.

[3]  Or even “good” as in becoming believing in practicing Catholics, for that matter.

[4] I don’t think they were mandated by law, most of the kids had to make their way to school themselves, whether through walking or biking or carpooling with other families.

[5] Magirology is the art of cooking.

[6] I don’t even consider salt to be a spice.

[7] And I’ve read cookbooks and essays by many non-American chefs who complain that the American palate – of all Americans of all skin colors – has been ruined by the over-usage of salt as the primary (and ofttimes only) seasoning, thus rendering many Americans incapable of appreciating the subtleties of spices other than salt).

[8] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Children I’m Not Teasing

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Department Of Sometimes It’s Better To Imagine The Answer

Dateline: Saturday the 15th; 7:50-ish am.  While walking and listening to a podcast about All Things Chicken ®, moiself  heard the following question, posed by the podcast host to the chicken expert guest:

“Well, what about their buttholes…?”
(Ologies podcast, Chickenology Part 1)

 

This picture shows one component of one of the best presents ever received,
by anyone, on any planet, in any galaxy.   [1]

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Don’t Know Who Lisa Norgren Is But I Love Her

Dateline: early last week.  Perhaps this essay has been floating around social media for a while, but last week was the first time I saw it.   [2]   This essay is, well,  powerful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I have witnessed both of my offspring, when they were young, dealing with this issue    [3] addressed by Norgren’s essay: family members “teasing” them and not accepting no  or please stop from a child.  In every case I witnessed I intervened and explained, but the adults doing the teasing never seemed to get it.

And I’ve seen with moiself’s  own eyes/heard with moiself’s  own ears, how it is the same people in this the same society who say Relax; lighten up, I was just teasing/playing, why are you so uptight, we’re just having fun/you’re making a big deal out of nothing   to the uncomfortable young girl who will be the same people questioning the girl later – when she grows into a young woman and finally gets the courage to report harassment (or worse) which has gone on for some time – about  Why didn’t you speak up?  Why didn’t you say no the first time?  Why didn’t you fight for yourself?

 

 

Why ?!?!?!?
?!?!?!?!?

Because.
That.
Is.
What.
You.
Taught.
Her.
To.
Do.

You   [4]   taught her to not “make a fuss;” you taught her to ignore her instincts and feelings when someone made her uncomfortable.  You taught her to shrink and bear it.

The article in its entirety (my emphases):

“A grown man looms behind my three-year-old daughter. Occasionally he will poke or tickle her and she responds by shrinking. Smaller and smaller with each unwanted advance. I imagine her trying to become slight enough to slip out of her booster seat and slide under the table.

When my mother views this scene, she sees playful taunting. A grandfather engaging with his granddaughter.

“Mae.” My tone cuts through the din of a familiar family gathering together. She does not look at me.

“Mae.” I start again. “You can tell him no Mae. If this isn’t okay you could say something like, Papa, please back up—I would like some space for my body.”

As I say the words, my stepfather, the bulldog, leans in a little closer, hovering just above her head. His tenebrous grin taunts me as my daughter accordions her 30-pound frame hoping to escape his tickles and hot breath.

I repeat myself with a little more force. She finally peeks up at me.

“Mama . . . can you say it?”

Surprise. A three-year-old-girl doesn’t feel comfortable defending herself against a grown man. A man that has stated he loves and cares for her over and over again, and yet, stands here showing zero concern for her wishes about her own body. I ready myself for battle.

“Papa! Please back up! Mae would like some space for her body.”

My voice is firm but cheerful. He does not move.

“Papa. I should not have to ask you twice. Please back up. Mae is uncomfortable.”

“Oh, relax,” he says, ruffling her wispy blonde hair.

The patriarchy stands, patronizing me in my own damn kitchen. “We’re just playin’.” His southern drawl does not charm me.

“No. *You* were playing. She was not. She’s made it clear that she would like some space, now please back up.”

“I can play how I want with her.” He says, straightening his posture.

My chest tightens. The sun-bleached hairs on my arms stand at attention as this man, who has been my father figure for more than three decades, enters the battle ring.

“No. No, you cannot play however you want with her. It’s not okay to ‘have fun’ with someone who does not want to play.”

He opens his mouth to respond but my rage is palpable through my measured response. I wonder if my daughter can feel it. I hope she can.

He retreats to the living room and my daughter stares up at me. Her eyes, a starburst of blue and hazel, shine with admiration for her mama. The dragon has been slayed (for now). My own mother is silent. She refuses to make eye contact with me.

This is the same woman who shut me down when I told her about a sexual assault I had recently come to acknowledge.

This is the same woman who was abducted by a carful of strangers as she walked home one night. She fought and screamed until they kicked her out. Speeding away, they ran over her ankle and left her with a lifetime of physical and emotional pain.

This is the same woman who said nothing, who could say nothing as her boss and his friends sexually harassed her for years.

This is the same woman who married one of those friends.

When my mother views this scene, she sees her daughter overreacting. She sees me ‘making a big deal out of nothing.’ Her concerns lie more in maintaining the status quo and cradling my stepdad’s toxic ego than in protecting the shrinking three-year-old in front of her.

When I view this scene, I am both bolstered and dismayed. My own strength and refusal to keep quiet is the result of hundreds, probably thousands of years of women being mistreated, and their protests ignored. It is the result of watching my own mother suffer quietly at the hands of too many men. It is the result of my own mistreatment and my solemn vow to be part of ending this cycle.

It would be so easy to see a little girl being taught that her wishes don’t matter. That her body is not her own. That even people she loves will mistreat and ignore her. And that all of this is “okay” in the name of other people, men, having fun.

But. What I see instead is a little girl watching her mama. I see a little girl learning that her voice matters. That her wishes matter. I see a little girl learning that she is allowed and expected to say no. I see her learning that this is not okay.

I hope my mom is learning something, too.

Fighting the patriarchy one grandpa at a time.”

~ By Lisa Norgren

 

*   *   *

Department Of Everyone Should Read This Book

“As a retired brain surgeon, Henry Marsh thought he understood illness, but he was unprepared for the impact of his diagnosis of advanced cancer. And Finally explores what happens when someone who has spent a lifetime on the frontline of life and death finds himself contemplating what might be his own death sentence.

As he navigates the bewildering transition from doctor to patient, Marsh is haunted by past failures and projects yet to be completed, and frustrated by the inconveniences of illness and old age. But he is also more entranced than ever by the mysteries of science and the brain, the beauty of the natural world and his love for his family. Elegiac, candid, luminous and poignant, And Finally is ultimately not so much a book about death, but a book about life and what matters in the end.”

 (book jacket blurb for Henry Marsh’s And Finally: Matters of Life and Death ).

 

 

An excerpt from chapter 16, the chapter wherein March examines issues brought up by both proponents and opponents of assisted dying (my emphases):

“It has always struck me as somewhat illogical that the most passionate opponents of abortion and assisted dying usually have religious faith, with a concomitant belief in life after death. Surely, if our lives continue after death, abortion and assisted dying are not absolute evils? If there really is going to be a heavenly banquet after death, why delay? It is as though they think that assisted dying is cheating – that we need to suffer when dying if our soul is to be reborn that there is something ‘natural’ about dying slowly and painfully….

Our fear of death makes it very difficult to look it in the face and see the manner of dying as a practical problem, as a question of choice, that can be regulated by the law, rather than as something divinely ordained, and which is not negotiable.  We all fear death, but for people with religious faith there is the added fear that their faith might be mistaken, that there is no human soul or essence and no afterlife… ”      [5]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week    [6]

 

 

( Ali Amjad Rizvi is a Pakistani-born Canadian atheist ex-Muslim and secular humanist writer and podcaster who explores the challenges of Muslims who leave their faith.  He writes a column for the Huffington Post and co-hosts the Secular Jihadists for a Muslim Enlightenment podcast together with Armin Navabi.  [7])

*   *   *

May you teach children not to never ignore their unease;
May you not ignore your own mortality;
May you someday have cause to ask, “Well, what about their buttholes?;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1]  A few years ago, daughter Belle made us (MH and I, for a family Christmas gift),  a “Chicken Hole” game board (plus bean bag filled chickens for tossing).   Once you ‘ve played chicken hole you’ll never be satisfied with plain old cornhole.

[2] On FB, shared by a friend.

[3] ( in non-sexual-implications ways, but still… )

[4] And by you I mean we – all of us.

[5] I have read books by doctors who addressed this phenomenon and have personally talked with doctors about this very subject: how, in their experience, religious people are so often puzzlingly (to the doctors) ill-prepared to talk about their inevitable death – it is obvious to the doctors that these people have avoided thinking about death other than via the allegedly comforting idea of “going to be with Jesus.”  Then, when faced with their death, they have so much fear and discomfort with making final care decisions.  Unlike many religion-free folk who have considered the realities of their own demise as a natural (if not exactly anticipated) part of living, many religious folk have never seriously done so, and when they’re finally being confronted about their doubts (“What if I’m wrong, and there is no afterlife?”) they also have the added burden of being ashamed by having doubts, which they fear will be seen (by other religious folk) as a marker that they are less than stalwart believers.

[6] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

[7] Excerpt from Wikipedia’s page on Rizvi.