Thursday, January 28, 2010

If a body catch a body...

Back in November I wrote of my love for the book The Catcher In the Rye. It’s a book that blew my mind when I first read it in 1982. How Salinger knew what I was feeling decades before I existed was a mystery to me. Holden Caulfield embodied the confusion, exhaustion, and boredom that I would also feel throughout my middle and high school years. Even at the age of forty, I am often sure that the world is full of phonies.

Last night after dinner, my husband went online. ‘Oh, honey,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry. You’re going to be really sad.’

And I was. But it wasn’t the kind of sad that you feel when something tragic happens. After all, JD Salinger was 94. He wrote what is, in my opinion the great American novel. Many dream of that chance. In addition he went on to write several books about the Glass family- also beloved among his fans. And then he made a pile of dough and went to live in a house far away from everyone. You may not agree with his choices or beliefs- many people didn’t. But he didn’t give a crap about that. He lived a good long life and he had lived it on his terms.

So the sad I felt was more like losing a teacher who played a significant role for me at a critical time in my life. I learned things from JD Salinger. His writing opened up my worldview when I was in middle school. Which was a time when, frankly, I needed a little more understanding from the adults in my life. It meant so much to me at the time, and I’m grateful that I can turn back to The Catcher In the Rye whenever I want. That’s the power of books and writing, right there.

Thanks JD.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Rant

So, lots of other people at lots of other sites have commented on the Clay Shirky post, A Rant About Women. However, I also have a couple of strong opinions about it. I feel the need to get them out there.

First, re Hilary Clinton. Anna N. over at Jezebel wrote eloquently on this point. Since it’s already been said, I’ll try not to take too much time on this. However, I do think that this is a point that bears repeating. Clinton has equally-and strongly-inspired and angered members of her own party, while all but alienating everyone else. And why? Because she is smart, outspoken, and powerful. You don’t have to agree with anything she says to admit to that this is true. And yet, because this is who she is, she is despised. Women like Clinton are frequently put in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t position. And when all else fails, people just turn mean, nasty, and completely high school. You know, who would want to watch a woman age in the presidential office anyway?

Secondly, I actually think that women are far more powerful on a daily basis than we give ourselves credit for. It’s funny, maybe two weeks before this post hit, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who was bemoaning some things that had derailed her career over a year ago (happy update- that career is totally back on track). In the course of the conversation, it came up what a sexist pig her former boss actually was. And I told her that, frankly, in the end, he was probably threatened by her, as were several other men in that workplace. Truly, I think that those kinds of men know deep down that the women in their lives are stronger than they are. That they are weak, and the only way they can feel powerful is to put those women down. Make sure they know their place. Not allow women at meetings where information about their freaking job is being shared. Relay information pertinent to their job and position to them through their husband for God’s sake.

There is a close family member in my life like this. He has told me to my face that women are not as logical as men, that they are too emotional to think things through clearly, that ultimately the men in their lives should be making decisions for them. He has told my husband the same- that he needs to take a stronger stand with some of my beliefs, that he is spoiling me. The outspoken women at his work are bitches and the quieter ones are ineffectual. It seems to me that there is a fear there, that maybe he will be found out, that he isn’t as strong as he wants everyone to believe.

So, yeah, Clay Shirky, Maybe some of us do need to put ourselves out there more on a daily basis. But for every man who tells us to do that, there is another trying to beat us back. It is a mixed message. And after receiving an onslaught of mixed messages people tend to get tired and maybe we don’t feel like giving it our all every day. Maybe we find our own way of muddling through- a way that works for us as individuals. And, when it comes down to it, I’d prefer to get my advice from a successful woman who has figured it out and done it her way. Hillary? Call me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January Man

The Kid turned seven on the 10th. On one hand, things seem to go so quickly. He is seven already. Seven. In another seven years he'll be starting high school. The train table is gone, a desk is in it's place. He does sleepovers. And multiplication. He voices his opinions and independence more regularly these days.

But on the other hand, seven doesn't seem so surprising. He's been around along time, after all. Sometimes I barely remember life before The Kid. So, what actually seems more surprising to me is how my friends' kids are growing up. I have two friends whose children are turning ten this year. TEN. Double digits. I can remember when they were both still in preschool. When their parents were making decisions about kindergarten. When they were just beginning to do the same amazing things my kid is doing now.

The stakes of parenting, I've realized, are rising with each passing year. When The Kid and his friends were babies, I remember a friend-only half-jokingly- make the comment that at the end of the day, if her daughter was still alive, she felt like she'd done her job as a mother that day. Of course, any day that you can tuck your child in to bed at the end of it is always a good one. But as they get older you start to think about the kind of person they are becoming and the kind of example you're setting.

When it's all said and done, I want to raise a son who has *loads* of common sense, who is a productive member of his community, and who is kind and respectful but can still stand up for himself. I want him to have good people in his life who treat him well- and the awareness to recognize the people who don't. And, of course, I want him to be happy. But also with the knowledge that, a day without happiness is not the end of the world. That we all have bad days, weeks, months, and unfortunately, sometimes years. But that through all of it, you can still come out on the other side, and things can get better. That there are times when you'll just have to put more effort into it.

The Kid's birthday is a good time to reflect on all of this. I also like that his birthday is in January. Of course, it extends our holidays by a couple of weeks. But when the dust settles it is the beginning of a new year, and a new year in his life too. The questions of how to help your child grow into a good person, how to get across some of these very grown up ideas, they never stop. It is ongoing. What I love about it- reflecting on these questions for our children's sake- is that it helps us to grow as people too.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Underwear, thank you

It came up again this morning. What might be my least favorite word- or at least in my top 10. The word is, panties.

Anti-climactic? Probably. But I've always hated this word. And I hate it on two levels. First, it just sounds like a word that a pedophile would use. I know that sounds stupid. But seriously? Hearing a grown man - or a commercial (thanks, Victoria's Secret!)- use the word 'panties' is just... creepy. It makes me cringe.

Secondly, and this is something that I've probably become more sensitive to in the last ten years or so, is that it sounds demeaning. Even the definition condescends, 'underwear or underpants for women and children'. Women *and* children? Honestly? Because womens' sexuality can't be taken seriously, so we're supposed to use the same word for their underwear that is used for children's underwear?

The word 'panties' brings to mind, well, ok, children's underwear. Which would also bring about the idea of virginal innocence. So, guys who prefer the word 'panties', what exactly is the problem? Can't face the idea that maybe your girlfriend/wife/lover may not be so innocent after all? That you may be one in a long list of men who have shared her bed? Or even a short list? I know. The possibility of 'panties' having an underlying meaning has probably never even occurred to you. But I'm going to guess that it occurred to someone way back when. And now the word has stuck. And now large underwear companies use the word in their commercials while sticking angel wings on the backs of their models. Sexy, angelic virgins. In their panties.

This rant probably doesn't make a lot of sense coming from a woman who, in the past, has used the words 'chick' and 'girl' to refer to grown women (and I'm really working on not using girl anymore- I try to catch myself on that one now. It just sounds terrible.). But I really think that we should at least stop using the word 'panties' to refer to womens' underwear. And look, if you really can't bring yourself to refer to womens' underwear as underwear, then you can use the word, lingerie. Which sounds sophisticated, sexy, and frankly, experienced. Which is how I would prefer to be thought of. Because it is the 21st century people. Grow the fuck up.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Reflecting on 2009

(Warning- this is very, very long...)

So, I've been reading all of these great end of the year lists, particularly over at Mamapop, where it looks like everyone chimed in with their 2009 favorites. Of course, it had me thinking of what my own list would look like. And then I realized that it would look, for the most part, not terribly exciting. Not because the stuff on there wouldn't be any good, but because I didn't search particularly hard to find any of it.

Back in the day, I used to work at an alternative public radio station. This meant that I was always discovering new music. What I didn't discover at work, my husband would find online and share. We went CD shopping every month. Through work I would get passes to film festivals and theater tickets, as well as lots and lots of concert tickets. The husband and I, we used to be fairly well steeped in the pop culture.

After the kid was born, we practically stopped going to movies and concerts (unless they were at outdoor festivals). But we still managed to listen to lots of music at home. We've been sporadically good at movie viewing, but not as consistent.

Strangely, as the kid has gotten older, movie viewing has become somewhat easier. But I realized, looking back on this year, that my music listening has been practically nil. Even when I have the radio on, I question how much I'm actually paying attention. We went out to buy CDs over the holidays. What did I get? The Jam, Cheap Trick, and the Beastie Boys. Nothing made after 1989. (To be fair, my husband was way more current. He snagged some new stuff, including the new Flaming Lips and Yo La Tengo.)

Which brings me back to an end of year list. I can tell you what music/ movies/ concerts/ books, etc. had the most impact on me in 2009. And I will, just because I like the idea. But I doubt that it will be too enlightening- more mainstream than maybe it would have been even five years ago. Which brings me to another thing I like- Resolutions. So, in 2010 I resolve that I will try to slow down and really explore books, movies, and especially, music.

So, to wrap up what has turned into a longer-than-expected post, here it is. My Top 12 of 2009:

12) Flaming Lips, 'Embryonic' and Yo La Tengo, 'Popular Songs'
To be fair, I haven't really listened to these yet. But I feel like this list is so void of music, and I consistently like what both of these bands put out, so I'm going out on a limb to say that I am sure I will love these CDs. So there.

11) Zombieland
The trailer was awesome. I told the husband that we had to go see this movie. And we did. And it was a lot of fun. Zombies, Bill Murray, and an oddly attractive Woody Harrelson (don't question me. I wasn't prepared for that either).

10) Morrissey, 'Swords'
Nice collection of B-sides from Morrissey's last three albums. (As you'll find on this list, I am a huge Morrissey fan. More on that some other time.)

9) Carnegie Museums
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I feel very lucky to have the Carnegie Museums here in Pittsburgh. All of them brought some great exhibits to the city this year: Darth Vader helmets at the Warhol (which my kid *loved*), Robo-World at the Science Center (another big hit with the kid), and the Whale and Horse exhibits at the Natural History Museum were fantastic too. Also, I can never get my kid over to look at the Art Museum, but he finally indulged me one day and we got to look at the Assoc. Artists of Pittsburgh work. Amazing stuff.

8) True Blood
We watch many shows and I like them all (30 Rock, I'm looking at *you*), but True Blood is hands down my favorite. After every episode I look at my husband and say, 'I love this show!!' Great acting, great writing and non-stop action. And vampires. And Eric. Who may be my new favorite.

7) A Serious Man
Another fantastic movie by the Coen Brothers. The story about the orthodontist just about killed me.

6) Morrissey, 'Years of Refusal'
Fantastic release from Morrissey early in 2009. I love the opening track. Bonus interview disc with Russell Brand, 'Wrestle with Russell' is pretty cool too.

5) Turning 40
A week long celebration, starting with my best friend taking me out to Pangea and Gooski's until 3am, and ending with a mellow dinner at Kaya with very dear family friends. In between, a big celebration with some amazing women at the Elbow Room, and the best date my husband and I have had in a while that included a movie (see, A Serious Man), cocktails, and a late night dinner reservation.

4) Where the Wild Things Are, and the soundtrack
A beautifully done movie about how frustrating it can be to be a kid, how hard it is to realize that families aren't perfect, and how even more difficult it is to grow up. My whole family enjoyed it- and we all love the soundtrack too! The best scene is at the beginning with the snow fort. Max Records nails it. I looked in his face and saw my son's.

3) Jackson Hole, WY & Fair Haven, NY
In other words, vacations! Those dear family friends of ours invited us to both places. My son and I joined them in WY for a week- we'd never been there. The area is breathtaking and we got out and did a lot of stuff- too much to go into here. Those same friends have a cottage in Fair Haven and we were all able to go that weekend. Very relaxing.

2) Morrissey at the Carnegie Music Hall
Weeks after I moved here in 1991, Morrissey got rained out in Pittsburgh and never re-scheduled. Years later he canceled another show here because of back problems. I saw him twice before this show- both times I had to go to Ohio. In other words, Pittsburgh had been waiting a long, long time to see him here. My best friend and I went on St. Patrick's Day and Morrissey Rocked. The. House. I never knew 'Death of a Disco Dancer' could sound like that. Wow. It was worth the wait.

1) Infinite Jest
The best book I've read in years. I'm sorry that I didn't discover it- or David Foster Wallace- sooner. His writing literally blew my mind. He did things with language that I'd never seen before. Looking forward to reading more of his work in 2010.