Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Stranger in a Strange Land

Sometimes New York feels like a foreign city. I mean, I can read the street signs, but once in awhile I feel like I don’t have a clue what’s going on. Take this week for example. This week, I’ve felt like the pawn on a Eurasian version of Candid Camera not once but three times.

It started last week, when I went to a spa near work to get my upper lip waxed (sorry men, bear with me). My waxer was a Russian woman with a heavy accent. She asked me to lie down on the table and as she leaned over me she screamed, “I’m going to rip your lip off!" She cackled as she spread hot wax on my face. Not knowing how I was supposed to react to this, I laughed nervously. Her face got serious as she did her job. When she was done, she handed me a mirror and I saw that she had drawn blood. “You see?” she asked. “Now we have paid for our laughter.”

Then yesterday, I went to Dunkin Donuts and ordered a small, hazelnut-flavored iced coffee. The woman behind me, a nicely dressed Filipino lady in her forties, was wondering aloud what to order. When my drink came up, she asked me what it was and if it was good. I told her I didn’t know; I’d never had it before. Then she asked if she could have a sip to determine whether or not she wanted to order it. No, Perfect Stranger, you may not sip my virgin iced coffee. I didn’t know how to tell her she was a lunatic, so I took a sip myself, told her it was good and walked out the door.

And just now, I went out to get some frozen yogurt at this new Korean fro-yo and tea cafe on 32nd st. called Crazy Bananas. On my way out, I noticed a good portion of the wall counter near the window was taken up with a ten piece sculpture garden composed entirely of wooden dildos. Large, thrusty, bigger-than-a-babies-arm wooden dildos. Crazy Bananas indeed.

I love New York.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Waiter, There's a Christian in My Hoohah!

If you like having sex without making babies, better enjoy it while you can because the end is nigh, my slutty friends. The Christian right is coming together to make contraception illegal (via Planned Parenthood so you don't have to pay at the Times site). No, I don’t mean abortions or emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill). They’ve already successfully delayed approval on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception. Who is "they," you ask? Why, the White House of course! System of checks and balances, pshaw. (And then there's abortion. I won't even bother with links on that front.)

I understand that some of you may be pro-life out there. That some of you don’t support the laws that protect abortion, or maybe don’t know where you stand on abortion. I think you’re wrong, but we can agree to disagree. But this? This is just batshit crazy. This is the Christian right extrapolating that taking birth control pills is like giving yourself a little abortion every month (every day?). Thus begins a crusade against the Pill.

Of course, without hormonal birth control, we are all basically one misaimed spurt away from becoming pregnant. So this week, in a perfectly scary, perfectly logical move, the FDA advises that all women of reproductive age should behave as though they are “pre-pregnant.” Because the health of a non-existent fetus is certainly more important than the quality of life of a very-much-existent woman. Because, hey, it’s easier than universal healthcare! Because you’re really only as important as the blessed malechild you may someday carry in your womb. Glory be to God!

In further I-wish-I-was-being-paranoid news: there’s a vaccine that actually prevents cancer. Yes, it’s true--a real miracle of modern science! Everyone will rush out and get vaccinated so they will never have to suffer the sort of cancer it guards against, right? Not so much when the cancer is cervical cancer, and the way you get it is through a sexually transmitted virus.

HPV will be carried by 80% of sexually active Americans by the time they are 50 years old. Most of the people infected with HPV will clear the virus from their systems, probably without even knowing they have it. For an unlucky number of women, however, the virus will stay and cause abnormal cell growth on the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer.

So where’s the vaccine? It's quest for approval has been slow. I'd like to think it has nothing to do with the religious right but with the current hold on emergency contraception, I wonder if the reason this has not yet been approved for use is because some conservative asshole fears it will encourage promiscuity in women. Oh wait, a bunch of conservative assholes already do.

I’m sick of this. I’m sick of, every day, picking up the paper and feeling like I’m reading a chapter out of The Handmaid’s Tale. Hey, George Bush & Cronies: If I wanted you in my twat I would’ve invited you! Really, I kid because I’m terrified. These fuckers aren’t even attempting to pretend like they think of women as anything more than jizz receptacles and baby factories.

And what I’m really wondering is what about you normal Christians, who actually believe in love and forgiveness and the social good (that, as my father is wont to say, "Jesus was the first feminist.”)? What do you think about all this? And can you do something, please? Doesn’t it making you furious that these nutjobs are totally perverting your faith to fulfill their own moral agendas, which include misogyny and the installation of a sexual police state? If I still identified as a Christian, it would probably be enough to make me turn my back on the church. And to think I heard George W. speak at Madison Square Garden two years ago, amid a sea of “W Stands for Woman!” signs, criticizing Islam for covering its women.

Anyway, look, it’s time to put away your (understandable) distaste of all things “liberal” and “feminist” and take a long look at your sex life. This isn’t a hippie-dippy fringe cause. This is about the way you--a normal Midwestern American with moderate political leanings, for example--has sex. This will affect you. And don’t be fooled; this isn’t about morals and family values. This is about a group of privileged people (the people Bill O’Reilly trusts--you know, the rich white ones) making laws that will directly affect how you live your most intimate of lives. Ask yourselves this, red states: is it really any of their damn business?

Keep up on this stuff by reading Salon’s sometimes reactive, sometimes informative women’s issues blog called Broadsheet. Also, hilarious sex columnist Dan Savage has been using up part of his weekly column to keep tabs on what he refers to the war on straight rights (via Boston's Weekly Dig).

What do we do, guys? 'Cause, let me tell you, even more than I love freedom, I love to bone. And here we have a clear threat to both.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Does This Joke Ever Get Old?

You've probably already seen them, but because they make me laugh and because it's Friday and because I've been incredibly grumpy all week, here are my favorite movie trailer parodies, in no particular order:

Must Love Jaws (the editors kind of go crazy at the end)

Sleepless in Seattle (my favorite)

Brokeback to the Future (best of the Brokebacks)

Big (not that well done, but very very pervy)

Happy Friday.

Friday, May 12, 2006

You Other Mothers Can't Deny

Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Salon, or New York Times, or New York Magazine, or Slate, etc. lately, but I can’t seem to escape the great Mommy debate. I’m so sick of it, I want to give it a spanking and send it to its room. Is it anti-feminist to be a stay-at-home mom? Is feminism bad for children? Why do we all live in Brooklyn and own the same two-thousand dollar stroller and $300 pair of jeans? The answers, respectively, are: shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up, because you’re yuppies.

Is it any wonder I don’t want to have kids? Because, no matter whether they side with Cleaver or Clinton, apparently all women want to do anymore is think and talk and write about their kids, or more specifically the conditions of existence of being a mother, and the truth is I don’t care. I don’t care about their kids. I don’t care how disenfranchised some women feel working at home. I don’t care how empowered others feel working at home. I don’t care that some people think women who don’t stay at home are ruining the foundation of the nuclear family. These are rich people problems.

My mother always worked full-time to support our family. In fact, pretty much everyone’s mother I knew from growing up had to work, especially when I was younger and lived in North Liberty, which used to be blue collar, when Iowa City, North Liberty and Cedar Rapids were actually separate towns, instead of one long run of housing developments.

All over the country, mothers have always had to work. And they’re the people whose voices I don’t hear in this melee. I hear lots of stay-at-homers and/or professional writers like Rebecca Traister, Caitlin Flanagan and David Brooks weighing in. But I haven’t heard from any women who actually have to get up every day and be a nurse, or a pilot, or a waitress, or a banker. I suspect that this is because these women are workers and parents and probably don’t have much time for abstract debate. It seems to me that raising a family doesn’t have a lot to do with the abstract. It’s in the specific details—the health insurance that pays for the antibiotics for ear infections, the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches that everyone eats for dinner sometimes because Mom and Dad are tired after work, the night shift you have to trade for so you can go to a school play. I’ve never been a parent, but I would think holding together a family is kind of like being in a twelve-step program: you take it one day at a time. And the idea of being the feminist paradigm for your generation of mothers probably doesn’t mean much when you’ve just pulled a 60 hour work week and have come to refer to the weekend as Laundry Day.

My mom worked as a nurse manager at the University hospital when I was growing up. She didn’t sit at the dinner table extolling the virtues of being a working mother, or bemoaning the fact that she didn’t get to sleep in on Monday mornings. She talked about work. She talked about the weird shit that went down at the hospital on her watch. She and my dad, who was a social worker, talked about the professionals and patients they had in common. The disturbed children who stole cars and robbed banks and ran away from Dad’s youth homes only to end up in Mom’s psych ward. We heard stories about schizophrenics eating magazines and Quiet Room takedowns and the political agendas of movers and shakers on the local social services scene (aw yeah, baby).

I once asked my mom about working versus staying at home and she said that she worked because she liked to work. That she had never considered not working, which was a good thing because she had to work to help finance our nice life. That she “never wanted to be one of those women who check their brains at the altar,” but that she had certain regrets about not being around to raise us during the week, as we grew. Just like anything in life, being a mother’s a mixed bag, but my mom didn’t attempt to debate this point into the ground. I don’t think she was tortured by it. I think she did the best she could, which, lucky for us, was excellent. She talked to us about the world and showed us what it was like to be out in it among the criminals and psychos and saints and comedians. She was supremely warm, loving and supportive, but she could give her co-workers a what-for when she had to and we got to hear about it over dinner. When my parents got divorced in 1994, she seemed to move effortlessly into the role of single parent. Though I’m sure it was frightening and sad and very, very difficult, she never let on.

My mom is the best. She is funny and intelligent and articulate and weird and smart and interesting and empathetic and understanding. She exemplifies the idea that being a parent is really about being a humanist. It’s about bringing the world into your home and letting your kids dissect it, and study it, and wonder about it and eventually run off into it. She is my hero.

Happy mother’s day, Mom.