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Posts from February 2014

No New Man Friend, But Lots of New Women Friends

Crane and geese

Gray crane and Canadian geese.

In the past week I went to three events that were equally about getting me out of the house and possibly meeting a man of interest. As things go with me, at each event I met a wonderful person, albeit, a woman. It was the same at the event for non-fiction writers, as at the hike across the Potomac River, as at Saturday night bowling. As location location location applies for homes, timing timing timing seems to apply to friendships.

The writers’ event was a dinner with a guest speaker, at one very long table, so your possible chat mates were the people who arrived right before or after you. Both of the nearby men were married and they seemed to be there solely to learn about the writers’ retreat that was being discussed. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t feel like expending talk energy with people who didn’t see me; besides, as soon as the speaker finished answering questions, I started talking to the woman on my left and she was too interesting to abandon for any attempt at equal-opportunity chatting. It wasn’t just that she said she is a psychic and sees the dead, but we clicked in such a way as to enable casual conversation hopping from talking about writing to work to children to places we’ve lived and back around again. There is nothing quite like a free flow of ideas whose essence is pure flow. It reminds you that there are interesting people in the world and that you have a few “interesting” cards up your own sleeves.

The Saturday hike was glorious. It was an April day in February, a break from the polar vortex. The 75 of us who had signed up for the event through a Meet-up were meeting at a point under the Wilson Bridge in Alexandria, Virginia. As usual, I got there early. Three other early-arriving women began talking once we identified that we were part of the group and together we walked to the meeting spot. As more and more people came, women and men, we stayed in our group, joined by a few more single women. It felt comforting to be formed into a group within the group, to no longer be alone, wistfully wishing not to be alone, noticing so profoundly all of the people who arrived in couples, even if they were the minority.

As we began our walk, we paired off, and Nan became my hike partner. How did it work out that the woman I walked with had an ex-husband who was eerily reminiscent of mine, and how is it that she filed for divorced around the same time I did, and how is it that she was here for the same reasons as I was (this one I think I can figure out)? We walked seven miles, over to Maryland and back, with a stop for coffee, tea, and bathroom, with nary a break in the conversation.

That same night I went bowling. When I left the bowling alley to wait in my car because, once again, I was too early, another woman came out of her car and said that she, too, was early for bowling. So together we went back in and talked, and joined up with other people as they came in. For the rest of the night it was as if we were old friends, encouraging each other, as we hit strikes or the gutter.

As much as we are alone in the world, we are not. Who needs six degrees of separation when the person who just happens to come stand next to you, if given the chance, could become a close friend.

Which makes me wonder why it’s so easy to make friends with women, and so hard to find a man with whom I want to sit around a table sipping coffee for more than an hour?

When I meet a woman I have no walls to guard and I am as me as a person is in public. More importantly, I take her for who she is and how she presents herself. I am not critiquing her for transgressions of my own rules. I am not scrutinizing her to catch moral lapses. I am not evaluating her, wondering about her job stability or any stability for that matter, and I am certainly not considering if I could be with this person for longer than the moments of this moment. It is a friendship based on this experience and the honesty that temporary relationships enable.

I used to think that this ease of conversation was because women are better at conversation and making friends, but I think that the error is mine. These are not apples and oranges. How can you compare an interaction with a person for whom you have no expectations to an interaction with a person for whom you have partner-for-life expectations? Imagine getting dressed the same way to meet a man as to meet a female friend. But I wonder if that isn’t what I need to do: stop trying to meet my future and try to engage my present. Perhaps I am the one who is failing in my own expectations, focusing so much on that alternative commentary in my head that I don’t give men a chance.

On Thursday I have a coffee date. I am going to challenge myself not to challenge him, but to meet him as I would a friend. Try to give us each a chance to be, in a sense, girlfriends before bedfellows.

Clothes, I’m thinking that I won’t abandon going for cleavage just yet. 

More Snow Days

Ball on ice

It is nine o’clock on the morning of the seventh snow day of the school year. I have long ago finished my toasted everything bagel with butter, and my third cup of coffee is cold (even after being reheated three times); the second load of laundry (the delicate cycle for my sweaters) is about to go into the dryer. It is Friday, and I still have two more days of barely any interactions until I go back to work. I can imagine that if there was a man here, I might be getting annoyed at how he chews his bagel and how his stubble looks grungier than sexy. I can also imagine that if my younger daughter were here she would be closed off in her room, so the knowledge that there is someone close by to talk to, but who doesn’t want to talk to me, would have made these days feel more oppressive than just the aloneness of me. As it is, I am learning that being content is a gentle place to be, but it allows in the ever so constant emotional tug-of-war between satisfaction and disappointment, purpose and failure.

The more I am home alone, the more I see that I am not fulfilling my time with the production of writings—reading, yes, but, alas, that is not how I assess myself. So much could be done to prove that I am who I want to be, but instead I sink down into who I am, ever so endlessly, tearing apart my midlife illusion that there is anything that sets me apart from every other person.

Perhaps the hardest thing about being alone is that I only have myself to blame for my inactions. There are no interruptions, except self-made. There are no diversions, except those that I enable. Surely, this is someone’s idea of heaven; even in earlier versions of myself it had been. I should be content, but I cannot erase from myself the understanding that my mind cranks for and against me in this cycle of self-castigation and performance. At a certain point I need to push myself to acknowledge that this duality is the best of me: I am action and inaction, one would not exist without the other. At times I am so close to acceptance, but then I turn against myself, absorbed in envy and a mind that only knows its contours, only knows the words that tunnel around and around the quietness, but that still leave me feeling inept. It is sad to continually realize that the things I want to accomplish are things that I am unable to accomplish because I am me. This endless cycle has never spurred me to change what I am unable to change. Surely, this should be my sign to let up and accept without resignation, but with respect.

I need to acknowledge that my strength is this disillusioned clarity, and not to continually pit myself against everyone else’s strength. I cannot be the novelist whose every work brings to life characters with a fullness that escapes most mortals; nor can I be the diplomat who gently transforms distrust to workable respect; nor can I be the entrepreneur whose ideas have solid dimensions. I have fought so long not wanting to be me, but that has only brought me discomfort. I am tired of wanting to be everyone but me, of wishing my skills were other.

Perhaps if we lived in a world where formulating little insights into the cracks of life were valued, and where educating and caring for the young was seen as aspirational rather than drudgery, I wouldn’t feel so unattained. And perhaps, too, if every attempt I have made to “put myself out there” was not meet with a rejection, I might have learned to love the reality earlier and easier. It is hard to continually put who I am, and what I am, against the onslaught of naysayers who don’t think that that is enough—or as good as everyone else who has tried. It is not easy to stand back up when no one cares if you do. But, you know, I’m awfully tired of comparing myself to everyone but me. What if I were to compare myself to who I was five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago? Would I still be ashamed  or would I find what to admire? I need to put up blinders, where the only person I can compare myself to is myself.

My New Year’s Resolution this year (my only one since I can remember living through a New Year’ Eve) was that I would not send out any submissions this year, that I would not let myself be brought down by other people’s assessments of me. I need to back that up with forcing myself to focus only on what I can do, even if that includes nothing but napping, because this hold of what I perceive to be an accomplishment that I have placed on myself is painful in the way of a never-ending ache. I am tired of aching because I am me, unadorned.


It is almost twelve hours since I began writing. In that time I have woven this writing with cooking, and shoveling snow, and reading, and eating. But I am full now. Full with feeling that this I can accomplish: I can accept being me, even if that sentences me to a life of full and empty moments because, ultimately, those are the true moments of my life.

The Pain of Dating

Grey heron

Grey heron that lives in the pond near my home. 

Last Saturday night’s first date managed to be boring in a pleasing way because it clarified that there doesn’t need to be a second date to know that there is no potential. I understand and accept that we’re all basically dull, but some people manage to ignite a spark that brings out your very own somnolent spark, and, my, then there is charm and passion and potential. That, of course, is why I keep going on these first dates.

What set this date apart was when we veered into the banality of his anti-Semitism. One moment he was saying that he has no desire to travel to Israel, and then he was saying, “Jews should atone for killing God.” I’m sure my face reflected the surprise and horror that I felt. My saying “Jews didn’t kill Jesus, the Romans did,” was not met with a silly me, of course they didn’t sort of “taking it back” comment from him. I attempted a mini-lesson, but when I broached the idea that even if they had, it happened more than 2000 years ago, so why continue punishing Jews now was met with incredulity, which transitioned to shock when I stated that I didn’t think Jesus was God, but a Jewish guy who wanted to shake things up. It was as if it was the first time he had ever heard that someone didn’t believe in Jesus. A bit like what it was for me to hear such blatant anti-Semitism spoken right at me—and for him not to even realize that he had said something offensive,  

It’s odd, isn’t it, that we know that other people have different ideas and beliefs than we do, but when we’re confronted with them in the guise of the person you had been sharing a meal with it becomes a wall instead of an abstract idea.

He stopped my explanations by stating that he has his beliefs and I have mine, and that’s that.

When I told a friend what he said, she suggested that I use this opportunity to instruct him about the repugnance of his comment and that it is not a matter of opinion, but of bigotry. I spent a day considering what to say to him; in the end, I opted for simply stating that I found his comment about Jews to be offensive—that it was anti-Semitic. His response? None.

It’s not just the arrogance of his ignorance that got to me, but the settledness that his beliefs are facts. From the little I know of this man, I know that he didn’t read anything to come up with this idea, that, surely, he accepted what some pastors have preached. So the ball of blame rolls up. What is the point to preach this? What is the point to purposefully incite animosity and hatred toward Jews? Are we not allowed to not believe in your guys in peace?

Dating is supposed to be about romance, but I’m finding less hand-holding than general sadness. We middle-aged people who are still or again looking for love are, to varying degrees, bitter and forlorn. For goodness’ sakes, 52 years in and I haven’t found the face I want to see when I close my eyes. We all tell each other that it doesn’t matter, that we are content with our lives, and we are. But then why do we look at picture after picture and read profile after profile hoping to find a match, a mate, someone who will relieve us from continually realizing that, for all we have done and all we have given, we are alone. Alone is not bad, and often I revel in the wonder of aloneness of weekends when I don’t have to talk to anyone or do anything that I don’t want to, and the aloneness of weekdays when I can come home from work and retreat into myself after a day of teaching, but the unceasing nature of it bogs down my ebullience.

I will try to learn my lesson: I will adhere to my red flags. With this man I ignored my red flag of profiles that are too lengthy. That would not have warned me about his anti-Semitism, but I would have prevented myself from having been exposed to it. At least I know that the lengthy profile red flag does, indeed, point to a self-absorbed person. 

This Week in the War on Women (February 1)

This is cross-posted at DailyKos.



They WON! Rand Paul Version

One of the first things that an English teacher tries to get her students to do when analyzing literature is to have her students understand that characters are not versions of themselves nor are they people to be judged against their/their parent’s moral base so that they can expand their understanding of the world. But, I guess, ophthalmologists don’t need to see into the heart the way, say, a cardiologist would. Thanks to Atticus, in To Kill a Mockingbird, for stating it so eloquently; “‘First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”

And now Rand Paul on The War on Women: “This whole sort of war on women thing, I’m scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won,” the Tea Party Republican told Meet the Press, according to Think Progress. “You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85% of the young people there are women. Law school, 60% are women. In med school, 55%. My younger sister is an OB-GYN with six kids and doing great. I don’t see so much that women are downtrodden. I see women rising up and doing great things. In fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women are outcompeting the men in our world [...] The women in my family are doing great. That’s what I see in all the statistics coming out. I have, you know, young women in my office that are the leading intellectual lights of our office. So I don’t really see this, that there’s some sort of war on women that’s, you know, keeping women down.”

So there it is, a man who is supposed to represent the men and women of Kentucky, and the men and women of the United States is so insightful (or was that insular?) that he can base all his understanding on those supposedly downtrodden by looking at the wonderfully accomplished women in his family who, surely, had a hell of a time making ends meet and dealing with the snowball of racism. Yup. Rand knows.

But he has more insights, this man who sees so very deeply, in the same interview he “suggested that President Bill Clinton was responsible for the “war on women” because he had an affair with an intern while he was in office during the 1990s.” Thankfully, I can’t really understand this for anything other than grabbing for words that can fill airtime and approximate thought, and to do a “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything I say sticks to you” kind of deflection. You would think that a man who seems concerned about men violating women would surely have voted for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2013. Alas, he didn’t.

LIBIDO! LIBIDO! LIBIDO! Send them back to the kitchen. Huckabee Mumbles

I don’t think that we should forget Mr. Huckabee’s quote too quickly because he has now become the momentary Republican frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nominee and he has, apparently, made lots of money by being insulting, paternalistic, and downright thoughtfree—and proud of it. One more time:

"If the Democrats want to insult women by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," he said. "Let us take this discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be."

Apparently the ladies in red think that this makes sense.

“Wednesday's poll indicated that Republican women weren't bothered by what he said either. With 16 percent support, Huckabee was the top choice among female GOP voters.”

I’m trying to think about when my libido controlled my reproductive system, but I can’t. Oh, I don’t have sex. But wait, even when I did, did having a contraceptive control it? I don’t get it. Maybe I should consult Todd Akins’ Guide to Lady Parts. I really wish these women would reach into the intuition that we ladies are supposed to have and vote with it, and not the act-then-ask response that gentlemen are known for.

It is upsetting to learn that he is making money from being an old-school chauvinist who doesn’t even pretend that we are living in the 21st century. I guess us ladies really have won the War on Women and are retreating to the bedroom and kitchen, just like we should.



Surrogacy is Demeaning?

And here I thought that the ability and desire to bring a baby into the world was supposed to be a beautiful thing. Turns out if your parts don’t work right, you should be punished some more, nevermind scientific advances.

This craziness didn’t pass, but the thing about these crazy ideas, they tend to be tried repeatedly until they manage to slip it in. And now, for the latest creativity in monitoring lady parts, oh so publicly, from the forward-thinking state of Kansas: “On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, state senator Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook introduced a bill that would ban surrogacy in the state and had two women get sonograms in front of her fellow legislators.”

The quote of the moment: “Surrogacy undermines the dignity of women, children and human reproduction,” said Jennifer Lahl, a pediatric nurse who is now president of the California-based Center for Bioethics and Culture. “Consider deeply what is at stake for the dignity of women and what is in truly the best interest of the children.”

I’m sorry. I just don’t get what world these people live in. Is this somehow tied to their perception that only good women get pregnant naturally and that no good could possibly come from a child not raised by biological parents. These throwbacks should not be able to so hypocritally call their institutions names such as “Bioethics and Culture” when they don’t understand ethics and they ain’t got no culture.  

Read more.


Drip Drip Drip Theory of Attempting to Pass Anti-Abortion Laws Pours Forth

Updates from Louisiana, Indiana, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, South Dakota, North Carolina, and the politics of how anti-abortion you need to be to win office in Wisconsin and Georgia. Just consider this a list of states women of childbearing age might not want to live in. And beating back the drumbeat, Colorado has again defeated a personhood bill that would outlaw all abortions. As my daughter (who is in college in Colorado) said to me a few years ago in her lovely naiveté, “If they don’t want an abortion, they shouldn’t get one.” Ah, if sense and being in someone else’s shoes had a chance to make inroads into these people’s “moral” compass.   

Read more. 


And the Big Boys: HR7 ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion’ Bill Passed

Setting priorities (this was voted on Tuesday): “With action yet to be taken on the long-delayed passage of an agriculture bill or the restoration of emergency unemployment insurance benefits to the 1.3 million out-of-work Americans who lost that lifeline in December, the Republican majority on the House Committee on Rules set the stage on Monday for a Tuesday floor vote on HR 7, a sweeping anti-choice bill packaged—deceptively, say opponents—as a piece of taxpayer-protection legislation.”

In her testimony on Monday, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, asserted that HR 7 is “an obvious step toward banning private health insurance coverage of key women’s health benefits.”

“But, said DeGette and other members of Congress—all Democrats—who testified against the bill, HR 7 goes much further than the Hyde Amendment, by prohibiting anyone who qualifies for a tax credit for purchase of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act from purchasing a plan that covers abortion without forfeiting the subsidy.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) “More than six times in this committee I’ve related that when I was in college, three women had botched abortions, and one with a coat hanger. And those deaths of those three college students that I went to school with sear in my memory every time we bring this subject up.” Who’s protecting the sanctity of life?

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REALLY? A Picture to Prove that there Is a War on Women

Picture in words: Four White Men in Suits

“Even Fox News host Bret Baier had to admit that choosing four guys to discuss the "war on women" was "not the best booking of this panel."

If you can’t even think of inviting a woman to talk about women, we definitely have a problem. It’s beyond policies that discriminate against women, and it’s beyond the confusing workings of our lady parts and libido, this is about women being discounted and a nasty push to put us back in the kitchen and bedroom. Admittedly, some of us like those two places, but we also think that being in the boardroom and briefing room could add flair to dishes that are served.

Read more. 


So What’s on the President’s Mind: Excerpt from SOTU Address about Women

“You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment.

“Women deserve equal pay for equal work.

“You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. This year let's all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

“Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they're not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we don't resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That's what America's all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

I want to hear about opportunities for more women to be visible in their bright suits in the statehouses across the country, and universities, and corporations, and with produced screenplays, and scripts, and directing movies and plays, and with published books, and in interviewers and interviewees seats. I want all the girls in this country to have the opportunities that the president’s daughters will have.



Time to Move Back to New York City?

“Now, gender equity in the workplace is one step closer in New York City, as a law has gone into effect that prevents companies from refusing to make accommodations for pregnant workers or workers who have recently given birth. Unless an employer can prove an “undue hardship” by making physical allowances for pregnant or recently pregnant employees, any refusal to make accommodations can leave that employer open to charges of discrimination, just as they would be for discriminating against any employee with a short term or permanent disability.”

“New York City joins the New Jersey, where Republican Governor Chris Christie has signed a similar bill into law, and Maryland, where the act went into effect in October. A federal version hasn’t been passed due to opposition from Republican members of the House, but 90 percent of voters polled have said they would be in favor of a such a bill.”

Read more. 

About Time Initiative: Trying to Protect College Women

My daughter said that her friends in colleges in Virginia, especially the esteemed University of Virginia, felt oppressed by the overwhelming feeling of the potential of sexual violence on their campuses within their first weeks of school.

“Obama planned to sign a presidential memorandum Wednesday creating a task force to protect students from sexual assault, with a new White House report declaring that no one in America is more at risk of being raped or assaulted than college women. The report, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," says that 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted at college but that only 12 percent of student victims report the assault.”

It’s the drinking and it’s freedom from parental constraints. But isn’t it ultimately about “boys will be boys”? Let’s hope this initiative will prevent some young women from being haunted throughout their lives from the memory of a college rape.  

Read more. 


A Very Sad Moment of Sanity

“A Texas hospital removed a pregnant brain-dead woman from life support on Sunday in line with a court order obtained by her husband who argued the fetus she was carrying was withering inside her lifeless body, the family's lawyers said.”

I hope that the sanity continues to the hospital bill: stick it to the hospital and stick it to the legislature that passed this horrific law.

May Marlise Munoz rest in peace, and may her family recover from this horrific violation of the sanctity of life and family.

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