Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Weathering the storm

Turns out Sandy is more than just a na├»ve-girl-turned-leather-clad-vixen in a delightful 70s musical. Starting Thursday, we began hearing rumblings of The Perfect Storm – a category 1/2 hurricane being egged on by a high pressure system and headed directly on a collision path with a low pressure system from the Arctic.

By Friday, the camping and automotive sections of Target were stripped bare of any flashlights or lanterns, and people were grappling over canned carrots and the remaining packs of water at Giant.

Everyone was preparing to secure their home and hunker down and wait this out. Everyone except Charming. Who decided getting on an airplane Sunday morning and flying directly into the storm was more important than being here with me and our new home.

You see, he and his boss were scheduled to interview some mid-level FAA execs in Atlanta and obviously – despite the fact that half the east coast was about to shut down – the interview had to go on. Nevermind that it was dangerous to fly out. Or that if the storm hit Atlanta bad the execs wouldn’t be able to meet. Or that his boss got out early and could have conducted the interviews on her own. Or that he could have been skyped into any meetings he really needed to attend.

No – it was absolutely critical that he put the stupid interview above my fears and his own life and our relationship.

I cried and I begged and I was violently nauseous from fear and desperation, but he rolled his eyes at me and headed for the airport.

And so I spent last night with the sofa pulled as far away from the living room window as I could get it, huddled under a blanket, with my legs soaking wet from hourly trips into the basement to try to stop the flooding in our back drain, crying and scared and alone. Every few minutes I’d leap up from the sofa and run to the door to see if that loud noise was the tree in the front yard beginning to fall.

And he had the nerve to call and apologize AFTER talking to his boss and determining that maybe – just maybe – he should have put me first just this one time. Maybe next time she can give him permission to take a shit, too.

We fight occasionally, but this feels different. This has really damaged my core of trust in our relationship. If he was willing to ignore my fear and desperation in the face of the worst storm in the past 20+ years and put his job first, when else might I not come first? Just how low do I rank on his list of Important Things? What kind of catastrophe is it going to take to make him listen to me? Can I have a child with someone who isn’t willing to even consider putting my health and my safety above a non-essential work trip?

Fortunately the house seems to have weathered the storm just fine (although I haven’t checked outside for damaged siding or anything yet), but I shouldn’t have had to be here alone. I shouldn’t have had to come to terms with the fact that he was so determined to prove that he could make his own decisions and be independent from me that he refused to even listen to me. I shouldn’t have had to listen to my life partner – to the man I’ve purchased a house with and committed my life to – tell me to grow up because I asked him to put me first.

And my heart hurts, and I’m anxious that the after-effects of this storm are going to be a lot more far-reaching for us than anyone could have predicted. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


During the third and final debate last night, Mitt Romney said about the Middle East: “I'm convinced that with strong leadership and an effort to build a strategy based upon helping these nations reject extremism, we can see the kind of peace and prosperity the world demands.”

That’s rich (no pun intended), coming from the guy who is the current face of religious extremism in the United States.

When asked about a personhood amendment in 2011, which would declare that life begins from the moment of conception (a religious tenet), Romney said he’d be “glad to sign it” if one came across his desk.

When the Blunt Amendment was introduced, which gave employers the right to enforce their religious beliefs on their employees through their compensation packages, Romney supported it.

When asked whether he’d support the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Romney dodged it.

When a Georgetown law student was publicly defamed and called a slut for standing up for her rights by Rush Limbaugh, Romney said “I'll just say this, which is, [slut] is not the language I would have used.”

When discussing equal pay for women during the second Presidential debate, he implied that women’s place in the workforce was questionable, then he blamed housework for the fact that women are paid less than men, and then he referred to “binders full of women,” as if we’re a disposable commodity to be picked from at leisure. Because to him, we are.  

When asked about marriage equality, Romney promised to end hospital visitation rights for gay couples.

This man has done nothing but pander to the religious right and support measures that would catapult women and society back to the 1950s faster than you can thump a bible. Because of stigma and protestors and abortion clinic violence, it is scarier and more dangerous to obtain a legal abortion now than it was immediately following the passage of Roe v. Wade. In 2012, we still face systematic oppression of minority groups seeking to obtain the legal US rights they should be granted as legal US citizens.

President Obama called him out on it last night; Romney’s social policies look an awful lot like the 1950s. If Romney is elected, we are going back to the days of thousands of preventable maternal deaths per year, and the fiscal burden on society will actually increase. 

Vote, people. We need to end extremism here in the United States before we can help stand up for the rest of the world. 

ETA: Edited to remove the link to the story about the woman who was set on fire, as it turned out that the woman did it to herself. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Death panels

My father and grandmother love to talk about Obama’s death panels. Because no matter how false something is – the more you repeat it, the more true it becomes. That’s science, folks.

But I read a recent Washington Post pinocchio piece about Romney’s abortion stance – not that Romney himself knows where he stands on the issue (for the record, as late as 2011 he claimed he’d sign a personhood amendment which would ban ALL abortion, no matter the situation, and would make in vitro fertilization illegal) – and it got me thinking.

Lately, we’ve heard a kinder, more pander-to-the-women-so-I-can-get-their-votes-and-then-steal-their-rights Romney claiming that he’s against abortion except in cases of rape, incest and risk to the mother’s life. How sweet of him to throw us a bone (after tying us to the roof), right? After all, those cases make the abortion “necessary.” That cuts out all those sluts out there who are using it as birth control or just having abortions for fun.

But it begs the question – necessary according to whom?

Aside from the old adage about giving an inch leading to them taking a mile, there are valid reasons why an “only when I say so” approach to abortion access just can’t work.

The biggest problem with putting restrictions on access to abortion – as we found out from Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin – is that someone is always going to come up with varying degrees of things. Abortion is illegal except in the case of rape – well okay, but was she *really* raped, or was she kind of asking for it, ifyouknowwhatImean? How in danger is her life? Is there only a 60% chance she’ll die if the ectopic pregnancy continues? Is that enough of a risk? What if she’ll go blind if the pregnancy continues? Is a threat to her way of life enough?

Someone has to decide these things. You want to talk about death panels? Here’s your chance.

When you start qualifying a woman’s rights, you put her in the position not only of having to justify her decisions, but having to justify them to someone in order to access her rights. Will it be doctors making the decisions? Certainly representatives who would legally mandate invasive transvaginal ultrasounds despite a complete lack of medical training aren’t likely to fully leave that decision up to doctors.

And even if it is doctors, Congress is already trying to pit doctors against their patients. The failed Prenatal Discrimination Act (PRENDA) would have prosecuted providers for performing these imaginary sex-selective abortions. Doctors are going to be at risk of prosecution for doing their jobs and could be forced to err on the side of saving their own careers/lives rather than saving the lives of their patients.

Imagine a situation where a woman develops preeclampsia – high blood pressure and increased protein in the uterine lining, generally around 20 weeks – a condition that can cause liver and kidney failure, seizures and death. If the doctor recommends an abortion to save the mother’s life and some panel of Republicans somewhere finds that the risk wasn’t “enough” – that doctor could be prosecuted and face jail time. If the doctor bites his or her tongue, maybe the woman lives and maybe she dies, but hey, at least if she dies, Rep. Joe Walsh feels morally good about it. Even if the woman's other 3 children don’t.

And what about if it’s a mental health issue? If a woman expresses suicidal ideation as a result of a financially-impossible pregnancy, is that enough of a risk to her life? Or should she just be jailed until she gives birth? Maybe her therapist should be jailed for not breaking patient-client privacy laws and notifying a Republican.

Even these three “concessions” the anti-choicers are generally willing to throw us are not guaranteed. We cannot cede ground and we cannot pretend that these are enough, because even these three “exceptions” put thousands of women in danger every year.

Access to abortion has to be without limitation, and without stigma. You are more than welcome to feel however you want about when life begins, but you shouldn’t even have a RIGHT TO KNOW when a woman is making a personal decision about her own private medical care. It’s just none of your business. No amount of Bible-thumping can change that.

I heard a great quote recently about how to decide if something is sexist – ask yourself, “do men have to do this?” If the answer is no, it’s likely sexist.

Well, do men have to publicly justify personal medical decisions – say, taking Viagra – to their elected representatives, the Internet and Rush Limbaugh? No? Well then neither should I. Get out of my health care, Republicans; I’m still an American citizen and you cannot have my legal rights.

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's ours!

It’s ours!

Charming, me and Charming’s dad in front of our new house right after closing. 
We’re spending one last night in the apartment while we desperately shove the rest of our crap into assorted boxes so we can move it, but we did drop a bunch of boxes and an old rocking chair off today.
And we got started on the horrendous kitchen! I was so freaked out about the monumental task of removing that wretched wallpaper, but it turned out to be vinyl, which means the top layer just peeled right off.

Between me and my mom, with a little help from Charming and his uncle, we got the whole top layer of wallpaper stripped in about 2 hours.

We took a break for dinner, then we got started on removing the paper/glue layer underneath, which just requires wetting it with hot water, waiting until it softens, and scraping it off.

Charming was amused by the fact that I was stripping wallpaper in heels. Because I’m a badass.

Also, Charming was ridiculously excited about the shed. Yay shed.

It is kind of an awesome shed. 
But now I am utterly exhausted and too tired to even make sure any of this makes sense, so sorry if it’s rambly. But more later! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Friday is the day!

Oh my god. Friday is the big day.

After months of searching, and bidding and being disgusted by pervasive mold and dead rates, we fell in love with a 3 bed/2 bath 1940 colonial  with a fenced front and back yard, gas fireplace, and a super-convenient location just half a mile to the nearest metro station. And we hand over the biggest check we’ll ever write and start moving in on Friday.

I absolutely despise packing; our apartment is currently a haunted corn maze minus the corn, plus lots of newspaper and cardboard. And instead of zombies, we have Jay Cutler bobblehead dolls. The apartment is only about 600 square feet, yet no matter how many boxes I fill, more crap just seems to materialize.

We purged a ton of crap during cleanup from the First Great Flood of 2012, and I’ve already filled another big trash bag of stuff-that’s-a-little-too-nice-for-the-trash-but-not-nice-enough-to-keep-so-give-it-to-Goodwill. I don’t understand where all this junk keeps coming from. And no, it has nothing to do with my shopping obsession, thankyouverymuch.

But somehow we will prevail – or we will bribe Charming’s friends with enough beer to get them to help us prevail – and we’ll hopefully be spending the night in our new home by Saturday.

Which is great, because we have one huge, 1980s-pink-fruit-covered project to begin tackling as soon as possible.

Yes, my friends, that truly is my kitchen-to-be. *Hangs head in shame*

Fluorescent lighting, pink laminate cabinetry, perpetually dingy beige tiles and acres upon acres of fruit and nursery-pastel-colored diamond patterned wallpaper. Even HGTV wouldn’t touch this space.

My DIY handyman skills extend about as far as swinging a hammer (away from my finger if I’m lucky), but we’re going to take a stab at starting to update this thing ourselves. The big stuff like appliances and cabinetry and countertops and flooring will be left to the pros but… ok, so basically, we’re just going to attempt to strip the wallpaper and paint and stencil it ourselves. But I’m excited to do that much!

The walls are plaster, which I know makes stripping wallpaper more difficult, but we’ll get some magic goop or chemical stuff or a steamer (stop giving me so many options, Internet!) and probably a ladder (my brother reminded me that we’ll probably need one of those – that would have been an annoying mid-project revelation) and get to work. I’m leaning toward a light grey with a blue-ish undertone for the 3 walls with cabinets/appliances, and a slightly darker grey (still with blue undertones) with light grey stenciling for the big, barren accent wall. If I say “undertone” enough, does it sound like I know what I’m talking about?

Hopefully there will be pictures, and a minimum of tears.

Charming, of course, is focused on what kind of grill to get, for all of the Northeastern winter cookouts we’re planning to have. Priorities, folks.

Anyone have any advice for two first-time homeowners who are completely devoid of any real-life labor skills? Or maybe just the phone number for a good (and cheap!) contractor?? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Debating my rights

Last night, Joe Biden and Eddie Munster – sorry, Paul “HARDC0RE” Ryan – took the stage in the ONE AND  ONLY (no, seriously, this is the one and only. The One. And. Only.)  vice presidential debate. This was infinitely more entertaining than watching Lehrer experience what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated society and Obama frown at his notes which were rendered useless by Mitt’s chameleon-esq transformation into Snoop Lyin’ in the first presidential debate.

I was so excited when – over an hour in, and for a full, solid 6 minutes – they deigned to discuss women’s rights that I didn’t at the time take issue with how it was done.

But looking back, I’m once again frustrated with how women’s issues are treated and framed and discussed in this country.

RADDATZ:  I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.
Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country… please talk personally about this, if you could.

Even in a discussion that is specifically about women, we are not the primary concern. This was not an issue of ‘do women have a right to be free from religious oppression and interference in their health care?’ but rather ‘can Catholicism grant women the right to be treated like equal human beings?’

It framed the issue as if someone else’s religious beliefs should actually have some bearing on my right to life and liberty. As if I should have to humble myself before the almighty White Male Catholic and beg for permission to have my own religious beliefs, and my own personal autonomy and my own right to freedom and self-determination.

While I appreciate Biden’s response: “I accept my church’s position on abortion… Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body.” 

I think we missed an opportunity to make it absolutely clear that your religious beliefs do not dictate my rights.

His response was lovely – and it made me clap and sigh contentedly at the TV at the time – but my civil rights should not be contingent on the off chance that the men-folk decide to remember that we’re human, too.

Freedom of religion is being free to believe that life begins at conception; it’s not being free to cripple the rights of others with that belief.

But what scared me the most – rocked me to my core – was Ryan’s assertion that “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.”

This decision that you’re talking about Mr. Ryan? I like to call that “my rights.” The very purpose of our country, of our Constitution, is to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of majority rule.

Toqueville famously asked in Democracy in America “A majority taken collectively is only an individual, whose opinions, and frequently whose interests, are opposed to those of another individual, who is styled a minority. If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach?”

If three people decide I should be enslaved because of my gender, and my voice is the one dissenting vote, they don’t automatically win by virtue of morality in numbers. Because we have already decided as a country that people should not be slaves. Likewise, we have decided that women have a right to bodily autonomy and safe access to health care, and that right cannot be revoked because the bible-thumping Koch-heads think I’m a slut.

If you leave the question of rights for certain groups to a majority consensus, the majority may shockingly vote to curtail the rights of those groups. That’s why we leave “that decision” to unelected judges who are not accountable to the volatile opinions and financial influence of the religious right.

I have issue with this in relation to gay marriage as well. Why under any circumstances should the legal rights of some be left up to the imperfect whim of the loudest majority? Their beliefs do not suddenly trump my standing as a free American citizen.

If I could conceivably pull together a large enough majority (and women are currently 52% of the population, so it’s possible…) to decide that men should not be allowed in government because testosterone makes them too hot-headed to rule effectively, should we be allowed to enforce that? Anyone want to sign my petition…? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Politics and rhetoric

I heard a quote last week from San Francisco “pro-life” group First Resort that their goal is "to make abortion unnecessary in the Bay Area."

My first thought was “Yes! They’re going to campaign for increased access to affordable birth control and better sex education!” Because if you want to make something unnecessary, you treat the problem causing it. Right? Right?! HAH.

Turns out, they seem to have confused the word “unnecessary” with “unsafe.”

Because the thing is, no matter how many pictures of dead babies you hold up, you can’t solve a problem by taking away a solution. Much like how turning the radio up really loud won’t “fix” your noisy muffler, making abortions harder to obtain or even illegal won’t make the need for abortions go away. Women will still obtain them, just like they did prior to Roe v. Wade and just like they do in other parts of the world where abortion is illegal, but more women will die from them. Despite the fact that we have the know-how and the technology and one would think the humanity to prevent that.

And this is why I have zero respect for the vast majority of the “pro-life” movement. Because it’s not about “life” at all – at least not for women – it’s about control. This is not rocket science – abortion rates are considerably lower in states with easier and cheaper access to birth control and accurate sex education.

Yet another study from St. Louis has laid this out in plain English. In a study of 9,000 women and teens, teen birth rates decreased by almost 82 percent when teenagers had access to affordable birth control, and abortion rates across all age groups of women in the study were HALF of the national average.  There. Done. Problem basically solved. Abortion was made unnecessary in 50 percent of cases, just by providing access to birth control. Isn’t that what the “pro-lifers” want?

Unfortunately, no.

You see, dead babies and religious freedom and “pro-life” are all just inflammatory rhetoric used to cover up the true goal, which is to keep women a permanent second class. They don’t care that we’re exercising a choice to end a pregnancy; they care that we’re exercising a choice to have financial security and bodily autonomy and remain outside the home and in the workforce. They don’t care about killing babies; they care about killing the entrenched patriarchy.

The threat to their religious beliefs has nothing to do with whore pills that thwart God’s will; it has everything to do with women who thwart their beliefs that men are superior.

The refusal to provide women with access to birth control under their company-sponsored health plans is mind-numbingly stupid, but when couched in terms of “religious freedom,” it gains a thin patina of legitimacy, and makes people scared to challenge it. Which is why Republicans do it. No one wants to be that guy who “restricts” religious freedom…  

The way company-sponsored insurance plans work is that an employer contributes access to/a percentage as part of a person’s compensation package. That access to insurance is part of your salary. If your employer can tell you how you can and can’t use that part of your compensation, they would also be able to tell you how you can and can’t use your monetary compensation. Which is utterly ludicrous. That would mean no more buying beer or going to bars if your employer is “religiously opposed” to alcohol. No more going to doctors if your employer is a scientologist. No more porn if your employer is a female who thinks men watch too damned much of it.

That’s not “religious freedom” – that’s fascism. Religious freedom is having the right to not use birth control if you don’t believe in it – it’s not having the right to enforce that belief on everyone else just because you think your religion is superior.

I’m truly scared about the direction this country is going. I don’t want to live in a place where if god-forbid something were to go wrong with my [hypothetical – don’t get excited yet, mom] pregnancy, I would be forced to die to assuage Mitt Romney’s convoluted morals. Where is the religious freedom in being turned into an effigy on the pillar of someone else’s male superiority complex?

This presidential election is a critical one, but these right-wing nutjobs don’t just magically appear on the political scene – get involved in local politics and vote these anti-science, anti-women, anti-equality, anti-freedom “pro-lifers” out of office. We deserve better.