Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Goodbye Daddy

It snowed February 17, which was fitting. It always snowed on his birthday, so why not on the day of his death as well?

I’ve been a ghost these past couple days – here, but not really here. My heart is numb, but somehow it seems to know to keep beating. It’s so surreal – I can put food in my mouth and chew, I can collapse into my bed at night and sleep in fitful bursts, I can smile at Dexter’s antics, but the world is not the way it’s supposed to be.

My dad passed away unexpectedly on Sunday. He was at home with my stepmom, getting ready to go to his favorite bar to meet all his friends to celebrate the Ravens Super Bowl win one last time for the year. By the time she found him in the bathroom, there was nothing anyone could do. He had just turned 56 years old. 

Our relationship was complicated – he was a diehard conservative (read: wrong. You left, dad, so I get the last word), and I inherited my stubbornness from him. It can be hard for two people who are so alike to really get along. But no matter what, I was always daddy’s little girl. When we’d go down to Austin to visit, it didn’t matter that I’d just spent days tearing apart his arguments on Facebook, or scolding him for still believing the birther nonsense – he would pull me into his arms for a big bear hug (even though he wasn’t much taller than me) and whisper “I love ya, kid. I’m so proud of you.”

He loved to brag about me – about my graduation from Vanderbilt, then Texas Tech (though of course he would have preferred UT), and my passionate love of Ravens football. For two years before the Ravens came to town, we had a Canadian league team called the Baltimore Stallions. Before every home game, he’d carefully paint the Stallions logo on my cheek, and glow with pride every time his 10 year old daughter pointed at the field and yelled “’I’ formation! Handoff to Pringle!”

I have his big blue eyes, his dogmatic passion for what I believe is right, and the constant stress and anxiety that likely killed him.

My heart is aching for me, but truly broken for my stepmom. She married him just over 8 years ago (even though I warned her she was too good for him), and she loved that man with all her heart, despite his faults. I know 8 years wouldn’t be enough for me with Charming, and I just can’t imagine the depth of the pain she’s feeling. Selfishly, I don’t want to have to. The soul-crushing agony in my chest is too much as it is.

We’re bringing my dad back to Baltimore for the funeral, so I picked my stepmom up at the airport yesterday afternoon. I fell apart the moment I saw her. She looked so lost. We stood in the middle of the terminal at Reagan, just holding each other and crying. No one deserves to feel pain like this.

We all lost something different. I lost my father, my grandmother lost her son (right on the heels of losing her father, her husband and her brother-in-law), and my stepmom lost the love of her life. And we’ll all be grieving for a long time.

Goodbye, Daddy. I love you so much – make sure you fill Grandpa and Uncle Junior and Poppop in on that amazing Super Bowl win, and I’ll see you again some day. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This wedding may be the death of me

UPDATE: This post has been heavily edited to appease Charming. 

We decided months ago, and officially-officially a couple weeks ago, to make 18 the minimum age for guests at our wedding.

We deliberated over this decision for a long time. We love the kids in our family, and in a perfect world, we’d love to have everyone there, but having kids at a wedding completely changes the entire event – kids need to be entertained, they need to be provided with special meals, they’re more to worry about.

The wedding is being held at a country club on Memorial Day weekend – there will be hundreds of (very old) club members there who are not attending our event. I can’t take the risk of a bunch of kids running around, misbehaving, knocking someone or something (like our lit lanterns) over, getting in trouble. Even if it’s not my responsibility as the bride to watch after everyone’s children, I would still ultimately be responsible if something went wrong. That’s a lot of additional stress that I just don’t need. Not on the one day I’m supposed to relax and enjoy. So after much consideration and heartache, we set the age limit at 18.

Apparently not everyone in Charming's family was willing to respect that decision.

I am spending thousands of dollars of my own money, and an inordinate amount of time, energy, and thought planning this event, and I have to balance my needs and wishes with those of my 136 invited guests. No matter what I do, I’m not going to be able to make everyone happy, but no one has the right to go behind my back and make me feel like a horrible person when I’m working so hard to please so many people.

I didn’t even want to have a wedding. I’d have been perfectly happy to go to the courthouse and sign a couple pieces of paper. But we decided to do this for our friends and family, because it does mean a lot to us that everyone wants to share in our joy. I just hope going forward they can all understand that ultimately this is about me and Charming, and I am doing my best, and I deserve a little goddamned respect and common courtesy for it.  

As a side note, I did propose what I hope is a workable solution to the problem. Something I’d have been happy to do ages ago if anyone had seen fit to treat me with a little respect in the first place. And Charming has been amazingly supportive and on my side the whole time, and he sent me gorgeous flowers for Valentine’s Day. So there’s that. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's wrong with the extreme right

My dad is a fan of a community group on Facebook called Prepare to Take America Back, a group that purports to be about “We the People restoring and maintaining our Constitutional Rights.” Amidst the random capitalizations, grammatical errors and co-opted military buzzwords, these juvenile crusaders (with more than 38,000 likes) talk of tyranny and treason while espousing blatant racism and misogyny at every turn. The sad thing is, they’re just one of many bands of mindless hicks eating up the divisive rhetoric being fed them by the Koch brothers et al via Fox News.

Though nationwide levels of trust in Fox News are at an all-time low, their devout followers continue to belligerently adhere to their preferred version of reality because it’s easier than recognizing that, slowly but surely, this country is changing.

These people who have no understanding of history or the Constitution they squawk about upholding – these people scare me. Because they will believe anything they are told (no really, ANYTHING – my dad got taken in by this piece of satire about Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer allegedly calling for the police to lay down their weapons during the Dorner manhunt, because it wasn’t marked ‘satire’ at first) so long as it justifies or feeds their impotent rage at the black man in office. They claim to want to uphold the Constitution, yet the sedition they use is still a federal crime upheld by the Supreme Court in the Smith Act. They want to uphold the Constitution, but only the parts that suit them - not the pesky parts that protect the rights of others. 

They break land speed records in their race to make comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany, yet refuse to recognize the parallels to their own tactics. The Nazi party rose in part as a response to the threat of Communism, the same threat that GOP hardliners are dangling above the heads of their frothing minions. They gathered momentum in part due to the ideology of fascism – extreme nationalism and counter-revolutionary politics seeking to activate "the people" as a whole against perceived oppressors. Fascism uses a vanguard party (did you know the Koch brothers started planning the Tea Party in 2002?) to unite their followers and initiate a revolution. Sound familiar yet?

What happens once they succeed is the problem. Because this form of fascism is inherently based in racism. This president was democratically elected, despite the very best efforts of Republicans in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona and other states who sought to tamper with machines, direct people to the wrong polling stations, change voting hours, enact voter registration laws, etc. And he was democratically elected thanks in large part to the votes of women and minorities.

The problem is not that majority rule prevailed, but that it was the wrong majority. Hispanic-Americans, blacks, LGBT individuals, educated women – we don’t fit the mold of who these people want to recognize as ‘real Americans.’ They talk of “we the people” but they only mean the people just like them.

These people are not noble warriors crusading for the righteous beliefs of our forefathers; they are spoiled children mindlessly bleating about the infinitesimal loss of just some of their entrenched white male privilege.

The fact that a black man got elected – not once, but twice, by popular vote – is a threat to the inherent superiority they’ve been guaranteed since birth. They are threatened by a world concept that recognizes that women are not property to be beaten and that the color of your skin does not automatically guarantee failure. Or success.

I hope they recognize before it’s too late that destroying the Constitution will not uphold it. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bathroom Two Reveal!

We’ve been pretty much stymied on house projects lately – mostly because my hatred of painting has overcome my hatred of pink-beige walls (and also because of PUPPY!) – but I did finally finish up the upstairs bathroom redo. Also, we’re incredibly lazy/indecisive when it comes to furniture shopping, but that’s a story for another day.

The upstairs bathroom was actually the first room I had planned to paint – even before the kitchen, really. I got a bunch of darkish gray paint samples and threw them up on the wall back in early November or so. Then I stared at them for several weeks. Then I decided on Anonymous by Behr, which I bought. Then the can sat outside the bathroom until after New Years… For some reason, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on the painting.  

I think after I painted the downstairs bathroom purple, I had a little buyer’s remorse about the gray and wondered if it was too dark/too boring and if I should have gone with some actual color. Like a rich blue or something.

But eventually I dug in.

Just beginning to tape. It was a pale blue that kind of blended in with the fixtures during the day. Notice the 3 color samples on the wall? They were there forEVER.

This bathroom for some reason has a popcorn ceiling. It’s the ONLY room in the whole house with a popcorn ceiling. And I hate it. For good reason, apparently, because painter’s tape does not stick to popcorn ceilings. I had to hold sections of tape up and slather paint on very quickly. Which did not make for very straight, clean lines.

As always, I hated the color at first. It was too light and somehow too close to the color we painted the kitchen (Monticello by Valspar).

But by the time I got the second coat on, it was looking a little more like the sample that I’d been staring at for months.

Looks really dark here. I did most of my painting at night. 

Naturally, I ended up with large quantities of paint all over me (and the cabinet – which reminds me, I should probably try to get that off…). I also had to use a small watercolor paintbrush to touch up the edges around the ceiling, because my paint-and-swipe method up there was not terribly effective.

Paint everywhere. Sad face. 

Finally I finished and it was time to decorate. It’s pretty similar to the downstairs bathroom, in that the walls are dark and the accents are white, but at least I know what I like, right? I also used one of those same Mural shelves from Home Depot that I used in the other bathroom, too. Hey, they work and they look good. Instead of using natural/wood accents in here, though, I tried to add a little color with a big (cheesy, so sue me) palette print from The Foundry and some fake flowers from Ikea.

The palette print thing says "I wanna grow old with you." I know, I know. Also, that toilet paper does not normally live there. 

I just ordered an edger from Painthelper.com, and am excitedly awaiting its arrival. It’s a tool that goes on the top of the roller and helps you make straight edges, which I clearly need. Hopefully once that arrives I’ll be inspired to pick up the decorating process in another room. We got some Ikea-bookcases-turned-benches (post coming eventually, probably) put together in the breakfast nook, so maybe we’ll tackle that room next… 

Monday, February 4, 2013

A follow up to my post about the Vandy photo booth scandal

On December 11, my former roommate and fellow Vandy alumnus brought the now-infamous photo booth scandal to my attention. After minutes, really, of looking for information about the scandal and stumbling upon incidence after incidence of hateful and blatant misogyny, I started writing

That single post garnered me more blog traffic than everything I’ve written in the past year and a half combined. I'm actually the top Google search result for several different phrases related to the scandal, which is crazy and exciting and terrifying all at once. 

I wonder if some (most?) of that traffic is people still trolling for the pictures (if that’s why you’re here now, sorry to disappoint), but I have actually gotten several positive responses to it. And that has thrilled me beyond belief.

On one level, it’s exciting to know that my personal agency isn’t totally wasted – this writing, this piece of myself that I throw out to the unknown masses is being seen and even acknowledged. But on another, possibly more selfish level, it gives me hope that I’m reaching people. That my message – even if somewhat crudely written in sarcastic haste – might just make someone stop and think.

I’m fortunate through my job to have a platform to advocate for access to mental health care, and maybe hopefully now through my writing to advocate for women’s issues and rights.  

Even in the wake of the presidential election, where an (albeit narrow) majority of Americans confirmed that we are not ready to regress, it’s crucial to keep talking about women’s issues, about rape culture, about slut-shaming and gender norms and abortion rights and everything else that still threatens to chip away at our safety and our equality and our status as first class citizens. It's maybe not something we're consciously aware of every day, but it's always present. 

Our gender identities are cemented from a very young age; through the toys we receive, the lessons we are taught and the role models we watch. Girls are given tea sets and miniature kitchens and easy-bake ovens and dolls – toys that prepare us for the inevitable future of domesticity. Boys are given toy swords and guns and construction sets and action figures (not male dolls – these are “heroes,” ready for action) – all things that develop their “natural” aggressive, strong, leader-of-the-pack mentality.

We learn that girls must be “ladylike,” but “boys will be boys.” We see the roles that our parents, grandparents, and the adults around us play. We become aware of the fact that most of our teachers and babysitters and nannies are female, while police officers and soldiers and politicians are men.

When we dress too provocatively, we are whores. When we demand control of our reproductive lives, we are sluts. When we speak too loudly or too passionately, we are hysterical. When we seek out careers in male-dominated fields, we are butch, or trouble-makers. We are always subject to the judgment of men, particularly religious men (and women) who benefit from finding us wanting.

So we maintain the status quo, but each generation of women grows a little more restless. We see some women break the mold. We gain the education that would never have been available to our grandmothers. We start to recognize that our worth is not tied to our anatomy and that we have something to contribute to the world beyond a womb fertile for breeding.

And that scares those people whose worth is tied to our suppression. If we are no longer the sinners, are they still the saints?

Religious men cling to their beliefs and their religious texts (this is not just a Christian or Catholic phenomenon – it transpires in various religions) as a means of securing their “God-given” superiority. They trumpet their bible verses and the entrenched beliefs of their forefathers as proof that we are not as good, or as worthy, or as human as they are. The truly insidious ones claim it is for our own good – that they have our best interests at heart.

We have to break this pattern. We have to speak out against every instance of misogyny we face, because every catcall, every pointed look, every missed promotion, every photo booth scandal allows fear-based hatred to continue.

Every time a man is allowed to get away with treating us as if our opinions, our bodies, our lives are subject to their approval, we are only cementing their belief in their right to dictate to us on issues of our safety and health. By sitting quietly in the face of ignorance and deep-rooted misogyny, we are complicit in our continued servitude and the rapid devaluation of our very lives.