Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Miller's Tale

from Roomie's email this morning to me:

I have blown out three ribs, 2 spinal discs, the equivalent of eight drinks, 4 potatoes, 6 haystacks, 2 cows, a cornfield and a Buick into the toilet since I saw you last.

Holding oneself in the Iron Cross position, and LITERALLY blowing yourself into the air for a few seconds is neither liberating nor cleansing. It hurts.

And I think that the clams have finally left the building.
Random things...

It's like we're in a movie. We all know who the bad guy is but he seems to be getting away with everything--he tied up the heroine on the railroad tracks, he shot the sheriff, he intimidated the town council, he stole the land from the homesteader (who probably displaced a native brown person.) But there's only a quarter of the movie left and it looks like he'll win: he'll get the town, the land, the sassy saloon broad and your little dog, too.

In a couple of days, 2003 will be over and the election year will ramp up with the grinding force of a military column moving through a town. On the surface, it looks like our economy is picking up; it looks like our Iraq adventure could maybe, sorta, probably end soon? maybe? It looks like domestic life is settling down and we're successfully keeping our borders safe. It looks like this because the news is so quiet lately, huh? We keep being told everything's better, but is it really?

The economy: Paul Krugman's column today nicely sums up the fissure that lies between our 'booming' economy and our reality. Think about it: how many of our laid off friends have found jobs equal to or better than the one they had to leave? how long have our friends been laid off? How many of our families that we visited over the holidays are showing signs that they're working harder for less?

Iraq: what is there to say? it was done badly, wrongly; i used to think "I totally disagreed with going in but now that we're there, we might as well stay and finish what we started" but it's almost like finding yourself in the middle of a clusterfuck without your realizing and thinking, "Well, this is really gross, but now that I'm here I might as well stay and get off." And whatever happened to our embedded reporters? Now that things are really difficult, we can't see what our soldiers see?

All the ire from the other 8 candidates focused on Dean amazes me, too; come on, guys, quit whining, grow a set and run your own race.

Monday, December 29, 2003

cold mountain...

it had the picaresque quality of The Odyssey, the mind-numbing pace of Snow Falling on Cedars, the sacrificial romance of The English Patient and 'the Civil War is all about white people' of Somersby all rolled into one.

if it wins an oscar, i'll puke.
at work...sleepy...reading the paper online...
last week was a full one, current event-ly. but being in LA meant i was essentially quarantined from the rest of the world.

almost end of year resolution: wear jeans to work every day this week.

lost and found

(ok, a weird technical blip happened, so this may actually double post)

take-aways from the final days of Holiday Hell:
1. crying at the airport while saying good bye to your daddy is not very pretty.
2. if you're in la you must go to the lost and found on national and overland. it's the kind of dive bar in a strip mall where the bartendress has a voice like 40 miles of bad road and the customers bring their own food. there's wood paneling, a christmas tree, tinsel and you can smoke there.
3. the smoking garden/oasis at LAX is genius. where else can you suck nicotine into your system and simultaneously inhale jet fuel?

African American Vernacular Phrase of the Day: "losing my religion" [as in "ATA fucking lost my luggage on the direct flight from LAX and I was so pissed I damn well lost my religion in front of that stupid baggage claim guy. I couldn't see straight for 15 minutes."]

Saturday, December 27, 2003


dynamite hacks' cover of nwa's 'boyz-N-the-hood'.
my sister and i blew snot we laughed so hard, listening to kroq, driving from the westside pavillion.
it's almost over. i will be sad when i leave, but i will also be glad to sleep in my own bed and eat my own doritos.

christmas was stormy--flash floods, winds, mudslides. an earthquake. heightened security at lax. i'll have to be at the airport 5 hours ahead of time to make a noon flight. my niece and nephew have had more tantrums i can shake my ass at, and my sister and brother-in-law need to get out more. i feel so bad when i see how tired they get and how their time really isn't their own.

but it's almost over. next week, i'll be back in chicago, back at my office, back in my life. missing them while i'm back in my life.

have also had inordinate conversations about anal sex while here and it's unnerving. who knew evangelical christians were so into it?

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

i don't have much time.

the children are up and leslie is looking efficient.

quickly, my holiday so far, bridget jones style:

3 cigarettes, 2 cocktails, 4 toddler sized tantrums, 1 time-out, 1 bad santa, 3
adult tantrums over not getting my way, 1 sales clerk yelled at when i couldn't find gift boxes, 1 whispering niece who says i
smell like smoke, 1 hobbit movie i haven't seen yet (dammit), 1 christmas dinner
yet to be cooked, 3 nights on my sister's couch, and 1 hugely round nephew who
makes me laugh.

oh, and one hysterical phone call to ali from sav-on about how much my holiday
is sucking right now.  i am NEVER having children.  NEVER.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

merry hell

i'm hiding in my father's study, quickly checking email messages and scribbling this blog. my holiday thus far in los angeles:
1. my sister's kids are driving me insane. ok, they're adorable, but fighting with a 4-year old over my walkman and arguing why the shins are better than 'jingle bell rock' is, frankly, undignified.

2. haven't had a serious cocktail since i landed. i'm shaking from the lack of scotch, gin or vodka in this god-forsaken land.

3. neither have i had a cigarette. still shaking.

4. it's 74 degrees here.

5. we had a 6.5 earthquake yesterday.

i'll stop there before i burst into tears. what next?? mudslides? brush fires? the pacific ocean turning to blood?

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Us Girls

Forget about sex and the single girl, what about politics? It turns out that we're more important than we think. Here's a short article taken from Diversity Inc:

Are Single Women the New 'Soccer Moms'?
Forget about soccer moms. The prized voter of next year's presidential election could be single women, according to a new study. But they need to get to the polls. Using census and other voting data analyzed by two Democratic polling firms, the study released Tuesday found there would have been 6 million more ballots to count in 2000 if single women had voted at the same rate as their married counterparts.
The study, the first phase of a project designed to help get single women to the polls, showed that they are the largest nonvoting group and also one of the most dissatisfied with the country's direction. Study authors Christina Desser and Page Gardner, who received funding from some nonpartisan sources for their broader project, "Women's Voices. Women Vote.," said one reason single women stay home on Election Day is because they think their concerns about education, jobs and health care are routinely ignored.
Exit poll data from the 2000 election indicates that more single women voting next November could help the Democratic presidential nominee. George W. Bush slightly edged out Al Gore among married women, while married women preferred Gore by more than 30 percentage points. (AP)

I find that stunning--single women not participating in our political process. Too busy? Indifferent? Apathetic? I think it's time for us to be a bit more visible.

Friday, December 12, 2003

i haven't really given a lot of time to write about politics (other than my angry screeds against the Opt Out women and marriage) but here is a link to a Washington Post article about Dean and the Dem's outsider status.

it just made me go 'hm.' haven't quite decided who i'm for, yet.

at work: huge team party last night, there are only 4 of us here. i have $10 to my name until monday (grr). i have to write holiday cards for Madame.

(btw, i'm proud of the fact i just figured out how to do the link thing...)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

a full day of divorce proceedings by proxy. two grownups fighting over breast implants, art, books, computers, contents of security deposit boxes, horse boarding, and phone bills--oh, and children.

and gay couples make a mockery of marriage?


Tuesday, December 09, 2003


i have a tree.

(well, *we* have a tree.) there it is--square in the middle of the princess turret, naked, waiting for a bulb or two. years into adulthood and this is my first tree. i know, big deal. it's not like owning a home, or having a kid, or whatever the proper marker of adulthood is.

but it's ours--mine and my roommate's. we bought it; her boyfriend strapped it onto his truck and i watched him carry it up three flights of stairs.

now it feels like christmas.

(yes, i'm totally PMSing and...cue mood swing)

the new issue of W has a remarkably disgusting article about how much money it takes to be rich.

i had just finished saying to my roomie, 'you know, this magazine doesn't annoy me the way it used to...' when i turned the page and saw the article.

if i didn't have *work* tomorrow morning, i'd vent.

when did this become my job?

this is my life right now: helping my boss' brother pore through domestic detritus as his wife divorces him. for the rest of the week i have to help him as he narrows his marriage to assets, property and valuations. then, i'll make folders for him, create tables and graphs, and watch as we figure out where his wife's breast implants go.

my boss says to me, 'i'd really appreciate if you could work with him and just try and get him organized.'
i say, 'sure, no problem.'
she says, 'if you could sit with him...'
i say, 'uh, sure. no problem.'
and then she says, 'we can't really leave him alone...'
i think, jesus. i'm babysitting.
but i just say, 'i understand. it'll be no problem.'

i was feeling full of holiday cheer (i'll be in l.a. next weekend!) but now all i wanna do is find a dark bar and drink.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

merry merry...whatever

the holiday season is here.
i'm already too tired to deal with it.

but there's a party tonight and i should go...even though i really just want to throw on a turtleneck sweater, jeans, boots and go to the movies for a few hours. last year, at this same party, i abandoned my friend A. as she was accosted by a bisexual short order cook going through a rough divorce. when he wagged his tongue at her and suggested a threesome i ran for the buffet.

let's hope tonight provides more entertainment than that.

Thursday, December 04, 2003


it's a slow day. i've managed to get my boss out the office for the next two days and the silence is heaven sent. i've skimmed the papers, predictably gritting my teeth at various bits: bush's turkey was fake, the 'healthy forest' thing passed, his poll numbers have stopped their spiral downward, and the goopers have decided to abandon their ship...

but nothing is grabbing me by the hips and making me jiggle. it's hard being politically feisty all the time, you know? and then, when your sap is running high and all that, the concentration starts to wander.

it sort of saunters over to sunday night and that guilt-inducing cocktail (then dinner, then nightcap) shared with the Older Guy. the concentration lollygags in front of that memory and waves at it, fluttering its fingers at it, trying to catch its attention again...and fiercely ignores guilt's hand tugging on her faux fur collar.

what are the obligations to someone with whom you've been intimate, exchanged the L-word (albeit drunkenly) and who lives several states away? how far does one's (gulp) commitment go?

Monday, December 01, 2003

guilt guilt guilt....

if temptation was a pint of ice cream, i'd be sitting in a barco-lounger wearing a muu-muu, stuffing my face with it.

mercury is in retrograde (not that i'm totally into this) but word has it that things from our past will make sudden and alarming appearances in the next few days.

the thought of my 'past' stumbling into the light makes my ass clench.

Saturday, November 29, 2003


Had an Urban Tribe Thanksgiving and every year I think this is the perfect holiday for it. Christmas is overwhelmingly filial; you have no choice but to give in and spend it with those who share your genetic code--no matter how much you long to spend just ONE year in your city to go to your Christmas Eve services, to decorate your own tree, to plan your own parties and spend the day drinking as much egg nog as you want in your own bed.

Bitter? Yeah. A little.
It's Saturday and not that late and I'm home. Alone. A long weekend, alone.

Frustrated? Yeah. A little.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Interesting how one region can be so lovely and so creepy, all at the same time. Last weekend I managed to escape the city--to spend it in another city. I know, my logic is faulty, but hiding in Manhattan for one night then spending the rest of my short holiday in the damp environs of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont was the perfect antidote to being totally stressed out at work and feeling rather ... amorously neglected.

Things noticed along the way...trees were more bizarre in New England, twisting in Ichabodian ways along roads...driving the Vermont 8 at night will give you a stress headache ... Vermont has as much road construction as any day in Illinois ... Stockbridge, MA is home to the Norman Rockwell museum (which has a lovely exhibit from 3 women illustrators at the turn of the centry) as well as the bizarre Shrine of Divine Mercy (the original site of an English 'mission') ... The Anchor in New Haven is pretty cool and you can drink all night on $20 ... Harlem is more beautiful than you think.

I couldn't live in New England, but the Berkshires are lovely. I'd go insane during the winter, isolated behind ash trees, but staying there for a month to write wouldn't be so bad, perhaps. I'd be uncomfortable around the frosty New England 'fences make good neighbors' attitude, but the anonymity and strangeness of the place could be comforting. Lovely and creepy, attractive and forbidding. Pish tosh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

11.19.03 - This Morning's Dream or, Why I Was Late for Work

I lived in a small Ann Arbor-like town, full of mulberry bushes and swing sets. I went to the local college and developed huge crushes on gorgeous unavailable men who were invariably gay and studied in the German or Art History departments. I shared an apartment with a strawberry blonde plump girl named Julia, who looked like she stepped right out of a 1950s primer on appropriate female comportment. Ice wouldn't melt in her mouth, not a hair was out of place and her ponytail never swung.

Two Japanese schoolgirls lived across the hall from us in our big Victorian house. They were fascinated by the States and hung out with us to talk about boys and dating and show us pictures of the cute boys they'd stalked on campus. Julia never really participated, just smiled quietly and never dished. Being boy-crazy, I thought she was strange.

We were walking down the street one afternoon and the weather turned dark. The two Japanese schoolgirls excitedly murmured to each other and thought it was the perfect time to visit the beach. Julia and I didn't think that was a hot idea--big waves, lightning, drowning. But this appealed to their Japanese sense of adventure--this is what America was about: gigantic weather patterns.

They ran off in the direction of the beach as the wind began to kick up and Julia and I headed home, passing Rupert Everett along the way. He wore dark pants and a charcoal turtleneck, a dark cap covered his hair, but those sloe eyes and that jaw...who could forget a face like that? So I forced Julia to hang around and watched him laugh and sign autographs. Daringly I walked up and asked him to join us for a drink and some company. Julia was silent.

So the weather grew worse; we passed the beach and saw the two Japanese schoolgirls kneeling in the surf, praying as waves pounded all around them. The wind and waves lifted them high into the air, plunged them back into the sea, but it's like there was a bubble around them; they bounced harmlessly from crest to crest. Then, the sea parted a little ways around them, and the storm raged just a few feet off from where they knelt. Then, it was all over.

Squealing, they jumped up, clapped their hands and danced in a circle, yelling 'we saved the town, we saved the town!' Silly girls. Rupert, Julia and I walked on, strolling past the now wet and glistening houses. We came across the two dominatrices who lived a couple of blocks away from our house; in their customary black leather, they swung from harnesses and trapezes on the roof. The dark haired one, Emma, folded her topless self into a circle and swung around horzontal bar, the pink tips of her breasts winking at us. The blonde one cheerfully waved at us and Rupert said, 'hm, impressive.'

Something changed in our little threesome by the time we reached my house. Rupert was wearing a simple white buttoned down shirt and gray slacks. His hair was shorter and he wore glasses. Julia was brighter and actually bounced up the stairs, her ponytail swinging. When we reached our door, she turned and said, 'There's something we have to tell you. Rupert wants me, not you; we're sorry. We never meant for this to happen. He's moving in.' Instantly, I burst into tears: when did she become such a bitch? how could she do this to me? she didn't even like men! They smiled sadly at me, holding hands, and Rupert kissed her cheek and said, 'For her, I'm willing to be straight. And to wait. You...you were just a little fast for me. You'll find someone.' He sounded doubtful.

Their coupled happiness was too much for me; I stormed around the apartment, packing my things while Julia bleated her protests and I was so infuriated (though I'm vaguely aware that I shouldn't have been) I pushed past her and stomped out. I walked the two blocks to the dominatrix house; Emma still spun on her bar and the blonde one just swung back and forth. 'They kicked you out, huh?' she said. 'We knew it. She was just too goody goody. Live with us.'

'I can't swing. I don't go topless.'

'Eh, who cares? We got room.'

And that's where I live--with the topless, circus dominatrices and I heap scorn on Julia and Rupert whenever they pass.

Friday, November 07, 2003


I was going to make a list of my erstwhile estate and who gets what, but the brevity of the list and the paucity of my bequeathments made me depressed, and I figured no one would want to read that anyway. I mean, really, who wants to get my books, journals and Victorian porn?


A friend emailed me and said she had similar feelings about her family and money. We both grew up working class women of color in California and now find ourselves in positions different from those of our parents. Rather than take direction from our families we are walking away from them, deliberately making different choices--and sometimes they see that as an indictment of them. Her mother is upset she won't take advice about buying a house; my dad tears up when I tell him he needs to plan for the future. Both events make us uncomfortable and slightly ashamed. It's funny, my friend said that we can write about race, sex and class, but we hardly write about money.

My sister was telling me about that new show on MTV about the dumb blonde socialites. She was so disgusted by it (yet captivated by its car-crash-like spectacle) I had to laugh when she said, Rich people really are stupid, aren't they?

There's class resentment in my sister's disgust, yes, but her feelings are also about money. (I know how unclear that thinking is and if I wasn't at the office, I'd clarify that.) These moronic girls have more money than they will know what to do with--and they will do nothing with it. (Ok, vast generalization, but point to a debutante who's done something good for society and I'll show you a Republican who belongs to the NAACP.)

For me, my sister and my college friend (a professor now on the west coast), money means ... what? For my sister, it probably means her kids will be able to go to college, they'll have access to a good job perhaps, and will achieve a comfortable level of stability. It's the dream of the middle class--stability and comfort. For my friend...I don't know. It could mean that house. For me, it means doing unto others.

Money--*significant* amounts of it--means redressing some things. Scholarships for poor black kids. Scholarships for single parents wanting to go back to school. Comprehensive sex education in our communities of color. Yes, it could also mean traveling a lot and making sure my dad has a nice pillow for his old age, but when I think about having lots and lots of money (and I do) I think about the women I see in the morning, walking their kids to the Catholic school a few blocks away. They come from the women's shelter down the street; it's housed in a tall square Baptist church and women, silent, battered and too young, yet too old-looking, walk their kids to school.

We stand next to each other at the bus stop--their hair wild, socks and tights not matching, I in my office shoes and coat. And I feel guilty because I have and they don't and they should and then I wonder why I'm not doing anything significant about it. Which, in my rambling way, brings me back to those Opt Out women. And I wonder if their compacency is really so different from mine.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Random things...
Writing this blog is like tossing a bottled letter into the sea; it seems that HTML tags are needed to post my email address on the side...alas, I am HTML dumb so I'll just give an address here, if anyone would like to drop a note (and if anyone absolutely hates anything PLEASE be civil): dcstarpoint@yahoo.com or, alternately, use whichever email address you already have for me.

Problematic...the Dept of Homeland Security's ramped up attack on academic freedom and post-colonial studies, the partial-birth abortion bill being signed today, the silence from the administration regarding the number of casualties, the Pentagon's rumored stealthy ramp up of the draft board, the weird flap over Howard Dean's Confederate flag comment (granted, I haven't researched this much, but it seems to me he was misunderstood deliberately--and I'm a black woman saying this), the illegal aliens and indentured servitude for WalMart, more email over my marriage stance...

Jeezy Creezy--I'm Effin' Old

As is my wont, I delayed filling out my new 401k forms until the very last moment. In a plastic envelope, the glossy brochures and pie charts and allocation charts sat on my desk. I'd take them home once in a while with the intent of reading through them, but one look at the worksheet to determine my retirement goals made me want to have a drink and so, following that impulse, I'd put aside the envelope containing my future and go down to the bar next door and meet my friend Ali for an after work cocktail.

Well, today is the deadline. I can no longer ignore the pressing need to secure some kind of financial security for my self. I have no concept of money. It's nice to have and I like having a regular paycheck, but it doesn't really MEAN anything to me. When I look at money I see only that--money.

Oh, I see bills, rent, taxes (jesus, so many taxes) and dinners and trips, but I don't see what other people probably see. I don't see value or worth in money. It's either there or it isn't. If it's not, then why think about it? If there's a sudden windfall, well, aren't I a lucky duck? Let's go out and have a good bottle of wine with dinner. I take this attitude from my father and mother, who grew up poor in South Central Los Angeles and a little village in the Philippines, respectively. They worried about taking care of their family, but they never worried, agonized, or obsessed over money.

Both were relatively free with money. Every weekend, my mom would go to the mall. Every time dad went shopping with us, he'd get something for his library or his studio or something. We were never extravagent (except I think my mother later became weirdly shopaholic-like) and my sister and I never went without. We may have been a little shabby and perhaps not in the first mode of fashion (or maybe that was just me) but we didn't go to bed hungry and we never had to complain about not having stuff. We had stuff--just not as much stuff as other people. But the money was there to get it, or it wasn't. Often, we heard and understood the words, "Our money is funny this month."

My family didn't seem to be really big on planning for the future. There was a savings account (I remember seeing the book for it) but long-term planning wasn't part of our household, especially when my dad gave up his nice city job to become a minister. Goodbye security, hello...uncertain retirement and dependence on the capricious movements of a deacon board. (Ah--I've just realized that this coincides with my mother's increased spending habits.)

The Baptist church, especially an Independent fundamentalist one, didn't really have the wherewithal to manage a pastor's future. It was assumed this person would die behind the pulpit and the church would care for them until then and while this is a fine goal, it really didn't take into consideration markets, inflation, cost of living, family needs or the basics of health care and social security--retirement. This was a serious lack. It seemed to me (and my mother) that just because this was God's vocation, it didn't mean you had to be stupid about it. It's only in the past few years that my sister and I have convinced our father to establish some kind of retirement plan.

But now, here I am, about to choose which funds I want, how much I want deducted from my paycheck, and who my beneficiary is--all without having been shown how to do this before. I am just as uncounscious of the future as my father was. Beyond the difficulty of calculating my retirement goal based on my age, Social Security benefits and income, I've realized that I've made NO plans for the future.

Who is my beneficiary? I'm single and childless; this is something I've chosen but still--who will get my 'estate'? What is in my estate? Frankly, who would want it? What will happen to me if I get seriously ill? Who will defend my interests? When I die...what will I leave behind?

These are questions perhaps too heavy for the middle of the day on a Wednesday while at the office.

Friday, October 31, 2003

The Black Moon

This is an email from KT who read the little article I posted about marriage about a week ago:

I have read your article and I wish that I could have had the same insight at a young age. I am the same age as you and I would like to do all of the things that you are able to do as a young independent woman.
I am married with five children although I love my family so much I wish that I would have had the insight and the guidance to make the decision not to give in to the notion that you have to get married and have children. I want so much for my life but now I have to wait until my children are grown and out of college before I can truely [sic] enjoy being who I want to be.
I applaude [sic] you for your strength it encourages me
to be strong and stand up for me even in my situation

It is tempting to turn to those men who unleashed a barrage of email on me and yell, A-HA! So I won't--not yet.

KT's email was one of three written by women; it was the only unequivocally positive message, if you can count a woman's sadness toward her life 'positive.' Writing those 4 essays (which will be put together eventually to make a whole, legible diatribe against un-fun marriages) provoked such hostility from male readers, it was stunning, though not unlooked for. I was called whore, worldly, unsaved, unsound, sinful, rebellious, destined for hell and wrong. There is a certain exhileration in being the target of masculine ire; if one was to make a current foreign policy analogy, one could say the attacks on my person are signs of a desperate foe who is terrified I may be right. But the thrill of debate fades when you start to think about how quiet these women are.

Over the past six months, a handful of women wrote me telling me they agreed but, shh, it'll be our little secret that this is how we feel. They wrote they had friends who thought the same way and to whom they showed the articles; they all agreed with them.

But it's a secret and I don't know why. Apparently, there's a small group of Christian women who didn't want to marry quite so young, didn't want to have quite so many children (if any), would rather travel than debate Ecclesiastes (though that's fun, too) and don't want to link their lives to men who can't get rid of a suffocating view of a woman's purpose. But these women are silent; they're in relationships, watching their partners, their husbands, strut around the home confident in their superiority while they are resigned and silent.

I wonder if KT's husband knows about how she feels; I wonder if he knows what she dreamt about before they married. I wonder if he knows that she's counting the years until all five of her children are gone and she can finally escape her house. I wonder if he ever feels conflicted, torn between love of his family and a desire for *something else.* Or, does he wake every morning, kiss his wife and kids, do his morning devotional, go to work and come home to a scene that is only slightly different from the one he left in the morning, completely unconscious of the tiny ripples that moved through his home while he was gone?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


There's nothing much in my britches today. I couldn't decide if I wanted to write about my favorite feisty dorks, virgins and/or feisty dorky virgins. Concentration eluded me. However...from Salon, another article on the religious right's collusion with the Shrub administration to keep at-risk, underserved populations ignorant of comprehensive sex education.

Again (I *can't* say it enough,) I hate stupid people.

Also in Salon, an interview with Camille Paglia. What is it about this woman that skeeves me out and makes me want to slap her? The bizarro image I have is cracked red lipstick, yellow teeth and gin breath--I can't help thinking of Miss Havisham on Tina dressed in a sagging Versace.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Cop Out vs. “Opt Out”

There are two articles about women and work this weekend: one from the New York Times magazine writer Lisa Belkin (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/magazine/26WOMEN.html) and one today from Salon’s Joan Walsh rebutting it (‘Clueless in Manhattan’—you have to subscribe to see the full article or get their day pass.)

The line of Belkin’s argument is easy to follow since there isn't one; it’s basically another ‘feminism has failed middle class white women somehow and so this is my choice’ piece – at least that’s the way I read it. But three things caught my eye. There’s this paragraph:

“Look at how all these numbers compare with those of men. Of white men with M.B.A.'s, 95 percent are working full time, but for white women with M.B.A.'s, that number drops to 67 percent. (Interestingly, the numbers for African-American women are closer to those for white men than to those for white women.)”

Interesting how black women don’t choose to be part of this Opt Out Revolution, huh? I wonder why? Really, I do; I'm not being snarky. I wonder several things she never answered or even investigated: What are those numbers for black women, exactly? Why don’t women of color choose to opt out? Where are the women of color in her piece? What would those women have said? I’m not saying she MUST interview women of color but, hey, she brought it up. Why not follow that thread and see where it leads?

Then there’s this:
“Why don't women run the world? Maybe it's because they don't want to.”

I don’t know who Belkin hangs out with or where she found these sad-sack women, but I’ll stand next to Walsh and say, I wanna run the world! Why not remake the world? Why not wipe some slates clean and tell some people what to do and where to go? Will I ever? Odds are, not really. But odds also are, who knows? Wouldn’t it be great if a 34-year old brown woman with almost a PhD could change something?

This world sucks! There’s a growing uneducated underclass, our inner cities are getting poorer, our labor force is growing smaller (and poorer), access to education and healthcare by the lower middle class and working class is shrinking, the economy stinks, our political process has been hijacked by radical conservative extremists and we haven’t even addressed our geo-political quagmire over there in the Middle East. What world are these women living in that they’re so comfortable they can’t even think about changing anything?

What struck me while reading the bleating justifications for leaving work by the women interviewed was the question, Why should we care about these women if they don’t want to run the world or show even the least ambition to do something other than bear and care for children (something at least half the world’s population can do)? Should we care what ambition-less upper class privileged women think? Why should we care when it’s so obvious they don’t? Here are the words of an Opt Out Woman:

''I don't want to take on the mantle of all womanhood and fight a fight for some sister who isn't really my sister because I don't even know her.''

Wow. It must be true. Feminism must be dead if sisterhood can’t even get a shout-out.

And then I tried to imagine what Belkin’s article might have looked like if she had interviewed a woman of color who didn’t go to an Ivy League school, but attended two good ones like UCLA and University of Michigan, has managed to hang on to a job in this messed up economy and can’t ‘opt out’ because she makes less than 50k annually. I think the interview would be rather short:

Q: There are a group of previously successful women who have chosen not to pursue work, who have chosen instead to stay at home and raise their kids. Is this an option for you?
A: Uh, no.
Q: But you have, haven’t you? You left your Ph.D program—you were on the academic track and then you left it.
A: But not to raise kids. I left it because I was eating ramen out of a coffeemaker and hated living in a small town in the middle of nowhere. That was a quality of life decision. And I’m single, by the way.
Q: But if you could, would you?
A: Would I what?
Q: Not work. If you could stay home to raise kids, your husband makes enough money, you don’t have to work, would you still work?
A: We can live off one income?? Wow. Truthfully, I think I’d go nuts; am I writing while I’m home? Am I working from home? Do I have a book deal? That would be great.
Q: No, you’re not working. You’ve stopped working to raise your children. It’s to raise your kids.
A: I can’t afford not to work.
Q: But you can—hypothetically.
A: Ah. Hypothetically.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

A letter posted to Daniel Chang, creator of Ghettopoly (www.ghettopoly.com):
Mr. Chang:

Bad taste has sunk to a new low. Your game Ghettopoly can join the ranks of Amos N' Andy, Sambo and Step 'n Fetchit.

I'm not going to go into the whole 'as a black asian woman...blah blah blah' thing, but really. Your ignorance and poor taste is amazing. I think it's safe to assume you've never lived in a housing project or 'the ghetto' and your version of urban life as a game of theft, pimping and dope is gross. But what do I expect from a guy who got this idea from a stupid MTV show?

However, the universe seems to be righting itself; I just read Urban Outfitters dropped your product and Hasbro is suing you.

Good luck with that.

It makes me tired, the stupidity, greed and casual meanness of people. What happened in Daniel Chang's brain while he was watching Cribs (thanks, MTV)? What clicked to make him think this was an ok idea, and what clicked in other people's brains to make them give him the money to do it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Perhaps because it was Marriage Protection Week I’ve been thinking about marriage lately. Unlike most women, I don’t think about marriage often and I think about marrying a Church Guy even less, but again, lately I’ve been wondering if I could be happily married to a Church Guy and what it would mean for me if I were.

Overall, marriage holds no compelling interest for me. I’ve concluded that marriage brings me nothing I don’t already have. Security? Got it. Social acceptance? Got it. Companionship? Got that, too. Children? Don’t want ‘em. Tax break? Doesn’t matter—and it’s insignificant unless you have property or children. Property? Good credit withstanding, I don’t need marriage to get that (see Security.) So there sits Marriage, like a used car in a bright parking lot with plastic flags whipping overhead, and I approach it, check out the price tag and keep walking. I’ll grab a taxi, thanks.

I also imagine what's written on that price tag: a total loss of independence and a significant loss of identity, critical thinking faculties and self. I would disappear and in my place would be a We, one half of which would be paternalistic, boring, uncool and, most likely, fundamentalist.

As always, I begin with a caveat. I do not hate marriage (or men—I like them quite a lot, actually.) I think marriage is nice. My parents were married. My sister is married. At least thrice, I’ve thought favorably about marriage. I respect marriage and the fact that it’s hard and weird and, because of it, your life turns absolutely upside down and you’re dunked in the middle of all sorts of social, economic and legal upheaval. I look at my sister's marriage and I admire her and her cute little family for working hard to raise a family now. But I take one look at a traditional fundamentalist marriage and I think, Yuck, you two are poster children for celibacy and desert islands.

Back in Los Angeles, circa 1992, I began to date a man in my dad’s church. Let’s call him Bob. We were the perfect picture of Christian dating—no funny stuff, no hanky panky, no heavy breathing. We held hands, we went to movies, dinner, theater, ballet, he had me home at a decent time and there was no flak from my folks—who were curiously silent about the whole thing. (However, my sister thought our age difference was weird and one Sunday afternoon on the church parking lot, she freaked out and yelled that it was gross.) There was a curious absence of heat between us, but I was a chaste 21 year old and wouldn’t have known what to do with it if heat had suddenly appeared while we shook hands goodnight on my parents’ front porch.

After almost a year of holding hands, theater and ballet, Bob and I had a curious conversation on our way home from dinner.
He said, “What do you think about marriage?”
“I’m still in college,” I said.
“I know, but what do you think? I think I want to get remarried, settle down…” he said.
I said, “I have things I want to do first—graduate, travel, write, go to grad school, travel more….” Maybe smoke a cigarette, I thought.
“What about kids?”
I snorted. “No way. I don’t have a maternal bone in my body.”
Shaking his head, he said, “You’ll change. When they’re your own. Everyone wants kids.”
“You know what I hate? I hate people telling me what to think. That is so sexist, like I don’t know my own mind. And what does that mean, ‘when they’re my own’? So, I hate them now, but after a few years I’ll suddenly love them against my will. What crap. I don’t want kids.”
“Yes, you do. You just don’t know it yet.”
“I don’t.”
“You do.”
“I don’t.”
And so on, until I began to have panic attacks brought on by the vision of marrying Bob and popping out a gang of Bob Jr’s at the age of 22. To save my sanity and pass my finals I broke up with him one week later. Looking back I know it wasn't just that he and I wanted different things that ended our dating, it was the fact he didn't listen. He actually thought he knew better for me. He thought he knew me. I hear he’s married/divorced/remarried and now has all the kids he can possibly want.

There’s a part of the Bible that says something like “…as Christ is the head of the Church, the man is the head of his household.” Something like that, I don’t know. It’s a beautiful way of illustrating Christ’s love for the family of man and of admonishing husbands to love their families the way Christ loves us, isn’t it? However, it’s also a verse that gives me the creeps because I can see some Church Husband spinning it out so that it means, “I’m your personal marital Jesus and now you have to do everything I tell you.” Why would I, a 34-year-old woman, allow someone to tell me what to do? But if I accept the traditional model of Christian marriage, that’s what I’d be getting, I think. Of course, this vision of Christian marriage is an oversimplification, one that many Christian guys would protest, but with all the repression, prudery and witch-hunting, it’s weird how many Christian marriages resemble The Crucible.

What better place for oversimplification than a fundamentalist interpretation of marriage? Oversimplifying things erases nuance, context and shades of ambiguity, distinctions that fundamentalism cannot allow or the entire foundation of the belief system cracks. In such a flat monochromatic landscape, my place in marriage is fixed. Of course, one could argue that my view of marriage and Christian men is itself a fundamentalist position, equally dedicated to oversimplification and the erasure of nuance to defend an unpopular but provocative position. However, I’d pit my oversimplification against a fundamentalist’s any day and argue that their view of marriage is rather un-fun, infantilizing and bizarre.

Here’s a story for you: In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane flees Thornfield Hall on her wedding day when she realizes the man she desperately loves, tyrannical Rochester, has locked his crazy wife Bertha in the attic all these years. Homeless, about to eat pig swill, Jane finds her cousin St John Rivers, an Anglican minister preparing to travel to India to convert its heathen hordes. Jane stays with his family, taking dictation and recovering from the Bertha episode, when St. John suddenly proposes. He is a fine man, a learned man, but an unbending priggish man who would break her spirit like a cracker. She refuses him and returns to Rochester after learning Bertha is dead and he is blind, maimed and his house burnt down. To the reader’s surprise, they marry and Jane’s wild spirit finds a home in her broke down, blind, crippled husband.

I love this book.

I love that it was written by the daughter of a clergyman; I love that Jane was plain but smart; I love how she was stubborn, outspoken and knew her mind; she was implacable and unsentimental, and picked the crazed cynical non-Church Guy over Uber Church Guy.

My feelings about marriage evidently come down to a matter of independence. My reading of my self conflicts with the way a traditionally trained Church Guy would see me, which would be through the eyes of an orthodoxy that maintains marriage as a ‘natural,’ ordained event. It becomes the period at the end of a woman’s sentence; it becomes the natural place for her to end, like arriving at the end of a fairy tale in which we are rescued from the ashes of singleness by the love of a good man and we, naturally, marry and have children. I suppose it is a romantic story—if you think your life is ashes and all it needs is marriage to make it better. Most likely, what women need is what Virginia Woolf calls “a room of one’s own”—what people in my generation call ‘getting a life.'

People ask me why I don't date church guys. Well, let’s see: I’m a 34-year-old, non-nurturing stubborn, opinionated, smart-mouthed, rabidly progressive and arrogant over-read feminist/Christian, who would rather hire someone to clean my house than do it myself. Will I ever marry? Whatever.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

who has the time to scribble poetry when i read news like over 60% of the american public *don't care* that our administration fudged intelligence to sway public opinion toward war with iraq? i wonder what else we don't care about: the gop is pushing to recall gov davis, who is desperately trying to get californians reimbursed for the millions stolen from them during that manipulated energy crisis? bush hoping to raise over $20M in the next weeks for the 2004 push?

i was watching the local news with my father, an ordinary man who makes no more than 40k/year. he voted for bush because he was 'truthful' (so ironic) and thinks he's likable. so we're watching the news, looking at the rundown of stuff happening in washington--deficit numbers, iraq disasters, policy rollbacks--and my father doesn't blink an eye. it has no effect on him at all. he is unable to make a link between who he voted for and what's happening in the world. about iraq, all he can say is "it was time we kicked some ass." despite my best efforts, my father will probably vote for him again. (and i will gnash my teeth.)

i love my dad, but when i hear him say things like that it makes me want to tie him up and gag him in the corner. it's the most unreflective, knee-jerk, ignorant statement i've ever heard.

about the tax cut and whopping deficit: "republicans will never care about the little guy; so who cares what they do?"
about civil liberties being eroded: "you're overreacting."
about environment policies and labor protections being rolled back: "it has nothing to do with me."

but if i ask him about school prayer, abortion rights, or gay rights suddenly an awful lot becomes mighty important to an individual who doesn't have kids in school, will never bear children, and knows no one gay (except through me).

people don't expect me to be a patriot, but i am. i may be black, female and progressive but i love this country more than anything. i hate stupidity. i loved the stories i read when i was a kid of the revolutionary army, the boston tea party, the rebels. of course, growing up and learning more history, these myths changed for me--but still i loved that story of origin. tom paine, thoreau, frederick douglass, ida b. wells, malcolm x.: these were the heros i had, the rebels, the brave ones who called a thing what it really was. who refused blinders.

when did we become a nation of stupid people, dullards, apathetic, uncritical sheep? when did we turn a blind eye to facts, logic, rationalism? when did we become collaborators with bullies? when did we become a nation that favors nostalgia and fear over progress?
the portfolio deadline has passed. but all is not lost; we just have to realign the deadline! (ahem) the third article is still unfinished (must finish tonight) and there is still outlining to do for the essay (which can perhaps be turned into a monologue?)

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

quickly...dad visited, job disappeared (thanks, New Economy), M-- called, and now must scramble for employment. however...the summer does not lend itself to scrambling. thinking of jotting down an elegeaic something for my job.

the scribble from the previous entry will be worked on and reposted. would be interesting to trace how one of these things come about.

clinton in town tomorrow for a fund raiser; girlfriends and i are desperate to go, but each plate costs $150. why don't they have tables/prices for the little guy? that's all we want--a seat at the table. hee. funny. have not yet started blumenthal's opus. it's heavy and every time i go to heave it into bed for a little nighttime reading, i pull a muscle.

hooray for the supreme court decision reaffirming university of michigan's affirmative action program for their law school. o'connor hopes that, in 25 years, these programs won't be necessary. so do i. however, considering that jim crow only ended 35-40 years ago, the civil rights movement was truly active only 40 yrs ago and that bakke was decided only 20, i don't think it'll happen.

3 or 4 poems are in the beginning stages. i have a couple of weeks for the portfolio to look like something real. how awful.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

i sent another 'church gal' column off today in response to typical fundamentalist rantings from dad's readership. a part of me suspects this is his underhanded way to bring me back to the 'fold.' i don't think i've left the fold, though, just found a different kind. my next two have to be very different in tone, away from the church-bashing and more ... what? even handed? there's no way to be even handed. church guys turn me off because they're mostly narrow, prudish, patriarchal and anti-intellectual. sort of like our president.

i was going to post it, but for all my desire to be public or to have the merest public voice, i can't put it here.

i should be preparing my portfolio.

i haven't written anything substantial other than that column that only right-wing baptists will see.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

the blank page is always so daunting. so challenging. it's like a dare.

so...i've taken up this dare, inching out further, sending words anonymously out ... there. hm. so pretentious sounding. do i state goals at this point? enter into a contract of sorts with whoever reads this? or just ... write? just writing. that's why i'm here.

eliza emailed me today; the anthology project she wrote me about is ramping up again. it's been a year since she last talked to me about it. in that year i've fooled around with the idea of quitting my job, going back to grad school, teaching in the city, going to law school, not quitting my job, going into public interest law, going into public policy, quitting my job and ... not quitting my job. all along, perhaps i should have been thinking of this anthology.

she wants me to contribute something and i have one month to produce a viable selection so that at least one thing gets through. i haven't written seriously in about 2.5 years, if not longer. emails to long-distance, online men don't count, though those are pretty good. bitter limericks about work don't count either.

(although, if william carlos williams wrote about grocery lists, why not write about work?)

i have less than a month; i have three weeks. three weeks to write my ass off and shake the dust from my brain.