Good Parenting

Y’all, I forgot to post last week. I think trying to do a once a week blog is interfering with my goal of writing something I will one day actually get paid for. So I’m dropping this down to “sporadic” for right now.

But I wanted to tell you two stories that illustrate why my parents are awesome. Their best parenting moments, if you will.

First, my dad. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I got pinkeye for the first time. I know this sounds like absolutely no big deal to anyone since it’s just a piddling little infection that goes away in a couple of days. But I freaked the fuck out about it. I was not a vain teenager; I didn’t spend a lot of time or money or energy on my clothes or hair; I never even learned to do eyeshadow until I worked for Aveda in college and had to. I didn’t really think I was all that pretty and I didn’t try to make myself so.

Or at least that’s what I thought I thought. Until one eye was all red and swollen and goopy. And then I found out where my vanity lived.

My dad was witnessing my freaking out and couldn’t understand it. “But Dad!” I sobbed. “My eyes are my best feature!”

“Really?” my dad said. “I thought it was your wit.”

Perfect Dad moment right there. There was simply nothing better he could have said in that moment, no better way, even, to construct or deliver that sentence. It should be studied in textbooks with titles like “How to Talk to Your Teenage Daughter: A Guide in Building Self-Esteem.”

Now, my mom. The television show “Felicity” started airing when I was a senior in high school, IIRC, and the first episode featured the mom getting all sad that her titular baby girl was heading to college. I, feeling a touch sentimental myself, asked my mom if she would feel that way when I went away to school. She said no. I got a mite offended, but then she said something like, “My job in raising you was to teach you to go away from me. You going to college means I did my job and you’re going on to live your life, pursue your interests, and be an adult. I want you to grow up and go away, because that’s what I want for you. I’ll miss you, but I won’t be sad.”

She insisted on taking me to college sans my father, because she feared, probably correctly, that my father would spend the afternoon schmoozing with other parents and then get all sad and weepy when it was time to go, whereas my mother, who I swear is not British but still only believes in showing sentiment to dogs and horses, would get me unpacked, make sure I had everything I needed, and leave. Which she did. I remember starting to walk her back to her car, and she asked why I was following her, and I said I wanted to say goodbye, and she said, “Oh, please. Give your mother a hug and go.” So I gave my mother a hug and went back to my dorm, soon to be picked up by my aide group leader (read: camp counselor) and on to have lots of fun for four years.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I was back in New Jersey, and my mom, my sister and I went to see that movie with Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman as mother and daughter and then Natalie Portman goes to Brown? And I look over and my mom is crying! We left the movie theater and I said, “Mom! How come you cried when Natalie Portman went to college but not when I did?” And she said, “I did cry. I just did it in the car where you couldn’t see me. I didn’t want you to feel like you had to take care of my emotions on your first day of college. I wanted you to go have your own emotions.”

Good job, Mom.

So what were your parents’ greatest parenting moments?

 

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Same-Sex Marriage Will Totes Ruin “Traditional” Marriage

To the extent that “traditional” means fuck-all.

Look, feminism is already working on destroying same-sex marriage, and basically in the same way same-sex marriage will – by fucking with “traditional” gender roles. To the extent that “traditional” means “some amalgam of what we think was happening in the 1950s and what we think was happening in the late Victorian era.” Which are two different eras. And which are not exactly what we think they are.

And you know what? Freud fucked up traditional marriage. So did changes in child labor laws. So did the mother-fucking Industrial Revolution, which is only, like, less than two hundred years old, but still serves as the point at which what we think of as “traditional marriage” (man works outside the home for a pay check, woman is dependent on him financially but runs the home and the child care, which is defined as “not working”) started! The idea that you should primarily marry someone you love BLEW TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE TO HELL! And Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, in their times, all put different spins on the “traditional” forms of marriage that immediately preceded them, in different ways, at different times. Restrictions on polygamy ruined “traditional” marriage.

And you know what? Maybe fifty years down the line, we’ll decide that as long as two people of the same sex can get married, why not more than two people of any arrangement of genitalia?

And you know what else?

I don’t give a damn.

I mean, it’s never going to be, you know, you can marry a child or a horse or a toaster. Because children and horses and toasters can’t give consent. But I really don’t care if the state legalizes polygamy.

Here’s what I would do if I got to be dictator of the United States. I would abolish “marriage” as a concept on the state level. “Marriage,” the institution in which two (or more) people pledge to love and be faithful to one another for all eternity, to form a family unit within their community, and to grow old together, blah blah blah – this is not the state’s business, interest or concern. You can still do it, through your religious institution or in some other ceremony, for yourselves, with your community, whatever. But the state will not care.

The state will only care about two things: who is financially responsible for each other? And, who is financially responsible for the children connected to you?

So the state will have household units. Any number of consenting adults with any relationship to each other can enter into one with each other, and what it will mean to be in one of these units is, “We are financially responsible for each other,” and “We are responsible for any children either produced by the women in this household or adopted by this household.” The tax code will reflect that household units, and not individuals, are the primary economic units in the country. It will be incredibly difficult to get out of a household unit once you’re in, so obviously, enter into a household unit only with people you don’t mind being stuck with forever and ever and ever.

And that’s it. That’s my plan. Household units. Wovsaniker 2016!

 

Steubenville?

daffy duck

So on the one hand, there are a lot of things that have been happening lately that are the kinds of things I normally comment on. Steubenville. Leaning In. Duck penis studies.

But I was busy writing about Bet Me and then having Passover in NJ and then Passover here and, you know, life stuff is happening and I just never got around to it.

So I don’t have anything to actually say about duck penises that I haven’t already said.

And I’m not touching the Lean In phenomenon. I have my own conflicting emotions about  my personal choices vis-a-vis work and motherhood and I don’t want to sort what I think, intellectually, about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In while also grappling with my feelings. Also, I haven’t read it, and did y’all see my TBR pile on Facebook last week? Yeah, I’m not prepared to add it.

I am also not touching New York‘s Feminist Housewife article right now. Just too many feelings getting in the way of my thoughts.

So . . . Steubenville?

Oy. Steubenville.

Victoria Dahl, who writes some of my favorite contemporary romances and also some pretty great historic romances, as well as my very favorite Twitter feed, had an interesting post on her tumblr. (Warning for those of you who click on the post, and then click on the rest of her tumblr – there are some images that are NSFW! Also, they are hoooot. Did I mention I love Victoria Dahl so much?)

She’s responding to the current feminist message that we shouldn’t be teaching our daughters not to get raped, we should be teaching our sons not to rape. She points out that for a long time, we’ve been taught that rape is not about sex but control and power; that rapists rape because they want to assert power and dominance over their victims, not because they wanted sex and didn’t care how the person who they were having sex with felt about it. And, basically, rapers gonna rape, y’all. Protect your drinks.

Dahl points out that rape IS sometimes about sex, and to the extent that it is, yes, teach your sons that no means no, yes means yes, and everything that isn’t yes means no, and if you’re getting mixed messages ask again, and women are people, not objects for your pleasure, and etc. etc. etc.

But when it’s not about sex, when it’s about violence and power and dominance, then it’s disempowering to tell your daughters that there’s nothing they can do to protect themselves from evil rapists. It’s good to tell them to watch their drinks, take a self-defense course, not get drunk to the point of vulnerability when surrounded by people she can’t trust. (It’s also good to talk to your daughters about how you can tell who you can and can’t trust.)

Even thought I’ve been cheering the idea that we teach our sons not to rape instead of teaching our daughters not to get raped, I don’t disagree with Victoria Dahl here. You give your children – all of them – basic safety information. Curl your fingers away from the knife when slicing. Don’t get in a stranger’s car. If anyone ever tells you not to tell your parents something, TELL YOUR PARENTS IMMEDIATELY. And, yes, watch your drink, and don’t incapacitate yourself when you’re not in trustworthy environs. (And pay attention to your friends. Make sure they’re actually trustworthy and not just cool or fun.)

Dahl’s post is definitely a needed perspective in the current rhetoric about rape, which is, at best, confused and unhelpful. We need to remember, in our current pissed-off-ness about the media coverage of rape, that rape is a crime and teaching men and women to take reasonable steps to protect themselves from crimes is a perfectly normal and even required part of, like, life.

But I said on Facebook, “The biggest difference between telling a person, ‘You shouldn’t carry an open purse; you’ll get robbed,’ and ‘You shouldn’t get drunk at parties; you’ll get raped’ is that no one ever says of a convicted robber, ‘Oh, that poor, poor kid. His future is ruined now, and all because that irresponsible girl couldn’t keep her purse closed. I mean, how was he supposed to KNOW she didn’t want to have her stuff taken, what with her purse all opened like that?'”

It’s not like you shouldn’t tell someone to close their purse. It’s fine. It’s a perfectly valid piece of advice. But the feminist sentiment that we should be teaching men not to rape instead of teaching women not to be raped IS more about the cultural rhetoric around rape than it is about the practicality.

For one thing, the advice sometimes borders on absurd. Go into any room of women and ask if any of them have ever a) been drunk around a guy they didn’t intend to have sex with, b) been alone with no physical recourse with a guy they didn’t intend to have sex with, c) been alone and at least partially undressed with a guy they didn’t intent to have sex with, d) flirted with a guy they didn’t have sex with, e) been at parties with guys they didn’t intend to have sex with – and then NOT been raped. I don’t mean to be callous about this. I know that, in that room, there will be women who have been raped, to the tune of 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 or whatever the latest, unreliable statistic is (because so many rapes go unreported, or even unacknowledged by the victim). But even women who HAVE been raped will have also NOT been raped in moments where the cultural rhetoric seems to agree that, had you been, it would have been your fault. So hearing “Drinking and flirting with boys will get you raped!” sounds a lot like “One inhalation of reefer and you will die young, bitter, broke and in jail! With no brain cells!” It sounds like a lie. People do these things all the time and they’re fine. Because a great many men – maybe even the majority of men – even when they are teenagers! – don’t rape women.

But some do.

And the thing about Steubenville is, I mean, I guess they were more about power than sex, since they didn’t, actually, um . . . put the p in the v? Right? So I guess they were asserting their power?

But the really striking thing about it was, as far as I can tell, the boys really had no idea that what they were doing was wrong. And honestly . . . why should they? A lot of people (the ones who haven’t been bemoaning the ruined futures of these poor, innocent fuhball players) are upset that these kids got tried as juveniles instead of as adults, but I think this is a CLASSIC situation in which trying them as juveniles seems completely appropriate. The whole idea of trying people under the age of eighteen as juveniles is that they’re simply not old enough to fully understand the implications and consequences of their actions. When they’re tried as adults, it’s because the particular crime in question is considered so bad (and their age is considered advanced enough) that they couldn’t possibly argue that they’re not old enough to understand how bad what they did was.

Yes, of course, rape SHOULD be one of those crimes that a sixteen-year-old boy would know is wrong. But it is very evident from their treating their rape of this girl like it was the coolest party trick in town indicates that they strongly did not know that it was wrong.

And why should they have? None of the people at the parties they went to said, “Hey, dude, what you’re doing is wrong.” Well, apparently one of their friends texted them to tell them to cut that shit out, but his voice was drowned out by all the other people going, “Hahaha this is awesome let’s videotape this shit and throw it up on Twitter!” And then their community by and large backed them up and protected them.

And then fucking CNN and Good Morning America were saying things about how these poor boys’ fuhball futures were ruined because this skanky ho got drunk enough to pass out and how were they supposed to KNOW that they shouldn’t stick their fingers in the orifices of passed out girls? I mean, the girl consented to going to the party and drinking and everything! That’s the same as consenting to any and all sexual acts while she’s unconscious! Right? Right!

I mean, when fucking CNN and GMA, which are for and by adults, don’t know that rape is wrong, how do we expect sixteen-year-olds to?

And that’s why feminists are focusing on education about rape is wrong. Because apparently we, as a culture, don’t know.

Okay. Next week I think I’m going to talk about, I don’t know . . . The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or something innocuous. And if there could be no rapes that are hideously mishandled by mainstream media, or Republicans saying hideous things about rape and abortion, or psychopaths shooting up schools, for, like, the next three months? That’d be great, America. Thanks.