Thursday, October 27, 2011

John Wayne's Teeth Hey-ya

I've been kicking around the idea of manliness lately. Had a few discussions of it with friends and with Grey (who has by now been elevated to boyfriend status and is pretty amazing in case you wondered).

There is really only one or two requirements to be a man. Either have that genetic combination or have a penis or perhaps maybe a hermaphroditic condition. That's pretty much it in the mammalian world. Behavior doesn't really have much to do with it. Except in humans.

Now we have this wild, wild West idea of manliness that seems to center on heterosexuality, Rock Hudson and John Wayne. Don Draper from Mad Men is a more current example, as a booze-swilling, chain smoking, smooth talking woman seducer. Manly men chew tobacco, wear the accoutrement of their trade and settle arguments with their fists. At the end of the day the one with the biggest horse, penis or gun was the winner.

Not really necessary in this day and age. First off, homosexuality is more commonly accepted and recognized in our culture. Yes, even in Oklahoma- take it from your wild Okie. Therefore, manliness doesn't have to be a hetero phenomena and Rock Hudson in this case can rest easy in his grave as a manly man. Also, large physically aggressive men aren't as necessary since we killed all of the indigenous people and litigated the shit out of the neighbors and our arguments are now settled in courtrooms. So that does away with the necessity of brutishness. Booze-swilling and chain smoking are no longer acceptable since we American women saw our parents pay the price and now we desire men who eat well and watch their vices. cocaine is alright, just not too much vodka. Ok, cocaine isn't really ok either. That leaves smooth talking. Interesting.

I propose that we- ok, I- come up with a new standard of what it means to be manly. I propose the following criteria, for men of all sexual preferences:
First, manly men need to be vegetarians. This will be a huge step in not only greater physical health, but also will conserve the environment and reduce all of our carbon footprints. Very, very sexy.
Next, manly men should learn to use their words. A sibilant word dripping from manly lips goes a lot farther than clubbing a woman over the head. Speak love in a lover's ear and she/he is yours forever. Or at least the night.
Real manly men know how to use their...talents. A woman (or partner as the case may be) really likes to be listened to and she wants to feel special and beautiful. If you can do this, if you as a man can appreciate your partner, then you have truly done your manly duty.
Simply, finally, you have just got to think of your partner's orgasm prior to your own. I am not willing to explain that. Figure it out.

We live in a digital and technologically advanced society. Really, the old concepts of manliness revolved around necessity- shooting and working and doing the right things. Now we need you men to step up in a different way. Not a less important way, just one that responds to the needs of the planet and to your partner as the world changes. Parents, teach this to your children.

Oh, and go back and read that last recommendation again.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I usually feel ambivalent about Christmas. I love the holiday crowds, ice skating at the Civic Center (which I have yet to participate in) and hot beverages and good books on cold nights.  I love being off of work and resting. Watching the snow gently fall on a winter night through the glow of a street lamp is a particular pleasure, especially if I'm wearing soft fuzzy slippers.  I love giving gifts to children and people I really care about as a token of my affection and good will.  I love watching the Nutcracker performed life. I love Christmas music playing on the radio between Thanksgiving and the big day, and being good for goodness sake. I love making pumpkin pies and sweet goodies and tofurkey and sweet potato casserole and producing all of the amazing tastes and smells that a happy kitchen can churn out in the winter months.

What I don't love about Christmas is the commercial and consumerist aspect. There are Christmas items out in major department stores now, before Halloween, and Christmas music playing in some places.  I don't love the idea of spending thousands of dollars so that others might think I like them or because I am expected to do so.  I hate shopping for Christmas presents. I dislike getting gifts that someone doesn't think about- fortunately for me that doesn't happen very often.

My sister Patti knows this about me and she goes out of her way every year to do something very, very silly.  She finds the craziest, silliest Christmas toy, something that barks or sings or somehow might freak out my dog, and sends it through the mail for me to open.  It's my favorite gift every year because I know she enjoys keeping an eye out and hunting for just the right one.  Now that the kids in my family are older, it's easier for everyone for me to send gift cards.  It's also less expensive if I send money to their parents and ask them to do the shopping, rather than go through the acrobatics of wrapping and shipping things that might not make it in time.  My job usually keeps me pretty busy until late in December, so there is that added pressure.

This year I also have a special concern. I don't want to give any money to corporate America.  The large corporations have enough money from the American people.  It's more than that, though. It's a conflict of values. The things I value in life aren't necessarily the expensive ones.  The gifts I want aren't the kind you'll find at Macy's. Don't get me wrong, I like expensive perfume once every three years or so. I like a nice scarf. I just don't want those things if the person purchasing them is going out of their way and far out of their price range just to make me happy.

So this year I am planning something different for the Christmas season. I'm rekindling an older tradition and Christmas presents. I don't want to give it away, but I am talented in some aspects and can create a few things of beauty for people I truly love. I get this from my mother, who is probably more talented than anyone I know.  Over the years she has made me quilted potholders, crocheted slippers, flannel nightgowns, aprons and other amazing homemade goodies, all at my request. When I use those items, see them in my kitchen or snuggle in bed with the heavy feeling of warmth, I feel loved and think of the happy memories from my childhood.  I cannot buy that feeling and I cannot help but value those things over any trinket purchased on my behalf.  Don't get me wrong, I love jewelry. Jewelry is always appropriate for any occasion, but for Christmas, I prefer you to think of me, make me an ornament with the year and my name, or throw some macaroni and glitter on a paper plate and say "Ho Ho Ho!"

For the children in my family, I recognize that they may not have the same wants as do I.  I will continue in the tradition I have followed for them their whole lives and find something appropriate through the regular channels.  But for those of you who I care about, I'm going to find time to create something thoughtful that you may like.  Or you may throw it away or recycle or regift as you desire.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I Will Always Love Rednecks

Life sometimes takes us to unexpected places. I could list here- and I am certain you could too- a plethora of unexpected events that have taken place in my life which has changed its course dramatically. Not all of these things are good and not all of these things are bad. But they are significant.

I never expected my life to be the way it is right now. I'm a doctor, even if it's not the helpful kind, and I'm at a conference in Boston, Massachusettes. My school asked me to go. Apparently I am sort of responsible. Um, ok. It's a great conference, actually, on the creation and maintenance of the PLC or professional learning community. In our off time, we have visited some historical sights and eaten lobster and scrod. Scrod isn't as cool as I thought. Beyond its function as the pluperfect subjunctive form of a slang term for sex, apparently scrod is the fish equivalent of veal. I found this out after I decided it was delicious and now it will take some time to forgive myself. Like I said, life is strange and you never really can be prepared for the unexpected.

I have a boyfriend. Completely unexpected. We met online. Yes, that sounds bad. But we have a mutual friend and were making fun of him online and it just went from there. I think I mentioned him in my last post. Really good person. I will spare you, dear reader, from my twitterpated ramblings but he has possibly read more literature than I have and he is a better vegetarian than I am as well. Or more strict; not sure about the "better" part. Also unexpected. I have only ever dated meat eaters. Grey is also kind to just about everyone he has ever met. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat people who cannot do a thing for them.

Not everything in life is rosy, of course. And that's the purpose of this writing. Because life doesn't have much to do with the word "Deserve". If we all got what we deserve the world would be a much different place than it is today. When I taught in the prison system, I saw the effects of a broken justice system every day. I think most people know that. But what might not occur to people is that prison is where people go when they have no access to mental health or drug and alcohol treatment facilities. Another place where unexpected turns just sort of happen.

I have a friend- a cloe friend of many years. He is sick. Very, very sick. He's got an addiction problem. I have seen his life fall apart from successful, bill-paying, working, car-driving responsible guy to something else in a rapid downward spiral in no time flat. I love and respect my friend and will spare all of us the description, but suffice to say that addiction is an ugly, ugly disease and he needs help. Now.

And there was nothing there. Nothing for him to get help.

I was there in the gallery when our Oklahoma legislators decided, in their infinite wisdom, to cut funding for drug and alcohol treatment centers. Most of them has closed in the last two years. This is a deplorable state of affairs. In order for my friend to get help, he either needs to commit a crime and get arrested, find hundreds or thousands of dollars for inpatient treatment, or die. And from what he told me, in a lucid moment, was that to be honest, if he had hundreds or thousands of dollars for treatment, he'd just put it in his arm. He hadn't eaten in awhile so I brought him a sandwich. Honestly, I had stopped by that night hoping that he wasn't dead and too afraid that he was not to go check.

Shame on you, Oklahoma. I vote, and when I can, I vote for more public assistance, not less.

And God bless rednecks.

I called a friend at the behest of my dear friend. He is a really good man. A big old redneck friend who is also a long-time member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I said "Can you come help?" He did not say "Does he have money for treatment?". He did not say "is he in jail?" and he did not say "I have to worry about myself first." He said "Hell yeah. I will be there in 15 minutes."

True to his word, fifteen minutes later he pulled up in his pickup truck. He is a giant of man, eaily towering over me (and I'm 5'8"). I have always felt very safe with this man. He rides a Harley and when I pulled up with my red zebra-striped scooter he asked for a ride. "Ridin's ridin'", said my friend, and he said he'd be seen with me and my girlie scooter any day of the week. Yes, he came when I called. He brought help with him. Three other men just as burley and hardened as he is. If anyone can help an addict, it's another addict. And it was time for me to go. But first I threw my arms around that big old redneck and kissed him on the cheek. "You are my hero. I mean that." Then I left, before I started crying again. If anyone can help, it's them.

I don't know how things will turn out. It's out of my hands. If there was something I could do, I would have done it already. Hell, I would've gotten sober for him if I could. So would his mom or any of his other friends. And it's frustrating and heartbreaking that there is nothing I can do.

So I'm doing what I can do. Trying not to worry. Trying not to hover or dwell too much on the how or the why of addiction that robs people of their dignity, their health and their relationships. It's a cop out to say that these are the choices that people make. Addiction kills people. Alcoholism is a disease like any other and deserves treatment. It's public perception that blames the addict and allows them oftentimes to die. How would you like it if you had cancer and someone blew off your necessary treatment because you couldn't afford it- or worse yet, blamed you for having a tumor in the first place?

Me, I've done what I can and have to trust others to take care of the rest. If there is a God out there, please let her send more rednecks because we need all that we can get.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Next Day

I have stolen five minutes from my Monday morning. I'm trying to get back into my routine. I am trying to care about a curriculum that wishes to wear me like a suit. But my mind is still on last weekend and probably will be for a long, long time.

I passed the defense. It was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. There were some hairy moments before the defense, and we did get started almost half an hour late. There was paperwork I was unaware of.  Maybe I should have been aware. Maybe the department secretary should have told me when I asked her two weeks ago. Doesn't matter because Gail- the lady who runs everything in the department- pushed a couple of things through and it turned out alright.

My cousin Christian came over from Amarillo just to be there for me.  That meant the world to me. And my friends packed the room we were in so that there was no seating left in the classroom and every time I looked up there was a friendly face saying "I believe in you".  Friends from grad school, professors, and Cathy too. She made brownies for everyone and they rocked.  Even our amazing IT guru made an appearance.  And this guy.  This guy from Tulsa that I'm just starting to date. He took the day off of work and drove to Norman just to support me.  In all of those moments of self-doubt and fear there was someone there to tell me to knock it off. Since he and Christian are both over six feet tall, I felt surrounded by pillars of coolness.  And then I was magically transformed by a vote from my committee and perhaps by the power of Greystoke. I'm a doctor.

That was Friday.  When I woke up Saturday, I didn't feel any different. No magical powers. Couldn't teleport. Just got up and made breakfast and had a lovely day. The end. And today I have to go to my very regular job and try to teach something interesting around a mindless curriculum with a curriculum psycho watching my moves. Except that today she has to call me Dr. Dieu.

I wish it was Sunday again.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

I'm just a 12 year old white kid, walking down a gravel driveway, picking apples and dreaming of what my life will be like one day when I get a job or get married or have kids. It's hot and the sky is blue, blue, blue and life is simple and filled with canned food, deer and elk meat and boots and jeans. I'm a wildflower; my great-grandpa told me so. A wild rose, vibrant and defiant growing out of rimrock on the hillside.  Snakes bother me and so do ticks but not much else in the world. It's wide open.

I am 27 and living in a nice suburban neighborhood. I have a job but mostly am a student. I spend my entire spring break reading a series of seven books, one for each day. I used to be so happy to be married, to not need for anything and to have a closet full of nice clothes. My life is far from the backroads of the North Touchet river. It is never quiet and the neighbors are all alike.  I am lost. I am alike.  I plant roses and strawberries and eventually a garden and some trees but there is not enough to do, enough to keep my mind off of the idea that I do not belong and that I may never fit in.  I want more. I want something real. I look out the big picture window and feel narrow.

I am 35 and have been divorced for five years.  I live on the second floor of an apartment building with my cat and have one friend who I see all the time. I teach in a prison and see injustice as a way of life. I see the broken system, the poor punished disproportionately, the mentally ill incarcerated instead of helped.  I visit my grandparents often because they are very old by now and are not long for this world. My beloved great uncle dies, and I am honored to speak at his funeral. I am a raw vegan except for hot, burning coffee.  I hate being stared at every day at the prison. I hate the rumors. My grandma talks to me some months later since I am thin and tired and drinking way too much alone in my apartment. "Go home, to Oklahoma, where people love you." I move, return to graduate school and both of my grandparents die.

Tomorrow, I defend my dissertation. I still have my cat. Four white men and one white woman will vote and I will be magically transformed into a doctor of philosophy.  I do not know how one goes to sleep one night as a regular person and suddenly becomes something else the next day.  I am dragging my feet on revisions, writing blog posts and putting off doing my real work until now.  I do not want it to be over. I did this so that people would be more obliged to listen when I talk to them about injustice and suffering. I want to help. I want to be the change, as they say.  Now people might actually listen (because of a stupid credential? Really?) and I am not certain I have anything worthwhile to say. I am still a wild flower, but older, wiser and slower to speak. I pick my way down the hillside into the wide, wide world and never take my eyes off of the sky.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Magic Refrigerator

I am feeling better today. Now that it's almost 2 p.m. and my insomnia from last night has been more or less counterbalanced with a nap.  If you have an idealized image of me, do not read the rest of this paragraph. Just skip the next one and the world will not change. I also woke up with really bad nausea which got worse when I was upright.  Maybe it was just from nasal drainage? Nope. It was from nasal not-drainage. I had a head full of snot and it was fucking with my equilibrium and creating the desire to vomit my empty guts out.  Then the thought of vomiting made me sicker and you get the idea.  My roommate- who is not in the least intimidated by my strong personality because she has one too- told me to stop being stubborn and do a salt sniff.  That's where you get some salt water and put it in your palm, then snort it up your nose and tip your head back. Anything up there comes out. Then you repeat on the other side.  Gross. Really, really gross. Better out than in. And it made me throw up too. But damn, I felt better almost immediately.

I felt well enough to eat something.  My fridge has a week-old squash, some cauliflower, some hummus, stray blueberries, orange juice and a bottle of white wine that's been in there for 3 weeks. Pretty sure that one or more of those things are bad. So I grabbed the hummus and closed the door. Looked at the magnets and doodads that sit on the outside and mused about how much you can tell about a person from their refrigerator door.

I think most of it you would expect- magnets from Washington and a "Hate Free Zone" denote the liberal hippie that lives here. There is one that says "If you must smoke, smoke salmon" which I got in 2006 on a trip to the Pike Place Market. The Kokopelli was from Santa Fe. I've never ordered from Hideaway Pizza but I do like their food. I think that one was left by the previous tenents.  Holding up a picture I took of my grandparents in 2005 at their home is a woman with her hand to her head. It says "Oh Crap! I forgot to get married and have some kids!" I love that one. My newest magnets are in the bottom in the middle- "Ain't no nookie like Chinookie" and "There's no ho like Coho!", both which feature pictures of salmon. I love that these are spread haphazardly along the fridge and in no real order.  That's a good metaphor for my life.

One would expect the OU Library magnet and the one from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. In fact, all of these magnets would be expected for my house.  And then there's that one in the middle. That one with the blue teddy bear, flowers in her paw, a bow by her ear and a heart painted on her chest.  Obviously hand painted. It's my favorite.  My sister Mickie painted it for me years ago, probably in the late 1990's when I lived in Las Vegas.  At least that's what I remember. I have taken it with me wherever I move.

I know that in our small human brains, we tend to judge people. I would prefer to be judged by my bookshelves, filled with Alexie, Coetzee and a myriad of writers from Ireland, South America, Western Europe and the United States.  I am not that well read but I do know how to read. That's what my bookshelves say about me as long as you ignore the occasional pulp fiction. Since those are in storage until I have the energy to paint the office and that can't be done until I get rid of the fucking cockroaches still camping out in the kitchen, I'll settle for assessment by fridge.

Man, I gotta stop taking that cough syrup with codeine in it...