I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Girls Gone Mild

Girl's Our Whole Lives class starts tomorrow. Hogwarts afficionado that she is; she has taken to referring to the class as her O.W.L.'s. The state of Arizona has punted on sex ed altogether, so I look to this class to innoculate my dear fifth grader in the dreaded Reviving Ophelia years to come.

Speaking of which, I am pleased to note that we as a nation seem to have entered a second level of discussion about spring break and the "Girls Gone Wild" culture. I'd say that the first wave of objections was mostly practical -- along the lines of "If you've got it/ You're only young once," but warning about excess, e.g.
"Carry protection!"
"Have a designated driver!"
"Consider the impact of the MySpace posts of today on the doctoral program applications of tomorrow." Which is all very well, as far as it goes.

But with articles such as "Raunch is Rebranded as 'Confidence'" we might finally be talking about what spring break culture is doing to our psyches (or, if you like, our souls). Which is crucially important for me as a mom trying to raise a confident, kick-*ss daughter. And son. Who take (calculated) risks, make (redeemable) mistakes, and get(curably) hurt. Who dive headlong into life (with a helmet).

The observation is this: Where once we played "Beach Blanket Bingo" our nation's youth are now binge drinking shots out of their butt cleavage and girl-on-girl jello wrestling. And they are talking about it in this language, this "Sex and the City" brand of frank, taboo-shattering raunch and it's a language of power and choices and not being a victim. So, what to make of it?

I have to admit that in theory I can see where it's seductive. In college, I posed nude for art classes, which I found "empowering" despite evidence that the subversiveness of the gesture may well have been lost on my horndog peers.

Seduction -- the theater of it; the accomplishment -- is thrilling. And why shouldn't it be? I must admit that I did experience my humble explorations on the subject as yeah, ok, I'll say confidence-building. I'll say a rite of passage. My hope for Girl -- and Jones -- is not that they grow up neutered of this power, but that they use their power for good.

This is in contrast to their daddy, who sees nothing in it but trouble; who, if he weren't such a gun control advocate, would be in the parlor cleaning his gun when the suitor comes to call.

But the reality of spring break really calls my bluff. All that Third Wave, Riot GRRRL stuff I may be on record as spouting in Women's Studies class about how anything goes as long as it's "chosen" seems meaningless when you hear these girls talk. I mean, there just is some new level of degradation going on here and it is not just because I have some kind of nostalgic delusion about my own chaste beach blanket summers.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Great balls of fire!

Went to Jones's coach-pitch baseball game tonight. He's out-classed by many of the other kinder and 1st graders who have clearly been working on their games for years. They are very cool, with their trademark stances and equipment personalized with their monikers. Having watched them slide into the bases for many weeks, he stepped to the bat determined to do the same. Next thing we know, he slides into home on both knees like Jerry Lee Lewis! Great balls of fire! He'd ripped his knee all to h*ll, but he was quite proud of himself.

On hyphenating

I have been reading the SWPL complete list and am definitely having one of those "It's true. We're so lame." Homer Simpson moments of embarrassed recognition.

I need to be busted out every day for something on this list. But I was hyping the virtues of hyphenating just this very day. The selling point? It makes you easier to find on search engines. Else how would anyone you knew from high school ever look you up? Which is another thing, apparently, that White people like.

I am here because of Ashley

At the end of his famous race speech, Obama tells the story of Ashley Baia.

“She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat…

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, ‘I am here because of Ashley.’.”

Now, I generally don’t go in for real people anecdotes, because they’re usually just cheap applause lines. But I like that story because it gets at something that I think is really important and, like a lot of crucial observations, really hard to put into words.

There’s a couple of things at work here. Obviously he was after the juxtaposition of the elder Black man, who is supposed to have a monopoly on grievance, on history, on moral authority, taking inspiration from or feeling solidarity with the young White woman. But I also took away from it support for my own cherished belief that folks might come for the ideology but they stay for the people -- a person. And it’s not always or often the leader.

In my life, I allow myself to become responsible for and to many groups of people. I say it’s for my kids, my family, but there is the perverse result that I am persistently called away from home and family in order to participate in these groups. And my willingness to put into those groups is directly proportional with the personal connection I feel to the other people there.

In the end, I show up for them.