Sunday, December 30, 2012

Honest to Goodness

I woke up with this moment of clarity.  OK I didn’t exactly wake up this way, but it’s 8:43 am on a Sunday in the sleepy, snow covered town of Essex in the North Country.  I have been picking at brain knots and mind labyrinths for hooooouuuuuuurrrrrs.   But since I started moving around and tamping down all that internal head gear and looking closely at one or two loose wires….I reached a bit of clarity.

Lately, I’m looking for trust and honesty.  I’m looking for it at times like the KGB during the Cold War or some Anti-Communist task force assigned by J.Edgar Hoover.  I’m scrutinizing and black listing and maybe even deciding occasionally who may need to be deported and who’s dresses J. Edgar should have never tried on let alone considered wearing or who is possibly trustworthy.  Sometimes I’m looking for it like a meek church mouse, silently waiting for the right moment to thank someone kindly for that little crumb of truth and humility.  Just last week I tried to seize the truth out and strangle it to the bitter end, until I could no longer identify if it started as one truth and ended as another because of my capacity to refuse it until I can check the CSI Miami Vice and 1 Adam 12 case files for any lingering doubts.  

So I start to wonder as I do, at 5:30 am and again at 6:41 and then finally at 8:43 I reach that early morning moment of clarity, which by now is midday for my circadian clock workings.  I am going about this truth search like a bat out of hell, or Hoover out of Havana, because I was living in, and with, and amongst so many half truths, untruths, bold-faced lies and a few random bits of possible truths but I will never know for sure.  And, I didn’t exactly see it, or want to see it, or look closely enough until I could no longer pretend my way past it.  

Learning to trust again after divorce is a challenge, but one that I need to take on with less grit and determination and more openness.  The truth is I like being honest, and free, and open to new things, even if I may initially appear pained and fearful or fighting mad.  It's like nervous laughter, or crying when you're happy.  I am getting all of these emotions back in check and manageable after a long ride on a roller coaster of half-truths passed the fun-house mirrors of distortion and questioning.  Another truth for me, I really don't like amusement parks or thrill rides.

In life, there are all sorts of ways that we fool ourselves, lie to ourselves and deny certain truths even when they are snuggling up close to us and kissing us good morning.  We lie about our ages, our weight, our propensity toward one thing or another.  We lie about why we can’t get our lives together or why we just don’t.  We sometimes lie about what we like, or don’t like, to do, or eat, or be around.  We lie to others about our desire to eat at that restaurant or see that movie.  We may lie about what we spent money on, or where we went and who we were with.   We live in a time and a place that expects us to be on and great and fabulous most of all the time.  When we aren’t, we live in a place and time that offers us medications and mindfulness trainings and a myriad of magnificence in one form or another and a credit card mortgage bail out plan when we can’t make it happen on our own.  We lie about feeling up and we lie about feeling down.  

We facebook our thrills and joys and brightest moments.  I know I have.  I know I have at times in an effort to scream I am still here, instead of screaming I am afraid out of my mind, but I am moving through this horrific period of my life.  See?  See!!!!!  Look at me I’m fine!!!!!  Only I have not been, some of the times.  Are these lies?  Sort of. Maybe.  If I call them tactics, say, brute survival strategies, I can twist the meaning to be exaggerated moments of excitement that disguised the fear until I actually felt excited.  Whew.  It’s a lot of work to disguise the truth.  It was a lot more work to live a lie, but it didn’t seem as so when I was doing it in tandem, through a mediocre measured existence.  It became a lot of work when I could no longer be complacent and quiet and numbed.  It became a lot of work when I decided to only look at the truth of others and not face the truth that I had made some pretty big choices to shield and fake the truth.  I might have to hang up my J. Edgar Hoover Honorary Badge of Honesty and unplug my Homeland Security Truth and Mental Detector.   I was having a hard time carrying it around, it kept buzzing every time I got close to anyone.  I think I'm just about ready to get close and find out what my truth is, everyone else is on their own from here on out.

For starters, I look fat in pleats, and a whole lot of other things.  Sometimes I don’t care.  Well, except for the pleats, I do care, I don’t wear them.   I don’t like movies that are so cryptic and twistedly plotted with endings that make you think long after you left…….that you wish you had spent those two hours cleaning the toilet instead.  I don’t like to wait too long for anything if it’s within reach.  I don’t like when I react big because I am afraid or uncertain or unclear.  I don’t like that I can’t delete those reactions or soften them in the minds of others.  I also don’t like that I come off too abrupt and direct and unfiltered or that I sometimes remain too quiet in fear that I might react too big, and abrupt and unfiltered.  I don't like gambling or cheating or the impact of alcoholism on families.  I don't like dishonesty.  I don't like that sometimes people can't see past their own despair and instead hurt those that love them most.  I don't like guns or violence.  I don’t like wasting time on cordial politeness and false kindnesses.  I don’t like hot dogs with chili and cheese and beans and relish and other random pairings.  I like so much more than I don’t like.  I’m a liker.  And a lover.  And a fighter.  I am no longer, a go along-to get along-er.    Those are a few of my truths. 

Truth is, I have a pretty good sense of honesty in others. I have been lying to myself about this for way too long.  I can see clearly with clarity most of the time, but especially around 6:41 am when the sunlight falls upon the earth just so and most everything has equal amounts of shadow and shine.  Equal.  I like that.  I like that most of us are really trying our best most of the time, but we are also human with flaws and fumbling around attempting to do the right thing. I like the possibility that we can change, and strive for better, and do the right thing in spite of our very human propensity toward erring.  I like that we have the ability to forgive and be forgiven.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December, All Things Bright and Possible...

I am reviewing "the year in review" that facebook so generously created and placed on my timeline. It helps me to recall “the highlights”  or  at least some highlights randomly chosen or chronologically compiled based on some Zuckerberg determined algorithm that stood out amongst the posts across the year, 218 in total, give or take.  It might have appeared to be a very busy year.  It was in fact an exhausting year of tumultuous proportions.    And it was a year celebrated by minor and major achievements as well as occasional internally motivated status posts to keep my head above water and the rest of me afloat.  It was the year of my coming out…. as an artist, writer and photographer.  Exhibited, published, and solo showing.  It was a year of travel and finding my own personal deep south, or calm my inner most workings, as well as the deep South located geographically below Dixie.  It was the year to continue where I left off a lifetime of losing my way ago.

It was the year of my divorce. Not to be celebrated with the year of the pig, or rat, but marked just the same, on a throw away paper placemat covered in dark, sticky slop and shiny red glistening globs of manufactured false sweet.  It was actually the year of my second divorce.  The first one 20 years prior.  Maybe in 20 more….nah.  I’m good….or recovering, or stumbling about with a shocked gaze, sometimes, but mostly not.   I am however, still a bit shell shocked and as hard as I try to jump back into life, life keeps jumping right back at me, bitch-slapping me into knowing, with a stern, warning look.  Knowing, there’s no rush.  Warning, I’m not in control of life.  I can’t force or fight or finagle my way back into life, in a desperate effort to shield myself from feeling some of the very large hurts inflicted to ensure they don’t happen again.  But, damn I can’t seem to give up hope and tap dance my way the hell out of suffering.   I think I see Pleasant Valley and Happenstance up ahead.  The road to Perdition is barely in view anymore and I’m ready to shuffle off to Sunnyside or Providence.  A one way ticket to Tingly, Hope or Wellsville*?  (In the fall my son and I took the back roads through the North Country, and silently grimaced through Sodom, New York….Honestly???  What the hell were they thinking?)

The December posts sum it up nicely:

December 5:  Pencil Skirt, Go F yourself boots working rather nicely for me today…calm and relaxed and LMAO off but not too loudly, more of a shit eating grin thing going on….a really nice day, start to finish, and it’s about time let me tell you!

I had to think about this one.  I remember the skirt and the boots.  Divorce Finalization?  Observation?  Hot date?  It got a lot of replies and likes.  It was popular across the friend list.  And why wouldn’t it be?  We all need those days.  The ones when things all come together, the clothes, the shoes, the sass and stance.  Oh, yes,  I do remember some of the details, and maybe the LMAO shit-eating grin was well deserved.  It was about self-respect and staring down an adversarial colleague that I had allowed to cause way too much strife and tension in my daily functioning.  It was a day I needed both gams a-blazing, and a f#@k you very much edge, as opposed to my inner conflict that externally presents itself as spits and starts of do the right thing and rage-edged, tersely, cordial, blasts of God only knows what.    I felt in my game, on the ground and solid on the earth.  I have been here fewer times than the Yankees have won a world series and my God did it feel just right!  I did not react.  I held my own.  I came out shining and I calmly, professionally took charge and sang my way through a day of teaching students without compromising their potential and my God did they shine!  I had dinner with a great friend and I received news that I had been waiting on that brought closure and great relief.  Fabulous, with great boots. 

December 21:  Happy! Calmed. Rested up for a big Christmassy night in the city with my beautiful children and some great Irish music at Sandy Seisiuns II.  

I was happy, and calmed and momentarily fortified.  I enjoyed a  clandestine interlude (I always wanted to use that term, it sounds so grown up and cloaked in mystery).  The interlude of clandestine interchange transpired after months of negotiations, suggestions, malfunctions and exaggerated notions of grandeur and fairy-tale fantasizing.   And perhaps, when something takes on this level of work it should not be categorized as a clandestine interlude but an event, absolute and timeline worthy.   I have this new girlish fixation with romance and the fantastical belief in a mortal, yet all alpha man and sugar-plum filled tomorrows.  I am maybe a tad off center and over the top about the concept of dating.

I was told 2 years and some odd months ago,  I was the type of woman men leave their wives for.  I think this bothered me on so many levels, I may have been overcompensating to ensure that no one even looks in my direction, so far it’s working rather well.   And so I have spent the better part of this year on and off manufacturing the magnificence of a man in the deep crevices of my mind.  He’s not even married.  He left his wife, or she him, years ago.  I get caught up on the weirdest crap, I do.…. The reality is my sense of myself did not match the statement, and I give too much heed to the shared thoughts of others.  I am a quirky mess of unique and unusual and I have a tough time gauging myself in the world of dating potential when I get all caught up thinking about it way too much.  I went about building a pedestal of poetic proportions and dressed it up in Madonna’s love, you know, all over, all over from his head down to his toes….which just turns people off anyway.  A shame really, he had nice toes...

I can’t quite figure out how to get this running away from and towards a twirl at romance into the same space, and out of my mind, so I can merge these feelings into manageable moments of hope and desire and call me maybes.  I’m not going for anymore clandestine romps, interludes or merrymaking.  I’m going for in your face dinner is expected at such and such a place, fist-pumping, chest bumping full on take it or leave it fun-soon.  I mean it.   I’m not kidding!  I can do this…just watch!  Oh, maybe that’s too far the other way….

The night after the clandestine interlude with what was I thinking and when will I get this right, turned out to be a big night, maybe not so Christmassy, but big…

I drove into the city all charged up and full of exciting hope and unknowing.  I was looking forward to hanging out with some musical men of the Irish tradition and raising a pint to the fundraising efforts to rebuild Breezy Point and Long Beach following Hurricane Sandy.  In between seeing the Christmas sights of the city, dinner with my children and donating a photo for auction, I was psyched!  I was maybe a little too charged up with the nearing end of this year of unpleasantries and I was trying too hard to summon up a marching band of ready, set, end it fast and firecracker seal it shut.  So I did what any crazed lunatic would do, I took it up with a New York City cab.  Crash, burn, crumble, Slow it down Missy….

December 22:  After deciding to divert the Mayan End by crashing into a taxi, we decided to be regular ordinary tourists. 

The tree, the windows, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Lighting a few candles, prayer.  Me, New York City.  Christmas.  My children.  My whole being.  Love. 

On Christmas Day I wished everyone a Merry Christmas, I thanked a few lucky stars and cursed a few that have dimmed and turned off their final sparks of light.  I have had a year, or two that I don’t wish to revisit, ever.  I have also been lucky and loved and supported. I have been humbled and I have been graced by the kindness of strangers and I have been quieted by the strength of those faced with adversity that make my worries seem slight and insignificant.  I have prayed for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and harder, the victims of Sandy Hook because I could do no more.  I have been blessed with more time on this journey and I want to make the best of it and continue to work at being my best for myself and those I love dearly.  I want to know calm and peace.

The holidays are tough.  Too often filled with bright expectation and unfathomable dread.  My family has been in distress.  My children harmed and hurt and wounded by the very parents that were ascribed with the task of protecting and caring for them.  Divorce is devastating, but marriages that are damaged and broken are far more destructive and pervasive in their harm.   I could not have fixed or changed or altered the outcomes.  I wish I had seen more clearly the cracks and breaks that were slowly taking hold in the newly forming hearts and minds of my children.  I’m not sure what I could have done differently.  I had thought of them constantly, but maybe without always seeing them whole. I have tried and lived for them, but only as best as I ever could, and sometimes this was not enough. They deserve more, the best, the bright expectations without too much dread.  They deserve all that I can offer and so much more.  I wish them - all and then some and I know they will expect and work at fulfilling their dreams and building their minds.  Their hearts will sing, and break, and beat and offer much love, again and again.   

I wish divorce was easier.  Compassionate.  I wish it was not filled with opportunity for exploitation and emotional ruin to line or protect the pockets of some at the devastating expense of many.  I wish families the ability to support and nourish and heal in spite of the harsh realities of life in the face of natural disasters and man-made destruction.

December 31:  I (will) feel stunning, and filled up with light and the twirling thrill of a romance not yet realized….but possible…..  well that’s the plan anyway. 

I will not be driving and therefore, I will not be crashing.  I will be laughing brightly and heartily with friends.  True and good, light and lovely.  I will be sending love and peace to my children that I keep close in my heart always.  Oh and I will be deciding between the black fitted lace trimmed cut-out dress and the black twirly, feather-trimmed, flare skirted, tight bodiced dress- yes feather trimmed, but just slightly.  A girl’s got to kick it up from time to time and just let it all work.   Well this girl does. 

According to  Mike Dooley and his Universe Postings, 2013 is going to be my break-out year.  I just hope that’s not related to hives.....or poison ivy....or jail....

*For a full listing of funny town names: 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Irish Albatross and other Ancient Anomalies, or SSIAW, Single Strong Irish American Woman

My father was an imposing man.  He was large and at times loud.  Intimidating and strong.  In a time and place far away and long ago, he was a presence to take notice of.  He and I together created quite a contrasting pairing.  I was slight and wiry (in my prepubescent hipless form at least) he was over 6 feet tall and 300+ pounds of mammoth proportions.  He championed me and valued me and held before me this concept that I could challenge adversity and have a shot at coming out ahead.  When you are raised up with a giant believing in you, it’s hard to imagine you can’t achieve great things or at least, take on gigantic problems.

I learned how to banter and barb and at times maybe, swagger under his tutelage.  I could at one time long ago, drink a few men under the bar.  In that time and place long ago and far away, where such a skill might be valued. I could remain standing with a devil may care glance and a wicked smile.  I could dish the wit and wipe it clean.  I could discuss politics, and world issues and tell you the quickest way from Manhattan to Queens, Long Island to the Bronx and back again.  I could quietly observe and take it all in and speak when it was necessary and not a moment sooner or a word minced.  I imagined I would grow up and old in much the same way.  I have only very recently come to terms with the reality that I have been channeling a 50 year old man for most of my life with very little success or acceptance.  My thoughts and perspective don’t match my packaging.  It is perhaps, unsettling, to say the least.  I seem to occasionally believe that posturing myself and speaking with directness while limiting my word usage is the way to operate.  Instead, I am known as cryptic.  By several.  Many.  OK… Most.  

A while back, as I moved further away from the home and community of my youth, and then away from my family, I started putting my  “Irish” down as opposed to getting it up.  I felt it best to contain or conceal it.   I questioned the Irish pride I had always taken for granted.  I wanted to know what we were so proud of.  I was let down by what I saw as “false advertising”.  And I was struggling to see the accomplishments and in turn pride of those closest to me.  It seemed for a time we were mostly embattled and intoxicated and struggling.   I was tired of it and weighed down by it.

I now believe turning my back on it may be my largest regret in life, thus far.  I have spent far too long attempting to find my way because I lost myself in attempting to quiet or alter the core of who I am, my cellular being, my cultural truth.  It  seemed my “Irish” was up a great deal, and it seemed that many around me didn’t recognize this aspect of me as my “Irish”, didn’t relate to it, and didn’t enjoy it.  Even some that proclaimed to be Irish, go figure!  I had believed it my birth rite and duty to speak the truth with directness and no apology.  Not quite brutal honesty, that hurtful variety, but honesty and directness.   I have not typically been thought of as subtle.  I have tried to quiet this, at least in some areas of my life or for some time. 

In spite of my attempts to quiet and conceal this Irishness about me, I have occasionally taken something on, an issue, or perhaps a man, or man-sized problem and imagined myself to be a six foot tall, 300+ pound trooper.  Only I am not.  And so I could not.  Instead, I have lead some to the false conclusion that I am hostile or aggressive or crazed. I have been told, directly, I can be intimidating.  I have merely been attempting to be heard and I had falsely concluded and was trained up in the idea that the way to be heard, was to be direct and loud.  Physically posturing myself in close proximity to whoever I believed was in need of hearing what I had to say has not been so effective.  It might have been daunting.  Last year I was told to “relinquish the power”.  It kinda sounded like I was perceived to be a six foot tall 300+ pound man in tights in the days of King Arthur, or a swashbuckler… Relinquish?  Really?  Only I was a 5 foot 5 and a 1/2 inch, 130 pound frustrated girl-woman attempting to get a large imposing man to stop disregarding me and my authority as a professional.  Silly girl, me, I didn’t have any authority, and so I couldn’t understand how to relinquish a damn thing….or that I might be required to.

In my personal life I have wanted what we all want, to be able to be loved and accepted, or at least most recently, grab a beer with a 50 some-odd year old Irish bloke.  Irish!  The real deal.  Practically the man of my dreams, I think, I thought.  I proclaimed thrillingly.  This should have been easy.  Except, I had such a difficult time calmly presenting myself and allowing the fates to intervene in one way or another.   I was elated and excited and nervous.  Almost girly!  Shy and anxious but wanting!  The hives and hysteria would not stop me, I wanted a go at this and bad!  I had attempted to alter who I am in an effort to attract.  I tried on more girly, or my concept of it.  Giddy, girly, gabby garishness. Followed by forgetting the fact that I’m not really a 50 year old man, when I tried to just ask him out on a date, it didn't go over well.   Girls aren’t supposed to do this, and I didn't do it very girly. I tried to go back to the girliness thing.  Only this time it was overboard and overly zealous.  The 50 year old man I have channeled for much of my life, couldn’t grasp that I couldn’t just be direct. The Irish bloke had stated he was interested, appeared as such, hinted, and asserted as much.  “WTF, we’re attracted to each other, we’re both available, why make this harder than it needs to be- beer, pizza, laugh a little, get to know each other, hit the sack?  No?”  No.  My manly attempt didn't go over.  My girly attempts? Well, I don't even want to know, they were a big hot mess of nothing like me, back to my manly-like frustration, girly attempts again…. I couldn’t keep up with what I was putting out there, or what was coming in.

It’s a little tough to convey that I am a spicy little girly-packaged woman with a matter of fact 50 year old Irish man-brain.   Is that a choice on the sexuality continuum?   I’m not sure who I am going to match up with or when.   I am seeking a man, strong and big.  One that can cut me down to the size of the girly-packaged woman that I am, and tolerate my false bravado and imagined manliness with an eye roll, a nose snorting smile and a knowing head shake.   A strong grasp would be handy, too.  In case I feel the need to rumble or do something physical and manly-like, or to hold me tight and remind me that I am simply a woman. 

Feminine and girly is a bit harder to manage than I had thought.  Almost as easy as giving up my Irish.  I have been making some progress.  I did find my bosoms last spring and projected them, highlighted them, featured them for this Irishman and anyone else who noticed.   I surprised myself here.  I’m going to keep this going as long as I can, age and gravity notwithstanding.  I had been downplaying and ignoring and guarding this aspect of girlishness.  I no longer feel the need.  I’m going to rid myself of the other concept of girlishness I had attempted to project and failed miserably at.  Giddy and gabby and garish.  Gruesomely out of my comfort zone. I’ll keep the gam-featuring, hip hugging pencil skirts.  It’s not going to be easy to promote all that I have to offer and find someone that can appreciate my feminine side and my masculine side, but c’mon, I’m available, I’m not too shabby on the attract-o-meter, age and gravity notwithstanding.   I like beer and pizza and WTF (as in feck,) Botta Bing, Botta Boom, what’s not to like?  

I can be a bit much at times, I suppose.  I could have seemed pushy…. annoying…. and overbearing during my last quest.  Initially, I  might have simply been operating from a man-centric mindset.  Direct.  Efficient. Not mincing of words or time.  Followed by what I thought to be girly, filling up space and time with an “all about me” unfiltered account of minutia and a miasma of meaningless maelstrom.   I couldn’t figure out whether to be alluring or assertive.  I ended up being neither.  In the end, it didn’t much matter, our paths did not cross. Truth is, I was in need of divorce distraction, pointing out the glaring discrepancies and distortions would not serve me well.  I wasn’t interested in just a roll in the hay, or hitting the sack, but I wasn’t ready for anything more and at the same time I wanted it all!   Another area of my life that, for the time being, could not be merged with any finesse. In the scheme of wildly erratic post divorce behavior, this was perhaps my albatross and it was fortunately rather contained, albeit quite a nuisance at times I'm sure.  It lead to much discovery and at times it was provocative and powerful, and playful, at least to my mind, which remains the only one I can speak of.   

A couple of recent interactions and observations keep me hopeful.  A night out at an AOH* event had me bellied up to the bar, quick witted and charming-like, all banter and a bit bosomy.  The brawny bartender attempting to buy more beers than being paid for, waved good-bye at the end of the evening with a great big smile and a fluttery wave, almost….maybe…… feminine-like in it’s flourish, giddy and overly-zealous.  And all those skirt wearing bag-pipers…manly in skirts, very.    Maybe there’s more to being Irish than I had realized. What the hell is a Hibernian?????   The Irish are known for many things. Patriarchic by custom, Matriarchic by circumstance.  (This could explain my masculine/feminine bearing.)   Lyrical, creative, quick-witted, strong and physical.  This really can’t be so difficult….. can it?   Maybe I need to relinquish a few more thoughts and ideas…

*AOH- Ancient Order of Hibernians- a private man club for the Irish. Hey, isn’t that illegal?  Sexist and discriminatory and such?  …fine, …..I’m relinquishing…

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Riding "Shotty" On the Road to Manhood

While God might really be my co-pilot, and boy howdy, there have been more than a few days and weeks, an hour here and there, I would have loved for Jesus to take the wheel, a few weekends ago I had the pleasure of having my seventeen year old son riding “shotty”.  (I am soooo flippin hip, I don’t know how anyone can keep up.)  We spent the weekend better-late-than-never checking out colleges and touring a thousand some odd miles of New York State.  Being a self-proclaimed efficiency expert, we also fit in visits with family and friends, a little shopping, home repair and attempts at winterizing the cottage in the Adirondacks, while learning a little more about ourselves and each other along the way. 

The driving to distraction joy ride also included allowing the 17 year old to drive on the North Way at 65+ miles per hour in the black of night.  I did not allow the older two to do this.  Sitting in the death seat while a teen gets all adrenalined out on speed is not my idea of fun.   I don’t think he’ll ask to do it again anytime soon.  He’s welcome to drive himself and he’s very capable, me riding “shotty” with him, not so much.  See?  Learning all about ourselves and each other….

Car rides with teenagers can be such a gift, or just as easily a scourge and there is really no scientific or spiritual way to determine which way things may go.  Prayer helps, or at least it doesn’t hurt.  And why not, your fists are probably all clenched or holding on to the safety handle, why not fold them in prayer before self-administering your last rites or kissing your ass goodbye.  Bringing Mason Jennings, Carrie Underwood, and Tracy Chapman along provide pathways to Buddha, Krishna, God and Jesus.  Michael McDonald helps with Yahweh.  Great tunes in the car  always help provide background music for conversation if not all out miracles. 

He, of seventeen, sort of asked if we could listen to “his” music while disconnecting my iPhone with my iTunes and connecting his.  I don’t resist.   A few too many rousing traditional songs, reels, and jigs by Jameson’s Revenge, and some contemporary, but equaling rousing tyrannical tunes by Mumford and Sons from my playlist entitled “Irish”  could rouse up or wear down the best of us.  He listens to his own contemporary playlist.  Kanye, JayZ, Whiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne and Lupe Fiasco.  Several songs that he plays are hand-picked for me. They all seem to have these riffs of 70’s rhythm and blues undercurrents.  Wait! I think that’s Earth, Wind and Fire! Right there, under the song.  In the background… Oh My God!  That’s the Carpenters, Rainy Days and Mondays, really??  Then, “I’m getting married in the morning”?  Show tunes and rap?  Not a marriage I expected.…

One song in particular he sets up, explicitly, and informs me we will discuss it after I hear the whole song.   “Just listen to this, all of it first, and then tell me what you think.”  The song that he plays would have been perfect for the sound track of a sequel to MissRepresented…..  Mr. Fied? …..The Mr. Ree of Male/Female Relations?  The song is by Lupe Fiasco, titled Bitch Bad. It plays out the how girls identify with being called a “bitch”, how boys and girls are raised to view women or become women and how these two constructs don’t always meet up.  It describes music and lyrics and the power of their messages and how distorted and disturbing they can be, and simultaneously how benign and meaningless they can be received.   Anyway it was magical.  The song and the way it was shared with me.

I can remember singing or at least turning up the radio in the car with my own mother and getting lectured and reamed for enjoying three particular songs in my own youth.  Let’s spend the night together, now I need you more than ever,  and You can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard you get what you need … I was all of 12 or 13, I wasn’t thinking these songs were leading me to temptation, thrill seeking, promiscuous behavior.  I certainly wasn’t thinking that love the one you’re with meant it was OK to have casual sex with anyone near by.   Love had nothing to do with sex in my mind at 12, 13,14, or even 15.   But that was long ago when the sun always shined brightly.   Getting what you want versus getting what you need probably meant wanting a Ring Ding Jr. but getting a sandwich, maybe wanting Levis, but getting Wranglers or gasp…Rustlers.   My mother might have feared that I was freely singing about the joys to come and it was her job to stop these joys from happening to early.  The other lyrics that offended her; the Mama Pajama rolled out of bed, and ran to the po-lice station…goodbye-Rosie Queen of Corona…I can’t even imagine the problem here.  I certainly wasn’t going to call her Mama-Pajama any time soon.   I did end up living in Corona for a brief time after college, was it foreshadowing ?  I never have my pajamas on past 6AM, if I wear pajamas, which I seldom do…I don’t know what the Mama saw that was against the law, Rosie got out in time.

It was special having my son share these songs as a means to discuss, understand, and even challenge some of my viewpoints.  We have other “discussions” at home.  They sound more like this: “GET THIS BLEEPING TRASH OFF RIGHT NOW!!!!  HOW WOULD IT FEEL IF I WAS SINGING AND PLAYING LOUD MUSIC ABOUT MEN AND HOW STUPID THEY WERE, OR HOW I WANTED TO HURT THEM?!#*!!! “  Familiar discussions, the kind I remember, growing up, sans the strong language, the sun shining and all that jazz.   Numerous songs of late discuss ‘ho’s and the beating of women as if some women deserve this, ya know if they are not pure of heart or pure of hymen.  In the car it is safe for us to discuss things deeply and calmly.  He wants to know and feels safe enough to ask.  “Ok, you don’t like when someone sings ‘ho,  if they said promiscuous women, would that be ok?”  he implores.  I answer, “OK, here we go…what do we call men that are what…promiscuous?  Oh we don’t, we call them gods and “players”  we think they are lucky or heroes.  We imagine they are awesome.  But women….they are sluts and whores and it’s ok to disrespect them and beat them.”

I go on, like the night, the drive.  I must.  There’s really no stopping me now.  By now we are up and around the back roads of the lower region of North Country.  Speculator, Weverton, Riparius….miles and miles of blackness and winding roads and nothingness, but us, family, bound by blood and experience, struggle and happiness, tradition and at times haphazard single-parenting.  Love, unconditional and layered in hope and expectation supports us. 

I continue…. “Listen, I know there are slutty girls and women, promiscuous, skanky.  I’m not thinkin’ all women are wonderful beings, not by a long shot.  I just don’t think its OK that men don’t have the same standards.  Some of it he hears and agrees with. Most of it he understands and can see the disparity, and some he views as semantics.   Best of all, he questions and is empowered to come to his own conclusions. 

We stop, finally finding a restaurant, unexpectedly late and still serving dinner.  I order a local IPA and he begins sharing his recently learned knowledge of chemistry and beer brewing from a course he recently attended.  We laugh and talk and I hand him the keys and allow him to drive.  On the Northway, winding and curving and fast, passing trucks and cars and time.  He is a man now.  Ready.  Prepared to know there are expectations for him to treat women, men, equally, respectfully.  He has learned that he is expected to come to his own conclusions through thoughtful, and careful consideration, questioning the collective beliefs that may oppress and harm.  He believes me to be strong and at times unyielding, but he also knows otherwise.  He knows where these strong opinions have grown from, the cause and the cost.  He also knows I am all about woman-like and emotionally charged and neurotic as he is driving like a NASCAR rookie on the Northway and I am holding on for dear life driving “shotty” for the LAST time!  I am woman hear me roar, squeal, and shriek!  Where did I leave my Lilith Fair soundtrack?  No worries, Jesus took the wheel and Helen Reddy soothed my nerves.  And he smiled knowingly and stood a little taller after he parked safely and helped me unpack the car.  A good man, he.