Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Letter to Mitt Romney

I did not gloat last night as I watched you concede, with your red-rimmed eyes and fatigue, your wife's stretched smile barely holding. Though I had done all I could to create your defeat, and would repeat it, I did not gloat. 

I saw you in that moment as collateral damage--the poster boy for extremists--and felt your fragility and confusion. And maybe that's why I'm writing, because that was the first human moment I had with you in this long campaign. Or maybe I just want to throw words up in the air again, seeing how they land.  Or perhaps I just want to know what I really think.

Here's the problem with those extremists you let whisper in your ear, Mr. Romney. They operate, always, outside of  what is. They think in theories of how people should be, what they should do, thinking they know. That's the catch, you see--thinking they know. That they know, if only they could control certain things that people can do, then the world would be somehow neater, more productive, kind of cleaned up. According to their idealized version of the world.

Except, that life doesn't work like that. Life isn't ideal because people aren't. People are messy. They love who they love, no matter what gender. They want to decide things that dramatically shape their lives, like bringing other people into this world for whom they will be responsible. They fight to be able to stay alive longer when they get sick. Things like that. And none of that means that those people aren't willing to change. It simply means that they want to be the ones to call it.

And that's the thing in the end, Senator. That's what we saw last night, as people with storm-ravaged lives stood on line for hours in the cold to call it. As consumers morphed back into citizens, demanding they call it. As people of color, the youth, and women especially came out to call it. 

You had a lot of people on your side. I know, and love, some of those people. They aren't monsters or idiots, and I choose to remember that every day. They believed you could help. But candidates are like a cable package--they come bundled. In the end, we each had to weigh everything you promised to do, not just some of it. And across this nation it came down to that--all the promises, not just some. In that booth, we each decided what we could live with. And I couldn't live with you.

Tonight, I'm not interested in watching you lose again, or watching Obama win. Frankly, I'd like to get on with it. Instead, I wish us all the bravery to leave the circus tent and rejoin this messy free county, the one we decided on yesterday, the only one we've got.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

May Day! Why Can't I Get Paid for This?

When I was growing up, May Day meant just one thing: having to practice dancing with boys who didn't want to make eye contact, never mind hold your hand and dance in a complicated pattern around a pole of colored ribbons.

Nicholas, the boy whose name inhabited crudely drawn hearts on the inside of grocery bags turned book covers, where I swore "2 loved 2 be 4 gotten," was assigned as my May Day buddy. He kept his hand in a fist the entire time, making me feel I was grasping a sweaty boiled egg. Able to turn any male disregard to my advantage, I wrote in my journal of his warrior grip poised for action should another of the boys attempt to not look at me too closely. I nearly swooned.

I loved May Day, delighted to be given permission to shake my groove thing during school hours, even if it wasn't to Motown, while having an excuse to wear flowers in my hair and do giant macramé. The combination of dancing and good hair mojo is still a winning combo for me. Offer me turning in a circle and, well, what can I say? You'll have me at hello. 

May Day performances are one of the many rituals that have no relation at all to what life as an adult will be like. For one, there are not that many places where one can hold a ribbon and dance with your hair in a bun, outside of the Beijing Olympics. I have a dark pity for the kids I see now, their eyes glistening, who get their ribbon placement exactly right. I feel you. This is just one more of those skills they teach us, like how to properly measure bodies of water, that will come spilling out of our mouths at the grasping end of a job interview gone horribly wrong. Your adult brain knows you should bring up your expertise in power point but instead your inner kid grins and points out emphatically that you were Maypole Queen in both 5th and 6th grades. It sounds way more clever in your head--trust me. 

So this is a distress call: May Day! May Day!--which we of many unmarketable skills and useless knowledge know is from the French word m'aider, meaning "come help me." I'm seeking comments from all of you out there who know a little too well what I'm talking about:

What was your favorite thing you learned as a kid that has proved completely disconnected from a living but which you devoutly wished guaranteed you an occasional workday (when you are in the mood) and a Kardashian income? 

Come on, come help me. I'll be here, practicing my circles.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What I learned from Playboy Bunnies

I have just returned from Beverly Hills, that sparkling universe where people have wheat grass martinis for breakfast, and the Mercedes is the car their teenagers drive. I am from New York City, and we don't understand L.A.  We don't get it at the most fundamental level because you can't walk it. I forget this every time I go there, however, and seduced by the sunshine and the manicured hill outside my hotel I forget that in 500 yards in any direction I will encounter a freeway--not to mention the horrified looks of the drivers as they lower their windows to ask if I've broken down and should they call my man servant.  

Returning to the hotel after a visit to Rodeo Drive--a cross between Graceland and the Truman Show--my disassociation with L.A. increased with my first encounter with an alien being I believed existed only in the fecund imagination of a geek especially gifted with Paint Brush Pro. I nearly collided with a Playboy Bunny. Or, as I soon discovered, a wanna-be bunny. I had inadvertently wandered into their warren, where about twenty-five of them were gathered for a contest that night, when one of them would be chosen to remove the inhibiting 18 inches of fabric she was wearing and have her navel stapled--in short, to become her dream, a centerfold. 

Let me not bore you, dear reader, with the physical differences between my petite black-clad body and these towering tan goddesses, toned and augmented into perfection. Each of us has a fine enough imagination. Let me settle a matter for you here, however: they exist. While no doubt air-brushed to erase human nuisances like nose hair and pores, they are indeed a life form. And a disruptive one, at that, especially for the straight male population, who paid $18 for a Bud Light at the Beverly Hilton bar to watch them adjust the best things that money could buy. 

After the initial shock wore off, I felt a kind of calm pleasure watching them as I sipped my wine. There was something comforting in seeing that they existed. They seemed less bunnies then worker bees, humming around each other, looking for a way to make a good life out of what they felt they had to give. There was a humanness to it, even in that odd scenario--like seeing actors off stage, whispering their lines to themselves, wanting nothing more than to be so good at pretending that they believed it themselves. Though experience, age and apparel choices separated us, I understood their striving to become, even if I felt their plan had some serious flaws--the least of which was the expiration date I knew was stamped on their chromosomes, and the more serious spiritual danger of placing one's worth in another's hands. 

There was no resentment, no envy, no "over-the-rainbow why-can't-I" in me. I saw the bunnies as people, and the sea of judgment separated, landing on one girl picking at her cuticle. I saw her as she was in high school a short time ago, worried about passing, about being asked to the prom. And I worried for her. Not to win the night, but to win herself, to survive the lesson I knew was coming. She lifted her head and caught me staring. I smiled and mouthed, good luck.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daylight Savings Time in French

Yesterday I began studying French. If you, dear reader, are ever in need of humility, I have an instant cure for you. Take up a foreign language. One is going along, repeating, puffed up over one's perfectly formed "ohm" --which , in this morning's foggy recollection has something to do with a group of men either swimming, eating or running--and then the trap is sprung. I am shown the picture of said men again and asked to describe what they are doing, while my French teacher falls silent.

It is at this moment that I am forced to admit that while I was supposed to be internalizing the French language, I was, instead, deciding which of the three men in the picture would make the best boyfriend: a complicated but swift mathematics based on the summative value of his choice of cashmere sweater + healthy salad - sneakers + Brad Pitt hair. Once I had chosen the man on the right, I had to give him a name, of course, and then Jean and I were off to a city that had fountains and public gardens that once belonged to royalty. One can see now that I was profoundly unprepared to choose among three verbs to describe that the characters in my dream-date game show were indeed eating. When I indicated they were swimming, I wasn't far off, as I believe once Bachelor #1 and I got to the city with the fountains, I did jump in, where it was suddenly night, we were alone, and he was a movie producer. 

As today is Daylight Savings Time, I am trying not to feel the pressure of having lost an hour when my  imagination conspired with my hormones to cut class. My spirits are buoyed by the fact that the French also lost an hour today--however, being French, no one will go looking for it, as they are now one hour closer to going to the cafe, while Americans will be complaining over decreased productivity until next Tuesday.  

That is, in fact, what learning French is all about for me. If I can speak the language, maybe I can further develop my détachement from concepts like "progress" and become the Parisian woman I feel I'm destined to be. Perhaps I'll start with forgiving myself for sexual diversions--something I'm sure would merit an A from my French teacher, even if she isn't saying a word. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whitney and Wreckage

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was not a fan of Whitney Houston's music. My musical tastes were, and remain, an indecipherable mash up of the mystical and wrenching tones of Sigur Ros sharing iPod space with Lady Gaga confections. I know Houston's songs, of course. One couldn't have been a U.S. citizen through the 80's and not have her amazing voice jostling around in your head, instantly retrievable and unshakable.  

She was one of thousands who have already this year shut their eyes for the last time, whether in a bath tub or a cardboard box somewhere no one usually looks. They have all tried to turn down the unhappiness using something or other, or many somethings. Clearly, to paraphrase Tolstoy, each is unhappy in their own way, but there are always the same words applied at the end: self-doubt, demons, and destruction. They spoke them about Whitney this week. They spoke them about my brother who was put into the ground at 24 years old, his body already broken by what he did to himself in order not to feel--at the end so numb that he laid down with someone with a mental illness, who also happened to have a knife. 

I have learned that happiness is not a soft thing, a visitation by the occasional good-fortune fairy. Happiness, if it is authentic and self-emanating, is muscular and watchful. It does not leave itself to a strangers care, much less the tricks of trifles like money and stuff. It looks carefully, makes its choices, knows how to place a bet and walk away when it lost, learning what didn't work. It knows how to defend itself--kick ass and take names, as we used to stay in the projects. It likes good leather and walking shoes.  

I have seen the wreckage, and I've seen it narrowly missed, far more up close than I'd ever expected. And that miss was not simply because my beloved put the bottle down, but because he let something else in. The Prayer-Book of the Episcopal Church uses the phrase, "and iron entered his soul." Not one to quote scripture, I do have to shout out to that one: Exactly! He learned the shackles of addiction were nothing  compared to the iron inside him, but that he would have to watch out. That his happiness was, in fact, life or death, and his were the hands on the wheel. 

And it's life or death for all of us. Maybe not a physical death, but certainly a spiritual one. But first we better stop thinking about happiness on par with a shopping spree. We all know easily enough what really makes us happy, once we get ourselves past the material crap and the romance novels disguised as self-help books. It's not enough to find your bliss. You have to defend it. Start any time. That's the cool thing about it. You hold the starting gun.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Girl Scout Cookies and Losing my Resolution

Word on the street is that Girl Scout cookies are back on sale tomorrow. 

This will, no doubt, strike some as awful timing. Likely those for whom "losing weight" was the very first resolution made after the alcohol wore off. But to those savvy little Girl Scouts, the timing couldn't be better.

After all, enough time has passed now to remember 1) celery gets caught in your teeth, and there's a reason why kids only eat it with peanut butter; 2) the gym not only smells, but sounds like a trauma center; and 3) you would trade your automobile for a warm baguette and butter, no questions asked. 

Those sweet little tycoons in the badge vests outside of Wal-Mart have seen our collective hunger. We've had twelve days of Christmas dieting and are poised perfectly between choosing a psychotic episode or a package of Nutter Butters. 

Someone could show me documentation from NASA that Samoas contain tar and I would grab their shirt and demand to know where they were keeping them. Scientific testing, yeah, yeah, that's why I want 'em. I'm a researcher, bent on discovering the addictive properties in coconut. They've been putting the stuff in our water, or haven't you noticed?

So, yes, I will be out there, cruising parking lots for a sighting of those green uniforms. I'll be carrying cash, since I've heard the little buggers won't take celery.