If You Can’t Say Something Nice (RIP QEII)

Some have used the passing of Queen Elizabeth II to point out all the things that England should apologize for – its history of colonialism, its role in the slave trade, Camilla Parker Bowles…

Many of these same people have attempted to thread the needle by suggesting they aren’t necessarily throwing shade on the Queen (a woman most acknowledge as having done as much as she probably could have to drag a tradition steeped in moth balls and absurd ceremony out of the Middle Ages).

Rather, they say, it’s important not to forget all the evil perpetrated by the English government (over whom the Queen wields zero power), and not to be distracted by such nonsense as royal weddings, adorable royal babies, royal spats, and, of courts royal fashion – what’s Kate wearing today? Why, look at that hat! That tiara! That brooch!

Which, I suppose is a good point. Except, if that sentiment is coming out of the mouth of a white American, I’m gonna have to say….bullshit. Or, maybe, “Hey, Kettle! What a lovely shade of black you are!”

Because England certainly has some excellent company in the Doing Shitty Things Department.

Slave Trade? We did that – for a lot longer, on a much broader scale, and we even had a Chief Justice (Roger Taney) who wrote in the Dred Scott opinion that black people were chattel – you know, like a teapot. You read that right. For hundreds of years in this country, a black person had no more rights that a f***ing teapot.

Even after Congress said, “Yeah…no,” the Supreme Court was still all Plessy v. Ferguson and was like, “okay, you can go to school, black kids, just not OUR schools,” and you know who had the nicer schools, and it wasn’t the black kids.

Also, the white people who came to this country in the 1500’s and thereafter took away 99% of the land on which the indigenous people already living here inhabited. They killed a lot of those people, either by actually shooting them, or by infecting them with disease, or sending them on death marches from their homes to some remote location that white people hadn’t yet decided they wanted.

And then we kept treating black people and people of color like sh**.  We did the same thing to people who are in the LGBTQ community, and to immigrants from countries that don’t have socialized medicine and really good maternity leave programs, and people who are Muslim.

Oh, and we hate women.

So, all you super-woke Americans looking to poke at the English for their history of Things They Shouldn’t Have Done, I don’t know what moral soapbox you think you’ve got a right to stand on.

I love my country, and it has done great things, but it also has a long history of some pretty horrific behavior – which would be understandable and simply part of our country’s growing pains if we had actually learned anything from our worst mistakes (we haven’t).

So, England, this is my message to you, from one American who finds the royal family somewhat dubious but also realizes she isn’t British and didn’t live through a war where her country was bombed every night for years by freaking Nazis and where the presence of the King and his family may have brought comfort to those who did.

I say to a nation who now mourns a woman who seems to have represented a sense of constancy and determination to keep going, with dignity and purpose, despite the turmoil and increasing chaos of this world:

Please accept my most sincere condolences at the loss of your Queen.

Now, was that so hard?

Some Thoughts on the New King

I’ve been wanting to post on this for a long time – 25 years to be exact. I got busy having kids and working and then I got involved in scrapbooking and sewing and gardening, and then I had a grandchild, but this afternoon I found myself with a few extra minutes, and what with the Queen’s Royal Jubilee in the can, it seemed like a good idea to say what’s been on my mind for years:

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles are dicks.

That’s right. 100%, USDA Certified dicks. SCOTUS voted 8-1 (Thomas was the lone dissenting Justice) that they’re dicks. It’s the one thing that I and Vladimir Putin agree on – I called him this morning, and he said, and I quote, “Charles and Camilla DICK.”

Whether or not you liked Diana, they were dicks, and now I’m going to tell you why.

Charles and Camilla fell in love well before Charles ever met Diana. After a lengthy courtship, Charles asked Camilla to marry him, but she said no because she did not want to live a royal life. (Remember this part because it’s important – HE ASKED HER TO MARRY HIM AND SHE SAID NO).

Then she married someone else, and he (Charles) was heartbroken. Before the ink was even dry on her wedding certificate, however, she (Camilla) and Charles resumed their shenanigans – either beknownst or unbeknownst to her unlucky hubby. I guess if you’re the Prince of Wales, you can do that without worry of offending the Church of England, and in fact, he was encouraged by male relatives to sow his wild oats however he liked, before, during, and after his marriage. After all, what’s the point of being the King if sport fucking is off the table?

The affair continued. The pressure on Charles to find an appropriate wife, however, escalated – Queen Elizabeth II was anxious for her party boy son to settle down – but not just any girl would do. She must be pretty, demure, obedient, of sufficient peerage, and, of course, a virgin. By the 1980’s, however, there weren’t a lot of women over the age of 20 that Charles hadn’t already dated who fit that profile, so he had to start trolling teenagers, and, at the age of 32, he found one Diana Spencer, 13 years his junior, and his 7th cousin once removed on the Spencer side of the family (and 16th cousin once removed on the Tudor side of the family).

After a whirlwind courtship (six months) during which they likely spent very little time actually getting to know each other, and where most of the decision-making about the future of their relationship was being done by other people, they announced their engagement. When asked if they were in love, Charles, that crazy guy, gave the answer every girl longs to hear: “Whatever that means.”

Diana then spent the next several months living in Clarence House with the Queen Mother where, it was charmingly related, the older, beloved Elizabeth had taken the dewy-eyed young thing under her wing to teach her the ways of all things royal. Later, Diana would describe these days as lonely and isolating, as she was cut off from family and friends, including the fiancé with whom she was starry-eyed infatuated. And remember…this is a young girl who never went to university, who up until this time lived in a flat with three girlfriends, taught at a nursery school, and babysat and cleaned for her older sister (the only real maternal figure she had had since her mother left the family when she was very young).

Think about what you were like when you were 19.

Think about how much you had in common with an 80-something year old woman who, it turns out – for all her warm, glowing smiles on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and the adoration of a nation who remembered her, ever steadfast, at the side of George VI during the horror of WWII – was not all that nice to Diana – ever.

And then there was the tragic, tacit, truth that Charles had not picked Diana because he loved her, or even liked her, and EVERYBODY KNEW IT, BUT NOBODY FUCKING TOLD DIANA.

No, she actually thought he loved her, and that it was a fairy tale come to life, and she was so young and sheltered and crazy in the love with this big-eared jackass that no one had the heart to burst her bubble, and maybe there was even a collective hope that he would come to see what was obvious to everyone who wasn’t a foppish, inbred, cosseted pantywaist: That Diana might actually have the potential to be a very good queen indeed, that she might prove to be smart, with good instincts, and even a good help-mate, if only given a chance.

No one really ever gave her a chance, and for all the lessons in how to properly curtesy and pour tea, there was little emotional support in the days leading up to the wedding. And what is a 19 year old who is about to take part in the wedding of the century supposed to do when she starts to have doubts? When the entire WORLD is talking about your wedding and selling tea towels and egg cups and souvenir buttons and glasses and mugs and china plates and pretty much anything that can be embossed with your image, and you’ve ordered a dress with a train that’s 20’ long…it’s sort of hard to call it all off.

Especially when you’re 19, and the only person you have to bounce stuff off of is an 80-something year old woman who remembers having the shit bombed out of London by Nazis for 4 years and barely surviving Hitler, and who probably doesn’t have much patience or sympathy for a 19 year old bride-to-be with the jitters.

This whole time, by the way, Charles and Camilla are still banging away like the ugly-ass horse-faced dicks they were and are.

So, Charles and Diana get married. For a short time, Charles seems to finally appreciate what the people of Britain (heck, the entire WORLD) see in his wife. She lovely! She’s charming! And unlike any other royal in history, she appears to actually care about her subjects…even the ones who aren’t rich, pretty, or titled! She wows everyone with her warmth and style, she produces two boys right quick, and that smile…my, she is dazzling!

But then she becomes too dazzling, and Charles (who, we must remember, has never stopped his studies in animal husbandry with Camilla), gets jealous and mad. People like Diana more than him, which is SO unfair, because HE is descended from GOD and SHE is not, and ALSO, Diana has the audacity to want to be a hands-on parent AND to be involved with charities with which nice people most definitely do not associate – AIDS and mental health, for fuck’s sake. It’s just too, too much. And why no love for Charles, with his interest in organic gardening? That’s a real thing, and no royal has ever done THAT before! Charles sulks and retreats and makes Diana feel unloved. Diana develops an eating disorder. She dances with John Travolta during a visit to the Reagan White House. Charles stands by looking like a frumpy old mop.

Charles and Camilla continue their uber-icky relationship, which can probably best be summed up by a hacked mobile phone conversation in which Charles says he wishes he could be Camilla’s tampon – oh, yes, he did. So, so gross. Not that women menstruate or use tampons…not that part…but you would hope a man with a Cambridge education could manage an expression of libidinal desire that did not involve an aspect of life that most women find, at the very least, an inconvenience.

The affair continued for the entirety of Charles and Diana’s marriage, during which time Camilla – such a dick – referred to Diana as “that ridiculous creature,” apparently willfully ignorant of her role in placing Diana in that position (ridiculous or not) in the first place. One wonders what might have become of Camilla had Charles (1) actually fallen in love with his first wife; or (2) been loyal to her regardless of his feelings for Camilla, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT MARRIAGE IS, YOU WIDE-HIPPED ASSHAT, but here’s the thing: When a man asks you to marry him and you say no, then marry someone else, then continue to sleep with that man, even after he marries someone else, you don’t get to criticize his wife, even if you are a soulless cow without a conscience.

Diana was aware of the affair before she even walked down the aisle. She tried the best a 20 year old could to make the marriage work, but you can’t really make a marriage work when the person you married was in love with someone else before they met you, and never stopped being in love with that person; and also, never loved you, never wanted to marry you, and only DID marry you because his mother made him. That’s a marriage that was never going to work, ever, unless both participants are masochists.  A hundred years ago or more, a wife would have simply sighed, accepted it, and resigned herself to a loveless marriage.

Not Diana. She wasn’t going to tolerate the loveless farce of her marriage, nor the Douche Bag Dick and his girlfriend, Stinky Butthole Dick. It’s true that Diana was not blameless – she used the press to her advantage when it suited her, she didn’t always play fair, she knew exactly how other-worldly popular she was, and that a picture of her doing anything had staggering influence. Her death proved just how true that was.

I was a Diana fan – not because she was pretty or had a great sense of style, but because the royal family – which more and more makes very little sense to me as an institution – plucked her up and tried to bend her to its will at a time when she had no power. Her own husband threw her to the wolves knowing exactly how well she was likely to fare, and treated her with so little respect or compassion, she might well have been one of his servants. Diana placed her children first (to the extent she could), and focused her service on those who were the “least of His people,” insisting that her sons join her in bringing attention to some of the world’s not so pretty places.

It is true she could be frivolous and petty and immature, and that her relationships after Charles were often obsessive and did not exhibit the best judgment. For a person who had led a sheltered, motherless childhood, and who then was thrust into a media spotlight the likes of which perhaps only one or two people in history have ever experienced, with no real guidance from anyone who truly cared about her, perhaps she can be forgiven her missteps.

After her death, Charles and Camilla – those two big dicks – finally married. Apparently, Mr. Parker-Bowles got tired of being the world’s most famous cuckold, and his marriage to Camilla ended. Now, 25 years after Diana’s death, C & C appear together like an old married couple, dandling Diana’s grandchildren on their laps, petting dogs, and looking every bit the well-heeled, silver-haired older couple that may someday be King of England and whatever they will call Camilla.

Maybe they have rehabilitated themselves enough for Britons to accept and love them should Charles ascend to the throne. Maybe Camilla will make a wonderful consort, a sort of Jill Biden-Michelle Obama-like modern king’s wife (the precursor to the kind we know Kate Middleton will surely be).

But in my book, they’re both dicks.

Johnny Depp Is Not that Innocent

I haven’t been watching the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial closely, but I have seen a lot on social media trashing Heard as a crazy psycho-bitch and lauding Depp as the innocent victim of her rampant abuse. Since I haven’t listened to the testimony and the jury has not rendered a verdict, I can’t weigh in on who did what to whom, although it’s worth noting that an identical lawsuit brought by Depp in the UK last year (alleging defamation by Heard for calling him an abusive spouse) ended with a verdict in Heard’s favor.

I’m troubled, however, by the tone of the coverage of the trial on this side of the Atlantic, a lawsuit brought after Heard wrote an op-ed in which she identified herself as a survivor of spousal abuse. It seems that the decision to “author” the article (it’s now widely acknowledged that it was ghost-written by the ACLU) was pressed on Heard, who agreed to it largely as a publicity stunt to promote her upcoming movie “Aquaman,” which in itself should tell you a lot about movie PR and the depths to which the ACLU has sunk of late.

In any case, public opinion and social media have gleefully cast Depp as the weary, unfairly accused victim of Heard; as a man with demons, a man with an artistic spirit; a victim of child abuse from an early age, almost as though that should explain away whatever he may have done to Heard. He’s just so deep and soulful, with just the right amount of naughty-boy Jack Sparrow charm – of course he’d be a handful!

Heard, on the other hand, has been portrayed as  a cross between manipulative she-bitch and lunatic. I’ve read that Heard may have borderline personality disorder, and since I have a close relative with that diagnosis, I have been on the receiving end of the confusion, abuse, erratic behavior, rage, utter lack of reason, and lightning-fast change in mood that makes such relationships so extremely difficult to manage. Any marriage in which one partner has a diagnosis of BPD is going to be tumultuous.

There seems to be at least some evidence, however, that Depp engaged in behavior that was at least somewhat troubling, and even abusive – texts, emails, statements to others, disturbing testimony from Heard, and incontrovertible proof of Depp’s substance abuse issues that suggest a less than stable person, not to mention hardly the most reliable source when it comes to documenting the history of events that happened years ago. In other words, there’s at least some reason to believe there might be SOME truth to what Heard is saying. Thus, if Heard’s allegations of physical abuse are legitimate, the way she is being treated – by women, no less – is not just disturbing, it is setting back the work of feminism and domestic abuse awareness and #metoo back by about 50 years and making it okay, once again, to blame the victim. Priceless.

What’s even more concerning is that, if Heard is indeed mentally ill, those who are making fun of her by, say, producing videos of her testimony set to a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” soundtrack, are unspeakably cruel and continue to stigmatize mental illness in a way that is entirely unhelpful.

The behavior that has been ascribed to Heard must be humiliating for her to have to listen to (she pooped in his bed?) but for some reason – because she’s pretty? Because she’s a celebrity? Because we like Johnny Depp and think he’s funny? – we are laughing at a woman who (1) may be a victim of domestic violence and/or (2) may be mentally ill.

That is appalling.

Frankly, Depp’s main goal in bringing it in the first place likely has nothing to do with whether or not the public believes he abused Amber Heard (obviously, the public does not care), but has everything to do with winning back the role of Jack Sparrow.

You can hate Amber Heard, and maybe she is just a big fat liar who isn’t mentally ill. Maybe she is just another ambitious actress trying to garner some sympathy and fame, and if that’s true, it’ll out soon enough. She was with Depp for 7 years and obviously benefited from his connections, but the only movie anyone can remember her making is “Aquaman,” which I’m told was not great.

Or maybe she’s a really troubled woman, or maybe he beat her, but maybe we should just shut the f**k up and let the people who are in the courtroom listening to the evidence do their job and then accept their verdict, and in the meantime, do something to help victims of domestic violence – male and female alike – or the mentally ill, who deserve our support and respect, and NOT our derision.

And we can also mind our own f***ing business.

Valentines Day for All

And now I’m going to poop all over Valentine’s Day.

People who know me are aware that I HATE greeting card holidays because I don’t think people should be guilted into proving their love for someone else.

I just spent 15 minutes crafting this really long post about why you don’t need jewelry or chocolates or roses or a fancy dinner to prove you love someone because real love should transcend that, and then I said, “who are you, Miss Arrogant McSuperior Pants, to tell people how to celebrate Valentine’s Day (even if it’s a stupid holiday)?”

It’s no skin off my nose if other people are into that sort of thing, but here is one (I think) legit complaint:

There are a lot of people who would really like to be in love, or who were in love but have lost their love, or who had their love walk out on them, and Valentine’s Day really sucks for them.

So even though Valentine’s Day is almost over, I want to say to everyone who would like to have someone to share it with, YOU ARE ENOUGH, and you don’t need anyone to COMPLETE YOU, but if you’re feeling not great, I’m sorry, and I love you.

Unpacking Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

Instead of jabbering on about my own thoughts about our President’s reaction to the events of August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, I thought I would share some of the most interesting comments I’ve seen to date.

First, some great tweets to give us some much-needed perspective:

• “Thought it was worth noting that more than 750,000 already gave their lives fighting Nazis and the Confederacy.” @pbump
• “Imagine sucking so f***ing bad that being a white guy is hard for you?” @ mikeyfrecks
• “US Army: Charlottesville suspect reported for basic military training but failed to meet standards and was released from active duty.” @jaketapper (Observation: Perhaps Tomi Lahren was right?)
• “Let it sink in: Today a woman died on US soil while fighting Nazis.” @mattaukamp
• “Not many presidents could make threatening nuclear war the second worst thing he did in a week.” @gadyepstein
• “Wish Trump could find the same anger for murderous Nazis as he did for Nordstrom after it stopped selling his daughter’s handbags.” @gilbertjasono
• “Nazis and confederates are white people that lost wars to other white people but somehow its still brown people’s fault.” Open Mike Eagle
• “Trumps thoughts on Obama – Disaster; Paris – Sh**hole; White House – dump; Boy Scouts – liars; Neo-Nazi Rally – many sides to issue.” @MattOswaltPA
• “The only good thing Hitler ever did was kill Hitler.” @blainecapatch
• “The only reason for an American to hold a Nazi flag is if it has been captured in battle.” @TKOastIsBack
• “If you have ever wondered what you would have done in Germany in 1937, or during the Civil Rights movement, you’re doing it right now.”

Next, some strong words from GOP leaders…

• Senator Orrin Hatch, R – Utah: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
• Senator John McCain, R – Arizona: “White supremacists aren’t patriots, they’re traitors – Americans must unite against hatred & bigotry. #Charlottesville
• Senator Cory Gardner, R – Colorado: “This is terrorism, this is domestic terrorism, this is white nationalism, and it has to stop.”

…even some who ran for president in 2016 (but apparently weren’t racist enough), who thought that the perhaps our President ought to call these hoodlums out for what they are:

• Senator Ted Cruz, R – Texas: “The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate.”
• Senator Marco Rubio, R – Florida: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis, the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists. It’s the direct opposite of what #Americaseeks to be.”
• Jeb Bush – “The white supremacist and their bigotry do not represent our great country. All Americans should condemn this vile hatred. #Charlottesville.”
• Mike Huckabee – “‘White Supremacy’ crap is the worst kin of racism – it’s EVIL and perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.”
• NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R) – “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”
• Senator Lindsey Graham, R – South Carolina: “[Trump] missed an opportunity to be very explicit here. These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House.”
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich: “I think a president can always provide some leadership on a subject like this.”

Even some in Trump’s own administration opined that what happened was bad and that white supremacists aren’t cool, such as…

• Vice President Mike Pence: “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK. We should be putting the attention where it belongs, and that is on those extremist groups that need to be pushed out of the public debate entirely and discredited for the hate groups and dangerous fringe groups that they are.”
• Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
• Opportunist in Chief, Ivanka Trump: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”
• Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert: “I condemn white supremacists and racists and white Nazi groups and all the other groups that espouse this kind of hatred and exclusion.”

Perhaps in an attempt to remind us what leadership looks like, former President Barack Obama had to be all noble and stuff, tweeting a quote from Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” But you can just ignore him, because, Hillary’s emails.

Despite the good intentions of those in the Trump Administration who believe that people brandishing torches and carrying Nazi flags are irredeemably despicable, some thought that perhaps our President should have been more clear on that point:

• “If your staff has to clarify that you’re not a white supremacist, you are a galactically sh**y president and/or a white supremacist.” @kibblesmith

But at least ONE group was happy – Neo Nazi Website “The Daily Stormer:”

• “He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the website’s founder. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

As John Oliver said, moreover, “Nazis are a lot like cats. If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them.”

The always gracious Governor John Kasich wondered if perhaps President Trump might be “uncomfortable” discussing the issue, stating, “[t]here are a lot of people who are just not comfortable with the issue…” But, as @epicciuto noted on Twitter, “Trump was more willing to call his country’s intelligence community Nazis than he was to call actual Nazis Nazis.”

Indeed, on January 11, 2017, Trump tweeted, “[i]ntelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

And that’s as good a question now as it was seven months ago: Are we in fact living in a society where Nazism and white supremacy is acceptable and tolerated by those in charge of the government?

By your deafening silence, Mr. President, so it would seem.

Snot-Nosed Brats and The Parents Who Raise Them

Happened to catch Lavar Ball on CNN this morning. He was arguing that having to apologize for stealing should be more than enough punishment for his son, LiAngelo Ball, and whining that his kid has been unfairly persecuted by UCLA, the college he attended (until yesterday, anyway). You may recall that LiAngelo and two of his teammates were caught shoplifting sunglasses at a Louis Vuitton store while visiting China as members of the UCLA basketball team; they were arrested and faced a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Before the poo hit the fan, however, President Trump, who happened to be in China at the time, stepped in and asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to show clemency and release the three young hooligans, which he did (and which was a nice thing to do, when you consider that the way Donald Trump says “China” is kind of weird and sort of sounds like he’s insulting it)

Within a week of the arrest, and having never seen the inside of a Chinese jail, LiAngelo and his buddies were allowed to go home. They later appeared at a press conference in which they dutifully said they were sorry, and then they were suspended indefinitely from the UCLA basketball team (but not from the institution) pending further investigation. A few days later, there was a brief, hilarious Twitter battle between LiAngelo’s father and Donald Trump in which Trump griped that the Ball Family wasn’t more grateful (Sad!) and in which Mr. Ball indicated that no thanks were even necessary because things would have worked out on their own. Which was spectacularly ungenerous, even if Donald Trump is the human equivalent of a vaginal yeast infection.

As of yesterday – less than a month after this whole thing went down – UCLA had not made any permanent decisions about how LiAngelo & Company would be disciplined. Who knows why it has taken so long – maybe because of the Thanksgiving holiday, maybe because finals are coming up, maybe because UCLA wants to consult with all the appropriate personnel so they can be certain that their decision is the right one. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: As long as he’s suspended, LiAngelo Ball isn’t playing basketball, lighting up the scoreboard and leading UCLA to victory, and given what we’re hearing about his talent (from his father, anyway), UCLA’s decision to take its time to conduct a thorough review – contrary though that may be to the success of its men’s basketball team – is perhaps refreshing. How many times have we read about university officials looking the other way when star atheletes behave badly in order not to compromise the team’s win/loss record?

Then, yesterday, in a fit of childish pique (the ramifications of which could be far-reaching), Lavar Ball pulled his kid out of UCLA – you know – the institiution that was willing to given him a free education and room and board for four years (estimated price tag: $250,000) so he could play basketball, get a lot of attention on a very big stage, and probably end up being drafted by the NBA. Curse you, UCLA!

According to Mr. Ball, his reasoning is based upon what he believes is staggeringly unfair treatment by UCLA. He thinks that his son’s apology was sufficient “punishment” (god, it’s so HARD to say “I’m sorry” and not really mean it!) and that this whole think should be over already. It’s unclear whether he even believes that what his son was actually all that bad.

Well, I, for one, think it’s time for Lavar and his son to get woke, and I say that realizing that a 53-year-old white woman who gets excited about a new set of Rubbermaid storage containers probably shouldn’t be using the term “woke.”

But here goes:

Lavar, any way you slice it, stealing is illegal (whether you’re in China OR the US), and under any other circumstances (like, President Trump didn’t happen to be in China at the time, or your son wasn’t a promising young athlete), your kid would probably be sitting in jail or, at the very least, awaiting a court date with the real possibility of prison time, especially if he’d been left in China to deal with a criminal justice system that doesn’t exactly work the way ours does. In other words, the potential NBA career would probably be off the table, and being suspended by UCLA would have been the least of his worries.

So let’s all agree that what LiAngelo did was wrong, and that he was extremely lucky that our National Pride, Donald Trump, was in the right place at the right time, not groping women or insulting people’s cultural heritage. Let’s agree that it was a good thing for Lavar Ball and his idiot son that Trump was able to get LiAngelo and his friends (the little fuckers) back home to the USA without pissing off the Chinese government and prompting them to call in all our loans. Let’s agree that all LiAngelo had to do was say THANK YOU, ride out his suspension, and maybe use their free time studying or volunteering in a soup kitchen.

Well, that’s NOT what LiAngelo did. Because UCLA was mean to him, and his dad thought it was unfair. (As an aside, if you want to know what’s unfair, talk to Colin Kaepernick about his work in the Black Community, and the real injustices that go on there every day that do not involve LV sunglasses and basketball scholarships.) But was UCLA’s treatment of LiAngelo unfair, Lavar? Was it unjustified in taking some time to figure out how to handle this?

C’mon, Man.

Call me old-fashioned, but UCLA – or any other institution – has a right (and, indeed, a responsibility) to decide whether the athletes who represent it should be discplined when they, oh, I don’t know, break the law in a foreign country while on what was supposed to be a sort of goodwill tour. It has a right to determine whether or not this snotty little brat and his asshat father are really worth the squeeze, and whether it’s likely that there will be more shenanigans down the road. UCLA has a right to assess whether it expects its atheletes to adhere to a basic standard of conduct when they venture abroad – one that does not include stealing designer sunglasses.

Lest we forget, by giving LiAngelo a scholarship (and, sure, it if hadn’t been UCLA, it would have been another school), UCLA pretty much handed him the Golden Ticket – free education, room and board, so he could play basketball on a national level where he would be seen by NBA teams and likely be signed to a million-dollar contract before he even got his degree. How many kids get that kind of opportunity? By all accounts, LiAngelo Ball is an athlete of enormous talent, and his future, once UCLA reached out, seemed all but assured. All he had to do – ALL HE HAD TO DO – was play basketball. THAT WAS HIS ONLY JOB.

But LiAngelo decided that it would be a good idea, while visiting a non-democratic foreign country that has had a sketchy human rights record, to shoplift designer sunglasses.

It’s not surprising that young Mr. Ball made this particular error in judgment – and I’ll bet he’s probably not even willing to concede that much. Listen to his father talk for more than 35 seconds and you know exactly how much accountability, discipline, and good old-fashioned DON’T DO THAT SHIT parenting he got growing up. LiAngelo gives every impression of having inherited his father’s unearned belief in his own specialness and excellence, and it’s likely that if it hadn’t been designer sunglasses in China, it would have been something else, because the Ball Men don’t think they have to adhere to the rules that apply to everyone else. At least, that’s what it sounds like to me.

Still, Lavar Ball believes that the only “guilty” party in all of this is UCLA, and so he decided to get even by…yanking his kid out of UCLA (he refused to say this morning whether his son was on board with that decision). He says that he’s exploring other options for his son. How much you wanna bet that none of them include actually getting an education?

Who knows where LiAngelo will turn up? Perhaps he is in fact so talented that he’ll be playing with the NBA next year, making enough money that he won’t have to shoplift anymore.

What he probably won’t be doing is taking responsibility for his actions, ever, because his father has never forced him to, and he has now been removed from a situation where he might have had to suffer the consequences of his conduct in a way that might have helped him transition from spoiled brat to mature young man who is accountable for his transgressions. He may end up being the best basketball player the world has ever seen, but he’s unlikely to accomplish much else as long as his father is calling the shots.

So screw you, UCLA. You’ll never see the likes of LiAngelo Ball or his father again. And for that, you will probably say…thank you.

Reba McEntire and the Battle for My Soul

June 4, 2017

Recently, I saw a post on someone’s Facebook page with a link to a Reba McEntire song and the provocative clickbait, “AMAZING New Song Will DESTROY Every Single Trump-Hater In America!”  http://www.proud-patriots.com/reba-mcentires-amazing-new-song-will-destroy-every-single-trump-hater-in-america-video/

What’s this? I thought.  While not strictly a Trump Hater, anyone who knows me understands that I have zero respect for or confidence in the low-information, petulant toddler less than half our nation elected president.  I know I’m not alone in my opinion of Trump – he’s universally reviled by most of the rest of the world (including many of the 51 million who elected him) – and so I was curious:

If I watched this video, would it literally destroy me? (Answer: No. I watched the video, and I’m still here).

Still, I think that what Proud-Patriots.com (translation: White People Who Voted for Trump and Hate You Libtard Snowflakes Who Represent Everything That’s Wrong With this Country) was likely trying to say is, if you watch this video, you fascist, socialist, morally bankrupt liberal who lives off the public dole, you will no longer be able to deny that Donald J. Trump is the Second Coming and maybe you’ll shut up already.  Because Reba McEntire.

So I thought, what if there actually were a song that would change my mind about Donald J. Trump? What if Reba McEntire, of all people, was the one person in the world who could make a good argument for why it’s okay to demonize immigrants, deny access to affordable health insurance to those who need it most, and tell the rest of the world’s people that they’re on their own when it comes to climate change, even though our country has been one of the leading causes of global warming in the first place? Is anyone capable of that sort of persuasion? And if so, how?

I’ve never been a big country music fan (though I do like Faith Hill and Johnny Cash), but I once had a client who was a Reba McEntire impersonater, and she was a nice lady who had a lot of positive things to say about Reba, so I thought, hey, let’s see what I’m missing.  I clicked on the link, and I watched the video, and while it’s not exactly my cup of tea, I thought, “well, that’s nice.”  And then I ate a Milano and I considered some of the other things that Proud-Patriots.com had to say.

First, the USA has become “spiritually poor” because everyone, particularly the “young folks,” have forgotten “the existence of God and the true, moral and Christian values our country’s philosophy was based on.”  I guess Proud-Patriots.com hasn’t read the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, or the writings of many of our Founding Fathers, who made clear their intention that, regardless of their own personal beliefs, the United States of America should be beacon of religious tolerance and diversity for all, even (heaven forbid) the Jews.  http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-washington-and-religion/ at fn. 3.  For starters, then, Proud-Patriots.com has got its history wrong.

It’s also worth noting, moreover, that since time immemorial, grumpy old people everywhere have pointed to the declining morals of the young, including a decreased respect for God and organized religion, as the cause of all society’s ills and proof that the End of Days is near.  It’s an oldie but a goodie, and whether and when you may chose to invoke it is also a good indicator of just how far along the Crotchety Scale of Life you are.

I have often found, incidentally, that those who are most concerned with how young people behave, particularly with regard to a lack of religious fealty, are frequently the same people who in their early years were hellraisers themselves.  Perhaps because of their own less-exalted conduct as teenagers and young adults, they are acutely aware of and appreciate the capacity for young people to do things that are in direct contravention with many religious tenets.  Now that they’ve had their fun, of course, no one else should, either.  But I digress.

Proud-Patriots.com next bemoans the level of discord in our country since the election, noting that “Americans are burning flags, dishonoring our military and police officers, rioting in the streets…Clearly, we do need to get this country back to God.”  It seems worth recalling that this is exactly the behavior we witnessed in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement and as our country continued to fight an unjust war.  Know what ended those protests? Enacting legislation that forced our nation to treat all people equally and pulling out of Viet Nam.  Or maybe it was God.  Who knows.

Proud-Patriots.com also says that I, and others like me, are the problem with all that is wrong in America because we “don’t want to ‘conform’ to one belief” and are “too cool” to believe in God.  (N.B. – To my everlasting chagrin, I’ve never once been tagged “cool,” but thanks for that, Proud-Patriots.com!)  Call me a wonky egghead who thinks we ought to consult the Constitution on this one, but I just sort of think that people should be able to search their hearts and decide which religion, if any, makes sense to the rational, inquisitive brains that God or some higher power apparently gave us, and then act accordingly, rather than foist one set of beliefs upon the rest of the world.  It would appear, however, that being a Proud Patriot means you ignore the clear import of the words of Madison and Jefferson and all those men who are claimed to have intended ours to be a “nation under God,” notwithstanding that those same men expressly said that under no circumstances was this to be a “nation under God.”  But why quibble with words, or logic, when you can demonize those with whom you don’t agree?

Proud-Patriots.com goes on to say that no one is forcing Christianity on anyone and that what it is most angry about is the “discrimination” Christians endure as disciples of the one true God.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a big fan of Jesus and think more Christians ought to act like him, but I’m still struggling with the idea of a higher being named God, who at one point thought it was okay to destroy the entire world (save Noah and his crew) and who was okay with polygamy and spousal abuse and killing people who ate bacon, but then underwent some amazing metamorphosis in which he became more compassionate and forgiving, although I know having a kid can do that to you.  But just for the record, I don’t hate Jesus, even if I’m not sure he or his dad are divine.  (This is why Michael is always worried to enter a church with me).  For the record, I have zero problem with Christians, except for the ones who claim to be but act instead like assholes.

Whatever you may think about Christianity, however, it’s absurd to suggest that those who practice this faith in our country are being persecuted.  The last time I checked, the Congress was overwhelmingly Christian, as has been every man ever elected to the office of President.  Anywhere from 70 – 85% of Americans identify as Christian, as do roughly 1/3 of the peoples of the world, making Christianity by far the most dominant religion on Earth. As Louis C.K. so astutely noted, we measure time based upon the date that Christ was born, – how much more Christian do you Christians need the rest of the world to be before you’ll admit that you won?

As for this alleged anti-Christian prejudice, Proud-Patriots.com is just wrong.  You want to know what discrimination is? Being lowered onto a pointed stick, with or without weights tied to your feet, until your anus was perforated (or until you recanted your deeply held religious beliefs, whichever came first).  Being crammed into railroad cars and whisked to Eastern Europe to a virtually certain death, along with 5,999,999 of your brethren, simply because a certain group of people feel economically threatened by you. That’s persecution.

The fact that some choose to say “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas,” out of deference to the possibility that the person to whom they are extending their good wishes might not be a Christian is not persecution, and the placement of menorahs on the town hall lawn is not discrimination.  It’s called inclusion (look it up), and it doesn’t diminish you or your beliefs unless you faith is so fragile that it cannot withstand the fact that others may not share it.  And yet, those at Proud-Patriots.com (and, to be fair, a lot of others websites, too) claim to be discriminated against because the United States of America allows people who aren’t Christian to live here.

Pardon me if I don’t attend your candlelight vigil, Snowflakes.  You don’t know from persecution and discrimination, not in America, anyway, and if you’re so damned worried about Christians in other parts of the world who are being persecuted for their beliefs, then maybe consider demanding that they be granted sanctuary here in the United States, where they might take all the high-paying jobs and not speak English the minute they clear Customs.  But again, I digress.

So here’s where we are so far:  The United States is in a real pickle because liberals aren’t Christian (like that selfish bastard, Jimmy Carter, building houses for the poor, or that shithead Pope Francis who opened up laundromats for the homeless).

But wait, there’s more:  According to Proud-Patriots.com, liberals are “aching for the kind of values” that faith gives good Christians and that without faith, there are no values.  This is because the only way you can be a morally sound, ethical person, is to be a Christian.  You know.  Because people who aren’t Christians have no morals or ethics.  Sorry, Buddhists.  Hindus, you’re out of luck, too.

Sounds pretty grim, eh? But wait! Don’t get discouraged, all you non-Christians currently destined for an afterlife of eternal damnation and suffering, there is hope!  Thanks to Reba McEntire, soon liberals everywhere will come to know Donald J. Trump and will rally behind him in his faith-based agenda of compassion, unity, and world peace.  See, Reba recorded this song, and it’s going to change EVERYTHING.  All you have to do is tie a Trump Hater to a chair and make them listen to it, and guess what? They, too, will come to see that Donald J. Trump is indeed the answer to all of our problems.


 A few things about the song, “Back to God,” written by Randy Houser in 2008.  Apparently, it’s always been a favorite of Reba’s, one she chose to include on an album that dropped in January 2017 and which was likely recorded before the presidential election had even taken place.  As to why she chose to record this song now, Reba said, “I think it is always the right time to give it back to Him because we seem to mess things up on our own. We all need to just love each other more unconditionally, without judgment, because we can’t do this on our own.”  http://tasteofcountry.com/reba-mcentire-back-to-god-video/?trackback=tsmclip.  That’s a nice idea, even if you don’t believe in God.

If you listen to the song or read its lyrics (I’ve done both), you’ll hear that it’s about dealing with hard times and how God can be a comfort to those who are struggling.  It specifically invokes “the innocent dyin’,” expressing empathy for the heartbroken and those who have lost a loved one before exhorting those in pain to call on God in their time of need.  The video, moreover, includes vignettes of people who appear to be in real agony – though it’s not exactly clear to me why.  It looks as though two teenagers may have died and that their community, black and white, is in mourning, but ultimately comes together in a gorgeous southern Church to unite in their grief and move forward through their shared faith in God, and that’s a nice message, too.  Many people find great comfort in their faith, which is a better way of dealing with hardship than drinking, taking drugs, or shooting up a preschool with an assault rifle.

But the song, like Reba, is utterly silent about Donald J. Trump, or the issues currently facing our country, of the fact that it’s so politically divided right now, or that the rest of the world thinks we’re all assholes.  Nothing in this song – nothing – suggests that it was intended to respond to the state of the nation since November 8, 2016, nor does it advance the idea that El Presidente could fix things if only the liberals, who can’t accept that their (severely flawed) candidate lost, would just pipe down and give him a chance.

Neither Mr. Houser nor Ms. McEntire ever say that Mr. Trump is the answer to all of our problems, but Proud-Patriots.com does.  Wanna know why?

Wait for it…


I swear to God that’s what it says.  Guess what else?

“Donald Trump is going to be bringing God back into this country….He’s put the Lord back in our Pledge of Allegiance.”  I hate to be all insistent that arguments be based upon actual facts and stuff, but the words “under God” weren’t even in the Pledge of Allegiance when it was first written in 1892 (by a socialist minister, no less) or when it was adopted by Congress in 1945.  Just to be clear, though, ever since those words were first inserted into the Pledge back in 1954, they haven’t been removed, there is no bill in the House or the Senate proposing to remove those words, and they’re not going anywhere.  (Also, “Touched by an Angel” wasn’t cancelled because of atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who was already dead at the time, either).  But, okay.

So Donald J. Trump is a pillar of Christian morality? Really?  I have an easier time accepting that there may be benefits to abstinence-only sex ed.  I can think of four Commandments (I’m referencing them as they are enumerated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church) he’s violated without even having to think about it over a bag of tortilla chips:  The Sixth (thou shalt not commit adultery – think Marla Maples); the Seventh (thou shalt not steal – you know – all those vendors he refused to pay in full when he was building casinos in Atlantic City); the Eighth (thou shalt not bear false witness – like, every day) and the Ninth (thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife – “I moved on her like a bitch”).

It’s not just the sinning that makes Proud-Patriots.com’s assessment of Trump as a man of God so ridiculous.  We all sin, some of us more than others.  Also, I don’t presume to see into and discern the contents of Trump’s heart any more than Proud-Patriots.com and its ilk should purport to comment on the contents of mine.  It’s not that he hasn’t set a foot inside a church since his inauguration, or that he can’t recite a single Bible verse save “an eye for an eye,” or that he referred to Second Corinthians as Two Corinthians – attendance at church and an affinity for memorizing passages from the Good Book is not proof positive evidence of a humble servant’s soul.

Rather, what leads me to my conclusion that Trump is as much a devout Christian as I am a dedicated vegan who works out with weights and tractor tires every morning is the behavior that so obviously demonstrates Trump’s belief that he answers to no one – not Congress, not the American people, and certainly not God.  In a million years, I cannot begin to summon the image of Trump, on his knees, hands folded, begging, pleading, praying, crying tears of pain, “pounding the floor and screaming His name,” as Reba tells us we all need to be doing.

Try to imagine that, if you can; I just can’t.  Trump’s charitable works, in proportion to his wealth, are de minimis; in-depth analyses of his “charitable giving” reveal that he’s awfully good at taking credit for the monetary donations of others but that he has not made a single cash donation to charity since 2011 and had made no contributions to his own foundation since 2008.  http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trump-and-the-truth-his-charitable-giving.  Can you name a single cause or disease on whose behalf Trump has ever worked to raise awareness?  Have you ever seen him visit the sick or tend to the hungry (before he ran for office, that is)?

No.  Because Trump has spent his life in service of one thing and one thing only:  The Promotion and Aggrandizement of All Things Trump.  That’s the single thing he cares about (well, that and pussy), and anyone who genuinely believes that Donald J. Trump is about kindness, empathy, humility, forgiveness, service to others, self-sacrifice, and the betterment of mankind, is either the most naïve or else self-delusional person ever to have lived.

No, Proud-Patriots.com.  Just, no.  Donald Trump isn’t a Christian, and Reba McEntire doesn’t think so, either.  The conversion of liberals, or anyone else who doesn’t practice Christianity, to your way of thinking, isn’t going to save this country until it’s got leaders in Congress, the White House, governors’ mansions, and state legislatures who understand that the United States (1) was founded upon principles of religious liberty; (2) is, was, and always will be a nation of immigrants; and (3) is the most powerful, privileged and prosperous country on earth and therefore must act responsibly, with an awareness of the impact its actions will have on the rest of the world.  When we are a nation that cares about the sick and mentally ill; that refuses to stand by while children in developing countries die from preventable disease and malnutrition; that finds a way to open its hearts and borders to those who are desperate for freedom and opportunity; that leads the way in addressing the threat of climate change; then we can truly call this country a nation that espouses Christ’s teachings, or maybe we could just say that we’re a country of decent human beings.

I’m all for people practicing whatever religion makes sense to them, if it makes them happy, as long as they don’t insist that I do it with them, but if ever anyone wanted to “convert” me, they’re going to have to come at me with better ammunition than Reba McEntire (talented though she may be) or the staggeringly incredible argument that Donald Trump “came from nowhere to bring the message of unity, peace and the love of the almighty god.”

Here’s the truth:  Donald Trump came from the 58th floor of the Trump Tower to bring a message of hatred and intolerance aimed at uniting a base that claims to love God even though they could give a crap about most of His people.  He came because he was bored, and because he’s a narcissist, and because those campaign rallies stroked his ego in a way that grabbing women by the pussy and firing D-list celebrities did not.  He came for the sole purpose of increasing his name recognition and profits, and not once prior to November 9, 2016 did he ever think he’d actually win, which was why he never stopped to think about what would happen if the policies he espoused were actually implemented.

He’s not a Christian and he’s not going to save our nation, but if you’re looking to “destroy” something, Proud-Patriots.com, look no further than to the country you claim to love, or to the “man of God” who’s destroying it.  Maybe Reba McEntire could do a song about that – because that would be worth listening to.

Swimsuit Models and the Zombie Apocalypse

March 1, 2015

It’s been a long winter.  We’ve been hit with record cold and snow, and I think I speak for many when I say that those of us on the East Coast are pretty tired of school closings, Thinsulate gloves, and short, gray days that end at 4:30 p.m.  How lucky, then, that just as those of us who live in areas that have been blanketed by snow for the last six weeks are ready to stick our hands in a snow-blower set on “high,” the Girls of Winter have arrived.

I’m talking about the one-two punch of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and the Victoria’s Secret Bathing Suit Extravaganza Television Special.  There’s nothing like these two heaping spoonfuls of well-oiled boobs and butts set against a tropical backdrop of palm fronds and white sand beaches to take your mind off the fact that we will be wearing snowboots and heavy wool sweaters for the rest of our lives, and that the temperature is never going to rise above the freezing mark, ever.  Yes, just when you thought you might have to throw yourself in front of a snow plow, or plunge headfirst into a bucket of ice melt, the SI Swimsuit Edition and the VS Bikini Fashion show are here to drive away your dead-of-the-winter blues.  So, if you’re someone who likes looking at impossibly beautiful women (barely) wearing exceptionally tiny bikinis whilst frolicking in the aquamarine surf, this is good news indeed.  If you’re someone who’s kind of tired of the ceaseless objectification of women, however, not so much.

The SI swimsuit was the brainchild of some (male) editor at the magazine who, over fifty years ago, had a eureka moment when realized, simultaneously, that (1) nothing interesting happens in sports between the Super Bowl and the opening day of MLB baseball (because no one watches NBA basketball or NHL hockey – not anyone I would invite to my house for dinner, anyway) and (2) by the end of January, most Americans are so thoroughly sick and tired of winter that they will eat up anything that provides them some escape from the relentless dreariness of North America in winter.

So this genius – I think his name was Andre Laguerre—said to himself, “how about if we take photos of gorgeous women in bathing suits lounging around in places like Bali or the Caribbean or Mexico?”  Thus, a great idea was born, and every year since, we’ve been treated to an annual parade of beauties sporting the latest in swimwear and showing off their flawless figures.

Not to be outdone, Victoria’s Secret, that bastion of push-up bras and barely-there panties, the same retail genius that first gave us the television lingerie runway show in which supermodels wearing precipitously high heels and very little else (aside from angel wings – and someone is going to have to explain to me, using small words that my tiny female brain can comprehend, the connection between haloed celestial beings and thongs), decided to go high-octane.  This year, VS gave us a late Christmas present in the form of a glossy hour of television featuring supermodels in tropical locales sporting tiny triangles of lycra that barely cover the naughty bits network television isn’t allowed to show.

As between the two, SI is a little racier and has been known to show a nipple or from time to time (I’m thinking of the Cheryl Tiegs fishnet bathing suit that caused such a stir back in the seventies), but VS is perhaps a little sexier, what with the models rolling around in the sand and engaging in the kind of conversation that does little to intimidate the men to whom these sorts of productions are targeted.  But as tired as I, too, am of winter, as much as I, too, am in need of some sunshine and mindless distraction, I feel compelled to say, as I gaze at the lovely Hannah Davis (who, from what I can tell, apparently had to pee just as they were taking this year’s cover photo – why else would she be pulling down her bikini bottoms?), Really? Still? In 2015, we continue to do this?

I’ve been aware of the extent to which woman are objectified by our society since my first year at Mount Holyoke College.  It had not occurred to me prior to that time to question whether what I saw on the pages of fashion magazines or on television was normal or healthy, nor had I ever thought to ask who got to decide what constituted “beauty” or to get angry when the answer turned out to be, in most cases, men. But then I spent four years marinating in feminism and having my eyes opened to the rampant misogyny all around me, and by the time I graduated, I was pretty pissed.

But then I went to law school, and didn’t have time to be pissed anymore, and as I got older and had less time to ponder such questions, I stopped asking them and accepted that we’re all slaves to such societal pressures.

Then I had three daughters, and I got pissed all over again.  It started with Britney Spears in the late 90’s, bumping and grinding her barely legal body into the life of my three young daughters despite my best efforts to shield them from what I considered the antithesis of the kind of women I hoped to raise.  It didn’t end with Britney, and I’ve been fighting what feels like an uphill battle ever since.  Britney’s been replaced by plenty of other scantily clad, gyrating young women, and the fashion industry has continued to push frighteningly thin models upon us while Revlon and Cover Girl show us flawlessly complected beauties and L’Oreal depicts glossy, unfrizzy, even-toned tresses.

I’m somewhat reluctant to tackle this topic because it’s such well-traveled territory that I wonder if there are any points left to be made, and I guess that’s a good thing.  I’d argue, however, that if showing the top half of your vagina on the cover of a sports magazine is deemed an acceptable way to “market” bathing suits, not much has changed.  I mean, when you’re supposedly “modeling” something, isn’t the focus supposed to be the actual item of clothing, and not the orifice it was designed to cover?

It’s no secret that our culture perpetuates ridiculously unattainable standards for “feminine beauty” and that there are about 23 women in the entire country who come even sort of close to conforming to those standards, and then, only after hair, make-up, wardrobe stylist, and Photoshop have worked their collective magic.

We should know by now that none of us measure up to the absurd (not to mention narrow) ideals of perfection we see in magazines and on billboards, on television and red carpets.  Pick the most beautiful woman you can imagine, be she supermodel, actress, or reality television star, and I can probably hunt up, in under half an hour, some picture on the internet showing her without her make-up and in sweats, looking decidedly normal.  Give me an hour, and I can probably find one with pimples or cellulite.  Bottom line? Even the most perfect women aren’t so perfect.

And we all know that, or at least we should, and so one would hope (at least I do) that we, as a nation, would stop pretending that what the media portrays as the ideal of female physical perfection is realistic, or even desirable, so that we could focus on more important things, such as, how does one get a job as a koala wrangler, or, why all the sudden interest in zombies?  But here we are, almost thirty years since I graduated from college, and we’re still being sold the same bill of goods—that is, that unless you’re 5’10”, 115 pounds (more or less), with long, flowing locks, a lovely face, and a flat stomach, you’re pretty much a troll who might as well just put on a burka and accept your lot in life, which is to be unlovely and, therefore, unloved.

I want to be clear that I think these women are beautiful – my god, they’re gorgeous.  Would I like to look like Kate Upton, what, with my 4.0 GPA cup size? Of course I would.  I don’t begrudge these women their beauty.  And, to be perfectly clear, I have no problem with the naked female body (or the naked male body, for that matter).  As well, I have no issue with taking pride in one’s appearance or wanting to look one’s best—male or female.  I own more than a few lipsticks and eyeshadows, I like wearing heels, and I regularly pay a significant amount of cash to hide my gray roots.

But there is no denying that how we present ourselves is in large part guided by what society tells us is attractive, and that the reason most of us take pains to look our best is because of the extent to which we are evaluated solely based upon our appearance.  Thus, it becomes necessary to either accept this fact and do the best we can with what we have in the name of moving successfully through our professional and personal lives, or to take a militant stance by eschewing all the trappings of what magazine editors and the Fashion Police tell us is acceptable, consequences be damned.  Who even knows what we would wear, or how we would style our hair, or whether we would shave our armpits or pluck our eyebrows, if not for fashion magazines and cosmetic companies?  If there ever really was a zombie apocalypse (which, I understand, generally results in poor hygiene, a lack of beauty products and electricity, and the more pressing concern of not being fed on by the undead), I guess we’d have to throw aside all those notions about Botox and bikini waxing.  We’d probably be less attracted to Pilates abs and more intrigued by biceps toned in more honest pursuits – that is, wielding machetes and kicking zombie ass.

It’s sort of sad that it would have to come to that for us to rid ourselves of these deeply-entrenched notions of what is and is not beautiful.  I’m encouraged that, unlike in the 1980’s, when I was having my eyes opened at college, we’ve expanded our ideas about beauty to include women of color and, in some cases, women who weigh more than 120 pounds.  I guess it’s progress that “plus size” is no longer quite the fashion death sentence it once was, though many of the models who identify as such don’t look much different (to me, anyway) than most of the women I see in the course of a normal day.  I suppose I should take comfort when Huff Po features yet another article revealing how extensively Photoshop is used to create images that bear little relation to reality, and how about Keira Knightly, my personal hero, who recently agreed to pose topless only on the condition that her modest breasts not be enhanced, as they were in a poster for an upcoming movie.

So, yes, there’s room for a modicum of optimism that men and women in America may be less inclined to blindly accept whatever vision of female perfection the media tells us we ought to aspire to.  It troubles me, however, that SI and VS think that we, as a society, are so stupid (justifiably so, it turns out) that we are all willing to pretend that the Swimsuit Edition and VS television special are actually about swimwear fashion, when we all know perfectly well that both should come with a container of lotion and a box of tissues, because the people at whom they are targeted don’t wear (or buy) bikinis and wouldn’t even notice if every model in every edition was wearing the same swimsuit, year after year after year.  They’d never figure it out.

SI and VS will continue to foist these lean, long-limbed beauties on us for years to come, because sex sells.  For my part, I’ve tried to raise daughters who care more about their character than their appearance, and I’m hopeful that they will pass the same message along to their children—male or female.  I suppose I should be heartened that my oldest daughter was a bad-ass hockey player at college, that my middle daughter can control an 800-pound horse at a full gallop, and that my wee youngest is working on her black-belt in karate.  While I have to admit that I think my girls are just as beautiful as those SI and VS models, I’m more proud of the fact that in a zombie apocalypse, they, and women like them, would probably be running the show, that’s probably more important than looking good in a bikini.

I’m hopeful that in thirty years’ time, we’ll be laughing at the SI swimsuit edition and the VS bathing suit fashion show the same way we now chuckle over Barbie and those home ec books from the ‘50s where women are admonished to greet their husbands at the door with a martini and slippers, hot meal waiting on the table and children fresh-scrubbed and docile, but I doubt it.  I have a feeling that as long as there are men who like to look at scantily clad women, we’ll be treated to the SI S

Enough About Prom

September 15, 2014

Several weeks ago, I was poised to rant about what I believe to be a disproportionate emphasis currently placed upon the ritual known in the United States as Prom. I got distracted, for two very good reasons, which I’ll explain later, but after catching a few minutes of Katie Couric’s talk show this afternoon, my ire was re-ignited. Here we go:

Let’s talk about Prom—what it should be, what it shouldn’t be. Prom SHOULD be a nice opportunity to celebrate with one’s classmates the end of the academic year and, for seniors, the end of their high school career. The dress code is traditionally formal, as befitting such an occasion. It’s a chance to share memories as well as plans for the future, and it’s a time to begin the process of saying goodbye. Prom is a lovely custom, a charming ritual, a time-honored rite of passage.

That’s what Prom SHOULD be. Here’s what it SHOULDN’T:

It shouldn’t be about spending upwards of $1,000 (dress, tux, flowers, limo, tickets) – the average amount estimated by the “Seventeen” magazine editor guesting on Katie’s show today. A lot of families don’t have that kind of money, and being able to share a special moment with your friends shouldn’t be contingent upon your economic status.

It SHOULDN’T be the high-school equivalent of a wedding. I’m thinking specifically about the disturbing “prom-posal” trend in which teens spend an inordinate amount of time and money trying to one-up each other when they should be studying for algebra, attending soccer practice, or performing in the spring musical. It’s Prom, not marriage, and an invitation to attend a dance—even one where girls wear long dresses and boys wear ill-fitting tuxes—should be a fairly straightforward affair. There’s plenty of time later for grand romantic gestures, and such gestures should be reserved for a sufficiently significant event—like, say, asking another person to spend the next fifty years of their life with you.

And it REALLY SHOULDN’T be, as Katie’s “Seventeen” magazine editor suggested, “the teenage girl’s red-carpet moment.”

You might say that, at the ripe old age of fifty, I’m getting old and crotchety, that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young, and maybe that’s true. But I guess I just don’t think that teenagers (or their families) should be pressured to spend an excessive amount of money on one night. I think a teenager (or the family of a teenager) who has $1,000 to spend on Prom would be far better served using that money to pay next semester’s tuition. I don’t think that teenagers should be encouraged to play at getting engaged when most of them can’t be counted on to reliably take out the trash or empty the dishwasher without being nagged almost to death. And I REALLY don’t think that teenage girls should be urged to spend more than about two hours fixating on the perfect prom dress when they should be focused upon getting an education, setting goals for their future, and beginning to think about how they’re going to change the world.

There’s a lot of money to be made on Prom – the magazine editors, the fashion industry, the limo companies, and the florists, figured that out a while back, just as they figured out how to market the idea of the “fairy tale wedding” to such an extent that today’s nuptials are likely to be bloated, overpriced affairs that sorely tax the finances of the couple or their parents in pursuit of that “one perfect day.” The massive impact of shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Platinum Weddings” have paved the way and trickled down to high school, and just as there are now magazines devoted to Prom, I doubt it will be long before TLC premieres “Promzillas.” It’s a trend that perpetuates the notion that all a woman should want is to wear a pretty dress and be the princess at a party where the only thing she has to do is look good, and the only thing her date has to do is show up.

As I said earlier, my rant on the current state of Prom in the United States was interrupted, for two reasons: First, my daughter, Allison (who is autistic, and who has worked harder than any student I know to earn her high school diploma, at the age of twenty, thanks to the tremendous help and support of our school district’s special education services) was accepted into a very competitive, highly-regarded job skills program for next year. The application process was very challenging for Allison, and it took a lot of courage for her to take what was, for her, the huge risk of striving towards a goal, with the very real possibility that she might fail.

And then my husband and I went on a second honeymoon to celebrate 25 years of marriage, which, teenagers, is no small feat, even when you’re married to a smart, funny, hard-working guy who’s a great dad and who can really rock a pair of Levi’s.

So, my Prom Rant had to wait while our family celebrated (1) the achievement of a brave young woman who’s had to work harder than most to achieve a fraction of what her peers assume as a given; and (2) two people managing to stay together while negotiating mortgages, diapers, orthodontia, and flatulent canines. Those are things worth making a fuss over…and so is Prom, sort of. It’s just not worth going bankrupt, forcing teens to simulate something they aren’t (and shouldn’t be) ready for, or perpetuating the notion that the most a woman can or should aspire to is having a boy ask her to go to a dance or looking pretty.

My daughter, Allison, will attend her Prom this Friday, with a group of five friends, and yes, she’ll have an updo and will be wearing a pair of fabulous shoes. Her older sister is taking her for a mani/pedi later this week, and a dear friend will be hosting a pre-Prom photo session at her home. It’s a big deal for Allison, and for our family, but it’s not the only thing, or the most important thing, or the moment that will define her for the rest of her life. It’s a time to look back on what she’s accomplished, and to dream about what lies ahead, and, yeah, to wear a pretty dress. But that’s it.