Monday, April 30, 2012

Fifty shades of blush

(Warning, if you are used to my school-focused, knitting blogs, this might not be the entry for you.)

A couple of weeks ago I was with a friend at Barnes and Noble. She needed to pick up a book she had ordered. She was so embarrassed about it, that she freaked when we recognized someone. "I hope she didn't see what I bought..." she worried.

Fast forward a few days and I'm at a school event at the same bookstore. My son's school was having a fundraiser and "everyone" was there. An employee asked if we were looking for something in particular. I jokingly said something about how with so many people here, we couldn't get porn (I was kidding) - and she  misheard and said, "oh, I have just the book."

And there it was: "Fifty Shades of Grey". Socially acceptable smut. The gateway book to hard-core porn. In a strange way I felt like I was in a bar, everyone was taking a shot, so I took a turn, put the salt on my thumb, lime ready....

...I bought the book (no shots involved). Yes, I paid money for this garbage... and I wasn't alone! Moms were buying it by the armful! SMUT SELLS! (Even at a school fundraiser).

Does every bored Mom in America wants a taste of the action?

... Review (if you are planning to read it, and you don't want me to give anything away, stop here)...

Fifty Shades of Grey echoed the Twilight Series. Both books take place in greater Seattle. Both are sexually inexperienced girls (one graduating high school, the other graduating college), with a Mom who is far away in the South with "yet another husband" and a good, but distant relationship with their Dads. Both protagonists fall in love with cold, dangerous, wealthy, powerful, older men. In fact, both women fall for men who put them in physical danger and the drama focuses on this danger. Both girls have plenty of other boys who are interested, but but both girls choose the "bad guy". While abstinence is the key word in Twilight's books (at least the earlier ones) - their heat is emotional - the opposite is true in Fifty Shades of Grey. This time sharing emotions is risky, but sex is not taboo. I'm sorry, but when was the last time you heard of people who spend 500 pages having hot sex, but the man refuses the woman to touch his skin? Makes no sense to me. And in Twilight if the couple gets too intimate he (a vampire, of course) will be too tempted to resist the urge to suck her blood (which is permissible once they marry???).

As annoying as I found the main characters in Fifty Shades - and predictable - I'm most peeved at myself. Like a good drink, the more I read, the more addicted I became. I couldn't put the stupid book down! And like the same drink, I had a headache in the end. Like a weekend lost to drink - I lost a beautiful weekend reading this garbage. And like the protagonist, Anastasia (even the name reminds me of Bella) who couldn't get enough of the awful guy she was dating - like Edward, Christian Grey is full of secrets - I felt addicted to this trashy book!

I read it in 4 sittings.

Everything about this book bothered me. As I mentioned, I found it to be a sex-driven copy of Twilight. The working class-studious girl lands the rich and powerful man who is completely out of her league, but only has eyes for her. While the men that would suit her better (and who are also all madly in love with her - and there is a Jacob/Jose best friend character) don't make the grade. In the real world these girls would have had a clue. Or am I wrong: Girls don't want nice, decent men? What does that say about these supposedly smart, supposedly independently minded women?

The biggest difference about this book and the Twilight series (well at least the first 3 books in Twilight - although the honeymoon scene also does this) is that it idealizes violence against women. The book basically sells physical violence as sexual pleasure. Idealizing S&M. For others "vanilla sex" (read the book or search the net if you need a definition) is the only way to go. Mr. Grey - the older man, and Anastasia's obsession - spends the entire book convincing her (who until page 10-ish is a virgin) that he should be "smacking" (beating?) her as part of the foreplay. He starts with restraining her with his tie and it all goes downhill from there. I spent the rest of the time wishing she would get away.

So why did this capture my attention so completely when it made me so uncomfortable me at the same time? I feel guilty that I actually read it. It's a piece of fiction... Good Moms aren't supposed to read smut like this! And feminists certainly can't get absorbed in it... so where does that leave me?

I hope that I can take the advice that Anastasia's mom gives her. "Don't over-think it."  Enough said. Time to get back to my regular life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My "racing heart"

Tonight I really had a jolt of adrenaline! My son and I were driving home from his usual Wednesday activity and I called the house for something. My daughter said she was going to a concert at his school....

A concert? Tonight? A choral concert??? Yes, yes, yes.

I couldn't believe it. No, no no! I've had this concert on my calendar for tomorrow night for many months. I actually double checked it a couple of weeks ago. Still tomorrow...

Apparently the date was changed (or wrong on the district's calendar) and they sent a note home to parents. They also apparently e-mailed a reminder (which I don't remember seeing - my bad).

So I drove insanely fast the final mile to make it home. N changed his shirt. And I sped to the school, with my husband begging me to slow down....

He got there 20 minutes late for the warm-up, but was 15 minutes early for the actual concert.

Everyone made it to the concert.

Why is my heart still racing as all's well that ends well?

Does this ever happen to you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Race day

11 miles done, 2 miles left... Somewhere between Piscataway and New Brunswick on Sunday
I like to run but I don't refer to myself as "a runner". Runners are thin, and committed. Runners watch what they eat. Real runners run no matter what the weather.  They worry about their times and distance. Those are the stereotypes, and I don't fit any of them. Except if you count me thinking "I shouldn't eat this" as I swallow, then I watch what I eat.

But now, despite not meeting these stereotypes, I call myself "a runner"!

(Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger")

But why did I attempt a half marathon at all, if I'm not "a runner"?

All along the path from Busch campus to Livingston, back to Bush and into the main campus past the Campus Center of the College Avenue Campus I worried that my husband and kids could not come to see me finish. Why would they bother to get up early on a Sunday morning, facing traffic, bad parking and rain for me? Should I slow down to give them more time, or should speed up (assuming they wouldn't come, and assuming I could have sped up) so that my friends (who were far ahead) didn't leave without me. If the tables were turned, of course I'd get up to see my husband and kids, but would they do the same for me?

With so much time on my hands to think, I wondered why it was important to me to have my family there at all? Who was I running this for? For them, or me? Who was I trying to impress? Was I vain enough to be thinking about friends on Facebook? Am I that much of a narcissist?

It's easy to say that I'm doing it for me, but the truth is always more complicated. Surely I like that I'm in shape and that now have "bragging rights" that I can run to Somerville and back.

Mile after mile, song after song, I thought about it off and on throughout the race. Then it hit me. With just a few miles left I started to cry with a change of music. Hero came on. It reminded me of those months just after 9/11 and my sense of loss.


I wondered if I'm still trying to get my Mom's attention. Of her four kids I see myself as the least impressive. The least good looking. The meanest. The messiest. Dino was the most popular. Ron was the most talented (arguably still is). Ingrid was the closest to her (she is also talented, just as smart and much prettier than I am). I was the reason Mom "had to marry". I am the most belligerent, the most expensive... and now I'm the least professionally successful, too. In my 40s, I still don't really know what I want to be when I grow up. My professional clock is ticking.

But she's been dead for more than 10 years. Realizing that I was only doing this for myself my emotions changed and I was crying good tears. Even though I wanted my family there at the finish line, I was doing this for me. Only for me. My whole life seems to be built around doing things for other people. As a child I wanted to impress my parents. Then to gain acceptance - from friends, and later, boyfriends. Like being an exchange student, I was only running for myself.

Just before the finish line, I realized that doing something for your own pride/enjoyment/goal is EXACTLY what any parent wants for their children. My mom would have wanted me to achieve goals I set for myself and attain happiness - in whatever form that comes - through my own hard work.

I did this because *I* wanted to be able to run far.  No one pushed me into it. No matter what you, dear reader, may call me. Now I can call myself a runner. My Mom wouldn't have been impressed by my running 2 miles or a hundred. But she would have been happy to know that I set a goal for myself, worked toward it. And gained confidence.

What about my family? Did they come and show their support?

Of course they did. They were cheering for me as I arrived at the finish line. I was so determined to cross it that I didn't see them and so my kids ran into race to hug me.

I'm a runner... because I like running.

(Pretenders, "Hand in Pocket")

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's a beautiful day...

I have so much to write about, the wonderful performances that I saw on Friday at Eisenhower School and BR Middle School, a weekend full of activities, and nice meals, and commentary on our schools.

But it's a beautiful day, so I'm heading out to fold laundry on the deck.

Monday, April 9, 2012


My Mom as a child (right) in Florida
This past year I got a little interested in genealogy. I've always wondered about my background, but never got much farther than looking up names on Ellis Island's website, but that changed this past Fall. I haven't done much with it in 2012, and it isn't a top priority, but I'm sure I'll get back into again someday.

This weekend, however, I re-read my Mom's obituary (which I co-wrote, and you can read here) and I found one of my dad's cousins information (when searching for hers). From a very short obituary I learned he served in Korea, was a CPA and it sounds like he never married or had any children. I thought it was quite sad. But who knows... maybe he wanted it that way?! What do you learn from an obituary anyway? My Mom's obituary mentions her cooking skills, but says nothing that she was very critical of others' cooking which may be the root of my own insecurities! I'm actually a fairly good cook, but in my mind's ear I always hear the whisper of her comment "that's not how you take the fat off of a chicken!" And my sarcastic reply? (I would have been either a teen or a early 20-something) "If the fat is here, the chicken is here and there isn't much fat on the chicken or chicken in the fat, what does it matter how I hold the knife?"

What does an obituary tell about us? I guess mine completely depends on who writes it. If I die young, my sister or friends will probably write it. Maybe my husband... but as the years go on it's more likely our CHILDREN will author it.

But I wonder. What legacy will I leave? Certainly not Mike Wallace's (who died yesterday in his 90s, still working at 60Minutes - the antidote to age discrimination)... I'm sure the words wife, mother, friend, sister, (and sister-in-law - an uncelebrated relationship) aunt... may all make the cut. Would someone think of "avid knitter"... maybe "advocate for school libraries and public education"? Oh - maybe blogger? Hmmm...

Over the next two weeks I have to see if I can make a goal that I keep pushing off. In two short weeks I will be running a half marathon (13 miles/21 km). I can do nine... the goal for two months has been to add a mile a week but injuries, allergies and a bump in my road put me off track. So maybe someone will think "runner" - although "inconsistent runner" would be more accurate.

Cleaning an office, a mundane task
An obituary rarely shares the goals one sets for herself and doesn't make (a run for the BOE, an international career). "She always wanted a neat house... but she wanted to have fun even more."

As I get ready for my upcoming college reunion, with all the successful women who are running companies and saving the world, I realize that maybe my life is just fine. My obituary so far sounds very plain. Homemaker, knitter, writer... but it's not supposed to be a professional resume either (and yes, I have one of those with all the expected verbiage: generated, launched, managed, administered, coordinated). In fact, it's what's not stated that is often the most important. My core beliefs, my goals, places I've been, how do I take my coffee and why do I prefer the color red?

As I go through life fighting demons both seen and unseen, my days are filled with the same unremarkable things that everyone else's life has. My everyday life includes planning what's for dinner or what I will wear. Washing/folding/wearing/rewashing/refolding the same laundry over and over. Complimenting someone random on their hat or talking with a 3 year old child about their favorite books. Baking for a neighbor. Counting stitches on a hat I'm knitting. Then recounting to make sure I was right. Then recounting a few days later when I wonder if I've made a mistake.  Remembering my past as my children live their presents. Walking the dog. Cuddling in a loved one's arms. Things that will never make an obituary... but make up a life.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hour 20

My daughter is in hour 20 of a 30 hour fast as part of her youth group's fundraising efforts for 30 Hour Famine. She is not eating anything for 30 hours. For me, the most important part is that she is learning how it feels to be hungry. I don't feel it is appropriate for young girls (she started when she was 12) to not eat anything, so I allow her - even encourage her - to drink plenty of caloric drinks, including milkshakes. She definitely gets hungry enough, just with a liquid diet, and it is a test of her determination and skill.

I'm proud of their determination. Although this raises funds for the hungry in the 3rd world, it is always important to remember that the hungry live around us.

There are millions of ways to help the less fortunate. Sometimes it helps just to be a friend.

This Spring I've been focused on my own knitting - but if you read this because you are a knitter/crocheter (and many readers are), I encourage you to knit something for Emily's Hats for Hope initiative. It is run by a New Jersey high school student.

Best wishes this weekend to my readers.