Friday, March 19, 2021

WARNING: WOMEN ON THE MOVE

I have to share a story about my trip to Ireland…NOT because it’s about Ireland and we just celebrated a GRAND St. Patrick’s Day, but because two things this week have been pretty triggering for me: the murders of six Asian women in Atlanta at the hands of some schmuck who was “suffering” from sexual addiction, and this meme that popped up in Facebook this week…


I was visiting a city in the south,  and a pretty well-known poet, at the behest of his uncle whom I knew, set up a poetry reading for me. Tom (not his real name) had set up this reading in a downtown pub. I can’t remember the name of the pub, so let’s call it O’Flynn’s, starting at 9 p.m. that night. I didn’t have a car in Ireland, so I was hoofing it or taking taxis everywhere.

Early in the day, I texted Tom to ask for O’Flynn’s address. Much texting back and forth ensued, and I’ll never know the story on O’Flynn’s, but Tom never did give me an address. He told me it was “right around the corner” from my hotel, inside another business, and I could easily walk there. I went downstairs to the hotel’s front desk and asked the clerk to help me locate this place. She couldn’t find it. She guessed it was one of two possible locations, but she couldn’t be sure. I texted Tom again and asked for a street address so I could GPS. He didn’t give me one and said, instead, just to “head down XX Street, and you can’t miss it.”

So (1) I was a WOMAN traveling alone not just in an unfamiliar city, but an unfamiliar country; (2) It was after dark; (3) I was supposed to meet a man I’d never met and didn’t know; (4) I was in the city centre; (5) I was walking; and (6) I had no idea where I was going – I could set out in ANY direction, so vague were the directions, and never find the place.

Finally, I texted Tom and told him thank you, but I was staying in. I didn't know if this was to have been a “featured” reading, part of an open mic, or what kind of event it was. I’ll never know because Tom no longer speaks to me, declaring me “rude” and “inconsiderate” for canceling. It still bothers me, not because Tom decided I was rude—I’m a big girl and can take not everyone liking me—but because Tom, like SO MANY MEN, couldn’t or wouldn’t try to understand WHY I canceled. He didn't GET IT.

It’s so much easier for men to move about (especially white men) that many, I think, can’t imagine feeling vulnerable or being house-bound by fear. Like almost every woman I know, I’ve been accosted, confronted, and abused (only emotionally, for me, praise the goddesses) by men throughout my life. I’m not sure Tom could see the forest for his white male privileged trees.

In spite of still being angry that Tom, a well-educated man and gifted poet who, in the age of Me Too should have known better (or should have offered to pick me up), DOESN’T know better or wasn’t sensitive enough to empathize, I hope we can meet again someday and mend that fence. I love his poetry, and I think he’s an important voice in contemporary Irish poetry. 

I also think that until MEN care about and work for the safety of women, we’d better keep the Wolverine claws (pepper spray, personal alarms, lifeguard whistles, etc.) handy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Love Letter to My Fat

Chalk it up to the pandemic (a YEAR now), quarantine, winter (it’s -9 this morning…yes, you read that right), or a complete lack of my favorite foods—carbs—because I’m 8 months into yet ANOTHER diet. Or, as diet gurus like to say nowadays, “WOE” or “way of eating.” WOE is accurate, too, as in woe is me. Whatever the cause, my patience is, as Monty Python famously said, “wafer thin.” And I realize that often, this blog is a way for me to articulate and examine my own frustrations, so…I wanna talk about FAT. AGAIN.

In America at least, we’re obsessed with weight. In fact, weight has almost become a habitual conversation starter. Eavesdrop on any discussion, watch TV for an hour, go to the doctor FOR ANYTHING, and there it is—she’s gained weight…he’s lost weight…she looks better thinner/fatter…have you SEEN how much she’s gained/lost…her face looks puffy…his face is too thin…that shirt makes her/him look too fat/thin, please step on the scale IMMEDIATELY.

We don’t care, or at least not as MUCH, about a person’s soul, needs, accomplishments (unless they’re weight related), compassion, back-stabbiness, decoupage skillz, or their ability to ID sharp-shinned hawks at 350 yards. We care about their weight gain/loss ratio. Their "before" and "after." And of course, women are disproportionately targeted for fat comments and shaming, but that’s another can of vipers, and you DON’T want to get me started…

I’m someone who was thin and wispy until my child-bearing years. Then, by INTELLIGENT DESIGN, I packed on reserves: If I had to survive an Arctic blizzard, by the thunder gods I’d be able to keep my offspring warm until spring. And if the mister missed his wildebeest and couldn’t bring home the bacon, I’d still be able to nurse the babies, thanks to my body’s voluminous fat warehouse. Or, if a mastodon mashed the mister, I’d have that healthy, baby-factory bod the other men would club each other for, et voilĂ , I’d get my genes passed on.

Which Adele is happier? kinder? most compassionate?

I’m laughing a little, but I’m also noticing that the people who MAKE all these remarks—who JUDGE others by their kilos and stones—are almost always THIN, and effortlessly so. Or, they’ve worked their arses off to ACHIEVE thinness and now have the right to judge every poor fat slob who hasn’t, kind of like the way people who inherit money bitch about poor folks needing to “pull themselves up” by their fictitious bootstraps. Forget that weight is usually an amalgam of any number of 1734 contributing factors—genetics, hormones, unrelenting stress, insecurity, psychology, sexual abuse, occupation, co-conditions, illness, medications, other traumas, social and familial conditioning, weather, olfactory memories, cell memory, barometric pressure, natural Girl Scout Cookie resistance, past life experience…you name it.

Also, I DO NOT want you or anyone else feeling sorry for me. I'm avoiding carbs to keep my triglycerides and blood sugar down, and I've lost like 5 lbs, which, for you skinny people, is like not eating that ONE Dorito. I know it's hard for thin people to believe, but I LIKE my body. In fact, my lumpy, bumpy body has seen me through periods of unromantic hippie poverty, a 30+-year marriage, the births/nurturing of three of the world’s best humans, a 25-year career, and a solo tour of Ireland that yanked me out of my comfy sedentary life and forced me into moving my two feet back and forth ad infinitum as a means of propulsion (I didn’t lose a lb, BTW—probably my Celtic genes hugging that fat like a bag of Twinkies, in case of famine).

You can SAVE your “IT’S SIMPLE MATH,” too: Calories burned ≠/> calories consumed. If humans were a product of simple math and logic, we humans wouldn’t be in ANY of the messes we’re in.

So next time you see a weather man, game show host, old high school friend, person who used to check you out at Hy-Vee, or really, ANYONE, and the first thing you can think to say has something to do with weight, you are a weight-shaming bigot, and I’m gonna stuff all 15 Scottish shortbread cookies (imported from Scotland, not the cheap imitations, because butter) that I carry in my pockets, right in my BIG FAT MAW and make you watch me chew. Very politely.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Retirement: The Becoming Years

RETIREMENT. Holy buckets. Did I ever think I’d do this? No, I thought I’d teach college English till they pried the grading pen from my cold, cramped hand. But as of May of this year, I will retire from my full-time, 25-year teaching career. (I can’t even believe I’ve had a 25-year career, since Inner Me is still in her 20s.)

I’ve been working since I was 14, when I started as an A&W carhop. For those too young to know what that is, I carried trays of food to people’s cars and hooked the trays on their rolled down car windows. In a brown and orange mini dress. I once served fried chicken and root beer to a man who jumped the parking curb, drove his Caddy through the plate glass storefront and up to the counter, then rolled down his window and ordered. When I looked wide-eyed at my boss and asked what I should do, my boss said, “Get him his chicken.” Ah…good times.

From that time on, I had brief jobless stints, but mostly I worked: waitress, fast-food counter, bartender, janitor, lunch truck driver, bank teller, retail clerk, life skills assistant for adults with disabilities, nursing assistant, surgical prep tech, Extension Office secretary, gig musician, and eventually, college instructor. Much of that time, I was also a full-time parent. Sometimes a single parent. Some of that time, I also took uni classes part- or full-time. That’s about fifty years of wearing what is now a sky-high stack of hats.

It’s scary, I’ll admit. This might surprise you, but I am NOT a relaxed person. I am a compulsive, hyper-responsible worker. I’m not good at “idle.” If I haven’t mentioned it before, I suffer from the HHN-i gene (for more on this anomaly read https://uncanneryrow.blogspot.com/2011/05/rescue-me.html), that makes it super-hard for me to CHILL. But no worries. I’m already busy compiling a TO-DO list for my retirement years (note the timing of some of these depends on our ability to finally be decent, caring human beings and do what we must to tackle the pandemic). In my ideal post-career world, here’s some of what I’ll be doing… 


1. Write. Write. Write. 
2. Read. Read. Read (stuff I WANT to read, not stuff I HAVE to read). 
3. Improve my DAILY meditation practice, my antidote to the HHN-i disorder. 
4. Sing & play guitar/ukulele every day. Work on the uke version of "Smoke on the Water."
5. Hang out with my kids and grandkids until they start dropping hints about "bad fish" or "privacy" or "how much your birds miss you."
6. Take many road trips with Ray: Porter Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD; Spam Museum, Austin, MN; an endless list. 
7. Learn Irish (already started on both Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. After almost a year, I can say “Ta tortair agam” (I have a turtle) and “Ta leabhar si an nuachtan” (she reads the newspaper). Handy. 
8. Travel with Mom, wherever/whenever she gets a hankerin’ to go. 
9. Visit out-of-town family & friends. 
10. Go camping. Camp in the Badlands, and stay up late enough to hear the coyote choir.
11. Get back to my Good Old Irish Walks. 
12. Wait…go back to Ireland! Walk THERE! Pleasepleaseplease… 
13. Knit; finish Christmas gifts by Christmas. 
14. Have long, chatty, catch-up coffees with friends. 
15. Raise canaries. Stare at them. Talk to them. Post a nauseating number of photos of them. 
16. Kayak and garden during South Dakota’s lovely three-week summer. 
17. Perfect my mad napping skilz. 
18. Get down and dirty with Ancestry.com. Find my Irish Donegal ancestors.
19. Teach an online class now & then. 
20. Really clean my house (unrealistic pipe dream). 
21. Unpack the boxes still in the basement from the last move (7 years ago…no rush). 
22. Declutter, unburden, simplify, minimize, downsize. 
23. BE instead of DO. 

It’s a pretty ambitious list, I know (Note to Self: see #23 above). I’m also one of the world’s great procrastinators, so the list could end up on a bulletin board shoved in the back of a closet, behind my senior prom dress (“Killing Me Softly” was the spotlight song), or the fringed leather jacket I lived in throughout the 70s, or the tub of PEZ dispensers (Note to Self: see #22 above). 

In my late teens and early 20s, I had a vision of myself: One day I’d become an idealistic, poor-but-happy, guitar-playing-Joni-Mitchell-singing, recluse hippie writer. Maybe it won’t work out EXACTLY as I imagined, but I feel like I’m about to bring that vision to life. And it only took me a lifetime. ;)