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As Promised

25 Feb

And now, because I’m sure you were just vexed in your waiting (you can only revisit whitewhine so many times in a day whilst waiting for an installment here), I bring for your consideration Kim’s Purity Ball – my first whole sketch!  Like a puppy trying to walk for the first time… but you know, it’s a start, and I’m no stranger to being bad at things.  If the future resembles the past, this is the start of me getting better.  So here’s to it!


Kim – 21

Paul – 50’s

(Kim’s bedroom)


Wow, honey.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been in your room.  It’s, uh, different.  No matter where I look, a Jesus is looking at me.  Or a unicorn.  It’s quite a combo.



Isn’t it?


(looks around perplexed and dismayed)

Well, you know, I’m sure you need your privacy and everything.

(startles as he finds another Jesus looking at him, gives a small wave)


I do cherish uninterrupted time with the Lord.


(shifts uncomfortably)

Right.  Okay.  So, your mom and I have been talking and we wanted to, you know, check in about your birthday.  21!  It’s a big deal, right?


What a blessing.  I can hardly believe I’m drawing closer and closer on the road to sacred womanhood.


Right.  I guess so. But wait, you got your period, like, 6 years ago, right?  Whatever, I mean, you can tell me anything you want, sweetheart, you know that.  But, just, you know, I want to be cool, and like, give you your space and everything.  I’m sure it’s not easy living at home with your folks at your age.

(more quietly to himself)

For any of us.


This is what I keep telling you, Dad – I don’t want space.  I want you to protect me and guard my heart as a man of God.  I want to serve you as a stay-at-home daughter!



Is that a thing?  Christ, honey, we’ve talked about this.  You’re a grown woman.  And I’m not a – how did you say that? – man of God.  You know I’m trying to be supportive, and I know everyone experiments in their twenties, but I’ve told you how creepy I think this stuff is.


Well, Dad, you asked me what I want for my birthday, and that’s what I want – a godly father who will take me to the purity ball.


Why do I feel like that’s going to make your mom drink whisky and donate the grocery money to Planned Parenthood again?


No, Dad, it’s wonderful!  It’s just, like, a party!


Oh, okay.  That’s not so bad.  That’s great actually!



There’s dinner, and dancing.  The daughters wear beautiful white gowns, and then the dads sign a pledge to be in charge of their daughters’ sexual purity, and cherish them, and complement their blossoming womanly bodies and stuff, and then they promise to find their daughters worthy husbands to give them to like presents, and each daughter lays a white rose at the foot of a huge cross and then does a special dance of sexual purity just for her dad, and…


…And then we slaughter a goat and get arrested.  Honey, this sounds like an insane cult ritual.  Or a three-way father-daughter-Jesus wedding.  I can’t decide which one I’d be more on-board with.


Dad, don’t you want to be sure I don’t give my special flower away to a man who isn’t worthy?  Don’t you want to celebrate my sexual purity in public, with other fathers?


Oh god.  I just threw up in my mouth.  And the taste makes me feel like I have to do it again.


Dad, it really would mean so much to me. Just think how amazing it would be if you chose a husband for me and then gave me to him, like your best mare in her season, or a magazine you already read, to love just like you have loved me!  Who knows me better than you do, Dad?


KIM!  You!  You know yourself!  I imagine it’s terrifying.


I just, I know that the only gift I want on this special birthday is the blessing of knowing that on my wedding night, I’ll be thinking only of you and all you did to prepare me for it.


AHHHHHHH!  Kim, honey, I love you but this is my absolute threshold of gross.  Can you hear the words that are coming out of your own mouth and that were somehow not stopped by your brain?  I’m putting my foot down.



Oh good, we’re starting!  Of course I’ll obey, you Dad – my wise keeper.


NO!  Kim!  Listen to me!  If you insist on living this unhealthy lifestyle, your mom and I are going to have to ask you to move out.  We can’t take it anymore.



You’ve already found someone?



NO!  That’s it Kim, you need to be on your own.  Maybe then you can sort some of this out.  I’ve tried to help you and have only proven myself to be a colossal failure of a father.  God!  I’m a middle class white guy – how is patriarchy failing me here?!


Dad!  Don’t say that!  Patriarchy isn’t failing!  You’ve just got to really lean into it!


I’ve got to get out of here and you need to start looking for a place of your own.

(turns back to Kim on his way out the door)

My answer is no.  No fucking way am I going to any purity ball.


Where are you going?


To the liquor store for your mother.




3 Jan

And now, without further delay (since I have already been a few days late in sharing this breaking news) I present my 2012 New Years Resolution in two parts:

1.  Become ever more obnoxious

2.  Find new ways to communicate these developments

You might be thinking “Wow.  These are lofty goals!  Liz is already so obnoxious!  And with an ample (if poorly spelled) vocabulary!  And a blog for sporadic communication to tens of readers!  What could she possibly do to satisfy not just one, but BOTH of these ambitions?”

Well, dear readers, prepare for a truly elegant solution:  I have recently matriculated as a student in (so far) good standing at The Second City!  I have a shiny new notebook, and a Pilot V-ball pen and I’m already planning my back to school outfit.  Okay, well, no.  That’s not totally true.  But “notebook” and “good pen” are listed along with tampons, batteries, and a candy thermometer on a list entitled “Go to Target Today, You Lazy Jerk.”  These items are, in case you were wondering, for separate projects.

I have signed up for Writing 1!  And as I’m sure you can gather from all of the exclaiming, I’m feeling pretty excited.  I attended New Student Orientation on Saturday, where I met the former (current?) dungeon masters, and the over-40 pre-discovered starlets who will be my fellows.  I think we might safely be able to add comedy to the list of things we don’t want to see being made (this is not including the prerequisite messed up childhood part, which, if the Lifetime network has taught us anything, is pretty compelling if a little disturbing viewing material).  I mostly sat there deciding which camp I fall under, and eating up all of the high-energy gospel of The Second City.  I think I might be joining a cult.  But still, excitement!

We were gently-t0-ardently urged to abandon all hopes of professional success in comedy (done, and done!).  I can’t quite figure out why they did this, though, considering that this sort of talk is like a speed-protein shake to kids who grew up with any sort of theater experience.  Can other formerly fabulous theater/dance/music kids back me up here?  Is this specific to my time under various dance masochists/motivators?  In any case, for those of you not familiar with this feeling it goes like this:

Respected Mentor With Boundary Issues:  “You’re never going to Make It, ______!  Dancers/musicians/actors/carneys are a dime-a-dozen.  You will work as hard as you possibly can for your whole life and still never Make It.  Wanting it is not enough.  Not by a long shot.  I’m telling you, if there is any other thing that could possibly make you even fractionally as happy as this thing, do that thing instead.”  (there might also be some kind of unpleasantness like “You’re going to end up a whore/waitress just like your mother!  Slap!  Now get back to shelving those cans!” – though nothing like that ever happened to me.  My mom taught Jr. High).  “Making It” is never, ever, under any circumstances, defined.

Aspiring Whatever:  no words.  We watch as steely resolve begins to radiate from ______’s eye-holes.  We know, for certain, that ____ is going to become a (insert whatever thing she wants to become against-all-odds here) or die trying.  We’re excited to watch either way.  This is usually followed by a montage, which, just to slide a feminist nudge in here, is usually fitness themed when a lady is the protagonist.  Hmm……  Even when Elle Woods wanted to become a lawyer, her first instinct was to hit the treadmill to the dulcet tones of a pop-licious song.  I digress.  The point is, the hopelessness only seems to make the aspiring grow stronger in her resolve while also making her feel so goddamn special because she KNOWS she’s going to Make It (still unclear, probably even to her) while so many others aren’t!  She’s high as a kite!  She’s mere steps from taking over the world!

So, basically, I sat in a room with a couple hundred people, many of whom were visibly experiencing the above summarized surge of mania.  I had a little bit of a contact-high, but otherwise, managed to maintain my usual pessimistic, 30-year-old-directionless-mother-of-a-two-year-old outlook.  I did, however, get pretty excited about the prospect of 3 weekly hours of adult (?) time (NOT including the bus/train ride!  Score!) where I’ll get to work on something I’m interested in.  I’ll be sure to share any especially great happenings along the way.



3 Aug

I know, guys.  I’ve been bad about keeping things going around here in the past, but never before has there been such a dearth of chronicled minutiae concerning my daily doings.  I’m sure it’s been hard.  The truth is, I’ve been busy and I can’t think of a darn thing to write about.  I even tried to use a “blog topic generator” – which encouraged me to write about The History of Baseball.  Just…… no.  As I understand it, there are Jets, there are Sharks but at no point are there any snap walks or instructions to “be cool.”  So, obviously, I am not interested.  West Side Story?  Anyone?  Back to the drawing board…

Things that have happened during my semi-accidental hiatus:

I presented a new dance work  at The (very cool and fancy) Dance Union’s Simply Showing!  The performance featured live music by Nathan, my brother Matt, and Ryan Hammer (the later 2 of which just recorded a new album as Younger – check it out!) , human-sized bird’s nests, and many garments from the Village Discount Outlet (Chicago’s finest source for $1 dresses and MORE!).  It also featured several Chicago choreographers who are a Big Freaking Deal.  I felt like everybody’s lucky little sister who got to tag along.  The show on July 11 was preceded by a number of emotional and mental breakdowns and a sincere feeling that this (expletive) thing  just was not going to come together (many – so many more expletives).  Never before have I struggled so much with a piece.  Many times before I have hated what I made, but I always had faith and fun in the process – in my ability to make something great (weird, right? After so many pieces that did not, in fact, turn out great?  I know).  This is a new experience for me, and now that I’m out of it, I feel a lot of gratitude that there are new experiences to be had.  I guess what I’m trying to say here is that my take-away from the whole thing is the gift of knowing that I still have a lot to say and do as an artist and that there is more work ahead of me.  I have also never been as proud of the final product and especially how articulate I was able to be in the panel discussion after the performance.  Usually I just chew gum, accidentally wear my shirt inside out, and stare at one person that I don’t know while stringing together incoherent catch-phrases and maybe sometimes humming.  But this time I feel like I was really able to express some of the things that I think are most important in my art-making and doing and I am pretty impressed with myself (she of complete sentences!  And right side out shirts!).  I was especially nervous because I was invited to show my work by an artist whom I am completely and thoroughly impressed by (Ayako Kato – you’re watching her amazing work, right?).  It went well, all things considered.  I’m hoping to show some more dances again soon (I think Nathan is hoping that I might be an artist in residence in New Zealand when this happens.  I kid – he was super-supportive).  I’m starting to dabble more in performance art and public art.  As usual, I have no idea what I’m doing, really.  Hopefully I’ll have some video to post soon.

I traveled to Seattle for a dear friend’s wedding.  The trip was swell (except the flying bit which involved pills, drinks, and mild to moderate panic – note to self:  must get better drugs next time).  Ida had her first multi-day sleepover at her grandparents’ house, and Nate and I tried to discuss the events of the day on the telephone with our almost-2-year-old.  Good times.  I think after 4 days at her Gigi’s house feasting on snack foods, accruing an impressive haul of new toys, and on-demand walks to the park, Ida was a little disappointed to see us return.  In other news, on our way home the TSA agent asked us if we were going camping.  Not so much what you’re looking for when packing for a wedding.  We have since discussed possible plans for a trip to H&M to deal with our (apparently) shabby wardrobes.  We also discussed the possibility that perhaps we should take sartorial advice from a man in polyester pants with a grain of salt.  Also, for the first time in my life I got rip-roaring drunk.  It was an absolute accident and I still kind-of can’t believe it happened.  The short story is that I was not aware that there were 5 shots of tequilla in each margarita.  I was also pretty thirsty from eating lots of tacos and assumed that since I am a gigantic woman, I could probably drink two drinks.  I’ll spare you the (probably hilarious) details and just say that I will never, ever, overdo it again.  I’m not sure if it’s sad or kind-of awesome that I’d never really been need-help-traveling-on-foot drunk until now.  I’m pretty sure it’s awesome, and I can’t believe that there are people who live a substantial portion of their lives feeling this way.  I did not enjoy the feeling.  I remember everything that happened, but I also spent a lot of time slapping myself in the face on the ride home, which in hindsight, seems strange and unreasonable.  I also threw up in a parking lot and spent at least a half-hour slurr-edly saying “I can’t believe I did this” and asking Nathan if I was going to die (“no”).  I think at one point I did some singing.  Thanks for the good times, Seattle!  It was an accident, I promise.

Apparently Summer’s Eve made some pretty fantastic commercials.  I keep watching, but I, like you, find myself speechless.  I think the most upsetting aspects are the “accents” and obviously carefully calibrated “cultural slang” employed by the vaginal voiceovers.  The quotation marks are used to denote the fact that actual accents and cultural slang were not achieved.  I almost had an accident when Stephen Colbert had the crew blur his hands during a segment (because, you know, they were vaginas).

Ida is saying all kinds of hilarious words of unknown origin (i.e. “are we really saying these words on a regular basis?  And if yes, what does that mean…..?”).  Examples include:  robot, wedgie, and sheesh.  She also says “excuse me” in a way that makes her sound like a tiny Italian grandmother.  She also called a guy out for a “toot” on the train the other day and prompted him to excuse himself.

I started what I image will be a long and difficult process of researching Ida’s education.  At some point perhaps I’ll write more about this (because, again, I’m sure you’re just dying to know what I think) but the short of it is that Nathan and I are seriously considering unschooling/homeschooling/raised-by-wolves-ing Ida.  I’m reading some books on Waldorf education, Montessori, straight-up unschooling and some essays on why school is ruining everything forever.  I’m thinking a lot about the fact that if I opt out, and if everybody who is engaged and excited about education opts out, than education will become even more of a caste system and everything will be terrible forever.  I’m also thinking a lot about my friends who are teachers and how they’re some of the coolest, smartest folks I know who would basically live the rest of their lives in no shoes if it meant they could impart their students with the knowledge and skills to happily navigate the world.  In short, I’m doing lots of thinking and a moderate amount of reading.  I welcome resources from other parents/educators/concerned citizens of the world (hell, if your dog has a recommendation).  I know that everyone (or at least it seems) has a very strong opinion about this topic, so I’m just trying to keep my wits about me and make the best decisions that I can (that last bit is mostly me talking to myself and staving off freak-outs concerning the magnitude of this stuff).

And there might be some other things, but tiny wonder is now awake from her nap and I have made a promise concerning finger paints.

What are you up to these days?




diaper-free diary, phase 3

17 Apr

Phase 3 was off to a great start!  Ida spent the better part of her first diaper-free morning playing as usual and fielding nearly constant inquiries as to whether or not she needed to use the potty (from yours truly).  She would shake her head no, or sometimes, nod her head yes and walk over to the bathroom.  I had taught her how to pull her pants and undies off (through she often told me that she needed help with this because she had/has a hard time remembering that she needs to pull them off of her butt first and just starts yanking tenaciously at the front of her pants, lamenting the fact that no progress is being made).  I had made a special chart a while ago (just in case) for this week-o-potty fun and each time she used her potty and contributed some material, she got to put a sticker along the row for that day.  She’d wash her hands, have her cookie and go about her business.  She knew the drill and was surprisingly adept at moving through the steps.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I couldn’t believe how smoothly the whole thing was going.  I thought briefly about Ida’s first 6 weeks of life (where she only slept while being ferociously bounced, shushed into oblivion, or careening back and forth in her swing – specially designed for toddlers because the infant ones were way too gentle.  And when she only slept for 20 minute stretches).  I thought maybe this was my reward for hanging onto my sanity, albeit just barely.

In the early afternoon on day 1, Ida had her first out-of-potty experience.  We took Maude (our dog) outside to do her business (at which point I thought to myself “I really am managing a lot of excrement these days”).  Ida took one look at Maude shitting in the yard and decided that this was an excellent idea.  With accuracy and speed previously unseen (but quite frankly suspected), she dropped her pants and began peeing in the yard.  Upon finishing, she pulled up her (soaking wet) pants and with a huge smile, clapped for herself and suggested that I should do the same.  In thinking about it, this was no accident, but a carefully planned experiment for Ida.  New undies were selected and the day went on.  She had a few accidents later, and was getting pretty frustrated by bedtime.  She was tired and ready to call it a day.  I was really proud of her for her tenacity and success.  We decided that Ida should wear a diaper at night, so it felt like a little relief to put the diaper on at the end of the day.  I was tired of such a toilet-intensive conversation.

We stayed the course and mostly hung out at home for the next couple of days.  Toileting was becoming pretty routine.  Ida would often have an accident or two in the afternoon (including one hilarious incident where she peed on our friend’s day planner), but for the most part, she was getting the hang of it.  But oh, the accidents.  Though they were few and often small, they were devastating.  It’s hard to describe the specific sadness of Ida’s remorse after wetting her pants.  She is profoundly disappointed by it and often requires some cuddling and cheering up after it happens.  I worried for a minute that maybe I was the one pushing her to do this – that she wasn’t ready.  But I knew she really wanted to learn – she expressed this and continued to express it many times and in lots of ways.  I remembered that my job as her parent is to help her deal with the frustration and disappointment that comes from stretching yourself to reach a goal that seems just a little bit too hard.  I felt good (again, childfree readers may be having some thoughts to the effect of “um?  Are we still talking about learning how to not crap yourself?”).  We were doing a great job.  But such remorse from a tiny person!  It was overwhelming.

The poop was the most difficult component of diaper-free living because Ida seemed a little mystified by how and when this strange event happens.   I often had to really encourage her to spend a little time on the toilet and to push with her abdominal muscles to see if there was any poop that wanted to come out (again, an unfortunate phrase that I’ve adopted).  I’d mimic abdominal pushes with her to help her get the idea.  It’s now been three weeks and she’s got the hang of it.  It often takes a few attempts (she’ll tell me she needs to use the bathroom, sit down and decide she’s all done, repeat several times at 3 minute intervals) but she knows what to do.  I also discovered a few days in that if I put my hand to my ear and said “let’s listen and see if we hear any pee going into the potty” that she would basically pee on command.  What a strange and pavlovian experience.  I’ve avoided the term “potty training” for the most part, but there is some element of rote learning at work.  Ida seems okay with it.

After we’d had a few accident-free days (days 3 and 4 of potty-bonanza), I stopped asking her if she needed to use the bathroom and started saying “Ida, make sure you let me know if you need to use the potty.  Remember, you don’t like to pee or poop in your underpants.”  For the most part, this was a big success.  The late afternoons were always the hardest for her and she’ll sometimes have a tiny accident before making it to the potty.  For the most part though, she’s pretty potty-savvy when we’re at home, letting us know with her signs or by just heading into the bathroom on her own.  We still ask her periodically if she needs to use the potty, especially in the afternoons.

Having decided that Ida was getting a little antsy to get back to the world at large (er, I was), we decided to head to church on Sunday of potty week ( the 7th day).  Ida usually spends some time playing with her friends in the play room and some time in the service with me.  I was a little worried about what the (incredibly cool and loving) caregivers in the play room might think of my diaper-free 18 month old with only signs to communicate her potty needs in a new space.  Throwing caution to the wind (a practice often encouraged at Berry UMC), I just took Ida to the play room like usual, explained our situation and headed to the service.  She did a great job and seemed really proud.  However, when I got there she immediately and urgently told me she needed to go potty.  I took her to the bathroom and discovered that the stalls were majorly freaking her out and that there was really no way for her to sit on the giant seat.  She was having none of it and wanted off the toilet immediately.  Then she peed her pants.  Then I put her back on the toilet.  Then she freaked out again.  Then she peed her pants again.  I felt terrible that she was having such a hard time and was obviously really stressed out about it.  This was not a great moment, and I reminded myself that Ida’s potty-ing isn’t a linear process – that this difficulty didn’t mean that we were doomed, or doing it wrong, or that anything had gone awry.  It just meant that we had a tough moment or two.

Things pretty much kept improving.  I got a little seat that fits on top of a regular toilet for when we’re out and that seemed to really help.  Ida now lets me know when she needs to go, we head over to the bathroom and the minute her little butt hits the seat, she gets down to business.  I hear tell of a fold-up contraption, which would seriously improve my quality of life (insofar as right now I have to haul a toilet seat around on my person whenever I want to step out for more than 30 minutes).

I really enjoyed undertaking this project with Ida.  Watching her learn how to do things and watching her take so much pride and pleasure in such a simple competence is refreshing and fun.  I had fun potty training my kid.  There’s something I never thought I’d say.

I’d run right into hell and back

20 Feb

So at this point, I’m either going to have to do some fancy substitutions, or violate the confidentiality agreement that Maxwell had me read over and sign after the yelling and disclosure of imaginary film school portions of the interview.  It’s just too good.  I’m going to throw caution to the wind here on the off-chance that Maxwell is too busy interviewing other unsuspecting innocents to prosecute.  Also – can we all just take a moment and celebrate the fact that a man with a barely lucid mental state had a sheaf of confidentiality agreements that were mimeographed?  Yes, you read that right – MIMEOGRAPHED.  I’ve thought about this particular detail almost constantly since I escaped my interview ended, and I have come to the conclusion that he must have a mimeograph machine in his place of residence.  I mean, you can’t just breeze into Kinko’s and ask to have something duplicated via mimeograph.  Although, I do think that the Vietnamese place that I used to frequent down the street from our old apartment had one….. Maybe….. I’m not sure what that thing was and frankly, just getting my copies made was sort-of challenging, so I never enquired.

So, on to the part where Maxwell cried.  In sharing more with me about the concept for his project, a truly amazing plot line was revealed.  At one point, Maxwell was telling me that the characters in the show would all go to hell.  He said that this would take place at a Jr. High dance.  He spent a good deal of time right after that reveal cracking up at his own funny (“Get it?  They’re in hell!  And it’s Jr. High!  And it’s a DANCE!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!  It’s so funny!”).  Then the camera pans over to a long line of chairs.  Panning…….panning……panning.  Man!  Such a long line of chairs!  BAM!  Out of nowhere, Anne Frank!  Sitting in a chair!  In hell!  I’m just going to wait for a minute to let that sink in.

Anne Frank.  In hell.

So, just blowing by that awesome choice and it’s inherent comedic perfection, we pan some more and come upon Adolf Hitler in repose.  Naturally.  Now, reading this secondhand account is one thing, but imagine that someone is telling you this story live and in person.  Imagine the kind of cheek-biting, sip-taking, fake-coughing manuevers that you would have to employ to just get through this – to just make it to the end without laughing in poor Maxwell’s face!  I am available for hire, ladies and gentleman, and am obviously capable of some pretty incredible feats.  Skills:  determination, kindness, on-demand coughing.  The list goes on.

Anyway, there sit Hitler and Anne, and slowly, Anne looks over at Hitler, gets up, and offers him her hand (so as to ask him to dance).  This is the moment my friends.  A single tear escapes Maxwell’s eye, slides poetically down his cheek and it’s the beginning of the end.  The tears just keep coming.  And coming.  Through Maxwell’s emotional monsoon, he wales that Hitler and Anne are slow dancing to November Rain.  He’s sobbing “It’s so funny!  But ultimately it’s about forgiveness.  At the root of everything we do – it’s forgiveness.”

Maxwell doesn’t succumb to the social pressure.  He does not buy the hype.  He feels no shame bawling at a cafe while softly singing November Rain to himself/at me.  I was floored, obviously.  I mean, it’s not often that you see someone completely lose control in public, and to see it on so many levels?  For such a sustained duration?  I knew I was having a really remarkable experience.  One that probably (are you there God?  It’s me, Liz) won’t come around but once in a lifetime.  Well, actually in my case, I’ve had several experiences like this – remind me to tell you about the time I transcribed a letter for a non-english-speaker that ended up being a letter to his/her lover regarding a gender reassignment surgery and the potential future of the relationship going forward.  So many gestures.

There is so much more to tell.  So many more tiny details that made this experience truly mind-boggling.  There is the story of how Maxwell got hit by a taxi while riding his bike and got “a very generous settlement”.  There is the incredible tale of his completely unmedicated spinal surgery (“the doctors didn’t want to do it – they were like:  It’s never been done!  but I convinced them.  I mean, look at me!  I can take it, you know?”).  There was the part where he asked me to guess his daily pain level on a scale of 1-10.  Guess what?  It’s a 10.  He yelled, he cried, he made a lot of shit up.  And at the end of the day, I’m pretty much in the same boat.  So here’s to Maxwell – the best, most insane interview in my experience to date.

I didn’t take the job (he did offer me a position, but it was never made entirely clear to me what I would be doing), but I think it was a totally worthwhile adventure.  That – right there – is my life in a nutshell:  A series of totally worthwhile adventures that never lead to gainful employment.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand scene.



27 Jan

That, for those not so quick on the uptake, is the sound of my head hitting the table.  Seriously?  Is this for real?  And then I remembered…..

Several years ago when I was working as the owner and director of a local dance education center in Mid-Michigan, we had a near-miss with a similar incident.  I tacked up all kinds of posters at the studio depicting opportunities for our students (and their families) to see live performances.  Now, being that we were living in Mid-Michigan, many of these were livestock-centric, or featured monster trucks, but just the same – performances.  In the immortal words of Ms. Judi Swartz, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

In any case, at one point there was a poster for a performance of The Vagina Monologues by a student organization on our local university’s campus.  I didn’t think twice about putting it up – who would?!    Suzi’s mommy, that’s who.

I guess I always knew that vagina was a dirty word, but it wasn’t until mommy drove the point home for me that I really understood the damage it could do to her pre-literate (fingers crossed?) daughter’s young mind.  That poster needed to come down immediately!  Do we have any idea the ramifications of such foul language on a child?  Are we also showing porn in the dance classes?  Does this show also feature livestock and monster trucks?!  So many good questions.

Being the wildly irresponsible crotch enthusiast that I am, I said “to hell with it – who cares about Suzi’s wellbeing! VAGINA!  VAGIIIIIIIIINAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!” and left the poster up.  Oh wait…. no, I remember now.  I seem to recall that I said something about how “vagina” wasn’t a “swear” and didn’t  constitute “foul language”.  I said that I really hoped to god that Suzi had heard that word before, and that if not, I was pretty proud that she would at least see it (the word, my friends – come on, hang in there) on a poster here.  I also may have mentioned something about how Suzi might want to steer clear of medical school…. really school of any kind that doesn’t involve a modesty hood and iron underpants.

Needless to say, that last bit was not well received (and is probably an indicator that while I’m great with kids, parents are not always my forte.  What can I say?  I like the smart ones….).  Also probably needless to say, I left that poster up for at least 6 months after the show had closed, just for my own personal satisfaction.

Community, but…..

27 Dec

I just started reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  Now, before you lose your mind, and decide that I’m one of those people, let me assure you that the term radical is fully employed here.  Hayes is not advocating for any kind of cloistered, “keep sweet”, silent and supporting-role kind of life for women.  Feminism isn’t just a consideration, but the genesis of Hayes’s thought.   She doesn’t necessarily envision women as the ones to be doing this homemaking.  She’s mostly just uncovering and celebrating a network of people who have decided that Wendell Berry had the right idea – that we should try to make lives that are productive rather than consumptive and that we should focus on being good to people and the earth.  Keeping a really nice home (which to me has never meant anything about size or perfection or whatever) has always been really important to me.  I like to live in a nice place, with delicious food, and traditions, and good vibrations and it’s nice to read about other people who value those things too (and, who aren’t, well, you know, crazy).  People who want to find ways to make a wonderful life for themselves and their families without wrecking the world – even making it better.  Anyway, I digress.

I mention the book because it is bringing up all kinds of interesting ideas for me.  Firstly, it appeals to my growing sense that I want to live in community.  Except when I don’t.  Let me clarify.  I envision a space – sometimes it’s a 6-flat in the city, and sometimes it’s a farm in rural Michigan – where I’m living in a larger group of people with my family.  My family has our own little spot – an apartment or a little house – but there are community spaces too.  Everyone is contributing in their way.  For me, this means a lot of cooking, some creative making of things (for practical purposes and maybe art), taking care of Ida, participating in some kind of radical school co-op, and tending to earth-based projects like gardening or farming (says the girl who has never successfully kept a houseplant alive) tending to livestock, and definitely butchering – which I have never done, but will hopefully start learning soon.  I know I’m going to be awesome at it – the butchering that is.  I envision people to raise kids with, fellow adventurers for Ida, and general support – you know, community.

It’s a beautiful life the way I imagine it.  Everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do.  There are enough people so that no one has to take care of their kids when they’re sick, or do things alone that are easier with other people, or figure hard things out in a vacuum.  Everyone works hard.  Everyone is nice.  Everyone is happy.  Things are fair.  Money is magic.

Except…. what about how I like to sometimes read a book all day and mostly ignore my responsibilities?  Or what about how I do really uncool things sometimes?    Things that I wouldn’t want any of my hip, community friends to know about?  Or what about how I sometimes want to keep shopping at Target?  Or driving my car?  Or ordering pizzas?  Or netflix?  Are you allowed to have netflix in the community?  Even if you’re using it to watch crap tv?  Or what if I still want to celebrate over-the-top-commercial-Santa-loving-Christmas?  And what about those times when I want to be a hermit – not because I don’t love people, but just because I really like being alone?  What if the community people hear me and Nathan fighting… or worse…..?  What about how I only like to share on my own terms?  How I sometimes resent demands on my time or resources?

I don’t know how to negotiate all of this – my desire to live this sort-of utopian fantasy combined with all of my reservations and THEN combined with knowing a little bit about the way that shared efforts can get really ugly?  I really want to live in community, but I sometimes feel like in order to do it, I need to be a totally different person.  She’s someone I really want to be, for sure.  But I’m not her and truthfully, if I really wanted to be her, wouldn’t I be by now?  It’s overwhelming.  But even still, at the end of thinking about all of these things, my brain is still scheming…. still imagining my little shed where I’ll smoke meat (or, my little Chicago back-porch), Ida running around with other children, finally feeling like I have enough people to cook for, helping teach, helping grow, just plain helping.  Making something beautiful out of my little life – contributing to something rare and special.  Anyway, I digress…