July 29, 2014

This Week In Old-Timey Patriarchal Bullshit: Columbusing Women's Stories

My husband is a joke-repeater.  While the phrase may be unfamiliar, the idea is not, and you'll likely recognize it before you're even finished reading the next sentence.  A joke-repeater is one who hears a funny thing someone else has just said in a group, says it louder, and then gets all the credit for the hilariousness of the joke.  The decent thing about my husband and his terrible habit is that he acknowledges that he's a joke-repeater and, when called on having joke-repeated, will laugh at himself and give credit where credit is due.

"Ha ha, darling wife!," he'll jocularly exclaim.  "So I have joke-repeated your flawless and golden humor again!  I am a silly man rife with flaws, and I acknowledge that joke-repeating is but one among many.  How you love me after all these years I'll never understand, and I am forever grateful for your continued affections!"  Then we make out.

And this acknowledgement is why I don't smother him in his sleep after decades - DECADES! - of his joke-repeating.

Clint Edwards and the Washington Post don't get off so easily.

On July 21, the Post published Edwards's piece titled "I blamed my wife for our messy house, I was wrong for so many reasons" in its On Parenting section online.  Truly, it is a benign little self-congratulatory realization of the obvious fact that his wife's job as a stay-at-home mother, just as his job as a professional writer, does not automatically guarantee a magically clean house.  It might even do some couples some good because it follows Edwards's transformation from an entitled critic ("Shortly after she became a stay-at-home mom, I started getting really judgmental. I started looking at the state of the house and thinking, 'You have one job! One job! To take care of the home.'") to an enlightened and understanding partner ("I stopped looking at the dirty dishes, assuming that they were evidence of Mel sitting around all day. Instead, I got up myself and started washing the dishes. I realized that this was not her mess, but our mess, and I started pitching in more.").  I imagine that this is not a transformation that many male partners are not able to make as quickly or whole-heartedly, if at all.  So, for any change that this piece is able to promote, then I say thanks for "pitching in."

But the content of the piece is not really it's main problem or why it earned the inaugural OTPBS acknowledgement.  The story's main flaw is in who is telling it and why that teller's voice and perspective is privileged enough to warrant publication.  Every stay-at-home parent, over 97% of which are women according to the US census, has faced the choice that Edwards's wife, Mel faces: Whether to devote time and energy to cleaning the house or raising the kids.  That overwhelmingly female percentage renders the story that Edwards writes about stay-at-home mothers facing unfair and undue judgment for having a messy home a woman's story.  So why on earth was Edwards the one telling it?  And if the Post was eager to publish a story about sexist perceptions of what constitutes women's work and men's work, and, worse, what constitutes men's rights to the enjoyment of the fruits of what have been traditionally women's labors, then why did they seek a man to tell that story?  Of all the women's voices heard in smaller venues - conversations, parent's groups, online forums, blogs - telling the same exact story that Edwards tells on his wife's behalf (To be fair, he does quote her once in the story; chivalry is not dead!), why does Edwards's voice earn the privilege of being amplified by the Post?  It is sickening to think that the Post assumed, correctly or incorrectly, that a male writer was required to legitimatize and validate a woman's story, and yet it appears that that was the unique intent of the piece.  And, while I'm grateful that Edwards did come to value his stay-at-home wife, and thereby all stay-at-home parents, as more than a housekeeper, it is neither his story to tell, nor his place to tell it.  It just isn't his joke to repeat.

"Columbusing" is a new term floating around that generally refers to white people "discovering" something that has existed in other ethnic cultures for ages.  Perhaps a gendered corollary is required to accurately describe what Edwards and the Post are doing in this piece.  (Lovelacing perhaps?  The grammar isn't parallel, but I'll be damned if we call it Babbaging.).  Whichever name we apply to it, it is a prime example of the kind of Old-Timey Patriarchal Bullshit to which we should all say "enough."

November 6, 2013

I Fucking Hate: David Trumble's "World of Women" Cartoon

First things first, look at this.  LOOK AT IT.

From Left:  Marie Curie, Anne Frank, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Harriett Tubman, Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, Jane Goodall (AS A GODDAMN PINUP), Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks, and Susan B. Anthony.

What you just saw, in case you're the kind to quickly scroll down to the pictures and captions instead of reading the actual words (in which case, why are you "reading" this blog, silly?), is David Trumble's satirical approach to criticizing the broad, flattening strokes with which Disney paints its heroines by applying such strokes to actual, real-life heroines.  So, I Fucking Hate it, and you are meant to, too.  What you're supposed to hate is Disney, but in this case Disney isn't the only villain.  Trumble, although he has wonderful intentions of visually and wittily telling us all what we already know about Disney princesses (Does anyone over the age of 4 really think that they're unique and multifaceted role models?), instead winds up joining ranks with them and perpetuating their silliness.  He intends to be satirical, as he eloquently writes in his explanation of the piece, but the piece as it stands alone merely reduces amazing, multidimensional, human women into bizarre caricatures of themselves.  "Holocaust Princess" does not criticize Disney, but rather offends the viewer and earns Trumble a spiky seat in Hell.

Now, David Trumble does not know that he's just abundantly and jaggedly spiked his Hell-seat because his intentions, he says, are good.  He seeks through this work to criticize the simplified version of female heroism peddled so successfully by the Disney Princess marketing empire.  "The statement [he] wanted to make" with these cartoons "was that it makes no sense to put these real-life women into one limited template, so why then are we doing it to our fictitious heroines?"  But, friends, that's not what his work actually does.  After all, if what Disney does with fictional women is shitty, then how is the mere emulative application of this same shitty practice satirical?  His theory might be well-intended, but his execution is wildly unsuccessful.  Yes, his pieces anger me because of their diminution of powerful women, but they also anger me because they're bad at what they're trying to do.

After all, if this representation in and of itself isn't satirically criticizing the people who, in creating it, believe that it is just or at least justifiable...

NOT satirical, JUST racist bullshit.  (Also, I just learned that this character's name is Chief Wahoo.  CLEVELAND!  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?)
... then how is this representation in and of itself satirically criticizing the people who, in creating its princess inspiration, believe that it is just or at least justifiable?
NOT satirical, JUST sexist bullshit.
Answer:  It's not.  What it is doing is imagining Rosa Parks's cleavage.
Now, perhaps Trumble could have made his point had he done something with his cartoons and then reported on their reception.  For example, what if he had shown pictures of these princessifications' real-life counterparts to children and gotten their responses to their images and then compared these to responses to the princess versions of the real women?  That would be interesting and enlightening to read.  Or what if he included a diagrammed version of the ways in which he reduced each woman to a flat, vapid representation ("Subtract courage, experience, and grit; whittle waist; add manic smile and disproportionately bulbous eyes") along with the princessification?  Or, simply, what if he asked people to identify the women he dishonors with his cartoons and then compared those recognition rates with the recognition rates of Disney princesses.  Now that could be a telling criticism.  Dammit, man, do ANYTHING with this work but ask me to look at these self-righteous, unthinking pieces of sexism identical to any other reduction of strong females and heroic female traits into caricatures and call it feminist satire.

September 24, 2013

This Thing I'm Doing: Billing My Time, CHRISTMAS EDITION!

Hey, peeps!  What's the haps? 
Why don't you take a seat while I'm flappin' my trap?

O.K.  Enough freestyle.

So, in the quest to make the most of my time so that I can have more time to myself, by myself, and for myself, I'm doing another time management experiment.  It's similar to the one I've already described on this here blog, but if that one can be called Billing Time for Me, then this one can be called Billing Time for Jesus.  (And if you read those last four words in a cartoonish southern accent, then you are my people.)

I am thrilled and a little afraid of what awaits me in any potential afterlife to report that Jesus gets far less time in this plan than I do.  Sorry, dude!

I'm forgiven, but only because of my dope rhymes.
In fact, in contrast to the 10 - 12 hours per week minimum I'm striving to spend on self-care, I'm going to cap my Christmas prep time at 10 hours total.  Period.  End of story.  10 hours, and then I drop the mic like a Smarty Mutha.
Sound Grinchy?  Here's why:
Ha, ha!  Just kidding!  I'm not the Grinch (although now you're trying to remember ever having seen me and the Grinch in the same room together, aren't you?).  In fact, I'm going to cap the preparation because, thanks to my perfectionism and workhorsiness (NEOLOGISM FTW!), Christmas prep for me is a never-ending task whose adherence to the Law of Diminishing returns I test and am defeated by each year.  The end result is that people enjoy the festive work I do as much as they would have enjoyed festive work requiring roughly 40% less effort on my part, and I hate Christmas.  My ability to turn any joyous event into a forced march is staggering, and Christmas is really my time to let that little light shine.  But not so this year, friends!  This year I will not fling myself into bed at 7 pm on December 25th muttering "Thank Christ" in gratitude that His birthday is almost over!  Oh, no!  This year I will mutter "Thank Christ" in gratitude for His birthday being AWESOME and me having pleasantly and pleasurably half-assed my way through it.
Made 'em myself!
Now, I've already stated that I'm not the Grinch, so I can't very well act like one by refusing to celebrate.  Thus, actual attendance of family Christmas events is not included in the 10 hour budget.  And things I like aren't included, either, so decorating the tree with my loves and drinking cocoa in front of the fire and the tree aren't counted, either.  But Christmas shopping?  Consider yourself tallied!  Holiday cooking?  Every .6 hours marked!  Addressing Christmas cards?  Tick tock tick tock!  Designing and ordering our traditional photo calendar?  Consider that clock punched!
And 10 hours isn't much.  Shoot, that isn't even one of my workdays if you don't count my stories-watchin', bonbon-eatin' time.  Thus, I have to be ruthlessly efficient.  For example, some folks already have presents from us ready to go for the plain, simple reason that I thought of something acceptable, bought it, and now I'm done.  Sure, I might stumble across a different, more ideal gift between now and Christmas, and I will look that gift in the eyes and say "Tough Titties, gift!  That's what you get for being late!"  So, it's highly unlikely that anyone's getting a perfect present (honestly, it's unlikely that they ever were despite my best efforts to be valedictorian of gift-giving), but they will get the knowledge that I didn't stay up too late anxiously scouring the internet when I could have been sleeping or reading or writing or otherwise giving myself the gift of my own time.
And I'm not making anything.  We have Target for that.
And I'm no one's Secret Santa.  We have Regular Santa for that.
And I'm not filling my house with the aroma of freshly-baked pumpkin pies.  We have Yankee Candle for that.
But I will be at SLB's firm's holiday party.  Because they have an open bar for that.
Also a Renaissance Faire-themed buffet.
Because, Goddammit, I deserve to enjoy the season as much as anyone.  Because I'm a person, too.  And it's time to start acting like one.
10 hours.  The anti-Malcolm Gladwell.  BRING IT, FATHER CHRISTMAS.  You're no match for a Smarty Mommy.

September 11, 2013

This Thing I'm Doing: Billing My Time

Hello, friends!  It’s Ungodly O’Clock in the morning here at the beautiful Smarty Mommies west coast hub, and I’m as happy as a clam to be up.  Why?  BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE IS.  It’s part of this new thing I’m doing where I actually, intentionally, purposefully make some time for myself within my own life. 

Do you know how much I hate myself for having written that sentence?  No?  Then let me explain.

You know those minivans with the license plate holders that read “Mom’s Taxi?”  I traditionally have hated those along with those who proudly hold their plates within them.  Also, you know those articles in all mom magazines (I’m looking at you, Family Circle!  Pound it out, Redbook!  High five, Parents!) about how mothers forget their own needs in favor of taking care of the needs of everyone around them?  Yeah, FUCK those self-loathing drones, right?  Ha!  Well, then fuck me because I’ve become one of them.  And the Mom’s Taxi plate holder isn’t on my car, but I’m starting to understand the sentiment and the wry, sad smile one must cry through when screwing it in to one’s bumper.  Because, shit howdy, if it hasn’t gotten all sad SAHM up in here this last summer. 

She has no face.  If you think this is a merit badge rather than a total tragedy, then this blog might not be for you.
It’s a frustrating, but simple equation. 

  1. SLB works ungodly hours and is often not home in time to see the girls before bed, let alone help with their care.
  2. I pulled Livy out of Pre-K for the summer to do some homeschooling.
  3. Maddsy went from pleasantly lumpish little baby to full-on mobile beast.
  4. Traditionally, we don’t hire sitters around here unless there’s an emergency or a very special event.
  5. I’m a completion junkie with very high standards, and, with small children and limited practical help, completion of many tasks and high standards are impossible to come by.  Although I understand this, it generally doesn’t prevent me from white-knuckling through attempts at flawless order and perfection as a rule.  Oh, and I have OCD (not the cute thing that people say when they like to color code their notes or hang their clothes all facing the same way, but rather the ugly thing that sometimes makes me Bat Shit Crazy).  I suppose you could guess at that from those last couple of sentences.

And KABOOM!  I’m a one-woman Mom Show with no time for myself at all.  There are people who can handle that kind of self-erasure from their lives, I assume, but I am not one of them.  It was both a very satisfying summer in the amount of time I was able to spend with both girls, and I was left repeating the phrase “I have nothing.  Oh, God, I have nothing of my own,” in a breathless panic at the end of most days.  Overly dramatic?  Probably.  Laughable in years to come?  Maybe.  Sustainable?  Absolutely not, no, nuh-uh, not a goddamn chance, nope.

So, I’m experimenting with following my husband’s time management lead and “billing” my time (Oh, didn't I mention that I'm married to Mitch McDeere?).  I suppose that some would call this drawing up a time map, or just plain old temporal budgeting, but the idea of billing is easy for me to understand.  The idea is this:  Every week I MUST spend 10 – 12 hours on myself – on my own projects, goals, friends, values, and interests.  So, I have to write.  And I have to exercise.  And I have to read things that are neither parenting- nor teaching-related.  And this means, that, sometimes very painfully, I also have to leave things as they are when my first impulse is to continue working into my own self-care time.  For example (it is post-bed-time the next day as of this continued writing), right now if I look to my right there is a little girl’s jacket on the floor near where I kicked off my sandals.  If I look to my left there is a pile of Livy’s adorable correspondence that needs to be put into envelopes, addressed, stamped, and mailed.  I will address neither of these things tonight because it is Writing Time, to be followed by Ugly Yoga Time. 

As if any yoga Abby McDeere did could be ugly...

So, it’s an experiment, This Thing I’m Doing, and subject to change as it needs to.  Maybe I won’t feel so desperate now that Livy’s back in Pre-K 3 days a week and I can take Maddsy to childcare at the gym to get more regular exercise in.  And maybe Maddsy’s naps will lengthen into something resembling an actual break for me during the day.  But, for now, and to treat the high tension wrought by the very un-lazy, crazy days of summer, I’m billin’ like a villain.

And you, readers?  How do you manage your time to include time for self-care and nurturing your own interests?  How do you take care of yourself while hustling to take care of everything (and everyone) else? 

September 8, 2013

Coconut Oil! Fuck, Yeah!

Coconut oil.  Is there anything better?  What greater glue holds us together in Smartlandia than that non-greasy grease.  It's like, if Left Eye came back from the dead and there was a TLC reunion tour, but with Left Eye as a zombie, then that might be better than coconut oil.  Maybe.

My family is going as Zombie TLC this Halloween.

Many moons ago, I wrote about coconut oil and its awesomeness here.  Due to the original's posts popularity, and the fact that coconut oil just won't stop, CAN'T STOP, I think an update is in order.  The thing is, back then, I was just so naive.  I was using coconut oil to wash my face and in the occasional shrimp saute.  So innocent.  Ignorant, really, of all of that coconut oil can do.  Here is what I have subsequently learned.  Indeed, what coconut oil has taught me.

1.  Face Wash!  Okay.  I already knew that one.  I put it on my face.  Sorta rinse it off and pat dry.  Voila.  Moist, dewy skin and no moisturizer needed.

2.  Deoderant!  Seriously.  You can rub it on your pits and you're good to go.  Apparently there is something in coconut oil that actually works as an anti-persperant (science!).  I have found it works better in the colder months, and it failed utterly during a weekend with the in-laws.

3.  Diaper rash!  Cleans it right up.

4.  Bug bites!  Stops the itch.

5.  Shaving Cream!  Coconut oil instead of shaving cream will give a tight shave and leave your legs silky smooth.  Promise.  

6.  Lube!  Some woman are putting it on their vaginas.  Why?  I can't even remotely guess.  I don't even know what a vagina is.  JK.  A vagina is a front bottom.  

7.  Hair Conditioner.  No.  For reals, JK.  This is me after I decided to try it as a hair conditioner.

It took about three days of shampooing to get it out of my hair.  Do not put coconut oil in your hair.

Stay tuned for more coconut oil discoveries.  We have only just begun.

September 1, 2013

If It's Beans, It's Beans #2: The Bard's Beans

Hello, loyal readers!  Oh, how we've missed you as we've done such glamorous summertime things as wipe poopy hineys, defend dissertations, and nurture both young children and raging Game of Thrones obsessions! 

Mr. Bean!  No, seriously...

Hey, remember that time when my brilliant husband, in a fit of learned helplessness leading to clinically diagnosable ineptitude, couldn't figure out if a clear container of beans contained beans?  Believe me, he does!  Especially now that our good friends Katie and Ian Schempp have adopted the phrase "If it's beans, then it's beans" as a lengthier, snarkier version of "No duh" in their family.  The dude half of this couple, Ian Schempp, even honored SLB and me with his own Shakespearean version of our dialogue that he delivered (with our original lines on butcher paper next to him) during a comedy performance this summer.  When I first read it I laughed so hard that I drooled, blew a little snot out of my nose, and cried (but totally maintained bladder control - HIGH FIVE!).  This dialogue is wonderful, and so is Ian for kindly allowing us to post his intentionally comedic version of our unintentionally comedic life here.  So, without further ado, we proudly present:

If 'Tis Beans, Then 'Tis Beans

SLB: Good my lady Nina, dinnertime, upon its nimble catfeet, doth creep upon us quickly. I hath pulled from our hale and hearty larder a container, but must enquire of you as to its contents. Prithee, my dear, be these refried beans or be they not?

Nina: Dearest husband, I know not. Our creator has blessed thee with both orbs and reason. Combinest thou these two great gifts and render thyself thy own judgement. If, perchance, that which resideth in this container be beans, then tis beans that thou holdest.

SLB: (earnestly) Yes, dear wife, that is the question that presseth itself gainst my brain presently. Is this, the contents of this box unmarkéd, beans?

Nina: I knowest not, true love. I beest not in the larder, as thou art. I do sit here in this parlour, aching to leave my body while my body doth ache; battered by the tempest of elbows that the storm that we do call our daughter has rained down upon my very face. I beseech thee, sir, takest up this container once again. With thy fingers, play thou the part of Pandora and ope thy box. If, when thou dost cast thy gaze upon the mystery that do reside within, a word springs, Athenalike, from thy imagination, consider thou this word. Is this word beans? For if tis beans, then lay thy money on beans, good sir, for most likely tis beans.

SLB: Sblood, woman! Vex me not with thy prattling of Greeks, tis a simple answer that I seek! This be no Riddle of the Sphinx, no Gordian Know to be split twain by thy twicesharpened tongue! Thou hast pearls of wisdom in no short supply elsetimes, why clutch them now to thy breast? I have but a single purpose left while still I draw breath, and that is this simple divination: BE THESE BEANS OR NO?

Nina: Thou addlebrained lackwit! Hast thou never an eye in your head? Pearls I may have, but thou art a baker seeking bread, yet naming it jewels. So look, sirrah! Look thou down and mark thy box of food! Fear it not, it is no grim spectre, no black portent of death, no monstrous, gaping jaws that snarl and gnash.


Or is it something else that thou dost fear to see when thou peerst upon those perhapsbeans?

For I too would hesitate, would quake in my very boots and my ashen visage stop the tongues of the most boisterous of celebrants if I were to gaze into the very depths of my own ignorance; if I did espy a goggleeyed, lolltongued idiotpatein this beanmirror and only vaguely recognized it as my own. But if thou lookst and only beans do meet thy eyes, then your purpose is fulfilled! If beans it is, then tis beans!


So speak husband, if my instructions did sail past thee, a boat lost on the oceans of thy brain, speak now and cast all doubts from my mind. (long pause)


August 23, 2013

Day One: Brought To You By the Letter U

Today I officially start my new gig as a SAHM. 

7:00  I roll out of bed and the kids quickly follow.  They have homemade waffles for breakfast, which would make me feel like a super-mom if the waffles weren’t reheated leftovers from the waffle extravaganza I had cooked for dinner the night before.  My own breakfast consists entirely of bacon.

9:00  We arrive at the local playground.  Only one other family is there.  The dad is enthusiastically playing with his kids, which makes me wonder if his neck tattoo says, “#1 Dad.”  If it doesn’t it, it should.

10:00  We head to the grocery store, where I openly bribe my children to stay in the cart, for the love of god.

11:00  We arrive home.  Audrey declares we will make birthday cards for an upcoming birthday party.  All of my inspired craft ideas are put aside for Audrey’s practical one.

12: 15  I “cook” up a can of Annie’s Organic O’s, which are really bloody expensive, so it follows that the kids refuse to eat them, and instead both eat a lunch that consists entirely of grapes.

12.45  We head out for a car ride so Bud can fall asleep for his nap.  He will only nap in the stroller or the car.  Non-parents will say, “That’s absurd!” and mumble something about how their future offspring will nap enthusiastically and often, while parent-types will nod their heads sagely and say, “I would charter a plane if that’s what it took to get my kids to nap.”  Then we just sit in the car.  Audrey plays on the iPad.  I overindulge in Facebook.

Mid nap Audrey starts making suspicious, bagpipe-like sounds. For a good fifteen minutes, she repeatedly claims that she does not have to go potty, and then suddenly she exclaims that actually, she has to go potty right this very instant.  We run inside, me holding a bewildered Bud, and Audrey potties away.  I pluck the kids back in the car, and Bud immediately goes back to sleep.  The napping in the car thing is starting to sound a little weird, I admit.

2:55  In a moment that is almost cinematic in timing, my daughter announces that she has peed in her car seat, but “it’s not a big deal” while, at the same time, my husband calls to tell me he will be a little late coming home because he has to stop at Staples and get a planner.  The thought of going to Staples alone sounds so exciting and thrilling that I choke back tears of jealousy and rage and manage to give him a begrudging, “Have fun,” which is the exact opposite of what I hope he experiences.  “May Staples be out of planners and all of ye highlighters run dry!” is the mean little witchy spell I mentally cast.

3.15  Coffee.  Feeling a little less, uh, manic.

3.20  Somebody has pooped or farted.  I’ll need another cup of coffee before I have the will power to discover who has done exactly what.

4:00  Hubs comes home and I zip past in my running clothes off for a jog, which, to a passerby, probably looks less like a jog and more like fast lurch.

And thus, Day One of SAHM ends.  I didn’t teach my kids to count and we didn’t work on their letters, as I had planned.  But Audrey did tell me that her poop “looks like the letter U,” which just shows that experience is the best teacher of all.