Friday, August 31, 2012

A breath of the past

Recently I was going through a box of old items I had left behind in my parents’ basement when I moved away, and discovered something very interesting.

A mason jar, with paper pasted around it so that the inside was hidden, and emblazed with the words, “Do not open until 2010”.  It was a time capsule I had put together when I was about fourteen, with little ‘treasures’ and a letter to myself at the far off age of twenty-four.  Apparently, I was a weak-willed teenager, since there were also another couple letters stuck inside from my sixteen and eighteen year-old selves as well.  But in the intervening time since then, the time capsule had completely slipped my mind, and now, at the ripe old age of twenty-six, it seemed fair to open the thing for good and see what sort of creature I was in days of yore.

The original letter was rolled up, fastened with a Victorian sticker, and held inside a glass cigar tube (the closest thing to a glass vial I could find at the time… such a thing seemed romantic and necessary).  The whole thing was written on screamingly pink Lisa Frank stationary and has bits of glitter still sticking to it.

“Dear older me,
Here I am, not quite fourteen, and you?  You the twenty-three year old me, what are you like?  Do you have a good job or a good husband?  Oh, I hope it’s the latter.  I wrote to Sarah today (childhood BFF who moved across the country).  I hope you are still friends with her (does facebook count? No?).  I love going to band, let’s hope you enjoy the clarinet still.  Have you mastered all the woodwinds yet, not forgetting the French horn? (hahaha!  No.  Haven't touched a clarinet since I started college.  It's all about the piano and guitar now.)  You must still like sewing, I (you) must be really good at it now!  J and R (my brother and sister) just had a crash on their bikes.  J wasn’t looking where he was going.  I hope he has gained some sense by this time.  I’m not sure how to write to me.  I need to do more sewing for Samantha.  I have a lovely outfit all planned out to make for her, it is a caterpillar dress.  Did I ever make it?  I wish I could see what you, the older myself, is like.  Misty (my cat) had better be alive still.  I love him so.  Well, I must say goodbye.  This touch of former you.
With airy kisses,
Your old self”

At least I got one thing right… I am really good at sewing now!  At the time I never would have guessed that it would become my profession.

It’s also clear from the ‘good job or good husband’ sentence that my worldview was heavily skewed by the Victorian novels which were (perforce) my main source of entertainment.  I had no idea how the 21st century actually functioned and that it was not only possible, but socially permissible, to have both.  It was ingrained into me that adult life without a husband was a bleak and desolate existence, and that once married it wouldn’t be practical or desirable to be out in the work place.

However, having parents who idolized the Puritans and the 17th century made the Victorian era look positively liberal in comparison.  To my thirteen-year-old self, the suffrage movement was pretty radical, and the late 19th century mentality was a huge step forward from the Puritans.  Anne Shirley and Jo March were my ultimate heroes, and actually shaped my personality far more than all the Bible reading which was daily drilling into us all.

As one can see, in spite of the high level of biblical indoctrination I received since infancy, the letter is completely devoid of any mention of ‘the Lord’ or ‘God’s will’ or any of the evangelical catch phrases I was constantly surrounded by.  What a rebellious teenager…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Part of any well-rounded vocabulary

(because pictures of Bill Kaulitz make everything better)

For quite a while now, one of my favorite you-tube videos has been the one of Stephen Fry on the joys of swearing.  I'll re-watch it every now and then when I need a dose of sanity; and am in love with the passionate and highly articulate defense of swearing which so wonderfully refutes all the anti-swearing arguments I grew up with.

It's only in the last few years that I've become comfortable swearing outside of my own head (although when I talk with my parents a very, very heavy filter still goes up), and the freedom to express myself with any words I choose is still glorious.

Growing up, swearing was strictly forbidden.  Anything coming CLOSE to swearing was strictly forbidden.

We whispered in horror to each other when we overheard someone 'taking the Lord's name in vain', and when my cousin's ex-wife referred to him as an "asshole" I was almost too embarrassed to write the word it in my diary and so wrote it with the tiniest letters possible.

"Geez" wasn't allowed.  "Shut up" wasn't allowed.  In the homeschool group we were part of, one of the boys got in big trouble for having said that a soccer team "sucked".

It's amusing now to remember the look of shock and horror on my mother's face when I dropped a heavy jar of salsa on my foot and yelped "Damn it!"  I was a senior in college at the time, and she had never before heard me utter a swear word in my life.

When I first started college, it took a while to adjust to hearing swear words as a casual, sometimes even affectionate, part of conversation, and it took even longer to start feeling comfortable using those words myself.  Now, putting on the 'parent language filter' feels strange and unnatural.  And yesterday when I dropped my ipod on the hard tile floor at work and cracked the surface, I don't think any words would have expressed my feelings more succinctly than "Fuck!  Really?!  Oh, fucking hell..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sad, but not surprising

There’s been a huge bru-ha-ha in the media and blogosphere this week about the now in-famous Todd Akin and his horribly ignorant and offensive statement regarding pregnancy and rape.  It would be redundant to talk about the ludicrousy of “legitimate rape” when so many people have already thoroughly addressed the point.

Naturally, the link to abortion and anti-choice lobbyists was made immediately.  It seemed to come as a surprise to many people on the left (and in the center) that many Republicans are opposed to abortion even in the cases of rape and incest without holding to Todd Akin’s fairytale reality in which rape doesn’t create pregnancy. Many were shocked at how unfeeling and uncompassionate the republican right is when it comes to raped women and forcing them to carry and give birth against their will.

It IS unfeeling and uncompassionate, but what the appropriately appalled media and bloggers all failed to realize is that to someone on the religious, republican right it all makes perfect sense.  The stance is horrific, but it IS internally logical.

As someone who once held those opinions and was entirely brought up in that culture, I understand where these totally anti-choice people are coming from.

It starts with the belief in the infallibility of the bible and the concept of having an immortal soul.  This soul supposedly comes into being at the beginning of the creation of the body, ie:  conception.  So, if the soul enters the body at conception, then that makes the product a person.  (the root of the vile ‘Personhood’ amendments).  Most people on the left understand this, but fail to understand why this cancels out the needs and cares of the women in question.

The people who believe in ‘Personhood’ typically also believe that everything which happens in life is part of god’s infallible and perfect plan.  If something horrific happens, like rape, that is still part of god’s plan.  The woman must accept what happened as part of god’s plan for her life, and if pregnancy is a result, must also accept that child as part of the “plan”.  Depression and suicidal tendencies as a result of the rape/pregnancy?  Not allowed!  Depression is really just a spiritual matter.  If one had a proper relationship with god, then they wouldn’t BE depressed.  Just have more faith and more trust… besides, children are a blessing from the lord, and it shouldn’t matter where they come from.  Be happy to have the child.  After all, the highest calling a woman can hope to achieve is that of ‘Mother’… here’s your chance to be one!  

Besides, the question can really be solved by converting everyone everywhere to Christianity (though not that wishy-washy feel-good kind).  After all, Christian women would be joyous in their tribulation and suffering and they wouldn’t have to suffer much anyway, since Christian men would never abuse or rape them…