30 March 2007

My Mom Thinks I'm a Spinster.

And she aims to fix that.

I got this dancing hamster for the Spring Equinox, aka my birthday. I'm not sure why a dancing hamster dressed in a frog costume made my parents think of me, but it arrived with a note attached. In case you can't make it out in the photo, it reads:

Here's hoping that a kiss from you upon this frog will land you a HUSBAND!

Notice the emphasis on the word HUSBAND.

My mom is bound and determined that I be married. This is very important to her. Normal women, evidently, want to be married. I am just being stubborn. Her motive is not the usual "when will I have grandchildren" deal.  Been there, done that, got the divorce.

I'm fine being single. It's a choice, not a sentence, Mom. I remember when my mom found out, in an unfortunate casual conversation, that I'd actually passed up opportunities to be married again.  I thought she was going to burst a vein. Either that or take the wooden spoon to my ass, a la childhood.

Mom never misses an opportunity to oh-so-casually point out that not every marriage ends in divorce -- just look at her and my dad! Still happy! Still married! Mom is convinced that this whole issue is caused by residual bitterness over my own marriage ending. If I could just get over this silly "fear of marriage", everything would be fine.

I don't feel bitter about being single. I'm thankful as hell that particular unholy matrimony is null and void. Seriously, when I think about who I am now, compared to who I was then, no contest. When I think of who I would likely be now, had I remained in a wifely way... holy hell, a million thank-yous to my ex for his liberal interpretation of those marriage vows.

Didn't see it that way then, but Hindsight is a clear-sighted bitch.

Put it this way: the ex is getting remarried next month. In Las Vegas. No, they don't live there. They're flying from 12 time zones away to be married in Las Vegas. Their "wedding package" (yes, I said wedding package) includes Internet streaming so friends and family can join in the fun. All inclusive, y'all! They may see Britney Spears there. So yeah, there are definitely worse things than being single.

Being single has contributed immeasurably to untold personal growth and self-awareness, not to mention no longer looking like a housewife from What Not to Wear. I also had a hell of a lot of fun in the decade following said divorce.

Mom thinks life would be more fun, or at least more secure, if there were a full-time penis complete with legal papers and a ring around the house. And she ain't talking about the kind with batteries.  By "secure", she means entangled finances, like having a mortgage together and all.

That doesn't sound secure. I win the lottery, I'll feel secure.

Daddy just says, "Well, kid, people marry the first time for love. You see how that worked out. Marry for money. You can love rich as easy as you can love poor."

My dad also says, "Wherever you go, there you are," and "Pull my finger."

Mom knows of a guy who "would be perfect for me". I think his name is John. We are apparently both smart, witty, and like big dogs. In fact, John raises puppies to be service dogs. Pretty cool. John lives in the Midwest, near my parents. He also is a regular at Mom's church. Finally, during a visit home, I told her it would never work. Besides the fact that I live in Seattle, the whole religion thing is a definite no-go. I suspect this plan of Mom's was a Two-Fer. Get me married and get me back in the church. Oh, and back in Ohio. That too.

So, my mom is basically Yente to my Tzeitel. Thus the dancing hamster in a frog costume. I kissed it. Nothing happened.


23 March 2007

Gatorade A.M. and The Smiling Milkman

Am I the only one wondering what the hell is up with the new Gatorade A.M. commercial?

So last night, I look up to catch a commercial featuring a smiling Black milkman à la 1930, resplendent in his spotless white uniform, cheerfully delivering bottles of new Gatorade A.M. to customers in a manicured subdivision, all to a jolly tune reminiscent of ice-cream-truck-sounding jingles.
(watch it here.)

I quickly unmute the TV, causing Firstborn Daughter to look up, annoyed at the sound of a dreaded commercial.
Me: Are they kidding? What is this?
FBD: Wow ... what the hell?
Me: Is it just me?
FBD: Um ... seriously, what the hell?

The final line of the commercial goes like this:
Gatorade A.M. -- same science, different time.

And how, Spanky!

The milkman is the very talented (not to mention good-looking) NBA star Kevin Garnett. I don't much follow basketball, being a football kind of gal, but evidently Kevin is the shit on the court.

Gatorade A.M is a new line created for the perky morning athlete. It comes in morning-friendly flavors, like Strawberry-Orange or Mango, that supposedly won't make you upchuck its sugary sweetness while still bleary eyed and half-asleep.

Coffee is a normal morning drink. Orange sugar-water is not.

Anyway, The milkman's customers are other sports stars -- three female soccer players (one of whom looks to be Mia Hamm), and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning -- all White, all rushing out to their morning workouts.  There is one Black neighbor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), out watering his lawn, who nods to the milkman.

So ... the only African Americans in this idyllic production are the only two athletes not portrayed as athletes, but rather as an iconic 1930s milkman and the only guy in the neighborhood doing yardwork.  The white athletes are portrayed as the superstars they are.

So the milkman comes up the walk with his syrupy wares as Peyton Manning rushes out the door for his morning workout. The milkman calmly throws him a Gatorade A.M. while saying, "Playbook."

Oops! Peyton's forgotten his playbook! As he rushes back for it, The milkman gives a satisfied nod, knowing he's helped keep the star quarterback on track. WTF?

Now, I'm thinking, Kevin Garnett is an NBA superstar, on the same level as these happy, suburban athletes, right? He is their peer, their equal. Given that, I'm wondering...
  • Why is he playing the milkman?
  • Why is he serving the other sports stars?
  • Why are he and the Black neighbor the only athletes not being portrayed as athletes?
  • And while we're at it, what's up with the lone Black neighbor doing yardwork, instead of heading for a workout with the other athletes and some Gatorade A.M.?

Am I the only one thinking this ad is just a little too close to the ads of yore? Something a little like this, maybe?

Why did this commercial immediately put me in mind of those days when success for Kevin would've likely meant a dapper chauffeur's uniform?  Or maybe a snappy bellhop or porter's uniform.

Or a pristine milkman's uniform.

Success for Kevin in those times would not have come packaged in an NBA uniform, trust.

I did not live in those times. My daughter sure didn't. My mom barely has memories of the milkman leaving glass jugs in the secret little door at the side of my grandma's house.

Why then, did that scene immediately bring a "WTF?" reaction? Why did that scene cause my 19-year-old daughter's jaw to drop?

Because ... those images are part of American culture, and we have absorbed them in a million little ways over the course of our lives. Even now.

The earliest posters and advertising purposely depicted Black folks in ways that made White folks feel superior and safe. From the wide-eyed pickaninny, the broadly smiling mammy, and the harmless old uncle, up to the first "positive" images of the "successful" Black man: smartly attired to happily pump your gas, tote your luggage, or wait on your table.

"Different Time" indeed, Gatoraide.

I know lots of people are going to roll their eyes and say this commercial isn't racist. Golly, how some people sure do look for racism around every corner! I'm sure folks will say, "Hey, good for Kevin, do that commercial, make some bank, baby."  And of course, the usual, "If it were a white guy in the truck, you wouldn't be bitching -- you're the racist!"  Well, guess what, it wasn't a white guy in the truck. And it wasn't a non-athlete serving a diverse group of athletes. So, whatever.  

I don't know Kevin's reasons for doing this commercial, and I guess it's his business. I'd be interested in his thoughts about it. I do plan to write to Gatorade. I am really bothered by seeing this in the media in 2007 like it's nothing.

I have a 14-year-old son who's into sports. It's enough of an issue that our media loves to present athletes as the main role models for African American kids. (Yes, great role models, but they're not the only ones, okay?) Now Gatorade has gone one step farther in presenting this fine athlete not as the successful basketball player he IS, but as a friggin' milkman, in a position of servitude to his fellow athletes, complete with all the trappings from those Happy Days Gone By.

This is what my son is supposed to see as the role of a successful Black athlete? Are you fucking kidding me?

You suck, Gatorade.

I just wanted to point this out, say something, because this is not okay. Rant over.

08 March 2007

Are You Ready to RUUMMMBBLLE?

So, the Male Offspring got a busted lip at his last match. The boy kept wrestling, too! They disinfected the the mat, and WrestlerBoy had to go stand over the "blood bucket", which is considered amazingly cool in the wrestling world. The boy got back in and wrestled two more rounds. He did not win, because the referee did not know a pin from his ass.

No, seriously, he didn't.

I know, I know what you're thinking. I thought it too: I was turning into one of those sports parents. So, before I lost my mind and pulled a Flying Insane Wrestling Dad move on the ref, I remembered that I don't actually know that much about the finer points of wrestling. Looked like a pin to me, but what do I know? The ref is the expert, right? Actually, no. My suspicion about the ref and his lack of familiarity with said ass was confirmed by the coaching staff and two wrestling parents who are Freakishly Knowledgeable About Wrestling.

Apparently, it was not the only bad call, judging by the barely suppressed outrage of the coaches and those parents freakishly in the know. Fortunately, this was a middle school match, and good sportsmanship prevailed. One coach did have a burning question for Bumbling Ref, after WrestlerBoy's match:

Coach: No disrespect intended Sir, but how long have you been at this?
Bumbling Ref: Actually, this is my first match ... please bear with me.

What's that? You say it's only middle school? Please. Obviously you have never witnessed two young athletes battling for the title of King (or Queen) of the Mat. It's brutal. I thought football was bad. They may plow into each other on the football field, break a bone or two, but this is a whole'nuther level of brutal.

This is hand-to-hand combat, people, this is some serious shit. No shoulder pads or helmets on the mat, just your shiny spandex singlet between you and your grunting opponent.

And I'll tell you something else, these young athletes have already stepped up to the mat just by putting that singlet on.

Think about it, these are adolescents fresh in the throes of puberty. They're either smack in the middle of a growth spurt, trying to figure out their new body and how to hold the damn razor, or they haven't hit the growth spurt yet, and are feeling self-conscious around the guys who already have leg hair, an Adam's apple, and a six-pack. And you want to wrap all that up in some spandex and send them to grapple around with -- omg -- another guy? In front of an audience?

Please. These are some tough motherfuckers before they even hit the mat. You put that singlet on and grab another guy's ass while your face is buried in his sweaty armpit. Now try it at age 14 and do it in front of a screaming crowd.

And that does not even address the possibility of wrestling a girl.

Yes, I am all for girls kicking ass on the sports field. Or mat. Three years ago, Teen Demon was the first girl to play on the middle school's football team. She was on the line, people, not kicking field goals. The next year, two more girls followed her. Way to break barriers, baby. Now she cheers for her high school wrestling team and kicks ass on the track team. It gives guys pause to know she can likely kick their ass. While in her cheerleader skirt. So yes, Title IX all the way.

That said, coed wrestling brings different issues. Again: 14, puberty, shiny spandex, grappling around together on the ground in front of an audience. Try these scenarios on for size at that age:

  • You get beat by a girl.

  • You beat a girl.

  • You wonder where it's okay to grab.

  • You have a physical reaction to being wrapped around a real live chick. In front of your parents. In a spandex suit.

  • The reality of straddling a girl and physically forcing her into submission, when she's desperately fighting to get away freaks you out and just feels wrong.

  • The idea of letting her up just because you can't handle her girlness seems disrespectful to her as an athlete.
You see what I'm saying? These are some tough young men and women. We don't have any girls on the middle school team, but there is a young woman at the high school who absolutely rocks. She went to State this year. Hell, yeah!

Anyway, Male Offspring's lip is still looking mighty rough, but he didn't need stitches. He's still drooling a bit. There was much grumbling about Bumbling Ref, but the coaches coached, did the post-meet locker room talk, modeled good sportsmanship. The guys know how they wrestled.

As for the parents, I did hear tell of a covert take-down plot, but that was just a baseless rumor.

02 March 2007

And Another Thing (A Health Care P.S.)

Just a piggyback thought, while we're on the subject of health care and I'm still feeling pissed off about it. (read the previous post, if you don't know why) I recently saw the movie Man of the Year, where a comedian (Robin Williams) was elected president.

Guess folks want a change, even in movie land. Anyway, the comedian-president says,

HMOs will pay for your Viagra, but they won't pay for your glasses.

It was supposed to be funny, but it wasn't actually funny at all on account of it's true. I paid a shitload of money for my daughter's glasses, and I am fortunate enough to have "good healthcare" through my 9-to-5. If, however, I were a man wanting Little Richard to perform, that shit's paid for! Just take this to the pharmacy, buddy, we'll get you taken care of, wink-wink!

What the hell is wrong with this country that Viagra is covered so men can get their dicks up, but opthalmology and dentistry are considered, what, extra? Superfluous? A special privilege? They can get dick-pills so they can get off, but eyeglasses and teeth cleaning, well, hold on just a minute there, little lady, that's not altogether necessary.

Anyway. I just thought of that line from the movie, and thought how ironic it is that some man somewhere was getting it up courtesy of our health-care system, on the same day that a 12-year-old boy died from a toothache, because his family didn't have health insurance.

Goddamn, people. That is just wrong.

01 March 2007

The Greatest Country on Earth Handles a Toothache

Last night, just as my son was coming to tell me goodnight, I came across a news article about a boy not much younger than he is, a story I could not get my head around. A story about a 12-year-old boy who died from an abscessed tooth.

Deamonte Driver, some mother's son, died from an abscessed tooth.

In this country. In this wealthyass country, a child DIED from a friggin' TOOTHACHE.


So, I'm reading this story, hand over my mouth, not believing it, and my son asked me what was wrong. He looked at the picture of Deamonte Driver, showing the scar from his brain operation as a result of his abscessed tooth, and asked, "But, Anyu, how can that even happen? Can a kid really die from a bad tooth? Couldn't their dentist just fix it?"

Yes, a dentist could've easily fixed it. In fact, the tooth never would've been abscessed at all, had Deamonte had regular dentist checkups, the same yearly checkup my son complains about.

The family did not have health insurance. This American family could not afford health insurance. The abscess in Deamonte's tooth got so bad it spread to his brain. Before he died, Deamonte had emergency brain surgery, had seizures and complications afterward, had a second brain operation, then physical and occupational therapy.

Oh, and they extracted the tooth.
  • Diamonte's medical bills totalled out at $250,000.
  • Extracting the tooth would've cost less than $100.
  • With regular checkups, he wouldn't have needed the extraction to begin with.
How about a comprehensive universal health care system, people? Is this enough of a wake-up call? When is the US going to realize that investing in our society benefits all of us? Preventive health care would save money in the long run; $250,000 worth of savings, in this case.

I am so sick of the Blame The Victim mentality in this country, that whole bootstrapper thing -- you know what I'm talking about: If this family had just pulled itself up by the bootstraps and worked a little harder, why they could've had health insurance like the productive citizens of this great land! If they couldn't afford it, well, they must've been Doing Something Wrong. They must be lazy. Probably a single mother. Probably she didn't have control over those kids anyway, I mean, they didn't even brush their teeth enough! She probably spent their toothbrush money on malt liquor.

No, do not even try and tell me I'm being dramatic, because you know there are people who actually think that shit. 

I am sick of the shortsightedness of this country in everything from health care and education to roads and building construction. Seriously, these things are handled (on the whole) by choosing whatever costs the least in the short run. Whatever is cheapest and keeps things afloat during our watch, that's what we go with. No one wants to pay higher taxes. No one wants to invest in anything or anyone except themselves.

Has anyone seen the UNICEF report on international child welfare for this year? Check this out: (from the International Herald Tribune, 14-Feb-07)
The United States and Britain ranked at the bottom of a U.N. survey of child welfare in 21 rich countries that assessed everything from infant mortality to whether children ate dinner with their parents or were bullied at school.
The Netherlands, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Finland, finished at the top while the U.S. was 20th and Britain 21st in the rankings released Wednesday by UNICEF in Berlin.
One of the study's researchers, Jonathan Bradshaw, said children fared worse in the U.S. and Britain — despite high overall levels of national wealth — because of greater economic inequality and poor levels of public support for families.
"They don't invest as much in children as continental European countries do," he said.
Bradshaw cited thin day care services in both countries, and poorer health coverage and preventative care for children in the U.S.

So there you have it. As rich as we collectively are, we are failing our children because we are not interested in a collective, because we are interested in individuals who can pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

Funny how the top ranked countries have universal health care. The topped ranked countries are interested in a collective. They are investing in their society.

I wonder when a Norwegian or Finnish kid last died of a toothache?

I am ashamed and angered and so, so sad that this little boy died over something so goddamned stupid and unnecessary. I am amazed by the fact that had he been born Swedish, instead of American, he would still be alive.