Bess, You Is My Vagina Now

The lilting strains of George and Ira Gershwin’s perfect love song have filled my head this week – updated to reflect the new language of our times.  Things have changed since 1935; our legislative bodies now define us by our body parts.

We body parts should probably start playing the part.Reddy

I Am Vagina, Hear Me Roar  (Helen Reddy, 1971)

Calling things by their formal Latin names is all very well and good if you’re at the garden center trying, for instance, to find a cheap, drought-tolerant hedge that will grow six dense feet in just one season and block out the weird neighbors next door who appear to be running drugs (we just don’t make eye contact or show fear – it’s like dealing with strange dogs).

Oh, Pretty Vagina (Roy Orbison, 1964)

Throwing Latin terminology around is also fun if you’re on the dinner-party circuit with a bunch of English professors (yes, I’m on one of those. It’s actually great fun, apart from worries about proper personal grammar — and I get over those by the second Scotch).  They all have PhDs.  Me?  I have a BA that took me 25 years to finish.  If I bandy about a few Latinisms, I seem smarter than I am.  I have a Latin phrase-a-day calendar to help me with this.  Today’s entry is, “I have washed my hands.”  I can now say this proudly as I help serve dinner or saunter back from the bathroom.  They’re bound to be mightily impressed.

Girl, You’ll Be A Vagina Soon (Neil Diamond, 1967)neil

Latin doesn’t work so well if you’re substituting a medical term for a crude 4-letter slur with which you’re describing half the world’s population.

State Representative Peter Hansen, a New Hampshire Republican, recently sent a formal email to his colleagues supporting the use of deadly force to defend one’s home.  At stake?  “Children and vagina’s of course.”

American Vagina (The Guess Who, 1970)

Hansen’s misused apostrophe adds ignorance to insult.  You don’t need a doctorate in English to know a simple S at the end makes a plural. You have two hands, not two hand’s.  You have two ears, not two ear’s.  You have two vaginas, not two vagina’s.

And if you do in fact have two vaginas, you’re either a unique medical specimen or someone who’s into Hansen-speak and is two-timing his wife.

twainMan! I Feel Like a Vagina! (Shania Twain, 1997)

In this week of explosions, Hansen’s fellow Republicans dropped additional bombs on the GOP’s effort to attract more vagina’s and minorities.

In Oklahoma, Rep. Dennis Johnson shared the frustrations of being a small business owner.  He said that there are times when customers “try to Jew him down.”

Laughter echoed across the debate floor, whereupon Johnson hastily added, “Jews run good small businesses, too.”   Later, he said “It just came out of one of the wrinkles of my brain.  I certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone and I apologize for the folks I did offend.”

So he apologizes for the folks he offended, not to them.  That must have come from a brain wrinkle, too.  He himself had nothing to do with it; he was in Montreal at the time.  You can blame your brain when claiming insanity as a legal defense, after all.  This is the next logical step.  “My brain said that, not me.”

No Vagina, No Cry (Bob Marley and the Wailers, 1975)

Then we have Jim Gile, the Kansas county commissioner who said that he preferred hiring an architect to design departmental repairs over having someone “nigger-rigging it.”

“I am not a prejudiced person,” Gile said in his apology. “I have built Habitat homes for colored people.”  He added that he has a close black friend “whom he regards as a sister.”

Jim Gile, Friend to Colored Vagina’s.  He’s bound to win the next election with that slogan.

Do Right Vagina, Do Right Man (Aretha Franklin)

Gile’s wife tried to do right by him.  She came publicly to his defense, arguing that “nigger-rigging” is a term that conveys respect and therefore should be considered a compliment – she said them Kansas farmers used to be amazed at what all them coloreds could make do with.

So too with being called a vagina – it shows me that I am complimented and respected.

I confess that to this day I stand ready to mispronounce that word. Thank God I am never called upon to say it. When I came across the term early in my reading life (my sex education occurred while babysitting and rifling through the hidden books and magazines I happened to come across while casually poking around other peoples’ houses), I decided that “vag” must sound like “bag” and that “in” was simply “in.”  And I put the accent on the first syllable.  Who was there to correct me? billy joel

So,  She’s Always a Vag´-in-ah to Me

(Billy Joel, 1977)



Tilley Hats and Blue Sound Tracks

“Oh, yes!  Yes!” (pound, pound)  “More!  Oh, that’s so good!  I’ve been waiting all day for this! Oh, oh, oh!” (pound, pound) “Don’t stop!”

Husband and I tried a new “Encourage the Grown Children to Leave the Home” technique last night.  It might have been more effective if we hadn’t collapsed in loud giggles afterward, or if we hadn’t been sitting sedately in bed at the time, dressed in flannel pajamas, tucked under extra blankets, with reading glasses on and books out.

Blankets, you ask?  Flannel?   Yes.  We had 15 inches of snow on the 15th of April – springtime in the Rockies.  And it’s snowing again as we speak.

Husband and I figured, after all those years of mindful nocturnal parental care and caution, that it might be fun to try and embarrass the boys to death.  It might help spur the dears to depart.

Just Too Good
Just Too Good

I’ve been thinking about death today, and departures, and helping, and helpers.  Prior to yesterday, I’d have put the likelihood of my ever quoting Mr. Rogers on a par with my ever running the Boston Marathon.  But Fred’s wise words are with me tonight:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Captain Kangaroo
Dancing Bear, Mr. Moose, Mr. GreenJeans,
Bunny Rabbit, and the Captain

I grew up before the Fred Rogers era.  Captain Kangaroo was my guru.  My boys grew up in a post-Mr. Rogers neighborhood.  Ol’ Fred was still around, but I found him so bland and boring and banal that I boycotted him.

It must also be confessed, to my lasting shame, that Fred struck me as a mealy-mouthed weirdo sex-offender type.  Ever see those light switch-plate covers of a grinning man flashing open a trench coat?  What was with that cardigan?  At any moment, Fred might be apt to reach under it and bring out something to share with me and his neighbors.  And it wouldn’t be Bunny Rabbit.

A college professor I esteemed once wrote on a critical essay of mine, “I find your gratuitous contempt unattractive.”  Now, I really wanted him to find me attractive — I esteemed him, but I also had a wicked crush on him. That black mark cut me to the quick, and I remember it whenever I find myself making cutting remarks.

I still make lots of them, mind you.  But at least I’m aware that they’re gratuitous and unattractive.  Does that count for something?  Will some self-awareness incline the scales of judgment toward purgatory rather than hell?  I expect not.  If I’m aware of my flaws, I’m therefore able to beware of them.  Will Mr. Rogers forgive me?  Saint Peter probably hired him to work the gate.

Helpers are unsung heroes.  The Manchester, NH, police force recently “recovered” an expensive diamond ring swallowed by a thief during a botched burglary.  Give a thought, here, to the law enforcement Helper stuck filtering through that inmate poop for swag.  Yet we discuss it in a helpfully distant and removed sort of way that renders it harmless, like the bags of sanitized manure you buy at the garden center.

What becomes of an expensive engagement ring that has passed through the digestive system of a petty thief?  Will the jeweler discount it deeply?  Will it develop the luxury allure of a Tilley hat that’s been eaten by an elephant and then recovered, whole and sound, from the dung heap?

What would such a ring bode for a marriage?  Regularity and perseverance, or constipated lack of movement, or an inevitable end in the toilet?  What sort of man would buy such a ring for his intended?  What sort of woman would wear it?

Mr. Rogers’ mother was right about the helpers.  They are there to dig diamonds out of the dung heap.  They are there to add luster to a world so seemingly full of shit.  They are there to say, “Oh, that’s so good!  Don’t stop!”  They are there to help our race to the finish.

Booby Traps

Join me here in astonishment!  I am about to defend the Barbie doll. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to do so.  But flexibility keeps us young; we need agile limbs and limber attitudes to handle those hard inflexible bumps in the road of life — like Barbie’s boobs.

My mother wouldn’t have Barbie in the house when I was a child. She claimed (long before it was trendy and assertively pro-actively feminist to do so) that those big Barbie breasts were inappropriate for children to play with.  Good for her! I say now.  At the time, though, I mourned rather bitterly.  Not just for the sexy doll all my friends had, but for those boobs.   I suspected, somehow, that I would never have those, either.  My mother knew that, too – the O’Brien women don’t hope for chests (the gene pool is generous but not generally decorative).

Mexico Barbie, with Pink Passport and Chihuahua
Meet Mexico Barbie

The new Mexico Barbie from Mattel’s Collector Dolls of the World series is inspiring protest even before she and her plastic Chihuahua strip off the shrink wrap.  This Barbie is attired in a bright beribboned Cinco de Mayo dress, which critics say is a culturally demeaning stereotype.  I don’t imagine the Chihuahua helps.  And there’s outraged griping about the fact that Mexico Barbie has been issued a passport.

All the World Barbies come with pink passports “to add play value.” The folks at Mattel were not discriminating against undocumented Hispanics by providing Barbie with papers.  I am as bleeding-heart liberal as they come, but believe there are bigger equality bones to pick than this one.  Barbie dolls have ALWAYS been racist and sexist and stupid.  You don’t believe in Barbie?  Don’t buy one.  Don’t believe in abortion?  Don’t have one.  Don’t believe in gay marriage?  Don’t enter into one.

The O'Barbie
The O’Barbie

Ireland Barbie has a pink passport, too.  She has bright red hair and a schlocky green dress and leprechaun shoes, and is accompanied by an Irish Setter puppy.  Her carton claims she is  “fashioned like the luck of the Irish.”   All the O’Barbie needs is green beer and a brogue.  She, too, is a ridiculous stereotype, but I have bigger fish to fry (in deep fat, with lots of crisp breading, served with some sort of rich heavy tarter sauce and a nice IPA).

After a winter spent fighting the elements for survival (life is brutal and harsh here in the urban southwest), it’s my belly rather than my boobs that proudly precedes me into the room.  Heavy rich carbohydrates and fortifying bottles of wine got me through those cold dark days.  Now, the days will get hot.

I am not hot.  I am brooding about Barbies and bellies and the toll twenty pounds take on the body of one’s self-esteem.  Physical beauty was a hot topic in this week’s news (at least the news I could bear to read):  one woman was fired for being judged too physically attractive, and another for no longer being physically attractive enough.

It all comes back to boobs.

Breastaurants (yes, that’s a real word; we live in depraved linguistic times) hire real-life Barbies as waitresses.  We’ll get the Hooters Barbie next;  she’ll come with a tray of hot dogs instead of a puppy.   Perhaps Mattel will throw in an extra wig in case Hooters Barbie has to have emergency brain surgery and needs to return to work before her hair grows back in, like former waitress Sandra Lupo.

Lupo contends in a lawsuit that when she had physically recovered enough to return to work, she was unable to wear a wig without pain.  Her hours were then reduced so much that she was forced to quit.

From what I read, neither Lupo’s hooters nor her waitressing skills were adversely affected by the brain surgery. While the Hooters experience is all about the food (as Playboy magazine is all about the articles), this woman’s ability to serve up generous portions of herself with a side of fries did not suffer.  Hooters patrons are not trying to ogle her head; the buzz cut and scar might actually add a little extra frisson to her physical allure.  With a few fake tattoos she’d have that dangerous bad-girl thing going for her; men wouldn’t care about Barbie hair.

It all comes back to boobs.

Melissa Nelson’s bosom got her fired from her 10-year job as a dental assistant.  Her boss, James Knight, DDS, found her too attractive.  The all-male Iowa Supreme Court upheld the decision of a lower court that Knight was within his legal rights when he fired Nelson.  Said the court, “she was terminated because of concerns her behavior was not appropriate in the workplace. She’s an attractive lady. Dr. Knight found her behavior and dress to be inappropriate.”

What I find inappropriate is this statement from that court:  “Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing.”

Nelson is the happily-married mother of two.  She does not look or dress like a Hooters waitress; neither does she sport a burka.  Her bulges are not a physical response to the charms of a boob like Dr. Knight.  Nelson said that she had long considered him a Father Figure, a shriveling observation that doubtless took the starch and the bulges right out of Dr. Knight’s shorts.

TammyWhat the world needs are Tammy dolls; my mother was right to give me one.  Tammy was no substitute for a Barbie – she wore a demure playsuit instead of a bathing suit, she had big feet and short bangs, and she didn’t need a bra.  She was therefore a wallflower, but a real doll just the same.

Now, we just need a Middle-Aged Overweight Hot-but-from-Hot-Flashes Barbie.  She’ll have gray roots and be wearing a sweat suit, and will carry a stack of self-help books and a bottle of Scotch.


The Covenant at ARC

I larked to my favorite thrift store last week to search for some perfect garment that would change my life and fortune and bring me ultimate happiness, all for less than $20.  It’s the seeking that matters, after all, not the finding.  I generally get a lot of pleasure from these jaunts.

But it was not a good day at the second-hand store.  It was as sad and old and gray inside the building as out, and the inside was packed with sad old gray people who’d been driven there by necessity rather than whimsy.

Wednesday is Senior Discount Day.

I don’t pay attention to the loud recurring sale announcement until the refrain, “age 55 and above!” finally registers:  ARC will soon discount me and peg me into its Senior Citizen pigeonhole.  Me?

Finding a like-new pair of BØRN shoes in my weird size for $4.99 does not fully offset my horror at this.

That morning, I’d driven through a fast food place to get a small coffee.  The clerk at Window #1 charged me 53¢ — I figured some sort of promotion was going on.  Nope.  When I got to Window #2 to pick up my drink, the perky young thing smiled and said, “Here’s your senior coffee, Ma’am!”

I said small, not senior! And I had to say it several times when ordering, since the garbled speakerphone distorted spoken language beyond comprehension.  So some sad brow-beaten clerk decided I was another crusty old codger demanding a discount.

Did I create a noble fuss and pay an extra dollar?  Nope.  I kept the buck, at the cost of my dignity and integrity.  McDonald’s bought me cheap.

Fact is, first times aren’t usually fabulous.  I knew something had fundamentally shifted the first time I was called “Ma’am.”  Yes, that night I was buying diapers and baby wipes and had “matron” plastered all over me, but I missed being a Miss.  I went home and wept bitter tears (post-partum depression may have had something to do with that).  I wonder — will I weep the first time I’m called a senior citizen?

Much will depend upon hormones and the phase of the moon and favorable chi and water retention and negative ions and barometric pressure and whether or not I’ve remembered my vitamin D and if the deep pillow creases in my face happen to be gone by noon.  I’ve given up delusions of self-determination.

Two by two aboard the ARC, I end up behind an elegant older woman with manicured nails and beautifully coiffed hair and an affluent air who’s buying a big complicated assortment of junk. Scowling, she gives the struggling clerk hell about her discounted $17.23 total, peering over her fashionable prescription reading glasses and shaking her head and insisting that everything on the receipt be gone through again to make certain she isn’t being somehow gypped out of a quarter somewhere.

Meanwhile, a faded woman wearing brave bright lipstick beside me chats pleasantly about how nice it is to have found some good warm socks so cheap.  I feel terrible, trapped between these two extremes.  It isn’t quite hell, but makes for a very unpleasant version of purgatory.

Pluto's Gate, far too sweetly seductive in this digital reconstruction by Franceso D'Andria
Pluto’s Gate, far too sweetly seductive
in this digital reconstruction by Franceso D’Andria

I see that the gate to hell has been discovered by archeologists in Turkey!  I would dearly love to see us start using it – a quick handy way to dispose of the myriad low-life pedophiles and rapists and murderers who dominate the news. “This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground.  Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” wrote the Greek geographer Strabo (64 BCE — 24 CE).

Bring on those animals!  No electric chairs or lethal drug cocktails or supreme worldly court hearings needed. God and Satan can both employ bouncers at the door to catch any errors in human judgment (God doesn’t want to lose good folks, and Satan doesn’t want to find do-gooders spreading bad influences).  Questions of capital punishment will no longer be something we have to sort out, and we’ll rid the earth of pestilence.

I’d personally enjoy pushing in the teenage girls who just shoved an 89-year-old woman into the trunk of her Buick and left her there for two days while joy-riding around.  After her ordeal, Margaret Smith of Milford, Delaware, had a message for her assailants:  “You got to be kind to other people if you want somebody to be kind to you.”

Me?  I think those that ain’t kind got to be kicked in the ass straight through those gates of hell.  And sooner, rather than later.  I’m soon to be a senior citizen; what the hell — I can say what I think.  There have to be some perks for age (besides that 50% off at the second-hand store).

Busted and Gone With The Wind

A year or so ago, Son #2 got caught illegally downloading a movie onto his computer in the wee hours of the night – some silly sci-fi thing that he probably could have purchased legally for a song.  The thrill of Tech Piracy seduced him.  The internet account is in my name; I received a lovely lengthy legal notice threatening termination of service due to copyright violation.

Now, the closest either Husband or I ever get to Tech Piracy is the thrill of correctly accessing our own email accounts.  So when a similar notice appeared in my in-box yesterday, I knew that Son #1 was probably to blame.  Son #2 had already learned his lesson (or, more probably, had learned the lesson of how to hack without leaving a track).

The title of the film in this latest infraction involved friendly female felines.  The letter X was implied.

I knew that Husband wasn’t the culprit.  Not that he wouldn’t be interested in such a film from, say, an educational point of view—but he would simply watch it online.  He wouldn’t be tempted to beat the system by downloading an illicit copy.  Nonetheless, Husband feared at first that I was fingering him.

All I could see was Clark Gable snatching the brandy bottle away from a cornered Vivian Leigh, saying, “I know you drink, Scarlett, and I know how much you drink.”  It doesn’t bother me if Husband ogles the occasional centerfold, but it sure makes him nervous (then again, guilt and nervousness are part of such pleasures.  Or so I hear).

Do they even call them “centerfolds” anymore?  Do web-based men’s publications photo-shop staples and folds into the center of those layouts to appeal to lusty oldsters who grew up in the paper magazine era?  It’s all in the details, after all.

I have long loved Gone With The Wind.   I loved it so much that I stole an old copy from my hometown library when I was a kid – a copy so old that the center folds were falling apart, needing staples.

No! My kids do not get their thieving tendencies from me! And I prefer to consider that book a long-term loan.  Guilt and nervousness finally got to me, and I snuck it back into the library’s return slot one night with a token $10 toward a decade of overdue fees.

So Husband, feeling as trapped by me as Scarlett was by Rhett, stalls for time (as she did) while deciding upon a course of action.

Exhibit A

First, he argues about the time signature of the incident — tells me that it’s listed as Eastern Standard rather than Mountain Time, and that I therefore don’t understand when it happened, since 1:20 AM Eastern on 4/3 is actually still 4/2 out here.  Then, he states that he was in bed by 9:30 PM on the night of 4/2.  Finally, he suggests that it’s probably just an Anime title (both sons have been into high-tech Japanese Manga animation stuff for years.  See Exhibit A).

I say, “Yes, he’s doubtless stolen a subtitled Asian veterinary film to get great cat-care tips.”

We don’t have cats.

Husband says again, “Look up that title and check!  I bet it’s just an Anime film.”  Just, here, as in,  fairly innocent.  After all, how hot can a cartoon get? (pretty damned hot, if the G-rated image search I did is any indication.  See Exhibit B).

Exhibit B
Exhibit B

I say, “Digital Sin, Inc. is the company reporting the copyright violation.”

I say, “If I google this lurid title, it will be on my internet history forever, and they’ll think I was involved.”

Husband turns adroitly to Distraction Technique #5:  “You can just erase all those searches from your record.  Here.  I’ll show you how.”  Husband seizes laptop, pushes lots of buttons, and causes it to seize up.

At this fortuitous moment, Son #1 happens to emerge from his room.  Husband pounces:  “You there!  In the hall!  Yes, you!  Did you download a movie you shouldn’t have late Tuesday night?”

Son #1 makes his own bid for time.  He says, “Huh?  No.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Yeah.  How come? What do you mean?  Why?  I was in Montreal at the time.”

Father explains that Mother has been threatened with internet service termination and is not happy.  Father tells Son #1 in no uncertain terms never to mess around with BitTorrent again (a notorious media theft/hacker program).

Generally, when disgruntled, I post Serious Messages to Sons prominently in the kitchen for the betterment of all.  Sons tell me that this is disrespectful, and that I really should speak to them privately.  Yet they hate confrontation, and go out of their way to avoid me to prevent any possibility of that.  This, though, deserves a paper posting (they’ll never see this electronic one – one’s mother does not become remotely interesting as a person until one is at least 25).  A further maternal worry has just occurred to me:  The word “little” appears in the movie title.  It had better refer to kittens who are small rather than to kittens who are underage.  While I do want Son #1 to move away from home, I’d prefer it not be to jail.

Husband and I are done with parenthood, already.  But it just doesn’t end.

Long ago, my mother made my father take her to a showing of Gone With The Wind.  He suffered valiantly through to intermission, whereupon he stood up, grabbed his coat, and said enthusiastically, “Thank God that’s over!”

She made him see it through to the end.  I suppose Husband and I have to do so, as well.