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Monthly Archives: February 2014

The first time I received Roses from him, I thought it was charming. The doorbell rang. I wasn’t expecting anything and the delivery man handed me a long narrow box that I knew meant flowers. A dozen roses from my new boyfriend on the West Coast. “To a beautiful soul.” I was touched. Charmed. I got a vase, filled it with water and put the bouquet on the table.

The next day, the doorbell rang again. What could it be? There was another long narrow box. Another dozen roses. “You are beautiful, inside and out.” Slightly less charming than the day before, but still charming. I pulled out my step-ladder and climbed to reach the other vase that I kept tucked away on the highest shelf. It looked lovely on the sideboard.

On the third day, when the doorbell rang, I had a hunch what it was. The delivery man smiled and shook his head. “Wow, he sure must be in love.” I smiled politely, but I was beginning to think it was something other than love. I phoned my boyfriend, “Sweetie, lover, honey pie. That’s quite a lot of roses.”

“Don’t you like them?”

“Sure honey, I love them.”

“Oh, good.”

“But don’t you think that’s enough roses for the immediate future?”

“Right. Got you. Hey, I’ve gotta go. Can we talk later?”

The next day, I received daisies.

A week later, my apartment looked like a funeral home.

“No more fucking flowers!”

“I thought you said you love flowers.”

“Just stop it!”

“You still like me, don’t you?”

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Goody Goody lived a few houses away from us when we were very little. She was my older sister’s age, but she was also a little immature and I was at least as close to her as my sister. Closer, perhaps. Her mother was divorced, with two children, didn’t work and had a live-in maid. She came from a wealthy family. I wouldn’t understand this for many years. She was different from the neighboring adults, but her children didn’t seem any different and I was far too young to see adults the way they saw one another. Why she lived in our lower-middle class neighborhood of small houses, I will never know. She didn’t stay very long. Soon, husband number three came along. This one would last. The first was a handsome, womanizing actor. The second was a mad genius mathematician, and the third was a grumpy accountant, a widower with three children of his own. They married and moved to nearby town where the houses were bigger and which had a reputation for snobbishness, anti-Semetic prejudice and academically excellent schools.

Despite the move, Goody Goody and I remained friends. Since she lived in another town, when we’d go to visit we’d usually stay over night. Her mother was always very welcoming and encouraging. Now, they were a family with five children, all in their teens except for the oldest who was about twenty, living in a sprawling house with many bedrooms and many parties. (Just to be clear, since the parents were welcoming and usually around, although the parties were lively, they weren’t the out-of-control parties some kids have when their parents are away.)

One weekend when we were staying with Goody Goody, she wanted to go see a movie at a theater in a town some distance away, at midnight. Her eldest brother would have to drive us. This struck me as unusual. Being a night owl since the day I was born, I didn’t care about the hour much, but why were we driving so far? She tried to explain to me the plot of the movie.

“These people go to this castle that makes everybody inside it horny!!!!” She balled her little hands up into even littler fists and pulled them into her body, her elbows held close to her side, and shook them excitedly.

“What does ‘horny’ mean?” I asked.

Goody Goody, with her large blue eyes and limp, wavy, dirty blond hair bore a faint resemblance to Susan Sarandon, a coincidence I was about three hours from noticing. “It means you want to have sseeexxxx!!!!!” She waved her hands back and forth even more excitedly, squeezing her tits into surprisingly ample, and quivering, cleavage in the process.

So Goody Goody, Sis and I piled into the back of the car and Goody Goody’s eldest brother, a cutie pie I haven’t yet named, and another person sat in the front as we drove some distance to see this Rocky Horror Picture Show.

How does a person describe a revelation? I wouldn’t have a similar experience watching a movie until I saw Scorpio Rising. (Is there anything hotter than a guy’s denim encased crotch with the song “Blue Velvet” in the background? – But I guess that’s another post.) How do you describe something that isn’t so much a matter of introducing new ideas as taking inchoate ideas that are already in your brain and giving them form?

When worlds collide

How does a person begin to explain living in a small, self-contained, suburban world and suddenly realizing that there is something more out there? “You are not alone.”

There’s a light, a light

In the darkness of everybody’s life

Truthfully, I wasn’t yet old enough to know much about life’s darkness, but if darkness can be a metaphor for ignorance, then certainly The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a light.

The first real jolt in the movie is when Richard O’Brien appears as Riff Raff.

I remember doing the Time Warp
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me
And the void would be calling

This is where the oh-so-famous Time Warp begins. It’s just such a beautiful build up of tension and release.

Next we have what might be one of the most notable performance in film history, Tim Curry as Frankenfurter.

Don’t get strung out by the way I look
Don’t judge a book by its cover
I’m not much of a man by the light of day
But by night I’m one hell of a lover

That is fine advice for any young woman, and probably most young men as well.

Later in the movie, the sweet ingenue, played by Susan Sarandon, is making love to the “creature” created by Frankenfurter. Watching, on close circuit teevee are two female characters, Colombia and Magenta. This is the first that I recall seeing two women in a sexual situation with one another. It put ideas in my head. The ideas didn’t go very far as of yet… yet.

From the day he was born
All he wanted
Was Rock and Roll porn
And a motorbike

Where do I even start. I’ve described elsewhere how during my early adolescence, “serious” popular music had become a narrow genre of stultifying art rock. I’d seen some glimpses of other things around the edges, but they were not yet mainstream by any means. The music in this movie was a breath of fresh air.

The, ahem, if you will pardon me, climax of the film is a sequence called the “floorshow.” Four of the characters perform in corsets and feather boas. Finally, Frankenfurter takes the stage and sings,

Whatever happened to Fay Wray?
That delicate satin draped frame
As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry
‘Cause I wanted to be dressed just the same

What could be more normal than that?

Give yourself over to absolute pleasure
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh
Erotic nightmares beyond any measure
And sensual daydreams to treasure forever

Then he jumps into a pool.

Don’t dream it, be it

I may have taken this part a bit too much to heart.

In the end, after the aliens have returned to their home planet, we see our protagonists lying on the ground.

And crawling on the planet’s face
Some insects called the human race
Lost in time, and lost in space
And meaning

That evening, I learned that men could look really hot in women’s clothes.  I learned that women could look hot in women’s clothes. The movie was fascinating for me in that it treated men as sex object. It definitely went a long way to making my sense of sexuality and gender more flexible.

And it would resurface in my life later.

The other day I was looking at some pornography online. Like many people, I’m a little bit cheap when it comes to porn. Frankly, my imagination’s good enough that, if I have to pay, I’ll just make up some stuff in my head. In fact, that’s what I do most of the time, but every once in a while I like to look at pictures. It’s laziness, but for the past couple of years I’ll try to find one of those tumbler sites where someone just reblogs other people’s pictures. Sometimes, I feel really awful about doing this because those people are probably violating copyrights, and pornographers are just trying to make an honest living after all. I would never put together a site like that for exactly that reason, but I confess, copyrights, or no copyrights, I do look at them from time to time.

It’s dreadfully convenient that some people are so enthusiastic about pornography that they compile these collections. I’d never take the time to seek out all this stuff on my own. So, it’s simply a matter of trying to track down someone whose tastes are similar to one’s own. Being female, I tend to gravitate towards hardcore. Images of good-looking people alone don’t do much for me. There has to be some sort of action, or at least implied action, which I can imagine myself doing.

So, the other day, I found some one who had highly titillating pictures on his tumbler site. I was enjoying the pictures for a bit when I happened to notice the captions. Generally, I don’t look at the captions because, for better or worse, pornography doesn’t seem to inspire the most articulate thoughts. It would probably be more to the point if people just captioned the pictures with “grunt, grunt.” Eventually, however, I did take note of them and they were to the effect of “Take that you dirty little slut,” and other variations on that theme. Now, I’m not going to complain about something I’m getting for free. Obviously, this guy is doing it for his own amusement and that’s his business. I would never send him an email telling him that he’s bad or awful. What interested me was that our taste could be so similar in terms of visual appeal, yet the narrative content we’re projecting onto the same scene is so different.

I’ve had this happen in real life. As it happens, although variety is good to keep from getting in a rut, I do prefer some positions over others. Now, this does vary with the man. Our own relative body sizes plus the size and angle of his penis make some positions better than others. Having made that little caveat, I’ll go ahead and say that one of my favorite positions in on all fours. Now, when I get on all fours and out of nowhere the man goes into some sort of degrading slut talk, it can be like having a bucket of cold water dumped on my head. It’s clear that some people think certain positions are inherently degrading. My reasons for liking this position are entirely practical. Both individuals have a reasonable freedom of movement, so unless you’re terribly mismatched in terms of length of your thighs, it’s a good position for getting an angle and rhythm that pleases both people. It just feels good. The fact that I like it has nothing to do with it being degrading. I wish someone could explain to me why this position is seen as degrading.

Also, why is ejaculating on top of a woman degrading? Men, when they orgasm, ejaculate. This is perfectly natural and shouldn’t be seen as degrading to anyone. In fact, it makes me happy. Whenever I’m in bed with someone, I hope he’s having a good time. I hope he hopes I’m having a good time. Sometimes I think there are certain cultural associations that I just failed to learn.

I’ll try to write something more highbrow tomorrow. I promise.

For about a decade now, we have been deluged with media products directed to the type of woman who loves Jane Austen. The cynical side of me sometimes wonders if many of these Jane Austen fans have actually read Jane Austen, or if they saw a couple of movies, to which they didn’t pay much attention, but they love the idea of women in pretty dresses falling in love with men in nice suits. In the world-wide world which is the world wide web, I have discovered that I am a rank amateur when it comes to reading. However, in the little world in which I grew up, I was seen as being bookish. I can remember a time when it seemed to me that girls would rather poke out their eyes than read something written longer ago than last year. I was something of an oddball for reading Victorian novels with long descriptive passages and compound sentences, and other adolescent girls most certainly let me know it. Needless to say, I am more than a little suspicious of Austen’s sudden popularity. Before someone writes a comment in all-caps, let me acknowledge that some people have actually read Jane Austen and, if you’re angry enough to type in all-caps, you are probably that person. Indeed, at least in my mind, you are a type.

Now, who am I to dismiss the miss that people more knowledgeable than I have called the greatest novelist in the English language. All I can say is that she doesn’t quite capture my heart. Actually, she leaves me cold. I’ve enjoyed her novels, but I haven’t loved them. Yet there are novelists that I do love, and I do hope they never become the center of a craze as Jane Austen has. I do not desire to have a ton of media product directed at me and my type.

Accompanied by a great deal of apprehension, I have recently discovered that I am a type, too. What a drag.

In an essay published in the New York Times twenty years ago, the Barnard English professor and literary critic Mary Gordon observed that a “certain kind” of woman can effortlessly recollect the circumstances of her life when she first read Middlemarch, much as “Americans are all supposed to know what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot.”

And what kind of woman is this certain kind? According to Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux writing in The American Prospect:

George Eliot doesn’t have the modern celebrity of Jane Austen, which makes her all the more lovable for that “certain kind” of woman who aspires to moral and intellectual seriousness.

Further down in the same article about Rebecca Mead’s book she says:

Few nineteenth-century heroines resonate with this woman like Dorothea Brooke. Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina are too rash; Becky Sharp too conniving; Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett too provincial; Tess Durbeyfield too pathetic. Dorothea is, in Gordon’s words, “above all serious, and although she considers herself passionate, she is not about to act in a headlong way.” By allying herself with Dorothea—and by extension, Eliot—Mead grasps for a bit of this gravity. She’s writing for anyone who likes getting snaps for having read and loved Middlemarch, and who sees an attack on the book as an attack on her own intellectual seriousness.

(By the way, what is a “snap” in this context?)

I’m tempted here to go off on a tangent. The way most people fixate on Dorothea when discussing Middlemarch to me seems to undermine the point of the book. The cast of characters is huge and the interplay between society and individuals is essential. The book concentrates on a group of young people who, while being interconnected by virtue of living in the same region, span a wide range of class backgrounds and are not all intimates by any means. Fixating on Dorothea misses the greater part of the book. As these young people find their way in the world, they make decisions about their lives and they are hardly passive, but these decisions do not happen in isolation. They are actors in their own lives and yet they are not totally in control. The circumstances of their lives cannot be entirely avoided.

Furthermore, call me weird, but I identified, not with Dorothea, but with Ladislaw. (If any wealthy person who happens to be very much like Dorothea Brooke and would like to marry and render my interminable career changes irrelevant, there’s a contact form on my About page. NB: I am not very particular as to appearances or gender.) It also annoys me somewhat that everyone ignores Mary Garth. She’s one of my favorite characters in the book and I think she and Fred Vincy, as foolish as he is, are my favorite couple. They are also the only pair that seem to wind up comparatively happy, although perhaps Dorothea’s younger sister Celia and her husband are happy as well.

This brings me to another part of Thompson-DeVeaux’s article:

Middlemarch is a deeply sad book; gifted people make fatally foolish choices and can’t escape the consequences, no matter how hard they try…. It has the capacity to inspire intense self-doubt in all manner of people, especially those who are ambitious.

Mead elides this sadness. She acknowledges a “vein” of melancholy in the famous last sentence, which declares Dorothea a saint of the ordinary, one of the countless women who “lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” But in the last few pages of the book, Mead returns to Eliot, who lived a life that was, if not happy, then certainly extraordinary. By focusing so owlishly on Eliot, she manages to lose the reason why Middlemarch is worth reading in the first place.

I’ve read the book five times, and I have to say that it gets sadder as you get older. As I got older and the gap between my ambition and what I would be able to achieve in life became evident, the book became all the more somber. We can never entirely transcend the circumstances of our lives no matter how hard we try, and that is certainly a sobering thought. We are embedded in our societies and it is notable that Eliot chose as the title of her book the name of the place.

If Austen, as she famously declared when she said that she painted on ivory, worked in miniature, then Middlemarch is like one of those large history paintings. I suppose that we can only be thankful that Middlemarch and Zombies would simply be too much work.

There seems to be a trend towards memoirs centered around other works of literature, Reading X-Book in Y-Circumstance. For some reason I can’t quite identify, they don’t appeal to me, although I have this vague sense of being their target market. I haven’t read any of these, so perhaps my sense that I won’t like them is off base, but I probably won’t read My Life in Middlemarch. On the other hand, for a sufficient advance I would be more than willing to turn my current effort, Reading CraigsList in New York, to Reading de Sade in Paris, and I would be willing to include a variety of French pornographic literature. Then, perhaps with luck, I can marry a young admirer who will hopefully not throw himself out a window on our honeymoon.

 

 

Everyday through my adolescence, my mother would scream at the top of her lungs to wake me up in time to go to school. As a young adult, I would eventually find myself with six alarm clocks. I sleep soundly and I wake up slowly. One morning I woke up and I had a vague awareness that there was liquid leaking out of my vagina and seeping between my buttocks. My pubic hair was matted together. He’d done it again. I should have felt pissed, furious, enraged. Instead, I only felt tired, burdened. This was the third time in about as many months.

I pulled myself out of bed, walked through the windowless middle room and then through the kitchen, where the vinyl flooring, which covered the entire apartment and could never be cleaned because its shiny coating had long since worn off, was worn entirely through in patches. I crossed the long narrow hallway that ran the entire length of the apartment, where the tin ceiling, black with mold, had been ripped open in search of a leak that was never found by a school teacher friend of the landlord who moonlighted as a handyman. I probably coughed as I walked. As long as I lived in that apartment I had asthma, a disease I had never before had and which mysteriously disappeared after I moved. Three or four years earlier, when we had first arrived, I made enthusiastic attempts to make the place cheerful. Now, it all seemed just like so much wasted effort. The bathroom was carved out of the hallway and was two and a half feet, or seventy-five centimeters, wide. From the beginning, the bathroom seemed like a physical impossibility. Going into the shower, which was so narrow that I could barely raise my arms, to wash off the semen from between my legs, I had the distinct impression that my life was swirling down the drain.

I got out of the shower and toweled off. Stoneface was at work. I worked weekends at a call center and my days off were in the middle of the week. The phone rang. It was Luscious. It was barely half past noon, that was early for her. Something must be up.

“How are you,” she asked.

“Um, okay, I guess.”

“Bullshit. I don’t even know why you try to hide stuff from me. I can always tell. What’s wrong.”

She hated Stoneface. They hated each other, although they both refused to admit it. I was dreading telling her, but I hadn’t told anyone about what had been happening.

In a normal relationship, I would have had a fit the first time it happened, but Stoneface and I had never had a normal relationship. He tried having sex with several women before me, but he lost his erection every time. He tried having sex with men with the same effect. Finally, I came along. He did start to lose his erection the first time, but I was so patient, understanding, sweet and non-judgmental about it, we were able to fuck. However, our entire sexual relationship became about him. I could never be anything other than absurdly gentle, never speak above a whisper. If I did, he would become impotent for a time. I was the strong resilient one and he was the delicate flower. So, the first time it happened, I confronted him, but as quietly and gently as possible. The next time I wasn’t so gentle and I thought we had settled it. Predictably, he was unable to have sex with me for a few weeks after that, and now there was this.

Luscious knew that I was not happy with my sex life, but she didn’t know the details. Many people seemed to think we were both gay and attempting to have a heterosexual relationship despite our natural inclinations. As dysfunctional as that sounds, it would have been a million times easier than what was going on. I never found out what was at the root of Stoneface’s discomfort. I tried to encourage him to go for therapy, but he refused. We probably wouldn’t have had the money if he had wanted to, anyway.

“I woke up this morning with semen between my legs.” I finally blurted out over the telephone.

“You’re saying that like it’s bad…”

“Yeah, well in this case it is. I was asleep.”

“You’ve been raped.” She said, her voice rising with outrage. She was one of those anarchists that was good at being about outraged over anything, so it was more annoying than meaningful.

“Is that the most helpful thing you could think of to say?”

“Well, you sound as if you didn’t know, so I thought someone ought to tell you. If you didn’t consent it was rape.”

“Thank you, but you fucking well know that I know that.”

“I don’t know why you stay with him. Just leave him.”

She didn’t really need to say that. It was pretty clearly going in that direction, but for the time being I was stuck because of a lack of money.

“Do you still use a diaphragm?” She asked.

“Yeah.”

“You didn’t have it in, did you?”

“No. Why would I?”

“Well, that sucks.”

Several times in the past I have linked to Maryam Namazie’s blog. She is, among other things, a spokesperson for the organization Fitnah, a women’s liberation organization with a particular interest in the liberation of women living in Islamic societies. From their website:

Fitnah is a protest movement demanding freedom, equality, and secularism and calling for an end to misogynist cultural, religious and moral laws and customs, compulsory veiling, sex apartheid, sex trafficking, and violence against women.

In their regular publication, Unveiled, this month they have an interview with Kenan Malik which I found particularly interesting. Elsewhere, I have written about how multiculturalism presented a challenge to the leftist political views with which I had grown up. The Salman Rushdie affair seemed to have played the role of catalyst in Malik’s political transformation that female genital mutilation played in my own.

In the interview, Malik addresses a subject that has been of much concern to me, that of freedom of speech. I have been disturbed by the call for censorship under the guise of limiting hate speech. As I see it, censorship is inevitably the prerogative of those who have power. Malik’s reasoning mirrors my own. From the interview:

Any kind of social change or social progress necessarily means offending some deeply held sensibilities. ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged.  To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.

…. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. This is why free speech is essential not simply to the practice of democracy, but also to the aspirations of those groups who may have been failed by the formal democratic processes; to those whose voices may have been silenced by racism, for instance.  The real value of free speech, in other words, is not to those who possess power, but to those who want to challenge them.  And the real value of censorship is to those who do not wish their authority to be challenged.

Malik’s most recent book, From Fatwah to Jihad, discusses the rise of a fundamentalist form of Islam that has arisen in UK against the backdrop of multicultural policies. I haven’t yet read this book, but it looks very interesting, especially in light of my interest in how multiculturalism, due to the fact that it considers the group to which an individual belongs as being more important than the individual himself, is inherently illiberal and dehumanizing.

Well, here we have another memory out of order. I really didn’t want to write about this so soon. There are certain events which I prefer to put in their proper order so they have a context. So often women and their sexuality are cast as two alternatives, directly opposed. The Madonna and the Whore is how these opposing images are usually named. Not only are they positioned at the extreme ends of sexual behavior, they have other characteristics that accompany the bare fact of sexual activity. The frequency with which a sexually active woman is portrayed as a party girl, a poor student, probably unintelligent and certainly unintellectual and sexual behavior is portrayed accompanied by drug or alcohol use and general loutish behavior is tiresome at best. It offers a false choice. We all know it’s a false choice, but our lives have been so saturated by these images we sometimes we link these unrelated activities together in our minds despite knowing better.

If you’ve been following along with my memories, you may already realized that I was in the process of turning from a nerdy girl into something very different. It is important for me to communicate that I never entirely shook off some of my characteristics that made me a nerd in the first place. I remained a little bit bookish and a good student. I followed my parents’ directions. I didn’t smoke pot or take any other drugs and I didn’t drink alcohol until I got to college. It seemed to me that my intellectual and sexual awakening went hand in hand, along with a social awakening. There was yet one more aspect to this period of my life and that was a spiritual awakening.

Paarsurrey left a question on my About page. I was at a loss about how to answer it. This is only the beginning of the answer.

The penthouse condo was dark when we walked in. I could see that hallway opened up into rooms a few yards away, but there were doors in the hallway starting only a few feet from the front door. We entered the first one on the right. The lights were out but the city lights filtered through the large modern windows and filled the room with a soft twilight. The bed was a platform placed directly under the windows. The top of the bed was almost flush with the window sill. We sat on the edge of the bed and kissed. He fondled me and I found myself hoping he would not leave it at that. I had made the decision to have sex with him that night and I feared that he might back out at the last minute.

He whispered in my ear, “Suck my cock.”

I think I first tried something awkward, like bending over from the waist. He took off his pants and he guided me onto my knees on the floor in front of him between his spread thighs. This was an incredibly intimidating moment and it would be a long time before I found fellatio to not be intimidating. There I was, confronted with his penis. Inches from my face, it and his abdomen filled my field of vision and I had barely a clue as to what to do. I’d heard the usually crude jokes about girls who tried to blow on it because the were confused by the word “blow job,” so I knew not to do that. I went with the other obvious word and tried sucking. He stopped me. “Have you done this before?” I shook my head no. “You’re not feeling pressured, are you? You’re okay with this?” I nodded my head no and then yes. He placed either hand on the side of my head and talked and guided me until he ejaculated into my mouth. It was a strange taste, entirely unlike anything I had tasted before, bitter but not unpleasant.

He pulled me back on to the bed with him. He took off the rest of his clothes and then undressed me and we lay on top of the bed embracing. He got a condom at the ready. He performed oral sex on me. After I had had my fill of that particular pleasure, he asked me to put the condom on him. I frankly told him that I didn’t know how and he showed me. Then he entered me. We fit together easily and moved through many different positions. I orgasmed several times and finally he ejaculated again as well. I lay there beside him on the damp sheets, my body feeling supple and soft. My mind was enveloped by a pleasant haze.

Eventually, he was ready again. He stroked me and petted me until I felt as pliable as kneaded butter. He rolled me onto my stomach, straddled me and began massaging my back. My head faced the window and I could see the lights of Honolulu below. He tried to enter me. When he met resistance, he kissed the back of my neck and whispered for me to relax. He told me to trust him, that he would be gentle.

It is difficult to describe what happened next because it all happened in my head, but it felt no less real for that. As I tried to relax and give into his movement the boundary between our bodies seemed to dissolve. I felt as if I was catapulted forward into the street lights which turned into stars and I rose up into space, but it was no longer me, it was we, and not just him, but an ever-expanding we. I felt as if I had become one with the universe and I was lost in a sea of stars, carried away on a rhythm like endless waves. Then he finished again and collapsed on top of me.

Eventually, as I felt as if I might drift off to sleep, I roused myself, cleaned myself up, dressed and left.

This was the first moment since I first felt at the age of eight that religion was a man-made sham that I entertained the notion that there might be something more to the universe than the material world. It was one of the deepest, most profound and most moving experiences I had ever had. It seemed so profound that I couldn’t believe it was just a simple emotional response. I didn’t launch onto a non-stop spiritual quest, but there was a new idea in the back of my mind, that maybe something else was out there. However, there was one thing of which I did feel certain, that this beautiful feeling was good and any religion that said it was bad or sinful had to be in error. The very experience that caused me to ask questions about spirituality ruled out orthodox versions of the Abrahamic religions as possibilities.

It would be nearly fifteen or so years before I started calling myself an atheist again, and that is too convoluted a journey to summarize here.

This is entirely new to me.

Of Means and Ends

Today marks 101 years since civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was born. By now, many people have learned to look beyond the version of Parks we learned about in elementary school–a brave but mild-mannered woman who just wouldn’t take it anymore. As organizers know, these movements don’t just spring up spontaneously but are the product of planning, strategizing and hard work.

But I imagine few people know the deeper story about Rosa Parks’ early organizing against rape and exploitation of black women, which sparks me to once again recommend Danielle McGuire’s excellent book At the Dark End of the Street:

In this groundbreaking and important book, Danielle McGuire writes about the rape in 1944 of a twenty-four-year-old mother and sharecropper, Recy Taylor, who strolled toward home after an evening of singing and praying at the Rock Hill Holiness Church in Abbeville, Alabama. Seven white men, armed with knives and shotguns…

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“Well, the other day I was talking to my friend Barbara. You remember Barbara, right? She told me how all her friends were reading this book Fifty Shades of Gray. I was so offended. I couldn’t believe she was telling me about it. She thinks just because she’s rich she knows things I don’t. What! Does she think I live under a rock? Fifty Shades of Gray! Is it possible to miss it? So I said to her, ‘Thank-you, Barbara, but I’ve already read it and I was totally appalled. My daughter can write so much better than that!’

“Have you thought about going into the pornography field, sweetie? You’d be very good at it. You always had quite an imagination.”

Um… thanks for the support Mom. And I wonder why I feel like I didn’t get good career advice as a kid. At least she’s gotten off my hips.