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So, in my pathetic attempt to ease my social isolation, I joined a few organizations.

Now, I just got back from my “daily constitutional.” Because everyone insists exercise is the cure for depression, I exercise every day. Yesterday, I lifted weights at the gym, which is depressing but just barely bearable. Today is my day for a walk/jog. It’s really more of a power walk than a jog, but I try to keep up the pace. Shortly after starting out I started feeling those chest pains again, you know, the ones the doctors say are in my head. I guess they are. It’s probably anxiety. My route is about 2 and a half miles. In New York it used to be five, but due to the fact that Baltimore is a dangerous city it’s hard for me to find a route that’s more than two miles. And it’s really boring. I do the same route over and over and over. It it gives me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how much I hate my life. How much I hate my body. How much I hate Baltimore. How difficult it is simply to not get fat. How futile this attempt to lose weight is. Then I tell myself that it should be for health, not appearance. Then I start to wonder why I want to prolong my life when I hate it so much. I don’t want extra years of being lonely and men don’t want healthy, they want anorexic. I start feeling like a caged rat on a wheel.

I arrive home feeling remarkably angry and wonder whether or not I should take an Ativan.

I sat down to write. My mind wanders when I walk and although most of the thoughts are how I hate myself a few aren’t. I’ve been working on a novel and few ideas were about that and I sat down to write those down. Then it seems that I had saved something else with the same title as the working title of my novel thus overwriting everything I’ve written over the past few months. Fuck.

I managed to find another copy elsewhere, so I didn’t lose everything, but my bad mood went to even worse.

Now, don’t ask me why, I started feeling really, really lonely. I just want some company. Is that too mush to ask?

Apparently, in Maryland, it is.

I mentioned having joined some groups to try to meet people. Okay, one thing is the sketching, but it’s early on Saturday morning and I woke up late today. I haven’t been able to get to it for two weeks running and I doubt I’ll get there tomorrow. I’ll try. But this is why I fucking hate Maryland and Baltimore. It’s Nowhereville. Could you imagine living in New York and having to wait for Saturday morning to roll around again in order to do something.

Okay, well, I also joined Mensa. Well, once a month they have a film night and tonight was the night, but I didn’t look at it until it was too late. Don’t you know, they go to an early show. I could have gotten to it if I had thought to look yesterday, but I didn’t. Now, I’ll have to wait a month.

So, do they have anything else on their agenda. Yeah – tomorrow – Saturday – Mensa is going to a GUN RANGE!!!! I’m suicidal, but I’m not fucking stupid. I know well enough that I should stay away from guns for the foreseeable future.

Now, what else is Mensa doing?

July’s speaker is Walter Jones, a graduate of Yale University and Howard University Divinity School, and his presentation is titled “We’ve Come this Far by Faith”.  Walter describes it as a brief gospel history lesson, portrait of a people, and folk sermon rolled into one.

Guns, God. What next? An anti-gay protest? Did I join Mensa or the Tea Party?

Man, I miss New York.

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I’ve spent much of the last week at my sister’s gardening. It’s not really surprising that I’m alone because so many of the things I enjoy doing are more or less solitary pursuits.

After spending much of my adult life in New York City I can’t say that I knew much of anything about gardening. I moved down here and my sister, who’s allergic to just about everything on earth, has a huge backyard, by suburban standards. When I arrived, there was a greenhouse in the back. My brother-in-law, who doesn’t really enjoy gardening, kept up the flower beds in front of the house, but the back yard, which is long and narrow and reaches back towards an alleyway that terminates in a patch of woods, had long been neglected. Once, many years earlier, someone had planned and planted a nice garden, but that had since become overgrown.

Most gardening books I read had advice that started with planning a garden that seemed to assume that whatever you did you were going to start from scratch. I had neither the money nor the manpower, or womanpower in my case, to do that, nor would I have had the inclination to do that if I had. So, I had to make up my own gardening ideas.

The first year, I didn’t do anything at all. The main effort was to keep other people from trampling everything. It was a year of learning to identify a great many plants. I waited for things to come up, took pictures and ran to the internet to try to identify things. There were some tall white plants with pretty little white flowers on top which turned out to be garlic mustard, a rather nasty invasive weed. I started ripping it up when I saw it. That was how much of the first year went. Identifying what was in the garden and deciding whether it would stay or go. Unfortunately, since the overall image was one of a big, abandoned mess, people would walk all over everything thinking that everything was a weed. We have primroses, Polygonatum, Epimedium, Galium odoratum. These things were quite obviously planted. I have also found several native North American wildflowers which, while occasionally cultivated, have probably grown there themselves. There’s Claytonia virginica, Chimaphila maculata and some sort of Trillium that I have not identified properly. There had been a large patch of foxglove near the alley, but people have trampled it so many times there’s almost nothing left.

From the green house to a large old beech tree there is a stone path. I noticed a tall gangly plant growing up between the stone. I was about to pull it up when I decided I would wait to find out what it was. A month or two later it finally bloomed. It had rather funky looking brownish pink flowers. I was hoping it wasn’t anything noxious because I like the way it looked. I had quite a difficult time identifying it. I took some photos and tried again. Then suddenly, I remembered a little detail. There’s quite a lot of fungus growing under the beech trees because I see the squirrels dig them up and eat them. (I’ve nicknamed them “squirrel truffles.” I’m not the only person who’s observed this.) I had a vague recollection that there was a relationship between trees, fungi and orchids. On a hunch, I started looking up information about native orchids that might grow among beech trees. I will confess that I got rather excited about the thought of finding something rare, although intellectually I knew it was unlikely. Finally, I decided that it was Helleborine, probably Epipactis helleborine. I found it on a British site and it seems to be common there. It does appear in North America, but it’s not considered invasive or otherwise problematic, so I thought it was rather interesting and I left it. That’s a good example of the idiosyncratic “gardening” that I’ve been doing.

Slowly, I’ve been adding to the garden, favoring plants that encourage the local wildlife. This frequently means native plants, but there’s nothing ideological about it. I’m happy to have non-native plants as well. We have hummingbirds and I’ve planted Lonicera semperviens, Lobelia cardinalis and Spigelia marilandica for them. The Lobelia was planted next to a fern that didn’t thrive, so I thought that I would add to it and make a larger patch of Lobelia. Nearby, was a bit of Chelone glabra. So, my sister offered to help and she started clearing the weeds from near where we were going to plant the Lobelia. She pulled up the Chelone glabra along with the weeds.

A couple of days later, my mother offered to help. I showed her a weed, I’m forgetting the name at the moment, that I wanted pulled up. It was growing off to the side of the stone path. It was a broad leafed plant about half a meter high with pale green leaves with serrated edges. I thought this was a safe instruction to for her because it looked nothing like the Galium among which it was growing. I went to another area of the garden. Later I came by to see how she was doing. She didn’t do what I asked because she was afraid of poison ivy, although I told her there was no poison ivy in that portion of the yard. Instead, she pulled up some “grass” growing among the “flowers.” What she pulled up was Sisyrinchium angustifolium, a flower I’d found amongst some Hosta the first year and which I’d been slowly encouraging and had since become a sizable patch. Well, there’s a couple of examples she missed, so I guess I can start again.

I took a deep breath and told her to stop apologizing. I went into the garbage. Some of the Sisyrinchium she pulled up still had some roots on them, so I started putting them in pots to see if we can save them. Then, when I was going through the garbage, I found what looked like the orchid. I ran to the stone path were it had been, and indeed it was gone. I just sat on the ground and sobbed.

There are days I can’t do anything right.

A couple weeks earlier, one of the neighbors had come by and mentioned that her husband wouldn’t mind picking up a little extra cash if we wanted him to come by with a weed wacker. It’s so damn frustrating. I have a somewhat odd idea. I don’t want to clear everything and plant neat little rows of petunias and dump a bunch of fertilizer and pesticides. In fact, I’ve intentionally planted plants that bugs will eat, specifically I’ve been slowly planting the host plants favored by butterflies. I’m still trying to get my hands on a Pipevine for the pipevine swallowtail, but we’ve planted Milkweed and a Spicebush and we’ve seen Monarch caterpillers on the Milkweed, and, no, we do not want any help in getting those bugs off our flowers.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, aka Blue-eyed grass. This flower is perhaps one and a half centimeters. It's a pretty little thing if you stop long enough to look.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, aka Blue-eyed grass. This flower is perhaps one and a half centimeters. It’s a pretty little thing if you stop long enough to look.

Two years ago, a doctor in an emergency room officially diagnosed me with depression. For me, it was hard to say at what point the usual negative feelings we feel all at times slid into what could fairly be characterized as clinically depressed. I was in my mid-forties and I had long before been diagnosed with anxiety, although I didn’t take that too seriously. I had seen psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals for what had been, for most of my life, mild symptoms. I was an underachiever, easy to anger, low self-esteem… these things were comparatively mild, but I did feel that they were enough beyond average imperfections to hamper me in life. There were days when I wondered if there was really nothing wrong with me but living in an environment where an individual’s self-worth was almost entirely based on achievement. Then again, I had difficulty maintaining relationships. So, I sought professional help. We explored various possibilities, all of which were eventually eliminated except for anxiety and episodes of anhedonia. Although the possibility of clinical depression was raised on several occasions, my symptoms always seem to fall short of being diagnosed with that.

Flash forward a few years…

As some point that’s hard to identify, I began sliding into a depression. Now, I wonder whether or not I have always had a proclivity, but I can confidently state that my recent depression is qualitatively different that previous times when I felt unmotivated. In the past, when I’ve felt myself sliding into a funk, I’d kick myself in the ass, as people like to say. I’d exert my willpower to eat better and exercise more and make sure that I got good quality sleep, some time out in the sun during the day, I would do some meditating, and in general engage in all those good, healthy habits intended to make you feel better. Since I already had a lifestyle most people would consider healthy, during a period like this I’d be a veritable model of clean living. Usually, after a few day, my funk would lift. Was it what I did or just the passage of time? I don’t know.

This time it was different. No amount of kicking myself in the ass was making me feel better. This time, seeking professional help, I knew something was seriously wrong. However, since I had moved, I had to seek out a new therapist. I had a hard time finding one. Once I did, I found I had a hard time convincing him just how serious my problem was. I felt like I wanted to die. I didn’t have a plan to kill myself, but I really, really wanted to somehow just fade from existence. I could barely do the dishes. Always an untidy person, my apartment became shockingly messy and disorganized to the point that I had more and more problems just functioning. I continued to apply my usually de-funking habits, especially the dieting and exercise because now I was beginning to put on weight. I exercised for an hour and a half a day instead of my usual hour. I kept a diary of everything I ate with a goal of twelve hundred calories a day, which I most succeeded in doing, and I never broke down and “binged.” That just isn’t a habit of mine. I was using the same nutrition reference I had used for a number of years. My weight stayed stubborn, my lack of motivation continued, and I still felt like I wanted to lie down and be swallowed by the earth never to be seen again.

If I can judge by what other people have told me about themselves, my normal diet is a bit healthier than the average. Since I was not athletic as a teenager, I started exercising for health at a young age and as an adult I continued, and added to, that routine. In terms of drug use, I tried cocaine once and didn’t like it. I’ve probably smoked pot a good twenty or thirty times. I didn’t drink in high school, nor did I drink regularly in college, but I do recall getting drunk at parties a few times, falling-down drunk only once, usually just thoroughly tipsy. In my twenties, I was something of a weekend drinker, having several beers while listening to bands. Around the time of my depression, I had long since settled into a habit of drinking wine with dinner a couple of nights a week and my social life no longer contained weekends with lots of alcohol. In short, I think my use of mind altering substances has been rather minimal. Alcohol would be the only one I’ve used regularly, and that was never out of control and have never even briefly wondered if I had a problem. If I feel that I’ve been drinking too much, usually due to the calories not the inebriation, I just cut back. It’s never even felt like an effort.

For much of my life, I’ve had people compliment me for my willpower, for my ability to say no to unhealthy foods that taste good, for the regularity with which I exercised, for the fact that I was self-employed and could arrange my own schedule and stick to it without anyone reminding me. So, when I first started seeking help for my depression, which wasn’t yet diagnosed, when I found therapists telling me to exercise, eat well and try to work harder, I was flabbergasted at first. Then I became frustrated when I realized that that was about all the help that was on offer.

What I was feeling was that I had done all the “right” things my whole life, and there I was in my mid-forties, single, back in school for the fourth or fifth time trying to make myself employable, with no social life, and just finding little to enjoy in life. I had already experienced in my attempts at online dating that a failure like me is examined for what I’ve done “wrong.” Now, obviously I’ve made mistakes or I wouldn’t be in this situation, but I haven’t made any of the big, obvious mistakes. Suddenly, I found that I was under suspicion of possible drug use, excessive drinking, loafing, a lack of self-discipline and so on. After all, we live in a meritocracy so I must somehow have been lacking in merit. Throughout my late thirties and early forties, I’d been in a cycle of trying harder and continuing to fail. As I expressed it at the time, “I feel like my wheels are spinning and I’m going nowhere.”

The inherent unfairness in life is not great, but I could live with it and alone it wouldn’t make me depressed. However, the general attitude that if you’re not a success it’s because there’s something wrong with you and the chilling effect that had on my social life was a problem. I began dreading social situations that involved meeting new people because of the question, “What do you do for a living?” It’s a bit old-fashioned these days, but growing up I was told that that was an impolite question. I can understand why it was once seen as rude. Worse yet, I started feeling that I didn’t know what to do. You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results… Well, that was the place I was at. I wanted to improve my social life, my work life, my love life, but I didn’t know how. All the recommendations from other people were things I’d been doing my whole life and which had failed to get results. This is when my lack of motivation started. I had gone back to school, yet again, in hopes of getting something of a career going while I still had enough years left in my life to enjoy it. I found that I no longer had any confidence that this would yield any results. I was doing more of the same and I started to ask myself why I was expecting different results this time.

So when I started to see a therapist and he suggested that I exercise, diet and get myself back in school, it felt like a slap in the face. It felt like an insult to my entire life as a good, clean-living, disciplined person who had done all the right things. Worse yet, I felt as if he wasn’t listening to me. I felt as if I had wasted my entire life doing things I hated in order to please other people, in order to be seen as worthy in this society.

A few months later I would ask some police to take me to the hospital, which they did and where my symptoms were finally taken seriously. (Much thanks to all the helpful people in the emergency room at Bergen Pines.)

Well, all that is the necessary preface to understand what I have to say. A few days ago, in the wake of my more recent crisis, I found myself saying to someone that I hadn’t learned coping skills for living with depression. After I wrote that in an email, I started searching for information on the internet. What I found reminded me that I had done this search two years ago after I got out of the hospital with my diagnosis and I remembered why I abandoned the effort. The advice was mostly diet, exercise, meditate, don’t drink too much, don’t take drugs, get out and socialize, do some creative work, all the damn things I’ve spent my entire life doing from adolescence onwards, and most of which I fucking hate. I’m going on fucking fifty and I feel like I’ve spent my entire life doing what other people have told me I should do. I hate exercising, truly hate it. For much of my adult life I’ve exercised an hour daily, assuming the occasional missed day, realistically that’s about five hours a week or two hundred and sixty hours a year. I spend two hundred and sixty hours a year doing something I truly hate. One of the bit of evidence contributing to my “anhedonia” was when my doctor asked if I enjoy food. Of course I don’t enjoy my food. I’m on a fucking diet. I’ve been on a diet since I was twelve. I could enjoy food, but I don’t eat anything that’s enjoyable to eat. I’ve never not enjoyed a pile of quality french fries, but I almost never ate them. They’re fattening. I don’t actually enjoy meditating either. I can’t say I hate it, but I’ve only ever done it out of a sense of obligation, the idea that meditating might make me a better person. Maybe, but then again who knows. Remember that anxiety I mentioned earlier, well a lot of that is social anxiety. I find socializing with strangers to be very draining. It’s difficult and not enjoyable. As far as the creative work, what can I say, may I laugh in the face of people of the good people who make that suggestion. Not only was I doing all these things during my slide into a depression, I swear that these were the behaviors that made me depressed. When I hear these suggestions, I get a crazy thought in my head I that I want to take an exacto knife and carve into my flesh little hatch marks for each day I spend living someone else’s idea of a good life, like a prisoner in a medieval dungeon. Then I remember that the only person I would be hurting would be myself.

I wish all those well-intentioned people with their good advice would just acknowledge that they don’t have a fucking clue. One thing that irks me is realizing that I could diet and exercise and get thin, find a guy who I don’t really like that much but would be willing to play the role of boyfriend, find a job that still wasn’t a career but at least satisfied other people that I was “trying,” and be not one iota happier, still be wishing that I could die, but if I did all those things no matter what kind of internal pain I was in a therapist would think we were making progress.

Anyway, I’m going to publish this and then put on my sneakers and go for a jog, not because I like jogging but because I desperately don’t want to feel depressed anymore and despite the fact that I believe it doesn’t work I can’t quite bring myself to stop doing it because who am I to disagree with all the supposed experts. That will be about an hour and twenty minutes wasted doing something I hate on the off-chance it will help.

Also, I would like to kindly ask that no one comment unless you feel that you can relate to where I’m coming from, as they used to say back in the seventies.

It would be an exaggeration to say my mother and I nearly came to blows over dinner tonight, but we definitely exchanged harsh words. At the end of the meal, I said that I was still hungry and that we hadn’t eaten nearly enough. She balked. Now, we’re not “counting calories,” but I do find looking at the calories can be something of a reality check. So far today, we’ve had yoghurt with berries, an omelette with some peppers and a green salad with some crabmeat. At one fifty for the yoghurt, another one fifty for the eggs and eighty for the crabmeat, I’d be surprised if we topped eight hundred calories today. She nearly went ballistic when I helped myself to half a matzoh and a handful of nuts. I had to remind her that she asked me to help her, not the other way around. I told her that this is exactly her problem. She’s been bellyaching all day about how she hasn’t lost any weight yet, although we’ve only been on the damn diet for a week. I explained that what she does is deprive herself and then binge. I find myself saying stupid motivational things like, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” We went to the gym earlier today and I increased the weight I’ve been using. I don’t think three balanced meals is excessive.

I’ve made references several times to my “beauty strike” which I gave up last fall but had lasted a couple of years. People in general, but especially women get really fucked up notions about their bodies, food, weight, beauty. I find that every so often I literally have to deprogram myself. These things start seeping into your mind whether you want them to or not. While I know that I am no longer what people would call “thin” I also know that what I see when I look in the mirror is not realistic. More accurately, I should say that what I think a normal, healthy person looks like is not realistic.

My mother, who considers herself a feminist, is and has always been obsessed with other women’s appearances. She would say constantly when I was growing up, “You look so much better with make-up on.” Despite being a die-hard feminist myself, I wore make-up every day of my life from the age of thirteen until about three or four years ago, with the exception of the years I was in college. I started shaving my legs at ten. I went on a diet for the first time at eleven or twelve. I’ve been working really hard for the past few years to divorce my self-esteem from my appearance, above all my weight. Intellectually, I know this is bad, but it’s so deeply embedded in my subconscious.

The other day, we were standing in the grocery store aisle. She took out one of those celebrity rags. It had pictures of movie stars in their bathing suits on the cover. She quickly thumbed to the article. “Look at that! Oh, my! Who’s that? She looks awful.” And so on. A long monologue critiquing other women’s bodies. Even if she didn’t say anything about me directly, I would still get the message.

All my mother wants to talk about is how other women look. Barbara, a woman with whom my mother used to work, has “legs like a racehorse,” the sort of legs my mother tells me she wishes she had. I have better legs than she does and my sister had better legs than either of us. I don’t, as she observed earlier today, have a “fat back.” Her former boss has a flat ass. “That’s terrible. I hate flat asses.” “Did you see the really fat women at the gym?”

Anyway, I just needed to look at this in a conscious fashion because if I don’t it is more likely to seep into my subconscious and simply start making me feel bad about myself. Actually, I should say worse. I’ve never felt good about myself. I’ve always felt ugly and since the only value I feel I have is in my appearance… ech, well it all just goes around in a circle. I’ve come to realize I’ll never be happy. Every day of my life is misery. I’m just garbage taking up space. I wish no one would look at me. I just want to go in my room and hide.

Damn. I hoped writing about this would make me feel better. It seems to have made me feel worse.

In some of my memories, I’ve mentioned a friend I call “Luscious.” When we first met, I was like my mother. I didn’t even realize it, but I also often critiqued women’s bodies. She would point it out to me and sometimes she’d get mad. She really broke me of the habit of judging other women by their appearances. Unfortunately, it never had a rebound effect on myself. I’ve tried to talk to therapsists about this, but they’re just not interested.

Apparently, The New Republic has teamed up with a British publication and they are now sharing material. The first article I’ve read is beyond being inauspicious. I take for granted that publications, especially those that deal with politics, will regularly publish things with which I disagree. However, the shoddiness of this article is beyond compare. It’s “The New Intolerance” by Cristina Odone, and it’s so awful that I don’t know where to start, except by picking up the phone and cancelling my subscription.

She starts with a dramatic statement.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was trying to discuss traditional marriage—and the state was trying to stop me.”

In my mind, I see her standing there, at a cocktail party. Little black dress, a glass of plonk in hand. A giggly, glowing, younger female friend sidles up to her. The friend holds out her left hand. There’s great big diamond ring on her finger. “Guess what!” she giggles. She seems so adorable and so happy.

Cristina puts a supportive arm around her friend. “Congratulations!” she cries.

No sooner have the words left her mouth than the door to the party is kicked in. Blam! The assembled party goers gasp in fear. “It’s Judge Dredd.”

I’m eager to read the rest of the story, how she was hauled before the courts and sentenced to hard labor for expressing her support. Um. Not quite.

Quickly, right after that first line that makes your heart race, she changes the subject. She says that she supports “traditional marriage.” She doesn’t bother to define that. Let’s call this undefined contract “Odone marriage” so I can get rid of the quotes. However, whatever Odone marriage may be, she is disingenuous when she says that her concern is to support it. There are many ways she could support it, but giving talks trying to prevent marriages between individuals of the same sex strikes me as an odd way to go about it. What she is doing is not supporting marriages of which she personally approves, but she is trying to prevent marriages of which she doesn’t personally approve. Not the same thing.

It turns out that “the state” wasn’t trying to stop her at all. Organizations who do not believe that the only marriages in the world should be Odone marriages did not care to host a conference. So, the first sentence is a lie. The state wasn’t trying to stop her, at all. Several organizations, which were not the state, did not want to be complicit in her efforts to stop marriages she doesn’t like. They would not let Christian Concern use their premises for a conference.

The title, “One Man. One Woman. Making the Case for Marriage for the Good of Society”, could hardly have sounded more sober.

That it sounds sober to Odone hardly makes it so. It puts me in mind of a post about my own marriage I recently wrote.

Before we go further, we should take a look at the group who organized the conference, Christian Concern. They are not, as the name might indicate, a support group for Christians suffering from anxiety. Christian Concern was founded by evangelical activist and young earth creationist Andrea Minichiello Williams.

Christian Concern states, that as a result of society turning its back on Jesus the growth of ideas such as “secular liberal humanism, moral relativism and sexual licence” has led to “widespread family breakdown, immorality and social disintegration.” The organisation views the “fruit” of ideas that are alternative to Christianity as “rotten” and seeks to remedy the situation by engaging politically with a broad range of issues, including: abortion, adoption and fostering, bioethics, marriage, education, employment, end of life, equality, family, free speech, Islamism, religious freedom, the sex trade, social issues and issues relating to sexual orientation.

Ironically, considering that they currently think not being aided in the theocratic agenda is “intolerance,” Christian Concern opposed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006, which created “an offence in England and Wales of inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion.”

The conference was finally held in “the basement of a hotel.” That makes it sound rather clandestine, but it also makes me curious to know their budget. I’ve only ever been to London once, but I distinctly recall that hotels in central London are quite expensive.

The Christian Concern had difficulty finding a venue to host its conference which did finally come off. Odone now feels that her “rights as a taxpayer, citizen and Christian had been trampled.” This melodramatic retelling of a rather mundane matter of a right-wing extremist group trying to find a venue for a conference, which they eventually found, is not her point. It’s only the introduction, a heavy-handed attempt to arouse the reader’s sympathy and emotions and to portray the writer as a persecuted, marginalized minority.

Well, I guess the wealthy and coddled are a minority, although I don’t know if I would call them persecuted an marginalized. She was born in Nairobi to a World Bank official. Her father was Italian and her mother was Swedish. She attended a private school in the United States and a boarding school in England. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be so marginalized. Poor dear.

Then, the article veers off the well-trod path of poor propaganda into the wilds if incoherence.

Only 50 years ago, liberals supported “alternative culture”; they manned the barricades in protest against the establishment position on war, race and feminism. Today, liberals abhor any alternative to their credo. No one should offer an opinion that runs against the grain on issues that liberals consider “set in stone”, such as sexuality or the sanctity of life.

Does she understand the word “liberal?” The New Republic is very much a liberal magazine, so I’m surprised that they would publish, or republish, an article with such a confused view of the term. Liberals did not support “alternative culture” out of some weird impulse to just be in opposition to the prevailing society.

Just a quick aside. Odone doesn’t mean the sanctity my life. I know what “sanctity of life” really means. It means I should have had a fist land in my face on a weekly basis because I was knocked up by an abusive man. She’s so concerned about great injustice of the “state” preventing her from speaking, but she probably wouldn’t flinch at the notion that my own life should have been a living hell because she thinks a three-week old embryo has more sanctity than an adult woman. An embryo that would have almost certainly turned into a child growing up in extreme poverty with two emotionally messed up parents both of whom had bad tempers. Forcing two people into a future they didn’t want is exactly where her support of one man/ one woman marriage ends.

She seems to miss the fact that liberalism a word that covers several strands of political thought with a similar origin in ideas about individual liberty. I am not familiar enough with liberalism in the UK to be able to speak about it intelligently, so I’ll limit myself to liberalism in the US, since her accusations would apply equally well to liberals here. The belief in the importance of individual liberty leads liberals to be highly supportive of civil rights. Odone may see the equality liberals seek as “superficial”, but I do not. The fight for equal rights is one of the core values for most liberals, although we may often disagree on the best means to that end.

In the early years of the western liberal state, self-governance was generally reserved for only men, usually men of a certain race and class, although the specifics of that varied by location. As the liberal project has progressed over the last two or three centuries, the categories of individuals included in this group of competent adults capable of self-governance has expanded to include women, people of color and individuals not owning property.

During the course of the twentieth century, many liberals have focused on the liberty of previously marginalized groups beyond the bare bones of the franchise. The ability of women to control their reproduction, and therefore control their lives, is one. The freedom for consenting adults to enter into a marriage contract is another.

I believe that religious liberty is mean­ingless if religious subcultures do not have the right to practise and preach according to their beliefs. These views – for example, on abortion, adoption, divorce, marriage, promiscuity and euthanasia – may be unfashionable. They certainly will strike many liberal-minded outsiders as harsh, impractical, outmoded, and irrelevant.

By this point in time, I believe we all know that the people who make this complaint are not speaking the truth. They do not want simply the right to speak. The want the right to force others to behave according to their own ideas. There is no sanctity of life, only domination over others. They do not want to bear a child they didn’t want to conceive themselves. They want others to do so. They don’t want to be put up for adoption themselves. They want others to be so. They don’t want to remain in a loveless marriage themselves. They want others to do so.

Yes, you are harsh. The life to which you would have seen me condemned would have been a living nightmare. You are not merely outmoded. You are cruel, callous, sadistic and sick.

So why force the closure of a Catholic adoption agency that for almost 150 years has placed some of society’s most vulnerable children with loving parents?

As someone who was adopted, I object to being treated as a pawn in this manner. Don’t care for me as a fertilized egg if you won’t care for me as an adult. Catholics oppose contraception.

Finally, Odone gets to her real point. She sides with the people who would like to overturn the Enlightenment. Will somebody please tell me, what kind of horrid ultra-conservative rag is The New Statesman?

Churches were every­where – one for every 200 inhabitants in the High Middle Ages – and oversaw every stage of life: “hatch, match and despatch”.

Yes, we all know how famously wonderful the Middle Ages were. I mean, how the fuck do I even argue about a point so absurd? How the fuck does The New Republic publish this tripe? Can I have a job? Really.

The Founding Fathers crossed an ocean to be free to practise their faith.

This is simply wrong. Generally, the Founding Fathers are considered to be the people who signed the Declaration of Independence and worked on the Constitution. The people who “crossed an ocean” were other people. Many came here in the pursuit of profit. Many poor people came here as indentured servants. Those who came over here for their faith tried to found a theocracy. We generally don’t consider them Founding Fathers. I have roots that go back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony on one side and to Jamestown on another. Don’t try to tell me about my history.

Church attendance has slumped to less than 30 per cent. Only in two Greek Orthodox countries, Cyprus and Greece, does the overwhelming majority of the population attend services regularly (98 per cent and 96 per cent respectively). Europeans may walk in the shadow of church spires but biblical literacy is so unusual today that a recent survey found that, of 900 representative respondents, 60 per cent couldn’t name anything about the parable of the Good Samaritan, while only 5 per cent of people could name all the Ten Commandments.

So? There are lots of things Europeans no longer do. Bull Baiting. Pogroms. Witch Burnings. Debtor’s Prisons. I bet you don’t thatch roofs as much as you used to or heat your homes with peat fires.

She then goes onto extol the attitudes towards religion in the U.S. There is so much that is a problem with those two short paragraphs I’d need to write another post the length of this already long one in order to talk about it. Please pardon me if I skip it.

Next up (Sorry for the rough segue, but she changes focus yet again.):

Can the decline in the social and intellectual standing of faith be checked, or even reversed? Yes. Ironically, believers can learn from those who have come to see themselves as their biggest enemy: gays.

Think of how successful gay rights activists have been, in both Europe and America. Twenty-five years ago, Britain’s first “gay pride” march took place in London. It was a muted affair, remembers the campaigner Ivan Massow, which “struggled to fill half of Kennington Park and a disco tent”.

Perhaps, but the first gay pride parade in New York followed Stonewall, which was anything but a muted affair. Gay pride started with people fighting back for their lives. If Odone doesn’t know anything about the history of the contemporary gay rights movement, maybe she shouldn’t use it as a model.

She then goes on in a way that I can only imaging that she’s hallucinating.

Practising Christians, Jews and Muslims should also step forward into the limelight, dismantling prejudices that they must be suspect, lonely, losers. Believers should present themselves as ordinary people, men and women who worry about the price of the weekly shop and the size of the monthly mortgage. They should not appear to be religious zealots or gay-bashers or rabid pro-lifers. They should reassure critics that religious people are not a race apart – but just happen to cherish a set of ideals that sometimes places them at odds with the rest.

Notice the use of the word “appear.” They may be gay-bashers or rabid pro-lifers, but they should lie and dissemble. They should hide their true goals.

Let outsiders see the faithful as a vulnerable group persecuted by right-on and politically correct fanatics who don’t believe in free speech. Let them see believers pushed to the margins of society, in need of protection to survive. Banned, misrepresented, excluded – and all because of their religion? Even the most hardbitten secularist and the most intolerant liberal should be offended by the kind of censorship people of faith are facing today. If believers can awaken a sense of justice in those around them, they may have taken a first important step in reclaiming the west as an area where God is welcome.

Notice the clumsy attempt at propaganda. People who believe that freedom of conscience is best protected by a secular state are turned into “hardbitten secularists.” I would be greatly offended by that kind of censorship if it was happening. When someone says, “I am a Christian,” and the police come along and bash his head with a billy club, when the churches are raided and Christian must meet in secret, when they are in need of a Christian “out” campaign, then I will see them as persecuted. Until then, this hand wringing is laughable.

Communities will no longer be able to rely on the selfless devotion of evangelists and missionaries who happily shoulder the burden of looking after the unwanted, the aged, the poor.

Oooh, I’m shaking in my boots. The amount that religious organizations contribute to aid for the poor is a drop in the bucket compared to government programs. I’m far more worried by conservative who want to dismantle government programs than by religious people taking their ball and going home. Besides that, I’m not even sure what she’s talking about. Does she mean if religious people don’t get their way in the political sphere they won’t help out the hungry. Not very, ahem, Christian, I’d say. Or does she mean if the individuals who would have been nominally Christian in a world in which people are forced to profess belief whether they believe or not would give significantly more to a church than they would to charities without a religious affiliation? (Don’t forget, most money given to religious organizations, although technically charitable donations, do not go to aid to the poor.)

Religion has long been synonymous with authority. This was no bad thing when, for millennia, traditional hierarchies were respected for ensuring that the few at the top protected, organised, and even ensured the livelihood of, the many at the bottom.

Is Downtown Abbey rotting your brains over there?

Bloodthirsty authoritarians from Hitler to Pol Pot drove a tank through this vision: they turned authority into authoritarianism.

Right. Because until Hitler everything was hunky-dory. Everyone knew their place. The rich took care of the poor and the poor… aw… fuck it. This is just too crazy. Anyway, I’m just getting too worn out now.

(Note to self: Nothing this crazy woman can do can hurt you. She’s totally impotent. This has no real effect on your life. It’s okay. Deep breath. Calm down. She can’t make you go to her church. She can’t make you believe in her god. She can’t even stop you from having sex. Oh, right. Marriage. I forgot. That’s what this whole smoke screen was about in the first place. She can hurt people. She can impose her views on them.)

The whole thing is just hideous. Just hideous. I’m really upset that a magazine I support has chosen to lend their weight to this garbage.

Earlier in this post I put in a link to a video about the Stonewall Uprising. If you don’t know much about the incident, I really recommend watching the video: The American Experience: The Stonewall Uprising. It’s inspiring.

What many people might not know is a few years ago I went on something called a beauty strike. I’ve been meaning to write about it, but since it started before I began blogging it didn’t seem pressing at any given moment. The essential point is that after having one man after another tell me how I should look I began feeling as if I didn’t know how I wanted to look. It was part of my depression, but I wasn’t looking bad because I was depressed, I was depressed because I couldn’t live up to how other people wanted me to look.

When I was in Paris, I broke my strike. Now, you all may be thinking, “Ah, well, Paris, of course,” and I’m sure it was a contributing factor. However, as I’ve said before, I’m not a fashion hound and that’s not the main reason I like Paris. I’ve actually never paid much attention to the way I looked on previous visits, and didn’t for the first half of that one. What I began realizing was that it had to do with the fact that Paris has a street life. Prior to my beauty strike, I’d been living in New York, then I moved to Baltimore. In Paris, I became aware that the way you look is not only about trying to look pretty. It’s your public face. It’s how you present yourself to the world, a visual calling card so to speak.

I knew that when I lived in New York, but I forgot it in Baltimore, because Baltimore doesn’t have the same sort of street life. I don’t interact with strangers on a daily basis here the way I do in either Paris or New York. This doesn’t mean that in New York I was walking around looking dressy every day. It just means that you’re a little less likely to say to yourself, “Oh, fuck it. That’ll do.” It’s not just that I don’t have a motivation to put on pumps and a full face of make-up. I wouldn’t have a reason to dye my hair pink and shave off half my head either.

So, when I was in Paris, I went on a little shopping spree. A little one. Or maybe a big one for little things. I bought lingerie. Now, maybe I’m crazy, but I dress from the bottom up. When I was young and was planning on being with a man, I’d actually think about what I’d look like at each stage of undress. “How will this outfit look if my pants are still on by my top is off?” Then there’s the matter of sensuality. I never wore hairstyles that required a ton of product because the tactile sense is as important as the visual one. I don’t really go to that extreme any more. Perhaps because I don’t currently have a boyfriend. However, I still like to think that if the opportunity arose I wouldn’t be worrying about wearing ragged, stained underpants with holes in them.

So, when I say that I have a lingerie fetish, but I’m not talking Agent Provocateur playsuits with protruding bows that you can’t wear under clothing. I’m talking about pretty things that you can actually wear under clothes. I never understood how the playsuit things work. Do you make an appointment to have sex? I like to think that I’m ready to take off my clothes at anytime.

Okay, so, I broke my beauty strike. I got my hair cut and dyed, bought some boots and a shirt and a lot of underwear. Pretty underwear, in matching sets, with a garter belt. Technically it’s a “waist cincher” with garters. I believe that’s “suspenders” if you’re British.

However, I got home to realize that I don’t have any clothes that I can wear over it. One thing men don’t realize is that we don’t wear those incredibly ugly, substantial beige or brown things, those tee-shirt bras, old lady underpants and pantyhose to spite them. We wear them because they’re the only things that don’t look awful under certain types of outfits: miniskirts, thin clingy fabric, any kind of stretch fabric. Some of the sexiest clothes can’t be worn with the sexiest underwear. I know, it makes me unhappy too, boys. Now, I realize going to the store and trying to find a dress that I can wear over this is going to be hell.

So, I come up with the brilliant idea of sewing a dress myself. Please, go ahead and read that word “brilliant” as sarcastically as you like. Furthermore, I get the even more brilliant idea of involving my mother in this project. I wanted to do it over the weekend, so I look through a pile of patterns that I bought last year and never made. One of them is a fairly simple dress. It has darts, so it’s fitted, but it’s not tight and it’s not designed to be made with stretch fabric. It looks a little business-like in the picture, but that’s one of the great aspects of making it yourself. I was thinking if I make the neckline a little deeper and make it in a different fabric, it could be exactly the sort of thing I need.

I go over to my mother’s and I show her the pattern. “You don’t think your hips are a little too big for that.” I felt like I wanted to cry. The steam has been taken out of my sails. I want to put on a sweat suit and sit home.

We go to the fabric store anyway and she’s sneering at everything. Everything I pull out, she rolls her eyes at. I don’t see anything I like either, but my eagerness has been so deflated it’s hard to know if there really isn’t anything suitable in the store or I’m just feeling depressed. I start thinking that maybe I could just get some white cotton and some fabric paint and do something creative, but I don’t dare mention that idea to my mother.

If fashion isn’t fun, I want no part of it. I hate what I think of as the fashion of fear. Are my hips too big, is my bust too small, how do I disguise my thighs. It’s just so damned negative. It’s not about aesthetics. It’s not about craft.

Sometimes I think that for just one week I’d like to be the person I wish I could be.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because of kidney stones. If you’ve never had them, be happy. They’re about the most painful thing that won’t kill you. “What do you mean I’m not going to die?” That was my reaction the first time I got them. I went to the emergency room, via ambulance because I couldn’t walk although it was only two blocks away. They gave me intravenous morphine for the pain and ran a million tests. When they first brought me in a nurse said, “It’s kidney stones. I’ve had two children and two kidney stones and the pain from the kidney stones was worse.” Finally, fourteen hours and six thousand dollars later, the doctor decided she was right. They sent me home with painkillers and instructions to drink lots of water and get mild exercise. A week and a half and a great deal of pain later, one day it was gone. Poof. You pass the stone. You have a couple of episodes of painful urination, and suddenly you feel fine as if nothing was ever wrong. Anti-climactic is an understatement.

So, I barely slept last night. Not really a big deal. I would have made up for it by staying in bed late, but I’m supposed to meet my mother and sister for a holiday house tour at noon and I needed to do a quick load of laundry unless I want to surprise everyone by viewing Christmas lights in my birthday suit.

Normally, I wouldn’t even bring it up, mainly because it’s not that interesting. I have my little set of petty burdens and you have yours. The pain, happily, has subsided. The reprieve is only temporary and it could come back later today or next year. I made myself a cup of coffee and decided to read some blogs while waiting for the washing machine. Despite the lack of sleep, I was feeling pretty good and was in a good mood. This is no small thing to me because about a year and a half ago I spent about forty-eight hours in a psychiatric institution for suicidal ideation, and since then I take medication for depression. If there’s an upside to getting an official diagnosis, it’s that I finally take my own moods seriously. Doing something that makes me unhappy to make someone else happy, or out of a sense of obligation, was something I did routinely. No more. My sister wrote “ought” on the center of the white board I used to use for reminders, circled it and put a slash through it. “No more ‘oughts.’ ”

So, my own mental peace has finally become precious to me. I still engage with things that disturb it, like we all must, but I no longer feel as if I’m shirking my duty to be a responsible human being when I say, to myself or others, I can’t deal with a particular subject right now. It’s not a moral failing to not be up for any argument at any time. It’s just being human. We need moments of calm. We need moments of pleasure. It can’t be all work and duty unless you want to drive yourself into a depression like I did. If you don’t know, and you probably don’t, I’m a natural-born puritan. I do everything the hard way, or I used to.

This is where the internet, and specifically commenting on other people’s blogs, becomes difficult for me. A couple of days ago, I received a response to a comment I didn’t even recall making. Well, no surprise there, I made it back in March. It was a short, almost off-the-cuff, comment about how I used to call myself an agnostic and now I call myself an atheist. I feel like I have to say the following over and over again, “I’m in my late forties. I don’t see myself as old, but I’m old enough to have some perspective on things. Neither of my parents were believers, nor was the grandparent, my maternal grandfather, who was most influential in my childhood on this subject. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood in New Jersey that had a lot of Jews, ie. Christianity wasn’t even culturally dominant in my childhood. The Christians in the neighborhood were divided into many sects and not especially imposing. Add to that a sprinkling of Buddhists, Taoists and people who just didn’t care. I started calling myself an atheist around eight. Starting in my late teens, hitting its greatest intensity during my college years, and then tapering off during my early adulthood, I went through a period of questioning about religion. I started calling myself an agnostic. Eventually I wound up calling myself an atheist again.” That’s a summary. I’ve been writing down my life story in almost painful detail. You can find it under the “memories” link in the header if you need more detail and want to follow along.

A lot of ink has been spilled, and pixels have been darkened, over the atheist versus agnostic question. I just read a nice post on it earlier today over my coffee. It’s not a super-interesting question to me. I’m pretty blasé about the whole debate. Call me an agnostic if you like. Just don’t call me before I’ve had my coffee.

The comment to my comment, that I used to call myself an agnostic and now call myself an atheist, was a long, rambling rant that started with the statement that agnosticism was the only sensible position and continued on about things that had never been mentioned by me or the original poster, whose post was only one sentence long, by the way. For instance, he or she thinks chemistry is a superior science to physics, for reasons that aren’t worth repeating. It also included a complaint that the commenter had been blocked on other blogs. I read the comment, which confused me. I wondered why this person was writing to me. I looked at my original comment and then saw the date from last March. I decided to not respond to the comment. Apparently, my lack of response did not satisfy that person. I got another response to my comment (Remember, this isn’t even my own post.) from the same person. Now, frankly, this is getting weird. My blood pressure rose. I’m sure my face turned red and steam came out of my ears like a cartoon character. So, I responded. Considering the anger I was feeling, I think I was surprisingly civil. Instead of saying what was on my mind, which was “fuck off and die,” my reply was as follows:

Thanks for the caring response, but I think you may be putting more depth into what I said. First, I actually grew up without a religion. My father was most likely to call himself an atheist and my mother an agnostic, but I don’t really see a lot of daylight between them. It’s more a question of emphasis than a difference in belief. As far as I can see, one can be both at the same time. The probability that the Judeo-Christian god, or any other personal god, exists is low enough to be effectively zero. Therefore, I am a-theistic, without god. However, sometimes people discuss the divine in more abstract terms. In fact, I know very few fundamentalists. I grew up in a very boring, suburban, mainstream environment in the U.S., not in that particular subculture. The majority of the people with whom I grew up were Christian, but fundamentalists were a very small percentage. So, most people I know view the Bible metaphorically. The same things goes for most of the Jews I know. When those people tell me that I can’t prove that their very abstract notion of god doesn’t exist, I’m perfectly happy to say that I am not trying to prove that. If they want to call me an agnostic, that’s fine. There are things about which I have no knowledge, therefore I am a-gnostic, without knowledge.

So, I am essentially both. I don’t believe in a personal god who intervenes in the universe and requires regular worship and there are things in the universe beyond my knowledge.

I’m going on fifty, and a lot of other things occupy my mental space. In late adolescence and early adulthood, I thought about these things a lot, but not these days. I rarely ever get into discussions about the existence, or non-existence, of God with people on the internet. The only reason I’m prompted to engage with other people at all is because I believe people should be able to enjoy sex without shame, I believe that contraception should be readily available, I believe that people should be able to enter into romantic unions with anyone they want, including members of the same sex, I believe that that people should be free to control their own bodies and identities, which includes their gender identity, I believe that state funded education should teach mainstream science, I believe they should not promote a particular religious view.

Your views on physics are frankly very ignorant.

I tried ignoring your previous comment because this subject is not of great interest to me. Please do not engage with me about this again. I have zero desire to explain my position to every Tom, Dick and Harry who is vain enough to think he deserves his own extra-special personal explanation. I’m sorry you grew up in a fundamentalist environment. I did not. That is your burden, not mine. I have my own issues, frankly.

I guess my response hid the actually level of anger I was feeling at having my mental peace disturbed by this individual twice in one week, because he had the temerity to respond with something other than, “Sorry to bother you.”

Well, my laundry is done and I need to make myself presentable. I’m just going to throw this up as is and continue it later.

When my sister first moved into her current house, one of her neighbors came over and said, “When someone puts up Christmas lights, we say, ‘There goes the neighborhood.’ “

Over the past several days, I’ve written ridiculously long comments on someone else’s blog that I feel almost could have been a post in its own right. Yet, without the context I’m not sure how to turn it into one.

It started with me getting my nose out of joint, as usual, over the subject of Americans being a bunch of terrible, uncouth louts. I tried explaining why this was emotionally triggering to me. In response I got something to the effect of, “But you are a bunch of uncouth louts.” I guess. But few people grow up in “The United States.” We grow up in specific environments, particular towns. One of the reasons I started writing is because I feel like my particular point of view is not represented publicly anywhere I look. I feel invisible on several levels. Sexuality is a big one, as is my particular moderate liberal political orientation. One level where I feel invisible is the cultural environment in which I grew up. On the one hand, it was very much part of the mainstream. On another hand, it feels very underrepresented in the media. The more I write about my adolescence, the more I would like to introduce that world to other people. It certainly has its flaws, but all in all it wasn’t so bad.

I grew up in an ethnically diverse, religiously diverse, comparatively tolerant environment that, to my mind, has no less reason to be considered “American” than anyplace else in this country. Will someone tell me who gave the Deep South and Appalachia the trademark on the word American? Where I grew up may not be “typically American,” but, at the same time, it’s very American in so far as it couldn’t have been anything else. I have just as much right to this country as anyone else here, dammit.

I’m not going to excuse myself for getting emotionally involved and perseverating (Yes, WordPress, it’s a word.) over a particular topic. Artistically and intellectually it’s been a surprisingly productive trait, although my friends and family can find it tiresome and it can be emotionally draining sometimes. So rather than avoid the topic, I’ve decided to delve further into it and I’ve picked up a couple of books on the subject of regional differences in North America and the United States.

Many years ago, I read the book Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer. Although I think he overstates his case in many ways, it was eye-opening to me. For years, I always wondered why the “America” I see portrayed in the media bore so little resemblance to the world I knew. Fischer describes how the core settlements in different regions of North America, which would eventually become parts of the U.S., were originally settled by people from different areas of the British Isles, primarily England, who brought with them different regional cultures. It was eye-opening because I finally understood not simply that different areas of the country had different subcultures, but why.

As I said, I think he overstates his case in many ways. First of all, I don’t accept this entirely culturally driven model. That’s not a small area of disagreement and that requires a lengthy explanation. Hopefully, I will be able to get to it eventually. Secondly, Fischer insists, repeatedly, that these four English subcultures are the main drivers of American culture and downplays the influence of other groups. As someone from New Jersey, specifically from the region that had previously been the colony of East Jersey, I couldn’t place my own culture within his framework. Reading the book, I mentally went back and forth between his description of the culture of East Anglia (Yankees) and that of the Midlands (The City of Brotherly Love/West Jersey). Both were familiar, especially the culture of the Midlands as described by Fischer, but neither felt right.

Fischer’s book, despite it’s drawbacks, was widely influential and it’ s frequently quote. I find myself citing it frequently too.

Then a few years ago, I came across another book, The Island at the Center of the World. Perhaps it’s because I found the book in a store near Hunter College on Lexington Avenue, but looking at the title I knew immediately what island Shorto meant. Now, if you don’t know where the Center of the World is, allow me to humbly, modestly inform you that it is New York City. Shorto describes the original Dutch colony. One important aspect of the colony of New Netherlands is that, during the Dutch golden age, they had difficulty finding colonists and the original colonists came from a variety of places. New York has been multicultural from the day it was founded. Reading his book, I thought to myself, now this place is familiar.

So now I’m reading a book called American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard. He fills in some of the gaps I felt while reading Fischer’s book. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as I get further into it.

When I was young, dating was fun. When other women would say things about how they couldn’t wait to get married just so they could stop dating I thought it was just about the stupidest thing I ever heard. Not quite the stupidest, though. After all, women can get pretty stupid when talking about male/female relationships. I grew up with two parents who were, in their own quiet suburban way, pretty unconventional. They never pressured me to get married or to give them grandchildren. As long as I didn’t do anything unethical, anything that hurt other people, they always said that they would support whatever kind of life I wanted to have. When I explained to my mother that I needed to show genitalia in my paintings because twisted poses to hide the obvious were starting to look affected and ridiculous to me, she said, “I’m fully behind whatever you feel you need to do artistically.” I suspect that, if I told her that I wanted a law degree to make a bundle of cash, she would have frowned. Those were the sort of values I was taught.

The dribble dribble dribble about how it was important to have a man, important to be married, still reached me, usually through the medium of friends’ mothers. They sounded to me like something out of the dark ages. It’s still out there in the ether, that a woman without a man is somehow a failure.

These days what people call feminism is all girl power girl power enabling bullshit. Maybe I’m too old. I can remember when feminists actually expected something of themselves. Now, we’re supposed to “support” other women for no better reason than the fact that we share similar genitalia, even if that “support” is nothing more than enabling self-destructive behavior. Worse, we’re supposed to support other women even if their behavior hurts women in general.

“What on earth are you driving at?” you may very well be wondering. Well, I sat down at my computer knowing that I hadn’t yet done my Thursday post. Before starting to write, I looked at a couple of tabs I had open in my browser. I thought I was going to write about Detroit. The browsing was nothing but light procrastination. The tabs are still open now, The New York Times, a couple of blogs I follow, and Salon. I don’t read Salon regularly, but I looked up something there a few days ago and somehow never closed the tab. What were the headlines on Salon? There was not one, but two, articles about Huma Abedin. One was entitled “Leave Huma Alone.” It was accompanied by a photo of Huma, gazing lovingly at and smiling at her husband, a one time congressmen best known for sending young women unwanted photos of his penis. When I saw her smiling face, an inexplicable level of anger rose up in me. I started asking myself why, why do I hate this woman? The emotion of hatred is so overwhelming that it cleared my head of what I originally meant to write.

If it was early in the morning, perhaps I’d take a jog, clear my head, and try to get myself on some sort of high road. In reality, it’s past midnight, so I’m just going to think out loud, engage in a little free association and try to figure out why I even give a shit about this woman.

Until the afternoon of the twenty-third, I barely knew who she was. A couple of years ago when Weiner was implausibly denying that the photos of the penis were his and making up an insane story about how his Facebook account had been hacked, I recall that he used his new bride as part of his alibi. I remember there was some comment about his wife having been a protegé of Hillary Clinton, the world’s most famous cuckoldess. When I heard about that, I just figured that Weiner had about zero real affection for her and probably married her for her connections. Beyond that, I was barely aware of her existence. Weiner resigned and nobody cared anymore.

So now, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner are both running for public office in New York City. Fun time! I saw an article that said that women found Weiner more forgivable than Spitzer, which surprised me. Spitzer just visited a prostitute, a willing, well paid prostitute of legal age. Kinda boring if you ask me. Weiner is just creepy, in my opinion. It puts me in mind of a man who was lurking behind some clothing racks in a department store and took out his penis in front of me when I was about four or five years old and had temporarily wandered away from my mother.

I saw the video of Anthony Weiner’s press conference on the internet on Tuesday. I hit play and could only watch it for a few seconds. I turned it off feeling enraged, not at Weiner, but at Huma. Why? Because she smiled. She looked like a simpering idiot. Her husband it admitting to multiple affairs and she’s not just standing by his side, but she’s smiling like it’s all some wonderful joke.

When I was a young woman, I couldn’t stand seeing Hillary Clinton lying through her teeth saying that she wasn’t standing by her man “like Tammy Wynette” when she was pretty clearly doing just that. Later, when she ran for the Democratic nomination, I still felt waves of disgust every time I saw her, but I kept trying to stuff that feeling down telling myself that she came from a different, more benighted, generation. What is Huma’s excuse?

Women who have no self-esteem, who will do anything to hang onto a man disgust me for so many reasons. How many of us have friends and relatives who have been sexually abused by step-fathers and whose mothers side with the man they’re so afraid of losing? I can think of a few. What would Anthony Weiner have to do for Huma to leave him?

On the one hand, I feel it’s petty, that I shouldn’t care about their private life. On the other hand, I hate them. It’s not healthy. I hope they both go away so I never have to look at them again.Huma’s behavior hurts women because the message that women need to do anything to get and keep a man is not just given to women, it’s given to men as well. I’ve met many men who have expected me to take a shocking level of crap from them. When I tell them they’ve crossed the line and it’s over, they’re shocked. Why on earth would they be shocked? My requirements are fairly minimal and I usually make them clear. But some of them believe that all women are needy, that they need a man to give them a sense of self-esteem. They think we’re all like Hillary and Huma. We’re not.

By now, everyone must have heard the big news coming out of the UK. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced a nation wide filter to block pornography. Internet service providers in the UK already offer optional pornography filters. For the new nation wide filter the default setting will be to have the filter on. Customers will have to choose to opt out. I’ve read about half a dozen general articles on the topic as well as another half a dozen narrower articles about specific aspects and, outside of the “default-on” requirement, I am confused about what it being proposed. Child pornography, which was already illegal in the UK, will continue to be illegal, however the police will be given new, unspecified, powers to pursue it. Images of simulated rape, which was previously illegal to create, will now also be illegal to possess. Furthermore, wi-fi in public places will be required to have a porn filter in use.

As an adult woman going on fifty, I don’t feel that I should spend my life relegated to the children’s section of the library because lax parents don’t know how to protect their children.

A sketch of a naked woman lying on her back.

One of the reasons I don’t call myself a “sex-positive feminist” is that many of the people who use that term appear to me to be less concerned than they should be about a person not being exposed to pornography at moments when they do not want to be. They deny any potential downside to pornography. Although I almost always actively oppose restrictions on pornographic content, denying that there can be any negative side to it strikes me as wishful thinking. If what we read and view didn’t shape our perspective on the world, many artists and writers would stop tomorrow.

However, government imposed filters will tend to support the status quo and anyone seeking to question it will run afoul of the censors. For this reason, I have always felt that feminists in particular should not support bans on pornography. In an article about the new content filter, The Telegraph mentioned that unnamed “children’s watchdogs” speculate that “boys’ attitudes to women and girls were in danger of being shaped by their easy access to pornography online.” I would like to humbly suggest that boys’ attitudes to  women and girls is being currently shaped by everything from advertizing, to movies, to novels, and perhaps nothing shapes their attitudes towards women as much as the interaction of their very own parents. Would the government like to censor the behavior of children’s parents at home? Furthermore, would difficult access to pornography tell them something significantly different from easy access.

Then we still haven’t answered the question of “what is pornography?” Will Courbet be filtered? (I was going to do my own sketch of that painting, but WordPress does not permit close-ups of genitalia.)

Maybe next, the government of the UK will work on the meaning of life and get back to us.

While poking around news from the UK, I couldn’t help noticing in a sidebar some woman was called “brilliant” for producing a boy. I hope the filter isn’t going to block some basic information about how babies are made because apparently Britons need a little more information about how that works.

As an American I’m a little bit concerned by the statement:

A joint British and American “task force” will be created to tackle obscene websites, while Google and other search engine providers will be required to draw up a “blacklist” of the most depraved and illegal search terms, the Prime Minister will announce.

It would be very nice to know exactly what our own government is doing in this regard.