Hi, Excuse Me…You Sound Like an Ass.

donkey-441230_1280

Image courtesy Pixabay

I am just about ready to jerk a knot in some jerks around Facebook. What happened to being NICE? Or just shutting the hell UP? I’m not even talking about posts about touchy subjects–I’m talking about things that are personal celebrations that get shat upon by people who cannot resist sounding like an ass.

For example, a friend who really loves Halloween shares an adorable picture of her inflatable Frankenstein’s Monster and a super spooky giggling ghost with the caption, “Halloween decorations are up!”

First Commentor:  It’s not October yet.

Original Poster:  I know, and I’m already seeing Xmas commercials on television.

Commentor:  Time to quit watching television. I do my Christmas shopping locally in December.

Well, pin a rose on you! Everyone stand up and clap for this person who remains seasonally chaste, has eschewed television, AND shops locally.

Hey, Gwyneth? You sound like an ass.

donkey baseballTonight’s example. My friend posts a sweet video of her adorable daughter getting her first hit in softball. This child has played a whole season and never connected with the ball. She has stayed with it and never given up on herself. Tonight, she felt the crack of the bat and her mom caught it on video and it was a lovely, lovely moment.

Until some jackwagon comments:

“Are you sure it was scored as a hit or as an error? Looks like second base bobbled the ball and missed the throw.”

Hey, Ty Cobb? You sound like an ass.

I ignored those two and kept my mouth shut…because I didn’t want to sound like an ass, right? But one happened last week that made me set down my manners and straight up call out a stranger.

My friend’s son was murdered fourteen years ago by a burglar who was robbing their house. This golden-haired boy will always be a teenager, even as his friends turn 30. My friend posted a meme last week that mocked the laxity of laws governing gun shows. I don’t care what you think about the 2nd amendment–you treat the mother of a murdered boy with some KINDNESS.

The first comment? A person–a friend of hers who KNOWS HER HISTORY–said, “Lies. Damned Lies!” When she disagreed with him, he badgered her about “changing the subject” and “not admitting he was right.” On and on and ON.

That was when I lost my cool. I said, “I think M******* gets to say whatever the hell she wants about gun control and the rest of us can either nod our heads or shut up and move along. I’ll be standing over here with the “Parents Who Haven’t Had a Child Murdered With a Gun” support group. I believe the podium is currently occupied by “Mother Who HAS Had a Child Murdered With a Gun” so you speak your piece as long as you want. And I will be glad to loan this C***** person a copy of “How to Disagree With People Without Sounding Like a Total Ass.”

Dude thanked me for “chiming in.” Oh. Hell. NO. If I had been Aunt Esther, I would have hit him with my purse. He got a Talkin’ To.

And he withdrew his original comment with an explanation but no apology. Then he shut the hell up.

Hi, Charlton Heston? You sound like an ass.

Yes, Facebook is a place where people come together and whenever we come together we will find our opinions differ on some things that matter. And sometimes that matters and sometimes it doesn’t. As my grandmother would say, “There’s a time and a place for everything.” Guess what…a mom celebrating her daughter’s achievement is NOT the place for asking for a review of the tape. If you don’t agree with Halloween decorations in September, don’t put them up, but please don’t piss on Frankenstein’s Monster.

And if you have something to say about guns to a mother who held her child as he died from a gunshot wound, it better be, “I am so sorry for your loss.”

eeyoreBe ye kind to one another. Don’t make me stop this internet and come back there.

Passing For a Boy

kabulHave you ever had to pretend to be something you’re not in order to have the freedoms others take for granted? Had to “butch it up” or “don’t ask, don’t tell?” Had to “talk white?” Had to “go along to get along?”

I’ve been reading a book called “The Underground Girls of Kabul” about an open secret in Afghanistan: girls who are dressed by their families as boys so that they may enjoy the freedoms denied to women in that gender-segregated culture. Women’s lives in Afghanistan are strictly limited because of their gender. So the question becomes, “Who would not walk out the door in disguise if the only alternative was living as a prisoner or a slave?”

While Jenny Nordberg was in Kabul to investigate the changes in women’s right in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, she discovered the undiscussed but not invisible tradition of “bacha posh” which means “dressed up like a boy.” In a society where girls can’t move freely outside the home, a bacha posh sometimes provides an economic benefit–another pair of hands that can work to feed the family. In some cases, a third or fourth daughter might be dressed as a boy to fool the world into thinking that the family has produced a boy in order to meet societal expectations. Once the girl child nears puberty, she is switched back to presenting as a girl and re-enters the constrained life of being an Afghan woman. But what freedom has she experienced while living on the other side? She could look people in the eye, play in the sun, raise her hand in school.

Nordberg’s story of her search for bacha posh, current and former, engaged me and got me thinking about other forms of “passing.” Like Jewish chidren who were hidden in German families. Or gay soldiers in the age of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Light-skinned black Americans who passed over to the other side of Jim Crow laws.

In those cases, discovery led to serious repercussions. Death and dishonor. When you are in a life or death situation, “passing” may be the only way to save yourself. But if it’s that easy to blur the line that has been used to divide people, how valid is the line? What struck me about the bacha posh in Afghanistan is that the practice seemed much less dangerous and in some cases was a manner of honor. Everyone knows that’s not really a boy, so why continue to value boys over girls if it’s that easy to fake it?

Here’s how the author puts it:  “Disguising oneself as a member of the recognized and approved group is at the same time a subversive act of infiltration and a concession to an impossible racist, sexist, or otherwise segregating system.” It’s subversive to say, “Fine. If only boys are worth anything, I’ll be a boy. There. I’m a boy.” Will that subversion of the system eventually lead people to scrap the bias against women? I doubt it. Bacha posh tradition predates Islam in Afghanistan.

What do you think? Does “passing” reinforce the culture by playing along by its rules? Or does it erode the bias by showing that the rule was arbitrary from the start?

Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Gluten Soaked Republican Plastic Surgeons Need Not Apply

Vintage postcard, Picadilly Circus, London

Vintage postcard, Picadilly Circus, London

Have you noticed anything new about the look of the blog? Yep, those are ads. Upppppp there ^^^, and ovvvvver there >>>. I hope you will forgive the crass commercialization of Baddest Mother Ever. I write because it brings me bliss, but my kids don’t eat bliss.

The BlogHer publishing network makes it easy for small publishers like me to find advertising content that matches the audience (hello, tampons and Capri Sun!). They also make it easy for bloggers to find ads that match our ethical boundaries. When I set up my publishing network account, I was given a long list of advertising campaigns from which I could opt out.

Like diet pills–would you REALLY expect to see an ad for diet pills on Baddest Mother Ever? I think not. Or cosmetic surgery. Newp. And religion? This isn’t the place. (But I am intrigued to see what kind of religious ads are available.  “Jesus! Coming Soon to an outlet near you!”)

Some of the options made me think about things that I do support–like breastfeeding. If you are so inclined, you can opt out of any ad for an infant formula, a bottle, a nipple. I was a BF mom, but I’m not opposed to nipples made of something other than me. Animal products–that’s another option I had. I left it open because BACON. Sorry to my vegan friends, but BACON.

Lingerie ads? Hmmm. I was about to check “No” but that depends on the ad. If it’s lingerie that makes women feel more beautiful and comfortable, absolutely. If there is any hint of a pouting ingenue in some Kardashiesque getup…nope.

Gluten? Sure. Because, to quote Jim Gaffigan, I don’t know what gluten is, but it’s delicious.

There was one choice that gave me pause AND reminded me of a funny story. Political ads. Would I want political ads to have space on Baddest Mother Ever? I don’t talk politics very often on here but y’all can probably smell a knee jerk, bleeding heart flaming liberal vibe coming from my general direction. (You’d be right.)

One time, my late husband Richard (who was the opposite of me in all things political and religious) and I were talking about our potential possible children that might one day come.

He asked me, “So what if our kid is born blind?”

I waved away the very thought. “So what? We take what we get and call ourselves lucky.”

“What if our child is gay?”

“Same thing,” I answered. “They’re born whoever they are and we love them no matter what.”

He considered for a second, then said, “What if our kid turns out to be…a Republican?”

I clutched my pearls and gave him the stink-eye. “THAT? That is just poor parenting.”

Hahahaha….I kid, I kid. He and I may have canceled each other’s votes in the big picture, but we were on the same team in the everyday matter of living this life. My dad says that his parents never fought except over local politics. They’d get so mad about county commision or mayor that they wouldn’t speak for days. Legend has it that Grandmama Eunice once threw an entire fried chicken out the car window on the way to a church supper over Grandaddy Joe teasing her about a school board election. If you ever had the honor of tasting her fried chicken, you’d know just what a tragedy that was.

I guess my point is I had to do some thinking about what I feel strongly enough about to BAN from my space. We all do this all the time–and the digital social world that we live in has made it so easy to click a button and decide “I’m don’t want to see that.”

So if you’re a Republican cosmetic surgeon looking for a place to talk about your gluten-filled diet pills, keep moving.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program!

Bless My Stupid Heart

A Woman Reading by Camille Corot courtesy Met OASC

A Woman Reading
by Camille Corot
courtesy Met OASC

Fifteen years ago, I kept a journal of sorts for a writing exercise. Each morning, I wrote three pages of stream of consciousness writing. This afternoon, I read it for the first time since then.

Oh, bless my stupid little heart.

I thought he was my best friend. I thought he loved me. I thought I couldn’t live without us.

I was writing those words while Fartbuster was sneaking around and cheating on our marriage. I was so clueless. So much of it was devoted to me trying to convince myself that it was all going to be OK. So much of it was explaining away how he treated me. So much of it was about how my insecurity was the REAL problem. So much of it was me trying to be the reason it was going wrong so that I could be the one to fix it.

One morning, I wrote about how the night before, someone had rung the doorbell at 7:45 p.m. I had found myself hoping that it was Fartbuster, surprising me with a big bouquet and a spontaneous laugh. No, it was a teenage boy selling the newspaper. And in my writing, I chastised myself for being “tough” on Fartbuster when he did finally get home at 8:30. Eight thirty on a Wednesday night and I beat myself up instead of him.

One morning, I wrote about how he was helping out around the house more. How I had returned home from a Saturday outing with a friend to find that he had washed the sheets. Now I wonder what he was washing away. My heart is tightening up in fury now, just thinking about that Saturday, fifteen years ago.

It hurt my heart to read that journal. I skimmed. I fumed. This woman I am now, this wiser woman wanted to judge my younger self for being so dumb. I gave my younger self some grace. Trusting someone you’re supposed to trust isn’t a bad choice. Being a lying asshole is a bad choice.

She wised up, eventually. That mess didn’t ruin her. I’ve come so far, but I’d still like to give her a hug and a good talking to.

Sunday Sweetness–The Same Bridge on a Different Day

Almost a year ago, I wrote a story about trust called “The Swinging Bridge.” Today, we spent some time on that same bridge. I could see how much my son has grown in a year. He’s still so small, but getting so big.

May your day be filled with the kind of love that reassures you that daring is OK.  Click the photo if you’d like to read more!

Steady as she goes, mate.

Steady as she goes, mate.

 

The Socialized Sociopath

9780307956651Short Review of Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas: Read It. It’s a fascinating and cogently written look inside the machinations of a certified non-violent sociopath. You’ll learn and you’ll be intrigued, but don’t expect to get any emotional satisfaction out of the relationship. It will leave you with the feeling that you know more, but you still can’t fix it. Your only hope is to protect yourself.

Why did I choose this book? After reading the blurb on the back I was pretty sure that my former boss is a sociopath:

“We are your neighbors, your coworkers, and quite possibly the people closest to you: lovers, family, friends. Our risk-seeking behavior and general fearlessness are thrilling, our glibness and charm alluring. Our often quick wit and outside-the-box thinking make us appear intelligent—even brilliant. We climb the corporate ladder faster than the rest, and appear to have limitless self-confidence.  Who are we? We are highly successful, noncriminal sociopaths and we comprise 4 percent of the American population.”

My boss wasn’t just grumpy or calculating or a bitch. And it wasn’t like it was personal–people in her control were merely resources to be manipulated. So many times I heard her described as a robot with no capacity for feelings. She looked perfect on the surface, but dead behind the eyes. The laugh always a half step behind. No small talk.

There are a hundred examples of The Crazy, but here’s the one that left me utterly stunned. One of our team had to leave town suddenly because his child was facing the loss of a child. Even the Army cuts you some slack in a tragedy like that. Our boss’ reaction? She wanted him written up for not getting the time off approved first.

The glib charm–check. The risk-taking gamesmanship–check. A “seek and destroy” attitude toward anyone who opposed her–check. Walking away after her hubris left the place in a clustercuss of massive proportions–check.

After it was over, we all kind of looked at each other like, “What the hell? How did we get sucked up in this storm of crazy?” We were played.

Confessions of a Sociopath isn’t an apology–it’s an inventory. The author explains what it’s like to be a sociopath at work, in school, in church, in relationships. I agree with her–being born a sociopath is another natural variation, like being born deaf, autistic. The same variation that gives us sauvants and empaths gives us people with an incapacity for feelings.

Reading this book gave me some measure of clarity about that boss and now I can move on from it. But there’s no redress. There’s no grievance filed. She’s moved on to her next game and we’re left to clean up and rebuild the damage she left in her wake.  Part of that work is rebuilding our own belief in ourselves.

______________________________________________

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

On My Honor, I Will Do My Best

tryI put a lot of effort into living–and living right. I live like somebody’s going to be handing out ribbons at the finish line.

This week, I was pretty convinced that if that did turn out to be the case, I would be handed a “Participant” ribbon.  You know, the one in the weird color that’s definitely not blue. The one that they order in large quantities to give to everyone who didn’t win, place or show.

I wasn’t excelling at anything, just participating. My kids were eating a lot of sandwiches. My running shoes couldn’t be located. Tasks at work kept piling up, no matter how hard I worked. I still hadn’t written a book proposal, much less a book. The wreck of a house was just getting wreckier. The Usual.

But one thing was really eating at me–Light the Night. It’s the big fundraising walk held by the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society. I raise money every year in Richard’s memory. It’s a way of fulfilling a promise to him, so I’ve tried to give it my all every year. For TEN YEARS.

The first year I walked, I set myself a goal of raising $1000. My friends and family donated $3000. So the next year, I set a goal of $3000 and raised $7000. The next year, a $7000 goal turned into $11,000 raised. The year after that?  We managed to donate $15,000 in Richard’s memory. People are so generous! So this has been a big deal for me for a long time.

When Richard knew that he was dying, and knew that he had been poisoned by toxins in his workplace, he made me promise that I would sue on his behalf after he was gone. He pointed his finger right at my heart and said, “If you win, you keep a third, give my sister a third, and give a third to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.” I promised. Scout’s honor.

I tried. No lawyer saw a way to pin it down. There’s no suing pockets that deep. So I let the wrongful death go. I started raising money through Light the Night. I had made a promise.

It takes a lot of work to raise those kinds of dollars. I’ve organized bake sales, silent auctions, coin drives. One year I sold sponsorships on my t-shirt like NASCAR. Twenty five dollars to get on the shirt. Fifty to get on the front. Two hundred and fifty to be in the boob area! One year I did a crunches for money–my sister donated enough to make me do 1000 crunches.

Even with all that work, the momentum slowed. The total came in at $13,000 when it had been $15,000 the year before. The next year, it went to $11,000. Still amazing, but…less than it had been. Last year, I couldn’t do a big auction at work that had been a money-maker for years. My total fundraising came in at about $7000.

Seven thousand dollars and I felt like I had let Richard down.  Crazy Alert.

This year, I was having trouble even getting started. July was so busy, I thought I would begin in August. Then the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge swept the world of charitable giving. So here it was, September 1st and I hadn’t raised a dime. The walk is on October 10th. Gulp.

I wasn’t even participating!

The negative voices started dogging me. “Don’t even bother. You can’t do much at this point.” The evil demon, Inertia, pulled me down.  “This could be the year that you stop.” I was beating myself up because my best didn’t seem good enough any more. And I had promised Richard that I would give something to LLS.

Well, well, well. It seems that ONCE AGAIN, I have failed to take my own advice. Just last week, when I spoke to the senior class at Wesleyan during Fall Convocation, I gave them some simple advice:  Do Your Best. Don’t worry about anyone else’s best–do your best.

We’ve all heard it a zillion times–do your best. But here’s the kicker that I shared with them.  Do your best, but remember that your best CHANGES. From day to day, year to year, maybe even hour to hour.

When I made that promise to raise money for LLS, my life was very different. It was just me and three weiner dogs who didn’t like to go on walks anyway. I had plenty of time to spend on tracking down sponsors, holding events, collecting donations, building a sense of community for the cause. I spoke on behalf of LLS. I taught newer teams how to raise money. I kept planning bigger and better events.

Now, 10 years into it, I’ve got 3 kids, a full-time job, Wesleyan alumnae stuff, a writing gig, and grown-lady bills to pay. I still love the excitement of making a difference, but I make a difference in a lot of ways these days (even if it’s by helping with spelling homework or crafting juicy and delicious blog posts). I’m not shirking my commitment to LLS, but I am giving myself some grace. My best changes from year to year. My best is spread out over so many beautifully creative adventures. boy_scout_with_oath

I’m doing my best in memory of my Eagle Scout. My goal this year it to raise $5000 in a joyful, easy-hearted manner.

And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I got the fundraising website up last night, the donations started coming in–$1430 in the first 24 hours!

So do your best, but remember that your best changes.