Illegitimate Rape

I don't feel like going up against the feminist establishment here so I'll just retreat to my little backwater, knowing that no one will ever read this but I still can vent my spleen!

Angela Davis, in Women, Race and Class articulated the dilemma of, for want of a better word, "non-legitimate rape." False rape charges were responsible for the torture, death, and lynching of tens of thousands of black men in the years leading up to this moment. Sometimes women were complicit in these, but more often they were forced to cry rape to save their own skins having been caught in flagrante with a lover of the wrong complexion. Just as actual rape is being used in places like the Sudan to wage a power struggle using women as currency, false accusations of rape were used for centuries in the U.S., especially in the south, to oppress black men, maintain the supremacy of white male sexuality, and enforce so-called racial purity.

It is, of course, beyond ironic that the people now babbling incoherently about "legitimate rape" and its effect on the female reproductive system are the same ones (or the descendants of the ones) who, when it suited them, were up in arms about the sanctity of white womanhood. In those days, white women were in danger of being tainted by the savage appetites of black males. That battle lost, women are now being looked at with a jaundiced eye as their cries of rape fall on skeptical ears.

Either way, the lesson is clear: white men consider themselves to be the boss of my sexuality. But I sometimes wish my sisters in struggle had a little more historical context when they fight these guys.

Unfinished business

Since a couple of people commented on my earlier post (what a surprise to know some are still reading LiveJournal!). I thought I should bring some closure, as they say, into the Unpleasantness That Is 2012. The news is reasonably good regarding my granddaughter. She spent 5 weeks in a residential facility that is really meant for anorexic teenagers but they designed a protocol for her and both parents participated constantly. They feature "equine therapy" which was very effective. As I told my kids, we could have saved money by just buying the girl a horse. Oh well, she has made strides, is on meds for her anxiety, and is currently enjoying a vacation with her parents and brother. The tube is out and she is expected to go back to school next week with therapy and support in the future. She has good days and bad days, as do we all. Here's hoping the rest of 2012 is better for Aaliyah.

The news about my friend is not so good. He left this earth last Sunday. Jimmy Jones was my first Chicago boyfriend (never got his picture up in the Gallery) and my companion on my 2005 trip to Colorado. Rest in peace, old friend.
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The Bad Thing

My granddaughter A turned 10 two days after Christmas but she did not eat any birthday cake nor play with her gifts. When I arrived in Dalton on December 20th I was looking forward to a long enjoyable visit with my son, family, and especially grandchildren, whom I hadn't seen in many months. Instead I walked into a tragedy unfolding when the Distaff grandparents met me at the airport and A was with them. They had just come from the doctor where she'd had her second ENT workup with an esophageal scan with barium and all that crap, but the abuelas knew this was just ruling out.

Cutting to the chase. One googles "functional dysphagia" and "post-traumatic feeding disorder" to triangulate on the diagnosis -- after an episode of choking the pre-adolescent child develops a severe phobia of swallowing, which can become so severe that the child is unable to swallow even her own saliva. By January 2 she was in the hospital with a nasogastric tube in place. With tubal feeding her electrolytes were rebalanced and she regained some hydration. She stayed in the hospital five days and was send home still with the NG tube. Sees a therapist 2x a week as does the family. Has improved to the extent that she can now swallow clear liquids and some things like a smoothie. Ate mashed potatoes. Once. For Jorge. Has not been to school since before the Christmas break.

All this is accompanied by severe, frequent, panic attacks. Zoloft was introduced about 10 days ago but so far is not working.

If things continue this way she will go to a residential treatment facility. Amazingly enough there is one in Chicago at the same hospital where her aunt works. This is a good thing, about the only good thing about all this. I'm not able to describe how the stress of this has affected every member of the family, and let's not talk about the financial cost as well as the psychic one. They have good insurance but there are limits in this fucked up country.

The shrinks say that fear of death is part of the underlying pathology in this kind of phobia, which is rare. The subtext to all this is the death of her cousin in 2007 at age 15. No words for what the other grandparents are going through. No words for any of this, really. My daughter in law prays her ass off, my son is distant and uncommunicative, my grandson plays video games. My daughter and I talk on the phone and cry. 2012 sucks.

2012 sucks so far

Long time since I've posted here. Everybody has moved to Facebook and Twitter. The posts get shorter and shorter. So this is really kind of a diary because I doubt if anyone will even read it, but that's what I need right now.

An economist I hate once opined that aging and death were not a binary phenomenon, by which he meant that instead of "here today, gone tomorrow," it's more like "here today, watch all your friends die off one by one, finally it's your turn."

In 1971 I had a boyfriend, JJ. We lived together for about a year. It was never a Big Love thing and in the end we parted and I took up with the man who would become my baby daddy. But we remained cordial. In the '80s we were off doing our own thing, marriage and children and my case. There were actually three of us -- in our building was CR, who had a baby of her own in '71. We were close, we three musketeers, until CR moved away in '72 and we got on with our lives.

Then in the '90s we reunited. CR came to visit, we reconnected, and then the internet happened and CR and I stayed in touch. The three of us became grandparent. We lost parents and spouses and siblings. Life went on as it does. In 2005 JJ and I paid CR a memorable visit to her home in Colorado, and in 2011 CR and I took a memorable cruise to the Greek Islands.

I could write many pages about how ordinary and yet how unusual JJ is. He and his four brothers were quite famous in the 1950s as stars of Marshall High School's state championship basketball team. Still remembered 50 years later, he was honored at a dinner in 2007. He was the short, wiry one, still looking good as he turned 70, active and healthy. Played pickup basketball still. He and his brothers hunt and fish in a serious way. He is the only African-American I ever knew (or heard of) who actually went on a hunting safari to Africa.

On his last hunting trip (to New Mexico, for elk) he became extremely short of breath. Long story short: renal cell carcinoma, more common in males (by two-to-one) and smokers (by EIGHT to one). He tried to quit. Now he has. Too late. Things are not going well. He's on chemo but when I shared his experiences with my medical consultant her remarks were not promising.

So I go over there every week to bring him some food that will tempt him, and talk about the old times. His brother takes him to chemo, he's got neighbors and grandchildren and baby mamas up the wazoo looking after him although he lives alone. I don't want to watch this happen and I don't want to think about how much of this is in my future.

And that's not even the Bad Thing.

Weird food thing

This is kind of strange. For almost 8 months I've been eating 4 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit each and every day, like you're supposed to but very few people do. So my research is pretty extensive. I discovered a new vegetable, broccolini, which is tasty and cool. I have my likes and dislikes but I try different things. I've always liked pineapple, so I eat fresh pineapple from time to time. A couple of weeks ago I had some and I experienced a weird reaction. My mouth was hurting and sore and irritated. I assumed that I had somehow aggravated some preexisting sore on my gums or inside my mouth. My prosthetic sometimes causes this. It was so bad I bought some antiseptic mouthwash and used it for a day. I waited until the problem had cleared up completely and then tried to finish the pineapple about 4-5 days later. As soon as I bit into it I experienced the same thing! Instantly my mouth became highly irritated, the gums were sore and burning. Of course I stopped. And I did what you always do in cases like this, I googled. And found a small number of posts from people who had this kind of reaction to pineapple. I know the juice is acidic -- they tell you not to make jello with it because it won't jell. So now I have to cross pineapple off my fruit list, which sucks because already I can't eat one of my favorites, grapefruit, because of taking Lipitor. Anybody ever heard of this?

Weighty Thoughts

I've had the interesting experience of losing weight. During the past 7 months I have lost 32 lbs by a meal plan called NutriSystem which is a good fit for me and works well with my lifestyle. It has been quite easy, actually. My hardest problem is buying all new pants. I like having the structure.

What interests me is other people's reactions. Many people don't notice, but I get a lot of "you're looking really good -- did you change your hair?" type of queries. Which I file away with amusement. The people who are most apt to notice, oddly enough, are people who are themselves very overweight. I don't know what this says -- I assume they are very weight conscious, which makes it sort of disturbing that they must be quite unhappy about their own size.

And I've had two almost identical exchanges with two women who have tiny, toned bodies with about 2% body fat:

Tiny Toned Woman: Is that your lunch? That's not enough food!
Me: It's a plan, it's just the right amount. I've lost 30 lbs doing this.
TTW: Really? Did you used to weigh 30 pounds more than you do now?
Me: Uh... yes, I weighed 175 just six months ago.
TTW: Seriously? Is that a lot? Did you lose weight on purpose?
Me: Yes, that puts me at an obese BMI and I lost the weight intentionally.
TTW: Well, congratulations then, but you don't look any different to me.

It just interests me to see how differently people process body size. A neighbor of mine noticed my first 20 pounds immediately, even when I had a coat on, and then people who see me after an interval don't even seem to notice. To me it was the most salient thing about me, that I was HUGELY, GROSSLY FAT and now it seems that there were certain people who never saw me that way, and what's more, I don't actually feel all that different. I look at the size on my jeans, and it's a single digit, and I process this information intellectually and find it difficult to integrate into my sense of myself. Except recently I had some sort of encounter with a stranger where I realized that in the past I would have taken a back seat due to being old and fat, and now I felt more entitled, being old and normal-sized. Hahh!!

Not my day

I am sitting in my nice new home office, very busy with a project, which should be occupying all my attention. Instead I'm shaking and on the verge of tears. I took my dog for a walk half an hour ago and while investigating some ground cover in the area between the sidewalk and the street he made three or four powerful backleg digs into the ground. As soon as he started, I pulled him away and remonstrated with him. Still he managed to kick a few footfuls of dirt onto the sidewalk. At this moment my next-door neighbor, a woman about my age who I've seen many times but don't know, chanced to be walking toward us, and said "I wish you wouldn't let your dog kick dirt all over the sidewalk." I said "I'm sorry, I stopped him as fast as I could. I don't think he dug up any plants, just scattered around some dirt." She said "I'm sorry, too," in an angry voice, and then walked up her steps (she lives next door to the place where Vince dug; it is not her house), and when she got to the top, out of my sight, uttered a loud "BITCH!!"

Now Vince is a boy dog so I know she meant me. I took him upstairs and then came down with a broom and swept all the dirt back onto the ground and off the walk. But I still can't stop being upset about this. Sheesh, I'm a grownup, I know some people have a nasty temper or might be having a bad day or whatever. I can't go through life expecting everyone I meet to like me (well, actually, I can, but that's my problem). And maybe I should be less passive-aggressive -- I've certainly *thought* "bitch" to myself on more than one occasion but I would actually curl up and die before I'd bring myself to say it to anyone, particularly a neighbor of mine, a woman my own age on a sunny afternoon in a civilized city in a civilized country. I really need to get over myself.

When I was looking for a mood to fill in for this entry, it revealed even more about myself that I am not particularly proud of. I wanted "upset" but it wasn't a choice, and I started trolling through the options. Ones like "pissed off," "irritated," and "infuriated" didn't appeal to me. I felt I *ought* to have felt one of those ways but I ended up choosing the one I really did feel. I think this is a kind of litmus test to detect people who were raised by Presbyterians.


#2 in a continuing series on Women I Have Worked With. Not funny like Hazel, though.

From 1979-1989 I was the union rep for a couple of hundred clerical workers, mostly secretaries, and in that capacity I did a lot of good (I think) and also met some epic wackjobs. Amanda Lee I will save for another post.

Elizabeth was a tall blonde woman who had been messed over by our employer. She worked for a professor who had been told numerous times that he had 90 days to decide whether he wanted to keep her or scrub her, play her or trade her -- but that once the 90 day probationary period expired she would be HIS to keep, no ifs ands or buts. So what did Mr. Genius do? On Day #91 he woke up horrified and called the personnal office and said "I can't stand this woman! Make her go away!"

So of course they tried and I had to stop them. I assume I don't have to tell you why, principal of the thing and so forth. Thus Elizabeth came into my life whining and bitching and moaning at every opportunity. She was a large woman with misshapen feet, yet she persisted in wearing sandals in all weathers, usually accompanied by ripped black stockings, to show off her bunions.

Although she had some measure of job security, she was taken away from the professor and assigned to other faculty over the ensuing ten or fifteen years. I can't even count how many office spaces she was assigned to. Nothing ever satisfied her, and she alienated every cow-orker (ooh, that was a trip down memory lane!) she ever came in contact with. And of course the department could have fired her all along if they'd had their ducks in a row and documented the case properly, but instead they kept violating her contractual rights and forcing me to charge in and save her ass time and again. Once a delegation of her luckless office mates approached me to ask if I would go easy on rescuing her job, but I was able to convince them of the Principal of the Thing and all, thank goodness. Or not.

I never could decide whether she was a classic case of overcompensation for an inferiority complex or a genuine superiority complex, which I'm told are rare. I never detected a fissure in her utter complacency about her job skills, her looks, her sex appeal, or her intelligence. Which were poor, average, no comment, and average by my assessment.

She lied about her age, which I dislike. But she did it in a really funny way. She was about 10 years older than I, and she tried to buddy up with me and another woman whose birthday is just a week off mine. We of course never disguised this, but it was quite amusing to hear her edit her stories of going to college in the '60s. She once even brought in a snapshot that was clearly altered. She committed numerous anachronisms which we would then patiently wait for her to dig out of.

She was a bit of a racist and an altogether unpleasant person, not the last whose job I would be forced to ensure, alas. She palled around with a couple of the other bottom-feeders and they would go clubbing sometimes, but she only ever went home to her cat Jeremy.

When it was time for her to retire, she committed a truly bizarre deception that fooled no one -- she went out and bought an enormous zircon which she wore on the third finger of her left hand, and invented a rich fiance who was going to Take Her Away from All This. Of course I was friends with the personnel (now Human Resources) director on the down-low, and so I knew quite well that Elizabeth was just going to go back to her apartment in Whiting, Indiana and Jeremy.

Jeremy died, and a few years later her landlord got a call from one of the other tenants about a smell. You can figure out the rest.

Chilly in London

So we finished the conference last night and I drank a lot of wine. Slept in (9:30) today and then went off to shop for these crazy things my daughter collects. I was a little early so I stopped in the Covent Garden Hotel tea shop and had a proper tea with buttered scones (I mean, with a little sieve you pour the tea over) and I figured what the hell and actually put milk in my tea for the first time ever. It wasn't so bad. I've officially gone over to the Dark Side now. There's some sort of parade going on around Picadilly Circus so I'm saving my clothes shopping for tomorrow.
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