Archive | August, 2012

Bra Makers are Boobs

31 Aug

I was in middle school—we called it junior high back then—when I got my first one. My mother took me shopping, after enduring weeks of insistence that I really did need one. “What do you want one of those for, honey?” she said. “You don’t even need one.”

“Yes! Yes, I do!” I said. “I’m the only girl who doesn’t have one. They all make fun of me!”

So, off we went to my mother’s favorite department store for my first bra.

I was excited; the teasing and torment were finally going to end. I was excited, that is, until I encountered Brunhilda. I have no idea if the woman’s name really was Brunhilda. The German accent I recall is probably a fabrication of my scarred mind. But there she was, standing between me and the lingerie that would deliver me from the hell of changing for gym in a locker room full of growing girls.

Brunhilda was tall. Brunhilda was big. And Brunhilda had the biggest breasts I’ve ever seen on a woman. There are lots of names for breasts. Some are cute, like “titties” and “boobies.” Some are funny. Think “chesticles” and “sweater puppies.” But this woman had jugs, each about the size of my head.

My mother introduced us, noting that Brunhilda would be fitting me for a bra. Without saying a word, Brunhilda whipped the tape measure from where it was draped around her neck and lassoed me with it. She measured under my wee bits. She measured across my wee bits. She stood and announced, “You don’t need zee bra.”

Just as she was about to point us in the direction of the undershirts, my mother worked some kind of Southern Belle voodoo on her, which consisted of dressing a tart request in a sweet gooey accent. Suddenly, training bras appeared and I could undress proudly for gym.

Our current bra problem is not mine and there is no voodoo my mother can work to make this one disappear.

The cute little bralettes and sports bras my daughter has been wearing, off and on, for some time now have a fatal flaw: they can be seen under white shirts. Because nipples can be seen under white shirts when one doesn’t wear a bra, all of my daughter’s white shirts are no longer wearable and she has a lot of white shirts.

So, we went on the hunt for flesh-tone bras, the kind that blend with your skin tone and seem to disappear under a white shirt.

My daughter has skin the color of very expensive, very fine milk chocolate. I love her skin. In winter, it glows with a warmth that belies the frigid outdoor weather. In summer, it takes on deep cinnamon hues; she looks good enough to eat.

Flesh-toned bras are the color of some mythical Caucasian woman’s skin. Though they work well enough for me, they don’t really match the skin tone of any real woman I know. Still, we white ladies don’t have to toss our white shirts when the boobies start to appear.

There are no options for budding young dark-skinned girls. I know this because I’ve looked in every conceivable place for some kind of undergarment that will enable my daughter to wear her favorite white shirts again. I’ve looked at Nordstrom, Gap Kids, Justice, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Aerie, Amazon, Brasmyth and Target.

I’ve even been to Gilly Hicks—a store for girls—where “Push ‘Em Up” bras and thongs are displayed under spotlights in otherwise dark shopping environments. A virtual trip to their website was even more frightening. Again, the bras are displayed against a black background, but here they promised “perfect fit with lots of lift.

As a teacher and mother to a ten-year old daughter and a teen-age son, I’ve seen quite a few girls in the Gilly Hicks target market. The only lift any of them needed was to the mall. Aren’t’ perky breasts part and parcel of being a teen?

Lest you think young girls are going after a product marketed to women, take a peek at the GH Girls landing page, where you’ll see a disrobing man and an invitation to “become a Gilly Hicks girl.”

Image: Gilly Hicks

The message my shopping ventures delivered was loud and clear, wrapped in a package replete with hypersexualization and a side order of racism. It’s perfectly ok to acknowledge, even celebrate, my daughter’s burgeoning womanhood. She can, in fact, find any number of garments guaranteed to have her walking down Lolita lane. What she can’t have is a single article of clothing that will enable her to wear her favorite white T-shirt with the pink and grey horse on it.

My kids say funny stuff, too!

28 Aug

There are about nine thousand “my kids say the funniest stuff/crud/crap/sh*t blogs. Well, my kids are funny, too, and I’m still casting around for something to do with my regular Monday posts. You’ll note this post is being published on Tuesday, just further evidence that I have no idea what to do with Monday. But, I digress.

My son is the funniest person I know. He’s smart and quick-witted. His humor is also obscene. I have spent nearly a year trying to figure out how to present him in a blog that is frequently read by those with more delicate sensibilities, like my husband.

My son gets particularly ribald when in my company. This is probably evidence that my parenting skills leave something to be desired, but I think the cow is out of the barn on this one. My husband used to tell us that we had gone too far, that I was just encouraging our son’s baser nature, to which I said, “Well, duh!” He’s given up; now when my son and I get going, my husband takes off his glasses and buries his face in his hands.

Our daughter, though, is far more subtle. Recently, she agreed to go to exploratory meetings for joining orchestra. Your and my tax dollars make it possible for her to learn to play an instrument; the only cost to us is rental of said instrument. Originally, daughter was on board. Then, she figured out she’d have to practice and get up early for rehearsals. Her enthusiasm waned, but she committed to the two early morning exploratory sessions.

This morning was the first. At 6:30, I went into the office to wake her. (Why, you ask, is she sleeping in the office? See photo below.) I gave her a little nuzzle then a soft “Peanut, it’s time to get up.” She didn’t move. “Remember?” I asked, “you agreed to go to orchestra.” Without opening her eyes, she let out a groan and said, “What did I ever do to you?”

That’s Just Great

24 Aug

Maybe you’ve seen it. If you watched the Olympics, you probably did. A runner is silhouetted against a flat Midwestern horizon. As the runner gets closer to the camera, it becomes clear that he is overweight. He gets closer and closer to the camera and we find he is not just overweight, he’s a kid. Throughout the commercial, a narrator speaks eloquently about greatness, how it’s in each of us. At the end, we see the Nike logo.

Certainly, the spot is arresting and thought-provoking. As a runner and a mom, I was thrilled to see a kid positioned as a role model. How much more possible does getting fit seem after watching Nathan Sorell—for kids and adults?

But not everyone finds the commercial inspiring.

Journalist Lindy West of Jezebel thinks the ad is unreal and insulting to the obese, that Nathan didn’t “just get up and run.” She notes that Nathan puked up his breakfast in a ditch at one point. My daughter took track camp this summer. Every day, the coach cautioned the kids not to eat a full breakfast before running. Every day, at least two kids had to bail because they ate a full breakfast too soon before camp.

Frankly, puking during and after running is very real. If you watched the men’s 10k, you saw Mo Farah, the gold medal winner, celebrating with his friend and training partner Galen Rupp, who won the silver. You may not have seen Rupp upchuck after finishing.

I’m going to assume that Nike coached Nathan not to eat breakfast before filming. I’m also going to assume that Nathan, who does indeed seem committed to losing weight, eats more judiciously now before he runs.

The editor-in-chief of Childhood Obesity, Dr. David Katz believes the ad shows Nathan looking “miserably uncomfortable and as if he’s about to topple over.” Dr. Katz sees nothing of greatness in the effort except, maybe, for Nathan’s commitment to do it. He would have liked to see Nathan doing something that he can be great at, like math or art or music. I’m not sure how that would help the kid hit a healthy weight but I’m not an expert in childhood obesity.

I don’t agree that Nathan looks “miserably uncomfortable.” I think he looks like anybody on a run. Is it great that he got up and ran? Absolutely. Is there anything of greatness in Nathan’s effort? Could be, and that’s where I get stuck.

In my mind, there is a difference between “great” and “greatness.” “Great” means “really good,” to me, as in, “Great! You did your homework” or “Those cookies you made were great, Mom.” “Greatness” means “excellence” to me. Greatness is reserved for those who have risen to the pinnacle in their field, like Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt.

I wonder about greatness and my children and I don’t think I’m alone. All of those future President/CEO/American Idol Onesies are going to someone. I hear snatches of parental aspiration everywhere. Witness this overheard during my daughter’s gymnastics lesson:

Younger sister, to her gymnast sib: “You were great!”

Mom to the gymnast, who I figured to be about eight: “You were not great. You were not good. You fell off the beam three times. You have to be focused.”

Someone needs to run that mom the footage of Gabby Douglas clinging to the beam upside down on national TV.

Photo: Washington Post

My son plays guitar and drums. Lots of people assume he wants to be a rock star. Even though his heroes include Dave Grohl and Jeff Beck, he has no desire to get on the road or the stage. At a recent Passover, two (middle-aged male) guests couldn’t believe he didn’t want to be the next Jimmy Page. At first, I didn’t believe him either, but he’s said it often enough that I’m not seeing any backstage passes in my future.

My daughter looks to be passing on greatness for now, too. Watching Aly Raisman nail her floor exercise, she said, “So, if I work hard enough, I could go to the Olympics, too.” “Sure,” I said. She considered the possibility then said, “Nah. Too much work. I want my child years.”

I don’t mean to imply that my children won’t achieve greatness or that I don’t want them to. Maybe they will but I would like to let go of the idea that they need to shoot for the top in all of their endeavors.  I don’t want to amend my definition of greatness, either. My daughter is right. Achieving greatness takes a lot of hard work, no matter if you have natural talent or not. Elite runners train twice a day, every day. Gymnasts move away from their families and get tutored instead of going to school. Musicians spend hours practicing mind-numbing exercises. All in pursuit of greatness.

I think it’s great that my daughter loves flipping herself around a wooden beam and running faster than almost everyone in her class. I think it’s great that my son loves music and wants to learn how to play every instrument he gets his hands on. Is there anything of greatness in their flipping, running and playing? I don’t know and I’m working hard on not caring.

I think it’s great that Nathan Sorell got off the couch and ran. I think it’s great that Nike chose to spotlight a pretty ordinary kid.

I believe it’s true that we are all capable of greatness, but I also believe that, in some things, being great is enough.

What to do? What to do?

23 Aug

My children went back to school today. My son woke me at 6:20 to say goodbye with “Mom! Get up! It’s time to go back to the angst.” “You have angst?” I asked. “All teenagers have angst, Mom,” was the reply.

I am working on several things at the moment: today’s blog post, my professional website and a memoir. Today’s blog post could well wind up being tomorrow’s blog post. The professional website is an ongoing nightmare. I wish Le Clown would do it for me, but I have no money. The memoir? It makes me giggle to even think of it as I have the worst memory in the history of history. But, my husband has a Ph.D. in history and knows me pretty well, so he can help me remember the stupid things like dates.

So, if y’all don’t mind, I’m going to enjoy the three more hours of freedom I have before the boy comes back to regale me with tales of angst. I’m going to run then get my butt in the kitchen to crank out my traditional first day of school cookies.

This Is My Country, Part 2: We Pledge Allegiance

16 Aug

AP Photo

During my student teaching assignment, I stood every morning with my students and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Every morning, I managed to cough during the “under God” part. I’m sure the kids thought I had a cold or allergies, but the truth was, I couldn’t say the words without feeling like a hypocrite.

See, I don’t believe in big-G god. You know, the white guy on the cloud dispensing justice. The creator of the Universe, the guy who put dinosaurs and people on the Earth together then decided to kill off the dinosaurs and cover that little slip up by making it look like dinosaurs died ever so much longer ago than they really did. I like to think of God playing a little prank on archaeologists. Just his way of having fun. Immortality’s gotta be boring as (wait for it) hell.

I also don’t believe that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation, but that’s a discussion for another post.

So, my saying “under God” is not going to happen without a fight. I know I could just say the words as if they don’t really matter. Who really knows what all those words mean, anyway? Certainly the children who say them have no idea what they are really saying. But I do. And I can’t make myself say the Pledge the way we currently say it.

But Americans, by and large, love their flag. They love their flag so much that they even get kind of snotty when someone—say, a politician or an athlete—doesn’t wear the flag.

Back when Barack Obama was running for President the first time, some media pundits decided to pick on him for not wearing a flag pin. Everyone else was wearing a flag pin but Barack wasn’t wearing a flag pin. That meant he wasn’t proud of his country. He said some stuff about living American values that didn’t really get anyone to settle down so he started wearing a flag pin.

Recently, some unnamed pundit-y guy on Fox (“unnamed pundit-y guy” means I can’t remember his name) decided that the TeamUSA women gymnasts weren’t American enough because they didn’t have little flags on their $500 custom-made leotards.

Photo: buzzfeed

Now, I watched the gymnastics. I watched a lot of the gymnastics. There were white leotards, red leotards and blue leotards. All of them were encrusted with white Swarovski crystals that twinkled like stars. If you paid even a little bit of attention, you could see that the top of the “V” in their uniforms was actually the top half of a star and radiating out from the star were stripes. Get it? Red. White. Blue. Stars. Stripes. Sounds like the American flag to me. I guess the pundit-y guy missed that ‘cause he was so distracted by Gabby Douglas’ messy hair.

The American value I am most proud of is our freedom of speech, speech in all it’s forms. I am free to not say “under God.” I am free to call my President a spineless wienie if I like. I am free to say that George Bush was not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. I am free to protest anything my government does that I don’t think is American or even humane.

One of the things I am free to do is to burn my flag. When my country does something so heinous—say, expanding a war from Vietnam into surrounding countries—I am free to protest in a way that clearly shows how angry I am. The Supreme Court has ruled, more than once, that constitutionally okay to burn the flag in protest because the burning is protected political speech.

While the Supreme Court would have my back should I decide to burn the flag, there are plenty of Americans who would likely shoot me in the back. Or at least want to.

I understand where the whole idea of pledging allegiance comes from, thanks to reading “Game of Thrones.” Way back when, before anything, kings didn’t have armies. When they needed to go to war, they gathered up other nobles and influentials to “pledge” to be on their side. Every body had their own flags to indentify their group of warriors, so an army might have lots and lots of flags in it, but everyone was pledged to fight for the big guy and gather under his flag.

Wearing a flag doesn’t make you more or less American. Acting like an American—choosing our own leaders, defending the right to free speech and the pursuit of happiness—these are what make us American.

We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one’s own, no better way to counter a flag burner’s message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by – as one witness here did – according its remains a respectful burial. We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.

— Justice William J. Brennan, from his majority opinion in Texas v. Johnson (1989)

Like this post if you’re like me

13 Aug

Every morning, my ankle hurts. Just a little, in a spot that makes it obvious I’ve got arthritis. I’ve got the same thing going on with my wrist. I get up, though, and get moving. By the time I’ve had my second cup of tea, the pain is gone.

My teeth are a mess, I have hot flashes, my kids are both in double digits and old enough to know when I’m full of shit. In other words, I’m getting old.

With such abundant evidence in my real world, I don’t need it in my virtual world. But every time I get on Facebook, I see another of those dumb ass memes of some antiquated crap I’m supposed to “like” if I remember what the hell it’s for.

I remember what they’re for. The ice cube tray made out of aluminum with the lever you pulled that broke the cubes loose, while also breaking half the cubes? I remember that. It was common before we knew that aluminum consumption contributes to Alzheimer’s. I like my ice maker ‘though I’m pretty sure we’ll discover the plastic parts it’s made of cause erectile dysfunction.

I remember flash cubes, Captain Kangaroo, Mister Ed, and cassette tapes. I know what the relationship is between the cassette tape and a pencil.

I am not going to “like” any of these things.

See, I remember them and some of them even fondly. But my brain still works  the way it’s supposed to work. I can still learn new things. I can still challenge myself. I can still be part of the world evolving around me.

My dad can’t. For brevity’s sake, let’s just say his brain is clogged with knots of protein. His cognitive function is so impaired he makes things up. He’s paranoid. He can’t remember my mother is dead, so he confuses other people with my mom and insists she’s ignoring him. I have had to tell him she’s dead three times in the last month.

So, I won’t be “liking” anything from my childhood. It’s not that I don’t smile when I remember them, but when I’m 80, I’d like to have someone post a picture of Katy Perry that I can “like.” Maybe I’ll do it when I come in from a run.

Fractured Fiction: You finish it!

10 Aug

Like many writers, I have attempted writing fiction. I have attempted it so many times that I think there is more fiction on my computer than there are entries in my Quicken files. I have a plethora of ideas and I’m really good at starting. But I get stuck. Maybe, I thought, my loyal readers can help me get over the hump. So, I’m going to start going through the mountain of beginnings I’ve written and throw one out to you every week. YOU finish it!

Here’s the first:

I woke to the sound of the shower running. This was a problem; I live alone. So, either I had turned the shower on and fallen asleep, or there was someone in my shower. My head was fuzzy about the night before. In fact, I had no recollection beyond hitting my head as I sat up too quickly while backing out of the undersink cabinet. The damn disposal had choked on something again and, in my effort to get it running, I’d had to crawl into the cabinet up to my shoulders. Getting back out is never as easy as getting in, is it?

So, my memory was going to be of no use in figuring out why my shower was running. A pile of men’s clothing lay on the chair beside my bed. My own clothes lay on the floor, short black skirt on the bottom, black silk blouse next, then red lace bra and panties. At least I’d dressed nicely.

But this was bad, very bad. Not just because of the obvious; I had had sex with someone and couldn’t remember the act, let alone the actor. I’d done that before.  Oh, crap!  Check for condom.  There, near the panties, a used wrapper. One little bit of good news. No, it wasn’t so bad that I had woken up with no memory of my activity the night before. The bad part was that this time, I’d brought the stranger home. Or, was it a stranger?

The water stopped.  I heard the shower curtain being pulled back. In a few moments, I assumed, the mystery man would make his appearance. I closed my eyes, feigning sleep. Obviously, he wasn’t going to kill me. If he were, I assumed he would have already. Why take a shower before getting all bloody?

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