Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Baltimore and Rage

I didn’t feel right saying nothing. So here are my brief thoughts on Baltimore.

Racism Is Real

Make no mistake: racism is real.

Institutional racism, like this wonderful story about Chicago cops torturing black men in police custody or the police brutality in Baltimore that has led to our present-day situation. Or the de facto segregation in New York City public schools. Or the shocking, inexcusable racial and ethnic health disparities in the U.S. Take your pick, really.

Idiosyncratic racism, like this gem from a conversation string on a friend's Facebook page:

Animals? Really? Additionally, Missy, you might want to check your definition of civil disobedience. (Also, your spelling.)

Unconscious bias, like my own brush with racial disharmony on the playground almost two years ago. Think you are immune? Check out Harvard’s Project Implicit to understand your implicit associations about race, gender and sexual orientation. I did, and it freaked me out. No one is immune. No one.

As for the Rioting, I Get It

Have you ever gotten so mad you’ve thrown something? Or broken something? Or slammed the door so hard the house shook? I know I have, more than I care to admit.

So why is rioting so incomprehensible?

We know all the intellectual arguments for why rioting is often counterproductive. Rioters end up destroying property in their own communities, communities that are often already crying out for rejuvenation. Violent responses turn the mainstream against you. Violence begets violence. Et cetera.

But remember that time you threw something down in anger, and it broke? Did you have an intellectual, rational argument with yourself before you threw it down? Did you stop and consider: Gee, if I break this, I won’t have it anymore. Or if your rage was directed at a person, did you first muse: I bet if I say this, it will make the fight worse. Or did you react emotionally in the moment, even if you regretted it later?

I suppose if you have never broken anything or yelled at anyone in anger, then you can go on being your sanctimonious self. For the rest of us, let’s just take a step back. Why did you overreact? Maybe someone cut you off on the highway. Perhaps you were tired of cleaning up toddler poop, and whatever happened next was the last straw. But let’s be clear. All of that pales in comparison to centuries of systemic racism and oppression. Or being harassed by cops just because of the color of your skin. It’s not even close.

You don’t have to condone violence to have a shred of empathy for the reasons behind the rioting. Say it out loud, people: I get why you are so angry. I GET IT.

I Don’t Know What To Do

I have read a few interesting articles and opinion pieces, but nothing makes me feel more helpless than arguments I have heard before—after Ferguson, after Eric Garner, after Abner Louima, after Rodney King. So little has changed. I suspect that were I a bit older, I’d be even more cynical. This has been going on for centuries.

I only know that I must do something. My issue for the time being is the epidemic of gun violence, where there is no doubt a racial element. I only know that I must teach my son to recognize racism in himself and in society, and to react with horror, reflexively, at the violence in our world.

I only know that I must speak out, and add my voice to the chorus of those once again crying Black Lives Matter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This is 40 (And Pregnant) (With a Toddler)

A week or so ago, I finally fulfilled my 96-year-old grandmother’s oft-repeated prophecy: I fell. All winter she had been telling me that I was going to fall, that I wasn’t being careful enough, that I should stay inside at all times. Because the world is a scary, scary place, and bad things happen to good people. Also, terrorists.

Spring was finally blooming in New York, and I went for a walk with Henry and Hudson down to see the trains pass at our local station. And I don’t know what happened, but the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I had the dog's leash in one hand and the toddler in the other, so I couldn’t exactly break my fall. Down I crashed with my right knee onto the gravely pavement. Then my left knee. Henry caught the tail end of the fall as my hands automatically planted themselves on the ground to save my darling face. He had a scrape, but I had an honest-to-goodness raggedy skinned knee that had begun to bleed down my legs, staining my beige, elastic-waisted wonder-pants.

I’m fine, I’m fine, I assured Henry and Hudson (who did not seem all that concerned). We continued along our way, my knee stinging and bleeding. Because: Trains. There was no turning back.

Then I detected a peculiar wetness in my thigh region. Hmmm. Did I…? Wait, no. Actually, yes. Yes, I did. I peed my pants when I hit the ground. And why not? These days I pee unwittingly when I sneeze, cough or even laugh particularly hard. (May I remind you, there is a bowling ball perched on my bladder.)

Henry was not having it. TRAINS! he wailed as I attempted to reverse course. So we watched a few trains pass by before the cool breeze against my wet crotch sent me over the edge, and I insisted we walk home.

CAVALUCCIO! he demanded. (Piggyback ride.) But Moo Cow isn’t that much of a martyr. He walked home, dammit, and he liked it.

Urban Moo Cow

But let me back up a bit. See, when I got pregnant again, I was a little cocky (vag-y?). That’s because I had pushed Henry out in the operating room after having been prepped for the C-section my doctors thought I was having. I was resigned, but then! Then they changed their minds because I had fully dilated in the interim. I wanted a vaginal birth, didn’t I? Well, then: PUSH.

But I was completely numb and high on anesthesia. I thought I was in an episode of Battlestar Galactica and said as much to the OR staff. I couldn’t feel my legs let alone bear down. So I did the only thing I could do. I summoned my ten years of yoga practice—all that work on the pelvic floor—and commanded my body to obey. DO WHAT I SAY, PELVIC FLOOR! I bellowed (in my mind). Lo and behold, it worked, and out came my teeny tiny boy, first purple and gray and then all at once pink and screaming.

I assumed, erroneously as it turned out, that I held the same sway over my body this time around. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That’s funny. In the last three years, yoga had played fifth fiddle to parenting, working, wife-ing and sleeping. Plus, to my great surprise, I had AGED three years as well.

Even the frantic catch-up Kegels weren’t going to save me from wetting myself like, well, a toddler.

I recounted my tale of woe in a prenatal yoga class, because I’m all about sharing. My teacher responded in kind with a story about vaginal weightlifting. Yes, you read that correctly.

I admit that I did not do a lot of research into the *best* vaginal weights, but a cursory Google search turned up a couple of options, including these bad girls:

Aquaflex Pelvic Floor Exercise System
"Aquaflex Pelvic Floor Exercise System": Trying not to sound like a sex toy.

The theory is that they help strengthen your pelvic floor by activating the involuntary muscles that line your lady canal. This is, apparently, helpful both for premature pants-wetting and orgasms. Two for the price of one!

Ladies: You’re welcome.

Gents: Sorry. I can’t believe you are still reading this.

Unfortunately, you can’t use these weights until you are recovered from childbirth. The only thing left to do until then is buy stock in Depends.*


Before we conclude, I want to make sure I recommend a great book I just read. I’m planning on writing a post about it, but between the peeing and the toddler, I’m not quite sure when I will get to it. The book is by Galit Breen, who turned a truly negative fat-shaming experience on the Huffington Post into a practical guide for parents to teach their children about kind and safe interacting on the web. I have a lot more to say on this topic, but in the interim, I hope you will check out Kindness Wins.

Galit Breen

* A few months ago I received a pitch from a PR company asking me to write about Depends for something like $50. My husband laughed for ten straight minutes before opining that my dignity was worth more than that. I turned down the "offer." Apparently, however, I am willing to embarrass myself for free.

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