Archive for February, 2008

Come, Armageddon, Come

February 29, 2008

I didn’t realize, when Nena’s ’99 Red Balloons’ first hit the radio, that it was about a nuclear accident. I thought that it was just about balloons. I was pretty young. But it wasn’t long before the subject was something that my friends and I discussed at length, titillated and alarmed (it’s about bombs? BOMBS!), as we huddled around the tetherball pole in the schoolyard (OMG THAT COULD HAPPEN, Y’KNOW!!!).

It was the same way that we discussed teen pregnancy and divorce (an eleventh-grader over at the high school was rumored to have gotten pregnant that summer, and Cheri Wilkinson’s parents were separating and her dad was moving to a different house): with the kind of fevered, fearful urgency that bordered on excitement. The sky is falling over there! It could happen here! What would we do? We agreed that we would never get pregnant, that our parents would never get divorced, and that if a bomb fell, there would for sure be a bomb shelter to hide in. Our parents would build one, with stockpiles of Campbell’s tomato soup and Chef Boyardee and pop. For sure. They would protect us. But the song said it all – it could happen, even if we didn’t think would, even we were certain that it wouldn’t, even if our parents told us a thousand times that it couldn’t happen here. It could happen. You and I in a little toy shop/Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got. We shuddered around the tetherball pole, each of us thinking privately that we might need to sleep on the floors of our parents’ rooms that night.

After ‘Red Balloons’ came Ultravox’s ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ (The man on the wireless cries again/It’s over, it’s over). Kate Bush’s ‘Breathing’ (Last night in the sky/Such a bright light/My radar sends my danger/But my instincts tell me to keep/Breathing) had been released while I was still in grade school, but I discovered it in my mid-teens and played the ’45 until it was badly scratched. I had nightmares. Bombs dropping, parents divorcing. It was never clear to me which were worse: the dreams where the landscape shattered into grey ash, or the ones where my Dad disappeared from the horizon. In both cases I would wake up in tears. Sometimes, even as a teenager, I would creep into my parents’ bedroom in the middle of the night to curl up on the floor at the foot of their bed with my quilt and my headphones and fuel my angsty misery with sad, scary songs while clinging to the comfort of their presence. The possibility that some epic familial tragedy might someday occur in our household both tantalized and tortured me in the same way that the possibility of some Day After apocalypse – possibly but not necessarily set off by Matthew Broderick hacking computer games – tantalized and tortured. The child in me craved the security of a world without threats. The gothy teenager relished, in some predictably twisted way, the drama and the excitement of a life less ordinary. The Catholic in me squirmed with guilt at this tortured but stubborn ambivalence.

My parents were struggling. It never seemed to me, in the full light of day, that they were approaching meltdown – a disaster on that scale was the stuff of my nightmares and of the dark, derivative poetry that I wrote, late at night, in my room, the soundtrack of my nuclear-scale angst running at full volume (come, bombs). We were a close family, a very close family, and I regarded the possibility of my parents really splitting up as about as likely as the Soviets bombing the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada – not outside the realm of an angst-ridden imagination, but also not realistically within the realm of my lived future. But that very possibility – of meltdown, of accident, of angry finger hitting deadly red button – kept my anxieties alive, and I nurtured those anxieties by holding onto that possibility as something that distinguished my adolescent experience from the white-bread normalcy of my peers. Something that permitted me to identify, authentically, with the anthems of fear that we all wanted to claim as our own, with t-shirts and concert bills and LP covers taped inside our lockers. (Oh, what a heaven what a hell/Y’know there’s nothing can be done/In this whole wide world)

Those anthems of fear remained the soundtrack to my self-important postures of doom until those postures collapsed under the weight of reality. I had believed, deep down, that it couldn’t happen here. But some time between Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ (Hoping for the best but expecting the worst/Are you going to drop the bomb or not?) and Morrissey’s ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’ (How I dearly wish I was not here) the bomb dropped and my parents’ marriage shattered and in the fallout the angst that I had so relished became an insufferable, toxic disease. Radioactive. Every day is silent and gray.

‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’ wasn’t explicitly about nuclear holocaust in the same way that ‘Red Balloons’ was. Nor was ‘Forever Young.’ But my teenage angst – the deep angst, the stuff that ran beneath the surface of the superficial, black-eyelinered pop-angst that justified the brooding that hid that deeper angst so well – was never really about that kind of holocaust. It wasn’t even about the possibility of that other, figurative holocaust, the annihilation of my family unit, the possibility that had loomed like a bogeyman for so many of my formative years. It was about a deeper fear: the fear that what couldn’t happen here could indeed happen here. What that ‘what’ might be – divorce, unexpected pregnancy, nuclear holocaust – didn’t matter. That the stuff of nightmares could – really could, as the songs insisted – happen was a fear that matched or exceeded the universal childhood fear that there might really be a monster in the closet. The moment of discovering that there were such monsters, that such bombs could and would fall, that the angsty-teenage postures that claimed such fears as real were not magic bullets against the actual realization of those fears – as I believed, somewhere deep down – was the moment of my coming of age.

I still dearly wish it had not come.


OK, so I didn’t mean for this post to come out as dark as it did. It was written as part of a little koffee klatsch blog discussion that was kicked off amongst a small group of us – let’s write some flashbacks! on Friday! how ’bout something about the songs or musicians that like totally changed your life? – and was gonna be all light and reminiscent, but somewhere along the way I got sidetracked. Probably because, as a teenager, I pretended that I loathed anything light and sweet, so. There you have it. Other participants today (more to be added later, with full post links, so check back) include:

Oh The Joys:
(full post: Since You’re Gone)
Mrs. Flinger:

Feel free to join in (the topic is, ‘OMG – The Smiths/NKOTB/Debbie Gibson/Insert Preferred Musical Act From Your Youth HERE – Like Totally Changed My Life OMG’). If you do write a post, be sure to link back and list the participants so that we can all find each other and not feel, like, totally self-conscious.

Pass The Smelling Salts

February 27, 2008

The thing about pregnancy? It is comparative, as a physical and emotional experience, to being drunk, 24-7. But it veers, sometimes dramatically, between different varieties of drunk: the kind of drunk that is just barely-buzzed-but-a-little-off-kilter drunk, the full-on-happy-buzz drunk, the ever-amusing wobbly-and-weepy-drunk, the inevitable crouched-over-the-toilet drunk, and – in its worst incarnations – the collapsed-on-the-floor-while-world-spins drunk.

I had thought that I was well past the floor-kissing-spinny drunks, but apparently not. For the past week I have been having bad dizzy spells of increasing intensity, which culminated yesterday in multiple spells which ended with me crumpling to the floor, unable to get up. Which, when reported to doctor, resulted in the always encouraging immediate summons to hospital.

I’m fine, sort of. I am, apparently, pretty seriously anemic – and that’s even while being on iron supplements – and have very low blood pressure (low enough that they didn’t want to do blood tests, which is good, but also bad, because I have to go back and do them anyway when I’m not all faint-y), but the baby’s fine, which is, to my mind, all that matters. That said, it seems to me that maybe this baby is just a little bit, you know, too strong. Iron-sucking-strong.

My diet’s okay. I’m not big on the meats – hence the supplements – so it’s a bit heavy on the carbs and the dairy and the chocolate, but it’s really pretty decent, especially compared to the starved-out-wasteland of barfiness that was my first trimester. So how is it that I’ve become this pale, wan limp life-form, prone to buckling at the knees and slumping to the floor? (This would all be so much more compelling if I looked like Keira Knightley and wore filmy, lacy nightgowns and had a raspberry-velvet chaise-longue to fall upon backwards in a graceful faint. Sadly, I look nothing like Miss Knightley and do not own a chaise-longue and am much more likely to be wearing milk-stained yoga pants than filmy Victorian nighties as I crumple inelegantly to the floor, so. My spells are not so aesthetically compelling as they could be, I suppose.)

Assuming that I don’t have some sort of malignant brain tumor (*knocks wood furiously*), it must be that this alien life-form, this adorable-but-nonetheless-parasitic superbeing, is sucking every nutrient from my body and turning these to his own nefarious supergrowth purposes. I mean, I can feel him in there. He does not rest, he does not stop moving (that this is fully reminiscent of Wonderbaby’s fetal tenure is both wonderful and entirely disconcerting) and I’m guessing that all of those fetal gymnastics and marathon kick-sessions require high-level doses of mommy-juice. Sumo-level doses, that are sucking me dry.

How long this can continue before I waste away to a pale, bulbous shell, a dessicated old tulip petal, fallen and forgotten on the floor, of no use to anyone but the adorable little life-sucking vampiro-fetus growing inside me? Not that I wouldn’t give my life to him many times over, but still. I’d much rather remain conscious and upright, the better to enjoy the little WonderSprout and his equally energy-draining sister.

So what do I do? Embark upon an all-steak diet? Hunt down some iron-fortified chocolate and binge? Or maybe just invest in some Victorian nightgowns, a chaise-longue and a bucket of smelling salts?

Juno’s Choice

February 25, 2008

I’ll say this right up front: I haven’t seen the movie Juno. (I haven’t seen any other Oscar-nominated flick either, because big-screen movies are no longer a central part of my life experience, now that I am a mother and hiring a nanny for a night out costs a gajillion dollars that I would much rather spend on handbags and chocolate and DVDs.) (Which, you know, really should be enjoyed together. Lounging in bed with a box of chocolates, watching the last season of Buffy while you fondle your brand new cherry-red leather bag with the multiple pockets and the extra-long strap? Bliss. But I digress.)

Where was I? Right. Juno. Haven’t seen it. But I’ve heard all about it and I plan to see it the minute I can get it on DVD and that qualifies me to comment upon it. Also? I am currently and have been in the past pregnant, and had a baby, and it’s a movie about being pregnant and having babies. So.

That’s the crux of it, actually: it’s a movie about having the baby. And, more to the point, about being young and being caught in some maternal web that you didn’t expect to stumble into and that you don’t know how to get out of and making the choice to just make yourself at home there until such time as you can extricate yourself in some straightforward manner. I’ve been there too. I didn’t handle it the same way, but I’ve been there, in that web, wondering how to get out.

There’s been a lot of critical commentary since the movie’s release about how the movie a) treats teen pregnancy too blithely, what with the snappy dialogue and the laissez-faire attitude of the heroine and all, and b) marginalizes abortion as the go-to solution for an unwanted pregnancy. In a recent article, a Vancouver writer (a man; is his sex is relevant to this discussion? you tell me) asked – discussing Juno and Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up as a piece – how it is “that neither (character) really considers abortion as a viable alternative to carrying a fetus to term? In the contexts of both films, all roads for our pregnant women (should) lead to the abortion clinic. This is not an ideological analysis, it is rational one, it is what both of these characters, as they have been written, would do. Instead, for the sake of the stories in question and the messages inherent in them, the writers have perverted their characters’ actions, giving these women no coherent rational (sic) for their actions, or lack thereof.

Whoa. Abortion is the only thing that either of these characters would do, the only road that they would take, full stop? And the fact that their stories centered upon them making other choices is a perversion of what would have been more rational actions? The writer goes on to say that what the monumental success of films like Juno – films that about unplanned pregnancies that evade the subject of abortion as the only real alternative for young, smart single women – reveal “is that behind the Indie soundtracks, hip, animated graphics, weed-smoking slackers and Mohawk hair cuts, we remain as a society utterly conservative in our views on what women should do with their bodies.”

It may be entirely true – in fact, I suspect that it is entirely true – that we remain, as a society, utterly conservative in our attitudes toward women’s rights v.v. their bodies. But that does not mean that the rejection of certain choices – or the pop cultural representation of the rejection of certain choices – represents a social step backward in women’s struggle for more control over the right to choose. Ensuring that women have choice – that they are able to control their maternal destinies – does not require that the so-called alternative choice be presented as the social norm. In fact, I’d argue that any socio-cultural pressure toward that end – making abortion the norm for dealing with unwanted pregnancies – actually militates against meaningful choice. The idea that ‘the right thing’ – or in the above-quoted writer’s words, the rational thing – for any bright young woman with a bright future who is facing an unexpected pregnancy to do is to have an abortion is a kind of anti-choice position, isn’t it? The idea that is there is only one rational choice for women – or, worse, for certain kinds of women – is oppressive regardless of what that ‘choice’ is, precisely because the idea that there is only one such choice makes that choice, well, no longer a choice.

I was pretty young when I had to make that choice. I was no longer in high school, but I wasn’t quite yet an adult (especially when I look back on it now, from the vantage point of old age), and I was fully vulnerable to the suggestion – the unspoken but nonetheless culturally pervasive suggestion – that nice girls (smart girls, girls with futures, girls like me) did not have babies before they’d gotten themselves properly established on some appropriate life path. This suggestion did not come from my parents – my mother held back from trying to influence my decision, but her pain over my ultimate decision was obvious – but from the culture. I was an older version of Juno, and a younger version of the character from Knocked Up, and amongst my peers, abortion was just what one did when faced with this situation. It was the only rational choice, the only option, understood within the context of my lifeworld. And to that extent, it wasn’t really a choice. Not a meaningful one.

To be clear, I don’t regret having taken the road that I did. I really don’t. I don’t not regret it, either – it’s complicated, but I will always be haunted in some difficult-to-articulate way by the choice that I was and am glad to have been able to make – but from the standpoint of my life as it is now, I wouldn’t alter a single footstep from the pathways of my past. But I do wonder, sometimes, sometimes more often than is comfortable, whether I might have made a different decision in a different life – in a life where I maybe knew a little more of what I know now about life and love and babies, in a life where I might have viewed the alternatives to abortion as more meaningfully possible alternatives. I might very well have ended up making exactly the same choice. But had I done so, under those different cultural circumstances, I might have done so without viewing the alternatives as completely unfathomable. And mightn’t that have been more empowering than just doing what everyone else was doing because that was just what one was expected to do? Mightn’t that have been a more meaningful choice?

Pop Culture Is Good For You. DRINK UP.

February 25, 2008

If you are watching the Oscars – or even if you are not, and just feel like bitching about Cameron Diaz’s complete inability to construct a sentence that does not contain the words like, totally – then you should be checking in here. Some fun shiz, for reals.

Alien-Baby Ate My Brain!

February 22, 2008

Through the miracle of modern technology, you can now see your baby, in utero, in three dimensions. Which is to say, you can see a teeny little baby with a teeny little face and teeny little hands all curled up and totally beyond fetal in his teeny adorableness while he is still tucked away deep inside your lady parts.

Also, however, you can see your own umbilical cord, pressing against his face like some sort of intra-uterine alien life form that might just develop a consciousness and a will of its own and creep out of your nether regions and strangle you in the night. Which, you know, is disturbing. No more disturbing that some of those pregnancy dreams that can sneak up on you, I suppose, but still (am I the only who has had nightmares about nursing mutant kittens? No? Never mind). Maybe there’s too much information that comes with being able to get a three-dimensional glimpse inside one’s own uterus.



I was going to write something about science today, for the PBN blog blast, about imagination and scientific thinking and the magic of looking at the world through learning-goggles, but then I got all distracted by the pictures of the baby oh my god the baby – and, also, by my persistent exhaustion and crankiness and general inability to craft a sentence that is built upon language more sophisticated than oh my god, like, you know? So. You should still totally go read the other posts, tho’.

Also? Are you going to be watching the Oscars Sunday night? Because there’s going to be a super awesometastic snarkerrific open-thread Oscar party over at MamaPop, and I can’t promise anything, but there might be popcorn and naked pillow-fights. I can promise that there will be Kegel-straining blather about the aliens on the red carpet. And, also, some drooling in the general direction of Jon Stewart. So. Join us? We’re kicking it off at 7pm, EST.

How To Lose Your Confidence As A Parent In Twenty Minutes Or Less

February 20, 2008

Today’s lesson: if you are not, always and every day, prepared for the demands that your child’s school or daycare might make upon you, you will – I guarantee you – be made to feel like the most worthless, incompetent parent that ever bore or received spawn.

Last week, it was Valentine’s Day. “She needs to bring Valentines to school tomorrow,” Her Bad Father (who usually does most of the daycare pick-ups and so is more usually the recipient of this kind of information) informed me on the eve of Valentine’s Day. “36 of them. Signed with her name but not addressed to anyone.”

Which meant, of course, a late-night dash to the nearest all-hours last-minute things store, whereupon hideous Valentines imprinted with licensed characters were purchased and brought home to be forged in her name.

And then, later that night: “Also, she needs to wear something red to school tomorrow.”

Which, fine. Nothing that two cups of espresso and a little pre-dawn laundry cycle couldn’t take care of.

And then, yesterday: “She needs to bring a family picture to school tomorrow. It’s Family Picture Day.”


We do not have any current family pictures. That is, rather, we have upwards of 10,000 pictures featuring Wonderbaby and one or the other of us and/or friends and/or extended family members, but these are all a) entirely digital, b) tending toward individual portraiture and/or group portraiture that excludes one of the more significant members of the family (it is almost always me taking the picture, and so from the evidence of our digital photo archives one would presume that Wonderbaby does not have a mother), and c) representative of situations that tend more or less to the embarassing (Wonderbaby bewigged, Wonderbaby naked and bewigged, me naked and bewigged, etc, etc.)

So, we had nothing. No family picture for Wonderbaby to take to school and share with her friends. We were facing – I was facing – the prospect of sending my child, at age two, into the deeply disappointing experience of being the lone child in the group who doesn’t have anything for show ‘n’ tell, or no cupcakes to contribute to the bake sale, or whatever, because her mother sucks ASS.

So I sent her to school with this:

Was that wrong?

Jockstrap Mondays

February 18, 2008

I am spectacularly, hormonally cranky today. You don’t want to be anywhere near me, because I guarantee you that you will not be able to say the right thing. Just ask my husband. This mood has been going on for two days now, and I think that he’s considering wearing both earplugs and a jockstrap. You know, to protect the vulnerable parts.

So, there is just no readable prose forthcoming from me today. Or, probably, tomorrow. Unless you count the mocking of celebrity penises readable prose. In which case, you’re in luck – I’ve had a lot to say about celebrity penises of late.

(If you are easily offended or weak of stomach or in the presence of small children, do not click on the first two of the above links. Just don’t. I warned you.)

Blades Of Glory

February 15, 2008

If there was any doubt that my daughter is, indeed, Canadian, this should settle it: she has, at the age of two, decided that she wants to be a hockey player.

(She also wants to be a princess, which she does not see as posing any contradictions to her hockey aspirations. She will be, she informs us, Princess Hockey. That’s a whole ‘nother post.)

She has to learn to skate, first. We’re working on that. She’s picking it up pretty quickly, except for the part where she keeps insisting upon leaving the rink to find hockey sticks, and real hockey players:

Which I would probably find more interesting if I were patriotic enough to get enthusiastic about hockey and hockey players. But I’m not. My Canadian-ness stops somewhere between maple syrup and Broken Social Scene. So. The toddler-wants-to-be-a-hockey-princess thing? Only cool inasmuch at it represents an interesting implosion of gender expectations. And, perhaps, inasmuch as it compels my husband to don hockey skates and flex his butt-muscles. Otherwise, I’d have to say that I’d rather she take up violin. Which she could totally do in a hockey outfit. And I wouldn’t have to freeze my ass off and drink bad coffee at an ice rink.

I joke. I love that she wants to play hockey in a tutu. Subverting princess-ism and hockey machismo all in one go. Now if we could just get the boy, when he arrives, to aspire toward cowboy-violin artistry, or ballerina-firefighting, we’ll be a post-graduate gender studies seminar.


The Confession of the Green Pickle Martian

February 13, 2008

It was sometime in the very early eighties, in that time when, if you lived in the suburbs, the seventies still hadn’t ended. I was in grade school – grade four, specifically – and I was about as awkward as they come at that age: tall and skinny and shy and cursed with a coarse mass of wavy dirty-blonde hair that my mother tried to keep tamed in pigtails that looked more like rough shipping rope than the shining plaits that I hoped for. I was always made to stand in the back row with the boys for class pictures. I was always ignored. I was always picked second-last for sports teams, even though I was a really good athlete, skinny legs and all.

Getting picked last was an honor reserved for one unfortunate Greg Appleby, nicknamed Greg-The-Egg for his large and indisputably egg-shaped head. I didn’t properly appreciate the social buffer that he provided for me at the time – I was new to the neighbourhood, and the school, and all I knew was that a) some of the kids were really mean, and b) they were meaner to Greg-The-Egg than they were to me. I was grateful, of course, for his existence, which meant that I was only ever a secondary bullying target, but I didn’t appreciate that the buffer he provided was a tenuous one, and I certainly didn’t appreciate the possibility that he might have been a useful ally in efforts to survive the social jungle of Miss Myhill’s grade four class. So I always hung back when the mean kids were teasing him, pretending to not hear the taunts, and I was always very careful to never, ever be seen anywhere in his proximity, lest the bullies turn their attention to me.

Which, of course, they inevitably did.

It was the day that I decided to come to school in my favourite outfit. This particular outfit was a real prize – a two-piece pantsuit of bright, Kermit-green satin with a shimmery orange roller skate decal across the back that I ordinarily reserved for the spontaneous roller-dancing performances that I sometimes staged for my parents and sister in our carport (favoured soundtrack: Blondie’s Heart Of Glass) – and for some reason that I cannot for the life of me recall, I decided to indulge in a little sartorial daring and wear it to school one sunny Monday morning.

The schoolyard response was immediate.

Look at the fuzzy-headed pickle! Whatcha wearin’, Fuzzy Head? What are you, Fuzzy, a martian? A green pickle martian?


Their words were not, by today’s standards, obscenely cruel, but to say that those words rang and burned in my ears would not only be a lazy turn of descriptive phrase, it would be understating the aural and psychological experience so dramatically as to render it meaningless. Their words, and the fear and shame that they inspired, scorched my heart and burned into my psyche: I can still hear the precise intonation of their taunts, the nyah-nyah-nyah-NYAH-nyah rhythm – a sing-song rhythm that you could skip to, if you were in the mood for skipping, which I emphatically was not – as clearly as if those kids were still standing two feet away from me. I can remember wishing – and can still feel the visceral, gut-pulling force of that wish – that it would just stop just stop just stop now, that the taunts would suddenly cease and that the children would just fall away, as though drawn back like a curtain, so that I could just go inside and disappear inside my head until lunchtime, at which point I would go home and make up some story for my mother about why I had to change out of my beloved outfit and into something a little less Xanadu.

And I can remember wondering where Greg-The-Egg was. I can remember wondering if he was nearby – I knew, somehow, that he must be nearby, listening, and I knew that he would be feeling the same generalized gratitude for whatever green-satin-disco miracle had caused the bullies to direct their venom toward me that I had long felt toward him – and I can remember wishing, hard, that wherever he was, his glasses would suddenly fall off or that he would pick his nose or that he would do something, anything, to draw everyone’s attention away from me, away from me and back to him, back to where, I thought, meanly, terribly, that it belonged. I remember, clearly, feeling my heart turn in on itself, feeling it turn sad and dark and ashamed. And mean. I remember wanting the tables to be turned on everyone there, starting with Greg-The-Egg. I remember feeling small, and mean.

Because here’s the thing: despite the romanticized image that we sometimes see in TV or film of the virtuous geek nobly withstanding bullying, picking up his broken glasses and placing them defiantly on his nose, being bullied doesn’t make one a better person. It doesn’t, in the moments that it occurs, fertilize an inner core of strength and dignity and compassion that will grow into some noble sensitivity that is made manifest in generosity of spirit and consideration toward all others. It hardens the heart, makes it tougher, makes one crawl into herself and build a great stony wall around all of the emotional wiring that is tucked away back there and then hide there and peer out at the cold, scary world suspiciously, cowardly. Sure, I grew up – I think – into a good person with a caring heart and a better-than-average capacity for compassion, but those few intense experiences of being bullied didn’t contribute to that character development. Rather, the things that did contribute to the development of my character – the constant and well-demonstrated love of my family, the abundance of humor in the home that I grew up him, my parents’ unwavering example, etc, etc – enabled me to overcome the emotional injuries that I sustained through that year and a half or so of being bullied, of being frightened, of feeling, so much of the time, so powerless. It was, I think, the love and support that abounded in my home that prevented the wounds of bullying from scarring over into kind of intractable toughness, or into some permanent burden of shame or fearfulness. (I remained the scapegoat of that schoolyard, alongside Greg-The-Egg, who I never did befriend, for the rest of the year and much of the following summer – sometimes being pushed around on the playground, sometimes being followed on my walk home and taunted with childish threats, always being shunned and teased – until we moved away.)

So when someone says, I’d like for my kids to be bullied and teased; it’s good for them; it builds character, I recoil. Sure, it’s good for children to experience disappointments, and to learn that things don’t always go their way and that the world is not always a warm and welcoming place, but those kinds of lessons can come from sources less extreme than the experience of being bullied – of being targeted for humiliating attack, of being hunted and tormented in any degree. No child should ever, ever experience that – and no parent should ever tolerate it being visited upon their child or visited by their child upon others.

I expect that my child will experience all sorts of hurts and disappointments – I want her to experience some hurts and disappointments – and I expect that it will take some effort on my part to maintain my parental composure as I witness these. But I never want her to feel the hurt and the shame and the insidious, creeping meanness that comes with being bullied. Never. if that makes me over-protective, I don’t care.

This Green Pickle Martian has never forgotten that schoolyard.

In Which My Dignity – Such As It Were – Finally Plummets Headlong Into The Abyss

February 11, 2008

WARNING: this post is not for the squeamish or the faint-of-heart, or for anyone who clings stubbornly to the entirely misguided idea that I am in way or in any kind a noble or dignified creature. If, however, you have a strong stomach and you long to point fingers at me and cackle ‘ha-ha-ha-HA-ha,’ this post is for you.

My doctor, bless her overfunctioning heart, had the grace to look sheepish when she said, “we’re going to need to do another full examination.”

Me: “Again? Because I distinctly remember having to take my pants off for an examination last month. And I took the little vials to the lab myself, when I went for my blood test. I never forget a blood test.”

Her: “I know. But I don’t have any lab results recorded for you, and I can’t figure out what happened.”

So we had to do the test again. Which meant, of course, the discomfiting indignity of having one’s insides probed and prodded when they’re at their most sensitive. And this without the benefit of flowers and chocolates. Not that I regularly receive flowers and chocolates as an accompaniment to internal probing, but one always hopes.

And then I bitched about it publicly. Why does my doctor keep sticking her hand up my parts, I asked? And why, I continued, in bad temper, does it bother me, especially after one difficult pregnancy, during which there were umpteen internal probes, and all the complications of this pregnancy – apart from lost lab results – that have required undignified leg-spreading and belly-baring and reception of needles? Why have I not been able to keep my chin up as it all goes down, and is it really my problem that I can’t cope and who says that I need these tests anyway and to whom do I submit my complaints?

I was still feeling testy (no pun intended) a week later – just this past weekend, actually – as I rummaged around in my bag for yet another piece of paper with doctor scrawl that would send me to my next (mercifully radiographic) test. Stupid doctors, I grumbled to myself. Gotta get me a midwife, or maybe just some nice older lady with a bucket and a tarp, a copy of A Prairie Home Companion To Birthin’ Babies and maybe some warm biscuits.

Then my hand brushed against what felt like a tube, or a vial, and then against something that felt like a little container in a medical-grade plastic baggie. And then, I think, I may have actually gulped audibly.

Was it possible – under some god-forsaken scenario known only to pregnant women with hormone-addled brains – that I had been carrying around the materials swabbed out of my body during a gynecological examination – in, granted, medical-grade storage bits, but still – in my handbag FOR OVER A MONTH?


I had. I had neglected to take those little vials and bottles with their nether region innard scrapings to the lab. And had been carrying them around in my handbag for WEEKS, oh my hell.

So it was that I had to slink down the stairs and ask my husband whether he had any idea about how to safely dispose of medical waste. And then empty and fumigate my purse and wash my hands, like, six thousand times (medical-grade storage baggies and all that, but still) and then rinse out my lightly vomited-in mouth. And then go sit and contemplate the final and complete annihilation of my dignity.

And then recount it for you here. Because if one’s attachment to one’s dignity is held only by the merest thread, one might as well give it a snip and send it on its way for good, and be done with it.

Contents of HBM’s bag, under ordinary circumstances: be very, very grateful that I did not have the presence of mind or the total disrespect for the memory of my dignity to take pictures of the contents in their last incarnation.