(Paper sculpture by Jen Stark)
Now that Skene has reached an end, I'm returning to posting excerpts from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up. The last post from Ginny Bates was The Electric Slide.
NOTE: For those of you who have read the first draft, this is a new section, just written.
Late February, 2004
The following Thursday, Davonn showed up for dinner with Allie. Carly and Truitt were both there as well, so it was trial by teenager for him, but he seemed completely at ease around them, sliding in between Carly and Truitt at the table and keeping them entertained with comments Gillam could apparently hear but not the adults across the table. Myra had a few moments of feeling rankled at being left out, then reminded herself "Allie's parenting is what's happening here" and let herself off the hook. She very much felt like being off the hook for an evening.
They got in a couple rounds of the electric slide before Davonn had to leave. He became very affected and bright-eyed, making everybody laugh non-stop, not just the kids. Allie walked him out to the car, and Myra looked at her questioningly when she came back in, but Allie just shrugged -- no decision yet on his part. Which Myra thought was maybe a good sign.
But the next day, as Allie was waiting for her train to Portland, she called Myra and said "Just talked with Davonn. He wants to ask your two, plus their friends, out on the town Saturday night. I gave him your number; he's going to call about curfew and other details before he talks to them."
Myra felt a mixture of relief and apprehension. "Okay, here we go. Why is he asking Margie, too?"
"Said it'd be rude not to include her the first time. Plus he thought she was a gas, quote unquote."
Myra smiled. Margie had been born a gas. "How're you and Edwina?"
"Oh, it's like a regularly interrupted honeymoon, with all the good and bad of that. Mostly good, except for how I miss her. I never understood how you and Ginny could spend all the time together you do, until now. Now..." Allie's voice trailed off, a desolate note in the last word.
"You're about to step off into her arms, hang on, pal" said Myra. "And you know, Ginny and I do leave each other regularly. We may be under the same roof, but how we do our art, it's hegira. I always have the sense of returning from a trip when one of us is done with a bout of creativity."
"They just called my train, but remind me -- the meeting with all the lawyers, the plea bargain thing, that's Tuesday?"
"Yeah, 2:00. Gillam wants to go, too, though neither he nor you can be in the meeting room, the lawyer says, legal parents and principles only, I'm really sorry -- "
"Don't sweat it, me and Gillam'll sit outside and spit on the steps." said Allie. "Gotta go, I'll call you when I get back if not before."
When Myra hung up, Ginny was at her shelf where she kept the dictionaries. "Whatcha looking up?" asked Myra.
Ginny found the word, read the entry silently, then looked at Myra with a grin. "Hegira. New one on me."
"Davonn's going to ask our kids out" said Myra.
"Okay. I'm going out front, something's attacking the roses."
Myra noticed Ginny didn't ask why Margie was included, instead of just Gillam. Once she heard the front door shut, she looked up the number of Margie's therapist, Sheila, and was startled to get Sheila directly instead of her machine.
"Oh, hi. This is Myra, Margie's mother. I'm calling -- I have a question for you, about her decision regarding the plea bargain."
Sheila's voice was wary. "I can't break confidentiality with Margie, even with a parent, I'm sure you understand -- "
"Of course, I'm not asking you to -- she's talked with us, I don't think she's holding back anything and if she, well, I don't want to pry. No, my question is...about your professional opinion, I guess you'd say. I...I support what she's doing, how she's thinking, and that's -- perversely, that's what I'm worried about. I want to be sure she's doing only what she thinks is right, and that she won't have second thoughts in five years, or feel like she was somehow pressured. And it would be pressure from me, Ginny and I are not entirely on the same page about this, I don't think."
There was a long pause. Sheila said "Nobody can guarantee freedom from second thoughts, no matter how well we're functioning."
Myra sighed. "I may sound dumb here, but I'm not. I know that. Let me word it differently. I -- right after it hap -- right after she was raped, she had some shame and guilt about it. Which is how it goes, I know. And I think I've seen that transform, lift, since she's been seeing you. But if she's choosing -- if there's any part of her that is choosing to go with counseling for that boy instead of prosecution because she feels like maybe she's partly to blame -- well, I want to know. Can you tell me if that's a possibility? Oh, hell, I really am asking you to break confidentiality, now that it's out of my mouth, I can hear myself."
After another long pause, Sheila said, her voice warmer, "I think you should trust your daughter."
"Well, you'd say that no matter what, wouldn't you? Listen, I'm sorry, I've crossed a line here" Myra began.
Sheila laughed briefly. "At least you see it yourself. That's not how it usually goes. And, I repeat: I think you should trust your daughter. Not just because that's what I ought to say, but in this instance, it's my heartfelt conviction."
"Oh. Okay. Oh, wow, thanks, Sheila. I'm going to a new therapist on Saturday, Ginny and I are going together, and this -- greases the skids for the work I need to do. I really appreciate it."
"Good luck" said Sheila.
At lunch on Saturday, Gillam took a long drink of water to clear his throat and said "I don't want to go to Garfield High School." His mothers and Margie all stared at him.
"Why not?" asked Ginny.
"It's huge. It's -- all divided up into cliques and territories, none of which have anything to do with actual learning" said Gillam.
"It's very highly regarded academically" argued Ginny.
"That's about statistics and averages" said Gillam, a touch of condescension in his tone. He didn't have Carly at his side today; his face was flushed.
"Where else would you go, then?" asked Myra.
"Well, I know some kids who're planning to go to The Center School" ventured Gillam.
Margie snorted. "That's a white kid's school."
"What?" said Myra and Ginny simultaneously.
"That's not true!" flared Gillam. "Just because it doesn't rely on busing to force numbers -- "
"I don't know anything about it" said Myra. "We'll have to look into it. Anyplace else?"
"Just -- not someplace with a football program" said Gillam. "A place where I could make cartoons, films maybe, at least photography, without being a freak."
Margie muttered something inaudible and Gillam's fingers gripped his fork tightly.
"Do you mean private schools?" asked Ginny, struggling to keep anything negative from her tone. Gillam looked up at her defiantly and said "I'd be open to that, yes, if it was the right place."
"Talk about this with Allie as well" said Myra. "And I'll do some research. Anything you can pass on to me would be helpful."
"I'm done, may I be excused?" said Margie in a clipped voice.
"Yes. We're leaving for Nancy's at 1:30, and while we're gone, you're in charge of the house" said Ginny.
"Perfect time for you to vacuum and mop all the common rooms" added Myra. Margie bit back something and carried her plate the kitchen on her way upstairs.
"You need to stick around home until we get back" Myra added to Gillam. "Your chores aren't done for this week, either." Gillam wouldn't forsake a meal to get away from them, she could tell, but his focus remained on his plate from then on.
While Ginny put away leftovers, Myra went to her computer and did a quick search for The Center School, printing out a couple of dozen pages and sliding them into her desk drawer that locked. She brushed her teeth and went out to the car where Ginny was already behind the steering wheel.
Myra's feelings seemed to be spread out as far as the horizon, scattered and treacherous. She wished they weren't needing to see Nancy, and was pretty sure she couldn't say anything like that to Ginny. She clenched the door handle and opened her mouth to see what would come out.
"Here's one thing I don't get, Ginny -- that whole 'copping a feel' thrill that men rag on about. I mean, where is the pleasure in brushing your hand against the breast of a woman who doesn't want you to touch her? I've never understood how there can be anything but self-loathing in that kind of theft." Myra was looking out the window, not at Ginny. Her voice grew in anger as she talked.
Ginny's eyes were side. "Well...I remember when I hadn't yet kissed a woman, I'd imagine what it was going to be like. That's a fantasy, I guess, about someone I wasn't sure wanted to kiss me. Is that the same thing?"
"No. First of all, thinking about it is at least one step away from pushing yourself on somebody. And -- well, who is this you're talking about, your first lover?" Myra glanced at Ginny.
"No, before her. My first year in college, this girl in my dorm, Terry. I was pretty sure she was flirting with me, and I went for about a week spending every spare minute thinking about kissing her, getting swoony every time I imagined it."
Myra now did look at Ginny. "Terry? You've never mentioned a Terry before."
"Yeah, she's not really an ex, I haven't thought about her, well, until now" said Ginny.
"Was she flirting with you?" asked Myra, a little aggression in her voice.
"Yep. I finally kissed her one Friday night, when she stopped by my room on some pretext. She kissed me right back, and it was, of course, totally different than how I had imagined it" said Ginny, a mixture of emotion on her face. She was focused on the road, passing through an intersection.
"Better or worse?" demanded Myra.
"Better at first. But then she -- it was my first time, Myra, I was decidedly unclear on the concept and about to pass out from the glory of it all, I just wanted to kiss lightly for a minute or two. But she tried to jump me, and when I pulled back, then pushed her away from my chest, she called me a dyke wanna-be, with this nasty laugh, and told me to not bother with big girls until I was ready to grow up, too."
Myra's incipient jealousy transformed instantly into defending Ginny's honor. "What a fucking tool, she isn't worthy of the dyke name!"
Ginny had a reminiscent grin on her face. "After she left, I lay on my bed and felt terrible for about half an hour. Then I got pissed -- I mean, part of the reason why I was with women was so I didn't have to deal with games, you know? At least, I thought that was how it worked at the time. So I steamed down the hall, knocked at her door, and her roommate answered, didn't let me all the way in, I guess I looked a little wild. I stood in her doorway, looking at her across the room at her desk, and I let her have it. I told her I had every right to set up the ground rules for how somebody touched me, that my body was mine, nobody else's, and if she couldn't handle that kind of balance then it was her who was immature, not me. I called her something like a menace to honest, good-hearted women everywhere. When I wheeled around to leave, I discovered my rant had drawn an audience -- most of that floor was at their doors, watching the show."
Myra laughed. "Did they applaud you?"
"Oh, god no, Myra, these were college kids. They thought I was a total loser after that" said Ginny with bitterness.
"I'm so sorry, honey" commiserated Myra. Then, "Have I told you that you are exactly the woman of my dreams?"
Ginny's reply was a bit perfunctory. "Many times. Same here."
Myra felt deflated. "Anyhow, Gin, that's not the same as what I meant. I was thinking of how guys rub against women on the bus, or stare at breasts, or imagine fucking pretty much every women they know, anybody over the age of 14 as long as she's not fat or hairy." Her voice was angry again. "And they just don't get that even considering such crap, much less trying to sneak contact, is on the same continuum as rape. It's the same idea, that the point of sex is territory."
Ginny was silent a minute. "You know, Myra, I'm all over you. Most of the time."
"Yeah. But, don't laugh, mostly it doesn't feel sexual to me. It's -- I don't know how to describe the intimacy we have. I mean, it's connected to sex, I don't have that same kind of physical knowledge of my friends, despite how affectionate we are. But the point isn't sex. It's -- don't take this the wrong way, but the kids are all over us too, or used to be, when they were little. It's like there was no real boundary between our bodies and theirs, remember? And I just plain ate it up. There wasn't a hint of sexuality in that, it was -- more than sex, if that makes sense. Biological. Like how I feel sometimes when I feed them. Or you. And how we touch during the day, unless we're kissing and that switch gets flipped, which usually seems deliberate to me, we look at each other and say 'Okay, let's get hot now' -- otherwise, it's like you're my best friend plus. And the charge is because I know you love my body as much as I love yours."
Ginny was nodding. "That's pretty much now it is for me, Myra. But it hasn't been with all my lovers. Well, any of them, actually. Either we were still in that honeymoon phase, or -- well, Jules was kinda like being with a guy, I can see now, and Bonnie was never comfortable with all the kinds of touching that you and I do."
Myra wanted to again say something about how perfect Ginny was for her. She still felt not quite appreciated from the last try, however. She took a new tack.
"I don't believe men, boys, are inherently programmed to be so fixated on sex as the ultimate kind of contact. I just don't buy that at puberty, something gets rewired and bingo, they're horn dogs now. But it's so universal out there they they're out of control; it's so accepted. I don't know how on earth Margie's going to deal with it. Much less Gillam, who must feel like the freak of the universe" said Myra.
"Either that, or he's having some of those same feelings and can't show them around us" said Ginny.
Myra's anger finally boiled over. "Why the fuck would you say that, do you really think he's a pig in hiding?"
"That's not what I meant" began Ginny. She backed the car into a spot and pulled up the emergency brake. "I'm just open to the idea that you and I might be rare exceptions to some pretty extreme conditioning, and our children, despite our best efforts, may not have been as lucky as us."
"You don't have to placate me, Ginny, I'm not going to leap out of the car into traffic" said Myra sarcastically, pointing to the ignition which Ginny had just turned off.
Ginny leveled her gaze on Myra. "We're here. At Nancy's."
"Oh." Myra took a long breath and got out of the car without looking at Ginny. She waited for Ginny on the steps, however, bumping her elbow to Ginny's and saying "I guess I got myself worked up for this session, huh?"
Ginny slid her arm through Myra's and said "You usually don't get pissed at me about other people's shit in the world. It stands out when you do. You jerk."
Myra was laughing when Nancy answered the door. Instead of leading them to her treatment room, with its massage table and shelf of tinctures and crystals, Nancy waved them into her sunny living room, saying no one else was home and would not be back for hours. She went to make them tea.
Myra sat down on the sofa, and Ginny, instead of sitting beside her, chose the love seat that was perpendicular. Myra found herself to be extremely nervous, and focused on a large statue of some Indian god (goddess? she wasn't sure, which was embarrassing, what would her mother say?) to distract herself. When Nancy came back with a tea tray, she sat on the sofa near Myra.
Nancy said "Let's begin with what your goals are for today."
Ginny was occupied with squeezing lemon into her tea without a seed dropping in. Myra said "I never know what to say when someone asks me to name my goals. I mean, that reeks of middle class to me." She hadn't meant to launch the day on a contentious note.
Nancy, however, laughed and said "All right. What's wrong, what needs fixing? What will get you your money's worth in the next two hours?"
Myra felt her shoulders relax a notch. "I'd like to know my kids are going to be okay. Eventually, if not soon. And -- something's wrong with me and Ginny, something I don't know about, it feels like. I want her back, all the way."
Ginny dropped the mug she had just picked up. It hit the wooden floor with a thud, not breaking but cascading hot tea in a spiky splash. Nancy rushed to the kitchen and returned with a roll of paper towels, which Ginny took from her, kneeling and mopping up with a steady stream of red-faced apology.
After a minute, Nancy left her to it and sat back down near Myra. Myra could see that Nancy's fingers were moving in the motion that accompanied her asking questions of the air, as Myra thought of it. When Ginny was settled again on the love seat, a fresh mug of tea but her cheeks still flushed, Nancy looked at her keenly and said "How about you?"
Ginny set her tea down carefully. "You mean, reacting to what Myra said?"
"No. What needs fixing for you?" There was a difference in Nancy's voice; Myra considered how long these two had been working together. Shiva she thought suddenly -- the statue across the room was of Shiva, with that crescent moon on his head and the matted hair. She remembered her mother saying They refer to him as Shiva the Destroyer but it's more accurate to think of what he does as transformation.
After a few seconds, Ginny said "I need my brain to be working right again. I feel like Myra's doing most of the work too much of the time, and it feels like it's my brain that's holding me back."
Myra was surprised, on several levels. She must have made a sound, because Nancy looked at her expectantly. Myra said "I think -- I've been worrying that maybe it's me that's the problem. All the way around."
To her horror, Myra discovered she was suddenly crying. Nancy scooted close beside her and handed her a kleenex, saying "Just let that come out, you don't have to explain yet."
But Myra kept going, choking out "I'm the one who talked to Margie about sex -- what if I did it wrong, what if I set her up for what happened to her? Maybe I wasn't proactive enough, I should have warned her more, maybe I'm so fucked up in this area I passed it on to the next generation in some way I still can't see! Oh, please forgive me, god, forgive me for what I've done to my only daughter!" She was screaming by the end. She felt Ginny squeeze in next to her, her arms around Myra's middle. Someone else, must be Nancy, was rubbing a thumb in the middle of her forehead, which was doing odd things inside her brain.
After half a minute, Myra not only stopped crying, it was as if someone had opened a window. There was a sense of fresh air. She opened her swollen eyes and looked first at Ginny, but then immediately at Nancy.
Nancy said "How old was your brother the first time he raped you?"
Myra sucked in a big breath. Nobody was ever this blunt with her, not even Leesa.
"Uh...Well, I was eight when the sexual stuff started, so...17." As she said it, she felt a click: That was the age of the boy who'd raped Margie.
"And can you tell me why on earth you would believe you were responsible for what another 17-year-old did to your daughter?" Nancy's voice was so matter of fact.
Myra burst into laughter, just as shocking as the crying had been.
"It's nuts, ain't it?" she said.
Nancy allowed herself a smile. "The first lesson they teach us is that we are the cause of their behavior. If it's bad behavior. If they do well, of course that's all their own doing."
After kissing Myra's cheek, Ginny went back to her loveseat. Nancy did muscle testing, had Myra look through some colored lenses, say a certain syllable a few times, put some drops under her tongue, then tested her again and declared her clear of that delusion.
Presto whammo thought Myra.
She turned around to look at Ginny. Ginny didn't look so good. Her face pale, her eyes clear, Ginny said "Myra, I had no idea you were -- I'm so sorry, angel, if there's any way I made you doubt yourself..."
Nancy interrupted, "Ginny, let's focus on what you've been feeling. Have you noticed a change in your connection with Myra?"
Ginny's face lost even more color as she fixed her gaze on Nancy. "Yes" she said hoarsely. Nancy leaned over to take both of Ginny's hands in hers and said, with great gentleness, "Can you tell us what's going on for you?"
Ginny seemed to be having trouble findings words. After a few false starts, she said "When Daddy was here, I noticed one thing. It used to be, the way Myra and I divided up parenting, it evened out over the course of a week or so. I mean, she feeds us, I grow our food, she goes out for the groceries, I go shopping for the rest of what we need, and, well, I still get more time for my art than she does for writing but she has more time with her friends...That's all more or less the same. But with the kids -- I used to have a direct line in to Margie, I was where she prefered to demand attention from, and that's changed. She's just not talking to me much any more. And Gillam, he's pulled back from me even more, though he's still having some conversations with Myra. I feel like I'm -- the dad, suddenly. To put it in conventional terms."
Myra began trying to see if this made sense. She was concentrating, looking at her hands, not at Ginny. Nancy stood and moved to the loveseat. Myra checked out Ginny's face and discovered Ginny was crying silently.
"Oh, Myra, I've been resenting you! I've felt like you were rubbing my face in what a crappy mother I am, but not directly so we could fight it out."
Myra was stunned. Nancy did her deft move with offering a kleenex again, and Ginny buried her face in Nancy's shoulder, saying "I've fucked things up beyond repair, I'm so scared I can't function any more!"
When Ginny was through most of her crying and had blown her nose, Myra said "I'm pretty tired of mothering. I mean, I adore them as people, but sometimes I find their endless growth and drama, well, boring. I'd like to have a good long break."
The blasphemy of it made Ginny giggle. "Same here. And just when things are heating up, what timing, eh?"
Nancy had a set of mumbo-jumbo for Ginny to do, also, that brought depth back to Ginny's blue eyes and stopped her hands from wringing each other ceaselessly. Nancy faced them both and said "Answer me honestly: Do either one of you actually believe the other one is responsible for the problems your family is having?"
"No" said Myra easily. Ginny cleared her throat and said "No, not me, either."
"Then I have two assignments for you until I see you next week. First, whatever you hear the other partner say, it is NEVER going to be blame for what's wrong. If that's what your brain is hearing, it's an error and you start there. Can you remember that?"
Myra and Ginny nodded, Ginny giggling again.
"Second, you are to set aside one night a week as date night. Let the kids feed themselves, do their own homework and chores, whatever. Either leave the house entirely or sequester yourselves so you don't hear them at all. Have fun without talking about them or thinking about them for several hours."
Myra looked at Nancy doubtfully. "I'm not sure we can do that, Margie is in the middle of -- We have some big decisions -- "
"You can still spare one night a week. Set it up so it doesn't conflict with your very real obligations right now, I'm not suggesting you abrogate your responsibility. But you need a planned break" said Nancy.
Myra looked at Ginny, who nodded. "Okay. I'll give it a try" Myra said.
"Your time's up. I can see you next Thursday afternoon, right after lunch, if that works for you" said Nancy, starting to carry the tea tray to her kitchen.
On the way home, they stopped at a thrift store neither of them had noticed before. Myra found a World Almanac for the year of her birth, and Ginny located a paint-by-number kit of horses in a pasture which had never been opened. "I'm sending this to Liza, she's collecting them" she told Myra.
At Myra's suggestion, they also stopped at the deli and got makings for dinner. At home, they walked into booming bass from upstairs and floors which had clearly not been cleaned.
"This house is starting to smell a little like Narnia" Myra remarked.
"They're not to go anywhere until their chores are done. That includes their outing with Davonn tonight if they don't come downstairs and get to it before dinner" said Ginny calmly. Myra agreed. They put away the food without trying to shout their return up the stairwell. Instead, they sat down together on Myra's daybed and read through the printouts from The Center School.
Myra said in dismay, "I hate to admit it, but it looks like Margie's assessment is right. I mean, yeah, there are kids of color in these brochure photos but they have that carefully placed, spread-out-to-look-like-they're-organic kind of appearance."
"What's the ratio of boys to girls?" asked Ginny.
"Doesn't say. I guess we'll have to go down there and look around for ourselves" said Myra. "Why would Gillam, of all people, find this appealing?"
"Was that remark about football a slam at Margie?" countered Ginny. "Because she used to love to go to the games."
"I don't know anymore" said Myra wearily. "If it was, it was a vile thing to say. But maybe he just means it, maybe he hates what football frenzy brings to a school. I always did."
"How about Monday as our date night?" said Ginny, not really changing the subject.
"You're on. Let's tell them tonight so they can have friends over or whatever."
"Hottub now? You can tell me about the book you're not writing enough on" said Ginny, standing and pulling Myra to her feet.
Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
(Paper sculpture by Jen Stark)
Friday, January 25, 2008
This is what was waiting on me when I grew up enough to go look for it. Judy Grahn's poetry saved many lives. All of these poems are currently in print in The Work of a Common Woman, a collection of Judy's poetry, but were individually printed in the volumes mentioned. Copyright belongs to Judy Grahn.
(from Edward the Dyke and Other Poems, 1964-1970)
A HISTORY OF LESBIANISM
How they came into the world,
came in three by three
and four by four
came in ten by ten
and ten by ten again
until there were more
than you could count
they took care of each other
the best they knew how
and of each other's children
if they had any.
How they lived in the world,
learned as much as they were allowed
and walked and wore their clothes
the way they liked
whenever they could. They did whatever
they knew to be happy or free
and worked and worked and worked.
in America were called dykes
and some liked it
and some did not.
they made love to each other
the best they knew how
and for the best reasons
How they went out of the world,
went out one by one
having withstood greater and lesser
trials, and much hatred
from other people, they went out
one by one, each having tried
in her own way to overthrow
the rule of men over women,
they tried it one by one
and hundred by hundred,
until each came in her own way
to the end of her life
The subject of lesbianism
is very ordinary; it's the question
of male domination that makes everybody
(Gail Grassi and Kate Kaufman repairing a car, East Bay 1970s, photo and copyright by Cathy Cade)
(from She Who, 1971-1972)
The first four leaders had broken knees
The four old dams had broken knees
The flock would start to run, then freeze
The first four leaders had broken knees
"Why is the flock so docile?" asked the hawk
"Yes, why is the flock so docile" laughed the dog,
"The shepherd's mallet is in his hand,
The shepherd's hand is on the land,
The flock will start to run, then freeze --
The four old dams have broken knees,"
The dog explained.
The hawk exclaimed:
"The shepherd leads an easy life!"
"I know, I know," cried the shepherd's wife,
"He dresses me out in a narrow skirt
and leaves me home to clean his dirt.
Whenever I try to run, I freeze --
All the old dams have broken knees."
"Well, I'm so glad he doesnt dare
to bring his breaking power to bear
on me," said the hawk, flying into the sun;
while the dog warned, in his dog run:
"Hawk -- the shepherd has brought a gun!"
"Why is the hawk so docile?" asked the flock,
"He fell to the ground in a feathery breeze;
He lies in a dumb lump under the trees.
We believe we'd rather have broken knees
Than lose our blood and suddenly freeze --
But the oldest dam gave her leg a lick,
And said "Some die slow and some die quick,
A few run away and the rest crawl,
But the shepherd never dies at all --
Damn his soul.
I'd will my wool to the shepherd's wife
If she could change the shepherd's life,
But I myself would bring him low
If only, only I knew how."
(Tianeman Square kiss, January 2006)
I am the wall at the lip of the water
I am the rock that refused to be battered
I am the dyke in the matter, the other
I am the wall with the womanly swagger
I am the dragon, the dangerous dagger
I am the bulldyke, the bulldagger
and I have been many a wicked grandmother
and I shall be many a wicked daughter.
(from Confrontations with the Devil in the Form of Love, 1977-?, an unfinished set of poems, inspired after seeing an incredible stage production of Ntozake Shange's poetry: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.)
after the boss took over
Love had millions of babies
she didnt want --
and loved them anyway,
as the earth loves
even the fruits forced out of her
though she never forgives them
Thursday, January 24, 2008
(Tiny Chatty Brother in exactly the clothes he wore when I got him Christmas 1963)
On this date 45 years ago, I went to school as usual. I was eight years old, in third grade, Miz Davis's class, at Bonham Elementary, Midland, Texas. I walked to school because my family had only one car and that was with Daddy, who was currently getting new training for his job in Irving, Texas, over 300 miles away. He was due to be gone another month.
But school was within walking distance, as long as the weather was not too cold to aggravate my asthma. We lived in Sunset Trailer Park, an oval dirt road with lots of big trees and trailers spaced around the ring, a playground in the middle. Each yard had a wooden fence, a rarity in trailer parks. We'd manage to snag a space at the corner, an extra-large yard backed onto a vacant lot.
On our left side was a young couple named John and Linda. John worked as a DJ at a radio station, and Linda stayed home with their 2-year-old, Little Johnny. She had bleach-blond hair piled up high on her head, and she visited Mama a lot. We were supposed to play with Little Johnny, but he was not much fun.
Their trailer only had one bedroom, but their furniture was a lot nicer than hours. John's hobby was drag racing, and there was a real red race car parked in front of the trailer, just big enough for one person. We were not supposed to ever even touch it.
President Kennedy had been assassinated in November. It seemed like grown-ups were still in shock from it. My parents had voted for Nixon, but after President Kennedy was killed, Mama said I was not to tell anyone they had been Nixon supporters.
Right before Christmas, Mama had told me and my toddler brother Bill that she was pregnant again. I was really happy about it: Maybe this time I'd get a sister. I needed a sister bad. I begged Mama to let me pick out the names for the new baby. Laughing, she asked me what I'd choose. I knew already: Timmy if it was a boy, Penelope if it was a girl. She said it was up to her and Daddy to name the baby, and it wouldn't be those names, but she wouldn't say what they would be.
I began doing two things every night right before I went to sleep. First, I did magic using an old broken watch of Daddy's, running the hour hand backwards for an entire day's sweep while saying special words that I'd read in books. Then I would pray to Jesus to bring me a baby sister. I figured one of the two would work.
Mama was in a bad mood most of the time, even at Christmas. I thought maybe it was from President Kennedy dying. She didn't go out much. She ate a lot of crackers and tomato juice. She was fighting with my teenage brother all the time.
For Christmas I got a Chatty Baby and a Tiny Chatty Brother, with matching flaxen hair. I had asked for a chemistry set. I named the dolls Penelope and Timmy. I played with them a couple of times, then returned to my reading. That year I was memorizing poems from a book Mama had used in high school, "Flanders Fields", "Gunga Din", "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and, especially, "The Highwayman". I read "The Highwayman" every day.
Daddy went off to Irving right after the New Year and had not been back yet. Fortunately, a block away (across Midkiff Road) was a grocery store, so Mama could walk with me and Bill there and get us food. She only had one dress that fit her any more, and she always wore that when she went out. Otherwise, she wore her housecoat all the time.
When we first moved to Midland, I spent a day playing with a child next door named Robin that I thought was a girl. He wore boy blue jeans and had short hair. He was as imaginative as me, and cheerfully shared the good roles with me. That night at dinner, Mama laughed when I called Robin "he" -- she said it was a little girl. Unfortunately, Robin had only been visiting her grandparents and did not live in town.
There was another girl in the trailer park, Donna, who was a few years older than me and wouldn't actually spend time with me but we were both voracious readers and discovered our individual book shelves held lots of titles that the other one didn't have. So we swapped books regularly. She introduced me to Trixie Belden and Honey.
I didn't have any friends. I'd tried to make friends at school, with a girl named Becky McCuistion and another girl named Jena Bowden. When Becky found out I lived in a trailer, she said she couldn't be friends with me, her mother wouldn't let her. I told Mama about it, and she swore for a long time, said terrible things about Becky's mother. Jena had me over to her house once. It was big and fancy. When I was leaving, she told me I was too quiet and my wheezing bothered her, she didn't want to play with me again. I didn't tell Mama about that, afraid of setting her off.
But my teacher, Miz Davis, liked me as gushingly as all teachers seemed to like me. She gave me special projects all the time, letting me work way ahead of the other kids. She brought me her own books from home, histories and biographies that Mama said were for college kids. They were fascinating, and as soon as I read one, Miz Davis brought me another. So I looked forward to going to school each day, even without any friends.
On this day, when I got home from school, Mama wasn't there. Instead, Linda from next door was in our house with Bill and Little Johnny. My older brother wasn't home from high school yet. Linda took my hand and said Mama was in the hospital, that she had begun having her baby except it was too soon and something was wrong. I asked if Mama was okay, and Linda cried when she said she didn't know. She told me Daddy had been called but would not be home until very late that night.
I didn't know what to do. Linda kept trying to get me to talk, but I was too numb. When my older brother got home, he yelled a lot and demanded to be taken to the hospital. Linda said she had to look after the kids, and they weren't letting anyone in to see Mama, anyhow.
We went to Linda's house for dinner. After dinner, though, my older brother demanded to go back to our trailer and that he we go with him. He said he looked after us all the time, and we needed to be home in case somebody called. Linda finally gave in.
Once we got home, he said we had to clean up the house to make it nice for when Mama got back. She'd not been doing much housework for a while. He gave us impossible chores, things we didn't know how to do. He put a broom in Bill's hand and began yelling at him to sweep the kitchen. Bill did his best, but he was too small to really manage it. My older brother screamed at him more and more, and Bill began crying in terror. My older brother grabbed the broom from his hands and swung it at Bill.
I shouted at my older brother to leave him alone. He turned and looked at me, enraged. I realized I had to run for it. If I'd gone down the hall, I might have made it to the back door and could have gone to Linda's. But instead I bolted for Mama's bedroom. Once in there, I was trapped. I dove headfirst into her closet, which is where he caught up with me. He hit me for a while with the broomhandle. When he was done, I went back to trying to clean the stove. He didn't pick on Bill any more that night, though.
When we got up the next morning, Daddy had been there but already left for the hospital. Linda made us breakfast and got me dressed. She insisted on putting me in a frilly dress, with petticoats and socks that had embroidered flowers on the cuffs, things I hated to wear. Bill stayed home with Linda and Little Johnny again. After school, Daddy was home waiting on me. He told us that the new baby was dead, had died right after being born. He had been a boy. I felt a chill when I heard that part: Neither magic or prayer had worked.
Daddy said Mama's uterus had ruptured because she had toxemia and she had been taken to surgery. They had removed her uterus and barely saved her life. She would not be home for a week. The baby would be buried the next day. My father's parents, fundamentalist Baptists from Oklahoma, were driving in and would stay with us when Daddy went back to work in a couple of days.
I asked if the baby had a name. Looking upset, Daddy said they had planned to name him Thomas Samuel. He would have been called Sam. Then he said he had to go back to the hospital, that my older brother would look after us until our grandparents got there late.
I told Daddy I didn't want us to be left with our older brother, that we should stay with Linda instead. When he looked at me, irritated, I told him that my older brother had hit me with a broom. My older brother grinned confidentially at Daddy, shrugging his shoulders, and said "They were misbehaving, refusing to help with housecleaning, but I didn't hit her, I just swatted at her." Daddy laughed, man to man, and told me I was to mind my older brother. He left.
Years later, after I moved back to Texas from San Francisco, I went searching for the birth certificate of my lost brother. I discovered he had been born on January 24. The next day, January 25, was my oldest brother's 16th birthday. I'm certain nobody ever remembered it at the time.
The next morning Grandmommy took me out to buy some funeral clothes. She decided on a dark navy skirt and sweater instead of black so I could wear it on other occasions. But I never did.
At the funeral home, Daddy, my older brother and my grandparents all looked in the coffin at baby Sam, but they wouldn't let me or Bill, though I begged hard. Later Grandmommy told me he had been blond, with blue eyes, and looked like Bill as a baby. I was confused; Bill had brown eyes.
The training Daddy was getting in Irving was supposed to make him able to have an office job with his company and therefore not have to move around us around all the time. At the end of January, he rented an apartment for us in Irving, then came back to Midland to sell our trailer and most of our furniture. We moved to Irving, with Mama not yet fully recovered from her surgery. She was quiet and pale.
While we were packing, she told us all that she had died on the operating table. She said she had floated up to the corner of the room and watched them trying to bring her back to life. She had floated through the walls, into the sky, and then begun traveling toward a distant light. She said she was the happiest she had ever been.
But then her mother, Hettie, had appeared. Hettie had died when Mama was a year old, so she didn't really remember her, yet she know instantly who it was. Hettie told her she couldn't die yet, she had things she still needed to do on earth. Mama said Hettie meant me and Bill, she still had to raise us. So she came back down, returned to her body, and after a minute, she was alive again, in terrible pain and grief.
My older brother got up and slammed out of the house. I was completely terrified. I never stopped being scared about losing my mother after that. I knew the only reason she was around was because of her obligation to me, and I kept hoping that would be enough.
The week after we moved to Irving, Mama turned 37. Daddy bought her a Chihuahua puppy as a present from all of us, whom she named Chico. That night we watched Ed Sullivan, as usual. There was a band called The Beatles on for the first time. Mama thought their music and appearance was horrible, and kept making jokes about them. But I liked the way they sounded, and their long hair. I kept my opinion to myself. The next day, though, on the way to school I sang under my breath "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah."
(Link to some poems of mine written about the Midland era of my family, plus an ad for our trailer)
(Maggie and Gail Gordon, circa 1981, on the back stoop of my flat on Brosnan Street, San Francisco)
All of these poems were written during my 20s, the period of time when I was working intensively on overcoming my sexual abuse history and also dealing with the death of my mother. A couple have been published ("Sanctuary" and "Secrets", I think). My style has grown so much, I post these here as a placeholder and small revelation rather than a contemporary statement. The last two were written for Janice Kant.
even the breath before a kiss
She rides on the surface
of our visits,
gliding away in a burst
at the least shadow of passion.
She knocks about
the familiar acres of her world
knobby as an eight-year-old,
safe in daydreams.
She climbs down
which open at her feet,
without line, without
other hands to haul her up.
She climbs down
to the heart of the earth
and brings back
old doorknobs from her childhood,
unmatched buttons torn from shirts,
bottles whose labels
She will study these
as if they hold a secret,
as if, properly arranged,
they will point the way to sanctuary.
She is looking for sanctuary.
I am looking for her.
and I feel new, curving ridges
beneath the skin
of your shoulderblades.
As I doze
I think later I will offer
to rub ointment
to ease the canker
of the wings
OUT OF REACH
After the first couple of years
when he came messing at me
I somehow learned
to leave my body,
leave it to him
while my heart traveled out
of his reach.
Sometimes I watched
from a high corner of the room,
watched his stubbled cheek
burn my flat chest,
his football player fingers
shoved into my vagina,
watched my skinny throat
try to swallow the stuff.
Those next four years
have no sight no sound.
A friend of mine
wants a big mirror
for the ceiling
over her bed.
So she can watch.
Later, I will explain
what I can.
You slide through my pockets
looking for secrets
to suck like butterscotches
for a flavour of me.
I startle at your guesses.
In a family where
one would spread me, bleeding,
any way he could
and another would use
my big eyes and willing ears
as the mother she never had,
I decided my survival
on staying hidden.
I have tended myself well.
I am only hurt,
The secrets you suspect
are just me.
But you are not even close.
Your suspicion and need
have nothing to do with me.
I have relaxed, knowing
you cannot hear my breath,
have missed my
Your love is a fine feast
but what I mean to say is
you are not enough
to move me from my fastness,
and I could not guess
which of us
is more sorry.
28 January 1984
We are not quite
To melt us
Close off the exit
We have marked all this time
You are suspicious
Check my hands for matches
Think I may strike a blaze
You are right
13 September 1984
DARK MOON HUSH
There is a heart of winter promise
a dark moon hush
in how I am learning
to love you.
I wake up early,
sly out to lunch alone,
take longer baths,
so I'll have time
to think about you.
5:40 a.m., 19 May 1984
Skin the color of cambric tea
at times darkening
into the shell brown
of early pecans
Underneath baggy shirts,
like oiled wood
We are downtown clerical workers,
a block apart.
Despite all clues
we blend in on the subway
on the streets
except when desire trips me
and I want to suck at your neat stitches
till they give way
the heat pouring into my mouth.
14 September 1984, 1:40 p.m.
© Maggie Jochild
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
When work is going well, I can mostly think about other things as I type operative reports, cardiac catheterizations, consults, Emergency Department cases, etc. Between my work software crammed with shorthand terminology and medications I use constantly (loaded in by me over time) and my natural spelling ability, I almost never have to look anything up.
I am brought back to current reality, though, by statements at the beginning of a new dictation like I heard tonight:
First was "Chief Complaint: Skillsaw mishap involving loss of digits." Holy fuck, my fingers curled on themselves in sympathy. Love that "mishap" tossed in there after Skillsaw, a colorful turn of phrase.
Then came "Preoperative Diagnosis: A 40 -year-old female with 36 week pregnancy, perforation of colon and rock-hard stool throughout entirety of colon, with purulent ascites." Just to let you know, the baby got delivered and he was okay. Not so sure about mom, though. They cut out 68 cm of colon and gave her a colostomy. Since it was an op report, there was no explanation of how she got in these dire straits.
When you hear what can possibly go wrong with the human body over the course of 30 years, it makes you grateful for all the ways things go right day after day -- enzymes process dinner without your oversight, ligaments flex (mostly), taste buds send off feedback, gas makes it way out of you, and that big complicated muscle in your chest keeps squeezing to its electrofunk beat. Miracle after miracle.
(Yep, from little gator.)
One of my big accomplishments this week, leading to enhanced quality of life, was assembling a new office chair. The joints in my hands don't cooperate as they once did, but I finally got it done and am, as I type this, enjoying the new comfort of it all. Dinah likewise had a spike in her entertainment level because the long plastic strap around the carton that the chair came in is wonderfully snaky and rattly. If I go too long without lashing it around provocatively, I hear her coming my way with it gripped between her teeth, her paws stepping over it sideways, until she can drop it within reach and look at me pointedly. At the moment, it holds the status of Best Toy Ever.
("Holding Onto Myself" by Peter Callesen)
Here's a little reality check: When you get scared, you don't think well. You're undergoing a physiological response which may be slowed down but is still releasing chemicals into your bloodstream as if you had just looked up and saw a sabertooth tiger about to leap on your head. Your brain shunts processes over to reactive mode, and, well, unless you really are facing down a Smilodon, it would be better if you stopped making decisions (or trying to) and instead lay down for a long nap.
I know things look bad out there. Perhaps they really are that bad, in which case, flecks of feces will soon be splattering through the blades of the Kenmore fan and we'll be reaching for a wet-wipe. Until that happens, though, trying to "get ready" for something which has not yet occurred means you'll be operating on incomplete information. Using old scripts, and the legacy your parents handed you.
There is wisdom and hope to be had without turning to Revelations or reality TV. You know what these rejuvenating wellsprings are: Hanging out with kids. Going out in nature. Cooking something from scratch. The books and poetry you never get tired of (Annie Dillard, here I come). Watercolors. Meditation/prayer/davening. Singing out loud (Beatles are good for this, all you need is love, love, love...)
Texas has more natural springs than any other state in the country (we have a LOT of water here, folks, forget about "Comanche Moon" and all the ways we're portrayed on TV). We talk and think often about recharge zones, how to keep springs alive by not building on top of the labyrinth underground feeding their essence. Pay attention to your recharge zones, my friends. Balance.
There's a Quaker saying, "Proceed as the way opens." Imbedded in that logic is that you DON'T try to move forward until the way opens. Fits and starts is a perfectly okay way to live.
And if you really can't turn off the electronic media immediately, go read about the Overton Window by Sara Robinson at Orcinus. Things are changing for the better. Take a load off, teach a toddler the joy of knock-knock jokes, and eat some veggies. Catch you when you've rested up a bit.
(Metal sculpture by Frank Plant)
NEW KID ON THE BLOG
Kat, a regular commenter and sometime poster here as well as at Maoist Orange Cake has plunged into running her own blog at BitchCraft. Focusing on feminism, music, and geekiness, Kat made her first venture as part of Blog for Choice, and a wonderful start it is. Give her some sugar, ya'll. And, to remind you, another Maoist Orange Caker and commenter here, Shadocat, has had her own blog for a while (despite being caught up in new grandmotherhood) at Ma Vie in KC. We blog, therefore we deserve Cake.
(F es por Fanny succionado hasta secarse por una sanguijuela)
I re-read Edward Goreyk's Gashlycrumb Tinies regularly, for the morbid thrill of it all. I've now discovered there's a version online (from Argentina) in Spanish. !Cubra los ojos de sus niños!
One of the blogs I check out and enjoy regularly, Homo Academicus, has written a biting commentary on the study in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association, which declares (as if it is breathtaking new information) "Bisexuality is a stable identity, not just a phase." Do tell.
Natasha's analysis is not to be missed. Go read it, but here's a sample:
"Bisexuality is maligned by both the gay and the straight camps. They are described as being fence-sitters, too scared to come right out and admit to being gay. Bisexual men especially are often suspected of being semi-closeted homos. ... Bisexuals who end up in long term relationships with someone of the other sex are often attacked by gay folks for their ability to enjoy heterosexual privilege, while being dismissed by straight folks as having gone through a bisexual phase and thankfully emerged 'normal.' Bisexuals are called greedy and sex-crazed, as if their love of sex is so great they just can’t help hopping into bed with whoever offers. They are suspected of being incapable of holding down long term relationships, accused of being unable to resist the draw of whichever genitalia their partner doesn’t have."
Right ON, sistah.
An article by Roni Caryn Rabin in the New York Times declares In the Fatosphere, Big Is In, or at Least Accepted. It begins:
"Blogs written by fat people — and it’s fine to use the word, they say — have multiplied in recent months, filling a virtual soapbox known as the fatosphere, where bloggers calling for fat acceptance challenge just about everything conventional medical wisdom has to say about obesity."
The excellent piece goes on to quote one of our heras, Kate Harding, founder of Shapely Prose (long linked in my sidebar), who says “One of the first obstacles to fat acceptance is breaking down the question of whether being fat is a choice. No fat acceptance advocate is saying you should sit around and wildly overeat. What we’re saying is that exercise and a balanced diet do not make everyone thin.”
In a recent post, I referred to the phenomenon known as "droplifting" or "shopdropping", where items for sale which have been altered for reasons of politics, promotion or art are placed back on store shelves to be discovered by random consumers. Weburbanist has a great recent examination of this activity. In addition to some wonderful images, they have two videos to enjoy, A Beginner's Guide to Shopdropping (which I think would be especially fun to watch with an adolescent), and Mixed Messages: A Shop Dropping Intervention.
And, for your pleasure, more ICanHazCheesburgr images from the singular mind of little gator, not LOLCats per se (LOLCritters?) but in that zany genre. Remove liquids from your mouth before viewing (after the fold).
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
("Good Girls", photo and copyright by Christa Renee)
As mentioned in my most recent Broad Cast post, last week a Burlington, Vermont guerrilla action theater group calling themselves Heterosexuals for Mandatory Marriage (Hmm) made their presence known at the anti-gay-marriage presentation of a Utah-based rigid marriage front. What the Burlington Free Press article did not cover was the Hmm Manifesto read aloud during the begrudgingly-granted Q&A.
Thanks to our excellent sources, I can now share with you the contents of that manifesto (below the fold). Enjoy!
Heterosexuals for Mandatory Marriage. (Hmm)
We all know something is wrong with the modern world, with our world. There is too much selfishness and greed; too much I WANT. We have a solution and it’s called GROW UP! That’s right, Americans, you need to stop acting like spoiled brats and start acting like grown ups and realize that rights and responsibilities are earned, not given.
That’s why we at Heterosexuals for Mandatory Marriage (Hmm) demand that the government stop spoiling its citizens by giving them what they want, and instead force citizens to earn their rights by growing up and getting married.
Did you know that state and federal governments already grant over 1000 rights and responsibilities to married people that are not granted to unmarried people? So why can’t all rights and privileges be reserved for the real grown ups among us, the responsible, the hard-working, the married.
We demand that only married people be allowed to vote, own homes, drive after ten p.m., adopt pets or children, and have access to unlimited credit at extremely high interest rates.
We demand that mealy-mouthed organizations like the Family Research Council stop beating around the bush and state what they are really arguing for: America as an even more stratified system of rights and privileges based on marital status. We, the Family Research Council, and all right-minded Americans know that the only thing that will save this country from going to hell is Marital Apartheid.
The Founding Members of Hmm
Mrs. John Smith
Mrs. Marian Haste
(Me and Mama in December 1956, Kolkata, India -- I always knew I was a wanted child)
Never once in my life as a sexually active adult have I had to consider birth control, or fear becoming pregnant. In this regard, I am not just an historical anomaly among women since the dawn of humanity, I am rare within my own generation of historical anomalies. Despite my assertion that my preference (who I let into my sheets with me) is a choice, not predetermined by biology -- I am a lesbian by choice, every single day of my life -- still, I know how lucky I am. Lucky to sidestep the issue of reproduction, the question and worry that claims a significant portion of the thoughts of almost every other woman I know. My sisters: I am born to your ranks, and I know your task, even if I have not shared it directly. I stand in solidarity with you.
When I was sixteen, living in a small town where my mother had grown up, I heard from a friend whose mother had been my mother's best friend as teenagers that my mother had gotten pregnant from an affair with a married man and, somehow, in extremely rural Texas during World War II, had an abortion. I was enormously upset by this gossip -- not at the choice of an abortion, but at the loss of a sibling who might have been my longed-for sister. Eventually, I went to my mother and asked her about it. She was shocked, unpleasantly so. She acknowledged the affair but denied the abortion, saying with a disbelieving laugh, "I don't think I even knew such a thing existed then."
She added "I completely support a woman's right to choose, you know. It's our bodies, that's the way g*d and nature set it up, which means it's up to us to decide whether or not we fill our wombs. But I'd never personally be able to have an abortion, no matter the consequences. That's my choice, not one you have to share. Just so you know."
Mama was an extraordinary woman, and although by the time she told me this I was well-launched in my choice of sexual partners, still, it was liberating to hear. And now, at 52, with my fertility behind me and decades of radical feminism under my belt, I agree with her: It's our bodies, our selves, and there's no way to allow others to make that choice for us without giving up an essential piece of personhood. And -- I don't think I could ever have chosen abortion, either. You can be a radical lesbian-feminist, support choice completely, reject abortion personally, and not be contradicting yourself.
We don't get to hear that much because we are constantly hounded on this issue and don't feel the room to be honest. We are hounded by people who also don't want us to have birth control and a myriad of other sexual, biological and cultural choices. The same people who want to outlaw abortion are fine with the death penality, and that contradiction is real, is the deal-breaker. They are no more pro-life than the Peacekeeper missile was about peace.
And it's easy for me to guess at what my choice might be, but, as I've acknowledged above, it's not a reality I've ever had to even try on for a day. How can I really know?
I had a chance to hear Sarah Weddington speak to a NOW gathering in Lubbock, Texas not long after she argued Roe v. Wade. I remember being surprised by how ordinary she looked, how strong her accent was. I understood, all the way down to my bones, that the ability to say no to pregnancy was more important to me, even as a lesbian, than any other liberation struggle I would encounter in this life. I was then, and remain, grateful to her for the common-sense way she found this clear ground for us all.
I've been close to many women who have had abortions, many of them lesbians who came out at some point after having been pregnant. I've never talked to anyone for whom it wasn't a deep wound. Some, a few of them, regretted their choice. That's to be expected. We regret many choices we make as young people. I've always loved the Carole King song with the line "If it had been as I intended, I wouldn't have the peace I know." My idea of hell would be to find myself locked into the decisions and convictions I had at 17, or 22, or even 28. To roughly quote Dodici Azpadu in her book Saturday Night in the Prime of Life, "Wisdom does not automatically come with age. We have to seek it, accept change every step of the way, work for it to acquire it." Regret is useful only as a temporary signpost; we have to leave it behind to transform ourselves.
Mostly, the women I've talked with who chose to not give birth expressed a wish that circumstances had been different, that they could have received enough support and instant maturity to have carried their child to term, but since that was utterly unavailable to them, they were content they had done the right thing for themselves and those who would occupy their future years. I believe them, just as I believe the women who regretted what they'd done. I have no reason to do otherwise.
One woman I knew, a lover of mine, was forced into an abortion at age 16 by her fundamentalist father. She had deliberately gotten pregnant with the boyfriend her parents hated, because her sister before her had gotten pregnant at 16 and been pushed into marrying the boy. She thought it would work for her, too, pregnancy as a way out of the house. Instead, her father found an Air Force doctor who would terminate her pregnancy with no questions asked. She was furious and damaged, as you can imagine.
Later, when she did marry, it took her many tries to get pregnant. Eventually she had a daughter, and when she came out as a lesbian, we raised that daughter together.
At age eighteen, that daughter became pregnant with a boy she loved and, under pressure from him and her biological mother, she had an abortion. A year later, while she was living with me, she got pregnant again, with the same boy. This time, she wanted to keep the child.
At that time, I was living hand to mouth, not quite meeting rent each month. I had no financial resources I could draw on. My daughter said she would drop out of college, collect state assistance (which would be completely inadequate here), somehow swing it. The boy offered no economic help, had none to offer, really. I told her it was up to her; she and my grandchild could go on living with me, of course, and I'd help her as much as I could.
But when she called her other mother, living in another state, the woman who had been damaged by abortion as a teenager -- her mother said she was too young, she'd never finish college, she'd wind up in poverty, and therefore if she didn't have an abortion, her mother would offer no support, financially or emotionally.
My kid went through a week of living hell. I listened nonstop, I told her how much I believed in her, I located someone we both loved who would gladly adopt the child and let us stay in its life. Eventually, however, she decided on abortion. And when it was time to go to the clinic, I went into the room with her while it was done.
I didn't want to. I didn't want to lose that future child, I didn't want to see how it is done, I wanted her to change her mind and have other choices. Still, you do what is asked of you as a parent. I held her hand through what is one of the worse memories of my life. Love and respect means you support someone's choices even if they are the polar opposite of your own.
Afterward, as my daughter slept at home in the arms of the boy who had failed her, I sat in my car and grieved with a friend, sure that I had also failed her. My friend, an abortion survivor herself, said "Abortion is never an easy choice. And on a fundamental level, it may not be the right choice. But it's sometimes the best choice." It helped to hear that.
Judy Grahn wrote
"we are the fat of our land, and
we all have our list of casualties
...wherever our meat hangs on our own bones
for our own use
your pot is so empty
death, ho death
you shall be poor"
I believe you when you tell me you are doing the best you can. And I support your right to choose.
Monday, January 21, 2008
("Angela Davis" by loaded hips)
Here's the final installment of my nine-part series of quizzes about the Baby Boomer era, right after the fold. I'm going out with a bang.
There will be no grading system for these quizzes, I created them just for the fun of it. Play it with your friends. The answers will be immediately available in case you're not so good with delayed gratification (as they claim about us).
Feel free to share, but give me credit, dammit. Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Each of the 44 images below can be matched with a key word or phrase from the column of text that follows. Some will be easy, some will require expert knowledge. One image, one term, no duplications.
An event that never actually occurred
An illegal act under 50 U.S.C. § 462(b)(3)
Bob and John
Bob and Ray
Butch and Sundance
Free breakfast program
Free food distribution as ransom
I am not a crook
John Jr. saying goodbye
John III coming back
Phan Thi Kim Phúc
Mertz and Arnaz
Nguyen Ngoc Loan
Premiered on Ed Sullivan 1956
Premiered on Ed Sullivan 1964
Refused Academy Award 1970
Refused Academy Award 1973
Answers are here.