Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Quirky

I'm writing this on the Sunday after Thanksgiving 2016 and reflecting on how the day went.
My flower child daughter 
this Thanksgiving.
Image copyright, Teece Aronin

The kids and I were with family and just like previous years, I was told not to bring anything but ourselves because "we know how busy you are." 

It's true, I am busy. But how can I be busier than the others who show up lugging bowls big enough to host nationally-televised football games and baking dishes you could fill with water for small children to bathe in - oh and small children; some people were were lugging those too. 

It might be that I get off so easy because historically not the best things in life have come from that dark, shadowy, cobwebby room in my house I call the kitchen. 

But I'm happy anyway because my family honestly does wave me away lovingly and because they do genuinely care about how much I have to do these days. 

But you'd think they'd at least let me bring the cider provided I buy it somewhere and not try to make it from scratch by pulverizing my own apples which with my track record would turn out to be wormy and rotten.  

So what I do instead of cooking is to bring a nice hostess gift. This year I scored a deal on a huge holiday wreath and that was my contribution to the day.  

Also with us this year were a man who might have been alone otherwise and several other people who didn't start out as "family" but are now that they've been with us at these gatherings for years. 

This Thanksgiving was the one many people felt trepidation over due to the political storm still stalled over the U.S. after the recent presidential race and election. In case you're reading this in the year 3062 and our country has just now managed to forget, a lot of Thanksgiving hosts and hostesses were nervous about the potential for fights at the table and the crescent-roll-turned-weaponry-style battles that might break out during dinner. 

I'd made it through three forkfuls of turkey before some rabble-rouser brought up the election. It turned out to be my own daughter. But one thing to be thankful for was how one swift kick to the ankle made her instantly a-political and un-opinionated. And I was one proud mother to think I still had that much influence over her behavior. 

Then one of the ladies at the table asked my son what grade he was in and when he said "Tenth," the lady exclaimed, "Oh, tenth grade was the best year of my life!" Someone else at the table quietly inquired, "Why - you got pregnant?"

Of course we all laughed and laughed. Actually, we really did. 

After dinner, my daughter let her baby cousins give her a makeover from which she emerged looking like a 1960s flower child and my son posed for pictures placid and dignified in his two-year-old cousin's tiny pink sunglasses.  

And I . . . I thought how thankful I was for everyone there and how delicious dinner had been - partly because everyone insisted I not cook.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Aging into Beauty

My son Jon and I were at a mall food court eating sushi one day. A man looked over at us and said to Jon, "You look an awful lot like your mother, son."
My parents young and old and their daughter (top left and middle right) 
young and aging fast. Image copyright, Teece Aronin
Jon and I smiled and I said thank you. Then the man said to Jon, "Someday you'll age into her beauty." Then the man was gone.

Jon and I looked at each other and I said, "So, which of us should feel more insulted?" Jon wasn't sure so we finished our sushi and went home.

Looking back, I see how I missed the point in a huge way. Worse, my question to Jon fueled all kinds of stereotypes and outmoded thinking. What the man said substantiates the fact that one can be male and beautiful, and older and beautiful. 

As a liberal-leaning woman of an adolescent son, I want his ideas of beauty, aging, and masculinity to be as inclusive as possible, but is that how I acted? No. I said (insert Mortimer Snerd voice here): "So which of us should feel more insulted?"

Jon should have thrown a salmon roll at his mother's head. 

By the way, I'm not talking about sixty-something Hollywood celebs with stables-full of plastic surgeons being accepted by the rest of us as beautiful; I'm talking about the beauty in real people - older, male, female, whomever.

And why not push the envelope a bit and assert that one can be flat out old and still beautiful? The older I get, the more convinced I am that it's true. Then again, I'm getting old, so I suppose I have a dog in this race - an old dog - a beautiful old dog.

Now that I can temper experience with wisdom I will list some examples of the old but crazy-beautiful:

- The translucent skin of my mother's 91 year-old hands
- The gratitude on my father's face when I'd visit him in hospice
- My aunt, sick and weak in a nursing home, laughing herself to tears as Jon ran over my foot with her wheelchair
- Another aunt, dying and deeply religious, who smiled at the nieces and nephews bustling around her room and said, "Oh, I'm having the most wonderful death!"
- The late singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen, who stayed sexy as all get-out even in his eighties

When Cohen was in his fifties he wrote a very funny, very sexy song titled, I'm Your Man. A snippet of the lyrics went like this:

Ah but a man never got a woman back
Not by begging on his knees
Or I'd crawl to you baby and I'd fall at your feet
And I'd howl at your beauty like a dog in heat
And I'd claw at your heart and I'd tear at your sheet
I'd say please
I'm your man

The older Cohen got, the sexier he got. 

As another interesting sidebar on Cohen and beauty, I once read that the lover he references in Chelsea Hotel was Janice Joplin. Now, consider these lyrics:

You told me again, you preferred handsome men, but for me you would make an exception
And clenching your fist for the ones like us who are oppressed by the figures of beauty
You fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind
We are ugly but we have the music."

Beauty is covered in crosshatch designs and marked up with scribbled arrows pointing every which way, and you learn eventually that looks, age and attraction seldom have much to do with each other. It's character, experience, a grasp of what's sensual, and who has the music that counts.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."

At the rate I've been aging lately, I'll be a Monet in no time. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Maybe Baby - Hope in the Current Political Climate

This past week I felt older than I have ever felt and not because I'm older than I've ever been. I know I'm older than I've ever been. That much math I can do. 

Graphic, copyright Teece Aronin
I felt older, in part, because so many of the people who share the U.S. with me are coming undone. Too many hate each other. Too many are afraid. Too many had great expectations and now are  caught like cattle in the crossfire. 

And when it comes to politics, everyone is cattle either all the time or part of the time; we just don't all know it. 

Cattle, for our purposes, are the innocents, the voiceless, the held back, the poor, the easy to manipulate, the under-educated, and the powerful. The word is not necessarily a slam. 

Being cattle has nothing to do with gender. A steer or a bull could be a woman and a cow could be a man. And the key difference between a bull and a steer is that the steer has been castrated. Hang in there; it'll make sense in a minute.  

Some cattle are calves. During the Obama administration, calves stepped, cautious and blinking, into the light, thinking their world might be safer. They are the undocumented fleeing treacherous homelands. They are the LGBTQ community. They are the working poor. They are a lot of other people. Calves are anyone who is unsafe or unfairly vulnerable. 

More on the steers: Steers can be naive or easily led and while most don't fully understand their part in the current political climate, many are convinced they know it all. Steers can hail from any party. When they are castrated they lose their voices and the critical thinking skills they might have developed. They can bellow but they can't articulate. Steers have only wet coal in their bellies where there should have been fire. 

Bulls are anyone with power, be it educational, financial, political, whatever it is that can get or keep them ahead. 

Cows are most women, most minorities, and in the case of the poor, they sometimes overlap with the calves. The over-simplified reason most women among the cows have been held back is because that's what happens when unscrupulous bulls are in charge. Minorities have been pushed down, too, for reasons too complex and numerous to get into here, but you probably know the basic history behind that.

Since the election, Donald Trump has expressed a willingness to use Obamacare as a framework for a restructured healthcare system, but many of the cows and calves haven't heard this news that might have given them a modicum of hope. 

That slow news drip down to the cows and calves is what makes developments such as Trump's more welcoming stance on Obamacare a bit like trickle-down economics. And it doesn't matter if the news is good or bad or vitally important - because the cows and the calves are too often engaged in mad scrambles for survival and can't hear it. They don't sit down to read The Wall Street Journal on smart phones over a sushi lunch because they can't afford a smart phone, can't afford sushi, or can't afford lunch.  

Singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen died Thursday at age 82 right smack in the midst of all this hoohah. His song, Everybody Knows summed up the bitterness so many feel about failing systems, including our political one. It would fit no matter who won last week. 

Everybody knows the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

How dare Cohen die leaving us in this mess when he was clearly so savvy about what caused it? The answer I think was to pursue his muse, Marianne who died just three months prior. But that's another sad story for another sad essay and another sad day. Today, we are focused on hope.

To those of you who say of Trump, "My God, why all the stress? He hasn't even done anything yet," please understand that you are probably a Trump supporter waiting with anticipation to see what Trump does next. You can't possibly understand every fear of every cow and calf. Speaking as one of the cows, even I can't.  

If you are LGBTQ, undocumented, have a green card but don't know in what country you'll feel safe in a couple of years, are a working poor person or one of any number of groups feeling upended, your roots fragile tendrils waving in the air, take heart: 

We really don't know exactly what a Trump presidency will look like. Try not to worry; instead think constructively. Seek knowledge of the rights you do have. Look for loopholes. Find strength in the like-minded but respect those who oppose you if they do so respectfully. As Fred Rogers said following 9-11 (to which I am not likening this situation), "Look for the helpers."

Also, be a helper. Do everything you can to help others.  

Besides, who knows what the next four years will bring?

No candidate delivers on every promise or threat made during a campaign. Trump might prove himself more even-keeled than the persona he invoked to win the White House.

Maybe his beltway outsider status and business experience will give him an edge in fixing what politicians haven't. 

If you give him a chance and he still performs poorly, hope for as little collateral damage as possible.

If like Bill, you're still married to Hillary, maybe she'll get another shot. 

Maybe Michelle Obama will run for President. Thanks to the ground Clinton paved, she wouldn't be the first former First Lady to seek the Oval Office. 

There are lots of reasons to hope. Here's another: 

Trump is rolling back much of the angry rhetoric. In addition to claiming he will use Obamacare as a framework for remodeling our healthcare system, Trump met with President Obama for what was expected to be about 10 minutes and proved to be roughly 90. Unless President Obama had Trump tied to a chair, there likely was a meaningful dialog. What both sides said afterward made it seem that there was, and when Trump promised to call on President Obama for future counsel, my heart soared. Will it happen? I don't know, but the fact that Trump said it at all gives me hope. 

The fact that we're all cattle isn't as bad as it sounds since cattle are often the finest of creatures. Being human as well gives us the capability of infusing the bovine parts of our natures with the higher intelligence, gumption and purposeful kindness that comes with our humanity. 

In the mean time, let's try not to kill each other.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Freaky Tuesday - What if Election Day Went Like This?

I've been swinging a lot lately. Not that kind of swinging. I've been swinging between presidential election exhaustion and the terror that comes when I think what could happen after Tuesday if the worst of what we've seen or suspected from either candidate proves true.
Image copyright, Teece Aronin

So far the race has been uglier than termites on Pinocchio's nose. And it's such a close race that no one knows with anything close to certainty what will happen. Campaign promises aside, you have all the muddying-up from Clinton's private email server; the Clinton Foundation mystery meetings; Trump's possible ties to Russia; his mocking of a reporter with physical disabilities and; his live mic misogynistic gab fest with Billy Bush. 

In the midst of all that you'll find Clinton fanatics, Trump fanatics, and the massive, collective, throbbing angst of a nation fearing for its future - again, no matter which candidate is elected. 

Then I heard on the radio that poll numbers showing Clinton as slightly ahead or neck-and-neck with Trump could be skewed by voters favoring Trump but unwilling to admit it to pollsters. Anonymous polling showed the race as extremely tight however, so all that might have been a non-issue.  

Then, last night I had the weirdest dream (actually, I didn't really, but I need this for the post to be even remotely plausible). The dream went like this: 

It's election day. Clinton and Trump secretly think the other would be less awful for our country. Unfortunately there's no turning back now. Except maybe . . . Clinton decides she will vote for Trump and Trump decides he will vote for Clinton. Neither suspects anything of the other's plan. 

Knowing that casting their votes will be a huge media event, the candidates go through the motions of showing up as assigned and wave and smile and make snide comments about the other. Then, in the privacy of the voting booth, they hunker down, hold their noses, and vote. 

Back home, Hillary finds Bill weeping with guilt - again. This time it's not a woman, it's a man, because Bill has also voted for Trump. Donald finds that he has a nasty woman of his own in Melania who has voted for Hillary. Next, Hillary learns that even Chelsea has voted for Trump, and Trump learns that Donald, Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany have voted for Hillary and ten year-old Barron voted for her in a mock election at school. Worse, Barron's vote was cast on a piece of construction paper cut in the shape of a heart.  

Each concludes that disloyalty to themselves is one thing, but betrayal by family is too much. They make plans to mitigate their pain by sneaking in votes for themselves. Each creeps back into line at the polls, disguised and carrying fake I.D.s. 

Clinton is discovered when voters become suspicious of the uptight woman in the Anthony Wiener mask. Trump is betrayed by the tufts sticking out from under his stovepipe hat and from behind his sunglasses. The color of the tufts looks to be derived by a combination of red and yellow dyes numbers three and five respectively. Someone in the crowd thinks "Cheetos!" and the jig is up.  

While Clinton and Trump are booked for voter fraud, Bernie Sanders pulls up in front of the White House with a moving trailer hitched to a Lada Granta.