Size Me Down, Baby

Of all the changes in my life over the last year, year and a half, one of the most gratifying has been the purging of the stuff. I didn’t even realize how weighed down I felt by the sheer mass of crap in my home. Between my possession-heavy spouse and the junk we acquired and the accumulated years of kid items and my own piles of detritus, I nearly suffocated. Walls of leering things—some of them quite unidentifiable—closed in on me daily.

Divorce cut the quantity of stuff in the house dramatically. Then both teens substantially cleared their rooms of the vast collection of outgrown everything. I began a campaign of removal, taking long-unused items to the Goodwill or the dump or giving attractive items away to my neighbors via the Buy Nothing movement.

As each successive pile left the premises, I felt better. Lighter. Like, if the FBI was onto me, I could pack up and ghost in short order. The rooms in my house feel bigger. Cleaning is less of a chore. (Ok, totally lying about that. Cleaning still sucks.)

A variety of stuff I’ve not yet parted with: the stacks of containers that used to contain other stuff and are now empty. What if I need them? What if gizmos and tchotchkes and ill-fitting clothes and no-longer amusing toys sneak back in, one at a time, stealthily filling my corners with the unputawayable?

Vigilance is the key, my friends. And since I bought a shopping bag full of books this weekend (in my defense, I was at Powell’s), a similar sized stack of something needs to exit. No compromise.

Apologies in Advance

Ok, I know y’all breathed a sigh of relief when Little Bit finished middle school last June. Some of you may even have marked it on your calendars as the day it was safe to come back to TR’s blog. No worries…I have no more children coming up, so the specter of middle school is banished.

But high school started today. Freshman orientation, to be exact.

I don’t think I can overstate the level of my child’s unenthusiasm for this school year to begin. Nor can I even begin to convey how profoundly disappointing it is to me, as a parent and a former educator, that the public school system has so thoroughly disengaged my highly intelligent and sensitive child. But there we are.

I still have hopes that the teachers…maybe just one of them…will present interesting and challenging activities that LB will think worth getting out of bed for. And I am hopeful that one or both of the music classes she’s taking will excite her.

If not, we have an escape plan to get out of the four-year slog after just two years. But still, two years. You might want to mark your calendars again.

Bruce Jenner is a Better Woman than You

Bruce Jenner is a better woman than you. After all, if a 60-something year-old grandfather can look like a supermodel on the cover of Vanity Fair, wtf is your problem? Have a little facial contouring done, implant some silicone, lace yourself into a corset to bring out that hourglass, hire a team of make-up and hair professionals, get a world-famous photographer to take your pictures, and finally, get the best graphic artist money can buy to photoshop the hell out of the shots, and boom, you are, “for all intents and purposes,” a woman.

Well, actually, for several specific intents and purposes, all of them having to do with drawing the spotlight, selling your new reality TV show, and boosting the inexplicable fame of your equally self-absorbed, limelight seeking family members.

So, Call Me Caitlyn, you were uncomfortable with the gender role assigned to you on the basis of your biological sex? I can understand that. I’m not really comfortable with my assigned gender role, either. Here are some things about my assigned gender role that I dislike:

  • The relentless cultural focus on “hotness” as the key quality is determining an individual’s worth.
  • The expectation that I will wear uncomfortable and impractical clothes to increase my hotness.
  • The expectation that I will use make-up, every day, to increase my hotness. (Men only use make-up when performing. Women’s lives are non-stop performances.)
  • The verbal abuse I have received from men I didn’t know for not looking hot enough.
  • The verbal abuse I have received from men I didn’t know because I looked hot.
  • That time a creepy guy masturbated in front of me on the subway late at night. I was getting off the train at the very last stop and I prayed he would exit before that.
  • All the times I didn’t go somewhere because I didn’t feel safe walking alone at night.
  • All the times men have interrupted and talked over me.
  • All the times my views and opinions have been dismissed.
  • All the years I was not worth talking to because I was “just a mom.”

Sadly, I don’t get to choose or identify my way out of those experiences. But hey, thanks for playing a key role in perpetuating and cementing those gender expectations for the next generation by transforming yourself, not into a woman but into a bizarrely exaggerated male fantasy of what being a woman is about. Fuck you.

Dating, Part III

Remember that drunken New Year’s Eve party, where I met the Wise Old Party Dude (WOPD) who told me that 4.5 months is the ideal end-point for any post-divorce dalliance? Because the weight of your collective traumas will always crush the life out of any relationship, you should high-tail it out before you start gasping. That’s what he told me.

WOPD was full of shit.

The other day I was having lunch with the ladies at work (my team is comprised of four women, all single). Not surprisingly, we were discussing dudes. Specifically, the difference between Dating Life 1 in one’s twenties and Dating Life 2 after the middle-age divorce.

  • DL 1: You and all of your potential dates are marital virgins—no knots have been tied.
  • DL 2: You and all of your potentials have been through serious relationship->living together->marriage->children->marriage collapse->divorce->online dating.
  • DL 1: You have no freaking idea what you’re doing and you are looking for some similarly clueless person to bumble through it with you.
  • DL 2: You have long history and at least a sketchy idea about the future and you are looking for someone whose sketchy plans jibe with yours.
  • DL 1: You are young and fresh and full of hope. You have no idea what you need.
  • DL 2: You are old and creaky and chipped and stained. You need someone who is also life-battered and who is prepared to prop you up and be propped, to stroke your imperfections and be stroked, and to bring an open heart.

Should you be lucky enough to find such a person, 4.5 months is not enough. Not nearly enough. How long is the right amount of time? That cannot be determined in advance and certainly not by the likes of some bitter old drunk at a party. Somewhere between one more day and forever. YMMV.

Opting Out: The Intermath

And so it came to pass that Little Bit refused to participate in the morally and educationally bankrupt practice of standardized testing. Because said testing goes on and on and on and still isn’t finished, LB has spent a fair amount of time in the last few weeks in “opt-out class.” This is the room where the opt-outers get sent to engage in alternative activities while their peers suffer through the Pearson Revenue Enhancement Exercise.

It turns out, opt-out class rocks.

During the English (or maybe Social Studies) test, for example, the opt-outers read part of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography and discussed it. LB reports that because they had a small group rather than a class of 35, they had an interesting and meaningful conversation about Frederick Douglass. The teacher, a substitute, had no need to engage in the defensive classroom management that makes all discussion stilted and overly directed. Instead, a bunch of kids talked about a book.

While not being tested on math concepts she learned years ago, LB examined the properties of Pascal’s Triangle and was excited by the many patterns there to discover.

Amusingly, the opt-outers were told by the authorities not to sound like they were having fun, lest the other children think that opting out might be a good idea.

Summing up: In the course of learning about standardized testing, the No Child Left Behind law, and the Constitution in order to successfully opt herself out of the SBAC, Little Bit had the most valuable educational experience of her middle school career. And the time spent not taking the tests also proved to be worthwhile. (My fears about being forced to scrub the hallways with a toothbrush were unfounded.)

And now just one month of 8th grade remains and she can stride off that campus forever. And since I have no more children coming up behind her, I’m done with it too. We might both raise a middle finger on our way out.

School is Stupid, Part 1,000,000,000

My newly radicalized child has been at it again, subverting the authorities and sticking it to the man. The subject of her activism this time: the National Day of Silence, which happened last week.

The Day of Silence is intended to draw attention to the silencing of LGBTQ students that is the result of harassment and bullying. Participants remain silent in school all day. They still do what is required of them…some kids carry a little whiteboard around to communicate with, but no talking.

Back in 2010, my eldest was instrumental in making DOS happen at our middle school. It still happens every year, but now there’s a whole bureaucratic procedure around it. Kids have to obtain forms and get them signed by every teacher they will see that day. Then they get a badge to wear, identifying them as a participant.

Little Bit did that last year. This year, radical girl skipped the whole procedure (clearly instituted to create a barrier to participation) and simply printed the logo from the website and made her own badge. (Those of you who watch Survivor will recognize this tactic as “making a fake immunity idol.”)

That worked fine and nobody called her out on the fake idol. BUT, one substitute teacher was not familiar with DOS and gave her a hard time.

Substitute called the roll and was about to mark LB absent when the other kids in the class hastened to explain that she was present, just silent. They explained DOS and what it was about, but Substitute was not impressed. “That’s nice, but in MY class, when I call your name, you answer OUT LOUD.”

He asked LB if she was there. She nodded.

He asked again. She nodded again.

He asked a third time before giving up and moving on. He may have recorded an unexcused absence. Don’t know.

All together now, friends: WHAT A DICK!

When I related this story to another parent, he was incensed and suggested I lodge a formal complaint with the principal, the school board, the mayor, and god.

I am not inclined to go that route. LB has several more years in this school district and she has already pissed off the powers that be with her opt-out campaign. There are only eight more weeks of middle school. Let’s just get out alive.

What do y’all think?