Women

Empty Words

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Have you ever wished Mrs Fringe would stop whining and shut the fuck up? Today is your day. I am taking a break. At the moment, I’m not sure how long, maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow, next week, next year (so go ahead and stay subscribed for a while), I don’t know.

Words and writing have always been such an integral part of who I am, I’m honestly not sure who I am without them.  But as I’ve always said, I write to be read, I write to be half of a dialogue–spoken or not.  About a year ago I came to the conclusion that my fiction isn’t going anywhere.  That was a very difficult, painful conclusion.  I made self deprecating jokes and gave myself lectures.  Ok, you suck– big deal, so do most people.  Welcome to the ranks.  Sure I have occasional bouts of the dreaded hope, and send out some queries or write a story, but that faith that it will happen?  Not so much. I don’t have writer’s block, if you’re wondering–I’ve got plenty of ideas and notes and internal discipline; if someone offered me a contract tomorrow I’d be back to work within an hour. I have always written the stories and characters that I love, that I would want to find in the bookstore. But I don’t write for myself, I write hoping to offer others what I love to read, that sense of Yes. This author gets it, and has given voice to my thoughts, breathed life into characters I want to spend hours with. Many (most?) fiction writers disagree, and believe you should write for yourself.  Perhaps they’re right, but it hasn’t worked for me.

I kept blogging because it’s different than writing fiction, offers something else without pesky hopes, dreams, or expectations. I have tried to use humor (often gallows humor, but still) to address real and sometimes frightening issues.  Mostly I kept blogging for the same reason I started, a space to be a whole person, more than any one label or role I fill in the “real” world, to connect and have conversations with others, listening and being listened to. Now I am depleted. At this moment I see no point in blogging about writing if I’m not writing, no point in blogging about being a woman standing up for other women and women’s rights when my country has made it clear it isn’t interested in women’s rights and safety, no point in blogging about democracy when my country has voted for a demagogue, no point in blogging about the struggles facing people of color when the country has aligned itself with the KKK, no point in laying out the struggles of dealing with chronic illnesses in loved ones when the majority, including some who have cried with me, has just made it clear that ultimately, they don’t care and don’t want to hear it.

I know that many who are better, smarter, more evolved and generous souls than I am are sending out messages of hope, reassurances of caring, safety, and continued efforts.  Very lovely, and necessary.  Right now, I can’t do it, and frankly, I think it was the assumption that in the end people will put shared humanity above differences that has led us to where we are right now.

Many of my regular readers and commenters are not American, which has been an amazing, beautiful thing; WordPress is a fabulous platform, allowing me to feel that I have connected with others outside of my immediate, narrow margins. That said, I am American, and the American people have spoken–I am to pick a label and that is the sum of who I am. How boring. Hell, it makes me yawn just to think about it, who wants to log on and read a label?

I’m Sorry

Alexander Archipenko, "Seated Woman," 1912-Bronze

Alexander Archipenko, “Seated Woman,” 1912-Bronze

Really, I’m sorry.  I’m sure you’re tired of reading and hearing about this, everyone who’s anyone or no one has already blogged, posted, written this article or that essay.  I want to let this go, want to roll my eyes at the stupidity of people and snicker about those on the Right getting the candidate they deserve.  I can’t do it.  I can’t let it go, and I don’t believe anyone deserves someone who brags about sexual assault as their President.  Not even those who want him.  Maybe especially not them, because in the year 2016, there shouldn’t be one woman in the world who believes sexual assault against women is a man’s right. Not one woman.

I can be uptight in many ways, but language isn’t one of them.  I straight out tell people not to bother checking out Mrs Fringe if they’re offended by the word fuck.  I tell them because I acknowledge that some people are offended by certain words, and if you are, you aren’t going to be happy here.  I love language, and I love words, all of them.  Words are powerful, written or spoken they can outlast a good deed, a box of candy, they can remain and ring through your brain and guts longer than any slap upside your head.  A couple of years ago there was a hashtag that went around twitter, #yesallwomen in response to #notallmen, I blogged about it here.

And here we are again.  Only I’m seeing “not all men,” “not my men,” “not my sons,” etc, in response to comments and posts supporting Trump, saying that horrific tape of him speaking about women, with charming highlights like, “I moved on her like a bitch,…she was married…you can do anything,” and of course, “Grab them by the pussy.”  I literally feel sick to my stomach with every comment and post I see in support of him and his words.  Here’s the thing, most of those posts and many of those comments are from women.  Women.  Protesting that all men speak that way, no big deal, it’s only words.  No, these aren’t only words.  And no, I haven’t suddenly become a delicate fucking flower, offended by the word pussy, in need of men to stand up for me and remind everyone that when Trump was speaking, he was speaking about someone’s wife, mother, daughter.  I saw a meme floating around to the effect of “If Trump’s words are so offensive to women, who bought a gazillion copies of Fifty Shades of Gray?” Sigh.  If this makes sense to you, look up logical fallacy.

These language used is not colorful, against the rules of the FCC, or naughty.  They are words describing assault, making it clear that he sees nothing wrong with literally aggressively touching and grabbing another human being whether they want to be touched or not.  A likely smaller person, not as strong physically, and likely someone he’s in a position of power over.

I don’t want to hear about responses that begin “But Hillary,” or “Well Bill.”  This has absolutely nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, and she is not responsible for what Bill Clinton chose to do.

When I was 16 I worked as a cocktail waitress.  Think about that for a second.  16, working as a cocktail waitress.  Standards, not that high.  I remember one busy night, I had just begun serving wine to a large table, no room to maneuver with another table right behind me when one of the men reached back and, well, grabbed me by the pussy. In the moment, with his wife sitting right next to him, I was stunned.  He said (exact quote, because WORDS), “Sorry sweetie, I touched your box.”  And he smiled.  A fucking fifty year old man, who turned his back to his wife and didn’t move his hand.   At this point in my life, I had already learned there were situations where I could be out numbered and overpowered but this wasn’t one of them.  I lifted the still full carafe of wine I was holding and poured it on him, “Sorry, sweetie, did I pour that on your dick?”

The manager came flying across the restaurant and hustled me into the kitchen before going back to the table, apologizing profusely and comping their wine and their meal.  I didn’t lose my job, I had been working there long enough and the manager knew me well enough to know I wasn’t kidding, imagining, or exaggerating what had happened.  If you’re thinking what a good guy the manager was, stop.  This is the same man who, when I asked for a specific day off from work a few months later, told me he’d be willing to give it if I “popped his son’s cherry.”  In retrospect, I’m sure the whole underaged thing played into the decision to keep me, too, not a scenario where he would want attention.  It didn’t occur to me that by comping this man’s meal, he was rewarding him for being a pig, I was just grateful not to be fired.  I’ll be honest, at that time, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make a “bigger deal” of what happened.  Sure I knew I didn’t want his hands on me, and I sure as shit could tell him to get his fucking hands off of me, but I’m not sure I knew I had the right to do so, and I had no idea that this was something that could be considered assault.  If someone had floated the word to me at that time, in 1980something south Brooklyn, I would have either laughed or taken off, certain that I would be the one in trouble.  Why? I don’t know, something about not having dangly bits and being the kind of girl who worked as a cocktail waitress.

I’m not sixteen anymore, and I know better. I know better, my husband and I have both taught our sons better, we’ve taught our daughter better.  That doesn’t make us anything more than decent human beings, who’ve tried to raise decent human beings.  Don’t you dare, anyone, tell me or anyone else, that Trump’s words are no big deal.  I’m not offended.  I’m sickened that anyone, male or female, is telling our children that assault of women is okay.  I’m disgusted that there are women who are just fine with this type of behavior for themselves, their children, their loved ones, for the hussy down the street they’ve hated since the third grade.  I’m saddened that people are perpetuating the myth that women are less than men, because that’s what you’re saying when you condone this message.  I’m angry, because get your hands off my body!  This isn’t about not-all-men speak this way, or think this way.  This is about no woman should accept this as a fact of life, ever, and it is unacceptable for any man.  Not if he’s older or younger, rich or poor, famous and powerful or a shlub toiling away in obscurity.  #Notoneman.

Deep Breath In…now hold it until you find sensible workout clothes!

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Early yesterday morning I was extolling the virtues of yoga for back care to a friend, and the conversation goosed me to do what I’ve been putting off for a year, buying new workout clothes.  Should be easy, no? Everywhere you look are women wearing yoga pants and capris, with oh so cute little bondage straps–err, sports bras.

I’m picky.  Yoga gear should be form fitting enough that you can easily check your alignment, and not have everything rolling up, rolling down, and twisting under you.  You should be able to move freely in whatever you’re wearing.   I had looked online last week.  Good grief, $100 for a pair of yoga pants?  By the time $60 began to look reasonable, I knew it was time to step away from the laptop.  And so I went to the local discount sporting goods store, where I was sucked into the vortex of fluorescent pink sports bras with perfectly coordinated checkered capris.  A mere $75 for an outfit.  No. Went home, went back online, found some things that were more reasonably priced, and purchased nothing.  Better prices aren’t really better if I can’t tell exactly how something is going to fit, if it will actually be comfortable to move in but discreet enough to throw a long t-shirt on top and run the girl to school.

Yeah, I’ve seen some of those inexpensive pieces in person, and they’re barely opaque enough to qualify as tights.  And the rest–including some of the very priciest ones–seem to be manufactured and promoted by the same sadists who came up with Spanx.  How the fuck am I supposed to execute a smooth downward facing dog if I’m busy trying to force air into my lungs?  Now I’m sure the idea is to hold in and hide all the rumply bits you’re trying to smooth away with exercise, but they seem to have forgotten one thing.  That excess of skin/cellulite/*gasp*/flab?  It doesn’t actually disappear with the bondage gear, just gets pushed up over the waistband and down under the rib band.  Thanks, I feel so attractive.

And ah, the sports bras. I get it, if your workout is high impact, you might want something with more hold. But for yoga?  With the way most of these things are structured, I expect mammogram results to pop out when I take them off.  And why is the choice that either they come with pads thick and durable enough to walk by themselves or no room in the design for nipples, let alone breasts?

When, exactly, did workout clothes become yet another haute couture arena?  This may be sacrilegious to say in 2016, but as long as it’s reasonable enough to get on and off the subway in, I don’t care what this stuff looks like.  I don’t care if the sports bra matches the t-shirt matches the shorts.  Maybe I’d feel differently if I worked out in a gym, or a class, and was being seen by others.  Actually, this likely contributes to why I prefer to stick to the privacy of my living room.  If you’re headed to an appointment, or date, or work, after you work out, go ahead and live a little by getting dressed in real clothes.  They don’t have to be fancy, just yanno, clean–something you haven’t spent an hour sweating in.

So yes, I went shopping in one of the basic discount stores yesterday, determined to be successful.  If I don’t care about the fashion statement, how hard could it be? First off, I thought it was the perfect time of year to replace my workout shorts (I like to wear shorts for yoga in the hot weather, sue me).  There were indeed two racks of shorts in the clearance racks of the “athleisure” department.  Are you freaking kidding me? Lycra microshorts.  Just right for the woman who wants her already sagging butt cheeks to fall out during child’s pose.  Fine, forget the shorts.  I grabbed every sports bra, yoga pant, and capri that I could find that looked like it might fit, didn’t feel like it was made from that magical duck tape/spandex blend, was under $20 and headed to the dressing room.

I could have skipped the early morning yoga session, because just trying all this crap on certainly counted as a workout.  Mrs Fringe is not a large woman.  That said, as a woman-of-a-certain-age, I’m not as small as I used to be.  These things are obviously all designed for the prepubescent among us.  In real clothes, I wear a size 6 or 4, depending on the cut and the “designer,” usually need a petite (except in pants, my legs are oddly long for a short woman), and I needed– needed–mediums in this stuff.  What the fuck?  What about women who are truly curvy?  Or, god forbid, a bit more than full figured?  Are they banished to the dismal plus-sized rack at the back because they wear a size 12 (which doesn’t necessarily mean more than full figured)? When I came home I saw the brouhaha online about a well endowed teacher in a dress that covered her completely but was, ahem, form fitting.  I wouldn’t wear it, but I like things that are roomy.  Not sack cloth and ashes, but what I consider breathable. Appropriate for work? I don’t know, but I know for sure that is a woman who would be hard pressed to find something off the rack that fit her without being either tight or tent like.

Wikipedia tells me the goal of yoga is moksha–liberation.  Looking at the western yogi-gear offerings, I suspect something has been lost in translation.  If you’re wondering, I did wear my new gear this morning and got on the train wearing my new (see above photo) slightly baggy olive-green capris, crayola-box purple sports bra, and big ocean-blue long sleeved t-shirt. I left the falsies behind.

Halloween decor?

Halloween decor?

Let’s Play!

I assume this is a bad hand, no aces or picture cards, no pairs.

I assume this is a bad hand, no aces or picture cards, no pairs.

I’m burnt out from the online political arguments.  Tried distraction yesterday, went to the zoo (yes I did enjoy watching the gorillas, thankyouverymuch).  That was nice, but not quite enough.  Back to disgusted by 9pm last night.  So this morning I was thinking, we need a game.  A nice, game, old-fashioned yet modern.  Naturally, LARPing came to mind.  So much talk about the good old days, why not go back to them?  Yes, everyone currently ranting, please join in.  At first I thought everyone should play, but then, as I thought more about the premise, I decided that if I want to keep to the spirit being touted as proper American values–yanno, my rights and conveniences are of more value than those of my neighbors or society–I don’t have to give up my Housewives or torture myself into a corset.

What shall we call our game?  Women in the Kitchen?  Back of the Bus?  We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges?  Maybe we should just keep it simple, call it America.  Though that might be exclusionary.  How about, History–Revisionist Edition?

The 1930s.  In thinking about what time period to choose, I wanted to be fair and really support those who are mourning lost values.  I considered 50 years ago, but that leaves us at the beginning of the peace and love era, dirty hippies are certainly not pictured on the memes I see going around, and really, why distribute windowpanes to distance ourselves from this glorious trip down memory lane?  100 years ago?  Hmm, that feels a bit too distant, electricity wasn’t common in American households until the ’30s, and it wasn’t until the 1920s that Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924.  Yanno, immigration restrictions in the good old days, working hard to prevent Asian immigrants, as well as Italian, Jewish, and Slav immigrants from setting foot on our red white and blue shores.  Besides, in the early 1930s, more people were emigrating from America than immigrating into it.  (Is that the current desire and dream?) Great Depression and all that.

While I and my fellow filthy liberal hippies keep score, those who believe in traditional values like backsliding, giving away rights, hating your neighbors, yourselves, and equal opportunities will get to live the dream.  If you are from a family of longtime, multi-generational wealth that didn’t go under with the stock market crash of 1929, I’m sorry, you are ineligible to play.  Unfortunately for you, your place in our culture was, is, and always will be secure.  Anyway, this is gonna be awesome.  Tremendous, even.

Concerned that you won’t have enough people and ethnic groups to hate?  Pfft, we won’t leave you without, plenty of ethnic groups and minorities to blame for…everything.  Sure, the Land of the Free wasn’t quite as mixed then, but believe it or not, there were brown people.  And for those who aren’t sure there were enough people of color to hate, we’ve got you covered, with the “wrong” white people until those numbers come up.  Concerned about having to live without your AR 15s and AK 47s?  I know, so sad, so SCARY.  In exchange for giving up your inalienable right to be a one man army, we’ve got other, more traditional good old days guns and rifles.  And beatings!  Sure, not as splashy as a semi-automatic, but is there anything quite as satisfying as old-fashioned bones-of-the-powerless-and-disenfranchised cracking under your fists?  Who says the right to vote for women need take away your swagger? Gratifying and manly, you don’t need any Latinos or Eye-talians to teach you about machismo.

In the very early 1930s, 25% of potentially wage-earning Americans were unemployed.  Please draw a card to determine if you have a job or not.  If your card is lower than a 5, you have no job.  Luckily for you, there’re also no disgusting,  Socialist (ooh, so scary)  Welfare, Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicaid, or Unemployment benefits in place.  I’m so glad you get to hold true to your values.  Don’t worry, your family and neighbors will take care of you, if you draw an ace.  They’ll throw you a rotting cabbage and a bit of chicken skin.

If you are employed, it is of course because you’re a harder worker than the guy in the next town over whose factory folded when the owner took a swan dive off the church tower after the Stock Market crashed.  You deserve employment, you’re a real American.  None of those commie unions to deal with, either.  You’re secure in your right to work in unsafe conditions, your children working right alongside you without the unnecessary complications of health insurance, days off, overtime pay, or your right arm.  No worries, the Black Lung will keep you feeling warm.

And it’s all ok.  Better than ok.  You’ve got all the time in the world, without the modern distractions of cable tv, video games, internet access, cell phones, or reliable refrigeration.  You’ve got radio, that’s all  you sinners who insist on entertainment need! If you’re in the Great Plains, you have an excess of time, what with the lack of farmable farmland in the Dust Bowl.  If you’re a woman, that is excellent news, plenty of hours in the day for washing, drying, and ironing clothes, cleaning the house, gardening, cooking (all from scratch, no frozen dinners, take-out, or convenience foods, and taking care of the children–yup, plenty of children! (sorry, no birth control or D&Cs allowed during your month of gaming, that would be cheating.  Unwanted pregnancy? Bad timing?  No such thing, you’re a woman.)  As a woman, you’re even allowed to vote, what more do you want?

Are you a recent immigrant?  You might be a bit confused, wondering where we’ve hidden those streets of gold.  And the jobs, where are those opportunities?  Good thing you came here and learned English overnight, assimilating immediately and working without pause.  I know this is true because your modern selves talk about this all. the. time.  (“My Grandpa came to America and spoke English!”  “I’m proud to say I can’t speak a word of any other language!”)  Unless, of course, you were a minority, in which case, you were the first to lose your job, if you had landed one in the first place.  You won’t be lonely, you’ve got plenty of company what with all the other non-immigrant minorities (including Native Americans, who invited them, anyway? They should never have made it through Ellis Island.) who lost their jobs.  And recreation! I hear lynchings enjoyed great popularity in the early thirties.  Good thing we all remember those good old days with such fondness and clarity that we can play this game.

A bit of clarity, if you’re thinking that you’re white, and therefore a welcome immigrant, you might need to look a bit harder.  Jews? Suspect, and not welcome.  Italian? Suspect, and not welcome–all kinds of propaganda being distributed due to the rise of Mussolini.  Irish?  Also suspect, no-Irish-need-apply.  Enjoy your tenements! I mean really, so many of these Italian and Irish immigrants were Catholic.  Papists!  Frequent and familiar targets of the KKK in those days.  It isn’t like we’d see a Catholic President in a mere 30 years.

No worries about Mexicans coming and stealing your job, either.  A pox on those who say over a million Mexican immigrants came between 1900-1930 because of a demand for low-wage, unskilled workers when we didn’t have enough citizens to fill those jobs.  No worries indeed, we rounded ’em up, beat ’em, and deported ’em back over the border.  Damn it, now I’m confusing myself, am I talking about then or now?

More excellent news, you won’t be confronted by your child coming out to you.  That closet is padlocked and sealed in concrete.  You yourself are a part of the LGBTQ community?  Don’t be silly, surely no one who belongs to a community that has been traditionally pilloried, still openly ridiculed, viciously attacked, and subject to hate crimes  by many would be playing this game–allying themselves with political parties that want nothing more than to restrict their rights–that would mean they place their bank accounts and guns above their personal rights, to say nothing of the safety and security of their community.  Just think, it’s the 1930s, no AIDS.  Don’t despair, though, plenty of gonorrhea and syphilis to go around, regardless of your sex or sexual orientation.

Speaking of health and health care, remember, these are the good old days.  If you or a loved one get sick or have an accident, you don’t have to think about where your insurance card is, how much the treatment will cost, or if you’re able to cover the copays.  Chances are excellent that what you’ve got can’t be treated.  And your friendly local doctor will make a house call.  If you can pay him.

So, you live life as if it’s the good old days for one month.  No cheating–those of us who believe in reason, justice, equality and science will be watching.  If you make it through your month without dying from illness or a tragic accident, good on you, you win a bootstrap!  If you make it through without starving yourself or family members, losing your home or throwing yourself off of a cliff before Roosevelt can push through one of his commie New Deal roads and bridges, you get a bonus bootstrap.  I hear once you collect enough, you can use them to pull yourself up.

American Elections 2016: The Witch Hunt Edition

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Despite the fact that it’s only June, I’m already exhausted by this presidential cycle and all the nonsense that has accompanied it.  Yet here I am yapping about it.  Why? Because I’m confused, and sometimes writing things down helps sort it out–and maybe, hopefully, we’ll get a rich conversation going in the comments that will allow for clarity.

I’ll admit, my imagination is limited.  I can’t fathom what it is that enables someone to want to be President.  I’ve gone extended periods with very limited sleep while still needing to make decisions, large and small, that impacted five people.  It isn’t fun.  To choose to do this while making huge, impactful-for-generations-to-come for 318 million people?  (Many more, really, because US decisions and policies are felt worldwide.) To believe you are the best person to be in this position?  Nope, unfathomable to me.  But hey, I’m someone who can spend two hours staring at the screen attempting to decide if I’ve chosen the most effective verb.

I keep saying, “How have we gotten here?”  “How is it that in 2016, the GOP candidate is an openly hateful, selfish, liar?”  How is it that the Democratic candidate is likely the most contentious woman in America?”

In regards to the Democratic party, I’m conflicted.  I’m sorry Bernie lost, truly sorry if not surprised.  I don’t care for Hillary Clinton.  I want to be clear, this isn’t because of the history of bogus witch hunts targeting her, not because of what went on/goes on in her marriage, and definitely not because of her $12,000 blazer.  Really people, what gives with that nonsense?  First and foremost, I’ve never heard outrage or seen articles about the cost of any male candidate’s suit.  Call me an old and out of touch feminist, to me that’s yet another symbol of not-so-subtle sexism.  I know, I know, she wore it while talking about inequality.  It is gross, represents much of what’s got people angry and frustrated in this country.  But let’s be honest.  If you were able to swallow her throwing a $3 million dollar wedding for her daughter while this country was in a serious recession, people losing jobs and homes daily, well then, let’s not pretend moral outrage about her jacket.  I’ll be straight, you could tell me you found proof that she was in the backseat of Ted Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick and I’d still support her right now.  Why? Because the alternative is Donald Trump.

Talk about witch hunts.  Can you imagine if he was to become our President?  Goodbye, First Amendment. That’s right, he’s been pretty clear.  For all his lies, there are kernels of truth as to what he supports and believes, and what he believes is that he should be not just President, but Dictator, wanting to stomp on the  rights of the press, freedom of religion, free speech, and the right to (peaceably) assemble.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be burned at the stake along with the real journalists, because no slight or grievance is too small for him to let go.  Well, maybe not burned, that leaves a horrible stench in fabric, and could drive his property values down.  Hanged.  Go ahead and say goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, because our liberties have been eroding–fuck, we’ve given them away in the name of “freedom”– and Trump is not interested in accepting any poor, tired, huddled masses.  White, energetic, wealthy and attractive, maybe.  Say goodbye to women’s rights.  Women will go back to their place, at their men’s sides, lips stitched closed and legs spread wide.  Only if they’re young and attractive, of course.

Many are tired of the status quo, and Hillary represents just that.  I get it, I really, truly do, and that’s why I was hoping Bernie would win the nomination.  But he didn’t.  It’s over.  He can continue to speak, I hope he will continue to work in the Senate, but he didn’t win the nomination.  That he got as many votes as he did, that he got as far as he did, gives me hope for the future, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence for the present.  There are too many variables, and we have too long a history of bedding down with fear, hatred, greed, and wishful thinking.

Sure, we like to talk about valuing reason, justice, intelligence, ingenuity and creativity, equality.  But not really.  When it comes down to it, too many of us value comfort and mediocrity above all else.  Again, I’m not pretending I don’t like comfort, and God knows I’m mediocre, but I’m not trying to lead the country.  We are currently enjoying the most reasonable and intelligent President we’ve ever had, Barrack Obama.  In current polls, his approval rating is shockingly high at 51%.  So why all the moaning about how horrible life is under him?  Is it because he’s (shhhh) black? Or because he’s reasonable and intelligent?  Or both?  Ingenuity and creativity, these can’t possibly be valued.  If they were, our education system wouldn’t be continuing to cut arts and flexibility in what and how our children are taught, valuing fill-in-the-bubble tests, grading teachers on how neat and attractive their bulletin boards are, over real teaching, thought and comprehension.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the things that has stayed with me most is the pride with which I heard so many say George W Bush was a C student.  Pride.  For Cs.  From the man who led America for 8 years.  Equality?  Talk about equality to people of color, trapped in the classroom to prison pipeline.

If Trump wins, I’m blaming everyone.  (because for the moment, I’m still relatively free and can): the people who confuse unfiltered verbiage with integrity, the GOP that allowed Tea Partiers to take over their party, and the Democratic Party, who endorsed and backed a woman so hated that in our racist country a black man was chosen over her the last time she ran.  I believed and still believe Obama was the better choice, and I’m proud and thrilled that was recognized by enough for him to become President.  He can’t run again.  I didn’t agree with all of his decisions and concessions, hated a few, in fact, but wow.  Have we ever had a leader with such grace?  I doubt we’ll see an equivalent leader; be they male, female, white or person of color, in our lifetime.  Think for a second about all he’s put up with and worked through–don’t throw his hard work away.  And yes, I’ll admit it, this old and out of touch feminist is pretty fucking happy to see that if it isn’t Bernie, the Democratic nominee is a woman.  Here.  In misogynistic America, a land filled with people still working to stuff women back in the kitchen, value the comfort and future of rapists over rape victims, and whittling away at our right to choose what to do with our bodies.

We do have a long and proud history here in the US.  But we cannot take pride–we can never move forward–without acknowledging the shameful history woven in with our rights, and our history of sliding backwards before moving forward.  The decisions based on fear, an inflated sense of our place in the world, that old surety that might makes right.   It can’t happen here is a lie.  That we naturally evolve in a positive way, progress with reason is a lie.  Witch hunts, real mass witch hunts have occurred repeatedly, Salem and its twenty people killed was child’s play: Japanese Internment Camps during WWII, McCarthyism, Stop and Frisk, Muslims after 9/11.  If we aren’t careful now, we could be looking at the broadest witch hunts this country has ever seen, because Trump hates and is afraid of everyone who doesn’t look like, pee like, move like, and parrot him.

I’m confused as to how anyone outside a handful of his cronies could support Donald Trump.  Not wanting more of the same should not be blurred with it-couldn’t-be-worse.  So yeah, I’m confused as to how anyone could say Hillary Clinton would be equally bad for our country and our rights.

Here lies reason and knowledge.  Let's not bury them again, ok?

Here lies reason and knowledge. Let’s not bury them again, ok?

Hey Hey Mama!

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Of the million annoyances I encounter daily through life in the city, I’m old enough and defeated enough to realize 999, 997 have nothing to do with me personally, don’t effect me in any way, and are none of my business.  Sure, the number changes if you consider what I bitch about in my head, or to Husband, or even here on the blog, but to cause me to speak up and interact with strangers?  Not so much.

New York is always under construction.  Buildings going up, coming down, being renovated or refaced, streets being dug up or patched.  Interesting if you’re young or new to the city, hours of free entertainment if you’re 3, good news if you’re in contracting/construction.    I’ve heard people complain about “how much” construction workers earn.  I don’t complain.  First of all, the salaries vary widely–union/non-union, public or private project, white/”minority” worker–wrong as it is, last I read white guys earned an average of 20% more (I put minority in quotes because whites are not the majority in nyc), etc.  Second, these guys* work incredibly hard, back-breaking work in freezing cold, rain, heat and humidity that has most of us hiding inside, sometimes questionable working conditions, and often breathing in shit that I don’t want to think about.  Third, the majority of these jobs/workers are highly skilled, and their work is important.  Fourth, the risk of serious injury is high.  A few of the assignments on the sites aren’t labor intensive, they’re incredibly boring.  Like being assigned to open/close the gates and plastic bumpers for pedestrians to pass through in between cartloads of crap being hauled from the fenced in site to the dumpster in the gutter.  Boring, but they can’t blow it off or let their minds wander, because that would be a disaster, a law suit, and an unemployment line waiting to happen.  Often while working this mind-numbing task, they’re being berated and cursed by veryimportantpeople on their way to veryimportantmeetings who can’t contain their annoyance at being detained for 7 seconds so they don’t get a steel beam through their skull.

 

See? Look up or look down--construction.

See? Look up or look down–construction.

I pass several construction sites daily, multiple times per day, as I take Art Child back and forth to school.  The nice part of being a woman of a certain age who’s allowed herself to go gray?  I don’t deal with much catcalling anymore.  I’ve heard there are a few who find it complimentary.  There are also women who like to call their husbands/boyfriends Daddy and greet them at the door with a martini and a smile–but of course that all falls under the annoyances-I-keep-to-myself category, because it’s none of my business.  At best catcalling is a background annoyance, often it’s rude and dehumanizing, and at worst it can be frightening.  I see a lot of the same guys every day, they smile and say good morning, I respond in kind, and that’s the extent of it.

But the other day I was walking with Art Child and her friend, and one of the workers (who I didn’t recognize, not one of the ones usually on the gate) made a comment to/about my daughter’s friend.  Well, of course not so much about her as about her body.  My daughter looks younger than her age, her friend does not.  Young teenaged girls.  Of course she’s attractive.  I shook my head, said “no,” and we kept walking.  This man–was he drunk?–kept on, calling after us and followed.  For the record, he was not a young man.  Definitely old enough to know better than to make these types of comments to a girl who could easily have been his daughter.  I understand, putting to the side the misogyny of catcalling, when it comes to girls this age, it’s easy to think they’re older, especially if you aren’t looking at their faces. I turned back and said very clearly, “she’s underaged, back off.”  Would you believe he kept going, commenting and following a bit more?  Of course you believe it, if you’re a female between the ages of oh, say, 10 and 100.  Was he delusional?  I offered him a couple more words and we kept going.  Why did I keep going? Because the girls were creeped out and frightened, and I wasn’t sure if this girl’s mother would be okay hearing about a confrontation afterwards.  If I stopped, I was going to get loud.  It’s a balance and a judgement call. Sometimes it’s good for young people to see adults doing the right thing, standing up for them and themselves.  Other times (when the option is there) it’s better to cool off a bit and deal with situations without young people present.

So I don’t know if this guy was drunk, delusional, or bitter about sweating his balls off in 90° heat.  What I do know is that he was confused if he thought this would pass without incident.  This morning I had a nice chat with the site manager/foreman, who was responsive, respectful, and took me quite seriously.

a)The word “underaged” holds more than a bit of power. Those 9 letters contain many implications; ethical, moral, and legal.

b) Site workers and managers pay very close attention when you stop and speak.  If you’re blocking the pass through, several workers have to stop what they’re doing.  Time is money after all.

Women, we don’t have to tolerate predatory behavior, and we shouldn’t.

Moral of the day:  Most annoyances can and should be ignored, some should be addressed head on.  Oh yeah, and don’t fuck with Mrs Fringe.

*I reference “guys” because while I do/have occasionally seen women working on construction sites, it’s still a field dominated by men–and I’ve yet to hear a female construction worker catcalling.

Daily Assault: Booby Prize Edition

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A surprise double yolk for this morning’s pancakes.  Because I’m immature, this made me think of cleavage.  *insert snicker here*  Because I’m an adult, what it did not do was make me want to reach out and grab the yolks with my bare hands to give a little squish.

I remember being little and admiring my grandmother’s cleavage.  It seemed so powerfully adult, that hint of simultaneous swell and wrinkles.  Of course, I also admired the way she could take her teeth out and clean them in a separate glass, her lifetime bus pass, and the way she could cup her hand and use her palm as an ashtray.  She had her own ideas about men and women, which she shared through lectures equally generous and cryptic.  As far as I could tell they boiled down to men were not to be trusted (outside of progeny–in which case, they should be lionized), marriage was a necessary evil–so be sure to marry rich, and fergawdssake don’t have too many babies.  She was what used to be called a tough cookie, and I wanted nothing more than to grow up to be her.

I’m a blabber-fingers left-leaning blogger, which means I indulge in the not so occasional political rant.  I don’t address every injustice I see or read about (impossible), or even every big story, because I’m exhausted and frequently too damned disheartened.   Is there such a thing as blogging battle fatigue?  Do I have the right to feel it when I don’t address all?  Yesterday I came across this story.  A few days late, because I’ve been busy rattling my pots and pans, sticking to the kitchen–barefoot, naturally.  I considered blogging when I first saw it, but what could I possibly say?  So I posted the link on my personal Facebook page, thinking I would just spread a bit of awareness amongst my three friends and that would be that. One friend replied with a statement about Republican men, and another friend replied to the first about the unfairness of the blanket statement.  Fair enough, and it made me think.  Not only because it is unfair to categorize ALL Republican men, but because it implies male Democrats are ALL more enlightened.  Would that it were so.  I woke up still thinking, and decided I couldn’t let this incident pass without comment here on Mrs Fringe.  Because I’m a woman.  And as a woman, I say without hesitation that this is bullshit.

The gist of the story:  State Rep (NH) Amanda Bouldin (woman) wrote a statement opposing a proposal made by State Rep Josh Moore (man).  The proposal is for it to be a misdemeanor for women to expose their nipples in public. Bouldin disagreed in a statement on her Facebook page, saying the bill should *at least* exempt breastfeeding mothers.  The proposed bill actually does exempt breastfeeding mothers, but that isn’t the problem.  The issue is Moore’s response (written on Facebook, later deleted–when will people learn there are no take-backs on the internet?  Your Words ❤ The Internetz R 4eVER), where he wrote that Bouldin (and women in general, I guess) should have no problem with a man’s natural response to stare and grab when a woman exposes her nipples in public while breastfeeding.  This all devolved in true internet fashion into comments from other men as to whose nipples they would/would not want to see.

I’m sure Moore thought he was being clever, perhaps even funny, a play on the “argument” that breastfeeding is natural.  Cause, yanno,  women’s breasts are really for and about men.  Not babies, and certainly not women.  This shouldn’t be an argument, a debate, or even an issue.  What he described is assault.  This isn’t a breastfeeding debate.  This is about women; our rights to control and make decisions over our own bodies, our right to be safe.  If his natural inclination is to assault every woman he sees, or at least every woman where he spies a bit of pink or brown skin, I am afraid for every woman he has ever or will ever come into contact with.  I feel sorry for him, and every man like him, who believes they not only have no control over themselves, but it’s the fault of evil-original-sin WIMMINZ, for having breasts.  And wombs. And vaginas.  And calves, thighs, hair, lips, and ankles.  No wonder we need men to tell us how to care for and hide our bodies.  *sarcasm*  More than fear and pity, I’m fed up.  This man was elected.   He represents far too many: right, left, or libertarian.

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That he would even say this is an assault, a not-so-clever play at intimidation.  When someone wonders what is meant by the phrase “rape culture,” this is it.   This statement tells women we not only aren’t safe from unwanted stares, pinches, and grabs, we have no right to expect safety.  Regardless of age, race, religion, or socioeconomic class, I’m guessing at least 98% of women have experienced multiple moments of feeling unsafe, feeling and/or being assaulted by unwanted remarks, leers, hands, or full body grinds on a not-so-crowded bus or subway car.

As time goes on, I believe there are fewer men who think along these lines.  More men understand human rights, the need for equality in the social contract, fewer believe entitlement is a natural extension of dangly bits.  Not enough, though.

Women have fought for and won many advances.  In many countries we can vote, work outside the home (though not necessarily for equal pay), own property, hold political office, expose our ankles.  But we still can’t do any of these things with a reasonable expectation that we won’t be groped along the way.

I didn't grow up to be my grandma, but I am a tough cookie.

I didn’t grow up to be my grandma, but I am a tough cookie.

Honey, I’ve Got Underwear Older than You

And I’m wearing them.

Maybe the bones aren't as strong as they once were, but it's still standing.

Maybe the bones aren’t as strong as they once were, but it’s still standing.

Over the summer I posted about an idea I had for a novel.  Not exactly a new idea, it would involve a complete revamp/rewrite of a manuscript I wrote a few years ago.  I lamented in advance about all the work that would entail, the time, the energy, the damned hope.  I didn’t know if I wanted to.  I decided to put the idea to the side and see if both the idea and the urge faded away or took root.  It’s taken root, but I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do the work. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an opening, a few hundred words.  Not enough for me to call it a WIP (work in progress).  The night before Thanksgiving, I decided I absolutely needed to go right then to the neighborhood where it’s set to take some photos, so I can decide exactly where my imaginary house will be in my imaginary manuscript.  Just in case, you understand.

While I haven’t been working on anything, I still go on the writer’s forum.  I’ve got several friends on there, I’ve been a member for a long time, and there’s a healthy amount of silliness that takes place in the off topic sections.  I still read all the threads directly related to writing, though I rarely post on them.  So the other morning I was having my second cup of pre-dawn espresso and surfing the writing threads in an attempt to take a break from political overload, and I saw a doozy of a post.  Actually, it was a few posts, and I don’t even remember what the thread was supposed to be about in the first place.  Someone referenced a sad blog post they had read, about a woman who had been trying to get published for twenty years and was giving up.  No other details given, I have no idea who the blogger referenced is, or any of the details of her story.

Imagine my surprise to see a response that said something to the effect of, perhaps readers are lucky she’s giving up, if she couldn’t get anywhere with all that time.  Hmmm.  Someone else wanting to know what she was doing for all that time.   Someone else assuming her work must be poor.  And someone else referencing that she’d been failing longer than they’d been alive, and she should try something else.  Well, let me just say Mrs Fringe had quite a difficult time restraining herself from sending them to their rooms.  (no, I’m not a mod there and have 0 authority)  Maybe the time out corner, for 7 or 12  or 17 years.  Or as I like to call the time-out corner, life.  Again, I have no idea what else was going on in that woman’s life over the course of those twenty years, how much time was spent actually writing, or submitting.  It doesn’t matter, because one thing I’m sure of is that writing wasn’t the only thing she was doing.  Because life does happen, to all of us, whether we’re creative geniuses, no talent hacks, prim and proper accountants or women of a certain age.

Even though I wasn’t actually a part of the conversation, and no one was actually speaking to me, I was annoyed.  Feeling sensitive, because they’re asking the same questions and making the same deprecating comments I’ve been making about myself.  Some of it has to do with the writing, yes, questioning the value of my words and stories.  How do you measure the value of these things, anyway?  Because that, I think, is the crux of it for me.  What is the value?  If there is no measurable value without success, what is my value?  Being a woman of a certain age without clear markers of success, feeling the negative pressure, maybe I’m supposed to just fade out quietly; stop making a fuss, stop dreaming, move out of the way of the younger generations, and for God’s sake stop cursing so much.  Well, that last part is never going to fucking happen.

I don’t know if I’m going to write that manuscript.  But if I don’t, it won’t be because of how many years have or have not passed since I first said hey, I’d like to see my words in a book, on a shelf, and be paid a dollar for them.  I’ve been busy.

Saggy Bits

Walking Sticks and Flip-Flops

Walking Sticks and Flip-Flops

Installment #2 of Mrs Fringe Takes a Vacation.

You might be wondering a couple of things.  For example, was I inspired to do any writing while admiring the beauty and sunrises of the beach?  No. I wasn’t, and I didn’t. On our first full day there, I found a rejection in my email that referenced the agent’s “enjoyment of and obvious strengths of” my work.  I spent about 43 seconds stomping my foot–if it’s so obviously strong….I’ll likely have another seven years to obsess about my words and lack of publication before I’ll be back on that beach. Thankfully, the sand doesn’t make for satisfying stomping ground, and so I let it go to enjoy where I was.

The second, obvious question; what did that shameless hussy who goes by the name of Mrs Fringe wear on the beach?  For my sunrise photography sessions, I wore my 8000 year old workout clothes. Mostly because I’d get up, have coffee, do my yoga, and head straight out. The rest of the time? Bikinis all the way. That’s right, I’m a 40,000 year old woman with three grown and close to grown children wearing the effects of gravity like a sarong.  My concession to a body that nursed three babies for a grand total of 58,000 years is to make sure the top has an underwire.

I’ve talked a lot about my love of my Brooklyn beach, and this is much of it.  On that beach you find women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness wearing their bikinis without a thought to what anyone else might or might not think, before they put their tent-resembling chintz house dresses back on and unfold their walkers to go purchase a pound of ground chuck for dinner.  Somewhere in there is a lesson on feminism, accepting who we are at all stages.

I try to care. I even went shopping before we left and bought a conservative tankini, very pretty. The tags are still on it. Instead, I went shopping again while we were on the island, and bought another bikini. I wasn’t sure about it, thought the design might be a little “young” for me, so I walked out of the dressing room to get an opinion. There was a woman standing there, about my age, who misinterpreted what I was asking and told me I should buy it, she’d absolutely wear a bikini if she could pull it off. She proceeded to call her 85 year old mother out of a dressing room to look at me so she could agree. I’m fairly certain her mom couldn’t actually hear a word of what was said, but she smiled and nodded.  Then the woman called her teenaged daughter out of her dressing room to add to the vote.  Hah! The girl popped her head out, politely tried to cover her horror with a twitchy grin, and slammed herself back into her cubicle. Naturally, I bought it ($12!), and wore it the rest of the time we were on the island. To my dressing room buddy:  You can pull it off.  If you want to do so, wear a bikini. It’s that simple.

The tide goes in and out four times (high tide twice, low tide twice) each day on Hilton Head, with a huge difference between high and low.  This means that during low tides, yes there are lovely, warm little tidal pools that are the equivalent of natural sea baby pools, but it also means there’s plenty of width and time to walk (or wheel, for those using wheelchairs) to the shoreline on sand that’s firmly packed, leaving stable ground beneath you. Why mention this? So you can picture how easily Mother-In-Law and I left our canes along with flip-flops and towels in the narrow stretch of soft sand so we could go swimming.

Today’s photos are mixed, a couple of sunrises with some late morning shots sprinkled in.

Path between the apartment complex and the beach.

Path between the apartment complex and the beach.

Sea oats

Sea oats

flip-flops on, off, who cares?

flip-flops on, off, who cares?

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Trash on the beach is terrible, yet there's beauty in there.

Trash on the beach is terrible, yet there’s beauty in there.

Bristle worm

Bristle worm

I was far from the only one in the water at sunrise, I think I fell in love with this woman.

I was far from the only one in the water at sunrise, I think I fell in love with this woman.

Can you feel it?

Can you feel it?

Those beach morning glories from yesterday? A late morning shot.

Those beach morning glories from yesterday? A late morning shot.

why choose to get up at 5am on vacation? This is why.

why choose to get up at 5am on vacation? This is why.

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Beach patrol, out every morning at sunrise to pick up trash left behind and blown in.

Beach patrol, out every morning at sunrise to pick up trash left behind and blown in.

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Up

Up

up

up

a little more

a little more

almost there

almost there

lost for a second

lost for a second

perfect new day.

perfect new day.

We Are Looking For

A clue!

A clue!

Normally, I use this neatogroovycool magnifying glass to examine the minuscule creepy crawlies in the tank.  Today, I’m using it to examine context clues.

I have a Twitter account (@MrsFringe).  I don’t use it much, but I hop on semi-regularly to see what’s trending, and sporadically I’ll spend quite a bit of time for a couple of days having fun with one-liners. Some of those I follow are friends, some are Fringelings, some are people I admire, others are agents/editors who are sharp, or funny, or interesting.  Quite a few publishing professionals will tweet tips–what to do/what not to do, why they’re requesting or rejecting queries, and query trends.

Recently I logged on and happened to catch a tweet at the top of my news feed that’s stayed with me.  While it probably isn’t politic, I’m going to address it.  Since I’m 40,000 years old and not twitter savvy (read: a blabberfingers), I’ll respond here on the blog.  Someone (agent? I think, maybe) tweeted something to the effect of:  Two spaces after a period and I know you’re over 40, don’t do it.

Really?

Well I suppose it’s true, those of us who learned to type on typewriters did learn to put two spaces after a period.  If you learned in typing class and/or did a lot of typing for any reason, it’s kind of ingrained–and if you do think about it, one space often looks “wrong” to us ancients.  Despite my advanced age and inherent slowed mental faculties, I actually understand that things change.  The world changes, advances are made, things that were once acceptable are now either extraneous or completely unacceptable.  Language evolves.

A friend of Nerd Child’s is staying with us for a few days.  He hasn’t been here before, and when he first walked in he said, “This apartment is sick.”  Hard to believe, but I didn’t go running for the Lysol, nor did I tell him to get off my lawn.  I thanked him.  Context clues.

I promise you, Fringelings, I am not what anyone would consider a delicate flower.

I checked. Nope, this is not a self portrait, but I may add it to my salad tonight.

I checked. Nope, this is not a self portrait, but I may add it to my salad tonight.

I also understand publishing professionals are inundated with queries, and there are many reasons to reject manuscripts.  What I don’t understand is why someone would think it’s ok, on a public venue like Twitter, to make this type of blanket, ageist statement.  True, I (and others like me) should probably try to break this wasteful habit of two spaces after each period.  All that white space left to rot by the end of a manuscript, shameful.  Also true, there are practicalities and logistics, reasons someone might not want to take on a debut author who’s 90 years old.  You wouldn’t have to dig too deep through my archives to find I’m quite open about not loving some of the facets of aging–oh, those saggy bits!  But these are query letters for manuscripts, not applications for centerfold models.

I had dinner with my journalist friend the other night.  She is (gasp) older than I am.  Not only still writing, but people still pay to read what she has to say, because she’s good at what she does.  If I checked the list of current best selling novelists, I’m certain a significant percentage would include authors over forty.  If I checked tweets of those I follow on Twitter, I’m certain all would include tweets (from men and women) about being feminists, supporting feminism.  You cannot separate feminism from ageism.  I’d like to see that placard carried at a women’s rights march, “Equal Pay for the Perky Now!”  It doesn’t bother me to be told to break an outdated habit, but the implication that my words hold no value because I’m a woman of a certain age?  That bothers the hell out of me.

I think I’ve posted this video before, but you can just go ahead and blame senility for the repeat.  Or, yanno, trust I felt it was appropriate for this piece.

*And yes, I made sure to add two spaces after each period for this post, ’cause that’s how I roll.