Empathy for the Devil

A 22-year-old young man arrived back home last night to his parents after more than one year of indefensible imprisonment by a megalomaniacal dictator. At least he’s home, one could think, were it not for the fact that he is in a coma and most likely has no idea that he is now back in the presence of his loving family.

In Pennsylvania, another group of young men are on trial for the fraternity hazing death of a young pledge; the accused, who had just testified, were seen laughing and smiling outside of court afterward.

Somewhere in Syria, an idiot boy nicknamed “Jihadi Jack,” who is actually a middle-class Protestant child from bucolic England has decided that playing with ISIS is no fun. He “hates them now” and “wants to come home.”

Three families have lost their sons of all approximately the same age, in various ways and to varying degrees.

The first should have never happened and our government should have intervened to ensure he was safely returned so that his homecoming could have been long ago and far more celebratory. They did nothing. Yes, I squarely blame the impotence of the Obama administration, but not just for Otto Warmbier’s situation, but for its flaccid continuation of the “well, they aren’t really hurting anyone” attitude toward North Korea and the cartoon-like, round, troll dictator Kim Jong Un. And where were we, the American public? Why weren’t we more up at arms? We all have kids; we are all someone’s kid. It’s not partisan, surely. It’s not like Democrats have daughters and Republicans have sons.

The second is a result of the illness in our society and our tendency to overlook the abject debauchery-fueled behavior of college kids, especially if they’re privileged and white. Yes, I really said that; yes, I am a Republican. And yes, I am also the mom of one very white and quite privileged fraternity member son. I would never, though, say something so stupid and invitational of cosmic retribution as, “but my son would never,” because that’s what everyone thinks. That’s what creates the bubbles of excusability that produce boys such as this; kids who would inflict heartless abuse on one of their own; one of their “brothers.” No one teaches their kids anything that remotely resembles empathy anymore. I am by no means a religious person, but that’s possibly because as a child we were in church every time the doors opened; I suffer from permanent Southern Baptist hell, fire and brimstone fatigue. But guess what? Some of it stuck. Two things of the greatest importance in my life, and one of which would have served these boys well both in this instance and were they to read and absorb the story of Otto Warmbier. Or if they are forced to face the actual reality and resultant consequences of their own despicable actions: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

The third is a manifest example of the modern day laziness that is now pervasive in parenting. Whereas the privileged white American kids may have a bubble that at least keeps them from thinking that beheading innocents in a desert halfway around the world sounds like a good Saturday night, the children of those too absent to care and too distant – and frankly stupid – to see what their kids are doing online and in their free time are enticed by precisely that. They have no grounding, no roots, no identity, no spirituality, no goals, no motivation and no capacity to even realize that the absence of even one of these – let alone multiple – is in itself a reason for concern. “Well, I just want him to be who he will be,” or, “I just don’t want to box him in. I shouldn’t really even say ‘him;’ that’s too gender-identity-definitive,” and, “I’ll just let him discover. I love him, I do, but we’ve all got to figure out things on our own.” In this case, their precious darling will, if he’s every captured, be discovering the inside of a British high-security prison cell. If he’s not intercepted, he’s likely to figure out how unforgiving his once beloved brothers-in-arms can be when one of their converts reverts.

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The Unbearable Pressure of Being

Last Saturday night, we were invited to a small party in honor of our son’s best friend who had recently graduated from college, as had mine. For us, it was a celebration for all of our sons – four in total – of a tight-knit group who actually only became friends because of our boys and the unbelievable bond of friendship they share. Over the last eight years, their relationships spread to us and we often spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and even Summer vacations abroad together, so synchronous was their friendship and our ease with one another. Last weekend would be no different, and perhaps even easier than ever before; the hard part was done, we were all relaxed, caterers and bartenders had been hired and all we had to do was sit on the expansive deck in the perfect Southern sunset and enjoy our wine and conversation.

Before the sun said its goodnights completely, at which point the boys retired to the pool below as we held our position at the candlelit tables above, I sat with the four of them and discussed their pasts, their futures and genuinely soaked in the joy of each of them and the power of that as it was multiplied exponentially by the concert of their camaraderie. I am blessed to have the son I do, and he is multiply blessed with these friends for life. Privileged? Perhaps. All of them products of a great private school in a well-known Southern enclave, each with parents whose cosmopolitan diversity and success is surpassed only by their respective love for, and devotion to their children. Indeed, it could be this above all that bonds us: to have experienced and enjoyed all that we have in our lives, we are parents first, above all else.

That night we stayed with our friends as we now always do, given the distance between the cities we currently call home. The boys, too, stayed the night, five of them in total squished together in a human puzzle on the large, field-size sectional sofa of the theater room, just as they had so many weekends when they were in high school, and so many holidays when they were in college. When my friend and I made our way downstairs around 11 the next morning, still in our PJs, coffee cups in hand, all of them were up and playing, save one who had arisen early and made his exit. He is our favorite – we all admit it – the happiest, most open, loving, free-spirited among them, and we bemoaned the fact we did not have the chance to bid him a proper farewell and enjoy our tight “other mom” hug.

My son and I drove home later that day, both of us a bit hungover, but recharged with humanity for having spent time with true friends rather than merely existing among those who think they know us but are aware of only what we are prepared to present or they willing to see. We need that, we humans, more often than it is availed and far more often than we admit, especially in the increasingly inhuman and virtual times in which we live. To be reminded that we are not alone, that even those who appear most perfect have issues and frustrations and things they would rather not drag into the light of day, but occasionally do when they are in the rare company of those of kindred spirit and unwavering trust.

The next day at home we started the ugly business of moving as we prepare to return forever to the rural shores of our beloved Wales. It has long been my dream and a promise I made to my son, so to have it come true has infused us both with a heady tonic of tolerance and determination for tasks we might otherwise find tedious and tiresome. But whereas I awoke alert, energized and ready to tackle whatever obstacle needed tearing away to reveal the view of our long-imagined future, my son was subdued, quiet and averted my gaze. I went through the day going from conference call to packing and back again, and he said that he was merely tired and would recover once he’d enjoyed his daily run. He headed out around 2 in the heat of the day and returned shortly after 3, a smelly, humidity soaked mess. He stood at the bar of our kitchen stretching and sweating as I dabbled and chatted, but rather than seeing that the veil of funk had lifted as it usually did post-cardio on days such as these, I detected a heaviness which could not be heaved loose by mere physical jostling. He looked at me directly and said without affectation, “Alex’s mom died.” I replied, stunned, “What? When? We were just with him Saturday night. He was perfect and happy and…”

“This morning, apparently. I don’t know anything more except that it was the result of some addiction,” he said.

Alex is the lovely kid; our favorite, the lightest of heart and most nimble of mind. The one who arose early Sunday and darted from the house before we could say goodbye. My son was mistaken as a result of the shock of the news and we later discovered that she had indeed be found on Sunday morning by Alex’s sister while he was still slumbering between his friends, safely downstairs, below and protected by others who love him as their own. That anything had been wrong at all, I would never have known. That something so dire had transpired left me and our circle in a state of uncomprehending disarray.

We never knew. It had been going on for a number of years. You never know.

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A Book, By Me

Maybe people thought I was making it up when I said in a couple of recent posts – the few I’ve written as of late – that I was busy finishing a book and was, for now, focussing my attention on that. Maybe I did not believe it myself. After all, I began writing A Jaded Lily more than ten years ago, but as I’ve said before, writing has always been put aside for the benefit of making a real living, so it had been long languishing when I finally decided to resurrect it and see if any part of it could be salvaged. There were only 163 completed pages, but I had more than 40 of notes of how I wanted it to play out and end, so rather than continuing with my blog or write a new book (which I actually started), I decided I may never be able to move on or stop wondering did I not first allow Lily to live, to see out her story on the page.

People who have read my blog will be surprised and may even be shocked. It’s fiction of the highest order, though underpinned by details of a few industries and locations I know exceptionally well. Though Lily is Chinese, she could be any girl or boy, anywhere in the world, as I state in the foreword. “She is a subject of her birth, a product of her environment and a victim of her desires, both material and physical.” It may be the physical with which some readers take issue as there is a substantial amount of sex, though not for gratuitous reasons; this is about the things we trade, compromise and sacrifice in life in pursuit of that one singular shiny object we feel holds the secret to our lasting happiness, success.

For those of you who have been so wonderful and supportive in reading my blog and yes – helping support my dream with your words of encouragement – there are a few selected excerpts available on the book’s website, AJadedLily.Com. (You can also link directly from there to the book on Amazon, both for Kindle and in paperback). The snapshots of the story provided may appear shallow or glossy, self-reflecting or even navel-gazing, but I wanted to be careful not to choose passages which gave away plot twists, were sexually explicit or – very frankly – could not benefit from some of the photographs I take during my travels.

It will most assuredly not be to everyone’s taste. But it’s mine, and it’s done. And for now, that’s all that matters to me.

 

Hug a Writer Today

Months ago, when I first broke my foot and subsequently started my blog, my first entry was entitled “I Quit My Job,” but no on read it. Seriously – not a soul. My most read post to date was on feminism and my frustration over the spoiled, subjective American view of it versus what our female counterparts in other parts of the world suffer, followed by a few snarkier entries about liberals and left coast luvvies. Though I love to hate to write, and hate to love to write — a sentence which will possibly only be understood by those who have been told their entire lives that they are “supposed to be a writer”—  I have never been able to make money writing, which I’m pretty sure has only intensified the hate portion of the overall sentiment equation. In the post that none of you read, what I actually said was this:

“You see, I was ‘supposed to be a writer.’ That’s my mother’s voice saying that. All the time, constantly, and interspersed with that of every English teacher I ever had. I won my first national writing award at 7 (poetry), wrote my first novella at 9 (I thought it was sh**ty, but in hindsight perhaps not a bad effort for a child), and my first novel — f**k – I don’t know. A while back. But I’ve never published anything and I go months at a time without writing a word. I’ve spent at least a week trying to figure out why I do that — why I just suddenly stop writing. The best I can figure, it’s because I get busy with work and travel to the extent that there is too much going on and the activity in my head becomes an indistinguishable cacophony of noise. But even as I write that, I know it’s a lie. The truth is that writing is not, as the non-writing amongst you may imagine, for the lazy. It is detailed, all-consuming, greedy, exclusionary, isolating, occasionally excruciating and in my case, poverty-inducing. So in the most simplistic of analysis, when things go badly, I write in order to save my sanity; when things go well, I neglect it in the same way one neglects the long-suffering friend or family who is always there for them when they need them most, but who are then abandoned when sunlight inevitably reappears. I abandon my words for the siren song of a fat paycheck, all the while carrying an inexplicable guilt that I am not, as the great AA Gill remonstrated, flexing my writing muscle and thereby risking the reality that I may lose it. And it was re-reading Gill’s quote on this matter that drove me back – I hope permanently — to the page.“

And actually, it did. Today I finished proofing the 371 pages I’ve written thus far of my novel and all things being equal, I hope to publish by May 5. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Except that it isn’t; not to anyone in my life other than me.

In our nation, we do not value the arts; we do not encourage writing any more than we celebrate reading the great books or teach proper grammar. If I said to someone in this country that I’m a writer, they would likely reply, “So at which Starbucks do you work? I’ll drop by.” Whereas when I say this to a friend in London, their retort is, “Can I read something you’ve done? Anything I would have seen? That’s truly amazing. You should quit and devote yourself to it full time.” Here it seems to be the refuge for the recently graduated, un- or under-employed who wish to convince themselves, their parents and the world at large that their interests are in only cerebral pursuits. And coffee beans. In other parts of the world, it is the pursuit of those who have lived life observing, silently cataloging, and secretly wishing they did not hold so much in their heads and when they can take no more, pour it all onto the page. It is, in some cases, even seen as elite. But not amongst common folk in America or — as it turns out — my family and friends.

So why is this bothering me now? If you’ve read anything else I’ve written it will be abundantly clear that I have been, since childhood, an outsider. I have also been — for twenty years — a single mom; a very blessed, devoted and overly giving single mom. My son attends undergrad at my pricey alma mater and will graduate in four weeks with my same two degrees, albeit with far more stellar grades and recommendations. As he heads into the next phase of his life, I thought now — still convalescing from having screws driven into my bones to mend my broken foot — would be a good time to finish the book, get it to market, and publicize it myself, since that’s actually the career for which I have been so well paid. And I know that I can do it, which is the major characteristic of my life to which I referred in the post that no one read (and which I am now considering re-titling as such):

“I suppose I could have summed all of this up by saying ‘life is short,’ and be done with it, but that would miss the point. I need to write, I need to travel, and I need to punctuate it all with things to which I can truly look forward. Will I make it? I have no idea, but that’s the other part of me that was crystalized today in a quote by George Michael: ‘I finally realized that one reason why my life has felt so self-destructive is that I never had any feeling that my talent would let me down.’ And nor have I.

“I love nice things, nice places, nice men — things that do not naturally occur in a poor person’s nature. But I’ve always been willing to gamble on my talent — to tell people to fuck off just when I am at my zenith because I believe that I can still yet do it better, elsewhere, or in this case, on my own and on my terms. I’ve said quite clearly that I want no more apologies, but I likewise want no more regrets. There’s only one way to find out, so let me do it for you, for us all; no need quitting your job and pursuing your dream just because I make a convincing argument for it. If I win, you can live vicariously in those victories; if I crash and burn, you can stand at a distance with a knowing ‘I told you so,’ both risk and consequence-free.”

And though other people — person, actually, that being my sister — recognize my skill and acknowledge my passion for it, she and my Southern, pragmatic family as a whole call me “the eccentric one.” Yet I know that I only acquired the benefit of “eccentric” because I make lots of money, as — make no mistake — without it, I’d simply be “the crazy one.” It is pondering this distinction which has led me to ask myself time and again as of late: are people who so singularly pursue one goal, one skill, one dream crazy, or are they the only ones who have truly achieved clarity? How many other people out there know that they are exceptional at one thing, but it is not the one thing that can earn them a living without serious sacrifice, or that makes people comfortable, or that is widely accepted or understood, so they suffer in silence, discouraged from trying, and dismayed at their existence? Being dogged and determined will get you so far, and perhaps all the way if you are — ironically — completely alone. But if you are part of social strata, a larger family or a domestic financial infrastructure, your dreams can wait, stay on hold, live in that pan on the back burner of life until they are charred permanently to the bottom.

Today at 1:30 I stopped writing to take a call to discuss a job in Chicago that will pay me even more than my last. Do I want it? No. Do I recognize that’s a selfish reaction and that plenty of other people would? Yes. Will I have to take it? Probably so. Will I have any time at all to write? No. My son was accepted to one of the more prestigious programs in the world for grad school and the price tag is about $70K a year, so my dreams will again be on hold so that he can give life to his. And on it goes. But wouldn’t it be nice — for once — to hear a word of encouragement, a syllable of reinforcement, and perhaps especially from those who do not understand, but who love you enough to want you to succeed by your definition rather than by theirs.

A Tale of Two Systems

It’s been a while since I have written a post — though I have been spending a great deal of time on my book — but have been repeatedly urged by family to finish telling the story I began in “Rise of the Leftnots” back in January regarding my experience in the very contrasting health systems of the US and UK. Not feeling I could really do it justice until the process was almost complete, I write today from a lovely hotel 5* in London having had a similarly 5* healthcare experience vis a vis the surgery I had here yesterday, but thanks to the insurance-dominated healthcare system in the US could not have had there for at least two more months, if at all. That is an important distinction to bear in mind and one I wish would reach the level of public discourse: the problem is not the healthcare system in America, but the health insurance system, industry and its powerful lobby. Unless and until we have an honest dialog about those two systems and their unhealthy relationship and unholy marriage, quality healthcare in our country will never be truly accessible and affordable to all.

Anyway, my story is very much that and I am by no means going to claim that this is typical anymore than I would suggest that everyone can give their American doctor the middle finger, hop on a plane to London and have one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the world operate on them. I am blessed both to know the right people and to be able to afford to do so, though I suspect the actual cost of it — which I am going to share — will surprise you. For those of you used to my writing, do not expect the snarkiness or attempts at humor or poignancy of my usual tone as to me, the importance of this story lies in the facts and details thereof; there is nothing entertaining about the state in which we find the current healthcare system in the US. So, without further ado…

I broke my foot on December 3rd, a notoriously difficult to heal Jones Fracture. The real deal; not what some doctors erroneously call a Jones Fracture that really isn’t the true, bitch of a break that this is. The first doctor I saw at the ironically named walk-in department of our local and somewhat (allegedly) prestigious bone clinic was closer to honest with me about what that meant than was the over-hyped foot surgeon I would see four times thereafter. The initial doctor had told me I would be in a non weight-bearing cast for 8 weeks followed by probably 4 more in a boot and that these breaks are amongst the most difficult to heal in the body with an overall non-union rate near 28%, this group eventually requiring a surgical solution. That doctor was semi-retired and worked at the walk-in to keep himself engaged, but I much preferred his style. He was old-school, blunt and seemed to not have been trained in, or impeded by the insurance speak which has so rabidly infected the rest of our system. Frustrated with the news, but thankful for the blunt talk, I got the cast and corresponding instructions and upon leaving, a follow-up appointment for 2 weeks later with “our best” (certainly their words and by no means mine) foot surgeon.

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Appropriate This

As I was getting ready to go back to London for a few days, I did as I always do and started digging around for my favorite clothes, shoes, and accessories, being frustrated all the while by the fact that I mostly wear adult Garanimals (i.e., all black), which makes distinguishing one piece from another difficult without my glasses, which I also could not find. Not being able to rock any terribly original outfits at the moment thanks to the limitations created by having a cast up to one’s knee, I accessorize to emphasize and as such went in search of a very specific pair of large gold hoops I bought a few trips ago, knowing that they would add a little ‘yes, I swear this outfit was bought in this century and is not an oversized BabyGro’ legitimacy to my monochrome and monosyllabic ensembles. But as I took them out of their pouch to make sure they were intact and had not interbred with one of the long necklaces I often throw in with them, I remembered something I had recently read admonishing, “White girls, take off your hoops.” Without giving this moronic plea too much attention, I will summarize the story by saying that a Latina girl at the extremely pricey Pitzer College in Southern California decided that white women who wear hoop earrings are culturally appropriating from their Latina counterparts, and believed in her heart of hearts that this issue rose to the level of requiring an “all campus” email proclamation. We’ll just leave that there for a sec.

I lived in the UK for many years and while there became a fan of Rugby Union, and especially like national rugby competitions such as Six Nations and Rugby World Cup. The England v. Wales game is traditionally the biggest rivalry of Six Nations, and the atmosphere and camaraderie is second to none. Both nations of course have their official anthems, but the unofficial anthems of Welsh and English rugby are borne of a love of group drunk singing and were, I feel certain, chosen almost entirely on these criteria. The chosen song of Wales is Delilah, which makes more sense when you remember the god that is Tom Jones is Welsh; the anthem sung in unison by English fans is Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Less clear what the correlation is there, but it’s slow, deep, and easy to slur-sing, so I never had need to question it. Plus, I’m always enjoying myself when I’m at rugby matches, so I never have need to question anything other than calls which go against my team of choice. “Enjoying myself”: words millennials never use and do not understand. Anyway, over the last few months, feminists have petitioned Welsh Rugby to discourage or even ban (don’t know how you get 80,000 drunk Welshmen to do anything other than drink more, but okay, moonbeam) singing of Delilah because it is “a song about domestic abuse and could or may inspire acts of domestic violence as a result of its lyrics.” While you’re absorbing that, fast forward a few months to the fact that the English rugby team is being criticized for culturally appropriating Swing Low, Sweet Chariot because it is an historic slave spiritual.

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My Greatest Affair, Part I: Honeymoon in Paris

For anyone expecting to read salacious details of my love life, you’ll need to check back once I have finally met my eternal demise, as any such details will not be forthcoming as long as I trod this earth, and for any myriad of reasons from not wanting to embarrass my son to not wanting long-since-left men to drag themselves from the recesses of my personal history and feel compelled to get in touch. No, the past is very much that and far from living with the regret or reflection — or what I refer to as the woulda/shoulda/coulda —  which I find especially common in women of southern progeny, I move only forward.  There are no men who have earned such a lofty moniker in any event, and even the ones who could potentially compete for it would never be able to hold a candle to the place which I only realized recently is actually title holder of my longest and greatest affair. I am currently in London – as I often am — and in my happiest of places; not just the city itself, but the hotel I have been blessed to call a second home for more than twenty years. It has been there for me and my family through thick and thin, good and bad, its protective staff and gilded halls carrying me through celebrations and devastations alike. Things go well in my life, I come here; things go badly in my life, I do the same. This is no fair-weathered love we have, and nor is it one that could ever be trumped or even threatened by any other place in the world.

The first time I stayed here was July 1996. My son was just over six months old and though very young, I was on a business trip for my first employer out of school, having already made enough of a name for myself — for better or worse — to be working directly for the co-founders of the company who allowed me perhaps more latitude than they should have, and in no other area was this as true as it was with travel. They were a married couple and though their company was considerable and successful, they could still be very hands on and involved when it came to the arrangements made — especially for their younger female charges — and would often give us their personal upgrades to first for our transatlantic flights and would similarly insist that if we were alone, we should stay in only the finest hotels in order to be as safe as possible. I, being a spoiled and unapologetic daddy’s girl, also still had a secondary card on my dad’s Platinum American Express card account. My parents worked very hard for everything they ever had in life, neither of them having graduated from college and both being born into poor southern families, and perhaps as a result of their hard graft as well as the guilt that was (and likely still is) poured onto parishioners every Sunday in many southern churches, never felt comfortable indulging in or enjoying the fruits of their labors. Dad used the platinum card for all things practical, from business related expenditures to paying for my wedding, but never once — in all the years he was a member — for anything frivolous or superfluous, and similarly never opened the Departures magazines that came with it or thumbed through the Platinum Card Hotel Guide which arrived annually. No, those were reserved for me and my lofty dreams as the kid who had seen one too many repeats of the I Love Lucy European episodes and just as much of The Love Boat. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to break free and explore, Departures along with the hotel guide serving as representatives of a life others lived and in which I longed to partake. But whereas this at least partially explains my initial taste of and for all things 5 star, the ongoing and severe repellant reaction to anything ‘less than’ was likely borne of and shaped by a singular, definitive event: the trauma of the Great Honeymoon Fiasco of ’92.

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The Bullies are Back in Town

I’m on the other side of forty-five. As those who read my blog know from other posts, I’ve lived and traveled all over the world, having worked in advertising for more than twenty years. I speak three languages and have three degrees, two undergrad and one post-grad. At my last job, I was the second highest paid person the company; I’ve done quite well for myself. I was divorced twenty years ago, but refused child support or alimony because I wanted to raise my child — who is now twenty-one — in the manner I saw fit. Though I am very happily divorced, we still spend Christmas morning with my ex-husband and my ex-in laws because we have known each other our entire lives and therefore still function much like a family. I take no shit, personally or professionally, and am either famous or infamous for it, depending on whose point of view you solicit. I was not born to a wealthy family, but I was born to one rich with unconditional love, being told almost every day of my life that I could do whatever I wanted to do and be whatever I wanted to be, as much — if not more so — by my dad as by my mom, that support being no small reason for the person I am today.

Thirty-five years ago, I was a chubby, freckled red-head with a heart condition and the highest IQ in a school district replete with future Ole Miss beauty queen wannabes. If you don’t know what that means, it’s not that difficult to explain or to understand, whether it was the head cheerleader or homecoming queen at your school, or just one of the many mean girl portrayals you’ve seen in the movies. The difference is there wasn’t just one; there were loads. Such was life being raised in a small town in the South where your family was either rich or it wasn’t; they either belonged to the country club or they didn’t. You were either pretty or you weren’t, and the male counterparts – though fewer – were themselves no better, often being the ones who dug the moat and defended the walls of the stuck up clique who doled out condescension and abuse like Pez from a dispenser of hostility and pretense. I was almost mercilessly abused on a daily basis from the ages of six through sixteen. And then.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, something changed. The baby fat that had bade its farewell to most girls my age two years prior finally decided to take its leave from me. Realizing it was beginning to atrophy on its own, I became encouraged and began dieting, swimming more laps in our pool and hitting more balls on the court in the heat of the day. Finally down to a size six of then which is probably a four of now, 5’8” tall, with thick strawberry blonde hair, I was beginning to feel an inner confidence I had never before known. Much to my father’s dismay, I saved up my money and went to the best hairdresser in town and had my thick mop chopped to a severe, ‘80s Molly Ringwold type do. With what money was left, I bought a pair of much-coveted long clip on earrings from the fanciest store in town (I wasn’t allowed to have my ears pierced in my very strict family), and changed my style almost overnight. When we returned to register for school in August in the very casual atmosphere that day allowed, in the upstairs library still dressed in a short Esprit skirt and matching tee, one of the few football players who had — admirably — always been my friend, walked up from behind to me to introduce himself, asking me from whence I’d transferred. I turned to look at him, assuming he’d recognize me when I did, but the transformation had been so drastic and so complete that he did not. “Thomas,” I said, “it’s me, ” the pause between my last word and the final look of recognition on his face pregnant both with his confusion and my amusement. When finally the other shoe dropped, he picked me up off the floor and hugged me and said, “Girl, you look FIIINNNEE.” He was genuinely happy for me — he was one of the few good guys — but still not as pleased as I was for myself. For the first time in my school-going life, I did not dread the next day.

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A Breakup Letter to the Left

I’ve been having a very hard time this week trying to distinguish from amongst the milieu about which topic I should write. Not because there is nothing that has grabbed my attention or riled my furor, but because I am so spoiled for choice that its like being already stuffed with a four course meal while having a trey of sumptuous desserts waved before you. Yes, absolutely, but no, I would feel like a glutton. On top of that, this week has been so highly charged with negativity that the piece I was going to write began to feel like a too heavy addition to an already heaving pile of unhappy that has been foisted upon the media landscape. I had come up with a half clever concept about playing “Never Have I Ever” with Nancy Pelosi, but it was so simple to draft it didn’t even feel like sport. This has to be challenging lest I should revert to my 7 year old self and try to set the library reading camel on fire because it never seemed to be my turn. Or blow up my school, which I also pondered at 7, and tried at 12. But I digress. The point is that if I do not find it energizing or entertaining to write, I simply won’t, and this week because of the fog of partisan war, no one single topic has clearly risen to the level of drawing my writerly ire, or inspired my sarcastic sensibilities.

Further, to join the cacophony of voices in outrage would make me “one of,” which is something I have never aspired to be. And when I do begin to rant about those on the Left who seem to now be competing in an increasingly tight race for head crazy of the week, I feel that I am suddenly no better than they, meeting their insane, treason-like calls for coup or assassination with ad hominem attacks on things like the fact that nary a one of the celebrities calling for such even has a college degree, let alone a grasp of reality. And that’s how quickly the descent to their level can occur. Though I have reasoned that my growing allegiance to, and alignment with the right has been galvanized by the behavior of those on the left, it has not materially changed my own behavior or who I am, and I do not wish for it to do so now.

My ex-husband and I were legally separated in 2.5 days; it’s something of which we are very proud. No fighting, no fussing, prenup honored, buh-bye. So though a passionate person I am, I prefer not to drag emotions into situations which can or should be dominated or decided by facts or common sense. Further, though I never cared for Twain, I can still appreciate the wisdom in his words, “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” In that same spirit, I am quite proud that the right has, almost universally, not lowered itself to the level of the Left or “argued with a fool,” though we have likewise struggled to raise them to our level or saved them from making fools of themselves. Yet the constant verbal quagmires of this week have filled me with some despair, and I have tried time and again to figure out what — if anything — will put an end to all of the senseless sniping, obstructionism, protests, crocodile tears (can we please coin the phrase Crocodile Chuck?), and calls for boycotts and coups.

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The Trolls, The Taliban & Ugly Betty

Oh the trolls, the trolls, how droll their scolds, though through their spite, I derive insight. Granted, that sucks as poetry or prose, and no, this isn’t really about the Taliban or Ugly Betty, but it is both an apt description of how I’ve decided to make use of the dozens of less than kind missives that have been directed at me in the last few days on Twitter, and those who aimed them at me, all because of the post I wrote about The Exclusionary Arrogance of Western Feminism. I kept a log of my favorites, with the intention being to have a weekly “Troll Tuesday” post that summarizes the best, along with what my riposte to them would have been given more than 144 characters and ample time. But as I re-read through them all, trends began to emerge which were indeed insightful, and which helped better crystallize what it was that so bothered me about this event.

What most quickly became clear is that my trolls fell into three categories: angry feminists, millennial cisgenders and Muslim men. But of these three groups, the only one with a unified message and any conviction were the Muslim men, most of whom wanted me to shut up and sit down, and all of whom agreed that I should not have the right to speak, whether sitting or standing. And good for them, too. Having worked in advertising for most of my career, this is one mantra we often preach – once you decide your mission statement, stay on brand and on message; consistency is key. Given that their particular brand of oppression has been around for centuries, it would be difficult to re-craft a message now, so – meh – why try. When it works, it works.

For their part, the millennial cisgenders were a handbook in poor grammar, airy diatribes, pointless platitudes and whining. I literally could not make head nor tails of most of the tweets from this group, each of them seeming to know the one who came before, their tweet an attempt to one up them with non sequitor babble of monumental vapidity. Things like, “also too as well therefore when we consider the impact of the merry-go-roundification of the total largesse of the progressive doublespeak.” Okay not really; theirs were all less comprehensible. Yet when I genuinely asked them what they were trying to say, they would respond with monosyllabic ad hominem attacks. The worst of the lot – some guy from DC whose Twitter handle is wanggop or some such – replied to my assertion that I had no idea what he was trying to communicate with, “I’m hardly surprised.” Nor am I; I do not speak mealy-mouth millennial.

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