During Monday night's lecture on Family Systems Therapy, I followed along with the slides and noticed that, for this particular subject, I seemed to have more emotional responses and thoughts than usual. So many of the "power points" sent me off on tangents. It went sort of like this:
Oh yeah, that's a big BUT. How does it impact us? Well, some of us--for STARTERS--wonder how we were LUCKY enough to be born to teenaged parents who treated every weekend like Spring Break in Cancun. Only it wasn't Cancun, it was PCB, because all our relatives grew up in trailer parks and had names like Ora and Edgar. Aunt Ora and Uncle Edgar, themselves, had a teacup Chihuahua that smoked cigarettes and chewed Juicy Fruit, so of course those were the people I looked up to, which set the bar low and early for me. But come on! I have two Chi's and they always swallow the gum, so I haven't even reached that particular goal.
I wanted to belong to the Terrells because they had a trampoline and a pool and Tammy Terrell's dad made all the kids call her mother Miss Jean, not just Jean like we called all the other moms by their first names, and that showed how much he loved her, Miss Jean, the way he demanded respect for her, and it wouldn't be until a few years later that Miss J discovered he was cheating and kicked him out and kept the house with the pool and the kids and the trampoline and the dog. And that's what I call respect. But I certainly did NOT want to belong to the Bowlings because Melissa and Mark's mother Sandra, who we called simply Sandra, spanked us with a fly swatter and, when we told her we were bored, made us sit on the front steps outside and twiddle our thumbs for an hour so we could think of something we'd rather be doing, like riding our bikes or climbing the persimmon tree or breaking open the spider-webby caterpillar nests with sticks and letting the caterpillars crawl in armies up our arms.
No shit, hospitalize the entire family! When I was fifteen, my schizophrenic grandmother came to live with us, and I had to sleep on the couch and she got to decorate my room with a million Jesus pictures and dolls wearing hoop skirts made out of crochet-covered rolls of toilet paper, and I couldn't even go in there to get a pair of socks without crying Jesus staring down with that sad face like he knew I had hate in my heart and wished the old bat would die so I could get my own bed and tv back and lie there every night hoping that Barry Garrett would climb in my bedroom window and relieve me of my goody-two-shoes reputation, so I could keep up with my little sister Kelly, who, at 13, had already been caught parking in the cemetery with Steve Grogan. Instead, Crazy Grandma stayed on, talking to Mr. Rogers every afternoon and checking the mailbox for spies. When Kelly and I were little, she had blamed us for her having to be institutionalized, since we'd been spinning each other in the swivel barcalounger and laughing too loud. My father and grandfather had tied her into her sweater and dragged her out of the house--her yelling, LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO ME at the two of us, which pretty much took all of the fun out of our makeshift sport. Between that and her telling us there was no Easter Bunny, we'd lost any minor affinity we might have had for her. It was hardly any consolation when she decided to jump on our old pogo stick and fell backward in slow motion and broke her wrist. She should have known she was about 300 pounds over the weight limit.
Is it possible that one person can play all those roles, 'cause I swear Greg is ALL FOUR. And if we did family sculpting, they would put me in a crow's nest high up in the farthest corner of the room while the whole rest of the family huddled together on the therapist's couch. Then all three of the big kids would talk about how it was my fault they were fat when they were little, because I ate french fries and cupcakes vicariously through them and ruined their chances of being cheerleaders or ballerinas or blackbelts, which for all practical purposes RUINED THEIR ENTIRE LIVES, and Greg would sit there and nod his head I-told-you-so and they would all point to Lola and demand that I feed her nothing but low-fat cheddar and Clementines until she looks good in a tutu.
Rules like 'Cheese should be yellow,' and responsibility like it is my job to go buy the cheese, but I'm not allowed to buy Swiss or Feta.
Lo: Oh-my-gah, have I gotta story to tell you. Today at lunch, we had soup. Guess what happened?
TR: Someone threw up.
Lo: Of course. So everybody in the lunchroom was staring over at it, and Miss B was walking toward it and didn't see, and all together--I mean the WHOLE room--went, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! ...ooooohhhhhhh.......EEEEEEEEWWWW!!!!"
TR: She didn't...
Lo: Stepped RIGHT in it. It was awesome!
Lo: The lunch room is the BEST. Something always happens in there. Like those two kindergarteners making out last week. I LOVE the lunch room. AND I love kindergarteners. They're like tiny people but giant teddy bears. They are SO cute! All the kindergarteners know me. They're always, "Heeeeeeey Lolaaaaaaa!!!" I get in trouble in the hall because they make so much noise about it. It's terrible. It's awesome. Anyway, I love kindergarteners and I love the lunch room. I really love school lately.
When I was growing up, we learned about sex from nasty graffiti on railroad bridges and sewer drains. If we were really lucky, we might find a stash of mildewed rain-soaked Playboys by the creek in the woods, where the teenaged boys snuck off to drink their father's beer. Our education was limited to crude drawings with arrows pointing to "pussy," which was always a large scribbled triangle indicative of the natural bush stylish in the day.
And if the characters and diagrams prompted questions, we'd sit with our older neighbors in the doghouse and they'd answer them for us from their vast encyclopedic knowledge gathered from fifth-grade Health class. Later, there was Cinemax, but it was cryptic and bugged with first-generation cable static. We were forced to fill in the blanks, and we relied on love scenes from Dark Shadows and General Hospital for reference. There was romance in that.
My kids, however, have grown up in the era of RealWorld hot-tub threesomes and streaming porn. Even theircartoons contain pornographic references. As hard as I have tried to limit their access to inappropriate stuff online, I know they're smart and resourceful and that kids will look diligently for anything they can find on the subject of sex. And these days, what they can find is prolific, explicit, and hyperbolic. It is polished, plastic, and scripted. It lacks heart, soul, and imagination, not to mention pubic hair.
I worry that my girls will feel pressure to "perform" and that my boy will expect every girl he's intimate with to have a pierced clitoris and breasts like Jenna Jameson. I worry that they might not experience the honest, clumsy contact of making love and true intimacy.
This article I came across in Salon today spoke to my fears. Mary Elizabeth Williams said everything I've been thinking for the past few years. Click here if you're interested.
Biggy swears that I did not so much give birth to Georgia as that I divided myself in two, split into two versions of myself, each of whom can be called Tangia (pronounced Tonja). This morning we chatted briefly on the phone:
G: Greg's sick too?
T: Yeah, but of course he's sicker than I am. So I have to take care of him.
G: Of course.
T: This morning, he said, "I CAN'T miss work," and I said, "Sure, the WHOLE company is going to crumble if you're out one day. You are THAT important." He couldn't even sit up to take his Nyquil.
G: You know what I hate?
T: Where should I start?
G: No, I mean what I hate right now--what I'm thinking about.
T: You have to take a shower.
T: God, I hate showers. Nobody except you understands the whole getting wet thing.
T: The best part of taking a shower is drying off.
G: Exactly. And the worst thing ever is if I have to dry off immediately and get dressed. I need to sit for at least half an hour in my towel.
T: Because you can't really get dry. No matter how many times I wipe the back of my arms with a towel, they're still wet.
G: And under the boobs.
T: And under my ass cheeks. But yours haven't fallen yet.
G: Something to look forward to.
T: It's not just showers, either. I always think I want to take a long hot bath, and then I get in, and I immediately think, "Ew, it's wet. I need to dry off." I think I have a cat soul.
G: Or a Chihuahua soul.
T: But Fay always wants to get in the tub with me.
G: Until she does get in. Then she wants back out.
T: That's so true! She's just like us.
G: Anyway, I've GOT to go take a shower and get ready for work.
T: Thank god I don't have to take a shower today, because I'm sick.
For his birthday, back in April, we gave Jack tickets for this month's U2 concert. Since then, he's learned An Cat Dubh in Gaelic and cleared up all the mondegreens in Mysterious Ways. He's been fielding calls from Cash Cab and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, because somewhere, on the Secret List for Bono trivia, his name is first for Phone-A-Friend.
Unfortunately, in order to attend the show last Tuesday, my son had to miss one of his 5.5 weekly drumline rehearsals. No matter that for four marching seasons he has endured July/August heat that would melt Victoria Beckham's face; regardless of the fact that in all that time he's missed--maybe--three practices, and those because he was too sick to hold a drumstick; no credit for making us plan our family vacations around band camp and grapefruit sales: Jack needed to be taught a lesson.
"You let your fellow band-mates down," scolded the band director, who wouldn't know The Joshua Tree from a Christmas tree. "You impeded the progress of the drill." And so he suspended Jack for a week, banning him from the next four practices and an away game.
Jack hates everything about away games: the way they eat up his Friday nights; how he has to help load the equipment truck; the fact he has to ride in the puke-vinyl-smelling buses. To make matters better, instead of marching in circles Monday through Thursday, he gets to stay home and watch House reruns. The worst thing about it is I'm making him keep an eye on Lola after school instead of sending her to ASP.
Biggy: So you wanna go to K&G tonight to look at that three-piece suit I want and then go to dinner?
TR: Sure. If you buy the suit, does that mean I get to buy those Frye boots I've been wanting?
Biggy: No. The suit is a great deal. I told you--I went in because I needed some dress shoes. Then I saw the suit sale--which gives you the shoes free if you buy the suit. So if I spend $180 on the suit, I get the $70 shoes for free. A screaming deal.
TR: Well, I should buy a ball gown then.
Biggy: That doesn't make any sense.
TR: Yeah it does. I need a ball gown as much as you need a suit.
Biggy: That's a bad analogy. Even if you could get the boots for free with the ball gown...I mean... You don't NEED the boots...I need the dress shoes. I could just pay $70 for the shoes, I guess, but for $50 more, I could get a suit too. It's a no-brainer.
TR: So, if I REALLY NEEDED a $50 pair of new running shoes, because mine were worn out, but I could pay $180 for a ball gown and get the shoes for free, that would be comparable?
Biggy: No, because I'd wear the suit more than you'd wear the ballgown.
TR: But I'd wear the running shoes more than you'd wear the dress shoes.
Biggy: But I'd wear the dress shoes more than you'd wear the boots, so...OH--AND I could wear the dress shoes WITH the suit!
I am thinking of them tonight, locked in their embrace, waters dark and cold. Do they have any warmth to give each other? Late yesterday, near exhaustion, they lay in the slough overhung with reed and pond apple, motionless-gator's jaws clamped on to the python's thick muscle, python wrapped around the gator's rough trunk. It started early, morning light slicing water. The python coiled and writhed, head waving above the fight. The gator wrestled, then backed from the slough, submerged and swam through open water-a gator drowns its prey- but when he surfaced, the python's head lifted, stared him in the eye. All day it went like that, slough to slough, diving and surfacing, positions shifting, python wrapped around the gator's snout, then a lurch, python in the gator's mouth but the head still lifting. What respect they must have for each other by now. Neither lets go. Neither is winning. They aren't even fighting. They lie in the dark and hold on.
A man took his girlfriend hiking Sunday afternoon on the gorgeous -- albeit rocky and rough -- Billy Goat Trail, on national parkland near Great Falls. At some point, he popped the question. She said yes.
As they continued their walk, the woman apparently slipped, fell down a rock face and was injured. With no way to reach her easily, emergency responders used a U.S. Park Police helicopter to pluck her off the path.
Authorities said that the woman, who briefly lost consciousness, suffered bumps and bruises and injuries to her head and chest that were not life-threatening.