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Sandra Bullock on motherhood

I don’t know anything about the movie Gravity, but I liked a lot of the things Sandra Bullock had to say about motherhood and work, in this interview for NPR  Of course she is rich enough to be able to decide whether or not to work; but it was very, very good to hear a woman saying,

[M]y baby before was my work. That’s what I had. And then I was given the blessing of this extraordinary creature and human being, who’s turning into a good little man.

And you just, you just realize that, you know, unless it’s a great experience for myself and for him, or unless this experience that I’m being offered will benefit him down the road, I’m not leaving the house. Or I’m leaving the house, but I’m not going to go work.

And once he’s in school, you know, permanently in school, those moments for me to work will be very few and far between. And I’m so happy to embrace that. So yeah, I think it’s changed me a thousand percent. And I think it’s made me better. And I think it’s made me, you know, less worried about if this film doesn’t work, you know, “What do I have?” You know, I go, “I already have everything. And if this film doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Nothing you can do.”

She describes how hard it is to be away from her baby when she’s working on a movie — and, what you hear less often, how hard it is on him.  He didn’t like seeing her in the weird isolation suspension rig they had built to make it look like she was trapped in space.  The question of whether women can balance work and mothering is often put in terms of what is best for the woman — which is significant, but not the whole story!

Transcript and audio here.

 

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Young Catholic women: what do you want to know about sex and the spiritual life?

I’ve very graciously been invited to lead a Theology on Tap discussion this Tuesday in Keene, NH.  Here’s the event description:

Think “Fifty Shades of Grey” is shocking? We’ll see your fifty and raise you 5 years and 129 talks–that’s what it took for Blessed John Paul II to outline his “Theology of the Body”, in which he explained the relationship between sex and spirituality. We’re so often taught in church that sex is a black-and-white, “do it” or “don’t do it” issue, but Theology of the Body teaches that there are so many shades of grey–we have to ask “why?” and “to what end?”, not just “can I?”
Join us as we split the ladies …and gents for separate discussions about Theology of the Body, sex, spirituality, and the practical application of the connection between the two!
The ladies’ conversation, led by author and blogger Simcha Fisher, will cover the basic ideas of ToB and how it impacts our relationships with men and our own bodies. Meet at Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant on Main Street!
The gents’ conversation will be led by Deacon Arnold Gustafson and will meet at Ramunto’s Pizzeria, also on Main Street!
Both groups will meet in private rooms at the venues so as to assure privacy when talking about this delicate topic.  See you there!
Local women, I would absolutely love to see you there!  Whether you can make it or not, I need your help.
What questions do you have?  What topics would you like to see addressed?  There is SO much here, and it’s just one night, so I’d like to focus the discussion on things that people really want to hear about.
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Miss Utah says “Bep”

When I ask my kids an impossible question in a high-pressure situation — say, something like, “You thought it was okay to use a toilet plunger, a real, used toilet plunger, that is used for REAL POOP, for your Dalek costume?  What were you thinking?  Huh?  What made you think that was okay?” — they don’t know what to say.  They’re the ones who put themselves in that situation, and yet they know and I know that there is no acceptable answer to the question.  But I’m all caught up in the passion of the moment, and I actually stand there, glaring at them, waiting for an answer.  More than once, the answer I’ve gotten is ” . . . bep . . . ”

I don’t know what “bep” means.  It’s some kind of croaking that comes straight from the soul of a person who’s face to face with the impossible, I guess.

“Bep” is more or less what Miss Utah said in a widely circulated, widely mocked video from the Miss USA Pageant.  Someone named Nene Leakes asked her, “A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?”  Here’s Miss Utah’s response:

Dopey, right?  Of course it is.  But my response was pretty much the same as what NPR blogger Linda Holmes says here:  that there’s no possible way anyone could give an intelligent or meaningful answer to that question, especially in that setting.

Not to put too fine a point on it, what kind of a simultaneously (1) dumb and (2) impossible to answer question is that? First of all, it’s three questions rolled into one — what does it say that in 40 percent of homes, women are the primary earners, or what does it say that women earn less than men, or what does it say that we allow these two facts to coexist?

Second of all, “What does this say about society?” Really? Not “What kinds of help do families need to make ends meet?” or something with at least some policy meat on the bones, but “What does this say about society?” Asked by NeNe Leakes? While you’re standing next to Giuliana Rancic, whose other job involves making people walk their fingernails down a tiny, hand-sized red carpet? What would have been a good answer to this question that could have been delivered in the time frame she had?

I think about this kind of stuff a lot. I’ve studied it. I’ve had about 20 years longer than Miss Utah USA to think about it. I have no idea what I would have said if someone had asked me such a moronic question on live television.

This isn’t the kind of question that actually tests what you know; it’s basically a test of your ability to generate cow patties on command.

What do they want from this poor woman?  They starve her and paint her and wrap her up like a rhinestone mummy, dangle a cash prize in front of her, and then ask her about women’s place in society.

I don’t suppose she stumbled because she was suddenly struck by a paralyzing bolt of irony.  I suppose she just got mixed up, and didn’t know what to say.  But still.

I don’t have any particular opinion about beauty pageants.  They used to seem exploitative and demeaning, but boy, you have to work pretty hard to stand out in that field these days.  It almost feels wholesome and reassuring that all these women have to do is trot around in bathing suits and have very white teeth, and nobody expects them to live tweet an orgasm or something.

What does that say about society?  Ohhhh, I don’t know.  Bep.

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Valentine’s Day Massacre

(photo source)

This year, I revealed to my husband that I actually kind of like Valentine’s Day.  This is despite all the times I told him that I hated it, it’s lame and stupid, and a made-up, over-commercialized saccharine-fest invented by Hallmark and Big Floral.   For fourteen years, the poor man has been wondering why, every February 14, I would say I wasn’t mad at him, while I was clearly mad at him.

I was mad, you see, because everyone else was getting flowers and riding in heart-shaped hot air balloons and– I don’t know, eating hot fudge sundaes that turned out to have a tiny violin player at the bottom.  And here I was getting nothing, which is what I repeatedly told him I wanted.  Pray for me:  I’m married to a monster.

Anyway, I finally realized that it doesn’t make me defective to enjoy flowers — and that if it’s artificial to suddenly act romantic on a nationally-specified day — well, we need all the help we can get.  Alarm clocks are artificial, too, but if they didn’t automatically remind us of what we ought to do, we’d be in big trouble.   So, yeah, I asked him to get me flowers, and take the plastic wrap off, and he will, and I’m going to like them.  Whew, that wasn’t so hard!

Having taken this huge leap forward in our communication skills, I decided to hunt around to see what normal human beings do on Valentine’s Day.

If you want to feel like you’ve got your act together, just ask the internet a question.  Okay, maybe not in all circumstances.  If you’re rewiring your living room, for instance, or trying to remove the Spaghetti-o decoupage from an angry cat, you may very well have lots to learn.

But if you need help with your relationships?  A quick trip down Google lane will have you feeling like an expert, a champion, a genius, a hero of common sense and decency.  For instance, if you Google “What do guys want for Valentine’s Day?” you will come across this depressing paen to modern love, written by a man:

One of my favorite presents was a trip to the grocery store.

I remember the clear, cloudless day, sun shining down on me proudly pushing my cart into Central Market. Rachel was with me, and some friends who came along.

I picked up a steak and set it in the cart. Rachel said, “That’s great, Doug!”

I grabbed some chips. Rachel said, “That’s really great, Doug!”

I picked up some really expensive jam. Rachel said, “Yum, that will be really great, Doug!”

In fact everything I picked up got the same response from her (or very close to it), and that was my present: I could choose anything I wanted, and she could only say how great everything was. What an awesome gift that was, a trip to the grocery store.

So what did I get, besides some red AND yellow peppers?

I got what most men want. I was accepted.

I weep for America.  I weep for mankind.  I weep for myself, because this is the saddest, stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and I read it three times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  What is Doug going to get for Christmas from the gracious lady Rachel?  A coupon for Not Getting Kicked In the Nuts?

You know, I probably treat my husband this way sometimes.  But the difference is, neither one of us is okay with it.  We don’t assume that relentless criticism and belittling is part of a normal relationship — we try to get past it.  And please note,Doug and Rachel’s travesty of a relationship is just as much Doug’s fault as it is Rachel’s:   women can’t demean their husbands and boyfriends without the man allowing, even wanting it to happen.  It takes two to be this dysfunctional.

This reminds me of the story of the man who had invented a brilliant method for saving money on the farm.  “On the first week,” he says, “I fed my  horse a bale of hay.  On the second week, I fed him half a bale of hay.  On the third week, I fed him a quarter of a bale.  I was damn near to teaching the horse to live on nothing at all, but on the fourth week, the ungrateful s.o.b. died on me!”

Happy stupid Valentine’s Day, folks.  I hope you get something nice.  Or if you get nothing, I hope at least it doesn’t feel like a gift!

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Pants Pass *sigh* COMMENTS CLOSED AGAIN

Sick of talking about pants yet?  TOO BAD!  I want to talk about pants!  Some more!

Actually, I want to talk about creeps.  Because that’s what this is about: it’s about creeps forgetting to hide how creepy they are.  So many people said so many smart things yesterday — but the best comments were the ones which rooted out the worst part of the original pantsalog.  The worst part was this:

[Wear skirts] for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for men to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).

“Merit?”  “Make it so it is good?”  I’ll translate this for you:

I don’t cheat on my wife, and that’s really hard, so I’m entitled to some compensation.  So line up, girls, and show me something special.  Neutrally modest isn’t good enough — I deserve something niiiiiiiice.

Oh, you sound just like Padre Pio; really you do!

Several other men in various comboxes expressed a similar idea of their right, as a virtuous man, to enjoy all women in a virtuous way.  They’re not satisfied with cracking down on their own wives — they feel that they’ve won the privilege of savoring and setting the standards for everyone else’s wife, too.

A few guys said that they could tell by the way I talk that I’m a disobedient wife.  How can they tell?  Because their wives wear skirts.  I usually don’t.  Therefore I must be disobeying my husband.

Never mind that my husband likes me in pants.  Which I mentioned.  So I guess they’re saying . . . that I should be obeying them?

Luckily for me, I have a husband who is just dying for someone to say something like that, so he can punch their lights out.  He recently quit smoking, and is looking for someone to punch.

But, ladies, what if your husband likes you in pants, but you happen to leave the house without him?  What if you’re doing some errands, you’re wearing pants, and some pigeon-toed guy with a scaly neck sidles up and confronts you for revealing the fact that you have legs — two of ‘em?

He scowls through his horrible beard and, once he gains control of the self-righteous quivering that shakes him from head to toe, he speaks:  “WHERE IS THY SKIRT, WOMAN?  WHY HAST THOU APPEARED AT WALMART IN THESE DETESTABLE PANTALOONS?  DOST THOU NOT RESPECT THY HUSBAND’S WISHES?”

Here’s what you do:  print out the following card, laminate it, and show it to the guy.

While he’s mentally translating it into Latin so it makes sense to him, you will be able to make a speedy getaway.  And since you’re wearing dem pants, you’ll do it without showing any skin!  Run, ladies, run!

(Pants Pass designed by my beautiful and talented sister-in-law, Rose Nigel)

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Pants: A Manifesto – COMMENTS CLOSED

Consider the following food for thought, and not a hard-and-fast directive.  So in case you were under the bizarre impression that some random essay written by a laypersonhas some moral force, then rest at ease.  I repeat, this is not a directive!  But you better listen to me, or you’re going to hell.

Top ten reasons I wear pants

1.  I live in NH, where winter happens.  Pants.

2.  My husband finds most women’s pants to be more or less neutral, as far as their power to affect him in a masculine way.  But he finds that most women’s skirts  . . . affect him.   So unless it’s the most wonderful time of the cycle for me:  pants.

3.  Three of my children are ages 4, 3, and 17 months.  They basically live on the floor.  To care for them, my choices are either (a) sit on the floor to be with them, or (b) bend over a lot to deal with them.  Yesterday at library story hour, my little girls felt shy, so I sat on the floor to be with them.   I was comfortable, relaxed, and modest.  Pants.

4. Motherhood is a blue collar job.  I don’t care what style of dress or skirt you’re wearing, there is no way to be modest while dealing efficiently with the routine emergencies that normal children engender –  children who, as a normal mode of expression, flail their limbs around like some kind of oversized, malevolent eggbeater, right at your hemline.  Today, I had to lunge halfway across the room to rescue my toddler, who had launched herself from an armchair at a glass gerbil tank.  I was able to lunge without pausing to consider whether my movements were graceful and feminine; and I didn’t worry, while lunging, about flashing the men in the room.  Pants.

5.  Traditional nuns manage to work in skirts, and so do men and women in the middle east.  So what?  Their lives are hard; mine doesn’t have to be.  Pants.

6.  My husband, being heterosexual, does not actually want to spend his free time browsing around Dress Barn with me.  Unfortunately, being a drooling idiot (that’s traddie talk for “woman I honor and respect”), I am utterly, faintingly, femininely unable to pick out modest and appropriate clothing for myself.  What ever shall I do!  There’s clearly only one option left for poor silly old me, and that’s to keep on safe ground.  Pants.

7.  When I show my husband a piece of clothing that I just bought, he admires it — but only because he loves me and knows I have no female friends to show it to.  In reality, I might as well be holding up a coupon for fig newtons, or a vacuum cleaner filter:  he just can’t see it.  When I put it on, then he can see it.  At this point in our marriage, I know what he’s going to like, so that’s what I buy.  I dress to please him, not other men who might pass me on the sidewalk.  Pants.

8.  Why do I get the distinct impression that some guys, demonstrable experts in marriage though they may be, are being a teeny bit disingenuous when they couch their views on modesty in terms of respect for women?  Why do I get the impression that if most women wore skirts, this type of fellow would suddenly be campaigning for more pants?  Why, in short, do my spidey senses tell me that this is not about modesty at all, but about control?  “Wear what I say, and I promise I’ll start respecting you.”  Pants!

9.  If you are so concerned about how I think about myself, then why don’t you ask me what I actually think, instead of telling me what you know I will think if I only listen to you?  Not that you asked, but I’ll tell you how I think about myself:  I think that my life got a lot better when I started making reasonable decisions for myself, instead of always wondering if I’m going to disappoint some hypothetical man.  I care profoundly what my husband thinks about me, and naturally that affects how I feel about myself.  Pants.

10.  You give the game away when you start talking about femininity and end up complaining about fat butts.  That makes you less of a moral leader and more of an asshole.  Pants.

Women, if you want to wear skirts, and it means something to your husband, then go ahead and wear skirts.  Skirts are not a sign of oppression and misery!  I wish I could pull off the look, and to those of you who do wear skirts:  I think you look nice.

But it’s not a moral issue.  At all.

In the early years of my marriage, I tried so hard.  I thought I had to make up for everything wrong I had done, and I thought I had to be a good example for everyone else who was still doing everything wrong.  I scrubbed my floors on hands and knees, I made crepes from scratch, and I wore skirts every day.  In other words, I made everything a lot harder than it had to be — and wasted lots of valuable physical and emotional energy in pursuing these ideals, while letting other, more useful virtues slide.  Virtues like kindness, flexibility, and common sense.

I had three kids in diapers, and I didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere.  Wearing skirts did nothing for me but make me awkward, self-righteous, and cold.  I guess some men find that appealing, but I’ve never heard my own husband pining for those days (the skirts were my idea, not his).  Many women are able to wear a skirt and function well.  I could not, and people who pressured me to try harder were doing me harm.

I think I’ve gotten beyond this phase, but the issue of skirts was a red herring that did a lot of genuine damage to my marriage, my self-respect, and my attitude toward other women.  That’s why messages like this anti-pants one make me so furious.  Yeah, lots of women dress immodestly — but  lots of other women are treated like retarded pets by their Good Catholic Husbands, and I’m sick to death of it.

I’m sick to death of messages like the one I linked to gaining any kind of legitimacy among otherwise intelligent men and women. Some women like to wear pants, and some don’t.  It’s not a moral issue.  If it’s a moral issue in your marriage, than your marriage has serious problems that a change in wardrobe will not heal.

Skirts won’t change the world.  I’ll tell you what will change the world:  men loving their wives — their actual wives, not some bizarre, imaginary amalgam of the Blessed Virgin and Grace Kelly.

So, ladies, if your priest friend forwards the anti-pants email to you, please remember:  one of the great strengths of the Catholic church is that it invites all sorts of men into its holy priesthood.  One of these men is infallible — but the one who sent you this email is not.  And the man who wrote the original message is not even a priest.

Pants, pants, pants!

Pants.

UPDATE:  Okay, ladies and gents, we just passed 300 comments.  Thank you for making me laugh so hard today and yesterday.  I’m closing comments now because I think everything has been said that can be said — although I really love the idea of Padre Pio duking it out in the confessional with Gianna Molla.   I realize that closing comments make me “mean and nasty,” but what can I say?  Pants will do that to a gal.