Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today's rant

I'm asking myself the same question that Leonard Pitts so eloquently posed in yesterday's editorial: "How fat is a woman allowed to be before her opinions no longer matter?"

Apparently Laura Ingraham knows the answer but she doesn't seem to be sharing exactly where the line is between an acceptable appearance (and therefore a right to have opinions and express them) and an unacceptable appearance which disqualifies a woman from the same. Presumably, the line is somewhere between Ms. Ingraham's own weight and that of Meghan McCain's.

Here's the story: John McCain's daughter blogged that she found Ann Coulter "offensive, radical, insulting and confusing." Laura Ingraham immediately responded by marginalizing Meghan McCain by calling her "plus-sized" and implying that her opinions don't matter for that reason. (Remember, Meghan was blogging, not giving speeches.)

The part that bothers me is not that Ms. Ingraham wanted to defend Ms. Coulter. It's certainly her right to do so. It's more about that way we go about marginalizing women by reducing them to their weight and their appearance. We see it in the public arena all the time--Hilary Clinton being the most recent example of a capable woman being diminished by how the public's opinion of how she looks in a pantsuit. (If you don't believe me, go read any comment thread on any mainstream website.) I think Oprah Winfrey was initally embraced by women everywhere because she was a large woman who dared to say what she thought and acted like she thought she had a right to.

Since I think Hilary Clinton and Oprah can take care of themselves, however, I'm even more disturbed, when it shows up in women's personal lives. I can't count how many times I see smart, caring women reduced to shame and self-doubt when people in their lives call them "fat bitches" and "stupid cows" and "ugly." It's as though women ourselves buy into the poisonous myth that being overweight or being older or not being pretty disqualifies us, marginalizes us, and lessens our worth and our right to speak our minds.

By the way, Meghan McCain is about a size 8. What does that say about the rest of us?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Aaaaahhh . . .

Remember the sound of the Nestea plunge? That's how I've felt since Sunday at noon. On Sunday, I took Mowgli to the airport to send him back to NC, sent Boo off on a Spring Break mission trip and then left with my sweetie for two nights in San Antonio. We meandered on the Riverwalk, ate two fabulously self-indulgent dinners (steak one night, fish the next), took naps and remembered what it was like to be on vacation!

I took my new camera and spent quite a bit of time learning to use it but ended up not taking any real photos because it turned out that I wanted to be unencumbered and that meant not even carrying a camera. So no photos here . . . instead, I want to leave you with a quote from the book I took with me--Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. I have to say, I am going to carry the memory of this book with me for the rest of my life. I'm stunned that I never found it before now.

Anyway, Hannah speaks about the intimacy of a long marriage this way:

The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than worlds on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day's end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes away, and there you are where giving and taking are the same, and you live a little while entirely in a gift. The words have all been said, all permissions given, and you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room?


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sic 'em, bears!

Yesterday was a big day for our household. The Baylor Bears beat UT for the chance to play in the Big 12 championship--completely shocking even to the die-hard fans in this family. C still gets so animated that he scares the children! The only time our kids have ever heard their dad yell is when the Bears or the Astros are playing and the stakes are high. Also, Guilford College (where Mowgli goes to school) advanced from the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight in Division 3 last night. UPDATE: Guilford is now in the Final Four.

Let me just say: when I married this man, I had no idea what a role sports would have in my life. Ok, honestly, I guess I had an inkling that he "liked sports," whatever that meant . . . but no reference point to understand the passion, the loyalty, the heartbreak, the obsession. In my house growing up, the only sport I ever remember being on TV was golf, which was as much nap-inducing as anything else. Anyway, let's just say that the two men in my house are very, very happy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Relationships and technology

We're on our way to the ATT store to upgrade our phones and change our plan to one with less talking and more texting. Actually, we're currently charged for our texts individually (at about 20 cents each!) because we've got the only two teenagers in the world who don't like to text. But that's changing because Boo's friends like to text, leaving her little choice, and because my clients are increasingly choosing to contact me that way.

That reminds me of something I've been noticing more and more. I am amazed at how much delicate relational work couples are doing through texting. I actually watched one couple negotiate at least half of their decision to divorce through text messages, back in the days before qwerty phones, when they had to do it all with their thumbs.

One thing I'm noticing now is how one or both partners have the expectation that their spouse should be immediately available by phone 24 hours a day. This is a common scenario: the wife will text her husband something innocuous like "how r u?" but doesn't hear back. This makes her anxious so she starts sending messages questioning his love for her, expressing her insecurity and eventually her fury. By the time he gets back to her to tell her that he was in a meeting or on a phone call or (in one case) laying carpet, she is feeling so abandoned and angry that repairing the damage seems impossible. Although it's sometimes the husband and not the wife, I am seeing this pattern on at least a weekly basis.

I also see couples who bicker by email (or now texting) all day long, leaving them both emotionally exhausted and angry by the end of the day when they reconnect. Understandably, they're just so tired of all the negativity that they want to end the marriage without even noticing the toll that technological accessibility is taking.

More and more often, I'm prescribing no texting, no cell phone calls and no emailing for couples during the work day, making them earn back the privilege with "good behavior." Twenty years ago when I started this work, I never imagined!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

And it wasn't even Friday the 13th!

Let's say it's Friday morning and you have to leave town at noon to drive to another town to see friends, go to a party and lead a retreat on Saturday morning. And say you waited til the last minute to make copies of all your handouts. I know, I know, none of you would actually do that but just pretend that you had a couple of really good reasons for waiting til the last minute.

And say that you had exactly enough time to get everything copied and get packed except that then your printer black ink cartridge ran out halfway through the first set of copies. And then say that you got a frantic call about a client emergency that was going to take at least an hour to manage, not to mention all the worry and concern you're now consumed with. And say that, even though you're running an hour late, the printing job is going smoothly, what with the new ink cartridge and all. And then say, the power goes out.

I'm home now and all went well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lenten lessons

What I've learned during Lent so far is that every bit of my vitality, my joie de vivre, my zest for living apparently comes from caffeine.