Friday, June 29, 2012

Things Were Said...and Here's Why

                                                                  NOT OUR HOTEL

Our vacation was incredible. We drove a little over 2,400 miles, visited two cooler and more scenic states in addition to the wider and flatter parts of our own, ate and drank with abandon, witnessed a beautiful wedding, heard about the marriage of another set of friends the day after we left them and celebrated our own anniversary. And now we're back. My brain has been sufficiently erased of the stresses which previously plagued it. If this is what electroshock therapy is like, then sign me up.

I would like to clarify my last post as well as its timing. During one notable wedding anniversary my sweet husband offered to accompany me down to the courthouse and buy my old name back for me. I didn't take him up on that offer for several reasons, the main one being that we had been married for a significant period of time and we had three children. Changing my name at that juncture would have offered up the appearance that we were in a bad place. And we were not. We are not.

However, every year the Hubs makes the same offer. He's watched me flinch when we get mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. George Clooney (sorry...I just drew a name out of a hat and it happened to be his). Or worse....a birthday card addressed only to Mrs. George Clooney...and my first name nowhere in sight. Or phone calls from people conducting a survey and asking for the head of the household. When I was younger I used to say, "And just who do you think THAT might be?" or "You're speaking to her.", but now I just say "There IS no head of the household here. We are equal partners." And then I hang up.

Because he does more than offer lip service to the words, "I understand that this is hard for you",  our anniversary has become a yearly milestone where he maintains that he's ready for the change whenever I am. In social situations my husband--whom I still adore for reasons too numerous to mention here-- introduces me using my real name and--for right now--that's enough. I don't mind using his name at work because it is easier and SO MUCH SHORTER than the one I used for 27 years. But in my head? I'm still that kid bearing the last name with 13 letters that everyone mispronounces and no one can spell.

Why didn't I change it back in the beginning? Because I was stupid. This is not to say that women who do change their names are stupid. I'm saying that I didn't know myself well enough then to intuit what would have been right for me, and by the time I figured it out (Yes. I'm slow. You can say it.), I felt that this window of opportunity had closed too far for me to squeeze through it.

So it was the Hubs' yearly offer--and not the new marriages we were celebrating on this trip--that brought on my  People (women) can do what they want and I have a wide variety of friends who reflect all the name choices women can make these days. I've just always been amazed, though I probably shouldn't be, at the legions of men who are slow to get on board with those choices.

In other news I saw that some of the stores are already featuring school supply displays. Upon spying the rows of crayons and spiral notebooks I had but one thought and it was this: "Angel of Death, take me now!" 

I am nowhere rested enough to face the classroom again, the likes of which--at my school-- made the movie "Midnight Express" look like a delightful spin on that teacup ride at Disneyland. Thank you,

Right now I'm enjoying the coolness of bare feet. The satisfaction of knowing that I can pick up a book for pleasure any time I want. Or phone a friend for lunch and then actually go. There's a cat passed out on the cushion next to me and a glass of iced tea on the table in front of me. My hair no longer feels like it's on fire. I'm able to think about and talk about things that AREN'T school and it's an incredible feeling. It's like finding a hidden room in your house that you didn't even know existed...and there's all this cool stuff in it. Enjoy all your cool stuff, blog peeps. That's what summer is all about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Rose By Any Other...

Lately, I've been thinking about tradition as it applies to marriage. About traditions that make sense and those that really do not. The tradition occupying space in my head today is the marital name change.

I know that its roots are based in the ancient principles of marriage...back when a woman was considered to be--both legally and socially--the property of her husband. For nearly all couples in modern times, this is no longer practiced, though I do have friends whose interpretation of religious scripture is informed by a man's view of "what's what" and this usually leaves the female half with the short end of the stick and pretending that she's okay with it. I'm grateful that our legal system is no longer allowed to enforce these archaic views and each marital participant comes to the table as an equal.


The name change thing is still alive and well and I don't understand why. I have friends who are all over the map with regard to how they handled this somehow still-controversial issue. Some continue to live and be married with the names they've always had. No harm and no foul. The kids they have either wind up with hyphenated names reflecting both parents (Which is done without blinking in other countries) or their father's name. I guess there's no escaping that last one. In some situations, the woman's name is hyphenated or she use both names without the hyphen.

Personally speaking? I took my "maiden" name as my middle name, though my bank checks, driver's license and work name reflect various forms of something more traditional. I wasn't really thinking about what it would mean until until it really DID mean something--and by then--I was afraid that changing it back would signal something untrue and negative. I still worry about it.

 I have one set of friends--and ONLY one--where the man (Let's call him Tom Smith) and his fiance (Teresa Jones) elected to become Tom Jones Smith and Teresa Jones Smith. It is the only situation I know of where the man made an equal sacrifice of his identity. Mostly though, whether out of religious obedience, tradition, or a desire not to rock the boat, the woman usually just kicks her own name to the curb and takes a new one. Even those who claim that it's not a big deal will notice the first time she starts getting mail that says Mrs. John Sadsack, rather than Mrs. Jennifer Sadsack, because the first thing that will go through her head (and you can't stop it) is, "Seriously? I lost my first name too?"

In practically EVERY case--whether the groom is a flaming liberal or a neo-conservative, he escapes with name and identity intact. every case the following is absolutely true whether you want to believe it or not and it is this: Changing your name (or marrying a woman who changes her name to yours) does not in any way make you more married or more committed than if you drifted blissfully through life with your original birth names. It also doesn't mean that she loves her husband any more than a woman who chooses to keep the name she was born with.

If you think about it, marriage has long been dictated by both attitudes AND behaviors. What about the attitude or idea that a woman belonged to her father before belonging to her husband, thus the need for the prospective male to request permission to marry her? We no longer believe that a woman belongs to her father or to her husband, but many still participate in the tradition of asking for her hand. So, even though we've dropped the ancient attitude, we still cling to the empty practice that went along with it.  Why do we do this? To me it's like someone who loses a ton of weight and while being a much thinner person, continues to hang on to the old clothes....and wear them. Why continue the practice if the law behind it is no longer in place?

Perhaps, the part that confounds me most is this: Why men who seem to completely understand why their own names are so incredibly important to them and who are 100% resistant to ever changing them or losing them along with the accompanying identity and horrified that you'd even suggest it...are equally adamant--or at least mildly insistent-- that their partner sacrifice everything they believe they shouldn't have to. As though women are lesser animals with a dulled sense of who they are or what they are about and that they probably won't notice the change or feel any different because of it. And? Despite what some insist,  it's NOT more convenient. It's actually very complicated... both emotionally as well as technically speaking, what with all the accompanying paperwork and fees. Sure, you'll have the same name as your kids, but if you divorce? You'll be less jazzed about being saddled with the constant reminder of your association with him and you'll have to buy your old name back. I have it on good authority that it is a fairly expensive process. Consequently--both then and now and whether you stay married or not--name changing is only convenient for the man.

Which means? Some things haven't changed at all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tentmaker Wanted

We're here in Aspen for the wedding of a friend and co-worker of mine. This morning, the Hubs took off to play golf and I hiked around town for about two and half hours looking at shops and taking photos (describing the cool weather) to send back to friends in my home state where the climate is approaching its usual 100+ temperatures. Also? I am free from worry about any kind of karmic payback because the altitude her won't allow it. Rocky Mountain High...and all that. Not so much an urban myth.

I amused myself by walking into Ralph Lauren just to see what was going on and there were a bunch of people there working on a display and being oh-so- serious about it because that handbag has got to catch the As though Judge Ralph himself was about to walk in. I spent a few moments finding a non-bourgeois discreet way to look at a tag-- without actually seeming to look--because that's how Lucy did it when she and Ethel went to the Don Loper Salon in Hollywood and she got her ring caught on a tag--and you know this is exactly what I was thinking about when I found out that a simple blouse from the SALE rack at RL is still $950. On the SALE rack. Nine. Five. Oh-my-god! Which means that when it's not ON SALE it's only slightly less than my mortgage payment every month.

I know!!

So I wandered into a small boutique and the woman there was very nice and very...very thin (I'm not a hater!) and we were talking about the climate when her co-worker/owner came in and--without really seeing me--announced to the first woman that she had just bought a bunch of "dresses in really big sizes---like 8's and 10's." 

The words REALLY BIG just sort of hung out there in the air like a cartoon bubble over their heads.

I think the first woman knew--as all savvy clothing store owners must-- how to eyeball a person and determine approximate size and had probably already done so with me. I also think she felt it was her duty to perform a deft verbal recovery of the situation so that I--a decent looking 5'8" woman with credit cards and wallet full of vacation cash who wears clothing in the 8-10 range--didn't become offended. Or possibly have a little come-apart in her store and get my elephantine/ supersized  8-10 tears on something expensive.

Too late.

So she said--very quickly-- "That's great, because--you know--people like that have to wear clothes too."

People. Like that. Shit.

And then the second person DID see me and she said, "Sure, we like their business as much as anyone else's."

You much as the business we get from people without cooties.

Cooties named "cellulite".

I wanted to reassure her and say, "Don't worry yourself about this one bit because I have all my clothes made at the tent and awning outlet near my trailer park community that's two states away and there's nothing here that is of any earthly use to me and--hey--I'm really thirsty. Do you know if there's a place nearby where I can get a glass of gravy to drink?"

Which isn't even true because I just bought a really cool skirt at Old Navy the other day and it's not even close to the size of a picnic blanket, movie projector screen or even a car cover and by making that statement now I know I sound all petulant and....defensive. Am I?

Or am I just offended that the human x-ray who owned that store thinks there are only two types of people in this world: Skeletal people with eating disorders (pretty, pretty people who look good in clothes).....and then everyone else and all those individuals should be rounded up and shot arrested and sentenced to shop at Walmart for the rest of their natural lives.

Other than this? Aspen is gorgeous and everyone else I've met has been very friendly and kind and there's a store that sells t-shirts dyed with chocolate or red wine. I take mine in a size 8-10. Hold the gravy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I've started and stopped this blog and its various incarnations so many times that I'm unsure if I have ever mentioned that I practice yoga. I live in the Bible Belt. Please, no throwing rocks.  I don't so much reside on the buckle of the belt,--but just the part of the leather that always misses a belt loop somewhere near your butt and then hangs there all useless and stupid looking while--in the process- making you look like someone who probably gets help tying his/her shoes. I mention this only because there are people out there in my neck of the woods who like to think that yoga is a negative thing because it discusses aspects of spirituality not directly related to subjects you might hear about on The 700 Club.

Which is crazy because I have a very religious aunt who speaks in tongues and she used to practice reflexology, the use of bodily pressure points connected in mysterious ways to other body parts, to cure a headache. You don't have to understand why something works to appreciate that it does work and that's sort of how I feel about yoga.  It's like spiritual aspirin. I'm not for trying to ascribe qualities of evil (or good) to something like chataranga, which is basically a slow push-up, simply because I'm not listening to Joyce Meyer reading aloud from John Birch's personal diary while I'm doing it. In case you were wondering. What I'm really after is the ability to wave to passing friends without revealing a tragic case of eraser arm. Because I am that shallow. And I want to wear short sleeves again without shame.

So I probably don't practice yoga in the deeply spiritual way that one should approach anything that attempts to bring mind and body together and I freely admit this. I'm more of the mind that stroke inducing heat combined with killer poses held for inhumane periods of time will help me shoehorn my ass into a smaller jean size. Eventually.

Depending upon whose class I take, there may or may not be talk of the Seven Chakras. I won't bore you with the details here because, assuming you got to this site on your own power, you know how the internet works. I figure you'd look up that junk on your own. Anyway, last night--at the urging of a friend--I took a test to see if my chakras were firing on all four cylinders. Or maybe all seven. Who knows?

Sadly, friends, they are not. Apparently my root chakra--the one which allows me to walk alone into a crowded school cafeteria and calmly set my tray down without a major panic attack--  is grossly anemic. Who are we kidding? It's on life support. Conversely, my throat chakra--the one which controls my facility with oral and written expression--is exactly as strong as my root is weak. I am the Morgan Freeman of throat chakras while my root is that tiny man on Fantasy Island no one listens to.

 In short, I am comfortable saying exactly what I want to say, but I don't feel at home enough anywhere to say what I need to say. This is why I blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Last Summer and This One: A Venn Diagram

I remember writing in a near delirium in June of '11 when the last day of school finally arrived and the teachers in my building were holding back tears of gratitude which a few of the kids mistook for sadness. Suckers. The year had been so terribly taxing that many of us were presented with a Sophie's Choice moment where we had to decide between dropping to our knees, ripping off our shirts and twirling them over our heads the way Brandi Chastain did that time the American women won the World Cup in soccer....or simply driving blindly to the closest bar (easy to find when you work in the 'hood) and lying face up underneath a tap of whatever they had plenty of with instructions NOT to turn it off under pain of death. Theirs...not ours.

This year was so different. And by different I mean worse. So. Much. Worse.  Our building is down to half of a vice principal, half a nurse, a librarian with no aide, no building monitor --We have a violent population of students--and the literacy and math coaches were all pink-slipped. Teachers haven't had a raise in three years, but the insurance is going up, so we're making less now than we were before. Awesome! Three teachers retired outright and one just quit in the middle of the year. Just said, "I'm done", gave her notice and left in January.  Several of us looked for jobs in other parts of the district, but due to budget cuts, principals weren't allowed to hire anyone who wasn't on the district's crap list slush pile  assortment of surplused employees cut from other buildings for all manner of reasons--be they reasonable or idiotic. One had to leave the district completely in order to have any choice in where to work and only one of us had the guts to go ahead and do that. I'm looking at you, Rebecca. Vaya Con Dios and all that. You might be across town, but you know you'll still be able to hear me scream from there.


Anyway. So when that last bell rang about 8 days ago there was a half-hearted attempt to celebrate, but we were a broken group of people. Bro-ken, I tell you. Two days later I was in a yoga class and someone asked me if I was glad to be released on my own recognizance enjoying summer (which was more like a rhetorical question borne of politeness than one that really begged an answer) and I realized that---yes--I was relieved, maybe? Exhausted, certainly. Truly, friends, I searched for a word that would describe how I was feeling. I guess I was a bit in shock that my phone could ring and I was allowed to answer it. Or that I could need to use the bathroom and have the freedom to leave without fear that one 4th grader would gift a fellow classmate with a blowjob (true story) in my absence. But mostly...I was unable to feel as though I was capable of celebration. 1) Because I, like so many of my teaching compadres, felt we had pretty much crawled to the finish line this year, and 2) It was not over by a long shot and August would be here before we knew it. I bought a new calendar today, but I've taped together the pages for August and will not be looking at them any time soon. And no one can make me.

I found myself at the mall this afternoon, which is a lot like Wal-Mart or the DMV these days, as far as sheer visual entertainment goes. I had to get my glasses adjusted because I'm going to Aspen, Colorado next week and I'd like to be able to see the mountains. I rewarded myself with some jeans from Old Navy, and because most of their blouses look like they'd be snug on a toddler,  I opted out. The mall proves to be the polar opposite of Old Navy because the clothing displayed would seem to suggest that only three kinds of people shop there: 1)Tupac Shakur (I know...he's dead...and yet...) 2) Mrs. Roper from "Three's Company" and 3) Betty White.  Don't get me wrong. I love Betty, but I'm not quite ready to make velveteen jogging suits a substantial any part of my wardrobe.  I finished off by going to the bookstore--which WASN'T in the mall-- but they were playing country music and I had to leave before I began displaying symptoms of stigmata.  It could happen. Stress does funny things to a person.

It's good to be back.