Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Preparing to leave Spinsterhood

Spinster: an unmarried woman past the common age of marriage. The estimated median age, at first marriage, in the United States for 2000-2003 was 27 and 25 years old, for men and women respectively.

Friends have asked if I'll be having a bachelorette party before I marry, whenever that will be. I have responded with, "No! If I have any kind of party, it will be a spinster party."

I have cherished my spinsterhood. I have also cursed it. I have also figured that if I weren't going to be married by the time I left my 30's, I might as well be dead. I would hear of an untimely death -- maybe a young mother who caught a stray bullet or an honored soldier killed in Iraq -- and I'd invariably think, "There's another person who's leaving behind children, a spouse, people who depend on them. Why not me instead? Why couldn't I die since I have no one depending on me?" It seemed so horribly unfair. I learned of the deaths of so many people whose place I felt I would have gladly taken, me, a spinster coming up fast on 40 (this was in 2003).

So I can't glorify my spinsterhood, but I made the best of it I could. I spent over 12 years living by myself, supporting myself financially, working damn hard to build a community of friends, in part to take the place of the primary, intimate relationship I usually didn't have.

I believe bachelorette (imagine my sneer) parties developed as the counterpart to the male pre-wedding ritual that gives a man his last chance to have fun before the walls of marriage close in. Similarly, bachelorette parties are meant to close out the sexually carefree stage of a woman's life, celebrating her many conquests, acquired skills and the appropriate number of sexual partners that now allows her to go peacefully into a monogamous, interminable relationship.

Screw that. I'm not reducing being single to a period of frenzied sexual activity.

Being single allowed me to answer to no one, sticking my finger in the peanut butter jar, leaving the maxi's out all month long, debating and discussing with my girlfriends into the night as the dishes sat in the sink. I could clean or not clean, eat cake for dinner, date a different man every weekend (and I did). I saved my money carefully and then blew it on exactly what I wanted. I made life decisions about changing jobs and churches and gods and neighborhoods and the only person I had to convince was myself. I had to deal with no one else's laundry and no one else's mother. IT WAS GREAT.

AND IT SUCKED. I will never have to wonder if I've had enough boyfriends to satisfy me through a lifetime of monogamy (I'm good, thanks). I've had enough of imagining how long it would take someone to find me if I died in my one-bedroom apartment. I have loved my independence dearly and I have declared my spinsterhood proudly, but now I am ready to try a different challenge. There are women in their 40's who face for the first time the challenges of self-sufficiency and dating and living on their own. I, in my 40's, face for the first time the challenges of compromise, sleeping with the loudest snoring in the world and deciding with someone else what we are going to do with our savings.

At my spinster party, I would reflect on what was good and what was bad about being a spinster. I'd like to honor that time of my life -- because it went on for a LONG time -- and gratefully say good-bye to it. Unlike being single, which you can go back to as soon as the divorce is final, I believe spinsterhood can be enjoyed only once, before the first marriage. I think of it as similar to virginity.

These are the kinds of things I'm considering as I anticipate becoming a wife. These days people ridiculously like to say to me, "You only get married once!" to which I usually respond, "Or as many times as you get married." Maybe I'll start replying "No, you're only a spinster once." That's the life shift I won't be able to undo.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Latinos for Obama

Whoa! Look at this: there ARE Latinos supporting Obama, such as the musicians of Mariachi Aguilas de Mexico. This is some pretty good music, too.

English translation of the lyrics:

To the candidate who is Barack Obama
I sing this corrido with all my soul
He was born humble without pretension
He began in the streets of Chicago
Working to achieve a vision
To protect the working people
And bring us all together in this great nation
Viva Obama! Viva Obama!
Families united and safe and even with a health care plan
Viva Obama! Viva Obama!
A candidate fighting for our nation
It doesn't matter if you're from San Antonio
It doesn't matter if you're from Corpus Christi
From Dallas, from the Valley, from Houston or from El Paso
What matters is that we vote for Obama
Because his struggle is also our struggle, and today we urgently need a change
Let's unite with our great friend
Viva Obama! Viva Obama!
Families united and safe and even with a health care plan

Viva Obama! Viva Obama!
A candidate fighting for our nation

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

new job search direction

Last week -- from one of those by-chance connections through friends -- I had an interview with the publishing division of a communications group. It's a job it wouldn't have occurred to me to apply for, but a friend put in a good word for me and they asked for my resume. The interview felt really good and I felt optimistic (and we know how rare that is for me).

I'm excited about this possibility. I'd be a freelance proofreader of copy for college textbooks (Spanish, ESL, English, social science, etc.). I'd only be employed when they have projects that need an extra person and I'm still waiting to hear what will come of it, but it's made me realize that I really want to be working with words. Proofreading sounds good for now, but maybe eventually I can try for a job as an editor or writer. This is my current dream. It makes me afraid that now that my job search is more focused, it will become harder. It also doesn't necessarily mean I'll be bringing home a paycheck any sooner.

It's so hard to be unable to get even temp work these days. Usually I sign up with a few temp agencies and I've got steady work within a week or so. This period of having NOTHING to do all day is stretching on for an incredibly long time! I feel like no one wants me. Has my experience become so stale and useless?

I try to remember that the economy is worse than it's ever been when I was out of work. I also try to remember that I have an amazing guy who is marrying me soon and he'll keep me afloat for however long it takes (for me to become a contributing member of society again). But I think I should be careful not to use wedding/marriage planning as a distraction or cheering-up mechanism. Here's the kind of thinking I want to avoid: I can't find work, but I can shop for pretty clothes and research fancy honeymoon spots and look forward to spending thousands of dollars I might or might not ever earn. Oooh, and I have to taste wedding cakes, lots of wedding cakes!

That sort of thing. Although, I guess the cake tasting doesn't cost anything...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Valentine's Day

I just came from the blog of Obesio the Loser (who is ending his blog, but I hope will not be deleting his blog) and there are so many comments about retiring bloggers that I thought I'd better post so it doesn't look like I'm stopping, too.  By the way, "Obesio the Loser" is my favorite online nom de plume.  No, it's my favorite all-time nom de plume, and I have two degrees in English literature, so that's quite a statement.

My computer is working again, after its tumble off the kitchen counter.  This past week I was busy with an actual three-day temporary office job -- my first all year -- and a couple of interviews, also my first all year.  I also participated in a focus group that paid me $125 for two hours of my time and my television viewing habits.  Oh, I was raking in the cash.  Too bad it was totally surpassed by $400 worth of computer repairs.

On to the subject of this post.  My fiance took me out to a romantic dinner on Thursday night and I wondered, "Will he stop doing these things when we're married?  How long will we be married when the romance stops?"  Dinner was great, but he also handed me a Godiva chocolates gift bag.  It contained a box of my favorite chocolates:  a dark assortment.  It also contained a box of my other favorite: a white chocolate assortment!  Why is he so good?  Will this stop after we're married?

As we ate, he asked, "Do you want me to give you your Valentine's gift here or at home?"

I said, "You gave me my Valentine's gift.  It was the chocolate."

He said, "No, that wasn't it."

He handed me a little box which contained small gold hoop earrings, rimmed with small diamonds.

Why is he so good?  I've already agreed to marry him.  How can he be so good? Surely this behavior will stop soon after we're married.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Computer Broken, will post later

My laptop crashed to the ground, while it was open and running. OUCH. Now it's in the shop. I'm writing this on my fiance's desktop that's so ancient it doesn't even have a USB port and he uses dial-up! The poor guy has never known any other way of life, in spite of my best efforts.

I'll post again when I get my real computer back (this weekend?).

Friday, February 08, 2008

English Only (this one's for you, Tom L)

Two weeks ago, in response to my January 19th post, one reader commented:

Tell me more about ‘English Only bull#$%.’ What does that refer to? Does Mexico publish its voter materials in other languages for the benefit of non-Mexican-speakers?

English Only is a movement that attempts to stop the use of any language other than English in official U.S. communications. An advocate group for English Only, called U.S. English, states:

…the passage of English as the official language will help to expand opportunities for immigrants to learn and speak English, the single greatest empowering tool that immigrants must have to succeed.

Passing legislation that establishes English as the official language of the United States is ridiculous (of course English is our main language – duh!) and prejudiced against the millions of Americans who speak many other languages. People who advocate for English Only use the rhetoric of national unity and patriotism to thinly veil their prejudice against immigrants and their fear that immigrants threaten American culture.

To address the question about Mexico publishing its voter materials in other languages for the benefit of non-Spanish speakers, no, it does not, but then there isn’t an influx of American immigrants crossing the Mexican border, trying to establish permanent residency and become voting Mexican citizens. Nevertheless, many countries accept English as their second language and strive to learn it. In China children must start learning English in grammar school. All over the world, including in Mexico, literature is published and signs are translated into English. Businesses make sure they have English-speaking staff for their foreign customers.

Meanwhile, back in my native country, Spanish is arguably the second most often spoken language in the U.S., but many Americans remain afraid of this reality. Why are we so afraid to admit the huge presence of Spanish in our culture when other countries aren’t afraid of English?

Back to the specific question about voter materials being translated into a non-dominant language: why shouldn’t American voter materials be published in Spanish (besides xenophobia)? People who request voter information in Spanish are American citizens with a special need. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act required public buildings to have accommodations for Americans with special physical needs, which resulted in adjustments to building entrances, sidewalks, public transportation and work environments. We are actually one of few countries that provides such accommodations. If there are other countries with legislation similar to the American Disabilities Act, it hasn’t been enforced to the extent that it has been here. But just because other countries don’t accommodate its special needs citizens doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Likewise, if Mexico doesn’t provide bilingual ballots that doesn’t mean we should act similarly. Bilingual ballots were created by Americans to assist Americans. I’m proud to live in a country that tries to accommodate everyone, including those who need a little extra help.

Supporters of English Only believe that if we translate nothing into any other language that “will help to expand opportunities for immigrants to learn and speak English.” This sentiment suggests that immigrants are in need of motivation to learn English. In fact, Latino immigrants to the U.S. are extremely motivated to learn English. They come here for economic opportunities and everyone knows that the more English you speak, the better the job you can get. Why would anyone think that Latino immigrants do not know that the quicker they learn English, the quicker they will make better money?

Immigrants don’t need any more motivation to learn English. What they need is English classes they can attend regularly and the time to study. Lack of English instruction and lack of time (often from working more than one job in a day) is what keeps many immigrants from learning English.

When I hear someone ask a question similar to the one that started this post, I am reminded of the incredible fear of many Americans that Latino immigrants are taking over American culture, which I think is actually fear that all Latinos – American-born included – are taking over this culture. What culture are such fearful people are trying to protect? Even mainstream, dominant American culture is extremely fluid, adopting pieces of different languages and dialects, cuisines, music, behaviors, fashion, etc. What isn’t American culture willing to sample, blend, and re-create? Our willingness to welcome new ideas from other cultures might be the only way in which we are truly democratic.

Questioning the practice of translating government materials into Spanish shows a desire to exclude people, and that disappoints me. What does it cost us to translate English into Spanish? Whatever amount it is, it’s not nearly as great as the cost of excluding Latino immigrants when they are part of the lifeblood of the U.S. and, in an increasing number of cities, the only source of economic and population renewal.

But we can argue all day about this and it won’t really make a difference because, in reality, information gets translated when there is a need and when the group with the power to translate feels motivated to meet that need. Even if legislation passed restricting all official communication to English, we’d still have plenty of companies, such as McDonald’s and Budweiser, eager and willing to translate their advertising into Spanish. As long as there’s a financial reason to accommodate Spanish-dominant speakers, we will. With American companies financially motivated to advertise in Spanish and immigrants financially motivated to learn English, I’m sure we can reach common ground, can’t we?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney's Out!

Whoa..Mitt Romney's suspending his campaign. Now what will Ann Coulter do? Poor Ann Coulter...(only time you'll ever see Ann Coulter's name on my blog).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

post-Super Tuesday

Today I feel down and discouraged about my continuing lack of employment, plus I feel physically wrung out after spending six and a half hours outside in the cold yesterday just to earn $40. I'm aware that everyone in my family voted for Clinton, making me feel like some kind of traitor, plus I'm receiving more information that casts doubt on Obama's viability. I feel doubt about my ability to make decisions, any kind of decision. It's all gray outside and I just want cake.'s some input on Obama's background that speaks to Obesio's comments about the "narrative" that Obama's "handlers have been pushing." "Carefully Crafting the Obama Brand" came out in the Chicago Tribune last summer. Who knows? But I guess I still say that -- given the current presidential choices -- if Barack Obama is just some slick packaging and an ability to get where he wants to go, is that so bad as long as I want to go there, too?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Obama the Uniter

In response to Obesio's request for evidence supporting the assertion in my last post that Barack Obama has a strong record of building bipartisan coalitions, I present the following. I know I need more sources than this, but it's a start.

From Newsweek's Across the Divide which was published in its July 16 2007 issue (page 2 of the online version):

From his earliest days as a politician, Obama has made a career out of reconciling opposing sides. He's been able to assuage some conservative whites, who have been surprised by his lack of grievance and encouraged by his pragmatism. And he's accomplished that, for the most part, without alienating African-American supporters. The story of how he has walked that tightrope reveals a lot about what kind of politician Obama is, and how he might perform in the White House. It also says something about how far America has come—and how far it has to go.

Obama's first campaign was among the mostly white voters at Harvard Law School. At the time, in the early 1990s, the school was torn over racial issues such as affirmative action. On the left, there was anger at the failure to appoint African-American professors; on the right, there was dismay at the influence of liberal scholars who condemned the criminal-justice system as skewed against minorities and the poor. Amid this turmoil, Obama won election to the presidency of the influential law review by seeking consensus—with the support of a bloc of conservative students.

The conservatives knew he wasn't one of them, says former classmate Bradford Berenson (who later served in George W. Bush's White House). "What really set him apart from the people who had roughly the same views he did is that he did not demonize the people on the other side of the dispute," says Berenson. "He was not the sort to accuse people of being racist for having different views of affirmative action." Obama rewarded the conservatives by appointing several to the masthead of the law review, which angered some of his more-liberal supporters.

And this is from page 4 of the online version of the same article:

Back in the Illinois Senate, Obama made a name for himself as someone who could work both sides of the aisle. He befriended an eclectic group of lawmakers, including Kirk Dillard, a conservative Republican. Dillard specifically recalls Obama's work to reach a compromise on the death penalty. Gov. George Ryan had commuted every death sentence in the state after a series of flawed cases had come to light; the legislature was deeply split. Conservative law-and-order types were incensed, while black legislators, in particular, thought it was about time that the state stopped executing prisoners who had been wrongly convicted. Obama was handed the herculean task of reaching a compromise. He did so by getting conservatives to embrace the idea of videotaping police interrogations and suspects' confessions. Among Obama's toughest opponents: Illinois state Sen. Ed Petka, a former prosecutor who had put so many men on death row that his friends called him Electric Ed. "Ed Petka was the hardest person for Obama to convince that he was the real deal, but even Petka became an Obama convert with respect to these criminal-law issues," says Dillard. (Petka, now a Will County judge, declined to comment.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

This Hispanic voter is not for Hillary

I'm disturbed by the assumption that Hillary Clinton has the Latino vote in her back pocket. I'm disturbed by the media assertion that there's tension between black and Latino voters. I'm disturbed by Sergio Bendixen's statement that "The Hispanic voter -- and I want to say this very carefully -- has not shown a lot of willingness to support black candidates." Who is the media talking about when it says that Hispanics support Hillary Clinton?

I spent part of my afternoon volunteering at the Chicago headquarters for Barack Obama's campaign. I am not a part of this monolithic block of Hispanic voters that is supporting Clinton. I don't believe there really is a monolithic block of Hispanic voters supporting Clinton.

I watched the debate on Thursday night and I saw that Clinton has all the details worked out and she does an excellent job of explaining her plans and displaying what a good president she would be. I've read the criticism that Obama doesn't answer policy questions with as many details as he should and sometimes it's hard to really know what he's going to do once he's in office. I've read the criticism that he's mostly good packaging with less substance than Clinton has. I can't deny that Clinton would be a great president with a lot of the answers and she deserves all the support she's getting.

In fact, as I listened to Obama and Clinton on Thursday night, I liked Hillary more and more. I realized that either one would make a great president and I totally understand why many Democrats are undecided. These two candidates don't differ a lot in their stands on the issues. They differ mainly in -- what shall I call it? This is how Caroline Kennedy put it in her op-ed piece, "A President Like My Father" :

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

Obama and Clinton are both excellent candidates for president, but I don't think we can ignore the way Obama has mobilized the Democratic vote. He has people talking about politics who have never talked about politics before. He has inspired debate between neighbors, family members, roommates, couples, and so many others who had never felt the motivation to discuss their political beliefs. People are talking and all kinds of things are coming up, not the least of which is how much they believe that Barack Obama is the new blood that Washington needs and the person of true vision who will lead this country in a very different direction than it has gone in decades.

I greatly dislike hearing people say they're voting for Obama because how can they not support the first black man to really have a shot at the White House? I hate hearing people say they're voting for Clinton because it's time to let a woman be president. And I hate that these are often the same people who abhor racism and sexism, who condemn treating someone in a certain way just because of their race or their gender.

Obama is not his skin color and Clinton is not her double X chromosome. They are two outstanding candidates for president, either of which will lead us away from the tragedy that was the Bush presidency. But our country is desperately in need of healing the partisan divisions in which we've been increasingly mired ever since George W. didn't win the 2000 election. We need a leader who will not alienate an entire political party, who doesn't see the country in terms of red and blue, who has demonstrated the ability to work productively with Democrats and Republicans.

Barack Obama has a strong record of building bipartisan coalitions that are capable of moving forward an agenda. He makes friends with people determined to dislike him. He forges alliances so that when it's time to work together, people work together. This is one of his greatest strengths as a politician and it is exactly what this country needs after eight years of resentment and vilification, anger and loss of hope.

If Hillary Clinton achieves the Democratic nomination for president, I will certainly understand why. She's qualified and she deserves it. But what this country needs much more than a good president is one who will also help us heal as a people, allow us to hope again and re-imagine ourselves as the country we've been wanting to be. I just think Barack Obama is best one to do that.