Saturday, October 25, 2008

I guess there's also Canada...

Maybe the same way that my husband sort of disappears during a ballgame, I have sort of disappeared on him during election season. I get completely absorbed by election coverage on the radio or TV. I spend hours every week at the Democratic Party headquarters of Evanston, Illinois, making phone calls to get others to volunteer in Illinois, Florida or Indiana. One weekend I disappeared to Iowa to canvass for Obama. I'll disappear again next weekend. My friend Ceece and I will drive down to Cedar Rapids on Saturday, canvass, stay at a motel, canvass on Sunday and drive back. I will go to work as usual on Monday and on Election Day itself, but I will do so with the peace of mind of having put in a few hard days' work.

I spent several weekends canvassing for John Kerry in 2004. I canvassed from summer to fall. I lived in Wasau, Wisconsin for the last five days of the election, staying at a motel, walking neighborhoods, making sure every Democrat got to the polls, eating pizza and fried chicken out of boxes set up on office tables and working myself to exhaustion. I canvassed like my life depended on it, which it did. The coincidental Halloween holiday made it kind of fun to be out there. On Halloween night, I joined the costumes and the decorations and enjoyed knocking on doors even more. That day, part of our volunteer meals consisted of little candy bars.

It was fun; it was noble; it sucked. On election night I crawled into the large hall room the Democratic Party of Wasau had rented and laid down to watch the returns. As I settled myself, not caring how odd it was to be spread out on the floor when everyone else was sitting at a table or pacing, I already knew we had failed. I didn't need the returns or the concession speech to know that it had all been for nothing.

If we fail again, I don't know what I'll do. I'm married now, so killing myself feels selfish. I guess I'll have to kill us both.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Now you see me, now you don't

Last weekend I travelled to Iowa and canvassed for Barack Obama's campaign. I ended up being assigned a pretty Democratic neighborhood of elderly people. About half the people I talked to were either supporting Obama or were leaning towards Obama. Only a few said that no, they weren't supporting him.

I gave out handfuls of "Iowan for Obama" buttons and even wore one, so as to seem more familiar. The bus on which I travelled had only a few people of color. Most of the canvassers from the Democratic Party headquarters of Evanston, Illinois were white. I wonder if it matters to people, the color of the person who is asking if they support Barack Obama.

In general, I think some people see me as Latina and some people see me as white. At least one of the elderly white Iowans I talked to assumed I was white. I believe this happens because many Americans boil down the whole multi-cultural America thing to black and white. Some people look at me and figure that since I don't seem black, I must be white. Hispanic doesn't seem to enter into it.

It's very strange to me because at other times, people will say to me, "Where are you from?" When I tell them I'm originally from California, they ask, "Where are your parents from?" When I tell them my parents are from Texas, they realize they need to ask a more direct question, but every time I have one of these exchanges, it confirms to me that I don't look white. At least, not all the time. But since at other times, people do think I'm white, I guess it's a matter of context. It's the kind of white privilege that comes and goes, the kind of ethnicity that is sometimes there and sometimes not.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Some of Bob's photos

I wore a button that said "Latinos for Obama" every day I was there.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ugly Election

How many people are discovering previously unknown bigotry in their friends and family as a result of this election? How many people are finding themselves in discussions with parents, co-workers or friends that are revealing levels of fear of a black president that are leaving you stunned? How many people are horrified to find that your own parents are unable to support a candidate they believe will only look out for other African Americans, leaving them out in the cold?

How many people are looking back at the household in which they grew up with new eyes, like viewing the ground in which your vegetables were grown and realizing how much of it was manure?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Why Women Shouldn't Marry

On the first day of our honeymoon, my husband and I wandered into a bookstore. I happened to notice one title, Why Women Shouldn't Marry: Being Single By Choice and I picked it up. I was a spinster for too long to not find this book irresistible. My new husband indulgently carried it to the checkout counter for me.

I appreciate Cynthia S. Smith and Hillary B. Smith's book. It acknowledges all the great reasons to get married, but asserts that too many women marry for bad reasons. With chapters like "The Soul Mate Myth," "Why Divorced Women with Kids Shouldn't Marry" and "Why Widows Shouldn't Marry: You've Been Through Enough," they have a lot of opinions I agree with. Their book rips into the cultural beliefs that a woman who isn't married is less valuable and that marriage improves every woman's life. I love the numerous stories of women who live independently, staying true to what they want out of life and refusing to let a man ruin their balance and stability. Also fascinating are the many examples of women who gave up their freedom for stifling marriages that left them much worse off than before, emotionally and financially. Of course, a chapter is included about having children without a marriage partner or not having them at all, "The Motherhood Option: Non-Mothers and Single Mothers."

But the most riveting chapter for me was the one called "Closet Singles," a category into which I think these authors would have put me until recently. This chapter described single women who live successful, independent lives full of friends, activities and dates, but who just can't seem to find the person we want to settle down with. These women constantly talk about wanting to be married and are endlessly searching for their husbands-to-be, but the dynamics of their lives really don't accommodate a partner. I'm guessing Smith and Smith would have called me a "Closet Single" because I spent years dating and being 100% certain I wanted to be a wife, while dismissing potential partner after potential partner. I believed I was inherently flawed or cursed or maybe the world just hated me. Being single wasn't a choice at all. I was desperate to be married. I just couldn't make it happen, no matter how hard I tried.

What "Closet Singles" identify as bad luck or a bad dating scene, Smith and Smith see as a lack of true desire to be married. They assert that deep down, "Closet Singles" are content with our lives as they are and unwilling to give up our freedom. That's probably correct, but what Smith and Smith don't fully address is the bitter self-loathing into which this leads people like me. Certain that I was worthless without a wedding ring, I hated myself for my independent freedom and peaceful solitude, but just couldn't bring myself to give it up. It was a horrible trap to be caught in.

Why Women Shouldn't Marry fully understands the horrible strength of the belief that single women are inferior to married women. Over and over again, Smith and Smith offer alternate ways of viewing the single life as peaceful, content and free of the burdens of taking care of a man, all the while knowing how hard it is to override convention. They know we are brainwashed into believing IF I'M NOT MARRIED, I'M A FAILURE and they work hard to show all the evidence that this is not true. I love that this book works hard to give women all the arguments we need to reject traditional, oppressive roles. Smith and Smith are basically saying that marriage can be great when you marry for the right reasons, but can be awful when you marry for the wrong ones.

Unfortunately, I can testify that even though I am a feminist, raised by a feminist, who came of age in California in the 1980's and who has known my whole life that women are the equals of men, even I have labored under the belief that until a man marries me, I am inferior to everyone who has ever been married, including those who are now divorced. All the feminist ideology in the world (and I've read plenty) and all the women-are-powerful arguments I've tried to plant in my head and all the Oprah shows have not supplanted my deep-seated belief that I was a failure in life until Bob made me his wife last March (who failed here?).

That is how I know Why Women Shouldn't Marry is not for me. Even when I was single, I was not the audience for this book. This book is for women who have self-esteem. This book is for women who believe in themselves enough to need only hard, cold evidence to reject societal pressures.

I guess it would take another entire book to address the depth of self-hatred that leads women like me to use society's expectations to pound ourselves down. I'm married now -- finally, at the age of 42 -- and I actually love my husband and don't feel sick of his company even after a week of being with him constantly. I consider myself very lucky to finally be in a marriage I actually want to be in. I endured years of being a lonely, desperate woman who was unable to commit to anyone for more than a few months at a time, before finally deciding I wanted to marry this one. I think my self image will now begin to improve because now I know that, even I'm divorced next year, at least I turned out to be capable of marrying (I didn't develop much self-esteem when I was growing up, so yes, I'm actually serious).

I recommend Why Women Shouldn't Marry if only because it is such a spirited, good time. Yes, it gets shrill. Yes, it gets emotional and judgmental, but then it's trying to counter centuries of society's pro-marriage emotion and judgement. Although it gets a bit heavy handed in its illustrations of how awful marriage can be when you marry only because of social pressure, I think it gives single women reason to take heart against that pressure and good arguments to oppose it. And with relationship story after relationship story, I couldn't put it down. What it doesn't do is help women like me stop hating ourselves for being manless failures (or for taking so long to land a man), but maybe that's beyond the scope of any book.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Oregon, man, Oregon

Here are some honeymoon photos taken with my little camera. This was my favorite rest area ever!

Cool plant in the rocks on the shore.

View from the road, between Waldport and Corvallis, Oregon (which is pronounced OR-uh-gun)

Bob standing just outside of our honeymoon suite. The beach was right there!

Bob loves taking photos, so many of my photos are of Bob taking photos.

I love Oregon! (The final syllable of which rhymes with "gun" not with "on!")

Coming Home

Honeymoon was fabulous (still waiting on my husband to download his photos), but now it's time to get busy on the Obama campaign! This is the real event of the fall. The Biden-Palin debate was fine: Joe Biden came off as polite and knowledgeable and I loved that he kept the focus on McCain, not Palin's views and experience. Palin did a great job and totally redeemed herself, securing her future in the Republican party.

As I type this, I'm at a hotel outside of Portland, Oregon with a flight back to Chicago at noon, but next Saturday, I'll be in a neighborhood in Iowa.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Honeymoon in Oregon

Oregon is turning out to be the perfect place for us. I love mountains covered with pine trees and redwoods, Bob loves ocean and we can see both from the same vantage point, all up and down the coast. We're staying at the Overleaf Lodge in Yachats, Oregon which I chose (with Bob's input). This place could not be any better located (on the beach), better run (the place is beautiful and beautifully run) and our room is a full suite with a whirlpool bath for $250 a night (off-season)! I chose it based on the recommendation of a Oregon travel website and I totally got lucky. So there's my recommendation for the year (actually I think it's my first blog recommendation ever): if you're heading for the coast of Oregon and you want an absolutely gorgeous room in a totally cool hotel (artistic wood-carved decor, eco-friendly everything, homemade pastries for breakfast), stay at the Overleaf Lodge. It even has its own spa where we have made massage appointments.

We're in the middle of small towns and miles of amazing coastline. It's the perfect vacation for Bob because we just got him a new digital Nikon camera (I guess this is the product-placement post) and there's plenty to take pictures of here. I love that we're far from noisy urban areas and it's the off-season. I'm sure this area was teeming with tourists just weeks ago because it's amazing, but for us it's nice and quiet. Bob and I are not inclined towards sunny places and warm climates. When we take a vacation, we like to go north, I guess because Chicago just isn't chilly enough for us.

Yesterday we visited the Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay lighthouses and, even better, the Heceta Head lighthouse. There's a great climb up to this last one, through redwoods and ferns, with glimpses of the rolling Pacific Ocean along the way, until the trees break and it's all sun and sky. I knew Oregon was beautiful, but it's really relentlessly incredible.

Lighthouses are some of Bob's favorite things. I like that he's a photographer because taking pictures bores me, but he's documenting everything. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to upload anything through Blogger this morning, so maybe that will have to wait til I'm back in Chicago.

Oregon, man. Oregon.