Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I'm enjoying my nasty flu

1. I keep alternating between chills and sweats, so things stay interesting.
2. I'm cheaply getting through a week without needing any real groceries (just juice and symptom relievers).
3. Caught up on all my TiVo'd programs by the third day of the illness.
4. I'm doing a lot of just laying still and staring at walls, which I don't get to do nearly enough.
5. Great excuse to not do any housework, but instead shuffle through an increasingly disgusting apartment.
6. Allows me to practice my laser focus driving, so I can safely get myself to a clinic or doctor's office through my fever and haziness (husband's out of town).
7. I'm catching up on my reading.
8. I'm catching up on my hydrating.
9. I'm catching up on my coughing.
10. If the fever gets high enough, my brain will shut off, which is the only time it ever does.

If anyone wants to join me in sickness, come on over. This thing started last Wednesday, but half an hour ago my fever was still 102.4.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Singlehood and marriage are getting better for women..and worse

It's the article that everyone has blogged about and discussed, and I know I'm about two months late, but I still want to make some notes. If you want a nuanced reading of Kate Bolick's All the Single Ladies, which came out in the November 2011 Atlantic, please go here somewhere. All I'm presenting here are the passages in this long, but fascinating article, that I highlighted. Words in italics are quotes from Bolick's article:

The decision to end a stable relationship for abstract rather than concrete reasons ("something was missing") I see now is in keeping with a post-Boomer ideology that values emotional fulfillment above all else.

Of Stephanie Coontz, social historian and author of Marriage: A History from Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage:
She'd long known that the Leave It to Beaver-style family model popular in the 1950s and '60s had been a flash in the pan, and like a lot of historians, she couldn't understand how people had become so attached to an idea that had developed so late and been so short-lived.

Of how married couples functioned before the Beaver years: [t]wo-income families were the norm.

Here are the main ways Bolick sees American straight marriage and heterosexual dynamics fundamentally shifting (the numbers and words not in italics are mine):

1. We keep putting marriage off. (That is, the common age of marriage keeps increasing.)

2. We no longer need husbands to have children, nor do we have to have children if we don't want to.

3.Over the past half-century, women have steadily gained on - and are in some ways surpassing - men in education and employment.

4. ...men have been rapidly declining - in income, in educational attainment, and in future employment prospects - relative to women.

5. If, in all sectors of society women are on the ascent, and if general parity is actually within reach, this means that a marriage regime based on men's overwhelming economic dominance may be passing into extinction.

6. ...American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be "marriageable" men - those who are better educated and earn more than they do.

7. In their 1983 book, Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question, two psychologists developed what has become known as the Guttentag-Secord theory which holds that members of the gender in shorter supply are less dependent on their partners because they have a greater number of alternative relationships available to them. (Bolick points out that in societies where women are in short supply, relationships are characterized by the valuing of motherhood, homemaking and marriage. In societies where men are in short supply, there are more illegitimate children and higher divorce rates.)

8. ...the more successful a man is (or thinks he is), the less interested he is in commitment.

9. Today, with the precipitous economic and social decline of men of all races, it's easy to see why women of any race would feel frustrated by their romantic prospects. (Is it any wonder marriage rates have fallen?)

10. Of her own singledom, Bolick writes, If I stopped seeing my present life as provisional, perhaps I'd be a little...happier. Perhaps I could actually get down to the business of what it means to be a real single woman.

11. Singlism..."matrimania"...Those who don't want [marriage] are seen as threatening.

12. Our cultural fixation on the couple is actually a relatively recent development...Indeed, [Helen] Fisher sees the contemporary trend for marriage between equals as us "moving forward into deep history" - back to the social and sexual relationships of millions of years ago.

13. Some even believe that the pair bond, far from strengthening communities (which is both the prevailing view of social science and a central tenet of social conservatism), weakens them, the idea being that a married couple becomes too consumed with its own tiny nation of two to pay much heed to anyone else...unlike singles, married couples spend less time keeping in touch with and visiting their friends and extended family, and are less likely to provide them with emotional and practical support. (Mmhm.)

14. Coontz points out that two of the hallmarks of contemporary marriage are demands for monogamy on an equal basis, and candor. "Throughout history, there was a fairly high tolerance of [men's] extramarital flings, with women expected to look the other way," she said. "Now we have to ask: Can we be more monogamous? Or understand that flings happen?"

15. ...real change can seldom take hold when economic forces remain static. The extraordinary economic flux we're in is what makes this current moment so distinctive.

16. Bolick quotes Christopher Ryan, co-author of Sex at Dawn: "In every society where women have power - whether humans or primates, the key is female bonding."

And those are what struck me as the passages worth highlighting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Protester quote is more relevant to some than others

My dad visited the Occupy protesters in Oakland, California on Sunday, before they cleared out. This was my favorite part of his report:

I did pick up one poetic gem yesterday. A large oak tree on the side of the encampment was roped off, with a nice sign that said to keep out in order to take care of the tree. A hand scrawled sign hanging on the fence stated, "An oak tree is just a nut that decided to hold its ground." I like that.

I wrote back to him: On behalf of nuts everywhere, thanks for sharing that quote!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A single woman's Thanksgiving

As a woman who didn't marry until 41 and who doesn't live in a state that contains anyone I'm related to, I have experience spending holidays alone. Sometimes I minded, sometimes I didn't. I became very self-reliant and learned to find things to do whether it was hosting my own party, finding someone to host me or just taking myself out for a lovely meal.

In 2008 I got married, guaranteeing that I'd never spend another holiday alone -- almost. Okay, not even close. My husband has had a 33-year career in the service industry and now works in a restaurant that's open 365 days a year (except for leap years, when it's open 366).

I did three years as a server, so I'm sympathetic to Bob's situation. In fact, I'm going to join him by spending the day feeding people, only I'll do it for free. Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly is a great organization that a friend of mine works for. They provide companionship for Chicagoans over the age of 70 who don't have friends or family in the area. LBFE elders get regular visits and/or social invitations and they are all invited to major holiday celebrations.

Bob began his current job last April and I felt amused to find myself in the old position of spending holidays solo. I volunteered with LBFE on Easter Sunday and it went very well. I enjoyed serving at a big party, felt that good exhaustion of energy well spent and my participation kept me from feeling left out. Bob's very lucky he married a woman who's used to functioning as a single person on holidays, and who does it so well.

I'll do it again this Thanksgiving: spending hours on my feet, surrounded by people I don't know, enjoying a nice meal and feeling glad to be part of a celebration. Plus LBFE really appreciates their volunteers because if it weren't for us, these parties couldn't happen. The Chicago branch of LBFE runs three Thanksgiving celebrations on that day, which rely on hundreds of volunteers. I'll be at the far northside location.

Is anyone else in Chicago free on Thanksgiving
? Want
to serve turkey to people who will really appreciate it? I know most people have solid plans on that day, but maybe you know someone who would be alone. If so, pass on the idea of joining me.

Bob will certainly be working on December 25th, so guess what I'm doing on Christmas Day?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Who still trusts in God?

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, What's God Got to Do with It? Michael Shermer reports that last week the House of Representatives voted to keep "In God We Trust" as the national motto. He writes that Congress originally adopted the phrase in 1956 when many Americans were afraid of godless communism taking over the country, but Mr. Shermer asks what the reason is for keeping it now. He argues that since we're no longer fixated on communism and 90% of Americans solidly believe in either God or a greater spiritual presence, there's no need to keep this phrase stamped into our coins and buildings.

I say there's more reason than ever to keep "In God We Trust" imprinted on the American imagination: because we're terrified.

I was raised Catholic, but weaned myself from it while an undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley (it happens). While I no longer think there are gods or spirits, I've remained conflicted about the value of religion itself. Before I settled into atheism, I went from the Catholic church to a gospel choir to a synagogue to a Unity Church and then back to Catholicism. I have believed and I have believed. Having faith got me a community, a place in the believing majority of Americans, a sense of safety in the world, and the feeling that if I followed all the rules, I would be okay.

Following all the rules, no matter which version of god I used, did not guarantee my safety and I eventually dumped it all out the window, but I sometimes envy those who know "He's got the whole world in His hands." Religion isn't just a blanket to clutch in the night; it's a point of contact for human companionship and love. It's a shared history and life view that gains you access to a global community. And, yes, it provides a powerful source of comfort when you lose your job or a family member or just feel overwhelmed by life. Religion is a beautiful thing.

Sure, it's caused countless wars and bloodshed, but humans would do that no matter what. We can't blame religion for our violence. Many conflicts are called religious, when the true problem is land rights or other forms of control. Being human causes violence, not religion.

Michael Shermer has also considered the timeless question of why a benevolent being would allow endless suffering and he mentions it as he argues against the continued use of "In God We Trust." But Mr. Shermer, you won't get anywhere using logic because trusting in God isn't rational and, in these hysterical days, reason often makes less sense than ever.

But if you need one, Mr. Shermer, here's a rational reason for the motto: research shows that people with a spiritual belief system survive life-threatening circumstances better than those who don't believe. Believers have a greater ability to make sense of tragedy and overcome adversity. Now I don't think that I, as an atheist, am at greater risk of dying in the street than my Christian cohorts, but I accept that I'm not as emotionally resilient or content with life as they. The world is scarier to me, but unfortunately, after all my faith-hunting, my brain is too rational and focused on the unresolvable parts of religion to find peace in another spiritual practice.

We feel like the ground has disappeared beneath us, Mr. Shermer. That's why we still need to trust in God. Of course Congress wants to drum this motto into our hearts and minds, now more than at any time since 1956, when it was adopted. If we don't trust in God, what have we got? An unpredictable, unfair world of endless pain and inexplicable circumstances. I as an atheist know that bad things happen to good people because life is godless and random and there are no payoffs for good behavior. But most Americans can't accept that and to swallow it would be the last gulp before they go under. So sure, let's say we trust in God because, at this point, that faith might be the only thing holding many of us together.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Stigma against black dogs - who knew?

I just read this article online: Black Dogs Face a Hard Choice at Shelter. It discusses how shelter dogs that happen to be black (at least in the U.S.) have a really hard time getting adopted because so many people don't want a "BBD" or big black dog. Guesses for this stigma (although this article doesn't go into this) are that black dogs are too ordinary-looking, are believed to be more aggressive or are associated with depression and bad luck. Winston Churchill referred to his depression as his "black dog" and the use of that term for a troubled mind goes back centuries.

I can't believe it. Blackness was one of my dog criteria. I wanted a dog that was black so it wouldn't mess up my dark clothing with its light-colored hairs. Ozzie is perfect for that. And he's playful, calm, friendly and rarely even barks.

What a damn shame that prejudice against blackness even applies to animals, but it makes me even more proud that we picked Ozzie. So, if you ever get a dog, please consider a shelter dog who's black.

This also explains why people sometimes see me and Ozzie coming down the sidewalk and say, "Oh, shit!" their eyes widening in fear. And yes, they're looking at the dog, not at me, okay?

Hamsters vs. dogs

Bob stood in the kitchen, getting a drink of water. Ozzie stood in the kitchen, staring at him.

Me: So you don't mind him staring at you right now?
Bob: Nope. You know why?
Me: Why?
Bob: Because he's a dog and that's what dogs do.
Me: You know what doesn't stare at you? Hamsters. Hamsters never follow you all around, staring at you. Even when they're not in their cage, they could care less about what you're doing.
Bob: Hamsters don't love you.
Me: Exactly!

My various experiences of love have not all been good and I remain suspicious and fearful of it. Animals that don't love me are perfectly fine.