Saturday, March 1, 2008

Break a Leg, Scarlett. Or Fall Off the Stage? Make a Mistake? Really.

The Matron is the New Stage Mother. Like brown is the new black, all that.

Scarlett: "I want to audition for Anansi, the Trickster Spider!"

Matron: "Don't you want to sit one out?"

Scarlett: "No! Never!"

Matron: "Don't you want a rest?"

Scarlett: "You're hurting my feelings! Don't say that."

The Matron sat through the first audition and hung her head in defeat as her daughter blasted the song to the rafters.

Before the callback, the Matron cunningly forgot to feed her child. She failed to bring a water bottle.

Once there her heart swelled with joy to see her daughter no longer the smallest! There were two teenier things and oh, those girls were cute. Potential!

But she frowned at Scarlett's deft dance. Where did she learn to shimmy? This was supposed to be a weak point. Who let her develop rhythm and swing?

The Matron wagged a mental finger at the parents of 9 year old white girls, every single one. Usually somebody had 8 years of dance lessons under her exhausted belt. What was wrong with these people?!

Next, the row of 9-year old white girls took on Song.

"Please God let one of them stand out as the very best singer. Please please please!"

And one did.

"Wrong kid! I meant somebody else's child!"

And when Scarlett opened her mouth and began her monologue and the raspy evocative voice filled the theater with ease and she radiated that thing they called 'presence' and the director physically jumped up and down with joy . . .

The Matron wept only.

Good-bye , Almost to Freedom. Tomorrow is the last show.

Hello Trickster Spider.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bad Feminist

When the Matron was but a Wee Lass, she discovered Helen Reddy. Friends, she wore that record down to the grooves: I am Woman! Hear me roar!

Wee Lass instantly understood herself to be a Feminist. Her 9 year old self knew no contradiction, stood certain. Inequity reigned. The world needed changing.

How strong an ideologue?

Here's how Young Maiden cast her first vote for President of the United States of America:

When she entered graduate school, Young Maiden signed on for a Ph.D. that included a minor in Feminist Studies. She was a bad ass, black-leather clad feminista. The big bad boys of the Academy? The white male cannon? Young Maiden had a few things to shake up.

But along the way she experienced puzzling contradictions -- subtleties that still nag at the now older and wiser Matron.

Young Maiden remember vividly taking her fine, young and lithe self out of a cracking 1976 Century Buick to pump gas at a self-serve station. It was raining. Things were messy. There was muck and mud on the car. Ick!

Suddenly, a man about her age raced out of the gas station, jumped over cars and beat his chest: Don't sully thy silken hand! Let me do the dirty work!

She did. She remembers understanding that this was wrong. Unfeminist. The young man wiping her windows smiled and preened.

Young Maiden also remembers the philosophical agony she suffered over this:

She needed to hate the whole event. Actually, you couldn't ask for anything worse! A Princess, for God's sake. Virginity being the big ticket into the Royal Family! Young Maiden found every offense in her feminist playbook.

But she set an alarm in order to get up and witness the big event. Tears betrayed her. Weren't those flower girls cute? And that dress!

Young Maiden just hated herself sometimes.

When Flashdance rocked the country, she penned missives--feminist treatises disguised as Letters to the Editor of college newspaper -- about the ridiculous current construction of femininity as this:

Terrible movie! A crime! The ballerina wannabe welder?

And she bought herself leg warmers. And when Jennifer Beals realizes the patriarchal little girl dream of getting the boy AND being a ballerina, Young Maiden's heart swelled with joy.

These contradictions endure.

The Matron can wipe up mouse poop from under the sink. But her fingers cannot touch the poison. This is John's job.

She can mop the floor but . . .wait: is there actual oil in cars? And the blue stuff that squirts onto the windshield and makes it all clean? How does that get in there?

The worst? The Matron has noticed the shift in the Male Gaze, the evil entity she has been fighting for a lifetime.

She no longer inspires car vaults or cat calls. She understands that this is a good thing. Liberating. But.

Yesterday, the Matron stopped at a full service gas station. The van's windows were caked with muck. She was tired. Actually, her head was about to explode because she's too busy, but that's tomorrow's post.

The twenty-something attendant came out and started pumping the gas. And then he leaned against the pump, took out a magazine and started reading.

The Matron got out and wiped her own windows.

She understood that she had entered the gray world women go when they are not young and pretty. Invisibility.

She resigned herself to the new missives she would pen, treatises that unpack the underpinnings of this particular sexist state.

But later, at the grocery store as the Matron rolled down the aisles, she was subject to something she hadn't experienced in a good long while: a man checked her out.

And, she once again gave herself a thorough scolding because: this attention made her happy.

She is not yet invisible. At least not to men pushing fifty.

Contradiction? This state endures.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Life on Different Planets

Our free-wheeling professions (adjunct professor and realtor -- it's okay - we don't need wool socks and money in the mail, yet) mean John and I have a lot of time at home while the kids are in school.

We often eat lunch together.

I send him a funny email and then yell in the direction of his office, upstairs: "Did you get that yet?"

He pops into my little study and inquires about my availability for romps of various sort. "Just checking. Just in case."


He unloads the dishwasher. I yell various commands about housecleaning, which he generally follows.

Every once in a while we get really crazy and go to my favorite thrift store together. Like a hot date, digging through somebody's else's rejected trousers.

So we have plenty of time to talk. Converse. Convene and communicate.

Insert sound of telephone ringing, here. The time is 8:32 on a Monday morning.

Me: "Hello!"

Mother-in-law: "Hi Mary. Is John there?"

Me: "No -- he's driving the kids to school. What's up? I can give him a message."

MIL: "Tell him the thing today is called off."

Me: "What thing?"

MIL: "The wedding."

Me: "What? Who's getting married."

MIL: "Well, I am. Donald and I were going to renew our vows today in church. At 10 this morning. Didn't John tell you?"

Me: "Uh."

MIL: "But we're postponing because of the funeral."

Me: "Whose funeral?"

MIL: "Beth and Herman's oldest son, Fred. John's cousin on his Dad's side. Didn't John tell you?"

Me: "Uh. . . "

MIL: "But you're on board for Thursday, right?"

Me: "What's Thursday?"

MIL: "You and John are cooking for Ann and Dennis. She just started her six months of chemo. Didn't John tell you?"

Me: "Six months of chemo? What are we making?"

MIL: "A pot roast. With carrots and potatoes but no throwing in any of your fancy tricks, like peppers or yams. Better have John cook it."

After my substandard cooking skills have been more thoroughly discussed (particularly worrisome is my regular use of that exotic creature, the vegetable), I hang up--and give a small, ritualistic moment of silence to honor all of the weddings, funerals, family reunions, illnesses, emergencies, birthdays and pot luck suppers I will never hear about in this life time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Marion Jones

Cheating is bad.

The Matron wags her finger at Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Floyd Landis, Ben Johnson and Joe Q. Jock -- doping isn't so much a problem, as it is the status quo. Wikipedia requires a catalog to document, rather than one quick list.

This article, discussing the thorough demonization of the lone African-American female who admitted what the boys deny, gave the Matron pause. The woman who did what the public has demanded of the accused: stand up and tell the truth.

One of these things is not like the other.
Thanks, Jen, for pointing out the faulty link. Fixed, it requires you to register with the Star Tribune. Interested despite the hurdles? Google: Todd Balf Marion Jones Star Tribune February 26 2008. That's what I did!

Whew. Too much trouble for a blog post.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You Can Never Go To That House Again

Our kids go to a public Montessori school that is also an international peace site. The schools is known for attracting left-wing, hippy-dippy, peace-sign wielding families.

Mean looks are disallowed. Breath hard? You need therapy. People are serious about peace here. Righteous.

Merrick had his first ever birthday part today: Five Years Old!

He invited six little friends from his combined age 4 and 5 year old classroom--and his longtime, best friend, probably future husband Lachlan.

Spouse aside, these kids were total strangers to our family. Most of this little group of five year olds are all first-born to their families, trend setters.

Thus, there were detailed phone conversations in advance of this major social event. Little Q gets a tummy ache after eating wheat. Will there be toast or cracker? T and L don't quite get along. Can't we disinvite one? H. is scared of dogs. Can you euthanize yours?

So today all the fussy parents dropped off their kids for Merrick's birthday party. I used to be one. I understand.

The children held hands. They sang in harmony. Girls and boys pecked cheeks--they shared cake and inquired about hurt feelings and state of mind. They frolicked and radiated sun beams and goodwill.

Until one of the kids went under the couch (why do they do that?) and stumbled across Merrick's hidden arsenal: Knives, swords, guns. Big guns. Lotsa guns. Pop guns, Nerf guns, shot guns, air guns. Sky's the limit.

Now, our household went nearly ten years without guns. I am (theoretically, Opposed). But last year, a friend handed Merrick a bag. He opened it and found a 1950 style pistol. He never looked back.

And because he is child number three, we just took the Path of Least Resistance.

Guns inspire love. This exchange routinely takes place in our household.

Merrick: "Here's my gun!"

Lachlan: "I wove the gun!"

Merrick: "You take the gun."

Lachlan: "No, you take the gun. I wove you."

Merrick: "You have the gun. I wove you better."

And so on.

So the over-attended peace loving children found our cache of juice. Those young ones dropped their flowers and love beads and took up arms. Girl and boy, they spent the next hour killing one another.

Now, this transformation began while I was in the kitchen. By the time I walked into the war zone, a dazed John was asking what kind of Kool Aid we were serving.

Watching D (only child allowed just 15 minutes of television a week and taking careful selection of dance, language, and Suzuki violin) scream with joy while taking out Merrick with a Nerf bazooka, I decided just to let the whole thing go.

Lord of the Flies? Yup. Mini-reenactment here. By the time the mayhem was complete, the children were sweaty, exhausted, content, murderous pros.

Before the parents arrived, we put away weaponry and handed out banal party bags; tootsie rolls, noise makers and plastic frogs. Not exactly lying.

Little D slid up to me: "This was the best party ever."

I considered explaining to parents at pick up time: yes, we have guns. We have them. They were hidden. Big accident, lotsa fun, apologies.

But I didn't.

I decided to let nature take its course. And imagined lots of this, at bedtime:

"Merrick has guns!"

" I shot L!"

"Merrick has a shot gun. Why can't I?"

"Today at the party we all killed each other! "

Rite of Passage

As the guests arrive at my son's party
they gather in the living room--
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? Six. I'm seven. So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in each other's pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
up, a seven says to a six,
the dark cake, round and heavy as a
turret, behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year-old,
he says in his clear voice. The other
men agree, they clear their throats,
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son's life.

Sharon Olds