Friday, September 26, 2008

The Next Generation

When the Matron was a Young Miss, she started an emotional pattern than she swam around in for much of her entire life.

It was this: she envied her baby brother. (honey, I don't know if you or yours are reading but she'll tell you more when you aren't working around the clock to save the planet's economic infrastructure)

To the Wee Miss, then the Young Miss and finally, the Matron, this boy-man had it all. He was the apple of his mother's eye whereas Young Miss saw herself residing somewhere around the sole of her mother's shoe. Young Miss's reputation as the brainy chick sank before you could say quicksand next to her brother's scholarship to a fancy boarding school--followed by Harvard, a global existence, high-octane career and a wife with that same skill set (but prettier).

Now, the Matron likes to say that she could both win the Nobel Prize in Peace AND Literature and propel herself to Mars on her own volition tomorrow, and her mother would still go to her grave clutching a photo of the brother and President Clinton playing cards on Air Force One.

The Matron was in this holding pattern for many, many years until she realized -- an embarrassingly short time ago--that she was the ONLY one driving this narrative omnibus. She also realized that part of her emotional holding pattern had been the belief that her brother was a staggeringly superior being, only at her expense.

Ouch!! Those landings back into reality hurt sometimes.

So that whole family mythology was recently shattered, leaving the Matron realizing just how incredibly stupid she has been, sort of having the same ten-year old tantrum for , oh a few decades. And that she's the one behaving badly in the family, not everybody else.

The Matronly pathology even made its way into one of her novels. Consider:

When the call finally came, Grandma said, thank God, thank God; she held her hand over the phone and laughed: "You have a brother!" What happened next became family legend. I threw one of the great temper tantrums in human history: pummeling furniture, screaming and stomping for an hour. Poor Grandma had to toss down that phone to chase me. Legend has it that I wanted a sister so that my status as leader could remain unchanged. But that isn't quite right. Even then, I knew Mama would love him best. Now, I know why he's special: one day he will leave us all and thank his lucky stars for such a clean escape. Sometimes I look at Lovie and hate him for that. But jealousy is a sin, and besides, how can you stay mad at a boy who names his blanket Baby Blue and lays his head across your knees when he wants a cudddle?

How's that Freud? She is your people.

Today a friend and the Matron were bemoaning Stryker's current state, how he's all down on self and Junior High while Scarlett is living in the spotlight.

How Stryker is all: "I'm openly jealous of Scarlett."

"Scarlett gets everything she wants."

"How come Scarlett gets paid for acting when all I want is a job so I can get a laptop?"

"I hate Scarlett."

"Why does she get all the attention."

So the Matron's friend says to her, all casual, as if the Matron is sane and understands her own self: "But it's so great that you know how he feels, Mary. You went through this with your brother. I read the book!"

And the Matron's jaw and heart raced to the floor because she hadn't made the comparison! And she knows how misguided yet somehow form-fitting and permanent these family narratives can be. For everyone.

Poor Stryker! Poor Scarlett!

Poor parent of a twelve-year old Matron. Every family hands down some version of the same old story, buffed up. Well! The Matron is in a huff. She's going to write a new chapter for her children.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Straightlining, Cash

That would be: a visit to the Veterinarian. Jekyll and Satan's Familiar go to the 90210 version of veterinary care. High end, coddle and coo, all that. Which comes with a price tag. This clinic is right across the street from John's office and two blocks from the younger kids' school, so convenience matches cost, dollar for dollar.

But sometimes? Consider today, when the Matron took in the two doggies for their annuals. Now, Satan's Familiar is (alas) just two years old. Jekyll? Nearly 16. He is deaf, blind, senile and sometimes tries to hump the footstool, which impresses John.

Veterinarian: "Mary, would you like to shampoo both dogs in a hypoallergenic formula for approximately $233.98 dollars apiece?"

Matron: "No, thank you."

Veterinarian: "How about that chronic itch with Scruffy? His skin looks a little red. Should we test for wheat and dairy allergies? Maybe egg? Better yet, consult the allergist?"

Matron: "Uh, how much is that?"

Vet: "$173.79. Plus tax"

Matron, considered that Satan's Familiar ate an entire bag of fortune cookies, four hard-boiled eggs and one abandoned bowl of ice cream just yesterday with no visible adverse results: "We'll pass."

Veterinarian: "Scruffy's teeth should be cleaned. That's $222.45. What do you think?"

Matron: "Will they get dirty again?"

Small uncomfortable capitalist pause, sort of like the entire nation is currently experiencing.

Matron: "Just kidding! Actually, we'll wait a couple more years. Are we done with the wish list?" (she actually didn't say that but oh that thought crossed her mind)

Veterinarian: "How about Jekyll? I think we should do a full blood panel, considering his age and current inability to see, hear, or hobble more than a few yards. That will be $256.44."

Matron: "What will that assess?"

Veterinarian: "That test shows us if there's anything on the horizon, any health concerns ahead."

Matron: "You mean, like death?"

And with that, she was done.


The Matron thinks the fair candidate, sleep-deprived and ready for school at the community college level. She can't wait for the first Actual Palin Email. We're at that level.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chicken Little

"The economy is falling! The economy is falling!"

The Matron sort of feels like squawking about and looking for cover as financial behemoths collapse, all around her. (and everybody else, but she is generally accustomed to crisis being all about her)

Her baby brother is the Senior VP at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, conveniently in charge of "Risk Management." She hopes he's gotten some sleep in the past six months. Matron to brother: "Please don't let Earth's economic structure collapse, throwing us into utter despair and ruin!"

That sort of pressure makes her reconsider the stress of teaching at the Community College, where the job's decisions are all: C or C+? Instead of utter global ruin.

Speaking of falling (and she was), the Matron hopes she can successfully navigate some of these tonight

while attending the Iveys. The Iveys are kinda the Oscars for Twin Cities theater, and guess who got herself invited?

That would NOT be the Matron.

No, Little Miss Helen Keller Ramona Von Trapp got a juicy ticket, thanks to the upcoming blind and deaf shuffle, with The History Theatre and Torch. Her mother and father are riding their daughter's coattails for the celebrity, free food and drink. And dress-up! The last time the Matron attended an event encouraging floor-length gown, she was at her own wedding (and was the only one thus encouraged).

But no matter how gussied up she gets--no matter how those heels shine and hair sparkles and Matron pops --there is one thing about tonight's presentation that is impossible to change and mostly horrifying.

She's the MOTHER of the child actor, in a building full of professional theatre folk. Decades of well-developed and deployed Stereotype follow in her wake. There is nothing worse than being introduced, as an afterthought, as the MOTHER of a child actor.

The father gets to be the proud parent. The mother is instantly dismissed as pathological. Trust her. Sometimes the director, choreographer or actor to whom the Matron is being introduced, will visibly recoil. It's that bad.

Sigh. What she'll do for a free gin and tonic--before heading to bed in a fallout shelter, with the family's life savings (Ha) in a mattress. Well, tucked in a small corner of a twin size.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mouse in the House

Sigmund Freud must have had a hand in this: a mouse appeared today!

The Matron understands that a single mouse sighting means there are approximately 2 million of the vermin in her environs. But to the children? A single gray rodent has taken up residence, supposedly under the piano. Merrick imagines Mousie lounging on a tiny vinyl couch, munching on cheese curds.

But at the initial sighting? When the creature scuttled across the wood floors with Satan's Familiar in hot pursuit and children as audience?

Reaction read like a Rorschach test.

Merrick claimed the mouse a pet, named him, and proceeded to post stuffed animals and trinkets in front of the piano, hoping to charm Mousie out.

Scarlett SCREAMED, ran upstairs and started packing her bags. Turns out she is unable to live in a house with a mouse (uh, you have no idea what happened winter of 2006, sweetie. . . you shared a bedroom with a colony). Unable to find alternate housing on short notice, she refuses to come downstairs.

Stryker flopped on the couch and said this: "Thank God. I hope there are hundreds so I can train them . . . to be my unholy army of the night. Can I please have an unholy army of the night, Mom??

What He Said
This is Your Nation on White Privilege

September 13, 2008, 2:01 pm

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

By Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or
who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it,
perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol
Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your
family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you
or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as
black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly
typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’
redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how
if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and
talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be
viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to
be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six
years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of,
then returned to after making up some coursework at a community
college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to
achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as
unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first
place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town
smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state
with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island
of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people
don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S.
Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means
you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words
“under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good
enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not
be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the
pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part
wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused
criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the
Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school
requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make
people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an
extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the
Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions
your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your
spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with
her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s
being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and
the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of
women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end
to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if
you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month
governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in
college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even
agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your
running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the
ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made
them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your
political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being
a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and
merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in
Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose
pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize
George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly
Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian
theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who
say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for
rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good
church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black
pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of
Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign
policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on
black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by
a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you
such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to
give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re
dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has
anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being
black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a
“light” burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly
allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W.
Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing,
people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is
increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters
aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just
too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same,
which is very concrete and certain…

White privilege is, in short, the problem.