31 August 2012

Of Childhood Crushes

There is a disturbing trend among parents that has been permeating popular culture for a couple of decades now: the objectification of young children. One need only witness the horrors that are toddler beauty pageants (and the reality TV shows, books, and movies that spawned from such) to know what I mean. Girls too young to even grasp basic arithmetic are gussied up, given dental veneers, bikinis, enough makeup to give Tammy Faye pause, hairstyles to rival the stature of any found in small-town Texas, and paraded around like tiny objectified dolls for the aesthetic enjoyment of the creepy old men and women who judge the degree to which these 4–6 year-old children successfully emulate adult sexiness.

Increasingly, this behavior has become a mainstream oddity that most sensible Americans are morbidly fascinated by, but publicly dismiss with a tsk-tsk and solemn head shake while secretly DVRing the latest episode of "Toddlers and Tiaras." Every now and then, someone will take a very serious stand against the objectification of 4 year-old girls, and the media will dutifully report on it, but the mock furor will quickly dissipate and the pageant continue.

Not only are these bizarre rituals and behaviors accepted and tacitly encouraged by American society, they also expose a hypocrisy: It is acceptable—nay, almost expected—for little girls to sculpt themselves in the image of sexually objectified adult women, only so far as they conform to the hetero-normative gender roles society assigns to all children. Should a little boy want to put on a dress or play house or prefer My Little Pony to G.I. Joe, he is immediately corrected and told to "man up." And heavens forbid that little boy should reveal a crush on another boy.

We are a voyeuristic society that simultaneously shuns and obsesses over sex. It's made us a rather screwed up bunch with a mastery of cognitively disconnecting our loathing of sex from our innate obsession with it. You know what it's gotten us? We accept truly aberrant behaviors such as encouraging little girls to remake themselves as tiny sex goddesses while rejecting and demonizing the perfectly natural state of being a little gay child with same-gender affections.

Somehow, a little boy's crush on a little girl, or a little girl's crush on a little boy is acceptable—even encouraged and nurtured as a rite of childhood. Yet, when a little boy shows affection for a member of his gender, people get squeamish. Many adults in this instance seem to suddenly and completely lose the ability to view childhood crushes as innocent emotional attachments based in love, and view same-gender crushes through their own lens of prejudice, colored by the ick factor that taints their view of adult gay people. For some reason, many people cannot think about gay people without simultaneously grossing themselves out by imagining what we do in private with each other's privates. Which goes to the heart of the struggle for equality: society can't get past the sex in homosexual. If you remove gender and sex from love, there is no distinguishable difference between the relationships enjoyed by Bob and Mary, Bob and Bob, or Mary and Mary. But we can't seem to help obsessing over everyone else's sex lives. Anything that differs from our own  hard-wired sexual behaviors is viewed with suspicion, disgust, or outright loathing.

Guess what?

All heterosexual women were once little straight girls who crushed on and dreamed of meeting and falling in love with their generation's Justin Bieber.

All heterosexual men were once little straight boys who crushed on and dreamed of meeting and falling in love with their generation's Emma Watson.

All homosexual men were once little gay boys who crushed on and dreamed of meeting and falling in love with their generation's Blaine Anderson.

All homosexual women were once little gay girls who crushed on and dreamed of meeting and falling in love with their generation's Zooey Deschanel.

All too often, a little boy who has a same-gender crush is dismissed as being too young to know what he is talking about because we conflate a same-gender crush with sexual attraction, while at the same time a little girl is encouraged to make herself sexy so she'll get the boy she's crushing on. In both instances, we're assigning sexual attraction where it isn't warranted and can actually cause harm. The little girl is being encouraged to have such a lassez-faire attitude toward sex that it will become destructive when her sexual feelings awaken later in life and the little boy with the gay crush will become confused and conflicted when his emotional attachments are eventually joined by sexual attraction at the onset of adolescence. I know because I was that little boy.

Though too young at the time to know what gay was, I was once a little boy who, like the young son of blogger and Twitter friend Amelia, had a crush on a boy on TV. Unlike Amelia's brave little boy, however, I had inferred enough about the evils of homosexuality from parents and family members to internalize their homophobia unconsciously, and thus knew on a visceral level to keep those feelings secret. The only exposure I had to gay people in the 1980s were the hushed and condemning whispers about one of my mother's cousins who until AIDS outed him, had lived a deeply closeted and duplicitous life.

Cute boys being the object of my affection felt as natural as my affection for my parents, but somehow I knew I was alone in feeling that way. I was 5 and too young to even know what sex was, let alone think about actually doing it with anyone. What I felt for the boy on TV was a romantic love, the kind of oversimplified and exalted love every movie Disney ever made portrayed to its young audiences. The only problem? I was supposed to be the prince but I felt like the princess. In 1983, there were no princes like Blaine and Kurt with which I could identify. Hell, even "Will and Grace" was still 15 years away. So I hid my crush on "You Can't Do That On Television's" Alistair—and every boy crush that followed—and blissfully played with My Little Ponies and G.I. Joes and Star Wars toys.

Though, really, Mom, the My Little Pony obsession should have been your first clue.

That, and the Cabbage Patch Doll. The female Cabbage Patch Doll.

Huh. My Little Ponies. Cabbage Patch Dolls. G.I. Joe and Star Wars. Never really thought about it before now, but obviously my mother was more interested in making her little boy happy than worrying much about adhering too stringently to gender roles. In retrospect, I have to wonder if my mother wouldn't have been too dissimilar from Amelia had she not grown up in a time and region which taught her hate and fear rather than acceptance and love for the gayness inherent in her precious little boy.

Maybe when we as a society stop focusing on the objects of these feelings of love and instead focus on just nurturing and encouraging love itself, maybe then we'll stop the cycle of objectification in all its ugly forms.

17 August 2012

Exit Stage Left, Enter Stage Right

Wow. Has it really been over four years since I last posted to this thing? Does anyone ever actually read this?

*tap-tap-tap* This thing on?

A lot has happened since my last post. We lost Ezry almost exactly a year to the day after the last post. Shortly after publishing that post, she had gone back to her old ways and we had to exile her to the backyard again. Then, in the Spring of 2009, we remodeled the front living room and dining room with fresh paint, new furniture, and shiny new laminate floors. Having finally exorcised the ghost of little puppy peesalot, we allowed Ezry her place back in the house. All went extraordinarily well. We finally had our little girl back and she was happy to be allowed inside again. Ezry still went outside whenever she wanted, but usually came in before bedtime.

One night early that summer, she didn't come back in. It wasn't the first time she had opted to stay out all night when the weather was nice, so we didn't think much of it. But then she didn't come in the next morning for breakfast, which was unusual. Being a workday, we didn't have time to look for her, and decided she'd probably be back that afternoon.

She wasn't. That's when the dread and panic crept in. We walked the neighborhood calling for her, put up posters, visited the animal shelter, put an ad on craigslist, and wished desperately for her safe return.

About a week later, we went searching in the field under the tasco row that divides our neighborhood. At first we didn't find anything. But then we found a feline skull fragment, several days old, the obvious victim of a coyote encounter. We didn't find anything else. No collar, fur, or any identifiable bones. But I knew. Deep down I knew it was her.

A decade from when she entered our lives as a tiny mewing ball of black fluff, she was gone.

We mourned her for a long time. Even Sebastian wasn't the same after she left. Despite their uneasy relationship, I guess he had grown accustomed to her face. He wailed at nothing in particular more than usual, seemed listless, yet restless.

We knew we'd get a new cat eventually, but never made plans. Two years later—last summer to be exact—our friends Leeann and Ron called to tell us about how the night before, they found a black mother cat and four gray and brown tabby kittens. Mama cat had collars, but no ID.

A throwaway. Whether before they were born, or because of her litter, someone had abandoned her and her kittens. The morning after finding the family of five in their yard, Ron heard another kitten outside, this time up a tree. They had apparently missed seeing him the evening before and he had spent the entire night in a tree full of ants. This tough little guy was the one Leeann wanted to introduce to us.

When we met that tiny mewing ball of gray and white fluff, who was a flea-bitten, ant stung, earmite ravaged, ringworm carrying survivor, we immediately fell in love with him.

Funny how these things happen. Over the years, we would talk about getting dogs or another cat, but never really planned it out. Never set a date and officially prepared. It would always just sorta happen. It had with Ezry when we found her in the bushes and took her in. It had when, on a whim, I went to see the kittens my parents' veterinarian had ready for adoption and came home with Sebastian. It did with Joxer when my coworker emailed pictures of him looking for someone to adopt him and I forwarded them on to Tim for a "Hey, want a dog?" laugh and brought him home the next day. Then, the week of my 30th birthday, we started a spur of the moment search for a second dog and when we were about to give up after meeting a couple of dogs and not really connecting with them, Tim happened to find Xander on craigslist.

July of last year, another lost soul found us, and we welcomed him into our family. We eradicated his fleas, bathed him, salved his bites and stings, and even vanquished the ringworm. He bonded with us immediately, litter trained without problem, and made friends with everyone. The first night we had him, Tim was playing with him in the powder room (tiny kitteh's temporary quarantine), and I was lying in the halway outside the closed door with the dogs, playing paw grab with the kitten under the door. As I was lying there, marveling at this little guy's incredible will to live and good-natured tenacity the name Simon just popped into my head and I couldn't help but blurt it out. Before Tim could respond I continued, "He's a Simon. I don't know why, but it just fits. Simon Kitty." Tim agreed, and so he was named.


As it would happen, when I told people about him the following week, one coworker thought, since we had named the dogs after TV characters, that it was after the Firefly character of the same name, while another thought it was after the lead singer of one of my all time favorite bands, Duran Duran. I was actually surprised that when the name popped into my head the night before, I never made those connections. Maybe it was my subconscious that made the connection and quietly whispered the name to me. Or, more likely, it was just a coincidence. Besides, if I ever write more real-life-inspired cat stories, "Simon and Sebastian" has a nice ring to it. And, over the last 12 months, his antics have caused us to extend his name to Simon Pickles McGillicuddy. Guess he got his TV name, after all.

We got him neutered and vaccinated, and he has gone through his terrible kitten months with minimal damage done (though, he did earn the moniker of Demon Kitteh), and has turned into a wonderfully friendly, mischievous, laid back, and bold cat who has to be in whatever room we are. Even as I type this, he is blissfully napping next to my laptop.

We'll always miss Ezry, but she leaves a legacy in our hearts to help the tiny fluffballs who can't help themselves whenever they happen to enter our lives. We didn't know it at the time, but when Ezry left, she had set the stage for Simon's entrance.


14 July 2008

Ezry


We call her the bitchpuss for a reason. But before I get to that, a little early biography . . .

She came to use a few weeks after our first anniversary at our first apartment, way back in 1999, when Clinton was still president, gas was 99 cents a gallon, and I had just turned 21 and finished my first semester at college. This tiny voice in the bushes outside our apartment building started mewing at me as I headed off to class. Stooping to peer through the bushes, I discovered the tiny furry black source—and she discovered me!

About six-weeks-old and all black except for a white star on her chest, she came tottering out of the bushes and straight toward me. I picked her up and gave a little rub on the head, but being that I was running late, I quickly put her back down under the bushes and convinced myself that she must belong to the people in the apartment behind the bushes (never mind that it was vacant).

When I returned from class I didn't see or hear her, so I figured her owners had realized her escape and after a heart-wrenching search, were reunited in joyous joyousness. I flipped on the television content that she was safe and I didn't have to rescue her and watched some Comedy Central something-or-other (we had cable at this point, before the cable companies became really evil; they were only quasi-evil at the time).

Then Tim came home. I heard him coming up the steps, along a with a certain familiar, plaintive meowing that grew louder with each step. He opened the door and came in with his keys dangling from one hand, the kitten in his other hand, and peered over his sunglasses at me with that "please don't murder me" look of someone who had just brought a stray kitten home.

"Can we keep her?"

And so that is how she came into our lives. We paid a pet deposit, went litter box and food dish shopping, and named her Ezry after the character Ezri Dax on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," albeit with a different spelling.

Come to think of it, 3/4 of our mammalian pets are named after TV characters. Hmmmmm . . . I wonder what that says about us . . . but I digress.

So with Ezry started our family. At first we called her the timeshare kitty because she would sit in one of our laps, purring, and being petted for a few minutes, then jump down and run to the other person to get in his lap for more petting and purring, repeating this every few minutes. She did this for the first couple of years, but then stopped being so obvious about it. As she's aged, her quirks have multiplied and diversified, and she's getting, shall we say, eccentric. Evilly so. She'll be all lovey-dovey, letting you pet her and rub her belly, purring the whole time. Then she'll disagree with a thought that may have just crossed your conscious or subconscious mind and flip around to devour your hand, arm, and face. Sometimes Ez'll sit across the room from you and stare with the cold calculus of a demon trying to extract your soul for sustenance. But she is our little girl and we love her dearly.

I once kicked a good friend of ours—we'll call her Truvy—out of our apartment for smacking Ezry. I kept telling Truvy to quit getting all up in Ezry's business or she was gonna attack her. Truvy didn't listen and kept putting her face in Ezry's. So Ezry bit her on the face, natch. Truvy smacked Ezry on the head so I started yelling at Truvy and kicked her out. We didn't talk for weeks. Everything is fine now, though. Truvy has a new respect for Ezry's psychotic ways and even patched things up with her somewhat.

When we moved into our house in December 2005, Ez did not handle it well. She started using the downstairs carpet for her litter box (this was probably a combination of the moving stress and the dried remnants of the previous owners' dogs' urine saturating the carpet and pad), and nothing we tried succeeded in altering this behavior. She wasn't ill, just ill at ease, apparently. So we cat-proofed the fence and reluctantly kicked her out of the house and into the backyard, where she lived for the last two and a half years. We have felt terrible about doing that and swore that once we replaced the downstairs carpet with tile and wood, we'd let her back in for another chance.

Considering reflooring that area would be quite expensive and with no end to our financial woes in the near-term, we decided on letting her back in and working with her while we were home on vacation a couple of weeks ago. The carpet's already ruined, so there isn't much she could do to make it ruineder. She has done remarkably well, and at the risk of jinxing things, she hasn't had a single accident, going back to using the litter box like nothing had ever happened to the contrary. However, not all is a rosy picture of Leave It to Beaverness.

Remember how I said she's getting eccentric in her old age? Evilly so?

She does this thing—well, its a series of things that are all related—while we're trying to sleep. I guess she doesn't feel we deserve to sleep after locking her outside for two years in all but the most extreme weather conditions. Revenge is a dish best served up with purrs and claws and teeth and reckless abandon. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "why don't you just lock her out of the bedroom?" Ezry doesn't do closed doors (unless, thankfully, it's a bathroom door). She'll destroy the door, trim, and floor within minutes.

First of all, she doesn't want me to get to sleep. As soon as I get in bed, she jumps up and starts kneading the comforter next to me and purring as loud as she can while licking my arm and head-butting me. I have to completely bury myself under the pillows and bedspread to make her cease and desist. But the fun doesn't stop there; it is but the first step in what has become our nightly waltz of wit, agility, speed, and insanity.

She likes to mess with me when I'm in my deepest sleep. Tim tries to stop her, but he has to sleep, too, so he can't be altogether insomniously vigilant. Her enhanced sleep deprivation techniques vary from night to night, and last night she added to that repertoire. Usually, she likes to run across my head, put her front paw over or in my mouth or on some other part of my face (sometimes with a little claw, but usually just paw), sit on one of the nightstands or the dresser and push things off onto the floor (like my glasses, rings, wallets, phones, etc), or madly licking my arm, hand, or face.

When she succeeds in completely rousing me, I try to catch her and throw (read: gently toss) her off the bed, at which point Sebastian (our other cat and the only exception to the TV name rule) chases her downstairs, giving her a sound thumping the entire way. But she comes back. She always comes back. Most of the time she's too fast for me and disapparates into thin air only to reappear the moment I drift back to sleep. The times I do catch her I manage to either make her stop completely for the night, or at least buy myself a few hours of uninterrupted REM.

Last night after running across my head and me failing to grab her, she pulled a new trick out of her bag a little while later: she bit my elbow. So I pulled out a new trick of my own (admittedly borne of instinct rather than malice) and punched her with my other arm. I didn't hit her hard, but I felt her jolt into the air and leap from the bed, Sebastian on her tail. She didn't bother me anymore after that, but the damage was already done. She succeeded in her mission and I didn't sleep very well the rest of the night.

And so the dance continues.

12 July 2008

Doggles

I just wanted to share some videos of Xander and Joxer. Enjoy!








10 July 2008

You Don't Belong Anymore

Ever feel like a bat trapped in a bra? Suffocating in your warm coziness?

Or maybe you feel like a headless bunny sometimes. It's that feeling of contentment mixed with frustration with a just a dash of insanity (or maybe a dollop if your insanity comes in a thick, cream-based form). Usually, you're content except for some extremely frustrating and difficult circumstances. Maybe it's one or two things, or it could be a multitude of things, but everyone's dealt with this at some point.

For me, it's several things. Tim's job, my difficulty in making time to write, gas prices, and our debt. But it's that last one that is a constant weight whispering raspy discontents in my ear. So if everyone in Americaland could just send one dollar to my PayPal account, we could beat that motherfucker down, right off the ba—

No?

Well, it was worth a shot.

Seriously, though . . . the last four things are so inextricably intertwined, it becomes a tenuous balancing act. If any one of them goes the wrong direction, it directly affects everything else and could be ruinous. I've been trying to take care of the debt. Have a budget plan all lined out and everything. Even managed to stick with it the past four months. But now that gas prices are nearing $4 a gallon here, and with the skyrocketing cost of groceries and pet food eating into our budget, I don't know that I'll be able to follow it much longer even though I've managed to pay off four credit cards.

You know, I always hear that I must contribute to my 401(k) and I'm a fool if I don't start investing for my retirement now, blah, blah, blah. What they don't explain is, if my annual salary increases are being outstripped by inflated costs of living (I'm talking gas, utilities, and groceries) to the point I can barely make ends meet, where the hell am I supposed to find the money to contribute to a damn 401(k)?

Admittedly, I'm at least mostly responsible for getting myself into this mess. But when your car needs tires or repairs or inspection, or you need a computer for college, or you need a suit for going on interviews, or you need two root canals and a crown and three wisdom teeth pulled, and you have no cash to cover it and the credit card companies make it sooooooo easy for you, the college student with little-to-no income to get a credit card, which route are you gonna take? Exactly.

Then the interest piles up and your payments begin to increase, then the rent, utilities, groceries, and gas prices start going up, and the student loan payments start kicking in even though you still haven't been able to land a job six months after graduating, making you even more cash-strapped. You still have dental bills, medical bills, car maintenance and repairs, etc. to pay for, so you put it on plastic. Next thing you know, you're in debt up to your eyeballs.

And even when you do have insurance, you still have bills. Take my dental plan, for example. I had to have three crowns, a wisdom tooth pulled, a root canal, and some other expensive, but necessary procedures done. Even with my dental insurance, I had to pay about $2,600 for it all. What do you think I put it on? Credit. Dentists don't do payment plans; they take cash or credit card. Hey, they got bills to pay, too, you know.

Then when Tim first started his job and thus had no sick time, we both got sick several times over the course of two months and had to go to the doctor several times. We have a $40 copay, and Tim had to take the time off unpaid. Four doctor visits and then some really pricey medicine added up to about $300 on top of him losing two days of pay. Yeah, it all went on credit.

This year, we both needed glasses and contacts. Insurance pays for the eye health exam, but if you're nearsighted and you wanna be able to see, you gots to pony up. Another $500+ on credit.

You see where I'm going with this? Ten years of this has dug us a pretty deep hole, with setback after setback putting us just a little bit further behind, slowing down our progress just that much every time.

And I will freely confess that some of the purchases we put on credit weren't absolutely necessary. But anniversaries and birthdays actually comprise a fairly small portion of the debt.

Anyway . . .

It will hopefully all work out eventually. We're still making ends meet, still staying on top of all the bills and crap. As long as Tim doesn't lose his job unexpectedly, gas doesn't hit $5 a gallon and the stock market doesn't crash, we'll climb out of our hole . . . eventually.

Than maybe, just maybe, I can stop whining and start investing.

09 July 2008

Is There Anybody Out There?

Wow.

Long time, huh?

It has been almost exactly 18 months since my last post. I almost could've had a couple a kids since I last wrote. And actually, I guess I have. You see, we've adopted two dogs in the past 12 months, Joxer and Xander.



But I digress . . .

Remember way back when, when I said it had been a crazy seven months? No? You've never read my blog before and all the people who used to read it have died or moved on, you say?

Oh.

Well scroll down a bit and read the previous post or two.

Go on . . . I'll wait.

. . .

All done? Excellent.

You see, in September 2006, Timmy was laid off. Nice, huh? For his company to lay him off nine months after buying a house was quite the crap on the head. That was followed by three depressing months of frantic job-searching and straining to make ends meet with my meager salary and his tiny unemployment checks. He finally landed a job near home, luckily (or so we thought).

That job quickly revealed itself to be a Pandora's box of spiteful coworkers and miserable work conditions and departmental policy so focused on the bottom line that it makes The Donald(tm) look downright nonprofit. He's still there, unfortunately. As you all well know, the souring economy that cost him his job in the first place has only gotten worse since then. This has made it increasingly difficult to find another job and added the stress of not losing this one since another may not be in the near-term offing. But he just goes into automaton mode and does his job to bring home a paycheck while trying to find something better. Someday. *sigh*

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, right?

You know, I have been saying that for years now, and I never knew it was from Shakespeare's Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing." (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-28)

I think that's how I've been feeling for awhile now. Running around with frenetic energy, doing the same routine day after day, week after week, ad nauseum. Aside from trying to keep a roof over our heads and feed us and our cars, what else is there? Is that what I spent my whole life building up to? To spend the rest of my life in an unfulfilling job making a pittance that barely covers expenses only to die having had no purpose to live in the first place?

I'm reminded of another quote by the great 21st Century thinker, Happy Bunny:

It's true though. Everyone dies. Why make ourselves miserable trying to do and be something we're not if we're all just dust in the end anyway?

Maybe you people who believe in an afterlife don't see the futility of it all. I'm an atheist. Or at the very least an agnostic. I've seen no proof of an afterlife for human or animal. I've seen no proof of any god, Hindu, Muslim, Judea, Christian, pagan, or otherwise. I believe in humanity. I've seen its best as well as its worst. I've experienced it. I live it. We all have and do.

I guess that's the point of it all. To be here for the ones you love and to take care of them when you can and vice versa. To make the most of your life, even if it's on a scale that only affects those directly around you. We can't all be presidents and celebrities and saints to the world, but we can to those individuals with whom we come into contact daily.

You've only got the one life. One shot. That's it. Make the most of it. Do the most good you can do within your own power. Rescue a dog or cat from homelessness. Hold a door or elevator for someone. Use your turn signal and don't cut off that guy in the next lane. Give your significant other a back or foot rub. Bring him or her a glass of chocolate milk without their having to ask.

Live and let live.

Be human and be humane.

Sorry, I didn't mean to go all soap-boxy on you. I wasn't really sure where this post would go, but I must say it was an interesting, albeit short, journey. Hopefully, it won't be another 17 months before I take it again.

06 December 2006

It's been a while . . .

If anyone still reads this, I am sorry for being absent for so long. It has been a crazy 7 months.