Monday, November 21, 2005

On a more serious note

Looks like Bush and Co. may be upping their surveillance of journalists and others who have been criticial of the administration. And the "free world" isn't as free as it used to be. Does that make you feel safer? (Hey, don't blame me, I didn't vote for him!)

I've said this many times, and I'm going to keep saying it: dissent is an essential part of the democratic process. Criticism of the president, his administration, or his policies does not equal treason. Spying on Americans simply because they've criticized Bush is a betrayal of what this country stands for.

Oh, and my November column is up at Austinmama.com: Lines of Separation.

Two by two meme thing

Because Adam tagged me for this:

Two Names You Go By
1. Melissa
2. Mel

Two Parts of Your Heritage
1. Greek
2. Irish

Two Things That Scare You
1. My kids getting hurt (this was Adam's answer as well)
2. Failure

Two Everyday Essentials
1. Hot tea (also one of his answers)
2. Time to read

Two Things You Are Wearing Right Now
1. Glasses (black, rectangle-shaped plastic frames)
2. One of Adam's wool sweaters

Two of Your Favorite Bands or Musical Artists
1. Eliza Gilkyson
2. The Decemberists

Two Things You Want in a Relationship
1. Promiscuous book-swapping (Adam's answer - see how compatible we are?)
2. Good conversation

Two Truths
1. Measure twice, cut once
2. You can't make a child eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom.

Two things You Hate (or at least really dislike)
1. Cilantro
2. The smell of sour milk

Two physical features that Appeal to You
1. "Artistic" hands with long, slender fingers
2. Crow's feet

Two of Your Favorite Hobbies
1. Writing
2. Cooking

Two Things You Want Really Badly
1. A job
2. The new Diana Gabaldon book

Two Places You Want to go on Vacation
1. The Caribbean
2. A couple of weeks in France - one in the countryside, and one in Paris

Two Things You Want to Do Before You Die
1. Write and publish a novel
2. Pay off my student loans

Two Ways that you are stereotypically a Chick/Guy
1. I worry about my weight and say things like "Does this make me look fat?"
2. I really, really, really like chocolate

Two Things You Normally Wouldn't Admit
1. I eat (and really enjoy) that EZ cheese that comes in a can (it's pretty yummy on Ritz crackers)
2. I regularly eat and enjoy Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with hotdogs cut up into it

I just totally blew my foodie street cred, didn't I?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dear Maureen Dowd. . .

I haven't read Maureen Dowd's new book, but I have read the excerpt that was posted in the New York Times last week. Reading it was like reading an anthropological study about life on another planet -- it had that little to do with my real life experiences.

Dowd's complaint seems to be that feminism didn't cure all the world's ills and instantaneously raise every woman in America's consciousness. She says, "Maybe we should have known that the story of women's progress would be more of a zigzag than a superhighway, that the triumph of feminism would last a nanosecond while the backlash lasted 40 years," as if feminism is defunct because the battle didn't end in 1969. Yes, you should have known, because all social change is a zigzag. All the progress in civil rights is hard-won and slow -- it's always two steps forward/one step backwards, because there's always a hell of a lot of people who are deeply invested in the status quo.

But anyone who thinks that women are no better off, or actually worse, than they were in the 60's (or the 50's or the 40's or earlier) is blind.

My grandmother was married at fifteen, had four children in five years, and lived in abject poverty because her husband was an alcoholic who couldn't hold a job, and she had no skills or education to support herself. She finally left him and went to beauty school, but five years later, they reconciled and she had another baby. A few months after that, my grandfather killed himself, leaving her with five children to support. Her sister suggested that she had no option but to give her children up for adoption, but my grandmother worked nonstop to keep her family together. Eventually she remarried and things became easier, but she continued working most of her adult life as a beautician and helping in her second husband's grocery store.

My mother was married at seventeen, before her senior year of high school. She finished high school, but never went to college (her mother and step-father made it clear that they wouldn't help pay for it, since there was no need for a woman to have an education). She was a stay at home mother, and never had a career. She says that the biggest reason she didn't work much was that she wouldn't have been able to find a job that payed well without a degree, and with my dad getting transfered all the time (he was career military), she wouldn't have been able to stay at any job for very long.

I was twenty when I got married. I have a college degree and a masters degree. Just like my grandmother and my mother, I've had to find a way to juggle being a wife and a mother with my career goals (and with supporting my family), but unlike them, I've had opportunities that give me a much wider range of options: parents who supported me, assumed I would go to college and have a career, and helped pay for college; birth control to limit the size of my family; acknowledgement that my career goals are as important as my husband's; scholarships, fellowships, and jobs that women might not have even been considered for before the 70's; daycare options. No, it's not a piece of cake, but I'm immensely grateful for the opportunities that feminism has given me.

Reading Dowd's piece, I don't recognize the women I know in her anecdotes about Sex in the City style gals, and I really don't recognize the men I know in her stories about unenlightened men who are threatened by educated, powerful women. My husband isn't perfect, but we've NEVER had the sort of retro Doris Day/Rock Hudson relationship that Dowd describes in her essay. We've always been friends, not antagonists in some game in which I had to "trap him" into marrying me. Frankly, I'm insulted on his (and my other male friends) behalf. It's not that I don't believe that women and men like this exist, but they certainly aren't well-represented among my friends and acquaintances.

Maybe it's because I'm younger than Dowd (she's 3 years younger than my mother), maybe it's because she's writing from a very New York City perspective, maybe it's a class thing - I'm pretty solidly middle class, and I don't usually associate with "top New York producer"s and "very beautiful and successful actress"es, but nothing about Dowd's essay resonated with me or felt familiar. It's like she's writing about another species.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Busy weekend, redux

We busily busied all weekend. The summary:

Watched: On Friday night, the big kids and I watched The Mask of Zorro - Drew and I had seen it before, but it was Fran's first time. We all enjoyed it immensely - the fight scenes are really wonderful, and I have to admit I really like Banderas as Zorro. I've heard mixed things about the sequel (Salon gave it a glowing review, but other reviewers were less than impressed), but I'd like to see it anyway.

On Saturday, we went to Will and Merideth''s for dinner and watched The Pirate Movie (there are just no words. . .it's like someone threw Gilbert and Sullivan and that faux late 70's Victoriana and The Blue Lagoon and some bad pop ballads in a blender and hit puree) and Napoleon Dynamite, which I really enjoyed - it's quirky and weird, but basically a very sweet movie, and even though it's not set in the south, most of the characters reminded me strongly of my extended family (I guess it's true that there are rednecks everywhere!).

Read: the first half of The Jane Austen Book Club (for my book club). I'm really enjoying this - Fowler's style is very elliptial - very show-y rather than tell-y - and the characters are really engaging. This is the first book by Fowler that I've read, and it reminds me a little bit of Barbara Kingsolver, who is also very good at intercutting stories of several different characters, and at glorifying the mundane.

In addition, I took Fran to her soccer game, cleaned the bathrooms and the bedrooms, did a bunch of laundry and dishes, and baked bread (1 loaf sandwich, 1 loaf cinnamon swirl).

Oh, and keep your fingers crossed - my mom and dad got an offer on their house (which has been on the market nearly 2 years). If all goes well, they'll close on January 4th.