Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When a Funeral Becomes Tragedy Porn

First off, it seems I have to define the term "tragedy porn." I told friends of mine that I'm finally finished with it & 2 of them were confused; one actually though I'd done porn! I also had another friend who thought my husband had died instead of my sister in law. I'll have to send her a private message later since I've got a lot to tell her but first, let me define this term. I hope I gave an explanation that really did it justice for those friends but in case I didn't let's define it.

You know when there's a tragedy the media will cover it excessively? For instance, when 9/11 happened you couldn't watch anything on television b/c of all the footage of the World Trade Center towers. Not just on news channels but EVERYWHERE. They had no news to report at the time but it was happening for days & days on a loop.

After a while, people felt like enough was enough. That is how I felt about this whole recent death thing.

If you've read prior entries, you know I'm no stranger to the death of close family members. I've been to quite a few funerals & recently had to help in the planning of my father's funeral. I know a thing or two about them & what's customary vs. overkill.

I had no beef with my sister in law. She was like my father in some ways. Unfortunately, she was like him in the sense of having addictions & not being a functional human being to quite a few people. I felt bad for her family since boy do I know what it's like to live with someone who has an addictive personality & addiction problems. She also didn't want to get help for herself, resulting in my husband not being able to have a close relationship with her. Nor did she seem to want to have a close relationship with him. Maybe them being from 2 different generations also didn't help matters (10+ years age difference) though you could never have called my sister in law unhip. I'm also sure she had to be a far better mother to her kids than my mom was to me since she actually had hard times in her youth, knew all the tricks & that teenagers are going to rebel. She didn't go around trying to fight that fact or damning her kids for all eternity.

She struck me as the type of mom who could handle any problem her kids might have without being a judgmental jerkwad, resenting them for being successful or harping on some issue for the rest of their lives. I never heard her being judgmental about or toward anyone & she actually argued with her mother with positions I'd take myself.

Plus, she appreciated my fashion sense & always made me feel welcome in the family.

My most memorable story of her was when she came to see our apartment with her kids & husband. She told us that our street was where she used to go score drugs. I always saw her as a hip older sister; perhaps had I been able to have a closer relationship, she could have been the hip older sister I never had.

We had the wakes yesterday & the funeral today. Here's where it becomes tragedy porn:

1. I had to go to BOTH wakes since my ride chose to do this. One wake was bad enough; I cried some in that one. You couldn't help it since you saw her in the casket & the slide show had recognizable music (including "Angel" by Sarah MacLachlan, the song most known for being played in those mistreated animal commercials). I will also never be able to hear the song "Always" by Atlantic Starr in the same way, though I thought it was sweet for the slideshow & fitting for my sister in law. After all, she had decent taste in music. She's the one who exposed my husband to great classic rap I didn't get to listen to until much later.

At least one relative told us the music included was just too sad for things.

Also, no one I have ever heard of a funeral for had 2 wakes. You got one wake; that was it. We had one wake for my father & my mother didn't even want that. In fact, my mother in law outright said she didn't want one when she's dead since she hates the fake concern from people who never bothered reaching out or contacting the deceased when (s)he was alive. She makes a very good point.

2. At the second wake, we had to be subjected to a pastor trying to proselytize to us. One prayer is one thing; it's another to be telling people they have to put their hope in God or bad things will happen (or imply it).

Newsflash, Christians!!! Not everyone plays on the God Squad or wants to.

Why should atheists, agnostics, Pagans & others who don't follow YOUR beliefs have to feel attacked and alienated when they go to pay their respects to a loved one? Particularly a loved one who probably wouldn't have wanted these people to be subjected to a sermon. I don't recall my husband being subjected to harassment from his sister on religious matters when she felt religious at a given moment. You don't hear about atheists or agnostics trying to shove their faith down believers' throat at their loved ones' funerals or using their speakers to deliver sermons & "save souls."

3. We were all sitting in rows of chairs in there while the body was out & with the comfy seats in front for the family. My husband was in a fuzzy situation since he was the brother but my husband's parents were in the front and, of course, you had my brother in law & their kids. My husband didn't want to be in front anyway so we opted to talk to other relatives and let them know we should be getting together under more pleasant circumstances & in less formal settings.

This is not something I've ever seen in the South & only with my husband's family (those are the only funerals I've been to up here). Again, I've been to a LOT of funerals. Our wake was in a large room, no chairs except comfy ones on the side. They also had comfy seats in the hallway so you didn't have to stay in the cold viewing rooms if you didn't want to be in there anymore.

Here you had the downstairs lounge near the office or had to stand in the hallway. There was also the option of going outside (which was also available at my father's wake).

I really hate that setup. It feels like you should see a speaker or a performance. If you're not, everyone just sits in dead silence, watches the slideshow a thousand trillion times and is encouraged to just sit like we're in some church sermon. At least in an open room, conversation will happen & people won't feel awkward about engaging in it. Plus, you know to keep your stuff with you or can put it in a comfy seat where no one is likely to steal it from you.

There's only so many times you can sit and view a slideshow that way before you feel like enough is enough.

4. This morning, we had to ride in rush hour traffic from our house about an hour away to then sit ANOTHER hour watching yet another slide show in the same room with the same seating setup. I was like "This is no longer a funeral!! It's tragedy porn! I have to get out of here."

I'm not sure whose grand idea it was to tell everyone to come in at 9:30 & then not bother doing ANYTHING until more than an hour later. That person should be forced to give me a free glass of pulpy orange juice & pay our gas costs for sitting in the crap we had to sit in to travel 2 counties away.

Not to mention my stomach was growling during all this while I'd eaten breakfast before I came (no orange juice so I was also sleepy & POed from getting up at the crack of dawn, at least in The Angry Redheaded Lawyer's world). When I get paid to get up at 7 in the morning, we'll talk about the early/lateness of the hour. Until I do, I'm sleeping in & you can keep your sob stories to yourself. Oh, and as a rule entertainment people generally keep later hours than everyone else when they get to make that choice.

5. We also had to take side detours to the homes in the town where the deceased lived. One of them wasn't even a residence my husband remembered & he couldn't tell you which one was her old home. As he pointed out, what is the good in that? The people who wanted to do that could do it on their own time instead of dragging the full procession there. Who were we burying, my sister in law or JFK? I'm shocked no one tried to have the full town closed. Who doesn't think that's self-indulgent?

No funeral I have been to in history EVER did this. My father's did not include a drive by of homes where nobody knew where they were or why it was the least bit significant. We had the good sense not to drag people to bad neighborhoods to wheel his corpse all over town.

We went straight to the cemetery & that was that. The nostalgia tours (which are totally for the living, not the dead) were not inflicted on our funeral attendees. Not to mention people have lives aside from funerals on a weekday. They have jobs, rush hour traffic & plenty of other things to contend with.

6. The funeral home staff seemed determined to drag this out for as long as humanly possible. We sat in our car for what felt like eternity before the tour of homes began. It was ridiculous & showed poor planning. We sure didn't have a long ass wait when we were burying my father; we got that show on the road.

I also don't remember our driver going slowly like this one did; my father would have been pissed if that happened anyway since he (as well as the rest of my family) was known for being a lead foot & someone who complained about slow drivers. We've all got some road rage & don't deny it.

7. Finally, there were about a trillion "final goodbyes" to the deceased. We had more prayers, put our flowers on the casket and you'd think we'd be done. The word "final" didn't have the conventional meaning here.

One big thing about every other funeral I've been to: you DO NOT get to hang around & watch the cemetery staff put your loved one in the ground or the drawer. No one ever hung around for it & we felt it was done, time to move on. The dead person isn't at that cemetery; they are gone.

Not this time. My husband & the other family members go over to the drawer to watch them load the casket in. I did not. Instead I sat on benches & looked at the dates of life and death for people in this cemetery. I noticed that a lot of people with Italian last names lived for far longer than most of my relatives, leading me to think longevity is apparently good if you're an Italian living in Long Island. Saw very few plaques for people who died younger. That made me mad since my family's longevity is not even close to 80s-90s; try 60s.

I was also done by that point. A person can't be around death & all that tragedy all the time, non-stop for days on end like that. You say your goodbyes & get the show on the road. Dragging it out like this was just picking at scabs & giving the wound no chance of healing.

I put my flower down on the casket, I went through before the first wake to say goodbyes, the end of the second wake & before we left for the procession. I did all my goodbye saying at the start; I didn't need multiple times for that. Sister in law also isn't a high rank on all this in my book. I wasn't even acknowledged in the obituary or to half the people who paid their respects.

At what point did this become tragedy porn for me? The second wake long before the pastor arrived & sitting around over an hour this morning like we were in church to watch the second slideshow.

So if you're planning a funeral, a few things to consider:

1. Respect for others. The world doesn't revolve around YOU. Think about what the deceased would have wanted. Would (s)he want the people who came to mourn him/her feel unwelcome at the service? Would the deceased want you wheeling his/her corpse all over town? Would the deceased want you to drag out the entire process & dwell on things, Catholic guilt or not? Most of us aren't self-centered, self-indulgent jerks who think everyone else should hang around the rest of the decade & watch the same tributes ad nauseam. How about some appreciation & respect for people who are taking time off their jobs, not watching their kids, getting up at the crack of dawn, braving rush hour, whatever to show up?

2. Demand your funeral staff to be efficient. We could have been told to show up an hour later & I could have gotten more sleep. Perhaps we'd have also avoided the traffic we hit to get there. Make sure they have their shit together & organize things beforehand so they're not running around for things or encouraging people who took time away from work & their own lives to attend.

3. If you must have a wake, don't do that seating thing unless you're bringing in a stand-up comic or others are going to get up & speak about the deceased most of the time. Don't force people to sit there for 30 minutes+ on end with the tribute on loop & zero access to food (since NY law supposedly forbids anyone bringing food or drink to a funeral home; what if they're toting a young child, I wonder?) or loud conversation with others. You could also be forgiven if you're bringing in a dancer, preferably burlesque. The people with kids should also appreciate this since however much we hate that mess, they have to hate it more since that's just cruel.

Imagine my autistic nephew having to do that; he'd lose his shit very quickly. In fact, his screaming would be a welcome relief from the somber, depressing atmosphere. Watching these younger kids interact made me feel a little better at the cemetery. Life affirming stuff, maybe? I don't know.

Younger children at funerals just make it feel better to me since they're not bound by the rules of decorum adults are & generally get to be their rambunctious, crazy selves without too many adults getting pissy about it. As long as they're not being bratty like pulling people's hair or knocking flowers down, they should be around to bring levity to the proceedings if the family refuses to have a celebration of life & insists on imposing the law of tragedy porn.

My husband had the nerve to tell me earlier I didn't know what it was like to have someone die & have unfinished business with them. I had to remind him he was wrong. I hope he'll take the advice he gave me before.

Also, I know I'm not a goth or like Harold of Harold & Maude. Maybe going to a funeral is okay if you don't know the person but if you do? It just sucks & it's worse when it gets into tragedy porn territory. I already told my husband I'm not going to any more wakes or funerals unless it's for immediate family or a very close friend (as in, someone I've bared my soul to who didn't run for the hills when I did). I can't do The Death Channel; some people seem to want to live in it but I can't. I like to live in today & have no regrets about doing a modeling gig on Saturday. I don't want to feel like my career & plans are being halted and derailed because of all this shit. I already felt like I lost the month of June with my family stuff; I don't want to lose this month or next as well.

If you're wondering if this changes my general feelings on family, it doesn't. I never signed up for sainthood & would never tell you I'm perfect. I also think it's extremely hypocritical to say "Family is who is there for you & what you create, not blood" while telling someone they shouldn't disown their parents b/c "They're your PARENTS!!!" When you feel about a family member the way Thelma Harper felt about her mother, I think it's time to move on (Mama's Family reference; she felt her mother was a critical shrew who never had a kind word for her & disparaged everything about her, her husband and her family--you also saw this play out in flashbacks). I can't wait to get the full show in October & probably relate to parts of it way too much. Mama's Family is not far off from Southern families I've seen (though it takes place in the Midwest, not the South), especially if the family isn't rich.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More Family Drama & A Necessary Decision

Okay my father has been dead a little over a month & a half, right? You'd figure the people who shared a home with him would still be grieving & trying to support each other. Apparently, that's not the case.

Last night, literally after we'd had a conversation about them visiting NYC next year, I find out from my sister that her husband was cheating on her. Or at the very least, he was considering cheating on her & doing things that I doubt any of you would stand for from your spouses/serious significant others.

He had the bright idea of messaging girls they both knew on Facebook, asking for pictures of private parts & asking for one girl in particular's phone number (as well as employing text messaging). I have no clue how my sister found out but I saw an alarming status on her Facebook page & was wondering what's up. I thought maybe it had to do with more nasty family secrets, one of her kids or even her marriage. With her marriage, though, I thought "Her husband goes to work & sleeps then has to deal with the kids. When would he have the time to cheat?"

He decided to do all this messaging while at work. Why he couldn't just get online porn or a subscription to an adult magazine, I don't know. Nor can I figure out why in the Hell he picked women that (as far as I know) aren't exactly model material. If you're going to ask for nudie pics, at least ask for them from a woman that would rank a 7 or better on a scale of 1-10 (putting aside personal preferences for hair color, ethnicity and other factors that differ from person to person).

I also don't know how my sister found out but she did & was angry. This also wasn't the first time he did this behind her back. I asked her if she had a problem with him having female friends in general & she said "No." I have guy friends & my husband has female friends.

The difference is none of my guy friends have ever asked for or gotten nudie pics from me (and since I'm not an adult model, none would be publicly available; I'm also not stupid enough to give someone something to blackmail me with, as a nude pic would certainly be).

Nor have any of my guy friends said "You know I love you" in a non-platonic way & my industry is known for beauty as well as informality. I've got no problem with taking a compliment or being told I'm pretty; that's not crossing the line with me, though my sister was also pissed about her husband doing that. Not even the guy friend my husband hates ever said "I love you" to me! I don't think I'd believe him if he did since too many people throw that phrase around like confetti.

Another reason this guy is a shithead? He decides to do this after they both get into debt on new cars. My sister obviously can't work when she has 2 little kids to care for & limited schooling to actually get a job, much less one that would pay daycare costs on top of whatever she made to help herself. She's also been out of the workforce for a good 10 years.

Oh, and he corresponded with one of these chicks on Mother's Day & the last one was a couple weeks after my father's passing.

Since this isn't the first incident, I keep thinking of the phrase "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

To make this story better, this man's mother (herself a divorced woman) has the gall to tell my sister she should put up with this shit & forgive him with no repercussions. Gee, what does that teach their kids? The woman is supposed to be a good little Stepford Wife while the man gets carte blanche to do whatever he wants? Apparently, she waited until she saw her husband in bed with someone to get a divorce. My own mother pointed out that if we didn't have social media & texting today, my brother in law would have been meeting up with these girls and eventually fucking them.

Right now, the timing of all this had me mad. gets better.

My sister mentions the whole thing on Facebook & then some scum relative of my brother in law's decides to publicly insult her for expressing her feelings and views. This shithead apparently apologized before she deleted his post & I happened to see it. I was going to respond to this post but couldn't so I decided to send a private message, giving him a leg up over what he gave my sister. Sorry, you fuck with my loved ones & you're fucking with me. I illuminated that fact to this pathetic, uneducated moron who apparently didn't bother doing his homework on me. I forwarded his response to my husband, who agreed with this assessment. I later responded that this guy was out of my league & an idiot before blocking (I block as a preemptive measure since I've got no time or patience for bullshit).

Then, my brother in law makes reference to this on my feed & I commented my sentiments. After all, his relatives made public attacks at my sister with him doing nothing to tell them to butt out. Yet he has the gall to tell ME to do so. Yeah, me. The Angry Redheaded Lawyer. The enforcer. The person who's got much more education, means, charisma and contacts than this pathetic little shit who's related to Psycho Boy.

I stated that if HIS relative had not publicly been nasty to my sister, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But guess what, shithead? You mess with my sister, you're messing with me. He must think because my father isn't around he's going to get off easy & mess with us. He's sadly mistaken.

His pathetic family who has zero concept of the laws also tried to claim that my words were a credible threat. Ha! Any cop would laugh at you if you tried to claim that one. I live 1,000 miles away from there. I also have no travel plans to go down there & haven't made any considering I've got business stuff to do up here. Plus, I'm not going to the state of NC considering they've passed that nasty, sexist requirement on abortion clinics & essentially trying to have MORE deadbeats have kids due to lack of access to contraceptives and abortion. Aren't armchair lawyers the best?

You'd think my sister would appreciate having a big sister who didn't let anyone mess with her or treat her like shit. After all, who else would defend her? You'd be dead wrong.

Instead, both she & my mother had the nerve to tell me not to get involved but didn't say a word about the prior actions of my brother in law's relatives. My mother told me my sister said all this. I said I'm not going to let someone treat my sister like shit, end of story & he didn't call out these relatives. I also note that he didn't address my points about doing right by my sister or those kids.

I honestly predicted that reaction & it's made me come to a very important decision: disownment.

Yep, you read that right. You may ask why. You may try to claim "But they're FAMILY!! You can't stop speaking to them!"

WRONG!!! Some people are too toxic to have in your life. It's my belief that my sister & my mother are the embodiment of such a thing.

Let's examine the evidence:

1. Both tell me how to dress when I visit & have demanded me to dress a certain way before going places with them.
2. Both tell me not to speak on a matter while others are free to do so without any remarks or comment from either of them to those parties.
3. Both blame me for shit while others do far worse in a situation. My sister is still friends with the former friend of mine who tried to ruin her wedding. If I'd done that, I'd have been persona non grata for even thinking about it.
4. Both refuse to accept that I'm "the enforcer" or embrace it. Instead, they expect me to be some good little Southern Baptist who doesn't ever express a negative view, cleavage or a backbone.
5. Both refuse to accept that I'm a model or that I look as I do (which is thinner & prettier than everyone else). They wanted to "fatten me up" while I was down there. Does this sound like supportive behavior or like they want to drag me down to their level & resent me?
6. My mother even used to ask about my sex life & if I was sleeping with particular guys. This was when I was in college & over the age of consent.

As for getting gifts, I really don't care about gifts from anyone these days. I'm older now, have a lot of stuff & limited space in my home. Nor does anyone have the money or inclination to get me the things I really want like repaying all my loans or getting me stock. I don't spend holidays with my family since they live too far away & my husband can't get time off work. In fact, I wouldn't mind spending holidays with just me, my husband & our cats with perhaps a few guests who also have bad family situations and just want a nice place to go for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I'd also not mind having to buy less for Christmas. I'm not dependent on my parents & really haven't been since I've done plenty on my own. You could say I've succeeded despite my family situation.

You may say "What about your niece & nephews?" Well, I love them & don't want them to be fucked up but I've had it with this "one rule for me & one rule for everyone else" shit. How would they even respect me when they've seen their mother & grandmother step on me or refuse to let me do what I do best? They'd have to decide on that but cut me out & I'm sure there'd be resentment later on; I'm also not about to be a slave to my sister so I can have contact with them. If she thinks I'm doing that, she's dead wrong. My psyche & well being trump, plain & simple.

This has been building for years & I think now is the time to say "Enough is enough." If my sister can't be grateful for me standing up for her, I'll find someone else who appreciates me for who I am & doesn't let people shit on them. I can't care about someone & watch them get shit on so I'll devote my care & concern elsewhere.

I think maybe classism is figuring some into this. My family has the poor person's mentality; I do not. I never did, in fact. Would a 15 year old with poor person mentality have called up the EEOC like I did when I was applying to work at JcPenney? Would a 22 year old with that mentality have fought to apply to law school at the same time as everyone else? The answer to that is "no"; I never gave up on things I wanted while my family will give up in a second & not bother to assert themselves on important things.

Another way I think they're toxic? If I'd listened to them on things, that former friend who behaved like an asshole & is now the living embodiment of a Jerry Springer guest would still be in my life. My father would have had more opportunity to hurt me & emotionally abuse me and I'd be a stunted human being. I'd have also submitted to Psycho Boy & probably gotten a divorce after his coming out, complete with a body destroyed by childbirth and a psyche destroyed by children I didn't really want.

As an adult & getting far away from that influence, I've seen lots of things that make them not very good people to rely upon or take seriously.

Since my father's death, there's been serious thought going on in my house. My husband has been spurned on to do lots of things to improve himself & live life to the fullest. I've also had time to think very carefully about who I want in my life as I'm on this journey in my field.

For me, if someone's causing conflict or a problem now it's just going to get worse later on when I get a higher public profile & do more things. The resentment my family seems to have for me will only get worse. It's probably why my friends these days are industry peers, attorneys or folks with some money though I never really befriended the neighborhood kids like my sister did.

A great analogy for my feelings about my past are old clothes I had in high school that are too big on me now. The new me just doesn't fit into them & no matter how hard I try, it's just not going to. I have to face facts that I've become part of what Nietzsche would call "the great." One of the "beautiful people," someone who has goals & is going to do great things in life. That's something I have to insist on for people who are going to be around me at this stage of my life.

The saying "birds of a feather flock together" is very true. I can't be hanging around people who are going to sabotage me, resent me for my success or otherwise bring me down. I'll have enough people outside my circle trying to do that. Why let the haters eat dinner with you? You might as well just roll out the red carpet for them.

I even told my husband that I want that for him; he doesn't need to be around people who are only going to have class envy sooner or later & not really care about his success in life. I want people around who inspire me to be better, who make me feel good about myself, who support what I do & would have my back in a second.

I feel like my sister & my mother have instructed me to not give a shit about my sister at all. Like I shouldn't even bother dialing 911 if some rapist attacked her in my presence. Being away from it, I can see this poor person mentality shining through.

One note about poor person mentality: not all poor people have it. Some people who grow up poor DO give a damn about moving up & have the drive to do it. There aren't many but they do exist.

So in this quest to surround myself with positive, driven & good people who will have my back no matter what happens to me, I feel you can't keep people around just because they share DNA with you. You need more than "they're FAMILY" to convince me someone's presence in my life is necessary or helpful to me. Having bad people around could damage my career, my psyche, my sense of self; I just can't have it. People can tell when you're upset about things & when I can predict my family's response to things, I think it's time I no longer cared & the only way to do that is to have a very limited relationship if any relationship can exist.

I like Dear Prudence's advice on bad behavior from family members. Essentially you leave the situation or end the conversation when the family member in question is doing the offensive act. The problem is that wasn't feasible when I was staying in my parents' house & had no car to drive off in when they were playing Fashion Cop.

I would LOVE to meet a family where the members are functional, support each others' dreams, don't act like little children & aren't infantalizing anyone. My husband says that doesn't exist. Today's little drama made me see the wisdom of a family friend's requirement for a husband that his parents be dead. I thought it was a good idea when I first heard of it, honestly. Mine was that I wouldn't tolerate disrespect & wouldn't be with a man who wouldn't stand up for me with in-laws. I also refused to be with anyone whose family behaved like assholes to me.

Family is what you create, not the DNA you have. Don't let DNA blind you to people's failings or permit you to put up with shit you'd never tolerate from the general population. If everyone followed that basic life advice, we'd have far fewer problems.

On the "eventually you'll be all alone point," I have this to say: we all die alone. Why not respect yourself while you're alive & damn the haters who want to shove you down to their level?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Question Guaranteed To Piss Off a Guy Who Approaches Women

On the 4th, I went to the Liberty Belle Spectacular again with my husband. This year, at the news of massively hot temperatures and a second venue falling through at the last minute, I chose to dress for my comfort vs. dressing in the desired dress code for the event. I had a cute dress I could have worn fitting the dress code but since I hate sweating like a pig & having it all ruin clothes I'd have to dry clean (not to mention causing painful zits on my person), I opted for a short skirt & this pink halter top I got from a relative who didn't want it.

Since my modeling debut, I've carried the idea of not letting society shame me for having a figure & remembered what my one "arrogant" friend said about having self-confidence. I'm sure people who know me well have picked up on it. For pure sport I've gotten on subways, looked around, sometimes noticed a particular guy and thought to myself "I could make that guy want me." For me, a lot of things have been more of a "because I can" instead of a "because I want to" thing.

I go to this event and the main MC actually called out my cuteness publicly (according to my husband, at least); note that I don't actually know this MC personally though I do know a producer of the show. I happened to be the redhead closest to his eye line, was near the bar & had on what I had on so my husband could very well be right about this; I saw a redhead behind me who was dressed vintage so I'm not 100% sure if he was speaking of her or me. I had to wear my hair massively up (as in, none of it hitting my back) so I wouldn't get a sweaty neck or scalp. Let me tell you, it stinks having to shake my hair out when I get someplace semi-cool so I don't feel like I'm dying & sticky.

Apparently, I'm still hot when my hair's way up in light of this & some guy approaching me last night at karaoke despite my husband walking up and talking to me. This other guy didn't move despite me talking to my husband; what the hell, huh?

However, that guy wasn't pissing me off or being crude toward me or I would have done something that seems to be the equivalent of throwing acid on a guy: asking him if he's gay.

No, shit! I do think asking a guy you don't know that question is the equivalent of throwing acid in the guy's face. While I was at the Liberty Belle Spectacular, I overheard this girl ask a guy this question. He had an accent & I also heard him talking about masturbation later on.

Just as what happened when I saw this in law school, that guy got really pissy and belligerent over that question. It also reminded me of a funny evening I had in law school.

It was the first year I lived in Connecticut and I was going out after class with my law school roommate & another classmate for my birthday (both female; it's relevant to this story). I was partially depressed since I figured I'd be all alone for it & likely heard my mom say "Well, if you were living down here we'd do stuff for you but you live up there so you're out of luck."

So we were driving into this bar to hang out & at one point, I was turning my car around to get a parking space further up. I was attempting to turn around on this hilled driveway.

Because it had been snowing a lot around that time (mid-January; I got a trial by fire that year in moving from Hotlanta to winter in Connecticut), there was snow and ice around. One of my back car tires got stuck as I was trying to do a 3 point turn to turn around. Freaking out, I start panicking since I'm blocking this roadway.

I was convinced I'd need to call a tow truck and pay money to get this car out when all of a sudden, this guy who was definitely older than us shows up and comes to the rescue. My car is out, I can park it, we go in and all hang out together that evening.

I had no romantic interest in this guy. Not exactly sure why but he wasn't really my type & I didn't feel any sparks. We were all single at that time but I likely was still adjusting to moving and life up there. I'd just moved into my apartment maybe a week before that & was gathering my bearings; I had my own flings and such later on.

However, it turns out my roommate & that classmate did have interest in this guy. I didn't learn about my roommate's interest until later but my classmate was a little more obvious that evening. In what I think was an attempt at gentle flirtation, she asks my rescuer if he's gay.

After this, you'd have thought someone threw acid at him or kicked him in the nuts with the way he answered that one. You could feel the air between them getting more hostile after that one. His tone was still a little light but I could tell that it wasn't a question he appreciated being asked.

When I heard this conversation on Thursday & saw that guy reacting in a similar fashion, it made me wonder if this is some universal response for straight men if they're talking to some woman for the first time and she asks that one. Granted, I don't know if this other woman & this guy knew each other already but if you're friends with someone you usually don't have to ask publicly like that. Or if you do, the guy knows you're fucking with him & will play along with you (or get pissed at you for ruining his opportunity with some woman he's trying to get with but that's another story). I asked my husband about that & he says it is indeed a universal response.

Honestly, I haven't seen men asking women if they're gay in casual conversation. None ever asked me anyway & I'm sure if my friends had gotten that one, I'd have heard about it. Never saw any of my sorority sisters get that one either.

I'm not sure how a woman would react if you asked if she was gay. I don't feel like it would be the equivalent of throwing acid on one if you did, though. I think a woman you talked to for the first time would be more upset if you called her fat (though some of us are self-aware) or started obviously leering at some other girl while you talked to her (though if it were me & I was single, I would find a better looking guy & start checking him out so I could beat you at your own game) or told her you required all your women to engage in threesomes with other girls.

I've still not really figured out exactly what is the verbal equivalent of throwing acid on us that holds true for all straight women just like asking a random guy if he's gay seems to be. Does anyone have ideas?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It's Definitely NYC or Bust for Me

I had the misfortune to read this today.

Since I used to live there many years ago & still have family living there (including my soon to be 1 year old niece), I definitely have some opinions on the matter. For those who aren't familiar with North Carolina, I think some background is necessary.

First off, there are liberals in North Carolina. You could credibly say NC is not really "the South" & not just because of this. It's also because Southern hospitality and some of the conventions associated with Southernism aren't part of NC. Some of them definitely weren't part of my upbringing or experience living or going to school there. If Southern hospitality existed, I wouldn't have gotten the hell I did growing up.

Second, there are people with functioning brains in North Carolina. Save for that Virginia Foxx airhead, you don't see a consistent mob of old white men trying to slam down on women's rights like you do in Texas or Arizona. There are people in North Carolina who aren't racist or ignorant cretins.

Third, not everyone in North Carolina is a God bothering fundamentalist Christian. There are plenty of people who aren't Southern Baptists or even follow the Baptist faith.

I actually know someone who is in public office in my hometown. I don't know his reaction to this but I would hope that he would not be in favor of telling me & every other grown woman what to do with her uterus or making family planning decisions for us. No right minded person is in favor of such things. I really wish the people who were would be tried for treason & removed from public office for violating the basic duties of such. It also makes me think my cats could be better politicians than such asswipes. Even they wouldn't have the gall to create legislation that would have the effect of outlawing abortion & you know cats feel superior to humans. Remember, most cats don't like little babies invading their spaces & taking attention away from them. That whole "cute" competition & all.

If this legislation passes, then trying to send me back to NC or suggesting I go live there again would be in effect imposing a death sentence on me. Remember, I had a tubal so if I got pregnant that pregnancy wouldn't be viable. I guarantee those shitheads would make certain that there was no exception for life of the mother considering they're trying to force rape victims to carry a rapist's child & also give the rapist parental rights once that baby is born in many of these states.

I hope my brother in law gets that vasectomy soon, especially if this garbage passes. I'm sure he'll still get editorialization and whining from providers even with having 3 kids already. Considering that experience with my sister's friend, I don't put it past any doctor down there to ask "What if you want another baby?" even if you've got 6 at home. Nice questions from people who will never take any financial responsibility for those choices.

Recently, I realized that this December will mark 10 years since I escaped from the South. Yes, it WAS an "escape." I got to leave since I got accepted to law school in Connecticut; if I hadn't, I'd have been stuck there at least a few more months & have far less certainty in getting to stay once I moved away since I wouldn't have a law degree to back me up.

I also felt like I was in prison everyday I lived in the South. Atlanta was a little better since it was a major city and I didn't have to hang out with people I knew in middle school (who almost all went to my high school) but there was still that whole Southern thing I didn't like (mostly the racism). In Atlanta, at least, it wasn't the norm to be a single mother living with your parents or married & living in a trailer park with no college education in your early 20s. Not the life I wanted or aspired to; some of us are different & have different ambitions in life. North Carolina was not a place where I felt my ambitions and goals were the norm, at least not in circles I had access to.

Who doesn't feel this recent push on outlawing abortion is an attempt to shove Christian mores down our collective throats? I see it for what it is. Oh, and you are NOT "pro-life" when you think it's a-okay for people with no money, maturity or basic brain functioning to breed. You are a fascist asshole. You are a closet rapist since you think babies are a punishment for having sex. You are a sexist who thinks all women are good for is breeding & raising children, even if some woman hates her kids and resents the entire enterprise. In short, you're a dumbass. Just admit it & stop wasting time coloring this as any more than what it is.

When will these fossils die & burn in Hell, I wonder? That's where those types are certainly going considering they run around judging others & desperately need to get lives. Not to mention some of these legislators have plenty of skeletons in their closets, as plenty of Internet commenters will point out.

Not to mention NC has enough problems with the recent cut to unemployment benefits to not be dealing with this crap. Wake up, morons! The 1950s have long since passed. We live in the age of online porn, gay marriage and sexting. Join us or go to the Middle East where they live in the Dark Ages. I'm sure they'll welcome your attitude there along with your fundamentalist Christianity.

I think I'll have to have a celebration to commemorate 10 years out of the South. Or maybe we should rename some states & regions to the American Middle East.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Road Trips: The Surefire Way to Get to Know Someone & Have an Adventure

Growing up, my family didn't have the money to do things like fly to far off destinations for vacation. In fact, we didn't really have money to go on vacation. We were doing the staycation long before that term ever existed. For the record, I HATE the term "staycation"; it's just a fancy & very pretentious way to say you're too broke or have too stingy a work schedule to take a vacation.

So when we actually got to go anywhere later on (mostly due to my desire to look at schools for undergrad before spending time and money on applications), we would take a road trip.

Personally, I love road trips though you have to do them right. You don't want to travel with anyone who has to stop every 5 seconds to use the bathroom or without clearly established rules on music, driving labor, food, etc. Nor do you want to travel with anyone who's going to deviate from the pre-established route like in the last episode of Nickelodeon's Doug. Go here for a reference to what I'm talking about. Believe me, if I'm driving there's no way in hell we're going out of the way like that. I don't care if Jesus and Santa Claus are appearing at the bug ranch & handing out bags of cash to everyone who shows up. Everyone I know who has driven or navigated road trips is the same way.

Now why are road trips so great? First off, if you take the right route (not overly scenic & not a massive toll plaza) you get a lot of room for exploration.

Second, they are a great test of a relationship. After a few hours, the veneer of politeness & reserve vanishes and you'll see people's true natures. Annoying personality quirks, crazy behavior, all that stuff comes out. Sometimes you're riding with the sleep deprived; just make sure they aren't the ones driving. I went on a road trip with my husband's family early in our relationship & I had the pleasure of dealing with the guy I was dating in a sleep deprived state. He gets looney & wacky. We were in the back seat. I think a road trip is much like an extended stay at the person's house; it will either tell you it's time to dump your significant other or that you should marry the person since you don't have the urge to kill him/her after it's all said & done. My husband was the first guy I spent an extended amount of time with & didn't want to kill after it was all over. If I couldn't handle being around him in a road trip, I wouldn't have married him since I'd have wanted to leave him at some restaurant in Fair Play, South Carolina (that is a real place where a family friend of ours once had car trouble when he was driving to Atlanta).

The same goes for friendships but I think going on a road trip that is at least 4-5 hours is a good test of a relationship since you'll either never want to see your significant other again or have overcome so much in the trip that you're bonded forever. I'd totally recommend doing that before ever getting married to someone. Flying, though it's a hassle, just isn't the same since you don't have to worry about anyone navigating or doing the driving. People in the car with you can actually screw that stuff up. If you can't stand being in a car with your significant other for at least 4 hours, you will never be able to live with him/her without being seriously tempted to commit murder.

Third, it's a bonding experience. You get shared experiences & stories about things you might never see at home. For instance, condom machines in the bathrooms were a big deal when we drove to Atlanta and stopped at gas stations in South Carolina to use the bathroom. There was also that weird gas station next to the video store my husband & I went to in Georgia when driving back from Florida. This place was legendary & it's something we know about but no one else would unless we told them (or they happened to get off that exit on 95). There's also being able to manage a crisis like bad weather or road closures. Those are always fun, especially if you don't have a GPS system or a phone app to help you reroute.

Again, that veneer of politeness comes down sooner or later so you're dealing with the real person; if you manage to travel with someone who can maintain that veneer for 10+ hours in a car (the distance to drive from NYC to my hometown in NC), that person should probably be awarded sainthood. There's no way a normal person could do that unless (s)he was asleep or passed out for at least half that time. Obviously, you don't get sainthood unless you were asleep or passed out for less than a couple hours of that 10+ hours.

Finally, you figure out your roles. Some of us are good drivers, some of us are awesome navigators, some are good at entertaining everyone even if there's no radio reception or great music to play. I think romantic relationships work better if you've got a good driver & a good navigator.

Another type of person you don't want in the car? A backseat driver. I discovered my husband was one when I had to drive part of the route to NC last Thanksgiving. As a rule, I always insist that the driver gets to play the music (s)he wants; after all, you don't want the driver getting into an accident or getting pissed off and doing stupid stuff that risks everyone's lives. I switched to my CDs. Having driven from Atlanta to NC many times by myself, I made sure to create a good mix of music for my CDs. In a 5 hour drive one way, you need to have some loud music with a beat so you don't cave in to being tired or have your trip last longer because you got drowsy and had to pull over. This is especially true if you're doing night driving, as I'd had to do pretty often.

My husband, a man who hadn't done that or even made late night drives to my home like I did to his when we dated & I was leaving from my last law school class on Thursday evenings to see him, even commented on that. Then, he yelled at me for doing 70 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour speed zone. Considering my father taught me how to drive & he was extremely good at it, I got quite upset. I also consider driving semi-relaxing if I have the right music on. I view it as akin to mastering a dance routine. You have to make sure you have the right steps & if you misstep, that's when you have accidents. That analogy is probably how I'm able to drive in construction areas and narrow spaces instead of being terrified like I was when I was first learning.

I also come from a family that prides itself on not driving like arthritic grandmothers. My mother regularly complains about slow drivers & she lives out in the country. My husband's family is the opposite & I did tell him he was acting like his mother, who will do the same thing when my husband is driving.

It seems if you're married & a straight woman, your husband will insist on driving the entire 14 hour trip himself. My mom had this happen to her & it's happened to me. I've offered to drive & my husband usually tells me no. When we were coming back from Florida, he later complained to people about driving the entire way from Florida to North Carolina even though I offered to take over anytime he wanted me to.

Are all men that stubborn? I say don't bitch about driving once you've turned down someone's offer to give you a break. When I traveled with my family, we shared driving responsibilities so no one would feel like they drove the entire way all alone.

At least I'm a good navigator so my husband doing the driving works for us. It's got to be worse if you're a driver and your significant other can't navigate for shit. I was the one who got my family out of NYC and back to Nanuet without the benefit of GPS back in 2002. I figured out the direction we needed to go & used the One Way streets to get us back where we needed to be. Guess my driving in Atlanta helped there. I'm also the one everyone goes to when they got off the wrong exit and have to get back on the interstate.

As a rule, I never rely solely on GPS for directions. We always used MapQuest directions and would learn the routes enough to see where alternate ways might be easier. I still do that today, in fact since GPS wasn't part of my life experience until more recently and I feel like you don't really learn how to get someplace unless you have the directions on your own. Just relying on GPS makes you too mindless and doesn't really allow you to recognize landmarks, exit numbers and things that would help you acquaint yourself with a route. Suppose I'm also speaking partially as a former courier since I also got directions when needed while doing that job.

Though eating is more of a challenge on a road trip if you don't eat fast food or at most chain restaurants, I still enjoy road trips. If you're smart, you research where the restaurants are on the route. This is something I've done when going near restaurants I'd never get to eat at in NYC or even where I'm going to visit. Unlike in New York and New Jersey, there are signs along the interstate in the South that will tell you what's off a particular exit. Even then, though, you sometimes can find a place is hidden. I once found a Chick-Fil-A in my route that wasn't listed on one of these signs. I joke with my husband that up here, it's "If you don't know what's off this exit, then fuck you! We're not telling you. Figure it out yourself, jerk!"

Road trips also work better if you don't have young kids, a small bladder, a hatred of adventure & novelty or fears of other people driving. Those people make the road trip much longer or more horrendous in some way. Fortunately, I don't have any of that stuff so I'm much more apt to go on one if given an opportunity. Being able to entertain yourself also helps sometimes. I also don't get car sick so I'm probably the perfect road trip companion if I've had enough sleep. I like evening trips better. Not sure why, I just do.

However, I'm not sure if you could call me a morning or a night person since my sleep schedule has varied so many times over the years that I didn't feel a difference when I was used to whatever schedule I had to follow at the time for work or school. As long as we're not leaving at 6 am & I have to drive first, I'm fine.

Man, I miss going on road trips. We're going to have to go someplace where we can do a road trip. I wouldn't mind doing one cross country as long as the proper planning happened & I got to travel with people I didn't want to strangle. I also wondered when someone mentioned a need for the means to have one to an event she was trying to get to whether there's a company that does that for you. Hires people to go on a road trip with you or use their car to make it happen? I think that kind of company would be interesting, don't you? Screen out the people so you don't get whiners and backseat drivers. If you could make it happen, I think it would be cool.