Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trying to Pay Attention

I’m remembering the summer of 1998. I’d just graduated from college and went with my family up to Northern Michigan, as we’ve done every summer for the past half century. My grandparents rented a cottage called “The Little Brown Jug” and we would stay there together for a week or two.

When we were little, my parents let my sister and I glide peacefully up to Michigan in the back seat of my grandparents’ boat-like Buick, feasting on circus peanuts and lemon drops, while my brothers remained tethered in the backseat of Mom and Dad’s Malibu station wagon with a bag of celery. By the time I graduated college, we all drove up when and however we could, and Grandma and Grandpa fit into our cars. Neither one of them did much driving anymore. Grandpa had chronic anxiety attacks related to his emphysema.

So it happened that Grandma rode that year up to the lake with me in a cute Honda Civic that my cousin, a Dominican Novice, bequeathed to me. Grandma thought it looked just like the kind of car a girl should drive: little and white with tan interior and medals of St. Christopher and Immaculate Mary hanging from the visors. I’d been in a mood to listen to heavy music at a loud volume with the windows down. School was out FOR.EVER. But with Grandma present, that wouldn’t fly, so I listened to her talk instead.

That summer might have signaled the onset of her dementia had we not all been preoccupied with Grandpa’s more imminent difficulties. Grandma was healthy as a horse, strong, hearty and cheerful, if also consumed by worry for Grandpa’s health. She spoke in repetitive patterns, telling the same stories over and over, so that it was, I’m ashamed to admit, a little annoying. But I think we all assumed that she would bounce back to herself as soon as Grandpa’s health no longer consumed her—that she might quit living in the past, and get out of the house a little more.

Her stories that summer, as always, were about her ancestors, her mother in particular. I had been hearing the stories about her mother since I was a girl when I would stay all night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I tended to drift to the breakfast table first thing, looking for a bowl of Frosted Flakes, and Grandma, with her forever sensitive nose would tell me about how her mother always brushed her teeth twice in the morning, once before breakfast, and once after, in order to reduce halitosis. Make note.

On that trip, however, I was listening half-heartedly to Grandma tell me stories about her mother, Oma, and something clicked in my head: I need to write these down. Someday, she will not be here to repeat these stories, and I might want to remember them. I couldn’t imagine that they would ever grow dim in my memory, having heard them as often as I had, but as soon as we pulled into the driveway of the cottage at the lake, I took my journal out to the beach and wrote.

I wrote about how Oma, as a child, played hooky in order to go ice-skating. And when the principal called to tell her grandmother (her mother died in childbirth) that she was truant, Granny said, “Well it beats all how that child likes to ice-skate!” I wrote about how Oma believed in “airing the body” and that she would come out of the bedroom in the nude and say, “I’m ready to go!” just to get a laugh. And a million other stories, I wrote down over the course of the week.

It was not a remarkable vacation, otherwise. I asked Grandpa what he wanted to do one day, as he came out of the bedroom with his shoes untied and his belt unattached. “As little as possible,” he said. My little brother and I fought over the one and only recliner whenever Grandpa got out of it to go to the bathroom. One night, I pulled Grandma out on the lake for a swim as the sun cast an orange glow over the water. She floated placidly in the innertube for a few minutes before she asked to be released, then took off side-stroking with her swim cap aglow on the water’s surface. “It beats all how that girl likes to swim,” I thought.

Tonight, sitting next to my Grandma as she lies in bed, unable to speak, I am so, so glad that I had that car ride, and those weeks, those years of time with my Grandparents. At the end of that summer, they moved out of their home twenty minutes away from where I grew up, and moved in with my Aunt and Uncle a state away. Grandpa died within two years, and shortly after that, Grandma was diagnosed with cancer, and then Alzheimers. We have been losing her, very slowly, for the past ten years.

I want to imagine that she perks up when she sees me—that she has, even now, a moment of recognition when I greet her. It’s more likely that she is incapable of suppressing a smile when she meets someone new. Her good manners are that ingrained in her. It could be the baby I perpetually carry on my hip that makes her smile. Whether she knows me or not, I want to be present and pay attention to these last days of her life whether or not they are eventful or symbolic.

I have been meditating for some time now on the quality of being a witness to the lives of others—how important it is to have our lives and history validated in other people’s memories. It’s something I can do, pay attention to my family, my friends—and when called, give witness with my pen.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Soul Staked Out

The charming brunette with the gummy smile shown above, is currently in the process of dying. She is 96 years old, and when we show her the pictures of her and grandpa taken in a photo booth when they were engaged, she says, "Who are those people? They look like they're having such a good time." She was twenty-four when they married, and 87 when Grandpa died.

Grandma has been losing her memory for years now. The loss of memory moves backwards through time, so that recent memories disappear first, and childhood becomes more succinct. My father becomes her brother, and those of us born in the later half of her life require a re-introduction. It seems fitting that the woman nicknamed, “Girl” would spend her waning years living in the memories of her childhood. A girlish innocence, joyfulness, and love for ice-cream have accompanied her through life from the beginning all the way to this near end.

Grandma and Grandpa converted to Catholicism shortly before Grandpa died, which means that her conversion is on the long list of things Grandma has likely forgotten. My Aunt ensures that she receives the Eucharist whenever possible, but I wonder if she remembers why.

One of my favorite bloggers, Pentimento, in a recent post discusses how life, for a convert is seemingly divided at the point of conversion. The convert puts on the new man in Christ, and the old life is left behind. My Grandmother’s experience cannot fit into this model. She lived a vast majority of her life prior to conversion, and now, the “old man” is all she has. As Pentimento writes, thinking of time in a non-linear fashion puts my Grandmother’s conversion into a more palatable context.

“I think in fact that time travel is the main theme of my writing here -- the notion of a continual traveling back and forth between the past and the present, and the implications of such journeying. As Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." This is a tricky conundrum for the convert: without the suffering and sin of the past, there would have been no conversion (as the "Exsultet" sung at the Easter Vigil says, "O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer"), but in embarking upon a new life we would like to travel as lightly as possible, leaving much of the past behind. I think perhaps the main themes of this blog are 1) the fact that such leaving-behind is not possible, and 2) my struggles to weave the past into my present and future in a way that will not degrade or undermine any of these three states -- states which, if you accept the proposition that time is non-linear, can sometimes seem arbitrarily defined.”

My grandmother was protected by the moral conventions of culture, and by her family from living a life of sin. I’m not sure that her conversion was the outcome of a great fall, but rather a lifelong journey and adjustment to Great Truths. And I know that stories of a Grandmother’s youth can take on a mythical status for her descendants, but I tend to think of her past as golden, perhaps kept and protected from darkness by the faith she would ultimately receive.

If God chooses us, rather than the opposite, then my Grandmother is an example of the soul staked out for God. She was anointed, receiving the indelible mark on her soul that names her a member of the Body of Christ in her old age, but in a non-linear fashion, every part of her life has been redeemed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Few Lies I've Been Telling Myself

Contemplating my garden, how I have postponed addressing the weeds as the weather turns muggy and the mosquitoes hatch, and the thought of doubling over and sullying my fingernails in the mud fills me with dread, I am forced to disclaim a myth I’ve long held about myself: contrary to prior professions of earthmothership, I do not like gardening.

It did not occur to me these past years to doubt my love for gardening, in light of all the goodness of vegetables, and flowers blooming, and herbs de Provence on my table. How could gardening be anything other than a delight? How could I feel anything but love for gardening, in spite of my consistent jump-ship ethic in mid-June when the weeds overtake the turnips? DAMMIT, I WILL LOVE GARDENING! Because it’s good for the environment, and garden co-ops are the rage, and I live on a place where I can have a gigantic garden, and I like onions! But I do not like gardening. It’s hard, and lonely, and hot.

Recognition of this fact about myself causes me to pause for a moment, to consider what other lies I have been telling myself about myself. Is it time for me to consider the likelihood that I am also not a Math Person, in spite of my straight A’s in Calculus in the eleventh grade? Is my husband correct in insinuating that it is an immoral act to refer to myself as a Math Person when I have to use my fingers to figure the sum of 7 and 8, and I have not committed another singular act of calculus since I graduated from high school?

Recently I learned that I am not an athlete, and it came as quite a shock. I’ve always had a slow heartbeat, had to run laps around the gym in high school in order to bring my pulse up for a blood drive. “That’s an athlete’s heart,” they said. “Well I do run cross country,” I answered proudly, and on I barreled through life, firm enough in my status as an athlete that in spite of my having delivered five children, and gaining the corresponding weight, my voice would raise pitch and grow shaky in debate with my sister-in-law when she dared to suggest that I am not athletic. But at a doctor’s appointment not long ago, the doctor, making note of my slow heartbeat gave it to me straight: “Someone who doesn’t know about these things will tell you you’ve got an athlete’s heart. But you are not an athlete. We’ll keep an eye on it.” Another myth shattered.

The recurring theme here is that throughout my life I have ascribed certain positive attributes to my person that I do not actually possess. And the older I get, the easier it is to see things for what they really are. I am not one of those people of great promise, who has failed to yield good fruits. I am someone who likely never possessed the great promise to begin with. But it’s been fun, these years of self-delusion—remembering how the Italian men crawled out from the porticos of Florence like so many cockroaches when the blonde American girl passed. These years of thinking I was so bewitching in my youth; I’ll tell my granddaughters about it—rather than the likely actuality that they were trained like Pavlov’s dog to expect sex when single American girls flounced brazenly across the piazza.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quick Takes: Rated PG-13

Hosted at Conversion Diary


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Now that it’s warm outside, a certain portion of the population (males between the ages of 17-21) seems to be taking out some sort of frustration by yelling obscenities out their window at me when I’m walking after dinner. They yell unintelligible things and laugh with whomever accompanies them, as though the stinky hormonal world inside their rusty sedan could somehow be more desirable than my evening autonomy.

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When our three-year-old was a baby my husband called him A-hole, because his name began with the letter A and he thought it was funny. The name went over the other kids’ heads, and it seemed like a harmless daddy joke between the two of us. To my chagrin, as time has worn on, the kids have overheard the term of endearment, and have taken to calling him A-hole as well. They still don’t know what it means, but it’s not uncommon to hear dialogue in our house that goes like this:

“Hey A-Hole, wanna play Bionicles?”

“Come here, A-Hole!”

Now that the baby is responding to the kids with smiles and coos, they feel obliged to find a pet name for him too. Since “-Hole” is the only suffix they know for nicknames, and since the baby’s name begins with the letter P, he’s slowly taking his place in our loving hearts as baby P-Hole.

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My daughter, let me know that she had given her doll to my oldest son. When asked why she’d make such an unwise concession, she answered, “He said I could be in his club if I gave him my doll.”

I am the head of the Duffy securities and exchange commission, and I did not approve this transaction, so I said, “You don’t want to be in his club anyway. You’re in my club because you’re a girl.” And I supply a bailout. “My girl, he’s taking advantage of you, so Son, you must give the doll back.”

Do I teach a kid not to be stupid, not to let her brother manipulate her? Take the hit, lose the doll, and be a part of his worthless club?

I am here to protect the weak—to prevent exploitation and manipulation by predatory business people like my oldest son. Where would he learn to do such a thing?

*
I recently bought a copy of the book “His needs, Her Needs,” brought it home to my husband and said, “Why don’t we read this book? It comes highly recommended by many of my relatives.”

He crinkles his nose, “Like who?”

“Like my mom. And like many psychotherapists. See, they say on the back it will make your marriage sizzle.”

“I know how to make our marriage sizzle,” he says.

“We could read a chapter a night,” I say.

“I’ve got an idea—why don’t you read a chapter a night out loud to me—naked.”

I have a feeling I would get the raw end of his stick (raw deal/ short end?). This is how the CEO of the SEC gets snookered.

*
My husband put a new throne in our laundry room—a beautiful king-size, elongated, tall toilet. Problem: the bowl is low flow, using less water, so it doesn’t fill all the way. Hence, someone’s stuff had trouble going down the drain this morning, and rather than work at getting it down, I went about my day.

Oldest son came down to wee, discovered stubborn turd, and invited everyone in to see it. “Hey A-Hole! Look at this turd. It won’t go down the drain! It’s stuck to the wall!”

“Like the Gravitron?”

A-Hole comes to have a look. They all lean over the bowl to inspect. I considered the curiosity for a moment, then realized that I could put an end to turd inspection by using something to unstick the suction from the side of the bowl. I got a stick, covered it with TP and pushed it into the drain.

“There it goes! The turd is leaving us! But he left streaks so we can remember him!”

Very exciting.

*
The only thing worse than sitting down to write when I have nothing new to report but fatigue, aggravation with kids, and spousal discord, is sitting down to realize that I have no conflicts in my life at all, for the moment. There’s a lull in the storm, it’s peaceful, and thank God. But for anyone who tires of potty humor, there’s nothing I can do for you. It’s all I’ve got when things are going well. No worries. It will pass soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Bone to Pick with Modern Catholic Writers

I've been thinking about a definition of Catholic Fiction. What is it? Where is it, and who's writing it today? Whether it's the authoress of the "Perfect Catholic Family Blog" or Bud MacFarlane, I get irritated with a lot of what passes for Catholic Literature these days.

We have a well-intentioned desire not to throw our pearls to the swine. This desire leads us to pretend that "happily ever after" begins once our protagonist accepts the Catholic faith and amends her life. As anyone who has been Catholic for longer than the duration of a weekend retreat knows, for many of us, initial conversion is exactly where a lot of our problems begin. We have family members who don't understand, relationships torn asunder, or worse, relationships are no longer possible with certain people. There are moral conflicts with jobs, temptations, and times when we fail to live up to our creed.

These circumstances can leave us feeling like smoke in a bag--trying to drift upward towards God, but captured in this material cage of life, who we are, and what our lives look like. If we try to change, and no one else is in the game, who are we playing with? We feel isolated within our faith, and without it.

As writers, we want to attract people to our faith by blatantly evangelizing readers or presenting a pretty picture. But when we fail to give up the conflicts that comprise our Orthodox Catholic lives, we also give up the stories that are uniquely ours.

When we write with a mission, we give our readers subtle inferences that we find them unintelligent. We insult them with characters who seem too perfect, and manipulate our plot lines to prove a point.

The best Catholic authors seem to say, "Yes, God is present, but you will have to find your own way to him." They can give you hints, weave a little story that enigmatically points to God, a lamb in wolf's clothing, but stop short of saying, "I'll take you to him."

Leave that job for the clergy. It's what they're trained to do. There have been bold and holy people in my life who said in the bluntest most unveiled ways, "I will lead you to God." But I was also ready to be led. I was asking for it. Begging for it.

The most effective Catholic literature when I did not yet know that God was what I needed, did nothing more than suggest that there is an alternative.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Brawny Manly Town, and my Corresponding Husband

The men in my town are of a particular breed, one I’ve come to appreciate. They have buzzed hair, drive pick-ups, wear steal-toed boots. They play fast-pitch softball almost every night of the week, and chase their ball games with a beer in the parking lot. Their necks are sun-burned. Many of them are in town working on the Sheehan pipeline that’s slowly making its way across our county.

I pass a road sign on my way into town that reads, “100% American Crude” and I'm struck by the raw masculinity of the thought. Oil is manly, or maybe it’s the “crude” that’s manly. Where I live, manliness is associated with work, the hard manual kind: farm work, factory work, building roads, the pipeline. And I feel comforted by the brawn that seems to wrap its muscular biceps around the mini-vans and civics that beep and dart under the shadows of their big trucks.

Appreciation for this kind of manhood is a paradigm shift for me. My archetypal male, for many years, was something completely different. My cousin was in the Cincinnati rowing club in high school, and I used to look at the pictures in her photo albums and think that every boy in Ohio was tall, lean and had a swoop of hair that fell over his eye. The word, “Ohio” brought to mind a particular kind of male. As did the words, “Warren High School” which is where all the skateboarders I ever loved went to school. In college, I was always hot for teacher. If you were smarter than me and male, I was in love with you. Even if you had a handle bar moustache greased in earwax, I loved you if you could make me think about something differently.

I mention all of this as a way of noting A.) that I am boy crazy, always have been, B.) that my archetypal male has changed to correspond with the demands of my life, and C.) that God gave me just the person I needed for a husband.

My cousin loves to tell the story about the first time she met my husband. She puzzled for a bit afterwards, wondering, “Where’s his pony tail? Where’s his rock band? Doesn’t he even write bad poetry?” After spending some time with us, she came to the realization that, of course, I would marry someone a little more like my dad.

It’s tempting to cry Freud, and suggest that I have an Electra complex. But I think it’s a little more Darwin than Freud, with a dose of Cupid as well. Not to mention that if you really put my husband and my dad side by side, they’ re not all that similar. But corresponding to my desire to nestle down with children, came an appreciation for manhood that was less ephemeral and emotive, and more virtuous and muscular. It feels related to this post, in which TS charts his disengagement with pop culture, his rising interest country music, and his age. I wanted to know I would be provided for, and that my husband would have the emotional constancy necessary for long term coupling.

I married a man who did not fit into any of my teenage archetypes. It surprised me at first that I fell in love with someone who did not correspond to my preconceived notions of whom I might marry. He's a craftsman, not an academic. He's the emotionally stable baseline to my highs and lows. He doesn't require perpetual affirmation of his creative genius, nor have an artist's fickle constitution, and thank God. He is a quietly hilarious man who is comfortable in himself, in his faith, in his manhood, and in his work. And he has big guns.

After experiencing several relationships that were fraught with doubt and volatility, the peace of being with my husband is and always has felt like something divinely inspired. Even when we're fighting I feel complete confidence that he is the corresponding half of our intransmutable whole. It is confidence, not only that I chose correctly, but that in a way, God chose him for me. He is my home, and the reference point from which I address the rest of the world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quick Takes: road trip


Hosted at Conversion Diary


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Fourteen hour road trips are the devil's convention. He's always conspiring to make good marriages go awry, and this one nearly did us in. I was in and out of love with my husband just about every fifteen minutes or so:

We are in love for the A's, B's and C's of the Alphabet Game, giddy with the nostalgia of childhood road trips. By Q we are out of love: "Antiques does not count for Q." And any time someone uses a Lion's Den sign, I get irritated. (Walnut Bowls are fine though.)

He reaches across the middle console to rub the back of my neck, and we are in LOVE!

"You're tailgating," I say (out of love).

"Why don't we say the Rosary?" he says (in love).

He flips off the driver who's just cut him off (out of love).

We're still together, but barely.

*
To his credit, I am a difficult passenger. As has been said about many of the women in our family, "She's either in control or out of control," meaning, if I'm not driving, I'm going nuts. I gasp when I perceive a close call. I press on my air brakes. I alert my husband when his speed is creeping up.

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To my credit, my husband is impossible to love when he's driving. The two are incompatible. Period.

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We saw some beautiful things along the way:






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Somewhere along the line, though, the word "vacation" stopped sounding like a relevant description of what actually happens when my husband and I, and our five children set out for some destination lasting more than two days. Some people know they're on vacation when they're spread out on a poolside lounger drinking a pineapple cocktail. I know I'm on vacation when I'm huddled behind some bushes, hiding from my kids, so I can smoke a cigarette in the middle of the day. I like to smoke on vacation because it's the only thing that really distinguishes a vacation from any other day of breaking up fights and wiping bottoms, albeit in a different location.

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We stayed with my brother and his wife so that we could put the kids down and visit for awhile. However, my husband had a hotel room because he was there for a company meeting. I took him to the hotel around 11 pm so he could be up for his meeting in the morning. We had a drink with his co-workers, and we hung out for a little bit and I went back to my brother's around 12:30 am.

The next night, after the kids were asleep, and I visited for awhile with my brother and his wife, my husband called and asked if I could bring him some clean undershirts. So I did. He'd had meetings all day, dinner, and a team-building exercise. Whether or not we had team-building exercises of our own is no one's business, but I left the hotel around 12:30 again.

This time, in the lobby, the doorman asked, "Can I help you?"

"No," I said, "I'm just leaving."

"Have I seen you?" he asked.

"Yes. Last night."

"I've seen you leaving here?"

"Yes. My husband's staying here," I said.

"Oh, Riiiiighhhht," he said giving me a knowing wink.

So I've been mistaken for a Dallas whore, or at the least a philandering wife. Now, I must get back to my five children.

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My sister sent this link to me. Very funny.

Friday, June 5, 2009

See You Later

We're leaving any minute now for vacation. So if anyone's hard-up, this weekend would be a good time to burgle the Duffys. Just be advised that our only asset is my intellectual property contained on this laptop, which goes with us.

I leave you with a testimony from vacations past.



Dear Little Brother and His Wife,

Yes, there was some deliberation about bringing the computer on vacation. After spending just under a week with thirteen kids and 5 adults under one roof, I feel confirmed that midnight writing is more of a vacation than any of our daytime activities. As usual we have played many hands of Euchre. The Risk board has been set up on the coffee table for days. In the corner of the room is a puzzle that never seems to be finished--or if it does reach completion, is immediately disassembled for a redo (often with someone trying to keep large portions of the puzzle still together for a headstart). The floor is a carpet of children and legos. Mom and Sister are scurrying around the kitchen cooking and cleaning, and I wander around in there also trying to give the appearance that I'm doing something important (but am more often stuffing my face with honey and toast in the corner). Dad and my husband sit in the center of the chaos, often with a book on their laps, obliviously trying to plan a bikeride around the lake, or a fishing trip.

The four-year-olds keep sneaking off upstairs to play "Mommy and Daddy." Naturally Sister and I felt a need to survey this game, and were relieved to find that while Jane had named herself Mommy, John preferred to be the baby, and Julia could not be persuaded to be anyone in the family other than the dog. A happy family indeed.

The six year olds are joined at the hip--well, Sue and Sally are. First thing in the morning they get dressed in each other's swimsuits, then run around all day with wedgies. Sam usually plays around them peripherally, grateful when they decide to join his pretend to be an animal games.

The 7-11 year olds have graduated into board games, tennis, and harrassing any adult who dares to swim out to the raft in the green water on the lake where they hold court waving noodles over their heads as warning. Every once in awhile, my husband swims out there and throws them all off the raft. If I swim out, I put on my "I'm pregnant and can't be teased" face and though they might spit water on me once or twice, they lose interest when I don't fight back. At this point, our sister is usually swimming laps up and down the lake in black goggles, and water shoes. And Mom and Dad have generously volunteered to remain at the house with the sleeping babies.

The Association members have been uncharacteristically friendly to us on the beach--though we attack it each day with gusto. The 90 year old leather lady in the bikini usually packs up her smokes and goes home after her noon tanning session, but the rest have said hello, or commented on the number of children, and have even on occasion smiled at us. To be charitable to the ice cream dippers at the Cool Spot, Ben wrote all of our ice cream orders down in advance and we kept the children outside. The dippers still managed to appear pissed off that we were there buying 50 bucks worth of ice cream from them.

After the kids are in bed, the adults take pot shots at each other while they pretend to read. Our first night was spent deciding what animal each of us would be if we were animals. After throwing around the idea of a marsupial (I think Sister just liked the sound of herself saying this word), we unanimously decided that mom would be a cat, which she took as a personal offence because she hates cats. Sister cheerfully agreed that she was a squirrel or some other type of rodent that nibbles things. Dad, whether it's projection of his beloved pets or not, is a Lab. Sister seemed to think that I'm a bear who likes to be left alone to forage, but attacks easily when provoked. I don't disagree, though I recognize that bears are also large and hairy. And my husband, as an in-law is safe from the sharper jabs, but it would help if he ever said more than two words around Mom and Sister. I, of course, have never called him by any animal names (other than...uh...Stallion).

The cherry fritters have been disappointing this year. Too crispy. I'll leave it to Sister to fill you in on the state of the local produce up here. The Beaulah book sale was this morning, and Mom, Sister and I all scored some stinky used library books to feel smug about. Hubby and I watched the boats come in at the Marina tonight, and they were unloading cooler after cooler of gigantic king salmon. Apparently it's a good year for fishing on Lake Michigan. The weather has been beautiful and I sort of wish you guys were all here (though that would mean more competition for the good bedrooms).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mostly Pans

My car is having trouble, and my refrigerator crashed. To distract myself from the checks I'm writing, I' ve been watching movies in the wee hours.

Here's my take on the movies currently arriving on DVD:

He's Just Not That In To You:
I could see myself really enjoying certain aspects of feminism if they weren't based on sin and scandal. So if a writer wanted to give some fictitious women complete sexual freedom and the invincible erroneous consciences to enjoy it, why would she bestow all that possibility on a group of ridiculous twits? Or is insistence on egalitarianism just another instance in which feminism went awry? If sexual freedom is for women of discerning tastes, it must also be for kooky dipshits who will throw themselves, literally, at anything with, and probably without, legs.

I generally like Jennifer Connelly, I'm generally OK with Jennifer Anniston, I tolerate Drew Barrymore, I don't recognize Jennifer Goodwin, and I'm physically repulsed by Scarlett Johannson, so I expected this movie could go either way. It was bad, very bad.

Picture a world where the only goal is to "find someone," and that could be anyone, married or unmarried, smart or stupid. The only currency in this world is sex. If she wants to keep him, she will put out. Even though the "rule" is that she probably will not keep him whether she puts out or not. If there's no sex in marriage, the marriage is over. And marriage itself is only a contract for two people who are already living together and just want something more concrete. There's no evidence of sacrament, or sacrifice.

THE QUOTE OF THE MOVIE: "What if you find the love of your life, but you're already married?" The answer is simple, right? "The love of your life" is a subjective term based on fickle emotions, and you're already married, so you've technically already found the love of your life, so it's a moot point, right? Not in this movie. In this movie you should seize every sexy thing you see. You should eat that cookie because you might never eat again. And once you've captured that already married man, there's a chance he'll leave his wife and be with you for twenty years. It's a fat chance, but it's a chance.

The problem with this movie is that these women are trying to capture an elusive lasting, romantic, and monogamous love, using the ill-conceived tools of feminism. It doesn't work on a number of levels. In spite of the oh-so-wise counsel of their gay male friends, the kind of love they're looking for doesn't exist without sacrifice. And darn it, no one should have to sacrifice. Period.

Good luck girls.


Revolutionary Road
I was really excited during the first half hour of this show. After the movie above, it was refreshing to see a couple dealing with real issues, using terms I could see myself using. But about halfway through, a line was drawn, and any light that could have led this couple out of their misery was put out. They became hell-bent on self-destruction, and so the movie concludes, romantically, almost simple-mindedly, with death by suburbia. You see it coming a mile away, the first time Kate Winslet stares meaningfully out the window as Leo drives off to work--the suburbs are going to kill her, and she's going to let it happen, because she's the kind of woman who stares meaningfully out the window to a soundtrack of menacing music.

(Spoiler alert)
If you want to see a movie that exhibits, step by step, how the Culture of Death leads to soul destruction and perfect emptiness, this movie is for you. First comes a selfish attitude, then harsh words, then a wandering eye, an affair, mutual infidelity, negativity towards family and pregnancy, abortion, and finally death.

You could interpret the botched abortion at the end politically and say that had she better access to women's reproductive health, she would not have died from it. Or you could interpret it exactly how Leo does in the ER: "She did it to herself!" She wanted out, she knew she could die, and she did it anyway.

I have the same reaction to this movie that I had to "Running With Scissors": Please don't let me become that woman. I do not want to be the delusional lady who is so convinced of her specialness, that she will destroy everything in the way of her hazy concept of self fulfillment. Really, lady, if things are so dark in the suburbs, go to Paris, take a breather, abandon your kids for awhile, find yourself, do whatever, but don't kill anyone. It's just not necessary.



And finally, the only movie currently in theaters: UP
GO SEE THIS MOVIE. TAKE YOUR KIDS, or don't. Completely original and unexpected. It's fun. Very fun.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quick Takes Rebellion: on a Monday afternoon

(Thanks to Conversion Diary for Hosting)

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I've been craving my grandma's ham loaf, with peanut butter and sliced pineapple on top for about fifteen years now.

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I felt like livin’ large the other day, so I got online and requested a J. Peterman catalog to be delivered to my door. Had I money and a place to go, I’d order these, this, this, and this for my man.

I've wondered too, if I could ever be the kind of woman who lounges around in a caftan such as this. Does caftan lounging require a particular state of life, or just a state of mind? The latter, I might be able to pull off.

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I recently gave myself a makeover. It's bad. Someone told me that my hair was not as blonde as it used to be, which got me thinking maybe it was time to lighten it a little. I was a tow-head growing up, and there's nothing like having naturally blonde hair to make a woman vain. I saw a dye kit on sale at Kroger and bought it because it was only three dollars. Then one night when my Duffy sisters-in-law were here I made the mistake of showing it to them. It was meant just to indicate that I'm so wild and crazy I purchased a hair dye kit--not that I intended to use it. But the kit launched a runaway train and before I knew it, my SIL had donned the rubber gloves and activated the dye, and there I was on the floor getting my hair colored. I made a last minute plea to my husband, "If you don't want me to dye my hair, speak now or forever hold your peace." I thought for sure he'd say, "Don't dye your hair." But alas, he said, "You're going to dye your hair? Well, whatever."

The dye actually made my hair darker, of all things, with a twinge of rust. I decided now was the time to bob my hair. As they say, two wrongs don't make a right. I feel like Jo March, who said of her hair, "It was my only beauty." I wake up in the night, frantic, as if from a nightmare, only the nightmare is real: I cut and dyed my hair.

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Today was the last day of school. At the end of every year, my husband and I run through the questions: "Are we sending the kids back to private school? Can we afford it? Should we look at the public school? Should we homeschool?" Ultimately, the reason why I don't homeschool comes down to this:
Set them up with some craft supplies, leave them alone for just a minute... and this is what happens, in spite of the fact that I outlawed both the use of the word "Fart" and the act of farting.



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On a similar note, my sister-in-law sent me the following link several months ago. I can't tell you how much pleasure it's given me. http://www.misternicehands.com/
(You must click on the image for the desired effect.)

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Recently I passed a figure on the road, a man with a baseball cap, a mullet, a mustache, sunglasses, no shirt, a skinny tan torso, a few tattoos, talking on a cell-phone and smoking a cigarette, all while riding a horse.

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Speaking of cowboys, this guy was Kid Rockin' it out for about four straight hours at the Taste of Cincinnatti festival. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. (Sorry it's sideways)
video

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Speaking of cowboys again, We're going to Texas! This note is more for the benefit of my brother and his wife: Break out the banjo, put on the stew, the Duffy's are coming to visit you! (Just so you know.)