Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Note on Princess Culture & Love

A Twitter update from a friend of mine brought to my attention a quote which struck me immediately and has been on my mind ever since:

"There are so many girls, and so few princes."

First, the most shocking thing to me is that such a quote came from Liza Minelli, who is not someone I would consider to be a font of notable quotables. The irony of such a quote coming from Ms. Minnelli--herself married and divorced FOUR times over--did not fall upon deaf ears. Her four divorces were to blame on the gentlemen's lack of princely qualities; in no way were her own actions to blame. Princesses are divine, infallible, beautiful, and perfect in every relevant way.

Such is the attitude many girls are raised with: You are special, you are perfect, you can do no wrong, you deserve perfection from whomever you come across and should accept no less. If mistakes are made, someone else is to blame. If poor decisions are made, it was a learning experience and no big deal; someone else led her to do it. And so forth, ad infinitum.

There are no shortage of articles and public sentiment that girls are flooded with unrealistic expectations for appearance, what with uber-svelte movie stars and models making the nut and being adored. I don't disagree that these images are damaging to the confidence, psyche, and emotional development of young girls.

What seems to go under-reported is the fact that young girls are force-fed preposterous ideas of love and relationships. Movies, television, and books all tell girls that they each deserve a perfect man: charming, smart, funny, rich, respectable, honorable and, most importantly, exceedingly handsome. Parents exacerbate these expectations by telling their little princesses that they deserve no less than perfection from a man (or woman) and should not settle for less.

How can you expect your daughter to find happiness when you keep telling her no one is good enough for her? When you encourage her to set her bar so high as to reject people out-of-hand?

But who really deserves perfection? We are all imperfect creatures. Sure, in the throes of love, we will often whisper to our partners "you are perfect in every way" either 1) because we mean it or 2) desperately seek some carnal satisfaction (or some melding of both). But do we mean it? When your partner leaves a wet towel laying on the bed all day and the comforter is soaked for bedtime, is that a perfect act? When your partner spends hours cooking your favorite meal and you go out with friends and eat there instead, is that perfect?

Of course not, and we are all guilty of such transgressions from time to time. Even the most loving, successful relationships I know of occasionally suffer the painful silent treatments and cold shoulders and hurt feelings. It is a byproduct of two imperfect creatures in an imperfect world trying to be together: occasionally conflicts arise.

To me it is preposterous for girls to be raised thinking if their man (or woman) doesn't do something exceptionally romantic almost daily, they are being taken for granted. If their partner snaps at them for no reason once in a blue moon, they are not loved. If their partner isn't the physical Adonis seen on US Weekly, they are undeserving and unworthy.

I would like to point out here that boys are subjected to similar unrealistic expectations in love, and in areas such as bravery: if you're a boy and you don't handle a situation like Bruce Willis, then you're not a man. If you'd rather talk out your issues than fight them out, you're weak. If you show emotion, you're a sissy. Equally unrealistic standards are applied.

So I guess Liz Taylor "princessed" Ms. Minnelli into this hyper-perfection orientation that leads her to believe all women are great and most men are undeserving slags. Ms. Taylor is notoriously poor at staying married, as well; that apple didn't fall far from the tree. Maybe if they had looked more at inner qualities, kindness, compatibility, etc. instead of power and money, there wouldn't be more than 10 failed marriages between them.

You are not perfect. I am not perfect. But that doesn't mean we're not right for each other. Doesn't mean we can't have the real-world equivalent of romantic comedies and love stories. In this sometimes cruel and hardscrabble world, you are lucky to be there with someone you like.

And what about us poor guys, sentenced to a life of bumps and bruises inflicted by women who think we are all scoundrels if we make so much as one or two very minor mistakes? When people come into a relationship expecting the other person to let them down, a bad foundation is set forth. Could this be a contributing factor to the outrageous divorce rate in our nation? I'm not saying it is, but I believe there's some connection.

Besides: how insane is it for a woman to expect to get by with murder and be imperfect, yet still expect her man to be perfect at all times? How unfair.

This may sound like a whining diatribe, and if it does, I don't care. I'm just reporting what I see unfolding in the world around me.

For a closing thought, I'll leave you with a quote from Woody Allen's "Whatever Works", that splendidly sums up a realistic and touchingly sweet take on happiness...

"That's why I can't say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works. And don't kid yourself. Because its by no means up to your own human ingenuity. A bigger part of your existence is luck, than you'd like to admit. Christ, you know the odds of your fathers one sperm from the billions, finding the single egg that made you. Don't think about it, you'll have a panic attack."

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Two weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy article about cancer, but a network error destroyed the post. Here, I attempt to recreate that article, appending a positive update that I could not have written even last week.

Wednesday, 2010 June 16

My friend-from-work Debbie has terminal brain cancer. She had breast cancer about a year ago, and the cancer metastasized to her brain, into two separate tumors. One was surgically removed, and the other is inoperable. According to her, her doctors say her chances are slim. She came into work today to see how everyone is doing, to check up on us, to make sure we keep our spirits up. She is that kind of person. A couple weeks ago, she sent a veggie tray to us to try to lift our spirits.

Shouldn't we be lifting her spirits with veggie trays?

Anyway, the last time she came in (before today), she had lost some of her hair to a lobotomy and had cut the rest close for symmetry. The morning of this previous visit, I had flubbed an incognito mohawk and, Sarah had to salvage my hair (for my work's dresscode) with a marines-style high-and-tight. In short, we had the same haircut but for very different reasons. We joked that I cut mine like hers in support.

Today, she had no hair on her head. She had lost all of her head hair from radiation- and chemo-therapy. She said she cannot keep a beard from growing now, though. She took off her bandanna and showed me her bald head, and we joked that I would shave my head to match hers.

Later, I thought, why not? I've got a little over three weeks until my wedding to Sarah, and my hair will grow back by then. Plus, I can keep the beard, apparently!

She told us how painful and difficult treatment has been. I told her that I read Gene Wilder's memoir (about his experiences with Gilda Radner's cancer treatment, and then with his own), and that, like when I read Anne Frank's diary, I sympathized but could not even comprehend what the victims experienced. To me, that kind of pain is unimaginable.

Debbie said that she had not read Wilder, that she thinks she should, but that she cannot stand to read any more cancer books. She went on to say that she really wants to read Lance Armstrong's book (which I didn't even know existed!), but that she has just read enough about cancer.

Thursday, 2010 June 17

I buzzed my hair, then I Bic'd my head. Sarah helped. I kept the beard. Apparently Debbie came and left while I was at lunch today and missed the whole thing. Yolanda took my picture for a present for Teresa (who is transferring), though, so Debbie can see what my bald head looks like sometime.

Having no hair feels surprisingly like having hair. I forget that I am bald until I touch / scratch / brush against my head and feel it with my hand.

Friday, 2010 June 18

My hair grows so fast. The stubble on my head acts like Velcro, making toweling and shirting a challenge.

Thursday, 2010 June 24

Debbie got her latest test results back, and these results indicate that she is once again cancer-free! When my father's brother and parents had cancer, I never heard of this test result. Things seem to be looking better for Debbie. Of course she is still bald and weak and tired, but given some time to rest and keep an eye on herself, she may just end up good as new! We are all so happy for her and her family. Good luck Debbie!

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Fatherhood And Apple Pie" from The New Republic

Most everything associated with President Obama—his policy platform, his public style, his personal story—have become grist for intense partisan conflict. I had thought that the one remaining uncontroversial scrap was his endorsement of fatherhood, which he has been doing periodically since he appeared on the public scene. But even this can now spur outrage, at least by Ira Stoll, who has attracted a lot of attention with a column denouncing Obama's fatherhood initiative:

President Obama interrupted my Father's Day with an e-mail announcing the launch of "The President's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative" ...So I ignored my children for a few minutes of Father's Day and did what the president asked which was to check out the Web site, and especially the government's "Tips for Parents." They were infuriating.

I'm no technological wizard, so I am not sure how an email "interrupted Father's Day." I have one of those email systems that you only read when you want to check email. Perhaps Stoll has his email set up to buzz loudly every time a message arrives, and he hasn't figured out how to disable the feature. I would suggest that, if the arrival of an email is going to interrupt Father's Day, try leaving your computer or smart phone off, or in a different room. (I thought about emailing this suggestion to Stoll, but I worried the message might interrupt his sleep.)
Also, I'm pretty sure that when Obama suggested readers check out the web site, the implication was that they should do so when they had some available time. It was probably not meant to be read as a demand that readers check out the site right then. But I blame the government for failing to spell this out. The disclaimer should be made explicit, the way consumer products feature warnings like "Do not jab this product into your eye socket," in order to account for the wide variety in reading comprehension levels of the American public.
So I can see why Stoll was upset that the government set off his email buzzer, and was further upset by a message that could easily be interpreted as a federal demand that he leave his children and look at a website immediately. What I don't understand is why he proceeded to ignore his children further by composing a column on Father's Day. Perhaps he did this as a collaborative activity with his children—which, come to think of it, would explain a lot.
Let us proceed to Stoll's objections with the website:
Here was tip number two: "Watch a game on television with your children. Cheer for your favorite team and chat about the plays. Mute the commercials and use those minutes to talk about what's going on in your lives." Here is the government telling Americans to "mute the commercials." Suppose I work at an advertising agency and earn my living making commercials, or own a company that has just invested millions of dollars in those commercials in the hope of winning customers and making a profit? Suppose I own a television network that makes its money by selling those commercials? Suppose I am a taxpayer who has just shelled out major bucks for the Army or the Census or some other branch of the government to buy these commercials, only to have another branch of the government instruct Americans not to listen to the same commercials my tax money was just spent to purchase. If I had any advice for fathers, it would be to mute the ballgame and turn up the volume for the commercials, or turn off the tube altogether and go play a game with your child. But now the government wants us to mute commercials? Really.

He is upset that the government is urging fathers who watch sports with their children to mute the commercials and talk with the kids. The free market system apparently requires that the young tykes obediently watch the commercials so they can determine which brand of light beer to drink when they turn 21. Is there no corner of American capitalism Obama doesn't want to destroy?

Here was tip number three: "Take a virtual vacation with your children. Decide on a 'destination' then borrow a library book that features facts and photos of your dream locale. Prepare a meal based on the native cuisine and enjoy it together while you watch a documentary about the country or a movie that takes place there. Let these fantasy voyages be your passport to lasting family memories." The assumption seems to be that the dream destination is outside America, unless by "native cuisine" the government means corn and venison.

In Obama's defense, I'd note that he is not urging parents to actually visit foreign countries, which of course would be grounds to impeach him and deport him to his native Hawaii Kenya, but is merely suggesting they imagine doing so. Still, it is true: Obama is presuming that people dream of vacationing in foreign locales over the good old U S of A. Stoll's own honeymoon took place in Youngstown, Ohio.

Another tip: "Buy compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs, which last about 5 years and use less energy. Switching just one standard bulb to a CFL can help you reduce your electricity bill by as much as 75 cents per month." I used to believe in this idea. Then, after putting CFL bulbs all over the house, I found that they don't last five years. They may last a couple of years.
Stoll has temporarily moved on to "green tips," but his outrage remains unabated. The government is relying upon studies comparing CFL bulbs to old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. I'd be willing to believe that Stoll's one-man focus group could produce superior data. But his inability to solve technical challenges like the buzzing, can't-be-turned-off-or-walked-away-from computer gives me pause.

(via Jonathan Chait)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Rand Paul is ridiculous.

In Paul's America, discrimination is legalized as free speech. Oil companies shouldn't be punished for pouring millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And doctors don't need to be board-certified.

Or at least that's what Paul's actions should about his feelings. It's recently come to light that Rand Paul is not, in fact, a board-certified medical physician!

In the state of Kentucky, where Paul practices, physicians are not required to be board-certified. At hospitals and other medical establishments certification is often required for promotions, advanced placements, and certain benefits. So, technically, Paul is not breaking the law.

He is, however, selling a false bill of goods. During his campaign he's boasted the fact that he's a board-certified physician. Which is kind of true: he created a board and he is the Chairman of it, and his wife is VP. Hardly an impartial certification! The American Medical Association does NOT consider Paul to be certified, and he hasn't been since December 31, 2005! (Read the linked article for details)

The point is this: Paul in insane. He wants to make up BS as he goes, play fast and loose with the truth, and make asinine comments in the media, for which he later has to pretend he never said (a la Sarah Palin now trying "We never said 'drill, baby, drill'!").

During the 2008 Presidential election, Republicans kept saying the "cult of personality" around Obama was dangerous and he was wholly unqualified for the job. But they stand quiet while the cults of Palin and Paul rage on, unperturbed by the sheer lack of REALITY in either person's worldview.

So thanks for nothing, Rand Paul, for making the world "libertarian" sound so crazy I'm no longer calling myself one. Jackass.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Abortion is not the Issue

Humans are born, developmentally, much later than most other mammals. To say that abortion is not killing a human is just farfetched rationalizing. To say that such killing is unjustified to save a mother's life is fanatical. To argue about abortion on broad terms is irrational.

Also irrational is the way we socially view pregnancy and children. Most people who I know, whether they themselves have children or not, act and speak as though they honestly believe that children are a terrible disease. These people also act like this 'disease' is a punishment that is deserved by those afflicted.

People are so mean to children and pregnant women. As an adult man, I do not know how these other demographics can handle the emotional abuse that they are constantly bombarded with. The character Quinn Fabray has been used, somewhat effectively, on this season of Glee to explore the emotional abuse pregnant teenagers go through.

Legislation and adjudication are not going to change the abortion rate much. They never have, and they never will be able to. Abortion is not the issue; abortion is merely a symptom. The cure is compassion. If people could be nice to children and pregnant women, then these miracles could more easily see themselves for what they are.