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Archives for Feminism

My Big Fat Life


I’m a little uncomfortable with the new darling of the media and literary world, the fat girl. I don’t like that she is being “exposed,” changing the cardinal rule of fatdom: maintain a low profile.
Now fat girls are everywhere are speaking out, bemoaning the culture that labels them ugly, dredging up childhoods of pain and embarrassment and proclaiming themselves free of dieting, depression or capitulation. What’s next? I’m waiting for fat girl bars to open or someone to organize a Obese Rights march on the capital.
Let me just say up front that I am and have always been a fat girl. I was fat before fat became interesting and profitable; back when our clothing was relegated to a tiny rack of hideous flowered tents in the back of the store under a big sign that said “Chubbies;” back when it made sense to a pediatrician to place an 8-year-old on a 400-calorie-a-day diet and send a 13-year-old to school on what was, basically, speed; back before “tolerance” was a buzzword we use to point out someone’s differences.
I suspect all this attention started when statistics showed up saying that more than half of the adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Naturally, the response was a lot of people making money offering diet and exercise programs and books, but very little actual weight loss going on.
No one wants to talk seriously about what is causing this “obesity epidemic.” They want to talk about what they can sell to its victims (oh, that word) and how they make can make money off the trend.
For any health care people reading this, let me, a long-time “sufferer,” make this very clear: It’s. Not. The. Food.


Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 5:17 PM | Permalink

A Letter to My Loved Ones


Dear Family,
I know how much you enjoy hearing from me from time to time, even though we all live in the same household. But you know what they say about familiarity breeding contempt? It also breeds deafness.
And maybe contempt too, but that’s your problem.
As usual there are a few issues we need to work on and I thought I’d present them in writing so as to keep things a clear as possible.
1. When you are “helping out” by sorting the laundry (a phrase that is akin to a father “babysitting” his own kids), kindly keep in mind that I, too, wear clothing.
I know it’s not outfits that show up on your male-focused radar since I don’t appear to be waiting to have my fallopian tubes x-rayed but, trust me, I do enjoy clean clothing.
So please include a few of my pieces in the mix. I’m sure you don’t need all ten of your polo shirts by tomorrow.
2. When the trash is spilling out onto the floor? That means it’s full. That means stop putting things into it. In the real world it also means EMPTY IT!
Oh. Wait. That was two concepts in one paragraph.
Let’s try this:
When things appear over the edge of the trash can:
a. Do not add more things.
b. Empty can.
When things appear over the edge of the trash can, DO NOT:
a. Walk away like you don’t see it.
b. Say innocently “Oh, did that need to be emptied?” when I start complaining that the trash you put there is spilling out over the floor.
c. Tell me it’s someone else’s “turn.”
And just to show you I do recognize good manners, let me commend you for never uttering the sentence, “Why don’t you do it,” requiring me to enumerate the various mind-numbing tasks I’d already completed prior to approaching the volcanic garbage of which we speak. Before beating you to a pulp.
3. Energy to power electric plants is a precious commodity that should not be wasted lest we burn every ounce of fossil fuel on the planet and winter comes and, with nothing to provide heat, we all die. So turn out the lights when you leave the room.
4. To my knowledge in the last 24 hours you have not crawled through a swamp, slaughtered a pig or participated in mud wrestling. So why the 40-minute shower? And after all that time you still haven’t shaved?
5. Heirs: When you write your Mommy Dearest book, I suggest you don’t mention you were “forced to eat French toast for breakfast” instead of Big Box O’ Sugar Crap. You might lose the sympathy factor so integral to your victim story.
6. I wouldn’t mention the “she was always hanging around asking questions” either.
7. Frankly, I wouldn’t suggest you write a Mommy Dearest book, because I can write too. How does Disinheriting the Ingrates strike you as a title?
8. No, I don’t love the dogs more than you. . .
9. . . .But a little ingratiating sucking up goes a long way toward getting treats.
10. I’m in my last year of my 40s so don’t mess with me.
There. That should put us on the road to a more cooperative and just lifestyle. I just love these little breaths of air-clearing communication, don’t you?
Your Mother
and Your Wife

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 11:02 AM | Permalink

I Remember Monty


I’ve decided to become more selective about what information I choose to retain and what I allow my brain to dump.
I say this in light of an incident that occurred this weekend. We were out to dinner with friends, all of us approximately the same age. Someone mentioned a line from the Monty Python movie The Meaning of Life, which led to Python-esque quotes from the rest of their movies as well as the television show. While we’re laughing and quoting in truly hideous British accents, my friend Karen asked, very innocently, “Who’s Monty Python?”
The entire table went silent. Even her husband Michael looked at her with incredulity. Then we all began trying our best to jog her memory. We sang The Lumberjack Song. We reenacted the Dead Parrot skit. At some point I shrieked, “Shrubbery!”
Now here’s the thing: Karen is an intelligent, successful, happily-married woman. We’ve both reached our “women of a certain age” years in good health and she’s managed to do it with style too. Karen is my mentor in the sports involving purebred dogs and she does this with a tact and grace that I would be hard pressed to maintain with a klutz like me.
And she’s done all this without knowing about the Upper Class Twit of the Year or Conrad Poos and His Dancing Teeth.
So it seems that knowing about Monty Python’s Flying Circus has not been necessary to my reaching this point in my own life. And I know a lot of stuff like that.
So now I’m thinking that perhaps instead of remembering every lyric of every Beatle song in existence I should have retained more calculus. At least some calculus.
I wish I had memorized my grandmother’s recipe for stuffed breast of veal rather than how to do the Lindy Hop. The trouble with knowing how to do the Lindy is that the Lindy is a dance requiring your partner to know how to do it too. How many men do you know who can Lindy? See what I mean? But my grandmother’s stuffed breast of veal? Holy. Mother. Of. God.
I wish I could remember to buy my friends’ birthday cards before I reach the actual day and end up sending a lame e-mail card or one of those “belated birthday” cards. I really don’t need to remember the birthdate of every pet I’ve ever owned, even the turtle. If it’s any consolation to my friends, I only remember the birthdate of the turtle on the actual day too.
As impressive a feat as it may be, there really is no value in knowing the capital of every state in the United States by memory. I didn’t know this when I was a homeschooling mom and, therefore, resorted to songs that taught this information via a cassette tape. Consequently, when these state capitals come into the conversation, my sons burst into song. This is only normal is you are part of the cast of Oklamoma! Otherwise it’s just. . . . wrong. I should have done a file dump on the state capitals long ago.
So from now on, I’m going to be very careful about what I decide to retain. I know you organized people will suggest I “write things down.” But this only works if you are genetically predisposed toward listmaking. Because when you make a list you have to remember to make the list, maintain the list, know where the list is and, when the time comes, look at the list. Too much brain surface required. I’d rather just dump the names and birth sequence of the entire Brady Bunch and remember that 12 Christmases ago I replaced my brother’s White Album with the White Album CD and I don’t need to do that anymore.
In the meanwhile, we’ll work on Karen, who followed up by asking “What is a Pink Floyd?”

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:11 AM | Permalink

Einstein is Building My House


It’s only taken 49 years, but I think I now have a firm grasp of Einstein’s theory of relativity. As firm as someone who has never in her life taken a physics class, anyway.
Up to this point, I really haven’t given the idea of the passage of time much thought beyond the fact that it speeds up as you get older. But that, I figured, was merely a matter of perception or the short attention span of children.
Now, though, I realize that there is most definitely a curve in my spacetime continuum. Well, more like a corrugation . . . like a Ruffles Potato Chip. . . speed bumps . . . in my spacetime continuum.
This weekend is high school graduation here in Shenandoah County and some of the Heirs’ friends will be receiving their diplomas. This is mind boggling to me since I was under the impression that most of these kids, the ones I haven’t seen on a regular basis since Heir 1 was in first grade, are only seven years old. Heir 1 informed me that the lanky 6-foot man who loaded the mulch in the back of my car was skinny little Luke who always wanted to sit next to me when I read to their kindergarten class.
This morning Luke was just a little boy. Now look at him, treating me like I’m about to fall off the edge of the curb because I’m too addled to step down (when actually I fall off the edge of the curb because I’m still incredible uncoordinated). Somehow in a matter of hours I worm-holed past over ten years.
On the other hand, it’s the bumps that are the killers. Like the fact that I’ve been building a house now for, by my count, 357 years. I can’t even remember deciding to take this project on, the memory being lost in the mists of time. In fact, I don’t think I was the one who conceived of buying land and allowing my husband to act as contractor. It must have been decided by my persona in a past life who was married to a handy, connected carpenter she could rely on to complete the project within her lifetime until she was suddenly hit by a chariot.
Thanks a lot, Phoenicia, for that and the obvious lack of karma you were willing to pass on through the veil of rebirth or reincarnation or whatever it is that would have enabled me to at least find a reliable plumber.
I’m probably going to die karmaless and houseless because, while building a house is a bump, the aging process worms its way straight to the cemetery. I approach the mirror in the morning expecting to see myself all perky and wide-eyed when all of a sudden it looks like my mother is staring back at me. My mother on a bad day. (My pores, however, have not found the hole, so to speak, and still require a douse of Clearsil now and again.)
None of this is the case for others building a new house, though. There is a subdivision that was under construction during the time I was taking my Australian Shepherd Zsa Zsa for AKC Rally classes in Loudoun County. During the six-week course, those houses were constructed, sold, resold and are currently pending applications to be designated historic sites. Meanwhile, Zsa Zsa learned to a tight about-turn.
So, Al, I finally get what you were talking about. When was that? Fifty, 75 years ago? Or was it this morning?

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 4:54 PM | Permalink

Cancer is a bad thing, right?


I’m against cancer.
There. I said it.
I’m taking a stand against cancer. Call me a Godless radical, a left-wing bleeding heart, even — (shudder) — a Hollywood actor, but I think cancer is a bad thing. I think it should be stamped out.
I think – and here’s where I’m treading on dangerous ground – that if there were a vaccine that would prevent people from getting cancer and that vaccine can be produced without threat to any other life form, it should be used.
Honestly, I didn’t think it was necessary to take a stand against cancer, but apparently it is not the cut and dry issue I thought it was. And it’s only thanks to my good bud Jag, who I consider my personal health and science issue advisor, that I know there is an element in this country who apparently thinks that cancer is not so bad as Other Things.
I was naïve enough to think that everyone would be rejoicing when it was announced that a vaccine – Gardasil – has been found that prevents cervical and vaginal cancers. I figured this would be a uniting moment in medical history because it prevents something that people die from.
I know, I know. What was I thinking? Just at an uplifting positive moment, someone is bound to find a reason to be offended. In this case and, sadly, once again, it is the religious right.
What the issue boils down to is that the vaccine can only be given before there is any chance of infection by the HPV virus that causes cervical and vaginal cancers. That virus can only be contracted through intercourse, so the vaccine must be given before there is any chance of the patient being sexually active. If given after contracting the virus, the vaccine can be deadly.
FDA has approved the vaccine and it is currently in the hands of an advisory committee, specifically, a Centers for Disease Control advisory committee, wherein lies the rub. It seems the most effective way to distribute the vaccine is to make it one of the many mandatory vaccinations before a child in admitted to public school.
The typical conservative knee-jerk reaction is understandable in a sort of broad ideological way: requiring the vaccine is a violation of parental rights. However, no one is arguing over DTP or polio vaccines, also mandatory. You don’t want to vaccinate your child? Fine. Homeschool, send them to private school, but don’t prevent other children from being vaccinated.
And I know it couldn’t possibly be the threat of “mandatory” meaning having to fund the vaccinations for the needy. Right? Right?
What is it about the Gardasil vaccination that has the religious right working up to a hissy?
(Adopting a passive/aggressive Church Lady voice) Could it be. . . . . . . . SEX?


Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 4:39 PM | Permalink

So Now You Know


There is an old Italian saying that goes, “Only the spoon knows what’s going on at the bottom of the pot.”
Basically it means don’t judge and don’t give advice unless you know every aspect of a situation, which you probably don’t, so shut up. Only it sounds nicer in Italian. And it rhymes.
That being said, there are, though, some universal truths that actually exist. But because my family ascribed to the above, I was never informed of the written-in-stone adages.
And so, as a public service, I present to you Things I Wish I’d Known Ahead of Time (The Short List, sadly):
1. When you have babies and toddlers there will be people with grown children who will “advise” you on areas where you perceive you are having problems. Their suggestions will sound flawless and you will get the impression that, while their spawn were every bit as challenging as yours, their brilliance in parenting was the only thing that saved the little beasts from the psychiatrist’s couch or incarceration. You will feel like a dolt.
Just know that they are speaking from the safety of having completed the parenting task and knowing the outcome. And they are the editor’s of their story. They were just as unsure and made just as many mistakes as you, no matter what they want to lead you to believe.
Besides, have you actually met their children?
2. 22-year-olds: The age of 33 is not old. There is still time at age 33 to change careers, be attractive and have ideas that are not out-of date.
If you are 33: Same as above for the age of 44.
If you are 44: Learn the above like a mantra.
3. Ice cream, pie and donuts are not scarce. They will always be there. You don’t have to eat them all at one time.
4. The odds are the guy with the cool car and the great clothes before the age of 30 is self-absorbed, short-sighted and in debt up to his ears. Look for the scruffy guy with the Dodge Dart.
Just trying to save you some time.


Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:57 AM | Permalink

Seeing Red…and Purple


I have a few theories.
First, in the absence of rules, people will make them up, needed or not, and eventually write them down on some official document.
Second, a group of three or more people will eventually choose a leader and give them a stupid title.
And third, the aforementioned group, given time, will collect more of a similar nature, rather like a snowball, so that eventually the end product has very little to do with what was originally conceived.
I say this as I approach the last year of my forties, meaning that next year I am apparently eligible to join the Red Hat Society.
For those who aren’t familiar with the group, it sprang up inspired by a 1961 poem by English poet Jenny Joseph. Known by many titles, it basically speaks about living your mature years beyond those unspoken rules and regulations that govern society.
Apparently older women are really angry about clothing and having to eat sensibly, because these seem to be the primary rule-breaking that is the focus of the poem. It speaks of wearing “a terrible shirt and growing fat,” which I guess wasn’t a strong enough lifestyle suggestion around which to form a club, the first problem being the name “Terrible Shirt Over Fat Society.”
Instead Red Hat Society founder and “Exalted Queen Mother” (See?) Sue Ellen Cooper decided to rally around the line about a red hat with a purple outfit, which is apparently some kind of massive faux pas when you are over 50, worse than, say, belching “The Star Spangled Banner.”


Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:55 AM | Permalink

My New Best Friend


I walked into my local post office for stamps and the postmaster (who in the old days would have been referred to as a “postmistress”) greeted me cheerfully and asked after my dogs. Then we discussed how my new house construction was coming along and how we’re working everything around my husband’s work schedule.
Driving home, it occurred to me that the postmaster probably knows more about me than some of my friends. This is Ama small post office and it is just her and, in the past seven years, one part time employee sorting the mail. All aspects of our lives have crossed her vision over the past 23 years.
My dog-loving friends know I love dogs, but don’t know I listen to jazz and classical music. My gourmand friends don’t know I’m severely organizationally-challenged. My book-loving friends aren’t aware I knit and sew.
The postmaster knows all these things. She’s placed The Australian Shepherd Journal and Bon Appetite into my mail, delivered Louis Prima and Puccini CDs to my door and wrote up a damage report on two bolts of iron-on interfacing. She’s sorted brochures for Closetmaid and Rubbermaid into my pile and helped me wrap for return a pair of shoes I’d ordered twice by mistake.
She’s sent out our collection letters certified mail and knows we don’t send many of them because we’re wusses. She calmly talked me through sending a registered letter to the Internal Revenue Service proving payment of one quarter’s taxes, assuring me that “everyone gets this request sooner or later.”
Besides us, no one knows our history as well as she does. She watched the parade of parenting magazines during our insecure early years with Baby Heir 1. She knew all that information must have worked when the college brochures started arriving last year.
She knows that once a year on June 18 without fail, I used to receive personal correspondence from my home state of New Jersey addressed to my maiden name. She also knows that stopped suddenly eight years ago. And she knows at Christmas time the cards with return addresses in New Jersey are also dwindling.
There were our lean homeschooling/civil service years where our mail was flooded with free samples, coupons and co-op brochures and no magazine subscriptions. She babysat our shipment of baby chicks we ordered to alleviate some of our grocery costs. And she knew we’d recovered when Merrill Lynch and Neiman Marcus started courting our business and charities started asking for money.
Our outgoing mail is probably just as revealing. She knows, for instance, that we really don’t care that we “may already be a winner.” She knows our billing cycle to our clients. She knows when we pay bills. She knows how many credit cards we have and how many we’ve turned down. She knows who we carry insurance through and who provides our cell phone service.
Of course she is discreet with all this knowledge. Probably because she doesn’t really care that she knows all this or doesn’t know she knows. She certainly doesn’t have the time to consciously read anything but the recipient’s name on all the pieces of mail that cross her vision. But this information is all there.
So, while virus scans and e-mail blockers protect what I have, my postmaster is protecting who I am. My entire local reputation could have been ruined had she revealed the time I had to overnight three bill payments because I’d originally mailed the electric bill to the phone company and the phone bill to the fuel company, and so on and so on. For over 20 years she’s resisted the urge to slap me upside the head and scream, “THINK!” I know I wouldn’t have hesitated for an instant.
I’m going to miss her when we move. There will be that whole getting-to-know-you phase with the new postmaster. I’ll have to tell him that I always buy two rolls of stamps at once because I know I’ll forget to buy them when I’m running low with the first roll. Maybe he won’t understand, as she does, that “boys will be boys” when I have to send registered mail a traffic violation payment for one of the Heirs. He may judge my literary taste when sends me my Rita Mae Brown books.
But then, we’re moving within the same county. Odds are the two postmasters are related to each other anyway.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:19 AM | Permalink

The Razor’s Edge


There is one aspect of the Women’s Movement that sort of faded away for most women, though there are still a few die hards out there who continue the practice.
No I’m not talking about burning bras. That seemed like a good idea at the time until gravity took over after a few years. Even in the beginning, I don’t recall many 40 DDDs tossing their infrastructure into the flames.
I’m talking about hair removal or, rather, the lack thereof.
I was so counting on the furry look coming into vogue. Even though I hadn’t yet hit puberty in the 1960s, I knew that unless things changed culturally, I was doomed to spend a life where a razor was as important as a toothbrush.
I should have known better. Just like the bra-burning fervor appeared to be incited by the flat and firm, the idea to stop shaving legs and underarms seemed to be spearheaded by light-haired Nords. (These days these are the women who moan, “I hate summer. I have to shave my legs twice a month.”)
However, if you have a single chromosome of Mediterranean blood in you, you know that during the summer your legs will have a five o’clock shadow. Winter for us is heaven because we can get it down to only twice a week before our legs in pantyhose look strangely paisley.
There was a brief glimmer of hope in the late 1970s. That’s when punk star Patti Smith was splashed around the media with armpits untouched by a razor. Brooke Shields’ furry-caterpillar eyebrows were considered beautiful. But Gilda Radner’s hilarious parody of the singer made sure that the au naturale look would never become fashionable and by the 1990s, even Julia Roberts couldn’t save us from the razor. And then Brooke suddenly found time to pluck and we were all doomed.
It’s not just an appearance issue. While the kids were growing up I knew they would not sit in my lap if I wore shorts unless I had shaved by legs that very morning. I couldn’t blame them. I had the same criteria for my own mother. You could get a rash sitting on her lap on a non-shaving day. We Sicilian women have great follicular potential.
And so I am always on fuzz alert. If I get in an accident, not only will I have on the good underwear, be assured I will also have silky smooth legs. Even when I broke my wrist and was unable to grasp the razor, I stuck the handle in the top of the cast and made a day of it (my request that “someone help me shave my legs” was met with look of horror in this all-male-but-me household).
I’m not the only one, though. Once while camping there was a couple at the next site who came by motorcycle, traveling light with a tiny pup tent. But I noticed that whenever the woman’s boyfriend left to either look for kindling or visit the campsite store, she would whip out a razor and a tiny can of shaving cream and shave a small patch on her leg. Then she’d stash the lot and be done by the time he was back. Obviously not married. Does she actually think he believes she was born with no hair on her legs?
Older women have assured me that I won’t have to shave as often after menopause — my legs and armpits, anyway.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 12:35 PM | Permalink

Who Not To Wear


And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you this week’s prize Quote Reflecting Why Our Society is So Absolutely Screwed Up:

“When you’re walking down the street holding your daughter’s hand, it makes you feel good when she looks good. It’s like having the right car or the right handbag.”

Yes, you read that right.
Our children are not our future, after all. They are our accessories.
This lightbulb take on parenthood is courtesy of a store owner – excuse me – boutique owner in Los Angeles that specializes in “hip” (meaning, of course, “over-priced”) children’s clothing. The story on generational trends in fashion comes from the Associated Press.
Hey, I’m ready for this trend! No more of that tedious, boring Preparation for Taking Their Place in Society, the sort of Comfy Brown Shoe philosophy of parenting. Kids are Fun! Sassy! Color-coordinated!
Now, overheard in dressing rooms and design studios in Los Angeles, that harbinger of societal decadence, we offer the following:
“What do you think, Blanche? Does this child make me look fat?”
“Doctor, I can’t possibly take this blue-eyed baby home. He’ll clash with the earth tones in the carpet.”
“At first I wasn’t sure about a redhead, but I think it makes a bold statement paired with the green diaper bag, don’t you think?”
“What do you mean Finster is big-boned? I wanted something in an A-line!”
“Mrs. Prescott! I have the absolutely perfect four-year-old to go with those shoes!”
“The bride wore a gown of Chantilly lace accented with mother-of-pearl buttons. Her lace veil flowed into her five-foot train and she carried a bouquet of toddlers accented with baby’s breath and satin ribbon.”
If you notice, I mention neither the boutique’s name nor its owner. That’s because by the time you read this, the store will be So Last Week.
Perhaps she should have stocked up on tow-headed blonde two-year-olds while the trend was hot.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:01 AM | Permalink

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