Author of Breasts Don't Lie

blog75

The world is a hot mess, more than usual. To misquote GOT’s Martin, ‘Winter is coming.’ The crazies are out in hordes tearing down the wall of our hard-won freedoms and laws.

I’m watching the world implode, and my bloody hip hurts. Inexplicably, one day I woke up and I couldn’t move my leg more than six inches above the bed without searing pain. Since that morning, my hip has hurt every day, worse at 3am when I hobble to the bathroom for my pain meds.

I have a feeling you’re saying, ‘yeah, well, you’ve done crazy yoga poses for years. You’re one of those crazy Instagram nutters who do the legs behind the head pose while balancing on one hand.’ No, I’m not! My yoga practice has been about developing the strength to counteract my stretchy joints. I learned assertion in yoga – walking away from classes that were too stretchy or when I was told to go deeper into the pose or anything that reeked of batshit crazy hyper-flexibility. In my yoga and movement classes (except for the first year when I was a little too enthusiastic), my mantra is ‘Do Less.’

I don’t know how the hip injury happened. However, I can get my hip replaced or resurface (like replacing grout) or whatever other, probably painful procedure the orthopedists are doing today. The hip won’t be good as new, but it will work and hurt less.

But I do know how the world’s chaos and cruelty happened. Like most people, I lived in a bubble. But in the quiet caused by a painful hip, when I’ve stepped out of my daily activities and usual busyness, the causes become apparent. We did it by inaction when –

People who admit to sexually assaulting others get elected.

People who stand by while families are separated then post a picture of themselves holding their son, and we click Like or buy their products.

People who suggest registries for one group or another, and we don’t condemn the action.

People take away another group’s authority over their own body, and we stand aside.

People who decide that certain groups cannot have access to education or healthcare.

People who use images of people at their most vulnerability to sell t-shirts, and we buy one in our size.

People are maiming, raping, and killing, and we look away.

The list feels endless and innervating. I am ashamed of myself and want to pull the covers over my head, sleeping away my responsibility. But my hip won’t let me sleep.

To people who say it’s not my fight, I’ll be dead by then, I’m not a woman or an immigrant or a Jew or a Muslim or an Asian or it’s not my country, remember Niemoller’s indictment –

‘Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.’

Lists of People

blog74

It has started again. My mother warned me. She knew how little it took to ignite hatred.

An Austrian politician wants Jews to register to buy kosher meat. Jews to register.

Yes, I couldn’t believe it either.

Isn’t this one of the first steps? To identify a group. Create a list or registry of their names. Blame them for problems, small and big. Encourage exclusion, contempt, turning to hatred. Then round up the names on the list. Isolate them within the society. From there, it is such a small step to the camps and the ovens.

####

Dallas is suffering through a heat wave with temperatures going to 110 degrees. But I am cold.

I am cold and chilled to the bone like the day I read the names. Twenty-eight years ago. In front of the Student Union at my progressive university with all the grants for bringing people together. During my doctoral program focused on valuing diversity.

I stood in the rains of November on Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, and waited for my turn. The midday sun couldn’t break through the dark clouds. All around us, students, heads down, muffled in rain gear, were hurrying to class or the cafeteria. Steam rose from the warm buildings but in the square, the glacial air burned my lungs. The rain came down in sheets, soaking us, blinding us, knocking us sideways. The colors of the students and the buildings were down to a sleeted gray. The cold wet penetrated us through our clothes. The students moved with haste, dodging each other, and clutching their backpacks to their chests. I stood in the middle of the hubbub, next to a young man huddled under his parka. Both of us were shaking from cold and maybe, other things, as I waited for my turn.

The young man paused and handed me stapled sheets with names printed in a row down the page. He didn’t look at me. My shoes were so wet, and my feet sloshed in them, like standing in a pool of icy water. I pulled my hood further over me to protect the paper. Wiping the rain out of my eyes, I began to read.

For thirty minutes, I read the names of people who died in the camps. People like me. Jews. I struggled and stuttered over the pronunciation of some names, but after a while, the names became people. People with dreams and lives. Relationships. Successes and failures. Children and teenagers and adults. I said each name into the rain-soaked, gray day until I was yelling. I wanted each person’s name heard by another person. Students stopped and looked at me. I was crying, but I screamed their names until, at the end of my thirty minutes, I was whispering. Hoarse – all out of voice. My clothes stuck to my body like another layer of skin. Or a layer of ash.

A gloved hand tapped me on the shoulder. I gave over the precious list. The other student started quietly, tentatively but after a few names, he broke into a roar. The students turned to look at him, and his face was fierce. I smiled at him, nodded, and drove home. In the shower, I cried more tears, shivering, trying to get some warmth back in my body.

####

When we were kids growing up, our mother kept a baseball bat by the door. “For defense,” she said. I am glad she is not here to witness this again. Now I will place her bat by my door.

For defense.

I am frozen in the 110-degree heat.

blog73

As a Brit, most years I have mixed feelings about the 4thof July. But this holiday, I want to take a stand for patriotism. I want each person on this planet to pledge deliberate patriotism.

For whatever country you align with, pay attention to what is happening in your area, your country, the world.

For whatever country you align with, put in your two cents’ worth of opinion.
You may end up unpopular, but we are no longer in high school.

For whatever country you align with, stand up for the highest values in your nation.
Even if that means respecting the right of a citizen taking a knee.

For whatever country you align with, tell someone what you love about your country.

For whatever country you align with, promise to learn about the country’s cultures.
Try a new food, a dance, a word of greeting.
Worship with someone from a different faith.
Attempt to see a dissimilar point of view.

For whatever country you align with, fight with all your strength for truth.
Dig it out. Dig deep.
Ask for information.
Start a dialogue.

In whatever country you align with, make your corner just that little bit kinder, truer, inclusive with your actions and your voice.

Patriotism does not happen one day each year and waving a flag doesn’t make you a patriot – patriotism is the continual struggle for what are the highest virtues of your country.

However uncomfortable, what are you willing to do?

Unknown-1

He read Mark Strand poems into my phone. Masculine firmness mouthing each word. Susurrus of certain phrases.

Listening, couplets tangled my hair. Stanzas vibrated my limbs. Entire poems enfolded my body.

A season of love in metred details.

In the Autumn, the elegy, and words peeled away, leaving me stunned in the silence.

file000848108305So, there I was, standing in the bright Alabama sunshine, sweating enough with heat and nerves to have my tee shirt cling to my chest, clutching the two prescriptions in my hand. I was an adult. Taking care of myself. A sexually responsible person.

“Get in the car,” Mom said.

I got in the car, and we tootled off to Eckerd’s pharmacy. Eckerd’s was a large drug store next to the biggest grocery store in Mobile, Skaggs Albertson’s. Everybody did their shopping Saturday morning at Albertson’s. Everybody picked up their prescriptions Saturday morning at Eckerd’s. We parked seemingly miles away and hiked to the drug store. I felt gooey all under, flustered and untidy next to Mom’s powdered and polished exterior.

 

Shoppers packed the store. By the front door, the cash register and the pharmacy counter used the same queue. I had a moment of panic. The 1980s was the time before privacy laws and barriers to semi-shield you in your discussions with the pharmacist. Mom had a smug smile on her face. I inched closer to her side.

“Mama?” I said.

“You’re a big girl now. Get in line and drop off your prescriptions,” she said moving to the aisle with hair curlers. Mom had great cotton-candy hair – always fluffy in a controlled Brigit Bardot bed head swirl.

Shaking enough to start sweating again in the meat-locker chilly air of the store, I waited for my time at the counter. Handing over my prescriptions, I kept my eyes down and mumbled something. The pharmacist smoothed out the wrinkles of the prescription sheets.

“These are for you?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said raising my eyes to him.

We stood looking at each other across the counter.

“I’ll call you when they’re ready.”

I wandered back to the hair section where Mom hugged me.

“See, that wasn’t so bad,” she said.

 

Half an hour later, my heart rate had returned to normal. I didn’t blush every time I ran into a student or teacher from my old high school or the Catholic college I attended or an acquaintance from synagogue. I had begun to feel chilled from the wet shirt and had run out of things to look at in the hair section. On the way to the magazine rack in the back corner of the store, I heard a thump on the PA system. Another thump, then the booming voice of the pharmacist permeated every corner of the store.

“Trudi Young, Trudi Young. We have your size diaphragm in stock.”

Shoppers stopped speaking and looked around.

The pharmacist repeated, “Trudi Young, we have your diaphragm, please come to the pharmacy counter to pick it up.”

I turned to mother who burst into laughter. Not her most empathic moment. Mom handed me a couple of twenties. “Go on now, pick up your diaphragm,” she said giving me a little push.

Hurrying to the pick-up counter, I passed a bunch of pimply-faced boys who nudged each other and one open-mouthed girl from chemistry lab. I had almost run the gauntlet when the PA system thumped again.

“Trudi Young, Trudi Young. The spermicide for your diaphragm, Nonoxynol-9, is found in aisle five.”

Sweat dripped down the sides of my bright red face. If the earth could have swallowed me at that second, I would have been grateful.

The smiling pharmacist lay the small paper bag on the counter. I handed over the money stone-faced, stuffed the contraceptive into my purse, then high-tailed it over to aisle five. Through a mist of tears, I examined the array of spermicides in their garish boxes and squeezed my eyes shut. These were the days before waterproof make-up. When I peeked from between my fingers, a hand was holding out a pink and white box of Gynol II. The hand belonged to one of my teachers from college.

“I hope he’s worth it,” she said.

“I do too.”

“Anyway, see you in class Monday,” she said turning away.

Mom walked up to me. “Who was that?”

“Uh. My teacher.”

“What does she teach?”

“Biology,” I said, and both of us laughed until tears streamed down our faces.

Mom wiped away the mascara smudges then kissed my cheek. “You did a good job,” she said.

 

(Image by morguefile.com)

gynecology-stirrups1

It’s difficult to imagine, considering the amount I curse my computer, but I was an early adopter – an early adopter, never of computers but of contraception in 1980. Yes, we had contraceptives back then.

One spring day, when my thighs were firm and my hair was bouncy, I had planted myself in front of my unsuspecting mother and said, “I am going to be sexually active, and I need to get contraceptives.”

I remember that she continued to sip her coffee, took a big breath, and looked up at me. “Okay,” she said. “Time to make a doctor’s appointment.” At which point, I sat down and broke into tears.

Mom brought me some toilet paper to blow my nose – I was way beyond tissue paper, patted me on my shoulder, and left me to wonder about this transition. After using up a good quarter of a roll, I came to the conclusion that I was being very grown-up and strutted off to my room where I looked at the bed and promptly burst into tears again. Looking back, I think that was the best it could have played out.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the family Pinto wagon, yes, the exploding model, on my way to my family GP. The nurse ushered me into a room, listened to me stammer and stutter until I could get out that I wanted birth control. I had done my homework. I didn’t want the pill – I wanted a diaphragm. She cocked an eyebrow at me.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I said.

She shook her head, yanked open the door, and yelled into the back of the office. “Diaphragm.” She turned back to me. “We need to get the kit. Get undressed,” and she handed me a sheer robe and a paper blanket.

Tying the strings on the robe, I started to shake so badly I ripped gown and had to cover myself with the paper blanket. Positioning it across my chest and over my lap, I saw one of my socks had a hole – my big toe stuck out. (There’s an analogy for you!)

I waited and waited. And waited. The room was chilly. I kept my mind carefully blank.

After a good forty minutes of ruminating – do I want to be sexually active? Well of course. But is it worth the effort, expense, embarrassment? The doctor rushed in holding an overnight-sized bag-box. “Do you want a pregnancy test?” he asked. His voice boomed into the waiting room crammed with Saturday morning, acne-plagued young people and ricocheted into the back office where I heard a few snickers.

“No. That’s why I’m here. I don’t want to get pregnant,” I said as the door slammed shut.

The nurse smirked, but we went on with the process. He fitted me for a diaphragm. “This ought to do it.” I didn’t know diaphragms came in eight sizes. He held the black rubber spring-loaded dome up to the fluorescent overheads. “Be sure and check it for holes against a light. And you’ll need spermicide.”

“Spermicide?”

“Yes, Nonoxynol-9. Get it when you get the diaphragm,” he said tossing the seven non-fitters into the sink. Hopefully for deep cleaning.

“Now you try.” He covered the diaphragm with KY and handed it to me; the diaphragm slipped out of my fingers and landed spermicide side down on the floor. The nurse shook her head. The doctor laughed as he handed it to the nurse. She rinsed it off and then I tried to insert the spring-loaded circular cup. On the first attempt, I had another floor landing. More rinsing. On the second attempt, it pressed against my bladder. Uncomfortably. And it was suctioned into place. The doctor had to reach in and get it out. By the fifth try, the diaphragm was properly positioned against my cervix. Rah. The three of us were sweating. We cheered. I nodded. They nodded back. I took it out, handed it to the doc who handed it to his nurse.

I was told to get dressed, and my prescriptions would be at the front desk. I walked into the blinding sunshine, got stung by a bee, and thought I would need to shower again before my date that night.

Check in next week for the debacles at the pharmacy and that night’s trial run.

Here’s the meat of my blog:

In the 1860s, a US doctor introduced the ‘womb veil.’

In 1882, Dr. C. Hass invented the diaphragm. Guess I’m not an early adopter.

In 1965, the Supreme Court allowed married couples access to birth control but in 26 US states, unmarried women were denied access to birth control.

In 1972, the Supreme Court allowed access to birth control irrespective of marital status.

In 2013, parental consent was mandatory in 2 states before minors could obtain access to state-funded birth control.

In 2017, with many forms of birth control requiring a physician’s visit, parental consent may be necessary for teens under 18, and doctors and insurance companies may have the ability to inform the parents of the reason for a teen’s medical visit.

Today, private insurance coverage for contraceptives is being questioned. Planned Parenthood, a major provider of free or low-cost reproductive healthcare including education, examinations, screening, testing and treatment of STIs, and abortions, is being challenged and defunded.

Some people are not as lucky as I was when faced with contraceptive choices. Let’s guard our reproductive rights and the rights of future generations. Read the rest of this entry »

file1461250298916 (1)

It’s the new year, and off I went to see my sister in Chicago.

I thought things were off to an auspicious start. I was PRE-TSA checked. But still, they unpacked my carry-on, waded through my underwear, and looked at me with a slatted eye. People watched and snickered as I repacked the bright blue and hot pink panties knocking one to the ground. Ugh – won’t be wearing those.

Then I had to wrestle the carry-on, kind of lumpy, listing to one side, into the overhead compartment of the plane. A man watched me. Didn’t help, just watched. Hoping my arm muscles wouldn’t give out, I jammed it in. He said, “I didn’t think you could do that.”

Cranky and smothering in three layers with the cabin’s dry, hot air blasting my face, I said, “Why didn’t you help me?”

“It was a good laugh,” he said sitting in front of me.

I kicked his seat throughout the plane ride.

At my sister’s suggestion, I bought a card for the trains and buses in Chicago. After spending five minutes futzing with the crazy machine, swearing, breaking out in a sweat (in the 10-degree weather of slush and gale force winds), I heard a harrumph from the machine next to me.

“Try turning your credit card the other way,” said a voice from under a parka.

Oops, that worked, and I had a green plastic card good for seven days of mass transit.

Then I tried to use the card to enter a nice wide turnstile. The woman in the cage yelled, “Hey. You there. Don’t use the handicapped stile.”

Feeling stupid, I moved my enormous carry-on, furry coat (a lot of synthetics died for that outerwear), and re-slung my laptop case over my shoulder. Making it through the narrowest possible turnstile, I made my way to the steps for the train platform. A man in front of me danced from one side of the stairway to another with each tread. More swearing. Is this a Chicago craze? When I misjudged his sway, and bumped into his back, knocking us both down, he slurred, “Sorry, my feet are cold.”

We missed the train. And both of us were very cold by the time the next one came.

Sitting in the car of the Orange line, I noticed the amount of junk around my feet. Food wrappers, single gloves, and assorted garbage littered the floor. Moving as fast as I could in my arctic apparel, my feet found a ledge, and I promised no touching the bottom of my bags. Yick.

Transferring to a bus, I thought, “I’m getting this down.” I managed to place my card wrong-side up on the card-reader three-times gathering a groan from the passengers behind me growing icicles. Sitting in an empty seat up front, my neighbor poked me in the ribs and pointed to the sign, ‘Priority Seating.’ I shuffled into a seat in the back of the bus where the floor resembled a food court.

Finally, I got to my hotel. The person behind the desk took one look at me, upgraded my reservation to a larger room, and told me about the nice bar around the corner where I could get an Irish coffee. Sounded good.

Unpacked, warm, and boots off, I thought about my trip. Humbling, my trip was humbling. In Dallas, I am nicely insulated in my car from other people and the travails of mass transit.

Sitting in the Irish bar, sipping the warming Irish Coffee, I thought about all the trash on the floor of the trains and buses triggering a funny memory of riding the buses in DC as a young woman.

I was riding the bus in the business district in DC during my 20s. I stood up at my stop. A sudden breeze ruffled my skirt, and suddenly, I was cool all under. Looking down, I saw that my underwear had dropped to the floor. Just dropped. Plonk. Pretending nothing had happened, I calmly stepped out of the undies and stepped off the bus. No way I was picking those up. At lunch, I bought undies at Garfinkels. What happened to the aplomb of my 20s?

Is mass transit designed to be humbling? Why do the hanging straps of the trains and buses resemble nooses?

 

(Image courtesy of morguefile.com.)

Tag Cloud