“So, what are you?” This question dominates my social interactions more than any other, and I am still always surprised by it. What am I? What exactly do you mean, sir? Well, I am a woman, foremost; an American, second; a recent-college grad, third… is that what you were asking? Oh no, of course. The inquiry is always referring to the topic of my race.
I am especially staggered by strangers who have the gall to stop me in the street and hurl such a deeply personal question at me. Above all the other facts they could want to know, in that instant where they pass me by it is crucial for them to find out what brand of blood flows through my veins. Although I always answer politely (as any good Indian girl should, according to my mother), what I would really like to say is, “I’m sorry I look like racial enigma, ma’am, but that is none of your business!”
Faux shock, irony and absolutely no acceptance from a millennial who does, really, know the truth about the number one problem in the US today
Technically, I am one-half Caucasian (thanks, Dad) and one half Indian (Namaste, Mum). But physically, it seems as though I could be anything from Latino, to Middle Eastern, to Caribbean, to any other somewhat tan and unfamiliar race on Earth. You name it, I’ve heard it. But why is it so important?
Race is the one of many aspects about ourselves that we cannot control, but it is arguably the least reflective of who we really are. How much more indicative of my character is my choice of profession, where I decide to live, or who I pick as my friends? You would get a better idea of who I am from simply observing the way I dress than knowing the details of my racial background. And if you think differently, then I believe you might be committing the psychological faux pas known as racial stereotyping.
As these encounters indicate, we may not quite be the post racial society we like to think we are. Although we have elected a mixed race female vice-president and despite the fact that people of every color imaginable now proudly call themselves Americans, we are not yet beyond race and conspirators are playing on those deep-seated fears that many Americans still hold about certain races, and it’s working.
So even now, we are far from being a world that is blind to race. Only when people completely refrain from taking bloodline into account in their summation of a person’s character and worth will we be able to say that we are post-race. And when I stop hearing that damned question, I’ll know it’s finally happened.
THE REAL RIGHT STUFF
By Shannon Brandt
I grew up in the Bronx and I had an obese uncle which eventually cost him his life. But God! What rice balls he could make. He was from Sicily and grew up in Brooklyn and besides teaching me how to count to “tree”, he taught me how to enjoy a good Italian meal. Also the couple who had the apartment beneath us were Italian and I used to hover in their kitchen like a stray cat looking for scraps. Oh, how I enjoyed food then! Little did I know it would become my arch nemesis in a few years.
My father told me, “I heard girls shouldn’t read fashion magazines, because it makes them feel bad about themselves.” Oh, the honesty. True that Pops, fashion rags made me feel like complete and total shit with an ounce of hope thrown into the stinking mix. ‘I hope I can fit into that’, was my most occurring thought.
I was never stick thin growing up, but you could hardly categorize me as plump. I’m not going to tell you I was the fat kid with no friends who got voted prom queen. I was liked by many. I played sports. I played instruments. I did theatre. I had sleepovers, birthday parties and went to all the dances. This is not my coming of age story.
This is me screaming at the top of my brain why can’t I like myself? For one goddamned moment I would like to put on a dress and smile. The same goes for a bathing suit. OH, those fuckin’ suits. I’d rather wear an entire wet suit and be done with it. At least I have my sense of humor, right?
Stuff any New Year’s Resolutions on your man’s… or worse, mother’s terms. One woman’s rant about herself highlights the long, long road still to go before we as females can address our issues honestly! Thanks Shannon!
Right now I am training to run a marathon, so within the past two months I have lost ten pounds. I want to lose ten more. Most probably ten more after that. Who started this shit in my head and how do I get it to turn off?
I had a meathead boyfriend in college. He was always going to the gym, with me by his side, and subscribed to all those awful bodybuilding magazines. I was elated. I worked out with him everyday. I worked out by myself. I would work out at least twice a day, plus watch my calories, plus take diet pills. He was oh so encouraging of this behavior. I started to rapidly slim down and when I average about a size 2, I started getting the compliments. I fit into all the clothes. I went into B*****, which I know starts selling clothes at a size 4, and would say sweetly, “Is your smallest size a 4?” The clerks would nod, and I would continue with, “That’s a shame I’m a 2.” JUST BECAUSE I COULD. That borders on sick twisted anorexic shit. But I felt liked, pretty. I felt people just wanted to be my friend because of what I looked like AND I LIKED IT. Never mind, I graduated with honors and studied Medieval Literature at Oxford University. I want those size zero pants to go over my ass. I have been on every single diet imaginable – seriously think of one, yup did that one too. I have taken every single diet pill on the market and some that were not; cocaine for example. If I were rich, I would be a cokehead. Not a pretty thought to put out there, but I would. It gives you energy, and suppresses your appetite. You lose your soul, but shit that sample sale is a-waiting. I am not rich, I am a writer therefore I’m an alcoholic not a cokehead.
Shortly after college, I had another boyfriend who was from the south. Can you say, “fried Oreos?” He was little bit chunky and I was a little bit chunky (by whose comparison?) when we first met. I liked him because he was older and I wanted to impress him. Doesn’t matter that I had more schooling or was more cultured than him, I still felt less superior. I immediately joined a gym and went to all the classes. I was still on the diet pills, but I now upped the daily dosage. It is actually such a shame, because I do love food so much. I’m not talking about that fast food crap – that IS crap. No one should eat it, it should be outlawed. It makes our kids fat and makes it easier for Mom and Dad to stay later at work, but don’t get me started on that.
I love food. Meat, fish, rice, veggies, fruit, pasta, chicken, everything. I should be able to enjoy life guiltlessly. I live in the center of the universe, with everything at my disposal. I should grab that bull buy the reigns and ride that bad boy all the way home. But I can’t let one morsel pass my lips without thinking what I will deny myself later since I had this now. I also am secretly THRILLED when my girlfriends gain weight, most of who seem not to mind since they are enjoying their life. They have their men, their apartments, their career – all of which I have as well- but they are enjoying themselves.
Yes, I do have another boyfriend and he is absolutely adorable. He’s also 23. As I aforementioned I am training for a marathon, and of course I am not anywhere happy with my physic but I feel somewhat saner. I do not know if its’ the extra endorphins being released or the caffeine pills or the constant sex with a 23-year-old, but I feel ok. I still hate everyone thinner than me, those fuckin gorgeous people that only live on the planet L.A. I still violently read the latest Vogue cover to cover. I still contemplate bulimia. I still follow the latest diets, trends. I still belong to a gym and besides running twice a week I do yoga the other two days and will start cross training by bicycling. Will I ever be fully content with myself outside? Who the hell knows. All I am aware of is that I will forever be comparing my stomach to yours, my thighs to hers, my boobs to my mom’s. On the lighter side (pun intended), my boyfriend picked me up from my weekend away last night and it looks like he’s put on a little weight.
* smiles *
(IT’S COMMON SENSE)
When discussions amongst my female friends breach the subject of having children, sometimes all I can think of is an essay written by a man; an essay about war. Esquire magazine published William Broyles’ essay “Why Men Love War.” In short, it’s a cornerstone essay in post-Vietnam personal reflection and an attempt to better explain war veterans’ complex relations to their military pasts. It’s full of shocking admissions, palpable acts of cruelty and heroism, near-brilliant insights, and a few references here and there to women who aren’t Vietnamese bar girls. A small but striking piece of the essay is a nine word comparative insert to better explain man’s pulsing desire for war. Broyles writes, “[war] is, for men, at some terrible level, the closest thing to what childbirth is for women: the initiation into the power of life and death.”
Besides the fact that Broyles’ definition may be the manliest depiction of childbirth I have ever read, I remember finding the comparison both mildly offensive and oddly on target. Even if you find his arguments entirely incorrect, and many do in regards to the essay’s views on war and brief throwaway statements on childbirth, you must admit that our society generally agrees with the his vein of argument regarding a woman’s propensity towards starting a biological family.
There are so many abandoned and unwanted
children in an overcrowded world, taking care of them should be a first option to start a family instead of a last resort for childless couples.
Cosmopolitan or Middle American, career oriented or homemaking, many women see childbirth as an integral part of the feminine or familial experience. There are several, more scientifically illuminating illustrations on the importance of a woman’s desire for biological children, but science is often only what we make of it, and writing a credible essay entitled “Why Women Love Childbirth (or producing children)” is indeed a daunting task. It would most likely conclude that our biological craving for a continuation of our lineage is the go-to culprit of baby fever. How else do you explain that in an age where adoption is achieving an increasing amount of press and societal acceptance, adoption statistics have remained relatively consistent (that is to say, relatively low), with only two to four percent of families including an adopted child?
I’m not going to sit and pat our warmhearted society on the back and say I think two to four percent is an impressive number. It’s difficult to know where to start when posting statistics of children in waiting. If you include every child in every orphanage in around the globe, it’s ethically daunting. If you throw in all the children living through what are often murky purgatories of foster care, the “problem” becomes too large and too abstract, and besides, foster kids have become wrongly synonymous with hopelessness and invisibility. Although age and past abuse has a part in the reported “difficulties” of adopting older children, no child enters the world a lost cause, and there are plenty of studies that show adopted children to be just as or more prone to success when brought into a healthy family environment. Healthy, by the way, meaning either one or two able and loving parents, no matter their sex or age or personal affiliations.
I get that I’m picking at untouchable and sacred subjects of family, inalienable rights of reproduction, and femininity. Biological clocks and baby lust. Touchy subjects, especially with so many women facing frustration and heartbreak at the notion of infertility or birthing complications. I understand that it’s an unfair move to scratch my head and publicly state that I have no idea why rich couples would use surrogate mothers instead of adopting another child, especially after some have already given birth to children, but I do question it, mainly out of objective curiosity. With adoption becoming an increasingly safe and manageable process, I’m not going to pretend that I understand why women put themselves through ethically questionable, eighte-mbryo-at-a-time kinds of fertility treatments that have sprung up in news reports over the past few years. I’m not going to pretend that I understand why adoption is an absolute non-option for many, or why it is so far down on the list. The cynical side gets a sneaking suspicion that for some prospective parents (perhaps all, we are no saints), rejection of adoption partially comes down to a human desire for immortality, creation, and many other flipside attributes that stick inadvertently to love and family and the feminine experience.
Though adoption is generally accepted and promoted throughout our society, it remains one of the most internally divisive subjects for both women and men. There are several excellent sites that bust adoption myths, most of which I’ve heard thrown about in conversation regarding the process. Both criticism and ostentatious praise draw negative attention and obscure what adoption so desperately needs: for families to consider it an option without an association with “the alternative,” heroism, or good deeds. It’s not a good deed. It’s a way to start a family. Changing diapers is smelly and tedious no matter if your child is from your womb or a Chinese orphanage. Neither situation makes you particularly heroic.
Most websites and agencies and speeches are of the mindset that flattering the “good heart” of prospective adoptees will convince them once and for all. Like charity donations, appeal to the hero in anyone, and they might just do anything. Apparently, if I adopt, I’m well on my way to becoming a shining example of the “depth and wonder of the human heart.” I can only hope that with continuing progression, adoptive parents will no longer be seen as brave or heroic. Equating adoption to heroism is like saying the children are a burden, or that the “normal” familial process of biological offspring is always preferable. I just want to adopt because I’ve always wanted to, because it seemed natural as wanting to give birth. There are a few notable exceptions, and while I wouldn’t call those adopting a special needs child ‘heroic,” I admire their self assurance and way in which they are able to knowingly bring a few (sometimes several) extra complications into their lives. When I adopt a child, whatever you do, don’t call me a hero. It’s insulting to my future children.
*Urban Myth #666
You know how it feels to have an annoying song stuck in your head? Or even worse, an irritating commercial. It seems that more often than not, those insidious bits of marketing propaganda have one target and one target only: young people. Unfortunately, the rest of us are caught in the crossfire.
Most people want to have kids; I accept this fact but don’t truly understand it. Think about the pressure: it’s ultimately up to you whether your child becomes the next President of the United States (great) the next Jeffrey Dahmer (not so great) or the next Heidi Montag (even worse). Anyway, because we live in this proud, free country, you can exercise your right to procreate, just like I can exercise the right to smoke, get really fat, or tie up my consensual partner in a closet dungeon on long weekends (just sayin’).
The difference is, most of the personal decisions we make in our lives have no bearing on anyone else; you don’t have to hear about my eccentric sexcapades or watch me eat an entire bucket of KFC in one sitting. So why then must I be subjected to endless commercials about the wonders of potty time? Why must I endure your whining children in a five star restaurant? Why must I accept those “what’s wrong with you” looks when I tell someone that the idea of having children is about as exciting as the idea of a daily, 18-year long colonic regimen?
Our society places a disproportionate emphasis on our youth.
Sure, they are the decision makers of tomorrow and sure, their impressionable minds need to be nurtured and filled with love and knowledge. But what about the decision makers of today?
What about the vast majority of adults who still have potential, lives to live, goals to fulfill?
It seems that as soon as we are old enough to accomplish something in our lives, we’re told to have kids and sacrifice that precious time to the next generation – who turn around and do the exact same thing. So who’s actually getting stuff done around here? If I added up the time I spend each year forced to listen to Justin Bieber songs and watching Twilight trailers, I could have finished writing my first best-selling novel by now!
The amount of time I spend every day being bombarded by “kid stuff” is mindboggling: commercials, ads, loud little urchins running into my kneecaps on the street – the list goes on.
I absorb so much kid-related information a day, sometimes I feel like I have one of my own, and that, my friends, does not make me happy. Why are fashion trends determined by 17-year old celebrities? Why do I have to sift through 50 different sugary cereals to get to my Cheerios? (Ok, I’ll admit Froot Loops are pretty awesome, but still) Why are there interactive video games for toddlers, and why, oh why am I even aware of it? Stop the madness!
Parents, out of sheer stupidity, have become part of the problem; they don’t realize that this is just another way companies rope us in, make us suckers and slaves to our culture of overconsumption.
They don’t even have to market intelligently; they just hit you where it hurts most – the ovaries. With bright colors, cartoon animals and sparkly music, they convince you that you’re a bad parent if you don’t buy, buy, buy, and buy some more. And you buy it, alright. Wise old grandparents will tell you there’s no manual for being a parent – but you will still spend $50 at Barnes and Noble on just such a thing.
I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t get attention and toys and movies just for them – I’m just saying we should take a long hard look at what all of this stuff really is and what its use is, if it has one. I’d say 90% of children’s products today are superfluous and unnecessary.
Remember when we were kids and we played outside in the sunshine and mud? We didn’t have Crankity Brainteaser or Peek a Doodle Do and we got along just fine. I’m pretty sure (and I know this from experience) that the only adult sanctuary left is the strip club. I guess it could be worse.
Let’s get back to basics: animals exist to procreate. At one time, as primitive animals ourselves, we did too. But with the wonderful gift of bigger brains, we have come up with other reasons to exist: to create beautiful art, to help others, to make the world a better place to live in. We don’t need to create copies of ourselves to feel like we were useful on this earth; unfortunately, that’s not what most of society – not to mention your in-laws – want you to believe.
I’m sure there are a lot of “breeders” reading this right now who are positively fuming at my callous and selfish commentary – as proud parents, you probably think it’s justified that the world revolves around children. Having a child is a joy like no other, you say. It’s the most important thing you can do with your life. There’s something wrong with you if you don’t want kids!
How about this: let’s you and I call a truce. I won’t call you crazy for buying your eight-year-old an iPhone, and you won’t call me evil for kindly suggesting you keep your spawn on a leash. You and I and all the kiddies of the world can live together in harmony – just keep their snotty noses out of my life.
There’s a ballot in front of you. On it, there are several names, with neat little boxes next to each. Your duty as an active member of American society is to proudly check the box next to the name that you think is the right choice for yourself and for the future of this country, the choice that will ensure liberty and justice for all while simultaneously solidifying your own values and allowing you to make an imprint upon society. The only trouble is, you have no idea what the fuck you’re voting for.
Ideally, you want to vote for the party that supports the issues you feel the most strongly about. You want to vote for the candidate that will do good things, things that will benefit you, your family, your community. Don’t you? So, of course, being logical and levelheaded, you understand that one person alone isn’t going to make all your wildest dreams of American fortitude come true. You decide to vote for the party that is the lesser of two evils. You weigh the pro’s and con’s based on how a new politician or an entire political party will hopefully affect your life in the future.
It has to be a throw-back to our animal ancestors with a strict pecking order in their social structure. It has to be genetic. Nothing else explains the strange phenomenon of working people voting directly against their best interests. They can’t all be blinded by the immoderate patriotism that is the only apparent connection.
But what about the people who aren’t quite as grounded in logic as this profile description? What about the people who surrender their beliefs to institutions of policy and politics merely because it is ingrained in their psyche that it’s what they are supposed to do? More specifically, what about the guy with blue collar circumstances, but a white collar political mindset? Blue Collar Republicans are an elusive and mysterious group of people indeed. The term itself is somewhat of an oxymoron. It’s tough to decipher exactly what motivates a decision-making process that is not backed wholly by logic, but from what I see, it is a unique combination of nationalism, false superiority, tradition, and fear. And possibly, as author George Lakoff suggests in The Political Mind, genetics, my friends.
Nationalism is an interesting thing in this day and age. It might not sound so bad; after all, it is essentially a good thing to carry loyalty for one’s country. But what happens when patriotism is taken to a level above and beyond what is good or healthy or even makes sense anymore? The freedom and loyalty that Blue Collar Republicans often think they possess looks to me like a gross reflection of their ironic binds to society – not freedom at all. So afraid of socialism infringing upon American society, they give up their own right to choose what’s best for them in order to remain “devoted” to their nation. Seems far from democratic to me.
I grew up surrounded by men in my family who clung to a severe case of patriotism. But why would people who grew up with next to nothing, who continue to suffer for the benefit of the wealthy people in this country, remain so shackled to national pride? Because it’s macho. It’s a tall man with good posture and a briefcase. It’s a clean-shaven face. It’s white, it’s Christian, it’s strong, unshakable, superior. That’s what the image so often is. Not a scruffy-faced, loose-moral-ed, wavering hippie. Dear God, anything but that. Ah, such is the stereotypical and radically incorrect image of a left-minded person to the fearful, paranoid, Blue Collar Republican.
The way somebody decides what to believe in, whether it is politics, religion, or a favorite baseball team, should reflect comprehensive knowledge on the subject, as well as personal convictions. Unfortunately, this is not how beliefs are instituted. At all. Instead, if your parents are Christian, Republican, Yankee fans, you typically carry those beliefs forward for no particular reason at all, aside from tradition, bias, and probably nostalgia. This is relatively harmless when we’re talking about Major League Baseball. But significantly more harmful when we’re talking about politics. Blindly running with a set of beliefs that influence your life and the lives of others is not necessarily a safe run to take.
Something tells me that people should be given all the facts before they attach themselves to any combination of political values. And the issue here is, Republican values are just so overwhelming. As someone who was raised by Republicans, I can tell you firsthand that there are no choices or opinions offered in the political upbringing process. There is no chance to make up your own mind, until of course you are much, much older. And from what I’ve seen of those raised in a conversely liberal environment, in terms of relaying politics on youth, instead, facts are laid on the table, opinions are tossed around, people talk, listen, participate, and are in turn able to make up their own minds. So very different in an ultra-conservative household. Why? Because this method
of instituting a no-choice, fear-fueled, my-way-or-the-highway attitude about politics is how the Republican Party stakes its claims. And it works. In a family, and in a voting booth.
The fearful Blue Collar Republican wants to make sure his family is “safe” at all times, so he supports the overall wealth of the nation, which is so emphasized in the Republican Party. He also wants to protect himself and his loved ones from any and all impending threats to American freedom, thus supporting the rapid build up of U.S. military and other safety measures concerning foreign affairs. Bearing arms seems like one of these safety measures. Protecting the “sanctity” of marriage and maintaining restrictions on who can and cannot have children seems like another. He also wants to stand for the pro-life statute and protect his morals. In this list of ideals, it could be construed that his thoughts are stemming from a place of self-interest. But this is not the case. They stem from a place of fear, mistrust, panic, and overall insecurity. Why else would the Blue Collar Republican want to vote so overtly against his per-sonal well-being? Because he is more concerned with what he considers the well-being of the country? Sorry, I don’t buy it. The Republican Party feeds on the fears of society rather than demonstrating truths.
Manipulation is at the podium, and conceit is the speaker. Knowing how to use people’s uncertainties as ammunition is a skill both incredible and frightening. And paradoxically, this manipulation only fuels the arrogance and superiority of the conservative population. This is not to say that democrats don’t vote based on emotion as well. That would be a ridiculous and misleading assumption. As human beings, we are all heavily influenced by our emotions first and foremost, and our logic second. But it is important not to skip that second step. What does this blue collar republican guy have going for him? What’s in his favor? Sure, the Republican Party historically aims for lower taxes. This doesn’t exactly happen. Is healthcare a Republican concern? Definitely not. Support of small businesses? Job security? Social security? Not quite. Meanwhile, these are the very topics that actually do affect blue collar life. Maybe, gasp, even more than gay marriage and the second amendment! Just maybe.
Why does a working class man want to back a political party that has put several of his peers out of work, has him graying at the temples over job security, and continues support of a war that has billions of American taxpayer dollars spilling rapidly out of sight? The answer is quite readily available in John McCain’s campaign slogan from 2008, “Country First.” Instead of a few words of encouragement or strength, this phrase reinforces ambiguity and paints a vague but decidedly patriotic haze of anxiety over the Party message. It is underhanded and sly and easy to cover or justify, or even glamorize. But not without a hidden agenda. Or maybe not so hidden, considering that putting your country first doesn’t seem like something that goes hand in hand with planning to appoint a first year governor whom you don’t even know as the Vice President of the nation. Where does the country fit into that equation? Sure as hell not “first.” Supplying America with this token level of patronization fueled by insecurity and mixed signals is clearly the pinnacle of Republican principles. And the blue collar conservative public laps it up for the sake of a group of reasons that are intangible and dreamy. Or wait, I guess some of the reasons are tangible. Like that entirely legal loaded pistol on the top shelf. Now that’s concrete.