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The Great God Pan

When I first moved to Massachusetts in 1994, I had just completed my Master’s Degree in Alabama and a two play stint at Theatre Tuscaloosa, an amazing community theatre.  There, I had returned to theatre with a vengeance and was embraced by my directors and fellow actors.  There,  I was able to look back at my undergraduate college theatre experience and realize it was embedded in sexism.  Our theatre department, full of women (probably 60%) never took that into account when choosing plays for the season.  One season a male professor actually chose a play to direct about men going to the North Pole with one female part.

So when we decided to settle in Southeastern New England, I set out to find theatre.  With no luck.  I auditioned at Little Theatre in Fall River for a play I had just done in Alabama, ironically, and didn’t get cast.  Neither did my husband.  I know how desperate the theater is for good men, so I was immediately suspicious about this “clicky” organization.  Not until I directed The Vagina Monologues at UMass Dartmouth, six years later, did I start to meet a theatre community that was welcoming.

I have just finished the rehearsal process for the 20th play I have directed.  And it has, quite honestly, been the best directing experience to date.  The last play, outside the university, I directed was fraught with issues:  few people auditioned who fit the part, an unsupportive theatre management, and the artistic director went behind my back and called audience members to find out why they went to the show and whether they liked it or not.

The cast and crew of The Great God Pan by Amy Herzog are exceptional.  It’s like when you teach and have to grade papers.  The easiest papers to grade are those with good solid writing.  The same goes with directing.  When you have strong actors, directing them is easy and fun.

This was a different directing process for me as I was given a cast by the Artistic Director.  He is a friend I trust.  We have acted together and I have been directed by him.  He did a good job.  I think everyone is perfectly cast.  He also gave me an amazing stage manager who is sassy and smart and a worker bee assistant director who will do anything to help the show move forward.

I can’t say enough about my positive experience at Epic Theatre.

We have a lot of theatre in the smallest state in the union.  And in Southeastern Massachusetts there is very little.  Two community theatres dominate Fall River and New Bedford, but they are unfortunately, just that:  community theatre.  They do the same old shows and do not represent the acting talent I have been given during the past month.  I hope someday I will have the time and the motivation to start something in Swansea or Seekonk or even Fall River.  But for now, I am so thankful for my Rhode Island theatre community who has welcomed me, supported me and kept me coming back for more.

I hope my local blog followers will consider attending the show.  It deals with great topics:  relationships, abortion, and child abuse. It’s written by a woman (remember less than 20% of plays produced in the U.S. are written by women).  It’s a show that will leave you thinking long after you’ve left the theatre.  And the acting is great.  Fucking great.

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Our trip to Bricco

Last Saturday, I planned a night out in Boston for my husband’s 49th birthday.  We had planned to go to Boston to do a little Christmas/birthday shopping for a new pair of shoes I really wanted.  But it snowed.  So I decided to combine the shopping trip with a whole night out.  Plus, we had heard from an Italian waiter from Tuscany, in Providence, that a restaurant called Bricco, on the North End, had wild boar sauce.  When we were in Greve, Tuscany, back in 2008, it was one of our most memorable meals.  I made a reservation at Bricco earlier that week and booked a room at my now favorite, dog friendly hotel chain, Kimpton.  We stayed at the Onyx hotel on the north end of Boston right near TD Garden, formerly known as the Fleet Center, formerly known as the Boston Garden.  (Why couldn’t they just leave the original name alone?)

My purpose here is not to write about our night out and tell you about how great our meal was, which it was.  Instead I need to write about a moment of bystander intervention/interruption on behalf of our lovely server Carla.  We were seated, upstairs, at a 2 top.  Shortly thereafter a 4 top of two couples were sat.  They seemed a little tipsy, but we had had a few drinks that afternoon before heading out, so who was I to judge?

I overheard a conversation between our server, Carla, who I will describe as a drop dead gorgeous Asian Jennifer Aniston, and the large bald man at the 4 top.  The men were sitting on the outside chairs and the women by the window, so all of Carla’s interactions were with the men.  This conversation was specifically about WHAT her race was.  And I heard her say “I get that a lot.”  And I also heard her say, “Oh that’s ok, really,” in reference to something racist one of them said about how she “looked.”  Then, the larger bald man (this is really the only way I can describe him) reaches his hand around Carla’s back and kind of pats her ass.  My husband looks at me with his mouth open in a “WHAT THE FUCK” kind of way.  I look at him.  “Did you see that?”  He tells me he did.  I look at him and warn him, “I might have to say something.”  He smiles at me like “you go, girl.”

She comes over to check on us.  “How are you doing over here?”  I look at her.  “We are fine,” I say, “but how are you?”  She leans over and says she is so uncomfortable.  I tell her that we were too and I might have to say something to the large bald man.  She tells me not to worry about it.

Fast forward to the end of our meal.  I pay the very expensive, probably most expensive meal I have bought for just the two of us, regretting that I didn’t add another wild boar sauce to go, put on my jacket, grab my purse and take a deep breath.  I walk to the large bald man and his table, put my hand on his back, lean in and say “In the future, you shouldn’t touch your server.”

I turn and walk out mustering all the confidence I can in my short dress and new shoes.

When I get outside I tell the doorman that I called out a customer on his behavior toward our server, Carla, who was awesome, and I wanted to give him a heads up, in case the guy was pissed or gave her shit for my comment.

I’m trying to live my life in a way that I never have to say “I should’ve said something.” Or maybe I’m just getting braver as I move into middle age or maybe I just don’t give a shit anymore.   I hope they were kind to her when she had to go back to the table.  I wish I could’ve been there to hear the conversation that took place amongst the four of them after I walked out.  Did I do the right thing?

For me, watching a woman get harassed next to me by someone with more power than her is not something I can sit idly by and do.  I think if more of us had this attitude, sexism, racism and sexual violence would be less acceptable.  When is the last time you felt your heart pounding in your chest as you addressed someone’s horrible behavior?  It does get easier each time.

A Valentine Birthday for Carol Kathleen Muse

My first book was called The Chosen Baby.  My parents always called me “special” (don’t laugh!) because I was chosen, i.e,. adopted.  One of the infamous stories, written in my baby book, was about my Grampa Glines and I, watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  I made some comment about an animal and he said to me “Gee, Juli, you’re very intelligent.” I, allegedly, looked at him, angrily, and said, “No, I’m not!  I’m adopted!” 

That identity has defined me in many ways.  My freshman year of high school I chose to do my first research paper on which states allowed adoptees to find their birth records .I vehemently believed it should be legal for everyone.  I knew I would search for my birthparents when I was older, and always to thank them for the sacrifice they made for me.  I was never angry. Somehow I knew that they had made a decision they needed to and I could not judge that.  In some ways I think that is why I never had an unplanned pregnancy.  I knew that I would only become pregnant on my terms. 

But my birthday was always another story.  The older I got, each birthday was a reminder that my birthparents were another year older.  Or maybe dead.  There was always that.  So every Valentines Day, filled with love and presents, there was a deep longing. 

When I met my husband, in 1992, I met his bartender, whose aunt is an “angel.”  She finds people’s birthfamilies.  This search lasted for five years.  Each birthday I always said “Will I ever find them?”  He always said, “You will.”  And he meant it. 

I talked to my birthmother in 1997, the night before my 28th birthday.  That moment changed our lives. 

I now have three sisters and three brothers I never knew.  I am very close to most of them.  I have a strong relationship with both my birthparents and their wonderful partners.  I’ve spent time with these people, my blood, and learned so much about who I am from a nurture versus nature perspective that so many never can. 

Sometimes when people say to me, that’s so special having a birthday on Valentines Day, I think, yes it is.  But I also think about the 19 year old woman who gave up her baby on Valentines Day, when women were forced and coerced and hated for their sexuality.  Happy Valentines Day to my birth/adopted/step family because I’m not just special, you are, and I’m lucky for that.  XO

A Free Day

Today is my third snow day of the school year. Two of them were during school break, when it is a bit quieter.  But this is the second week of school so things are hopping and lots of events and meetings and workshops were cancelled today.  But what I’m reflecting on most on this “free day” is how I balance or do not balance the opportunity to catch up on things and the opportunity to totally “chillax.”  (I heard that word was overplayed, but I like it). 

I woke up at 4:56am to the sound of a text message alerting me the campus was closed.  This was followed shortly by a phone call telling me the same thing.  I rolled back over to snuggle while Jeff snoozed.  When he got into the shower, I got up to watch the news because it’s even more exciting to see that you don’t have to work, officially, on channel 10 news.  And I thought I might go back to sleep after he left for work, at approximately 6:15am, in the snowstorm.  Instead I snuggled up on the couch with the dogs and watched House of Cards.  I had only seen one episode.  I watched four of them while drinking coffee and eating oatmeal. 

Then I felt bad that I wasn’t doing anything USEFUL, so I made a list of what I wanted to accomplish today.

*Paint touch up
*Blog
*Post Office
*Dinner
*Workout
*Schedule for play
*Dishes

 

But I really wanted to take a nap.  Instead, I checked my email and my bank account, and cancelled my hair appointment because I was not driving to Dartmouth, where my work is, if I didn’t have to go to work.  Then I decided if I was going to work out, I had to do it before lunch.  It’s now or never.  I researched a few moves from Boutique Fitness, where I work out a few times a week, wrote them down and did a hardcore 30 minute workout. 

5 minutes walking on treadmill uphill
3 reps/30 seconds each of the following:
squats
mountain climbers
pushups
split squats
jumping jacks
low plank
plank jumps
Followed by 6 minutes of abs and a 2 minute stretch.

 

Then I was gross so I took a shower.  After my shower I needed lunch so I whipped up a tuna sandwich.  I sat down at the computer while I ate so I could listen to a recording from work for an appeal I am doing.  It wouldn’t play correctly so I decided that was a sign I shouldn’t be doing work. 

I watered the plants.  Some of them were desperate for water.  When I finished, I went to cross it off the list and noticed that I hadn’t even put *water the plants on the list.  Dammit. 

I debated going outside to shovel or attempting to go to the post office and grab some food for dinner.  It was still precipitating freezing rain. That was a out.  Instead I went into my mother-in-law’s freezer, which we were supposed to clean out when they left for Florida, in October, and scored some hamburger that she will definitely throw out when they come back in May, if we don’t eat it.  I looked up chili recipes. 

Then I did all the dishes.  There were a lot.  We’ve been slacking on dishes the past few nights.  Then I made the chili.  Woo Hoo!  Three things off the list!  Actually four, because watering the plants should have been there anyway.  Then I debated taking a nap. 

I emailed my husband to pick up cheese, yogurt and wine or beer to go with my hacked together chili.  He emailed me back that they were closing early, 4pm.  (Sidebar:  He drove in the snow falling at 1-2 inches an hour to go to work and then they close early so he can drive in the snow/freezing rain mix?  What is the difference of an hour?)  I looked at the clock.  3:00pm. it’s getting too dark to do the touch up paint so I talk myself out of that.   That just leaves my blog and the play schedule.  I check my email.  The producer hasn’t sent it to me yet.  Guess I’ll blog.

Am I insane?  Can any of you reading this relate?  I really just wanted to watch more House of Cards or Girls or whatever TV series I haven’t watched lately.  I wanted to read and maybe take a nap.  But there’s this gnawing conscience or should I say, voice in my head, telling me THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO GET CAUGHT UP!  That same voice is telling me that chillaxing would be very, very bad. 

I have some good friends and family who think I find it hard to relax.  They are probably right, but when I think about successful people, really successful people, you know the kind who are doctors and write fiction, ON THE SIDE?  Those people.  When I think of those people, I think they would never lounge around with their hounds catching up on their House of Cards on a snow day.  This is what I think.  Do I even know anyone like that?  Maybe, but probably not. 

And I do find ways to relax.  I love to read, but I don’t do it enough.  I love to do yoga, but I don’t do it enough.  I love to hang out with our friends and eat together or play cards.  I find that relaxing. 

I want to understand where the guilt comes from.  I believe it is gendered, with some exceptions.  I think this guilt is similar to the guilt that most mothers feel about not doing enough for their kids and thus sacrificing their own well-being because of it.  But I don’t have kids, so I’m making a pretty big leap here.  I just think my husband could care less if shit gets done.  Not that he doesn’t do shit, but he embraces chillaxing wholeheartedly, while I worry about it. 

So, now my blog is done.  And while I was writing it, the producer sent me the schedule.  So I guess now I can go work on that.  Or maybe I’ll just go sit on the couch and chillax.

 

 

 

The Pube Debate–NSFW

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Upon my return from my amazing vacation to Hawaii, I saw that American Apparel had put pubic hair, or merkins, on its window mannequins.  According to American Apparel, they did this to show the “rawness and realness” of sexuality.  My feminist colleague, who writes a blog called The Feminist Cupcake, addressed the issue.  Her main point,  

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you own your crotch, make decisions based on your relationship to your parts, and voice the opinion that other feminists have a right to be masters of their bodily universe and self define. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you choose to sport a 70s style full-fledged bush or not – as long as you think about it and make a choice based on your needs. This is the gray land of actual feminist empowerment. 

 

While I agree with her on some points, I think there is a larger analysis missing from this conversation. But before I get into that, I want to assure you I’m not some old lady feminist who hasn’t attempted the bikini wax or the Brazilian.  I’ve done it all and continue to believe, in the words of Eve Ensler, that “hair is there for a reason.”  If you’ve ever tried to pee with no pubic hair, it goes everywhere.  You need a mop instead of a few pieces of toilet paper.  This fact alone is crucial in analyzing the importance of the bush.

Three years ago I taught a Women’s Studies class called The Female Body: Women’s Health, Sexuality and Reproductive Rights. There were forty people in the class.  We got into a discussion of the shave/wax versus au-naturele.  What amazed me the most about this group of young women, mostly junior and seniors, and many of them from the College of Nursing, was their complete lack of awareness about why they shaved or waxed. On the whole, they all felt that 1) pubic hair was dirty; and 2) men would not have sex with them if they had pubic hair.  They also discussed the policing of their bush by men. For example, a woman was talked about at a party by other men “Don’t get with her, she isn’t clean.”

Roger Friedland’s Huff Post article addresses this lack of awareness.  If boys only see depictions of hairless women as they grow up, they will not be prepared for the bush they might discover as they grow up. And they could be contributing to a culture that tells girls and women our bodies are not “right” unless they are plucked, waxed and shaved.

And while Emily McComb’s article in XOJane mirrors The Feminist Cupcake in that it doesn’t matter and we have better work to do, I have to disagree.  The policing of women’s bodies, in whatever way it is policed, is a problem that is directly connected to sexual violence.  As long as there is any policing of women’s bodies, there will also be men who think they have the right to do what they want with them.  To say that it’s ok as long as you know why you do it is too simplistic.  It’s too simple because so many young women, particularly, do not know why they do it.  They just do it because their friends do it and it’s what they see in magazines and porn.

One of the best moments of the this class I taught was when a group of students decided to do their final presentation on images of porn from 1970 to today.  One young woman was lucky enough to have a father who had saved all his old playboys.  I was blown away by the beauty of the women’s body in her own form, no fake boobs, no shaved or waxed pubic hair.  Below is a NSFW example.

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If you open any Penthouse or Playboy today, all you have to do is replace the head and you’re pretty much looking at the same body, no pubic hair and breasts that will never fall into their armpits when the model is laying down.  It’s boring.  It does not reflect the diversity of women’s bodies.  And most sadly, it reinforces a culture of body policing that requires we are all thin, big boobed and alike.

Humility: A Christmas Story

This story is how I remember it.  I may have some parts incorrect; and hopefully my parents will forgive me.

When I was 11, my father and his girlfriend married.  At the time, as an American Baptist minister, the church wasn’t too thrilled with having a divorced leader, single father, now married to his much younger second wife.  He resigned and began looking for work at another Baptist church.  Apparently, in 1980, the American Baptists, as liberal as they were, were not THAT liberal.  He couldn’t find a job as a minister, and to support our family, he took a job at Woolco Department Store.  In the Automotive Department.  Those of you who know my Dad are cracking up at that last statement.  Those of you who don’t, well, my Dad knows nothing about cars.  I grew up in a family that took their cars to the dealership to get them checked.  This horrifies my husband who can pretty much fix anything in a car, most recently taking the entire back seat out of our Jeep to fix the emergency brake.

We went from living in a 30+ room Baptist parsonage into a 2-bedroom apartment downtown.  This barely phased me.  Yes, I had to carry my bike upstairs every day and walk to school a different way, but my parents did their best to maintain my active 12-year-old life in children’s theatre and other activities.  I did have to temporarily give away my two cats and was given a guinea pig I named Theodore G. Pig to fulfill my pet needs.  I got one of the cats back when we moved away after Dad became a Methodist, but that’s another story.

Dad loses his job at Woolco.  Was it because he knew nothing about cars?  No.  It was because he talked to the customers too much.  He’s a minister.  That’s what he does.  Talks to people about their lives, their desires, and their prayers.  He couldn’t help who he was, right?  I think of this sacrifice that he made for our family, to keep us from poverty.  What a stretch that was for him.

And I think today of the people I know of who would never get a job at Wal-Mart after losing a professional position.  I think of young people I know who would never work as a server because it is beneath them.

The happy ending is that my Dad got a part-time gig as a preacher in a Methodist church about 40 miles north of where we lived.  They loved him and encouraged him to convert.  This was also a stretch. He was a born and bred Baptist.  He grew up in a Baptist church in Worcester, MA, went to a Baptist youth camp in Maine, and graduated from a Baptist seminary in Rochester, NY.  But he was ahead of the times and better than the Baptists.  He decided to go for it and took classes at a local seminary to learn about Methodism.

He worked as a Methodist minister, after that, for the rest of his career holding two churches at a time in two different locations in Maine.  His last gig was, thankfully, one church, for ten years, in Massachusetts.  People loved him.  After retirement he became a part-time organist to help add to his pensions.

I call this a Christmas story because it came up on Christmas Eve in conversation with my husband, after looking at an old picture of myself one of those Christmases in that apartment.  And I think of the lesson it has taught me about stretching ourselves when we need to and stretching ourselves when we have to.  It taught me that no job is ever “beneath” us, no matter how we have been raised.  It exemplifies the spirit of Christmas in the giving of self and selflessness.  My Dad taught me this and was selfless in so many ways.  I am lucky to have him as a father.

It has been 22 years since I shared Christmas day with my father and step-mother.  Merry Christmas Dad.

me and dad

A Christmas Bitch

In 2010 I wrote a blog post called A Season of Light, A Season of Stress.  It was about all the work that women do to make Christmas the epic event that it is.  Three years later nothing has changed in my life regarding Christmas preparations, and on top of it, I have just planned a 14-day vacation to the west coast and Hawaii for 4 people.

The good news is that 1) I’m not teaching anymore so I don’t have to spend a weekend of my pre-holiday time grading papers and 2) I am still childfree, which I know is a significant stress reducer at this time of year.  All of my friends and relatives with children keep complaining that their kids are nutty this time of year.

The bad news is that on top of the holiday and pre-vacation stress, this peri-menopausal woman has been hormonal, raging, and downright crazy.  I am fortunate that I have a partner who just listens when I freak out on him about how I have done ALL the Christmas shopping, the baking, the wrapping; how I have done ALL the trip preparations for our vacation and how he has done NOTHING, absolutely fucking nothing.  I think I might have literally used those words last weekend.

I am partly to blame, this year, for his helplessness.  I bought him the corvette of his dreams in October and that is all he now thinks about.  He goes into the garage and sits in it, now that he can’t drive it because of the snow and salt. See the video I took for proof:  Blue Corvette.  But, come on!  It’s been two months now!

Multi-tasking is just the way of the world for us women.  While writing this blog I checked my work email, called and ordered oil, and am about to call to find out why I didn’t get some gifts I ordered, even though it says they were delivered . . . it doesn’t stop.

I fell at work on Tuesday, on black ice, on my way to the gym.  I cracked my head into the pavement and woke up yesterday with severe neck spasms and had to go to two different doctors for help.  All in the midst of trying to get ready for this one holiday where we shower people with gifts.  Jeff and I don’t buy presents for each other; it’s just not worth the time or the money.

So what is a gal to do?  How do we stop this endless cycle of shopping, wrapping, baking, prepping from solely falling on our shoulders?  I know there are good men out there who have a much more egalitarian approach to Christmas, but you are few and far between.  I just wish there was another way to celebrate this holiday, to find some meaning in it away from the hustle.

Don’t get me wrong; I love buying gifts for people.  I think I found some really cool stuff this year, but it’s just too much.  And above all, I just hate being the Christmas bitch.

Christmas crazy bitch

Al Forno: A Big Disappointment

I was blessed to have my sister and her husband in town for the entire Thanksgiving weekend.  (They live 6 hours west of me).  My husband and I rarely get to take them out for a nice dinner, so we were really looking forward to giving them the Al Forno experience.  This is one of the best restaurants in Providence.  The kind of place where the service is snotty, so you expect something good in return.  We walked in, the Friday after Thanksgiving, somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00.  I was worried we’d have a long wait because they do not take reservations–and do not even dare to ask if they do. 

We waited at the hostess desk on the first floor.  A woman comes in and says “How may I help you?” like we could be there to buy a new car, gift certificates, anything besides a table for four.  I look at her confused and say “Table for four?”  She immediately gets on a phone and calls to see if there are any tables.  I’m thinking, “shouldn’t the HOSTESS know if they are any tables?”  She says to the person on the phone, “10 minutes? 15?”  She hangs up and says it will be about 15 minutes and we say “great.”  She takes us upstairs to the bar where we  order drinks.  The drinks are fresh and homemade.  The bartender cuts fresh fruit for every drink; no fruit bar tray at this joint.  We’ve barely had a sip and they bring us to our table. 

I’m so excited about bringing my sister and her hubby to this place, I can’t contain myself.  I tell them we must order the homemade fruit tart.  At Al Forno’s you order dessert with your meal as they bake them fresh during your meal.  Brilliant!  We start with a bottle of red wine, once it’s decided that I am the only seafood dish at the table.  Jeff has a long conversation with the server about the wine choices, most of which are in Italian. 

For appetizers we order their famous beets and frites, sauteed beets with fresh thin fries on top and crispy cod cakes with smashed avocado. I hate beets with a passion, but know that the other members of my party love them.  We are pleased with our appetizers. 

For dinner, we ordered the following:

Wood-Grilled George’s Bank Scallops:  sauted mushrooms, creamed parsnips, roasted broccoli

Wood-Grilled Leg of  Lamb with Fresh Rosemary:  roasted harissa spiced butternut squash and broccoli rabe

Grilled and Braised Beef Short Ribs:  Al Forno mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, and Brussels Sprouts

And Jeff ordered the dirty steak.  They throw a steak on the wood fire, literally. 

And because we needed to order dessert when we ordered the meal, I ordered the Pear Walnut tart, Hannah ordered the Warm Chocolate-Filled Crepes with Crème Anglaise (hot fudge sauce, fresh whipped cream), and Dana ordered the Lemon Granita.

And all this looks quite nice, except that it wasn’t quite the way it was advertised.  My scallops were cooked perfectly, but the parsnips were not creamed, they were chopped in tiny cubes and served with OYSTER mushrooms, long, stringy oysters mushrooms which I pulled to the side because the texture did not go with the dish at all.  Dana’s grilled and braised beef short rips appeared to be a top roast or some kind of pot roast.  Not one little rib to be seen.  Hannah’s lamb was a little gamey, according to her, and Jeff seemed happy with  his dirty steak. 

However, here is the kicker.  After our meals were delivered by the runners, we had to flag down the busser, who was primarily serving water and ask her to bring us some pepper.  There was no salt and pepper on the table. She came over with fresh ground pepper and proceeded to grind it in one spot.  The server NEVER came back to check on us or ask us how everything was.  By the time he did come back, we were done our dinner AND our wine.  He looked at me and said, “do you want another glass of wine?”  It took everything in my soul to prevent myself from saying “where the fuck have you been?”  If he had come back when he was supposed to, I can guarantee we would have ordered another bottle for the table.  Jeff was also upset that Hannah’s setting was not cleaned up between the appetizer and dessert. 

The dessert arrived.  Two of them.  The crepes and the lemon cake.  I told him we were missing the pear tart and he looked like a deer in the headlights.  He hadn’t ordered it.  I couldn’t fucking believe it.  Excuse my language, but that’s how I felt.  And to try to make up for it, they apologized profusely and asked us if we wanted some other dessert.  Did we want some freshly baked cookies or they could bake us a another tart, but it would take 20 minutes.  No!  I was excited about the freshly baked tart jerks! 

We had some coffees and went on our way, saddened by what should have been a spot-on experience.  I don’t know if it is my luck or a shift in the culinary city of Providence because we had a similar experience at Capriccio’s last spring.  Poor and shitty service.  And we went back and forth about going to Gracies instead of Al Forno’s that night.  Next time we will take them to Gracie’s. 

 

 

 

Contradictions in Living

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  But Thanksgiving follows close behind for second, even though it is wrought with historical yuck.  I recently tried to explain to a student, who is from Lebanon, why it’s such a nice holiday while she was talking about the historical fallacies of the American Indians and the Pilgrims having a lovely meal together.

She’s right.  Just like Columbus Day, we celebrate a day based in colonialism.  How does one reconcile this history?

For me, what is nice is that my husband and I invite friends and family to our house for a home cooked meal.  My husband is an amazing and generous cook and his love and ability to make food, like an artist, really brings people together.  We’ve always invited friends for Thanksgiving since we first started having them and those Thanksgivings are much more memorable than the ones with just family.  So how does a radical feminist reconcile colonialism with what has now become a day to reflect on gratitude?  All I can say is I don’t know.  I just know that we try to take a moment and be grateful for what we have.  And I try to include a diversity of people around my table.

There are other contradictions like this.  Thanksgiving is quickly followed by the corporate sponsored holiday, Christmas, which was once a christian sponsored holiday.  The commercialization is nauseating.  In fact, I’m so overwhelmed by it, I try to just tune it out to the best of my ability and work hard to avoid wanting anything I see on tv, like the new kindle fire!  I don’t even have a kindle, even though I have been asking for years. (Hint Hint, Jefferey Gonsalves!)

Last year I made a concerted effort to buy gifts on Small Business Saturday. But even that is sponsored by American Express.  And I love shopping online, which of course means going to Amazon, and more recently Etsy.  I wish I had the time and energy I had in my 20s when my partner and I would make presents for everyone.  We had so much fun figuring out what to make and then mass producing them for family and friends.  We made chimes out of recycled materials, block prints of peace signs, homemade kahlua, homemade sambuca.  Then we started earning a better living and got too busy, or was it just lazy?

On the in-law side of the family, we try to do a Yankee Swap so it is fun and each person can bring just one gift.  And it is fun, if everyone participates.  This year, I bought two of the same things we are going to give to a lot of different people.  Both of these items fall under the tool category and are really helpful.  I want to give present’s that make people’s lives easier.

My husband and I stopped giving each other Christmas gifts a few years ago.  We usually do a stocking and a card.  Our birthday’s fall in February so it seemed silly to spend money on each other with a month in between.  This year we will buy new hiking shoes for our trip to Hawaii in January.  But no matter what, and no matter where I shop, it will be overwhelming and stressful and a lot of money.  This is the piece that stays with me as I tune out all the commercials for Christmas.  And that is the emotion I want to remove from the holidays.  And that is probably why Thanksgiving is so nice, because it’s not about giving, it’s just about being present.  And isn’t that enough?  I don’t know.  Maybe not.  Maybe while we’re eating our Turkey we should talk about how we’re trying to end commercialism and racism and all those “isms” that make our world such an icky place.  This year, instead of sharing something we are thankful for, or sharing gratitude, maybe we will share a way we are trying to make this a better world.  For everyone.

Does Calling Out Racism Negate it? Hardly.

Last week on Saturday Night Live Kerry Washington stole the show.  Read this article to see clips from her hosting.  http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/11/03/snl-recap-kerry-washington-eminem/.

Producer Lorne Michaels addresses the lack of black women in the cast through the cold open sketch, by publicly apologizing to Washington for having to play multiple black women.  This was a direct response to Kenan Thompson’s interview in TV guide where he stated that they couldn’t find any talented black women to be on the show.  WHAT? 

The article in the The Atlantic, linked below, suggests it isn’t about  finding women of color to diversify the cast.  It’s that the writers don’t  know how to write clever parts for women of color.  Even the amazing Kerry Washington played a few stereotypical roles this week:  nagging girlfriend, Ugandan beauty queen, sassy assistant.  This was all they could come up with (While it was stereotypical, I did like the parody of What Does the Fox Say?)?  The Spelman College Political Science professor piece was well written and the entire sketch poked fun at white people, which is something that rarely happens these days on SNL.  This piece, however, was critiqued for being a similar sketch to one starring Maya Rudolph. 

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/11/the-real-problem-with-snl-and-casting-black-women/281280/

This lack of diversity on SNL harkens back to my blog last week about the lack of women playwrights being produced at local theatres.  The men in charge of hiring the actresses of color or finding the women playwrights are so enmeshed in their own privilege and power, they don’t even THINK about how diversity would actually make their theatres, their shows, their work so much better.  We know that a diverse workplace is one that is more profitable and better overall for its employees.  Why can’t we apply that same model to the arts? 

If you google search “who are the writers at SNL” you get a list of 16 images of white people, two of whom are women. This is the problem.  As much as we can judge producer Lorne Michael’s for his lack of diversity in his actors, perhaps what happens behind the scenes needs a more critical eye.  If there are diverse actors on stage, what is the point is they are not given good sketches? 

Until white women and women of color begin boycotting or critiquing these shows in depth, there won’t be significant change.  As  Kerry Coddett points out in the The Atlantic article points, the sheer number of women of color represented on SNL from the beginning has been lacking.  To expect change to happen with such a long history of misrepresentation is doubtful. 

 

 

 

 

 

my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.