Tag Archives: closing doors and open windows

An End, a Beginning

Why does the Western idea of the year end (and the next begin) in the dead of winter? I  mean, I know how cultural the thing is: Pope Gregory XIII decided on ours, in Islamic culture it’s in spring, Judaism places it in fall, and here again the Chinese have the edge on us, both in solid terms of years lived and really good origin stories. And of course North Korea passes recorded time in a very Kimilsungian way.

If we measured the year in terms of our own entry into life (birthday to birthday), that would be so American. Many already do this, if unofficially.

2011, the year I lost my Dad, got me thinking about the whole journey of life: not just how it begins but how it ends. Continue reading


The Message in the Silence

For this relief much thanks; ’tis bitter cold
And I am sick at heart.
Hamlet (1.1), Francisco to Barnardo

Question: what does a good American do when she feels terrible?

I knew the answer, and that for me it was different. Let me repeat that: I knew my answer. But I wanted not to know it. On the side of not-wanting, I knew that I would meet with support. So I went there instead.

My father had a heart attack in late January of this year. He survived, but it was frightening to Mom, and to my sister and brother and me, when we saw him. The doctors said he was better. A terrible shock, they said. They released my Dad from the hospital in early February. But something was wrong. Dad was sick. He had been for a long time, we knew. This was something worse.

As my mother and he began to confront his convalescence together in March, I fell into my own deep darkness. Inexperienced, I called it depression.

Doctors, good ones, had diagnosed me with depression before. I have had several major “episodes” since my twenties. I believe these were real, and that at least one of them responded to treatment. The darkness of March felt somehow old (I think now that it’s been there for years), and familiar enough for me to seek the classic measures. In this country, those measures are drugs. Continue reading

What Happens When You Sit One Out?

The morning after, the numbers are in.  One in five people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted.  One in five.  Those who did vote turned out for Democratic candidates over Republicans by a wider margin than any generation before (56 to 40 percent — all of us before them, my generation included, have been an even split).

The rest — we’ll call them unlikely voters — break down along the same lines.  But who cares how you identify if you don’t vote?

Sure; there was no President to elect this time.  No rallies, no viral videos on YouTube.  Sorry about that.  There’s only so much dancing baloney those of us who are already working are obliged to make, know what I mean?

It’s early yet, but I thought I’d tackle the consequences.  Now, a few months from now, and later.

Here is what is already gone:

  1. The judges who approved gay marriage in Iowa. Voted out.
  2. One Senator so good he was actually an institution (Google “Russ Feingold”). You might want to look up “McCain-Feingold Act”, “USA PATRIOT Act (nay vote)”, “bipartisan”, or simply, “integrity”.
  3. Voter protections under Federal law. In Oklahoma, voters approved a measure requiring the use of photo ID at polling places.
  4. Locally:  Legal marijuana in the State of California. I guess you can say we never really “had” this one.  The over-30 population was all over the map about it, but many people under 25 were excited about legalization.  Not stoked enough to vote!
  5. Even more locally:  The right to sit or lie on any public San Francisco street between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with the exception of special events (like today’s Giants Victory parade).  Eat your Ben & Jerry’s walking, hippie.

And here’s what’s next in the crosshairs:

Health care reform. Not that this is a subject that really matters to young people.  “Although [President Obama] has pushed efforts with health care reform, that’s change that hasn’t affected the majority of 18 to 29 year olds,” says Lillian Nottingham, a Harvard student who helped craft a survey of youth voters this year.

I guess Nottingham missed this little event.  She’ll really miss it sometime after she graduates, when her inability to read about the events she’s covering costs her a real job.

Student aid reform. Republicans have promised their Tea-Party backers that they are going to start cutting the budget somewhere.  Where else can they possibly go?  To Social Security?  Medicare?  The people affected by those programs actually vote.

I fought like hell to get President Obama elected.  I fought doubly hard for the passage of health care reform, because it was — and still is — the right thing to do, for generations I will never live to meet.  But after some time working in that particular salt mine, guess what I’ve decided might be the new right thing to do?

Stop fighting.

I have never lived that way.  It’ll be new.  How does it feel, Millennials, to wait for someone else to do stuff for you?

I think I’m finally ready to find out.

The Real Problem with the Fake Blogger

Image from Operation Beautiful: a great idea, from a real blogger.

By now, everyone has heard about it:  “blogger” Maura Kelly’s screed for Marie Claire Magazine about “fat people kissing”.  Last night people reacted:  New York City held its Big Fat Kiss-In, staged in front of the Marie Claire offices.

(Has this magazine ever had a worse week?  Month?)

For anyone who does not know:  Marie Claire started the month in rare form, going after the most popular female health and fitness bloggers in a piece called “The Hunger Diaries”.  The editorial angle on that one is all negative:  fitness blogs by women, it implies, are not about good writing or healthy living but body image disorders.  From there, it was a glaring straight line to Maura Kelly’s post.

About Kelly, and her rant against those who have never looked at a meal with a mind to what it’ll feel like coming back up:  I wonder how many people have actually read it.  I did that, because real writers do research, and because (unlike more responsible publications), Marie Claire has left her post on its site, to encourage further troll … excuse me, comment.  (NOTE:  As of this writing, MC appears to have removed the post without explanation or apology.  I have linked to a cached copy below.)

That post — taken in context with the rest of what’s on Maura Kelly’s page — is one of the saddest, most revealing things I’ve seen in a long time. Continue reading

The Error

When I was living in San Francisco’s Marina district in the mid-1990s, one of my boyfriend’s friends of friends was a woman named Giselle.  She was small –maybe 5’4” in heels — and a sun-streaked, salon-assisted blonde.  Giselle was a size 00 before the size existed.  Maybe she was about thirty years old:  a distinction, when most of the girls in the social group were in our 20’s.

Save for girlfriend types like me, most in this group had family money.  They gravitated to the sailboat my boyfriend leased.  It suited their cultivated pose: that of heavy drinkers who occasionally slept.

My boyfriend was not one of them.  A man who would never know a truly easy time, he seemed to prefer domestic turbulence to any other state.  I think fighting kept him from seeing how close to real distress he always was, as calm waters allow a clear view of what lies beneath.

One night after a summer volleyball game, Giselle announced she was getting married.  First came the congratulations, then the question:  “Who’s the guy?”

No one had ever met him.  Born into a family of diplomats, Giselle had met her fiance on a recent vacation “back home” in Tunisia with her family.  She’d return there to marry him, in what would be one of the social events of the year; many of those we knew would attend the wedding.

It counted as adventure travel, and they could afford it. Continue reading