Posts filed under ‘Men’

The Best of the Web

"Works Progress Administration Project 19...

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I thought it was time to brag on some other writers and visionaries for a change. There are a lot of other great blogs out there that are doing creative things, making progressive statements, advocating for women, and featuring more important stories than Jesse James’ tragic breakup from Kat von D. I really thought that would last forever. I’m just devastated!

First off, there’s a great cartoon site that I found through WordPress, mostly because she was kind enough to click the “Like” button on one of my posts. The Adventures of Gyno-Star: Fighting the Forces of Evil & Male Chauvinism is a cartoon gem that gets updated twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays. The artist is supremely talented. Her superhero has a sidekick named Little Sappho, and together they fight nemeses like Stay at Home Mommy and Vlad Deferens. Clever fun, and the illustrations are fantastic!

At Rebuild the Dream you can sign a contract for a return to the American dream. Van Jones heads this campaign with the support of many other progressive organizations, most notably MoveOn.org. The idea is pretty simple. Start investing in America again. Update our infrastructure and invest in the future, create jobs to do this and hire Americans to fill the jobs.

What does that sound like? Why, if it weren’t for the green energy component, I think it sounds an awful lot like the Works Progress Administration. The WPA? You don’t say. The brainchild of FDR, a plan to bring us out of the Great Depression, improve our great nation, and feed our families, the WPA is still present in concrete and signs in small and large communities throughout the United States. How do we pay for this? By taxing the rich.

This brings me to another great website. Sometimes people, myself included, like to cast the rich in the role of villain in the deterioration of the American dream and the American economy. But that’s not entirely fair. There are some millionaires out there who are lobbying that their taxes need to be raised.

You can find those millionaires and billionaires on a great website called, Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. These people are true patriots, and their message reminds me that with great wealth comes great privilege and with great privilege, great responsibility. These people incredibly, selflessly get that. They make me proud to be an American.

Speaking of being proud to be an American, some people make me proud to be a Christian as well. John Shore, whose blog I’ve championed before, had a great article about a woman named Kathy Baldock and how she came to form a non-profit called Canyonwalker Connections. Kathy had t-shirts made, and she attends gay functions like Pride parades and wears her t-shirt, offering an apology to any LGBT who’s been traumatized by the bigotry of churches who reject homosexuals.

Here’s a great video I found:

The video is a commentary on how household cleaning products are always marketed to women, using women almost exclusively to sell the products to women almost exclusively. The only exceptions I can think of to this are Orange Glo and Oxy Clean. Mr. Clean doesn’t count since he’s a fictional character who never actually cleans anything anyway. The Tidy-Bowl Man is a tugboat operator; he doesn’t clean anything.

What is marketed almost exclusively to men? Beer. How is it marketed to men? Using scantily clad beautiful women to imply that if only you drink enough beer women will want to have sex with you. Maybe if only the women drink enough beer they will forget that they have to do all of the cleaning and will want to have sex with you. Or, and here’s a novel concept: maybe if a man did his share of the chores around the house a woman might be inclined to have sex more often. Beer is optional.

I found this website by happy accident. Hugo Schwyzer is a Christian and a gender studies professor. He’s written many, many enlightening blog posts about issues relating to feminism and Christianity, including weighing in on the recent controversy over actor Doug Hutchison’s marriage to a 16-year-old child and SeekingArrangement.com’s pimping out of college girls. He writes about his views on porn and even cites Andrea Dworkin. He’s sharp, and he’s a pleasure to read.

Hugo Schwyzer also blogs on The Good Men Project. The Good Men Project bills itself as “a cerebral, new media alternative” to glossy men’s magazines. In other words, it’s the anti-Maxim. There are great articles on gender issues and relationship advice, and something for everyone. This website renews my good faith in men.

The Women’s Media Center is a non-profit that seeks to make women more visible and women’s voices more audible in all forms of contemporary media. Their website features a Sexism Watch. They sponsor conventions and leadership panels and encourage women to produce films and documentaries that tell women’s stories. They are fighting to see women represented more in the news and on political commentary shows. Check it out.

August 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

Man Hater!

Sexual equality symbol

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Recently, I’ve been accused of being a man hater. I won’t tell you who did it, but it was hurtful. Apparently, I really hate men. I didn’t know I hated all men, but apparently, I do.

Someone mentioned that in a book she was listening to on tape, one of the characters, in the opening line of the book, discovers that he is a father of a daughter that her mother kept secret from him. She mentioned that it was a frequently used plot device, and I agreed with her. In fact, I think it’s practically a hackneyed cliché.

I told her that was a popular male fantasy, the child you didn’t know about that would carry on your family’s genes and, perhaps, even, your name, with no effort or responsibility on your part. The child, usually a son, is one you had no idea existed. It was raised with no money or responsibility on your part, and shows up magically at your doorstep, either finding you on its own or with the help of its mother, usually when it’s grown or very nearly so.

A son to have a beer with and carry on the family genes and name with no contribution of yours apart from sperm is so popular a notion that it carried some of the plot of the most recent Indiana Jones film, with Shia La Barf in the role of the grown son that Indy never knew about.

She mentioned that there were also popular female fantasies, such as the one with the Princess who’s rescued by a Prince who showers her with gifts and affection. This is dramatized most recently in the movies Maid in Manhattan and Pretty Woman. There’s also the ever popular frog who turns into a prince, modernized as the man who is in need of reforming, a la As Good As It Gets, where a single mother waitress takes on a bigoted OCD victim and makes him into a loveable curmudgeon.

She said I was trying to make men into villains by making my observation about popular male fantasies while making females into victims with theirs. Here’s my official take on all of this. We’re all victims here. The men lose out on their possibilities of being loving parents. The females settle for men who are less than they’re worth by taking on losers with the hope that they will reform. Jesse James, anyone?

Feminists often get cast in the role of “man hater,” simply because they won’t tow the line and, instead,  continue to work toward gender equality. What I didn’t expect is that someone who had professed to be my sister in feminism would taint me with the label of man hater simply because I continue to bring up obvious inequities and myths that perpetuate the sicknesses of our culture?

She actually dared to say that I should be glad that I don’t live in China or the Middle East and ease up because of that. You shouldn’t speak out about sexism; look at our sisters in developing countries. They have it so much worse in comparison. It is BECAUSE those sisters have it so much worse that we have a duty to carry on toward greater equality on our own homefront.

The feminist backlash has run virtually unabated since the early 1980s when the Reagan administration virtually ignored the needs of women and pushed all women back into the role of barefoot and pregnant. Whether through a systematic media campaign or legislation and court rulings, feminism was virtually eradicated. The 1950s returned in the 1980s. We were even betrayed by our own sex, with the efforts of Phyllis Schlafly and Beverly LaHaye, amongst other women. These were women who made a career out of encouraging women to return to the Dark Ages and failed to see the hypocrisy in their own actions.

And here I am, betrayed by someone that I thought was a sister in the battle for gender equality. Just yesterday I mentioned that divorce rates for stay-at-home dads are much higher than that of the general population, with about half of the divorces initiated by the wife and half by the husband. I said that was a travesty, and that if these men were contributing to child rearing and the maintenance of the household that they should be given the same respect that we would give to a female homemaker. Men shouldn’t feel like they are less than men because they aren’t the primary breadwinner in a household. And that somehow makes me a man hater!

I should mention what this same woman said about my recent article on slavery in the U.S. military that wasn’t covered in the mainstream media: I hate the military. That’s right. I hate the U.S. military. That’s why I want our boys brought home so they won’t continue to die so some soccer mom can fill the gas tank on her S.U.V. It’s because I hate the military. Really, I do.

She never thought that maybe, just maybe, the post was written because I HATE SLAVERY. I love our men in the military. I want them brought home safe and sound.

So, to all the people who call me a man hater or a feminazi, or whatever Rush Limbaugh is using as a misnomer for feminism nowadays, I say: Fuck you! I will continue to fight for what’s right. And what’s right is equal rights for both men and women. Men should get custody of children if they are fit parents. Females should pay child support. Men shouldn’t be ashamed of being stay-at-home dads. Parental leave for all. Both men and women should have equal rights to an education and a rewarding career. And we should stop having such rigid societal views of just what it means to be a man…or a woman, either. But frankly, men have much less freedom with that definition. It these views are what makes me a man hater, then so be it!

July 13, 2011 at 2:59 am 4 comments

Some Things Never Change

A young girl kisses a baby on the cheek.

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A recent Gallup poll surveyed Americans about their preference in the sex of their children. Just as in 1941, Americans prefer boys.  Perhaps the only change since 1941 is that it’s the men who are causing our preferences. Women basically have no statistically significant preference either way. They are split pretty evenly with about a third preferring a girl, a third preferring a boy, and another third having no preference whatsoever.

Men want boys. Just why is that? Is it because they hate girls? I like to think not, but you have to wonder with nearly 50% of American men having a clear preference for boys. Maybe they just wish the best life for their children and prefer to have boys so that their children will have more opportunities and have a better chance for a happier life. That argument makes sense. Men still make more money, hold more positions of power, and do far less work around the house. It’s pretty cool to be a man, or a husband, at least.

Maybe they just think boys are easier to raise. You don’t have to worry as much about them being molested or raped or getting pregnant. No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” perfectly illustrates the difference between growing up a daughter versus growing up a son in America. Boys cause trouble; they don’t get into it. Or at least, that’s the prevailing myth.

I was on a manosphere website once where one of the participants commented that women were using abortion in order to practice sex selection as a form of gender genocide. I kid you not. However, this article sounds like, if anything, the opposite is happening. Couples are using technology to ensure the selection of boys. If this is a significant trend, it will have disastrous consequences in years to come.

There is another possibility besides plain old misogyny or wanting a better life for your child…there is the possibility that American men prefer boys because they will carry on the family name. Maybe their reason for wanting to procreate is to perpetuate the family name, carry on the family line.

This brings me to another example of sexism in our culture. Women get married and take on their husband’s names. They willingly do so. But why is it that no one ever asks why the family name has to be the husband’s name? I wonder how many men would still prefer boys if their sons didn’t carry their names but their daughters did.

Follow me here. What if two people get married and instead of the wife taking the husband’s name and the kids taking the husband’s name we did something different? What if a man named Smith marries a woman named Johnson. They become the Smith-Johnson family. Any female children get the last name Smith. Any male children get the last name Johnson. Maybe they go by Smith-Johnson until they strike out on their own or until they get married when the boys drop the Smith, and the girls drop the Johnson to include a spouse’s name.

It’s much more equitable. I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime, anymore than I would expect to see the Equal Rights Amendment passed. The fact is that women have shot themselves in the foot. Right now we’re a little over half the population of America. If we wanted to mobilize and get to the polls and vote we could have passed that law a long time ago, or any other law you care to name. We could have formed our very own political party. But we traded all that for the dangling carrot of a princess wedding and a diamond ring.

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/23/gallup-americans-prefer-boys-to-girls-just-as-they-did-in-1941/

June 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm 8 comments

My First Kiss

Downtown Dallas in the background with the Tri...

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You knew I had to get around to this tale sooner or later. Later is better than never. We were living in Nowhereville when I had my first kiss. However, my first kiss was not in Nowhereville. It would have been impossible for me to find a boy who was willing to kiss me.

I was cute enough, but I was something like a cross between an outcast and a pariah. Maybe that’s redundant. If you ever want to experience my early adolescence, rent Welcome to the Dollhouse from Netflix. That’s as close as you’re going to get to experiencing my junior high years. Thank God – now! Or knock on wood or something.

The summer between 7th and 8th grades my dad went job hunting in Texas. My parents always wanted to live in Texas. My mom wanted to attend the nursing school at Texas Women’s University in Denton, and they always liked Texas for some inexplicable reason. For the record, I always voted for Southern California, but no one cared what I wanted. Now I live in Texas, and my parents still live in Oklahoma. We don’t even have family there. Go figure.

So, we were driving all over hell. Who knew that Texas was so big? We literally drove all over hell, because it was the middle of the summer, and the car had no air conditioning. We spent time in Dallas and time in Houston, and it was hot as hell in either place. I honestly do not remember whether it was in Dallas or in Houston. What I do remember is that it happened in the motel swimming pool of a La Quinta Inn.

Why do I remember that it was a La Quinta? Well, for one thing, there was a Denny’s next door where we ate breakfast the next morning. And for a second thing, my father did not believe in (and we couldn’t afford) indulging in luxury when it came to accommodations. If we stayed somewhere other than a Motel 6 or a Super 8, then you can bet that I remembered it.

This may have been because on this trip I remember we stayed at a Motel 6 where there were hookers in the hallway, and our toy poodle barking was the only thing that stopped God knows what from breaking into our room in the middle of the night from a connecting door. It’s just possible that might have been the cause of our unexpected upgrade…to LaQuinta.

After driving around all day long in a hot car and then sitting in a hot car while my dad had his job interviews, my brother and I were in a rush to get to the swimming pool. I may never have changed clothes in such a hurry in my entire life. I put on my one-piece black and gold ruffled swimsuit that my best friend’s mother had made me. [I did have one friend. I admit it.] My best friend was the high school football coach’s daughter, and black and gold were the Nowhereville school colors. Also, I can explain the ruffles. It was the ‘80s. It’s not my fault.

We ran to the pool. I quickly befriended this young Latina girl. She was really spectacularly pretty, maybe a year or two older. I never knew a stranger.  She invited us in on this game of keep away. It was a pretty spirited game, and even though I’m not generally a competitive person, keep away is one of those things like Scrabble, trivia games, and card games that I am very driven to win. I’m kind of a bitch about it, actually. I’ve had several people comment on my mean game of Spades, for instance. I’m serious! I will hurt you. A paper cut…or something.

Towards the end of the first game some boy came in and started playing on the opposite team. When it came time to pick sides for a second game the new boy became a team captain. He picked me for his team. I was his first pick. I was actually a little resentful about this, ‘cause I was probably smarting over having been beaten the game before. I asked him why he picked me, and he said, “’Cause you’re cute.”

Okay. I didn’t expect that. From about the time I turned 12 until I was 14 this guy may have been the only boy I knew who didn’t treat me like a leper.

Now this is what I remember about my Prince Charming. Since this happened in 1984, and I never knew his last name I think it’s safe to call him by his actual given name. His name was Randy. He was 14. He played football back home. He was from Oregon. And he had blond hair and green eyes and was really spectacularly handsome. Like he would have been just as handsome as the most popular boy in Nowhereville. The most popular boy in Nowhereville looked at least 3 years older than all his peers, and this guy was built like that.

We played keep away for awhile until Randy’s father came down to fetch him. I remember he had to be called more than once. And when he was about to get out of the pool he called me to him. He said, “C’mere.”

And I said, “Why should I?”

Charming, huh? This might be an example of the “intimidating” that men seemed to constantly use to describe me.

He said, “Because.”

So, I went. I’m actually easy like that. I just like to test men. Do you want me? Do you really want me? I’m like the Verizon phone commercial of romance.

He kissed me on the cheek. And I thought that would be it. And then I looked him in the eye, and he swooped in for the kiss. Just a peck. No tongue. Then he got out of the pool and walked off.

My new Latina friend said, “Wow! You work fast.”

I didn’t know if my brother witnessed it or not. I wasn’t about to ask him.

My brother and I had to leave soon afterward. Our mother called us. Something about dinner or something. You know those really freaky movies where they distort the cameras or sound to illustrate for people that the characters are dizzy or deaf or high or part of an alternative universe? Things like that? Jacob’s Ladder or What Dreams May Come or Requiem for a Dream. I was walking around in a Picasso painting.

I just could not believe it. A boy had kissed me. A cute boy. I stared at the ceiling for half the night with my fingers on my lips.

That is a happy memory. I think I just got misty eyed.

June 17, 2011 at 12:55 am 1 comment

Be Prepared: Mutual of Wichita Rape Insurance

Hi. You might not know me. I’m Kansas State Representative Pete DeGlaaf (R), and I love women and babies. In fact, I just kissed a baby 5 minutes ago. You missed it. During a recent house debate my colleagues and I were discussing a motion to make private health coverage for abortions illegal. I mentioned that women who were the survivors of rape or incest might just want to be prepared.

I mean, after all, I have a spare tire. I have life insurance. Why shouldn’t we expect women to plan ahead for these inevitable contingencies of life? Isn’t that what being a responsible adult is all about? We have fire insurance and flood insurance. Why shouldn’t we have rape insurance, too?

That’s when it occurred to me that I had come upon an excellent business plan, inadvertently. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t take advantage of my accidental flash of entrepreneurial genius! First, I googled to make sure that there wasn’t already a rape insurance policy out there.

It turns out there is, but it’s only available in South Africa. So, I thought why can’t we be like the progressive people of South Africa and offer this service to American women? I contacted my friends at Mutual of Wichita. They felt exactly the same way, and they made it happen.

I’m now pleased to announce that you can purchase Mutual of Wichita Rape Insurance at a very affordable rate. You can, like a Boy Scout, be prepared for life’s emergencies, such as random acts of penis. What does it cost? Well, the monthly premium is very affordable. And like life insurance, we base it on amortization tables designed to minimize risk. But any woman* can afford rape insurance.

Affordable Monthly Premiums

Girl, 18 & Under, Virgin

$75

Adult Virgin

$45

Female, Experienced, under 30

$35

Female over 30

$25

MILF

$30

Grandmother

$15

Cougar

$20

Crone

$10

Actress

$65

Model

$75

You might ask, what is the deductible, Pete? And again, it’s very affordable. The deductible is only $800. That’s right! $800! For the mere cost of a rape kit, you can start taking advantage of your rape insurance coverage.

What does rape insurance cover? I’m glad you asked. There are two options available for women. Both options, working, of course, in conjunction with your health care provider and your employer’s EAP, will pay for a portion of 8 counseling sessions with a qualified, approved Christian counselor.

We will pay, in conjunction with your health care provider, for a portion of the health care costs associated with the rape, up to and including the morning after pill, four AIDS tests, the recommended AZT cocktail, and a full test panel for STDs. We will also pay for your ultrasound and prenatal care and labor costs, if necessary.

For those of you that are victims of rape and incest, I am truly sorry. If, after 8 weekly sessions, your qualified, approved Christian counselor determines that an abortion is necessary for your mental health, then it will be covered after certain secondary requirements are met.

The Jaycee Duggard Plan The Joan Crawford Plan
Counseling Counseling
Health Care Health Care
Ultrasound Ultrasound
Pre-Natal & Delivery Polygraph Test
College Trust Fund Wire Hanger
Tea Kettle
Hydrogen Peroxide
Mirror
One Gallon of Distilled Water
2 Tea Towels
1 Box of Sanitary Napkins

We will, of course, require you to submit to a polygraph test and an ultrasound. If the polygraph determines that you have, indeed, been the victim of a rape or incest, then we will provide you with a coat hanger, a teakettle, a bottle of distilled water, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a small hand-held mirror, and one night in a private hospital room. If you absolutely must kill babies, then that burden should be on you alone. This is called the Joan Crawford Plan.

For those of you that aren’t baby killers, we have the Jaycee Duggard Plan. This option covers not only your medical costs associated with gestation and labor but also provides your rapist’s baby with a college education, regardless of whether or not you decide to keep the baby. That’s right. You can give your baby up to a loving, caring, Christian family that’s just waiting for a bundle of joy and rest assured that your child will receive a college education at an approved Christian college.**

But wait!! That’s not all. If you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, to a panel of Christian clerics and medical experts, that you were a virgin prior to your assault, then you will receive an extra $10,000 for pain and suffering to be spent in any way you deem fit. You can also qualify for discounts on your insurance premiums if you agree to carry pepper spray, take a self defense course and never leave your home without your arms, legs, ankles and decolletage fully covered. We will provide an additional discount if you wear a burka or another full head and face covering.

*  Mutual of Wichita Rape Insurance doesn’t cover strippers, massage therapists, sex workers or transgender women. Pre-existing conditions such as prior sexual abuse can disqualify you for coverage as well.

** Approved Christian colleges include Liberty University, Bob Jones University, and Oral Roberts University.

Disclaimer: I am not Pete DeGlaaf or Pete DeGraaf, the dumbass Republican member of the Kansas State House of Representatives. This “advertisement” is a satire meant to call attention to the stupidity and misogyny of Representative Pete DeGraaf of Kansas.

http://www.kansasvotes.org/Legislator.aspx?ID=16863

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-05-31/opinion/granderson.rape.abortion_1_incest-victims-abortion-sharron-angle?_s=PM:OPINION

June 2, 2011 at 2:56 am 1 comment

The Hulk

In my last blog post about The Bully I mentioned a minor character named The Hulk. The Hulk is someone I went through all four years of high school with even though we weren’t close. I rarely had classes with him. We certainly didn’t have the same extracurricular activities. You wouldn’t have caught him dead on stage singing or dancing. I’m also reasonably sure he never voluntarily read a book.

Frequently, I would see The Hulk in the halls. So, this is what I would do. I would make sure he couldn’t see me. Then I would cup my hands over my mouth, lower my voice a full octave, and belt out, “Hulk!” and then wait for him to survey his surroundings and find the 5’3” 120 pound freckled thing that had yelled at him. I’d grin. Sometimes he’d walk over and we’d exchange pleasantries or sometimes we both kept walking. After our freshman year this was the nature of our relationship.

So, naturally, when he called me up one day the summer between my junior and senior years in high school and wanted to ask me out on a date, stunned would be a good word to describe my reaction. I didn’t say yes right off  ‘cause, frankly, I wasn’t really sure what we’d have to talk about in order to date. So, I told him we could hang out and see.

By this time I knew that The Hulk was no longer playing football and was wrestling instead. He’d gained some weight, either because he was exercising less, not playing football but eating the same, or, maybe from a lot of partying or some combination of the two. So, now on top of just generally being a bigger guy, he was chubby. This didn’t bother me. I just mention it to show that his status in school had dropped, and he wasn’t King of the Hill anymore.

He came by my home to pick me up one afternoon. My dad was at home. This was when we were living in the married student housing apartments over by State Mental Hospital University. The Hulk came over on a big chopper. This wasn’t a scooter or a motorbike. This was huge. My dad said under no circumstances was I getting on that bike.

That was a small disappointment to me, ‘cause The Hulk riding up on that motorcycle was like something out of Days of Our Lives. He was a nice looking guy with dark hair and dark eyes who’d taken the time to grow a decent mullet. Bo Brady had come to pick me up and take me away from my boring summer. I tried to talk my dad out of this, trust me did I ever try, but he would not be dissuaded.

So, instead, The Hulk and I walked to the State Mental Hospital University stadium. It was deserted, so we had the whole stadium to talk. This was not, however, what The Hulk had in mind. We walked up to the box on the visitor side, and I think he had his tongue down my throat within the first 5 minutes. Within the first ten minutes he was on top of me, and the roaches were on top of us. Very romantic.

Now he was a good kisser, and he didn’t grope me or force me to do anything. He could have, very easily. I just didn’t think this inauspicious beginning boded well for our non-existent future. So, I interrupted him every two minutes or so to try to start a conversation. Notice I said try.

At one point I remember I interrupted him to say, “If this is what we’re doing now, then what are we doing in a couple of months?”

“This.”

I think I really tried his patience to the exponential. He was probably weighing just how badly he wanted to get laid. After only about a half hour or so, I told him it was probably time for me to go back home, and he walked me back.

And then he gave me a proposition. Straight up. No sugar coating. He was more popular than I was. I could improve my popularity by dating him. If I wanted to be popular, then I should call him. The implication about just what I was going to be doing for my newfound popularity was not lost on me. I knew what kind of bargain I’d be making. And I guess it saddened me, both that he’d make the offer and that he’d be stupid enough to think I’d be interested. He gave me his number and told me to call if I was interested.

I did call, but it was to tell him that I wasn’t interested. I knew I’d be in over my head with The Hulk, and I wasn’t so sure that he actually liked me. Wanted to have sex with me, sure, but like me…I don’t know about that.

The man who answered the phone at The Hulk’s house had an accent. He was charming, and he took a message. Now I almost rethought my decision just because the foreign accent thing did bring an exotic element into the mix that wasn’t previously there.

When The Hulk called back I said, “I didn’t know your dad was from the UK.”

“Yeah, he and my mom are immigrants. They’re Welsh.”

“Cool accent.”

“Thanks.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be dating you, but thanks for asking.”

“Your loss.”

I never felt like I lost out on anything not dating The Hulk. It became increasingly obvious during our senior year that he was troubled and probably had issues with substance abuse. I did have a class with him that last year. Keyboarding, which was basically a typing class. He couldn’t even manage that class. He hung out exclusively with girls who had less than stellar reputations. Dating The Hulk might have improved my popularity but not in the way that he meant it. I’d like to think that things have changed in American high schools today but if you can tell by the media stories of girls who get bullied for sexting or from the movie Easy A, some things remain the same.

May 29, 2011 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

The Bully

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

Image via Wikipedia

I moved from Nowhereville when I was in the 9th grade. We moved to a suburb of Oklahoma City with a reputation for affluence but, to clarify, not the neighborhood in the City where the butlers bear king sized candy bars on silver trays for Halloween. It was a huge school. There were close to 1,000 people in my graduating class, which means that the student population of the high school that I graduated from was 1/3 of the total population of the last town I lived in.

Coming from Nowhereville, my new school district felt that my education must have been dubious at best and insisted on putting me in a regular English class when I told them I needed an honors English class. That lasted a semester, and then they switched me to a class that was sort of an intermediary between the regular and honors English classes.

In that class was a boy named Joe Steele. Joe and I also rode the bus together to and from school, and he quickly noticed that I had a habit of comparing and contrasting my new community with Nowhereville, such as starting sentences constantly with the phrase, “In Nowhereville…” So, Joe, himself a new transplant to the town as well, took it upon himself to christen me Nowhereville. Joe Steele was a football player, and all his athlete friends called me Nowhereville as well. This lasted for my entire freshman year. I was rarely actually referred to by my real first name, unless I was at home.

As a side note, this was the year that the big controversy came out about Romeo & Juliet. Some idiot fundamentalist Bible thumper found out that we were going to be watching Franco Zeffirelli’s movie version of Shakespeare’s play and got upset about it. There was nudity. There were teenagers having sex! We might be tempted to do the same. We saw the movie anyway, and all I was tempted to do was to strangle the giggling Olivia Hussey.

While the controversy still raged, the Oklahoma City news stations were dispatched to our school. I got filmed for the evening news reading the part of the nurse to Joe’s Romeo, wearing my Nowhereville school mascot sweatshirt. Apparently, for a brief time I was a local celebrity who didn’t even live there anymore.

Joe Steele, for some odd reason, took a real liking to me. He’d come to our fair city to live with his father who did considerably better financially than his beleaguered single mother. He was in high school now, and he wanted the opportunity to be popular and do it right, so moving in with dad made that happen. But he missed his mother and his younger sister. So, even though Joe and I were very close to the same age, Joe constantly told me how much I reminded him of his little sister.

In English class our teacher made us write on a daily basis in spiral notebooks that we called our journals. These journals were supposed to be private, and our teacher said she didn’t read them beyond checking to make sure that we wrote something daily. Joe read my journal. Regularly. He was like the one man NSA. This was how he kept tabs on me. If he thought I was up to something that wasn’t maybe healthy or wise, then I’d get a mini-lecture.

Joe had two athlete friends who rode the bus with him. One played football with Joe. He was a defensive player and solid muscle. His real name was Matt, but we called him The Hulk. He was huge. The other friend’s name was also Matt, and he played basketball. He had blond hair that he always got cut into a perfect flat top. (I can’t remember if Top Gun had come out by then or not. Oh, well.) Matt was very, very patient with me because I was endlessly amused by tapping the top of his head with a pencil to watch his hair bounce. It never failed to make me laugh.

On the same school bus that I took every day with Joe and Joe’s girlfriend and Joe’s girlfriend’s best friend and The Hulk and Matt there was another solid hunk of muscle besides The Hulk. I’ll call her The Bully. The Bully was a girl whose name I don’t even remember right now. She was a big black girl with an attitude, and for some inexplicable reason she could not stand me. As instantly as Joe’s affinity for me had arisen, so had her complete disdain for my existence on the planet.

I’m a friendly person, and I used to get on the school bus and smile and greet everyone. For a long time, The Bully simply ignored me. And then one day she basically got in my face and told me that she didn’t want me to so much as look in her direction ever again. Well, I’d been beaten up by bullies before, and I figured I’d survive it. I didn’t go out of my way to make conservation with her but I wasn’t going to avoid all eye contact just so she wouldn’t pound me silly. I told her so.

The next time I got on the bus I didn’t seek her out, but I didn’t avoid eye contact, either. And…nothing happened. Nothing ever happened at all. Apparently, she was all talk and no action. And I couldn’t figure it out. The Bully was five times my size and probably actually knew how to fight. She could have beat the shit out of me. So, why didn’t she? Meh. It didn’t trouble me for long. I was just glad that I hadn’t been injured and went on living my life.

It wasn’t until many months, maybe even years later, that I found out what happened. One of the Matts told me, probably The Hulk because I was closer to him, but I honestly don’t remember now. Joe had confronted The Bully in a school hallway with both the Matts there. He told her that if she so much as touched a hair on my head he wouldn’t care if she was a girl or not, he would beat her black and blue, and if he couldn’t do it, then one of his friends would.

I found Joe Steele on Facebook and got to thank him for his intervention. He’s happily married with children, living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s an accountant. Sometimes you get the opportunity to thank people for the kindnesses that they bestow upon you quietly and anonymously. Isn’t that nice?

May 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

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