A Tale of Two Spiders

There is no more vivid memory in my mind than that of a nasty brown spider descending from the ceiling of my childhood bedroom. In the same way the young couple in a coming-of-age movie accidentally turns their heads toward each other at the same time, conveniently placing them lip to almost lip, I greeted that spider with an intimacy only now reserved for the closest of family members. That one experience cemented a life-long fear that no amount of therapy, cognitive or Fear Factor-style, could ever assuage. I am irrationally, screamtastically afraid of spiders.

My son, on the other hand, watched a spider descend from the ceiling of our living room just the other day, awed and transfixed at what he called the “butterfly spider.” What he witnessed was a magical creature, beautifully lit from behind by the ceiling light it was affixed to, floating down towards him and filling his world with wonder. He already loves Halloween and kid-friendly versions of spooky things, spiders included. The real thing was all the more delightful.

Our childhoods are very different, he and I. I’m almost as jealous as I am proud.

That difference in presentation of reality is what’s on my mind today, post-Riverdale. I’m still working out my obsession issues, although writing 50,000+ words about it certainly did help. I’m not nearly so upset by the breakups as I am by the act, the song, the presentation of a reality I’m familiar with and the debate I read on Twitter about the responsibility in that representation.

If there is a more existential song than Mad World, then I don’t know it and I’d prefer to keep it that way. That shit does something to you, man. Between the haunting music and the depressing lyrics… and then to show Betty’s very public exploration of her sexuality, not for her own gratification but to, well, solve a problem. It’s all a little too… real.

I’ve written about my experience with how culture shapes sexuality, specifically that of a young girl or teenager. Because, even now, even with #MeToo and #rapeculture, things haven’t really changed THAT much from when I was young. Maybe we’re ready to speak out about it now, but the experiences, for the most part, haven’t changed.

Women’s sexuality was and is defined in relation to men and I don’t mean just heterosexual women and I don’t mean just biological women. I mean we’re still part of a culture where sex is a commodity used to control others.

The purpose of Betty’s dance was to control Jughead by gaining entrance to his environment. The purpose of the serpent dance as entrance is to control the women belonging to the gang.

Was the scene exploitative? Yes. Does the show need to take responsibility for that? Yeah, probably. But was it a pretty good representation of the half the world’s experience with sexual discovery? I think so, actually, yeah.

“Children waiting for the day they feel good”

Part of that scene did feel good because DAMN BETTY. We finally got to see the buttoned up girl shed some of her layers and come into her own in a brand new way. But it also felt a little… ishy, a little uncomfortable, a little wrong because she did it for those reasons in that place in front of those people.

It is about choice–because feminism is about having and owning our choices–and that dance was Betty’s choice, but it’s also about determinism because how much of it really is our choice if we’re stuck in this culture that only reveals to us a limited set of possibilities?

“When people run in circles, it’s a very very mad world.”

I was as blown away by the power of the scene as I was horrified by what it meant for a whole new generation of women. I was as delighted at seeing Betty in a whole new way as I was sad and hopeless that things would ever change enough to get better. It was a terrifying butterfly of triggering magical spiders descending from both the darkest and lightest ceilings of our culture, both promising and threatening.

As I wrote in my journal this morning, ” I’m… shook, as the kids say. Because that song is so haunting, especially for people suffering from depression because, well, hell, it IS a mad world and nothing makes sense and maybe everything is horrible and pointless and then we all die and that’s the best part. … So that’s where I’m at, post-show. Haunted by the ghosts of Donnie Darko and Betty’s butt cheeks.”

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How ’bout We Just Get LOUDER

Why do people still think that women disappearing from public spaces will make anyone give a crap about anything? Why don’t they realize that shutting the hell up and disappearing is EXACTLY what the haters want?

So no, I will not be boycotting Twitter today to support people speaking out against rape culture and systemic sexual abuse.

You do not SUPPORT people who are speaking out by being quiet.

How is this not obvious?

Woman Shouting with Bullhorn --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Rank Me

Movin’ on down!

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,370 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

 

Although I feel like maybe the folks finding my self-care with ghosts novel through the Horror > Occult category are going to be really disappointed. Hopefully, they’re not the type to leave reviews.

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Lay Her Ghosts to Rest by Eda J. Vor

Reviewer name: BooFoYou

1 out of 5 stars

The scariest part of this book was the feminism. Female ghosts who speak their minds, who call out their abusers, and who have more power than men? TERRIFYING! It’s like a challenge to the entire cultural order. I don’t like it. I’m telling Reddit*.

*I know nothing of Reddit except that people complain about stuff on there a lot.

What’s Your Workplace Inequality Rant?

I’m a short lady who doesn’t necessarily look her age (from afar, at least) and while I have very healthy self-esteem and can command a room with just the power of my saucy attitude, I still deal with a whole lotta dismissive, condescending, underestimating bullcrap. Especially in the workplace. Especially from old men who call me sweetheart or honey and treat me like a precious little princess.

And we’re not talking Elena of Avalor or Merida of the Arrow in your behind if you sass her. I mean more like those people who dress toddlers up like pageant queens. Might as well just pat my head and wax my arm hair, because Momma needs to live out her beauty queen fantasies through you, my little princess.

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Pointed… at… your butt.

It’s infuriating. And even as I get older and start to look older, graying hair and wrinkly eyes and Anne Tayloresque ensembles and, you know, seniority and all, I still get treated this way because it has nothing to do with me or who I am or how I’m qualified or what my title or place in the hierarchy may be.

Little girls get lollipops, not respect.

I have no solution at present, other than possibly to borrow Merida’s bow, but I want to feel that I’m not alone so I like to put my stories out there and provide a forum for thought or discussion, much like the main character in my new book, Lay Her Ghosts to Rest, eventually does in her own workplace*.

I’ve added a discussion question on GoodReads for this purpose. What’s your workplace bullcrap behavior story and would you care to share it in my forum?

You can find it here. 

 

*Excerpt from Lay Her Ghosts to Rest

“Catori, that’s all so wonderful and truly a remarkable breakthrough but I have to tell you–this is what I’ve been waiting to tell you–that there absolutely is a better way and you’ve already found it. You’ve already implemented it. You have already made significant, compassionate, beneficial changes to this Institution and you did it just by being your own, admittedly flawed, self.”

Catori furrowed her brow. She wasn’t in the mood to celebrate whatever had made Dr. Sunkireddy so happy to see her. She wanted to wallow in the gravity of reality for a while. She wanted it to be clear in her own mind what she was saying and thinking and feeling and connect them all in a significant way.

But she didn’t want to be rude either. “How so?” she asked with little enthusiasm.

“You’ve started what could accurately be called a grassroots revolution among the employees here. They’ve been coming to me and the other counselors in droves over the past week, talking about you and the discussion groups you’ve been having in the Lounge after hours. They’re excited and relieved and hopeful and every single one of them credits you.”

“Oh.”

All the Adventures Belong to Men

I’m looking through free stock images on this helpful resource (https://unsplash.com/) for purposes that have to do with my NEW BOOK and finding that most of the women are relaxing and throwing their hair back or taking pictures on their cell phones or wearing hip, youthful clothing whereas the men are doing… like, all sorts of things:

White river rafting, mountain climbing, checking their watches, being beautiful, being old, soldering, making music, making movies, bathing in mountain streams, jogging, biking, getting some ice cream, driving old cars, jumping in puddles, playing with kids, working in an office, and exploring the abyss.

Oh and there’s another woman relaxing and throwing her hair back while wearing a hip and youthful hat and taking pictures on her cell phone.

Totally representative of real life. Totally.

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Good hair must be an amazing adventure.

The Fate of the Furious Mom Protagonist

Yes, I am still on a writing break because yes I am still pregnant, caring for a toddler all day and packing everything in my house for an impending move.

HOWEVER…

I need to talk about this:

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Don’t worry, they don’t fight it out for Dom. The writers solve the problem for them.

My husband and I saw Fate of the Furious this weekend while my in-laws watched my son. It was the first date we’ve had that didn’t involve grocery shopping AND there was dinner involved. Magical stuff.

We also both love the Fast and Furious franchise, he for the cars and the action, me for the kickass women and the action and I guess the cars too… a little. They are nice cars.

SPOILERS WITHIN. BE FOREWARNED. YOU KNOW, BECAUSE FAST AND FURIOUS IS KNOWN FOR IT’S MIND-BLOWING, M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN TWISTS AND TOTAL LACK OF OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING. ANYWAY… SPOILERS.

So Dom has a kid, huh? Never would have guessed (from that scene in the bedroom where they talk about kids)! But it’s with another woman?! Who has been kidnapped?! But, but… he just got Letty back and SHE wanted a kid and how are they going to Three’s Company meets The Brady Bunch their way out of this?!?!

Well, kids, Dom is all about family, right? More specifically, he’s all about found family. It helps when his BFF/homoerotic man friend marries his sister but even the people with no relation to him–blood, law, or otherwise–are part of his family. So it’s possible, right? Elena and the kid, Letty and Dom, all the other car-loving freaks, all One Big Happy Adventure-Having Family? I mean, if they can accept Statham after all the crap he’s pulled, then certainly, CERTAINLY they can find a place for both Letty AND Elena, right?

No. False. And not because Letty can’t handle it. She doesn’t even get the chance. Because the writers decided on the easiest possible route to the happiest possible ending: Kill the Bio Mom. Save the nuclear family. Who needs bio moms anyway?

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*Not an exaggeration.

And do they mourn Elena when they reunite at their NYC rooftop cookout that everyone else attends? Nope. Gone and forgotten. Movin’ on without even a nod to the woman who gestated, birthed and cared for this child while Dom was off driving cars through skyscrapers in Dubai* or whatever.

Did I mention I’m pregnant? And that cartoons make me cry? So I lost my shiz a little when they killed Elena. I mean, obviously, I would have gotten up and stormed out if they had killed the child because NO! NO! YOU DON’T DO THAT! But as the mom in the audience identifying with the mom on the screen, yeah, I had a hard time with Elena’s death.

LITTLE DID I KNOW that that would not be the worst part of my evening.

When we got to my in-law’s house to pick up our toddler, I found out that my mother-in-law had taken it upon herself to start potty training my child. Naturally, I lost my damn mind and let loose a fiery tirade at my husband about overstepping boundaries and children learning things in their own time instead of competing with other children in the family for grandparent bragging rights and laziness in parenting and childhood trauma, etc., etc. And while I don’t feel like anything I said wasn’t true and I have little intention of ever apologizing, it did take me a good ole cry and reflect the next day to figure out why I had reacting So Very Strongly.

Because that kind of action kills the biomom. It assumes that a child can be taught anything by anyone and as long as said child has a mom surrogate–a grandmother or stepmother or badass stunt car driving mentor–the mom isn’t necessary.

And this isn’t to say that a child can’t learn and thrive with a surrogate! That doesn’t even mean it needs to be a woman!! I have several gentleman friends who have adopted or fostered children with their husbands and those children are indeed doing very well. I know children who were adopted by grandparents or aunts and uncles because their bioparents either weren’t fit to raise them or were no longer living. A child with loving caretakers is a child with the potential to thrive. That’s not what this is about.

This is about negating a present, loving, capable mother for the sake of someone else’s story line.

In Fate of the Furious, it was about killing off Elena so Dom could have his uncomplicated happy ending. In my life, it was about my mother-in-law being the big damn hero by potty training my reluctant son so her sister-in-law would stop bragging so damn much about her own grandchildren (here’s another spoiler: my aunt-in-law will never stop bragging about her own grandchildren and my son will never be as wonderful and amazing and brilliant as her grandkids, not ever, no way and the fact that my mother-in-law still falls for this Grandparent Games baiting nonsense has everything to do with HER sense of self and insecurities and nothing whatsoever to do with my parenting skills or my child’s well-being).

You know who else pulls this crap? Disney. Disney kills off biomoms like it was no big thing. Star Wars. Children’s cartoons. Those freaking annoying teen shows where all of the adults are stupid and inept? They kill off moms for convenience too and replace them with stepmoms and surrogates that may be somewhat capable but probably not. They may be kind and caring, but probably not. And sometimes, maybe, the loss of the biomom is some sort of catalyst for the main character’s plot, but often it’s just a convenient device.

Either way, the biomom dies to serve someone else’s story.

Well, let me tell YOU something! I HAVE MY OWN DAMN STORY! And I refuse to be killed off literally or figuratively for the convenience of anyone else.

I … am not Elena. I am not cowering in a corner with a gun to my head saying, “PLEASE, JUST SAVE OUR SON!” before dying tragically while Charlize Theron accidentally strangles my child with her ill-conceived white lady dreadlocks.

Oh no. I am Jason Freaking Statham kicking some malcontent in the throat before shooting his associate in the balls while shielding my adorable little love nugget as he listens to the Chipmunks on comically large headphones. THAT is the kind of mother I am, bitches. And I will be potty training my own child when he is GODDAMN GOOD AND READY.

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When I’m not pregnant, I can kick higher than that. For now, it’s strictly ball crunchers and knee disjointers and you better HOPE you ain’t tryin’ to hurt MY babies.

I made a joke recently to a lady friend that I would start writing children’s books as soon as my kids were old enough to give coherent feedback. Now I’m starting to think the best children’s book I could write would be “Mommy has a life, too, you had better RESPECT that.”

Look for it on Amazon.

Twy Again, Mom

I’m not sure how it happened but I’m relatively sure I did it and that’s why I think I should be able to take credit. My son is now fond of saying, “Whoops, twy again” when things fall down or apart or don’t go his way. How’s that for resilience? I don’t need you, Parenting Magazine. I don’t need no Scary Mommy.

Now, I’m not saying he’s the most mellow toddler in the world and when he’s hungry or tired, it’s full on melt-down time if he drops a crayon or his sock is slightly askew. But when he’s well-fed and well-rested and playing in his own little world with or without me, he’s more likely to say, “Twy again” than he is to freak out when his block tower falls down.

I mean, I think that’s because of me. I remember saying “try again” to him before he started saying it himself. But it wasn’t an intentional parenting strategy. It wasn’t a mantra. It was just my way of distracting him BEFORE a meltdown occurred. Apparently, the kid has internalized that attitude and it’s made for much more chill play time.

So my next step, I guess, is to foster that attitude to include other things: putting clothes on by himself, using the potty, going to preschool, trying new activities, homework, cancer research, astronaut training, running for elected office. You know, all the important stuff.

And as proud as I am of my little can-doer, I have to reserve some of that praise for myself. This “try again” attitude I’ve infected my son with by accident was a long and painful process for me. I’ve never done well with rejection or embarrassment or … just things that seemed really hard. But the reality of life for a woman is that we have to keep trying, keep working, keep pushing if we want the things we want: again, the important stuff like equality and opportunity and equal pay and equal rights and equal representation. If we want to normalize women’s lives and experiences and health and professionalism, we have to keep trying. If we want the world to be a better place for our children, even for those little can-doers who don’t necessarily need our help, we have to keep trying again and again and again.

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Here’s where I SHOUT OUT to all the brave and bold women running for office in the next few years. She Should Run gives me hope for the future and inspiration to be a leader and a role model regardless of political aspiration (or lack thereof). Do your thing, homegirls, and if it doesn’t work out the first run, TRY AGAIN!

Damn the Man Some Other Way

I’m a proud feminist so when I heard about Day Without a Woman, I was all, “Yeah! Let’s show them! Woo!” until… this morning when I realized that we’re out of cat food and mouthwash and not only was I not willing to NOT take care of my son, not only can I not just NOT go to work tonight, but it also turns out that I couldn’t just NOT spend money.

But I’m wearing a red shirt. At home. Where no one but my toddler can see me.

Friends, I’m starting to think that maybe Day Without a Woman is kind of bullshit.

I think the intent was good. I have a lot of respect for people who go to protests and stand up for injustice. And I recognize that doing what’s right is often inconvenient and that we must make sacrifices if we want to enact change.

But I’m not so sure Day Without a Woman was the best we could do.

Because yeah, our culture is kind of totally crippled when women don’t show up. If I’m not caring for my child, who is? All of my babysitters are female. Most child care workers I know are female. All of the people I see who work in the children’s section of libraries and indoor playgrounds are female. So either I’m watching my own child and failing to “not engage in non-compensated labor” or I’m making some other woman do it and preventing her from “engaging in compensated labor”.

How does this help women?

And how does this show men that they need women?

The men who don’t care about children and the care thereof STILL don’t care if I’m having a crisis of conscience over who is watching my child today because guess what! It’s not them. So they don’t give a damn.

Day Without a Woman means that WOMEN are missing the support system they need to get by. It’s not working for me.

Women are Just Taller Girls, Right?

Christmas had me at a loss this year. Money is tight and shopping is hard with a toddler in tow and there was so much going on in the last few months that gifting wasn’t so high on my list of priorities. But I did get a pretty sweet discount offer on my Target Cartwheel app! For a Fitbit! And that’s a gadget, right, so maybe my husband would be into it.

But knowing nothing about Fitbits, I thought I best check it out first. So one day, kidless, I spent some time in the electronics department reading all the Fitbit signage and trying to figure out if this whoosie was even worth my 40% discount. Turns out, no, no it was not. But that’s not the point of this story.

I asked the salesman if he could help me and pointed to the locked Fitbits over yonder. Dude was tall and skinny, probably in his early 20s and definitely thought of himself as smarter than your average bear. He says, “Let me guess, you want the pink one?”

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I’m a small woman. I am often mistaken for being younger than I am. But I’m not seven, and I’m not wearing unicorn barrettes in my pigtails, so WHO do you think you’re talking to? I’m not usually one to engage with idiots, especially those who are strangers–I generally prefer to walk away and spend my energy more wisely–but it was so out of left field. Like, here’s an adult woman customer asking for assistance in electronics and the first thing out of your mouth is an antiquated assumption of preference based on color because women are incapable of judging products on any other factor? Or was it a sexist assertion of dominance over the little lady? Or was it a passive aggressive dig at a stupid customer because retail is just such very hard work?

Either way, no. No, I am not having that. No, that is not appropriate customer service. Just no, sir. No.

So I scrunched up my little eyebrows, cocked my head and said, “Why would you say that? Why would you assume I want pink?” and let him stumble over his tongue for a while trying to apologize or back-peddle or do whatever he needed to do to complete the sale.

After that, we actually had a very productive conversation, comparing models and features until I ultimately decided that my husband would probably prefer to decide on his own features (and that he’d want more than I could pay for). I thanked him for his time and his helpful advice and he actually looked me in the eye and apologized sincerely for the pink remark.

Maybe that dude was a jackass. Maybe he was having a bad day. But I was happy that I didn’t let it go. And I was happy that I didn’t lose my temper and badmouth him. Instead, I forced him to see me as a person and recognize his own mistake. I think it was an important lesson for both of us.

Challenging assumptions is one of those thingies on my list of “things to get better at.”

Storytellers Lead By Example

Ladies, listen up!

Whether or not you have any political aspiration whatsoever (because I don’t really at all), you need to check out this organization and seriously consider signing up for their Incubator.

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SheShouldRun.org

Not only will the lessons and activities help solidify in your own mind who you are, what you stand for, who you want to help and what the best way may be for you to effect change in the world, but the resources I’ve come across so far have helped me as a writer to nail the central conflict in my latest WIP, gain a better understanding of my character, and ground the events in terms of real world consequences.

I don’t know that I’m cut out to be the kind of leader they’re looking to incubate but I do feel like writers and storytellers and media makers have a great deal of influence on society. I would like to use whatever influence I have to help the people I feel like I could help and bring to light the issues that I feel need to be explored and resolved.

And if it’s not for you, maybe you know someone who would be interested. Maybe you know someone who should be nominated. Maybe you don’t even know whether or not you would be interested until you checked it out. Regardless, a resource like this needs to be shared!

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