I’ve wrapped up the last birthday I’ll ever have for an age that begins with a 5. A year from now, I move on into the 6s.
That’s not weird AT ALL.
Age is an odd thing. I think it was Jim Gaffigan (if not, excuse my senility) who recently said that a generation ago when someone approached 60, people solicitously guided them to a rocking chair; now, they are given a mountain bike and told to get going.
For the most part, I’m all for that mountain bike (crap, I own three bikes; I’d better be enthusiastic). But there are days when I long, a bit, for the solicitous guidance, the gentle pat on the back of my–so far unmarred by age spots–hand, and the voice to tell me to slow the hell down.
It’s not that I want to get old–hell, you line me up a dozen random virgins with the promise that drinking their blood will restore me to my thirties and those bitches are going *down*–but there is a lot of balance to be sought in the reality of this point of life. I spent an hour gardening today. I went to the gym. I am fighting the good fight against the ravages of time and reality.
In the end, ravaging reality will win. Maybe not for another 20, 30 years. But we haven’t found a cure for age yet.
So here I am, dancing on the balance. I can’t get 30 back (for the record, no, I don’t want 20–those years were still WAY too hormonal). I can’t get 40. I can’t even get 58.
What I’ve got is 59, and how to use it best. How to use it smartest. One of the most humbling decisions I ever made was buying myself a walker for Star Wars Celebration. Did I need the walker for support? Not at all. But degenerative disc disease and the inability to stand for long periods of time means that I *did* need that flip-down seat and the ability to plant my ass for the long hours we had to wait in some lines.
As a woman with a walker, I could have cruised right up to the Medical Disability station, gotten myself a special sticker for my badge, and had some advantages as far was getting into lines. I did not do this. I had a walker because I needed a doggone chair whenever I needed a chair. Not because I am disabled. I felt like taking advantage of a visible piece of equipment to get special treatment would have been dishonest.
By Celebration 2019? I might not feel that way. One of the things I did today, my birthday, was take time to get to the gym. It wasn’t a great workout. But I did show up. And it means something to me. Not that I will ever be thin–because I fought for that for decades and fuck it, I end up fatter every damned time–but that I can stay mobile. I can stay able. I can keep walking, and moving, and lifting. And planting, and pulling up the goddamn weeds that will just keep growing no matter how much I loathe them. And harvesting. And reaching for the stars, howling at the moon, bursting warm, ripe tomatoes with my teeth, scrounging the dirt for carrots and onions, swinging a lightsaber in the moonlight, juggling balls my dog can’t believe aren’t for her, swinging on my porch swing, riding my bike through the park, dyeing and sewing fabric into new treasures for the future and just existing. On a thousand levels.
Tomorrow morning, it’s editing books. In the evening, it may be plunging cotton fabric into purples and greens it never knew could exist. Or spying for that first curling sprout that promises a pound of snap peas. Or riding to the river to just listen to it sing. I have a thousand miles of everything, calling to me. Let’s see whose song is sweetest.
The other day Ferrett was having a debate with someone over assorted political issues. One that came up was the Affordable Healthcare Act. This person, in their* 30s, demanded to know why they should pay for health insurance when they were young and healthy. What, exactly, were they getting out of the money they were spending for insurance?
It struck me, then, that I’ve heard this argument before, and been just as irritated by it.
It’s the argument that retired people make when voting down school bonds: “Why should I pay for the schools anymore? My kids don’t go there. I don’t get anything out of it.”
It’s the same argument, snarled from the far ends of the bell curve.
Yeah, it’s a bummer to have to pay taxes. I know. I pay lots of them. My kids aren’t in school anymore. But they were. And so was I, once. And someone else footed that bill. So I don’t object when it’s my turn to pay for the benefit I once received.
And yes, when you’re young it hardly seems fair that you have to pay for insurance that you probably won’t use. But guess what, bucko? You won’t be young forever. And when you aren’t, someone else will be paying premiums that get spent on your health care, just like you’re paying premiums now.
These systems don’t work if everyone doesn’t participate. I paid insurance premiums for years on when we never even met the deductible. And then there are years like the one when Ferrett had his appendix burst. Or his heart attack. We weren’t financially ruined by those events, because we had insurance. And we had insurance because lots of people pay premiums and only use a fraction of that amount in a year. There was a pool of money to pay the hospital because, through a flawed system that needs reform, millions of people had our backs.
The AHA isn’t perfect–the insurance companies won far too much of that battle–and I would like to see lots of reform in the way medicine works in this country. But the plain fact is that no insurance system works unless healthy people pay in. If insurance was “opt in when you get sick” the whole system would be bankrupt in no time.
So, yes, most young people are paying for a service that they, gods willing, will not be using. This year. But even setting aside accidents and the fact that youth is not a guarantee against cancer or other diseases, they are paying forward for the services that they will need far sooner than seems possible. I didn’t get to nearing-60 overnight, but sometimes it feels like I did.
I take great issue with the older person who thinks it’s no longer to their advantage to pay for public schools through their taxes. And I take the same issue with the younger person who thinks they shouldn’t have to pay for health insurance. We’re all in this together, and it’s the only way these systems work.
*yes, I’m using the singular “they.” It’s now considered acceptable, and I try to move with the times.
(I wrote this before July 4 and published it on my LJ account, intending to publish it here after the holiday. With the violence of those days, it felt inappropriate. But now that we are in the midst of indignance over Pokemon, it seemed appropriate to put it up.)
Today I heard about the boycott of Finding Dory because there is a lesbian couple in it for a split second. I was, naturally, outraged. I was, naturally, about to link to the article in Facebook and write a diatribe. I was, naturally, All Worked Up.
But then, quite unnaturally, I paused a moment to do a search on Twitter. A couple different searches. I found a gazillion tweets on the topic.
Almost uniformly, they were outrage at the notion that people would boycott Finding Dory and how terrible those people were. Pages and pages of outrage.
What didn’t I find? Very much encouragement for actually boycotting. In fact, I found one guy who is an obvious troll, and one woman who seemed genuinely to be boycotting.
Oddly, that one real tweet was the exact same tweet that had been in the article I read about this terrible boycott–strange, if the Twittersphere is full of calls for boycott, don’t you think? It had a response from only one other person. The troll’s tweet had no responses at all.
But someone in a newsroom somewhere decided to write an article designed for outrage, and someone else got outraged, and then there was Mass Hysteria (TM).
So out of curiosity, I went looking for the Horrible Boycott of Cheerios over the ad with the mixed race couple. Once again, loads of outrage. Once again, little sign of people actually encouraging boycott.
The news would certainly have you believe that All Those White Christians are out there hating on blacks and gays. But when The Daily Show went to rural Mississippi and asked people how they felt about gay marriage, there was lots of, “okay good for them.”
I’m reminded of being in Israel as the wall was being built. The Israelis I talked to about relations were uniformly of the opinion that they had to find a way to live in harmony, that the wall wasn’t going to work, and that most of their experience interacting with Palestinians was positive. Not the picture that is painted by the government or the news.
Could it possibly be that there isn’t as much divisiveness and hatred than we are being sold? And are we making that rift larger by helping to blow these stories out of proportion?
Yes, there is hatred, and yes there is prejudice and the KKK and Westboro. But we’re allowing ourselves to believe that those outliers are the mainstream. And we’re making it worse by linking to fake outrage.
The next time you see something that makes your blood boil, don’t just click “Share” and add your own fury to the screed. Take a minute to see how true the claim is. And if it’s not true, don’t share it. Instead, go looking for a story filled with positivity, particularly one that involves a group of people who you wouldn’t generally consider allies. They are out there–the world is filled with people of faith doing good works and reaching out in support of others.
But it’s not as glamorous as outrage and disgust. It doesn’t get the kind of clicks that hate-baiting gets. So it needs a lot more help being seen.
I don’t think most of America is as far apart as the news outlets and the politicians would like us to believe. And I’m tired of playing into their hands to the detriment of society. I believe in the power of good works, and the general decency of most people.
Let’s stop feeding the trolls.
A couple weeks ago, our friends Nick and Heather were here visiting and we went downtown to eat lunch. After, Ferrett said that we had to take them to the most amazing men’s clothing store, Albert’s, which is downtown.
Albert’s customers are mostly African-American, and it caters to people who want to dress with style and flash. The window displays always have suits in sherbet colors, with matching shoes. The fashion is decidedly urban, and a lot of fun.
So the four of us walk in. I immediately felt the tension in the air as the clerks all turned to look at us. It was a game day; lots of people downtown who usually aren’t. This was two big, very white guys, with their wives. Were we there to ridicule? To make trouble? I could feel them holding their breath. I felt self-conscious and awkward, like I was invading in a place I shouldn’t be. It took a lot for me to smile and step the rest of the way into the store.
It quickly became apparent that we were just enthusiastic shoppers, and everyone relaxed and visited with us while Ferrett tried on a flashy jacket (alas, it didn’t fit him through the shoulders in a way that would have required too much tailoring) and the rest of us wandered around admiring the suits (most of which weren’t in exotic colors) and shirts. It was all good, and we departed with warm well-wishes.
And as I left, I realized that, for most African-Americans, particularly black males, that tension we felt when we first entered the store is the reaction they get almost every place they go. The only difference? For them, it generally doesn’t fade away. The entire time they are in a business, people are eyeing them. Tense. Waiting for something bad to happen. They face that kind of tension day after day.
Lots of people look askance at the notion of white privilege—this so-called privilege hasn’t afforded them a nice car or a good job or the ability to buy a house. But that’s not what I’m talking about when I talk about privilege. I’m talking about the kind of invisible ease with which people can move through life. The average white person doesn’t think about the fact that they are welcome in their local grocery store. That no one follows them around, watching their every move.
That if they pick up a toy gun in the kid’s section of Walmart and carry it with them to grab a gallon of milk, they don’t have to worry about someone calling 911 and getting them shot dead in the automotive section.
It’s these small things, so invisible as to be considered just “how life is” that I’m talking about when I talk about privilege. Yes, there was that study where they sent out identical resumes, half with white-sounding names and half with black-sounding names, and the ones with white-sounding names got responses at a rate more than double. Yes, there is the pervasive inequality in the terms for mortgages given to black and white people with the same credit scores and incomes. There are lots of those big things that need to be addressed.
But the little things, the invisible things, the things that allow white people to move through their lives unhampered, they have barriers for black people. And we need to be sensitive to that. So that it can change.
“Why is there only a gay pride parade? Where’s my heterosexual pride parade?”
“Why is there a black history month, but not a white history month?”
“I’m a size 8. Why doesn’t the body acceptance movement talk about people like me?”
“Why do you say Black Lives Matter? Don’t *all* lives matter?”
I have heard all of these statements, from people saying them seriously. You know what they really boil down to?
“Why are there things in the world that aren’t about me?”
And my reaction is, “My god, are you an infant?”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: gay people, black people, fat people? They’d all be much happier if there wasn’t a need for their causes. If they could all just live their lives without prejudice and fear and hatred, if they didn’t feel a need for solidarity because no one shouted obscenities at them, or beat them, or killed them? If their experience wasn’t ignored or denigrated?
If they got to go through life with the same kind of acceptance and safety as the average skinny white heterosexual?
Hell, they wouldn’t need parades, either.
But they don’t. We don’t. So we have to take a stand and say, “Hey, I’m a person, and my experience is valid and important!”
That isn’t saying that the experience of the skinny white heterosexual isn’t valid. It’s asking to be allowed the same experience.
Shouldn’t we celebrate white history? We do. We have a special name for it. It’s calledhistory.
Shouldn’t we celebrate smaller body sizes? We do. It’s called all the fashion magazines and every department store, where the clothes will fit you.
Shouldn’t we celebrate heterosexuals? WE DO. It’s called every institution of family and business and society.
Shouldn’t we celebrate white all lives? We. Freaking. Do. It’s called watching your children walk out the door in the morning without the sick fear that a mistake will leave them lying dead in the gutter while the whole world assumes it’s the child’s fault.
When you protest that anyone’s struggle for dignity and fair treatment isn’t paying attention to you, the greed and arrogance that displays is not just stupid. It’s evil. It’s determined to not only keep your fair share of the good in the world; it’s seeking to keep everyone else away from that goodness.
Black Lives Matter has no implicit “only”–what’s implicit is the “also.” If you don’t see that, you’re either stupid, or you’re pretending not to see it so that you can hold onto your superiority in society. You genuinely believe that people who aren’t like you are inherently inferior. And that is an ugly and evil thing to believe.
In July 2014 we went to Italy. Before we went there, I couldn’t stand olives.
When we came back, I loved them. I still do. I have a giant jar of them in the fridge, and every once in a while lunch is simply olives and artichoke hearts, maybe with a little feta.
This year, our Mediterranean cruise started in Italy and our first stop was on the island of Capri. Before we got there, orange was a color that I associated with traffic cones and not much else. I didn’t really like it at all.
While shopping I saw and fell in love with an orange purse. I carry it everywhere now. It doesn’t match anything I own, but I don’t care. It’s my new favorite color.
I didn’t have this kind of thing happen when I visited any other country. Not Israel back in 2006, nor England or Germany later that year. Not Greece or Turkey in the latter part of this trip. I saw many amazing things, and am grateful for the experience. But none of them completely changed an aspect of my very nature.
Italy apparently has a special, magical hold over me. I’m okay with that–I’d move there in a heartbeat, given the chance. It’s just peculiar and amusing.