Sunday, February 10, 2013

In Defense of Drunken Decisions

When I arrived at SeaTac airport at 6:00 PM for my 7:30 flight to San Francisco last October, everything had gone perfectly. I’d finished my work right on time, my Towncar had arrived right on time, and freeway traffic had been mild for a Friday evening rush hour. I’d tipped my awesome driver, walked straight to security since I’d checked in online, endured my usual awkward pat down to avoid the X Ray Machine of Cancerous Death, enjoyed a light dinner, and was waiting patiently to board 20 minutes before the scheduled time.

That’s when I got the news that, due to fog in the Bay area, my flight would be delayed over two hours. I turned to the people behind me, an attractive married couple in their early 30’s who were heading down to San Fran for a benefit concert.

“Well, that settles it,” I said. “I’m off to the bar to get drunk. See you guys onboard.”

Except rather than drinking alone, I started drinking with the couple instead. As soon as the man told our server, “No, she won’t have wine, bring us a round of long island iced teas,” I knew we would be friends. As it turned out, the couple managed the new Big Wheel that appeared on the Seattle Waterfront last summer. They told me there had already been numerous marriage proposals, which I thought was very sweet.

“Hey, if anyone ever wants to get married on the wheel…. I’m actually an ordained minister,” I slurred, slipping them my business card. Eventually, at long last, we boarded, and I spent the entire flight trying not to look too drunk as I chatted with the pretentious woman next to me while wishing that for my bladder’s sake I hadn’t gotten a window seat.

Drinking long island iced teas before a flight was definitely not my best decision. But a few weeks ago, when I was contacted by the couple about performing a wedding ceremony on the Great Wheel, I knew that the drunken networking had been a good decision. Had I opted to stay in the boarding area, reading alone, I would have missed out on what turned out to be an amazing experience.

My point is that enjoying the consumption of alcohol is not always a bad hobby to have. From business deals to forming new friendships to falling in love, sometimes the things that happen over a round of vodka tonics or bottles of wine turn out to be pretty great.

Recently I have been spending time with two ridiculously awesome women I met through my current job. They’ve both moved on to better things, but we still meet as often as we can, usually for drinks. One of them especially is a right winger’s worst nightmare, a breath of fresh air for me after spending six suffocating years in Idaho. One night after several cocktails, she brought up the Feminist Sci Fi book club she was helping to start. Before I realized it, I was agreeing to join.

Now, I’m no stranger to curling up with a good book. My parents had to beg me to go outside and play when I was a kid because I could never pry myself away from the latest Babysitters Club. But over the years my daily book-reading habit turned into a daily blog-reading habit. I still read books, but extremely slowly. What if I couldn’t read the book in time for the meeting and I let down my friends?

And, while education and general awareness have removed the stigma of the word “feminist” for me (sorry, but if you’re over the age of 30 and you still agree with Limbaugh’s definition, you’re an ignorant dipshit) I wondered what the hell Feminist Science Fiction would entail. I’d never read any Sci Fi before. My imagination went crazy and I envisioned books about scary futuristic worlds where men were slaves and no one wore pink.

And then I got the first book, The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin, and it was so good. So good. It was so well-written I was able to suspend reality and thoroughly enjoy it. And when we had our first meeting, even though I was by far the least experienced Sci Fi reader there (and wearing the most pink), I really enjoyed the discussion and the people (of both genders!) who showed up. We’re on our second book now, and it’s even better. I stayed up until 2:30 am reading it, in fact.

Had I not been drinking that night I probably wouldn’t have been so quick to volunteer to join the book club—not out of lack of interest or desire, just out of lack of faith in myself to read and understand something so outside my norm and commit to monthly meetings. But it turned out to be a really good decision and I am damn glad I made it. The booze didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do, it just gave me the courage to say yes to a new experience.

I can think of plenty of regrettable decisions that have come with alcohol consumption. I have eaten things I shouldn’t, said things I shouldn’t and made purchases I shouldn’t have. But as I look back over the decade that I’ve now been legal to drink ($#@!&$%#!!!), I can honestly say the good choices have far outweighed the bad. Studies have shown that social drinkers live longer, are happier in general and even make more money. As a proud test subject for such theories, I can honestly say I see no downside to this. 

Besides, being able to say "I once got drunk and agreed to join a Feminist Sci Fi book club" is a great ice breaker at parties. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Musings on parenthood

Recent events and tragedies have left me, like many others, wondering why. Why would someone shoot up a school full of sweet innocent souls? Why did someone let his priorities become so skewed that he’d spend his energy fighting for the rights of a zygote instead of doing something worthwhile, like improving the lives of kids who are already here?

I’ve also been asking this question in my personal life. There are people who are only in my life because of things like work and my family tree. I’ve allowed myself to get annoyed with them when they show traits I don’t like—excessive negativity, inability to feel empathy or appreciate all the good in their lives, constant martyr attitudes and a slew of other things I work hard every day not to be.

Lately, instead, I’ve tried asking myself why they do the things they do. It doesn’t excuse the traits, as they are responsible for recognizing and fixing them, but it helps me. By understanding, I’m able to exercise more patience and feel compassion instead of contempt. I don’t do it for them, but for my sanity. And I’ve reached one conclusion, which is the same conclusion I reach for the bigger issues: it all comes down to the childhood… the experiences, the parents and the teachers.

I’m no Freud, and I’m certainly not saying bad parenting is the root of all evil. But I truly believe that if every child is born knowing they are wanted and loved, being encouraged to follow their dreams while being properly disciplined, taught respect, respected in return, nourished with good nutrition and sent to schools full of teachers who loved them too, we’d hardly have any miserable adults.

I’m not na├»ve enough to think it would solve everything, but imagine if every single child was raised with the belief that they mattered and that anything they desired (education, dream jobs, whatever) was accessible to them…if we put as much energy into raising our children right as we do trying to “fix” adults.  It would make a huge difference, to say the least.

That realization saddened me, as being a teacher’s daughter gives me an inside look at how badly kids are treated these days as well as how little teachers are valued. Then it terrified me. As my biological clock begins to tick and Mr. W and I stop talking about if and start talking about when, I’ve thought about the job that lies before me.

So I’m supposed to raise this smart, kind, goal-oriented individual who will be an asset to society, not a burden, who will leave the world a better place, when I haven’t gotten my own shit together or reached most of my goals? No pressure. The more I thought about it, the less appealing it became. There was just no way, I decided, that I could put all this effort into this human and still work on myself. And I’m not about to make a human unless I can make it a good one.

Then I met Henry. Henry is the son of one of the older copywriters on my team, a phenomenal artist and a badass rocker guy who is in at least two bands. Since he started, I’ve heard a lot of things about Henry. For example, Henry likes pink and purple. He likes to play with dolls, and he enjoys getting his nails painted. He was a fairy for Halloween.

I know how Henry would be treated if he’d been born to a family in Idaho. I shudder to think how life would be for him if he lived in the south or a less developed country. But Henry is lucky enough to have been born to parents who understand. They don’t ever want him to feel like he’s different or feel badly about himself. And I think that’s the most amazing thing in the world.

Henry came strolling through my office one day with his “Papa.” And if it wasn’t for the purple beanie on his head and the baby doll in his hand, you wouldn’t know that Henry is “different” in any way. There was no tell-tale flamboyancy in his voice, no sassiness in his strut. He’s just an ordinary little boy who happens to like some things that have been traditionally attributed to little girls.

The fact is, Henry might grow up to be interested only in women—or, he could grow up to be gay. He could be the football captain or the star of every high school musical. He’s going to grow up to be whatever he wants to be, because he has parents who will encourage his authenticity and let him follow his dreams. He won the parent lottery for sure.

I want that for my child, too.

A few weeks later, I came into contact with Lola and it changed my entire perception of pregnancy and motherhood.

Lola is the alter ego of my building manager, who is a sexy burlesque dancer when she’s not collecting rent checks and playing referee / Mommy to the tenants. I’ve been dying to see her perform for awhile, but worried she might feel strange about me watching her twirl her tassels. Apparently she didn’t feel that way, because I scored an invite to her latest show.

Oh, by the way, Lola is eight months pregnant and it’s quite obvious on her tiny little frame.
My first reaction to hearing about her pregnant performance was a resounding, “You go girl!” I admit I fear not being comfortable in my own skin during pregnancy, which would make me feel shallow if I hadn’t worked really damn hard at overcoming some serious body issues. Lola was an inspiration, to say the least.
I was curious, though, about how she’d pull off a burlesque act. Would she work her baby bump into her act, or would she pretend it wasn’t there, doing her normal sexy routine and hoping everyone would just ignore it?

What she did was strut onto the stage, grab the mic and sing beautifully. I had no idea she could sing, but her voice was so powerful that I would have forgotten it was a pregnant performance if not for her song choice: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Of course. Lola took the stage again after that for a dance performance, and it was adorably full of “bun in the oven” references and really amazing, sexy and not at all weird.

I don’t know anyone else in the world brave enough to do something like that. And hell, if she can feel that comfortable with her body during pregnancy, I can maybe chill out about the idea of it. In the future, when that little baby is old enough to hear that he was onstage before he was even born, it will make a great story. Her performance was almost symbolic, showing the world that underneath the baby belly she was still Lola. So this baby will grow up knowing that his mom loved him enough to hold onto her authentic self, but was happy to work him into her life.

I want that for my child, too.

I don’t know what went wrong with the Newtown shooter or if Paul Ryan didn’t get hugged enough as a child (or was dropped on his head). And I don’t even know if I could be a better parent than either of them had. The idea of raising a decent person is intimidating, to say the least.

But with all the evil in the world, there is also so much good. For every bad parent, there are hundreds of parents who are doing it right. And I don’t know if it will happen, when it will happen or how I can possibly make it work, but… I think I’m up for the challenge. 
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