Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wisdom to the nth Power

I've flown up to visit my mother, but ostensibly, the real crux of my work has been cleaning up the house such that my mother can come home from hospice.  Real kudos go to my sister, who will be living here and taking care of the mother.  We've both been working on the house.

My mother... well, I can't say she's actually a hoarder.  She doesn't collect Barbie dolls in their original packaging.  She doesn't have a newspaper fetish.  She does have massive amounts of knick knacks, tons of unsorted mail and enough furniture to redecorate the white house.  Okay, that last bit might be an exaggeration, but seriously, there's a lot of stuff here!

I told my sister some time ago that I would sort through papers.  She was all a fan of this because she doesn't mind so much dealing with stuff.  And I may say, we have made a lot of headway.  That is, until yesterday...

Yesterday the medical equipment guy came.  I expected him to move the hospital bed from downstairs, to upstairs, and he did!  He also dropped off: a walker, a wheel chair, a concentrator, a mobile oxygen unit, another mobile oxygen unit, a back up oxygen unit (looks like a huge helium tank), a commode and a trapeze bar apparatus (in case mom wants to practice a new career move in her spare time).

This unleashed a miasma of brain fuzzle for me.  I don't know what it unleashed for my sister, but worry seemed to be present.  Mom was due home at 2 and this was 11.  We couldn't move in the living room, nor could we get from one end of the main floor to the other without a pole vault.  Not a great place for a woman who can't walk without serious assistance and prayer.

Well, we got her time moved back to today.  We busted ass getting everything arranged into a traversable semblance.  And then, it came down to little collections of flotsam mom has dispersed amidst the flood.  This is where it gets ... creepy.

Sorting through tiny container after tiny container, I've come across archaeologically interesting pieces, such as erasers, bandaids cut in half length-wise, an ancient palm pilot, emory boards, eye of needle, tongue of shoe... and a tiny container shaped like a molar.  Gosh, who could resist?  What would be inside a tiny tooth box?

If you guessed teeth, you're quicker than me.  Somehow I really didn't expect to find teeth inside the tooth box.  Not only are they teeth, but one is a gold crown with the tooth still inside.  And the rest, still have bits of ruddy detritus where I can only imagine bits of my mother are left, dehydrated upon them.

This was moderately gross.  I mean, I got nothing against teeth, but it's just before breakfast and I wasn't expecting it.  I moved on, sorting e-cigarette butts and pill cases, with only a slight shudder and loud exclamation.  Until I came to a small manilla envelope marked "kls".  These are my initials.  Gosh, what could be in this tiny, bulging envelope that has to do with me?

If you guessed teeth, you're gross and right.  There, all four of my wisdom teeth, laid out crown through root, for me to view.  What is going on with all these teeth?  Glech!  And *sudder*

Sunday, March 11, 2012

They Only Want Sex

I've lived in Albuquerque just over a year.  In that year I've been scared, concerned, mystified and sometimes creeped out by cars approaching me, slowing down, pulling over, honking at me and/or the drivers looking intently at me, or rolling down windows while I am walking at night.  I've written about it here before (Going My Way? Hablas Espanol?), though I've noticed it far more times than I've written about.  Friday night... I figured it out.  They think I'm a prostitute.

Okay, I admit I feel a little silly taking a whole year to infer this.  I guess hooking just isn't on my mind a lot.  But I saw it all in action Friday night.

Guess where I was!

If you guessed waiting for the #66 bus, you are right!

Friday night was cold, windy and generally miserable.  A woman stood on the corner.  She looked Hispanic, her dark hair pulled back severely into a pony tail.  I was pretty sure from the start she was a prostitute.  It's not an uncommon place for me to see prostitutes.  She wore no obvious make up, a shapeless coat and regular pants.  She was talking to a guy who was perhaps her roommate? Pimp? Boyfriend?  A white SUV turned the corner onto Cardenas and pulled ahead far enough to not be seen from busy Central Ave.  The woman walked back to meet him.

Just after that I saw a police car turn up Valencia, one block down from Cardenas.  I winced thinking of the whole thing as a set up.  The roommate/pimp/boyfriend saw too.  "Aw shit" he said.  "You better go save her" I offered.

He yelled to her to get away, something about the cops and a few choice words about the urgency of the matter.  She stalked back looking fit to kill.

"Why'd you do that for?" she yelled.
"D' Fuckin' Cops!!!  They just turned up there!" he yelled back.
"I was gonna take 'im to th' apartment!" she countered.
"Well, den fuckin' GO to the apartment!" He was perhaps a little ticked at his reception for trying to do something nice.
"You lost me my Fuckin' Lick!" she accused.

(Is that what we're calling a trick now?  Or was she planning only a blow job?  Anyway, thanks for the vocab lesson.)

They both stalked off together after that, maybe going to 'th' apartment.'  I waited on for the bus.  Soon, a light silvery sedan pulled up to the stop sign at Central and Cardenas.  The driver was a white man, with a shock of white hair; his skin sagged slightly.  Had I been close enough, I imagine he had blue eyes.  He waited at the stop sign a bit too long, staring at me, beckoning with a very slight but unmistakable head movement that I should join him on the passenger's side. 

It was my "a-ha" moment.  Light shone down from unseen celestial bodies, giving my mind the glow of enlightenment.  I stared back at him, bemused and enthralled.  It seems he couldn't figure out if I was or wasn't going to join him.

I recognized at this point how media has ruined me for my expectations of hooking.  Why didn't it occur to me before that drivers were presuming (or hoping) that I would sell them sex?  Because I never felt I was advertising.  I mean, you want to sell something you have to advertise right?  I looked down at my current advertisement: large, shapeless dark brown hoodie; a multicolor/green turtle fur head band; a large red, wool scarf; fashionless white sweatpants (they weren't gathered at the hem, but still, not hot at all); and black leather gloves -the kind that look like severed gorilla hands.  Pretty Woman I was not.  More like the colorblind-stay puffed-michelin man.  I wondered briefly if I should don a neon sign advertising as how I am actually not selling sex.  "Not for Sale" or "I don't do it for money" or "I have syphilis AND herpes."

I want to be clear.  I don't have a problem with prostitutes.  I wish prostitution was legal.  I have a problem if someone is forced into it.  I have a problem with people being unable to be honest about it, doing or seeking.  I have a problem with people getting hurt by doing it, buying it, or being sexual with someone who has come away with more than s/he bought.  I have a problem with the amount of resources that are taken by prosecuting and holding prostitutes, also circumstances that give people such limited choices for income that they might turn to prostitution without wanting to.  Still, it's an age old profession and not one that needs to be as dangerous as it currently is.

I admit, as I have had some trouble finding steady work, having someone practically offer me a job was tempting.  I wonder what going rates are these days?

But my realization is enough for me. 

I stood somehow warmed and set apart, that roaring and turbulent night, by my recognition that cars pulling up to me in the night are probably not looking to kill me or kidnap me.  This is, ironically, what I smiled about then, when the next car driving past me, honked and the driver looked expectantly in his rear-view mirror.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

If I'm Not Warm and Fuzzy, Am I Cold and Prickly?

It's a curious relationship we humans have to our cultural status quo.  Some of us are aware of norms that are manufactured by society.  Some of us disregard some norms.  Some of us take them as read and believe in them without separating them from the fabric of life.  

Today I'm interested in the expectation that women will be friendly, and what it means when a woman is not. There's a difference between a woman being unfriendly and a man doing so.

How can we know there's a difference?  Well, there's your own, non-scientific research where you watch social interactions and compare... but luckily there's plenty of scientific research on the subject of gender differentiated friendliness.

I wish I had access to a college library system for this.  But some very quick searches (on the google) do reveal scholarly articles on the subject.

The first thing I noticed in my google search was that the bulk of the studies I found were based on the hypothesis that men misinterpret women being friendly as a signal of sexual interest.  While, my point isn't to write about sex right now, this indicates something important when men show negativity towards an unfriendly response from a woman.  (Sorry, apparently gay people are again left out of the mainstream of research on this one. Ditto transfolk.)  

Not to be outdone there was this article (supposedly based on a study though they don't mention which) that tells women and men how to be hot:

Guess what the results are!  Women: be friendly, Men: don't be friendly.  

Whether this article is based on good scientific data or not, it's important for another reason.  It really shows what is expected from society because it's written from a social interaction perspective by people in this society.  Even if they're just giving us opinions... this is an opinion that's out there in force!

That article has this to say about the "happy/friendly" display:
"Happiness appears to convey femininity and low dominance to both sexes. It also indicates sexual receptivity..."
And, under "what men find sexually attractive" they quote the study:
"A friendly woman is likely to be more sexually receptive than a high status woman. Men find appeasement in a woman more appealing than pride.
Indeed, perhaps because women are known to smile (the key behavioral component of the happy display) more frequently than men, happy displays have been associated with femininity." 

Speaking of smiling, I remember this particularly in readiness.  (That's where they stick you between kindergarten and first grade if you're not socially or mentally developed enough.  For me it was probably social; I hated kids, they hated me... it worked.) I would walk down the hall with a sour look on my face.  Maybe it was one of those "this sucks and I'm scared" looks... I don't know.  But I remember that the older girls (and sometimes boys) would pass me in the hall and smile at me.  This made me frown more because I distinctly felt that they were only smiling at me because their mommy told them to.  That and some of those boys were the same ones who were mean and boisterous on the bus in and I couldn't make sense of the disparity.

I know, you see why I was in readiness?  But seriously, the point is that friendliness is a taught skill.  And we teach it differently to boys and girls.

Given all this, perhaps not as a rule but as a general, the response I recently received to an "unfriendly" email I sent, no longer surprises me.  It does, however, make me sad. 

It started two Tuesdays ago.  I received an email from someone with whom I used to be intimate.  It had been a difficult relationship, lots of stops and starts, but passionate on my part.  It ended badly.  He tried to make contact about a year ago (4 years after the end of our initial relationship), but it was hampered when he stopped responding to emails.  I was a bit surprised to hear from him again.

Given our history, I wasn't inclined to be super warm and fuzzy.  He said he was interested in reconciliation.  (I eventually decided that I am interested in closure but not at the time I wrote this email.)  Here's the email I sent (note that what I refer to at first is my response to his question about what form I see the process of "reconciling" with him will take):

Well, I don't really.  Only because it's not something I'd thought about before you mentioned it.  If I understand you correctly (and do correct me if I'm wrong), you'd like to clear up old feelings that may still be lurking from the tough stuff we went through in the past towards the purpose of having a new relationship.  I am a little unclear what kind of relationship you're interested in.  You mention that we used to be friends and more and you'd like to be able to call me the same.  Does that mean you're interested in a sexual relationship again, or to have a friendly connection, or something different?

I will be kind towards you, certainly, without being unkind to myself.  As for a particular relationship (of whatever sort) I'm not sure what you can bring to my life right now.  I'm willing to consider that there is something you can bring to my life, and at the same time, you're right, there are misgivings left over from the past that make me hesitant. 

I am a different person than I was.  For instance, I'm more likely to see bullshit than I used to be.  I'm less likely to put up with it, although I am likely to be kind if I choose to point it out.  I'm less sweet (if I ever was) and more direct. 

If we're going to talk about stuff now or in the past, being direct and honest with me is the one thing that will make the biggest difference.  It's one of those things I understand why it's so difficult for a lot of people, what with vulnerability, not wanting to tip one's hand to the other person, potential hurts.  I can promise you that I will never try to hurt you but understand that you may feel any number of things that I don't intend.  And I know I'm hypersensitive to manipulation/dishonesty.  If I feel those things, I'm very likely to get clammy and retract and possibly even call it out -which can be tough because with stuff like honesty, it's my feeling and another person's word, and I hate conflict, but I've learned that sometimes I need to go through it.

I know I don't sound terribly friendly.  I don't mean to be unfriendly, only direct about what I need if we're going to communicate.  I am willing to be open about my feelings and what happened in the past so far as I remember it.  I'm not likely to go back, pick through past correspondence to point out some minute point.  That goes towards who's right, in my opinion, and I'm not interested in going there.

Let me know what you think, where you've been since I last knew or anything else you think is pertinent.

I'm not going to post his response because I think it would be terribly rude.  Suffice it to say, he sounded displeased.  He used phrases like "definite sharp edge" regarding my email and upheld ideas that might have been meant to garner some recognition that I wasn't playing by the rules, like by saying that he was holding the olive branch.  I think he also took my ideas about self protection more personally than I meant, saying stuff like he's not going to bullshit me.  I can see how that could happen, though I didn't mean it personally.

I find myself wondering if an email, like the one I sent, had been sent by a man, if he would have had such a censuring response.  I have no way to tell, but I was pissed.  There have been a number of times when I've stated clearly to a man what I need in any given situation and he takes great offense. 

My suspicion is that this all has to do with men feeling uncomfortable about lacking dominance in a situation.  This is not meant as an aspersion toward men; this is how men are trained to be men here.  Can you have two people be dominant at once?  If I'm strong (I'm not especially vying for dominance), does that mean he is submissive or weak?  Does submissive equal weak?  Can I state what does and does not work for me with strength without a man feeling that I'm creating a hostile environment?  

In my mind the ideal is that this sort of thing runs as a kind negotiation.  We don't have to be overtly friendly but be kind to each other and state clearly what will work for each of us.  I have a feeling that if I'd been able to say the content of my email through voice (preferably face to face), my tone would have been better understood.  That said, I think it's likely that if I'm going to state my position with strength and clarity to men, I'm likely to run into this a lot.