Name Dropping

Interior, B25 Bomber
“Do you want to put on a flight suit?”

My daughter nodded, a grin starting to form. She had not been one bit happy about being dragged to an air show.

“They didn’t make flight suits that fit women so the ladies had to roll up the legs and sleeves to make them fit.” She zipped up the suit, then rolled up the cuffs. “Come on, I’ll show you how to fly!”

She helped my daughter scramble up the wing and into the cockpit and proceeded to explain how the instruments worked, letting her use the pedals and rudder.

“During World War II, women flew planes like this all over and in some cases taught the men how to fly…”

It was a fascinating thing watching the change that come over my daughter. She held her head higher. She seemed more confident. She positively glowed. It was a striking transformation.

The key?

Her brother was not getting to do this.

I used to think that girls just needed the same opportunities as boys but I am thinking that is maybe less true. If her brother had been there he would have commanded all of the attention. She would have faded to the background. She needed her own opportunity, her own experience. My daughter needed the woman in the B-25 bomber to pull her to the side specially and tell her that she flew in this plane all the time, that girls, that women, CAN do amazing things.

This post was going to be about how grateful I was for all of the women in the world who take the extra time to help girls understand their history, to understand science, to help them reach their dreams.

And then the Boy Scouts announced girls could join up.

Now, I’ll be honest. I know the Girl Scouts are not all about cookies necessarily but that is what the world knows them for. I never wanted to be in the Girl Scouts as a kid. I didn’t want to have to compete at selling cookies. I wanted to do what the Boy Scouts were doing, having adventures, learning survival skills, but I never wanted to join the Boy Scouts because… boys… ick.

As a parent I have not enrolled my kids in either scout program. I simply don’t have time to be jetting off to two meetings and doing camp outs and projects for two different organizations. So, on some level I see the appeal, having both kids in the same program. But girls need their own space to feel special. Too often they get lost in the male crowd. They need mentoring from strong women.

All of this begs the question, what is wrong with being a girl? Why do we have to be more like the boys? Why can’t we be successful and adventurous in our own right? Why do we have to join the boys?

Why do we have to sell cookies?

I don’t think girls who want to join the Boy Scouts are bad but part of me feels the “allowing” girls thing is a bit insulting and maybe a bit embarrassing. Come, girls, join the BOY Scouts! Is being a girl such a shameful thing? Is being different bad? For all of the emphasis on cookies, perhaps the message is that Girl Scouts have missed the point. They are no longer relevant. 

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Blow

Sailboat in the Hudson Bay

“How much time are you spending on social media?” 

“Well, I stopped completely until about a week ago. I’m easing back into it.”

“Really? You stopped it all? Completely?” I tried to keep the suspicion out of my voice.

“Yeah. For about six months.”

“Why?”

“I didn’t like how it made me feel.” There was real, actual eye contact, no phone in sight. 

“Now that you are back at it, what do you think? Does it make you feel good?”

“No.”

“So what do you think you are going to do?”

“We’ll see.” She shrugged. “Maybe I’ll pull the plug again.”

That, folks, is a kid who is going to be all right…

The Boobs Have It

Display in museum in New York City
Do you know how many breasts I have touched? 

Thousands of them.

It is staggering when I reflect upon it. 

So many breasts. So very many. All shapes and colors and sizes. Hairy. Not hairy. Moles and rashes and skin tags galore. Droopy. Perky. Somewhere in between.

During breast exams I have for years and years referred to the exam as the “boob check.” Whenever I made reference to my breasts of anyone else’s I nearly always called them boobs or boobies. 

To be honest, I thought it was cute.

Touching another woman’s breasts makes me uncomfortable, maybe even a bit embarrassed. I feel the same when someone else is looking at or touching mine in a nonsexual, clinical sort of way. So I made fun of breasts and joked about the situation. It took some of the sting out of the situation to act goofy.

One of the many beautiful things about blogging  is that from time to time someone says something that makes me reexamine a part of my life and causes me to make some changes. 

Mark at Exile on Pain Street made a comment on one of my blog posts a while back (ok, maybe it was WAY back in July of 2015) that has stuck with me:

“I hate that word. Boobs…. Boobs sounds comical and crude. It lacks decorum. They’re beautiful! Not something to make fun of.”

This. From a MAN. 

At first, I blew it off. What does he know about women’s bodies anyway? What gives him the right to tell me what is disrespectful about the term boobs. I can can dang well call them anything I want, can’t I? I own a pair after all.

But it ate at me. 

And I felt kind of guilty.

I would take that comment out from time to time and chew on it. The word boob is, after all, another way to refer to someone who is a fool. An idiot. My breasts are way better than that, aren’t they? So are every other woman’s breasts for that matter. They give pleasure. They give life. Right or wrong, so much of who we are as women is wrapped up in these exocrine glands. I would never tell a man to show me his “twig and berries” if I were doing a genital exam. Why do I persist in denigrating the female anatomy during office visits? 

Excellent question.

Yesterday I was telling a woman to change into my lovely blue paper gown so we could do a breast exam when it struck me…

When was the last time I called them boobs?

It had been a long, long time, I realized.

And that made me smile…

Fertility vs. Virility

Gerber Daisy in a pot

“I need help,” she pleaded. “I don’t know where else to turn.” 

“Sure. What do you need?”

“I’m pregnant.”

She was newly married. They were recent college grads, just starting their first jobs and their lives together.

“Congratulations! How exciting!”

Her face crumpled and she began to cry great body wracking sobs. I braced myself. Had he left her? Was she being abused? Was there something wrong with the pregnancy? Had she lost her job somehow?

“My health insurance excludes coverage for birth control. The pills make me so nauseated and the depo provera shot just made me bleed and bleed. I couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for other forms of birth control. So we used condoms. We tried to be careful.” She whispered hoarsely, “I don’t know what to do.” There was terror in her eyes. “My insurance policy excludes coverage for pregnancy. We made calls. All of the OB’s in the area want at least $10,000 up front in cash. We don’t have that kind of money. We have student loans and a mortgage!”

Could health insurance DO that? Exclude coverage for both pregnancy AND birth control? Oh, yes. Yes they could. And it was always hidden in the fine print. It was the young women starting out in life that didn’t know what to look for, the ones most likely to end up pregnant. 

It made me angry for her. What kind of misogynistic world did we live in where this was allowed? Where women are punished for possessing a functional uterus? The United States of America. The bastion of freedom and democracy.

We talked about her applying for Medicaid. 

It felt wrong, though. A woman… married, employed, insured (sort of, apparently) having to apply for Medicaid. That was not what Medicaid was intended for, was it? Once her dates were calculated, the pregnancy predated her employment contract and would have been considered a preexisting condition anyway, even if she did have pregnancy coverage. No matter what kind of policy she had, she was screwed. Literally and figuratively.

The other thing, which no one talked about out loud, was that the OBs who took Medicaid in the area were typically so awful no one with real health insurance would ever willingly use them. There was a huge stigma attached to it all.

So what happened to her, you ask?

She had an abortion.

Despite what you want to believe, hers was not an isolated story.

What a relief it was when the Affordable Care Act worked to changed that. No matter whatever else you felt about the ACA, it was a powerful step forward for women but even it did not go far enough. We all deserve comprehensive medical care that takes care of our entire bodies, not just the parts that correspond to our male counterparts.

But here we are with some people thinking it would be great to go back to that alternate kind of reality.

Well…

Be careful what you wish for.

Pecking Order

Flamingos fighting

Just take a nip 
Here and there
So I can be pretty
Fix my hair
Pull and tuck
Gouge at my eyes
Make me look pretty
Slim my thighs
Whiter teeth
A larger bust
I’m still not pretty
Another adjust
Raise those cheeks
Now my nose
Got to look pretty
Paint my toes
Some fuller lips
Sharper jaw
She is so pretty
Fills me with awe
Chisel me down
Tighter skin
I could be pretty
If I were thin
Sew me up
Dress me up
Give me more pain
So I can feel alive
So I can feel loved 
Still not happy
Just a pinch more
Want to be pretty
Want to be adored
Soon I’ll be there 
You wait and see
Soon I’ll be pretty
Soon I won’t be me

Vented

Floor vents at the opera
There is one of these under every single seat at my local opera house. 

What is it? 

Why, I am glad SO you asked!

Supposedly, they are air conditioning vents. Why the heck would you put an AC vent under each and every seat, right where the butt hole resides?

To keep everyone’s butt cool?

Perhaps.

But I have my other theory….

There is this thing called the gastrocolic reflex. When the stomach distends with a meal, it sends a signal to the colon to make room because more shit is coming down the pipeline. 

Because of how late in the evening the opera takes place, people often eat before hand. What do you do when you need to poo? You start to fart. How old is the opera crowd, on average? Old.

Therefore, operas = old farts.

I can say this because I am one of them.

Now, people who go to operas generally have lots of money. Rich people don’t like farts. Awful smells are very disturbing to their sensibilities. So when you are designing an opera to seat lots of rich people what do you do? You integrate a ventilation system that blows away their farts.

That being said, I sat on the second row yesterday with my kids during an opera aria mashup performance for families. I savored that second row, as it will likely never happen again in my real life. These family things cannot make the opera much money and I am certain that there is not much fame and fortune to be had for performers who do them, but I am grateful, oh so grateful. My son began belting out “La donna e mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto as the tenor’s voice soared and no one glared at him. My daughter followed the female conductor’s baton and crazy hair with rapt attention. “Mommy, I want to do that!” she whispered. 

So here’s a shout out to all of those people who work hard to make the arts come alive for kids. You all make a difference.

A Conversation

Girl sitting on a driftwood stump at a lake
“Mommy, Caden was telling me some stuff about Pluto…” She started to list some facts that were blatantly incorrect.

“Baby, you know that isn’t right. Remember learning about Pluto at the planetarium in Chicago?”

“But Caden said…”

“You don’t have to believe everything Caden says.”

“Yes I do. I’m his girlfriend!”

She is five years old, people. 

Kindergarten.

“Caden? Who is this Caden fellow anyway?”

“He’s in first grade. He’s my boyfriend but we can’t get married until we are twenty-eight. That’s the rule.”

She’s dating an older man?!??!?! Still, 28 is a reasonable age…

“Why do you even have a boyfriend? You can have friends that are boys but you don’t need to have a boyfriend.”

“Yes I do! Everyone at school has a boyfriend or a girlfriend.”

Call me old and outdated, but I sure don’t remember that sort of thing going on in grade school back in my day. And who the hell told her she has to be stupid to earn some guy’s affection?

I remember my mother pulling me aside in high school, telling me I needed to dial it back a bit. “Boys don’t like girls who are smarter than they are.”

Maybe that’s true.

Maybe that’s been my problem all along.

But you know what? 

Bite me. 

My daughter knows that Pluto has a different orbit than the other “real” planets. It is smaller than Earth and is terribly cold. And you know what? It isn’t a planet because it has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Loving someone does not mean you have to agree with their silliness. Why some people still believe this is beyond me. 

She can still “love” you, Caden, but by golly she is gonna teach you ALL about Pluto today…

Gravitational Pull 

giant ringed planets hanging from a glass ceiling at Adler Planetarium in Chicago

I like sex. 

I am a really, really big fan of sex. 

Good sex.

With the right person at the right time, an orgasm is the most deliciously exquisite thing you can ever experience.

Jane, though, asked me what I would say to my kids in 10-13 years if they come to me saying they wanted to have sex. 

Several things….

First, I really DO hope my kids feel they can share that with me when the time comes. 

Second, I hope I can be rational about my response. I will admit that I have serious, legitimate concerns about my staying calm.

Third, I hope that someday they get to experience some really great sex.

By the time they are considering sex, they will already be so sick of listening to their doctor mom talking about STDs, after I show them picture after picture after of the ravages of disease, I won’t even have to say anything more about that.

To my daughter I would say that our first time having sex as women is a very emotional act and ties us to that other person forever. The people in between? Meh. That is hit or miss. Choose wisely with this first one because you will have them in your head, and potentially your heart, forever. 

As women, we bear the brunt of childbirth, child rearing, and disease. Engaging in sex is an expression of self sacrifice… symbolically and often literally giving your life and your future to another person. It can be a beautiful thing or it can become a very painful nightmare. 

And I would also advise her that it won’t be fun, that first time. Painful physically, yes, but not fun. She likely will not achieve orgasm, because let’s face it, boys in that demographic are piss poor lovers. She will have way more fun if she waits.

To my son, I would say many of the same things I would say above. I would also tell him that love is not sex and sex is not love. Some girls do things they will regret because they are desperate for love and they don’t understand the difference between the two themselves. 

I would tell him that controlling himself and his desires and urges is a key part of becoming a man. Control is sexy. Strength of character is sexy, sexier even than physical strength. 

I would make sure they both know how to protect themselves properly from pregnancy and disease. Then I would step back and pray that what I have taught them over the years sticks with them and guides them to good choices.

Kicked Out

 Mother tombstone 
“Mommy, when I am grown up, I am going to live in this house.” She smiled up at me brightly, beaming.

Flashes of grown children not leaving the nest flashed before my eyes. The palpitations started… 

Dizziness… 

Shortness of breath….

“No you’re not!” I replied, firmly. 

“Yes, I am,” she answered calmly. “I am going to be the mommy and I will have my own babies here.”

Confused, I asked, “Where am I living, then? Here?”

“Oh, no mommy. You will have a special apartment somewhere. You’ll live there.” Another sweet smile as she danced off to play with her dolls.

I guess * special apartments* are what they are calling nursing homes now, huh? 

One of the things about focusing on your career first and having kids so much later in life than everyone you grew up with is that you find yourself extra sensitive to this sort of thing…. I will probably be using a walker at their high school graduation as it is.

I think I am doomed.

She already has plans for taking over my clinic. I guess my home was a natural next step.

Well, Then…. 

IMG_3179

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.” Sir Tim Hunt, Nobel prize winner

And then he resigned from his university post.

Aside from inciting some very amusing memes, I am not sure how I feel about the whole thing. 

Thoughts?