Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The View from Outside of Stepford

For some reason I had a Stepford Wives dream the other night.  I don't remember it very clearly, I just have a sense of it.  I remember being in the kitchen during the climatic scene where Katharine Ross' character finds that her friend, played by Paula Prentiss (photo), has been transformed.  But I don't know if I was one of the characters or just watching, but if it was the former, I don't know who I was - the robot or the real, independent thinking woman still.  I don't even know really what was rattling around in my head that caused my unconscious mind to pull a file from the "way back when" section of the memory banks.  I haven't seen the movie in decades, but that kitchen does make it into the occasional dream of mine because, as much as I was old enough to get and appreciate the cultural message the writers were putting out there, I was still in love with that kitchen and wanted one just like it when I grew up, no matter if that made me a wife-bot or not.  So, maybe I was dreaming about the movie simply because I was subconsciously railing against my teensy kitchen, or maybe there was a deeper issue I was trying to delve into and my mind dressed it up in a mid-70's horror flick to give it context.  I think it related somehow to the fact that I had recently seen one of my favorite X-Files episodes, Arcadia, so mass conformity was on my mind, but it still struck me as wildly random that I would have a dream about being any kind of wife at this particular point in my life, since I'm the furthest removed from being a spouse that I have been for over half my life.  Who knows, maybe that has something to do with it in and of itself.  But anyway, here I was, dreaming about a movie that was made when I was a teenager (not the 2004 remake - I never saw it for one thing) that centers around the "ideal" wife from a man's perspective.  Therefore, when I was pondering the dream and trying to work out what it was I was trying to work out, if you will, it occurred to me to ask the question:  what is it exactly that men do want in a woman?  Because I don't know that we as women have it figured out exactly.

Demi Moore seems to think it's the eternal appearance and affect of youth.  Miley Cyrus seems to think it's sex.  Yet, last I knew anyway, neither of them are exactly scoring points in the committed relationship game right now.  I would hazard a guess that if you polled a random sampling of people, both men and women, they'd say "compatibility".  I would test that theory if I had a random group of people around to ask, but I don't, so take it for what it is:  just a guess.  But, I think it's probably the rote answer I would give someone and probably because it's what we think we're supposed to believe.  But, let's face it:  yes, we want our significant other to be compatible with us, but we also want a little wrapping and a bow on the package too.  Ideally, ladies, don't we want our compatible partner to look like a Wahlberg or a Crosby (okay, that's me that wants that - but you catch the drift)?  And, c'mon, straight fellows out there, tell me you haven't fantasized about the perfect mate looking suspiciously like J-Lo?  Nothing unnatural or wrong about that, particularly if you look at your mate and believe you see a bit of Donnie/Mark or Jennifer in there somewhere, if only - and maybe especially - because you love them and that's what colors your lenses.

Of course, then you might also want to add that you want someone to understand you, which is more than just liking the same things you do.  And that's a little more complicated.  Understanding that I like Steelers football and finding that attractive because you like football too is one thing.  Understanding why I actually cried a little when they beat the Ravens on Sunday is something else altogether.  And that's where the division between the sexes gets complicated really to my mind.  We're not the same.  We're just not.  When I hear my single friends talk about the perils of finding a rewarding relationship, I've been known to ponder whether being a lesbian would be easier because you don't have that whole gender gap thing to contend with.  I'll personally never know, however, and I know that because of the little jolt I got when Donnie Wahlberg came on screen wearing this adorable little tweed cap to promote the new season of Boston's Finest.  I was just born that way.  Just like my lesbian friends were born the way they were, so we're playing the hand we're dealt, and so is everyone else out there.  But, the thing is, the older we get the more baggage we bring to any relationship - hetero or otherwise - and that complicates that whole topic of understanding.  Maybe you can relate to being emotional because you're a female, but can you know all the background and life experiences that led to someone needing a team to beat another team SO badly that it would illicit tears of happiness when they did?  Not unless you were right along side of them as they went through it.  So, how does one meet someone who can truly "understand" them?  Seems pretty hard to me.

Your retort then might be that what you meant was someone who "accepts" you.  And ultimately, I think that's probably right.  It's the key ingredient, and it's a bigger part of the recipe the older we get and have more to accept, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

But, truly, what I was chewing on in light of the particular subject matter of my dream, was whether men really want women to be obedient.  Would any man in today's day and age really want to be partnered with a Stepford wife?  I don't know any women who are even close to being one, and for that I'm eternally grateful, but I do sort of wonder if that man is out there.  If perhaps not only is he out there, but if he is part of a large secret society.  Could it be that in point of fact all the men I know secretly want that sort of partner?  I don't know, so I guess I've gone a long way round to ask:  guys, do you?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Raisin' It!

I know I always start posts centering about sports by saying it's not really about the sports.  This one really is just about the sports.  Because, while baseball has never been my thing (hitting a ball I guess is just not as interesting as hitting one another), I have always loved baseball stories.  They seem to touch the best of us as a country.  What's the saying?  Mom, baseball and apple pie.  And while this is not a story about a baseball movie, it could be one.  Maybe it will be someday.  I would like to write the screenplay for it actually - I've even daydreamed about how I would begin it.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't have the ending I had wanted, but it's still a pretty good story.  Problem is, I would need a collaborator because baseball has a poetry that one can only release if one knows and loves the sport.  It's the song of a hundred summers, of the smell of hot dogs, sweet cotton candy, and fresh dirt and grass.  It's the memory of lazy summer afternoons spent at the ballpark.  And it's the story of the Pittsburgh Pirates and their city in 2013.

To really start at the beginning, you'd have to go back 21 years.  That's the last time the Pirates had a winning season, let alone made the playoffs.  But I wasn't around, so we'll skip ahead.  To 2011 when I first got here.  I knew about them of course.  I saw the t-shirts when I was here in 2007:  "Pittsburgh Pirates:  Re-building since 1992".  After the Pens and the Steelers both won championships in 2009, that was joined by "City of Champions...and the Pirates".  I actually liked that one a lot and considered getting it more than once.  I had heard the songs and listened to the grumbling about the ownership; it was hard not to know how bad they were.  But you noticed something as spring rolled around.  People started sporting their Pirates hats and shirts.  One night as I walked Cheyenne home right at dusk, I did a little survey.  Six out of eight houses (where I could see in their windows to know what they were watching) had the baseball game on.  It would seem that, sorry as they were, people were doggedly determined to stand by their team (although they were very vocal about letting the team know that the general school of thought was that a Little League team could beat them).

But I wasn't the only newbie in town.  Manager Clint Hurdle began his first year with the Pirates that spring.  And a funny thing happened.  They had a mid-season surge and actually battled briefly for first place in the division.  Then they collapsed.  But they got a taste of winning and began last year determined to finish what they started.  For a long while, it looked like they would.  The word playoff began being used with Pirates in the same sentence - and not as a butt of a joke.  Then they collapsed again and not only missed the playoffs, but tacked up yet another losing season.  Yet the fans stayed true.

They were slow to come to the ballpark, but the TV ratings were strong early this season.  Gradually, the momentum was just too much to ignore, and the fans returned to the stands.  For my part, the forced frugality of the season kept me from all but one game, but I watched.  A lot.  Half a century of holding baseball in the same esteem as watching paint dry had been chipped away over three seasons.  I get it now.  I get the connection the fans have with the players - because you know them better.  It's a 162 game season with players pitched (pardon the pun) in singular battle against an opposing pitcher.  You see their faces.  You learn their stories.  And the stories are often interesting.  Like every sport, some are good people.  Some aren't, but you fall a in love a little with the good ones and even sometimes with the bad boys.  And there were lots of good stories about the Pirates that deserved to be heard outside the city limits.

So I was there, glued to the TV when they secured the win that guaranteed they would at least avoid a losing season.  And I was there when they secured a winning season, then a playoff berth.  Then the wild atmosphere when they brought playoff baseball to PNC Park for the first time in its existence in a one game wildcard playoff against the Reds.  And I was watching or listening to all of the series with the Cardinals.  And I cheered when they won, and shared their disappointment when the Cardinals staved off first elimination and then took the series.  I teared up when I saw relief pitcher Jason Grilli, the hurt of the loss so clear on his face, when the Cardinals clinched the series.  But I was thankful.  Because they returned winning baseball to this city that I love so very much.  And they returned my respect for the sports fans here.  They proved to me that people here will stand by their team for as long as it takes.  No matter what.  A Pittsburgh sports fan/Star Wars nerd I follow on Twitter summed it up the best actually:

So I can't do it the poetic justice this season and this team deserves, but I would have been remiss not to address it at all.  I hope someone with a deeper love of the game is penning a great story of this season that captures all the magic of it.   Because it's not just the tale of mom, apple pie and baseball, but of redemption and renewed hope.  Somewhere Roberto Clemente must be smiling down on these guys.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Life: After ED and Other Things

I glance through these posts made by these moms on this online support group I belong to, and I realize that the world of eating disorder treatment has passed me by in a few short years.  They're mentioning different philosophies of treatment, debating them, asking one another questions about them and sometimes getting in some rather spirited debates about them, and I'm often left scratching my head because I have no idea what they're talking about.  I think back to some of the things that were accepted theories about the disease when Kelsey was first diagnosed versus what is being espoused now and think that we lived during the dark ages.  Of course, others who are a generation or two before Kelsey would then have the right to say their experience was positively prehistoric.  It's great news on the one hand because it speaks to time and attention being spent on a condition that kills people, but there is the other side of the coin that leaves people like me bereft because it didn't come fast enough for my loved one.  But, be that as it may, the real point here is I feel sort of "apart" from them.  I lived with this disease for nearly a decade.  Kelsey made the ultimate sacrifice to it.  I know ED.  Whatever you say about it and what causes it, I've been inside the belly of the beast.  I know what it does.  Yet, what I don't know about anymore are the tools in the arsenal to combat it.  And a lot of that is of my own doing.  I made a conscious choice to back away from the disease to an extent.  I've got a job, I've got multiple pets with multiple needs, I live in the city of my dreams near all my favorite sports teams, and I've got this little cottage to tend to.  My cup runneth over.  What do I need with The Beast who stole the life of a wonderful and talented young woman, and still monkeys around with the psyche of her equally wonderful and talented little sister?  Nothing, yet everything.

Because it's been on my mind lately that, try as I might to make it so, there is no life after ED actually.  It was, is and will always be a part of me.  It's an intricate thread that weaves the fabric of my life together.  I think the people who remain actively involved in combating the disease, much like cancer survivors who volunteer in cancer awareness programs later, have figured that out.  You can try and walk away, but it will follow.  So, why not take the experience and use it to help others?

I've kept my toe dangling in the pool by being a part of that group of mothers and being a peer grief counselor with NEDA (not that I've done much good there, but...), but I've never dove all the way in.  Even with the online group, I back away sometimes and refuse to read their posts for a while.  Not sure why, but then I'll go back to reading them every day and actively commenting.  Again, not sure why.  I mean, I realize it's because my strength to face the very familiar concerns they share ebbs and flows, but I'm sure not what triggers that.

The National NEDA Conference is in a few days in Washington DC which is not too far from here.  It's a really quick flight and a do-able drive, so why am I not there?  Well, work, dogs and - yes - sports are all reasons, but as I read a post by a woman from Austin whom I actually know who is getting ready to go, I think that I've been a slacker and turned my back on a cause I should be knee deep into.  If I were passionate enough, I would resolve all those conflicts and go.  Yet, I can't imagine doing it.   I am horribly conflicted at the moment.

I've always said not to commit to volunteering until you're ready, so why do I feel so bad?  I'd like to tell you it's because it's like a scab that itches before it heals.  Maybe I'm getting closer to being ready to dive in.  Maybe.  I want to make sure my motives aren't wrong first.  That I'm doing it because I'm committed to defeating a killer as opposed to wanting recognition and sympathy or trying to achieve a sense of self-importance.  I don't know that it's a bad thing to want people to know Kelsey's story so they don't forget her.  She shouldn't be forgotten.  Her pain and struggles should serve a purpose.  She would want that, I think.  But when I think of it, I become exhausted.  I am tired to the bone just writing this.  No, I don't think I'm there just yet.  They will need to carry on at this year's conference without me.  Maybe next year.  Maybe not.  I'm not sure.

But, as I chew over all of this, I do think maybe this is one of the last few things I have to struggle through before I can say that I'm fully ready to get on with life.  That might surprise you.  Maybe you thought I already was.  Sometimes I think so too.  But, I think there are a few benchmarks I can't hit yet, and maybe embracing the fight against the disease that ripped through our family is one.  Learning to have fun without a secret sense of self-loathing is another.  And finally, forgiving oneself.  That's a big one.  I may act like I've got all that together.  But, not quite.  Not quite.