I exist

 

 

I just saw Sing, an animated movie about, you know, aspiring musicians.

 

I am almost in tears with joy.

 

The plot is the usual about will the singers make it and will the impresario be able to keep his theater. (Spoiler: Happy ending.) The characters are all anthropomorphic animals.

 

But I was weepy with what I didn’t have to give up to enjoy this movie: My self respect.

 

You see, I am a woman. And in order to enjoy movies made past the Bette Davis/Katharine Hepburn era, I have to suspend my sense of self-worth.

 

You may have heard, in the theater, of the expression “suspend your disbelief.” In order to enjoy a lot of theater and movies, you have to suspend your disbelief, and believe that problems can be truly solved in an hour and a half, or that no one ever needs to go to the bathroom.

 

But, also. . . in order to enjoy The Princess Bride, I have to be ready to accept that in the entire country of Florin, no two women ever say anything of importance to each other. To enjoy any action film, I have to accept that the hero can be 25 years older than the heroine and ugly but they fall in love just the same.

All the Minions are male. Most of the Muppets are male, and those that are not are mostly blondes. Even Frozen, after you got past the sisters, the main characters were male and most of the dialogue was given to male characters even though the plot was about sisterhood. And their mom didn’t speak at all.

As a young woman, I barely existed. As an old woman, I don’t exist, except maybe as a murder victim or somebody’s mom.

In Sing, however, I EXIST. There’s a middle aged woman—OK, she is a pig—a mother of many, who goes to the audition after having had the problem of finding care for her children.

 

Not only does she get to sing, the movie highlights her skill as an engineer.

 

There is also a porcupine emo teenager, who dumps her boyfriend after he betrays her, and is amazing at playing guitar and writing songs. They make the story about HER, not about her reaction to the boyfriend.

 

And a young woman, an elephant, who has a beautiful voice but crippling stage fright.

 

Here’s the clincher: Not only do all of these characters get to perform, none of them has to undergo a makeover.

 

They stay plump for the whole movie.

 

And no one even mentions it.

MY. GOD.

My fave holiday special

Now, THIS Christmas show I like.

 

Some time ago I wrote about a holiday movie I just can’t stand.

 

Here’s one I love: The He Man She Ra Christmas special.

I’m serious.

 

Does it fill me with Christmas spirit? Well, no. That is OK. I’m a grown up.

But it is a good story, and has these advantages.

 

  1. More than passes the Bechdel Wallace test. This is a measure that asks whether there are women who talk to each other about something other than a man. This show is Bechdel plus! Mermista, She Ra, Peekablue, Alicia—a bunch of characters talk to each other about other things than men. And it’s Mermista and She Ra that save the day by getting the crystal! (Whoops, spoiler.)
  2. Racially inclusive. The little boy in the show is named Miguel.
  3. Size inclusive. While it is true that most of the characters are running around nearly naked (and I do mean running) Miguel’s father is a large sized man and is not used for comedic effect.
  4. Transition of Skeletor. Yes, Skeletor becomes the good guy for this episode. But wait, there’s MORE! Skeletor finds the transition from total bad guy to the person saving the children to be a painful change. Yes, in the He Man She Ra special, it is acknowledged that change is emotionally difficult. I love that.
  5. They address both the Bible story and Santa.
  6. The children, who are away from their parents, are allowed to miss them.

 

The animation is of the so bad it’s good variety. I suspect that the writing was so good, and so progressive, because it was made at the height of He Man’s popularity, and the writers figured they could get away with anything.

 

It’s not Christmas in this house until we see He Man and She Ra.

For real.

NaNoWriMo

It’s December 6, and I am still resting from National Novel Writing Month. I took time off my blog to write a novel.

 

If you have never done NaNo, I invite you to try. There’s not a cost, and all you have to do is meet a daily word count. As my 11 year old daughter noted, it doesn’t even have to be good.

 

Two truisms about writing: Write what you know, and Write the novel you want to read. So I wrote historical fiction, which I am rabid about.

 

But who else wants to read a fictionalized account of the Wallis-N-Edward story?

 

Also, I can’t even ask for a Beta, because I am at the point of I only want to hear nice things about my baby. I worked so freaking hard on this thing, writing for 2 hours a day before work, and that was AFTER reading a bunch of full length bios on Wallis, Edward, and a gazillion of their friends and relatives.

 

Did I say friends? they had few of them.

 

If you wanna be my Beta, let me know. But I tell you ahead of time: I am only in the mood for sycophants.

 

 

 

 

HAIR

 

HAIR

I’m hairy noon and nighty night night!

 

Not that hairy. My hair is medium thickness, mostly straight, and I usually keep it in a long pageboy. Like Jo March, I am aware that my hair is beautiful.

I recently learned that Locks of Love throws out most donations as un needed, and learned that wigmakers will buy your hair on order—in other words, unsolicited donations of hair are not actually useful, but if you make an appointment and get cash for your hair, it will really make a wig. For that reason I am growing my hair long. But to keep it long, it does need the dry ends cut off, regularly.

 

I can trim my own bangs but have not figured out how to get the back even.

 

I HATE GETTING MY HAIR CUT.

 

The sexism makes me want to cry.

 

It is amazing and appalling that in this day and age, salons are allowed to charge, “Men’s Cut, 15 dollars, women’s 20.” (Children’s 11.)

 

Rather than by the cut.

 

My brother, who has curls, cowlicks, and a bald spot, and has to get complicated layers as a result, pays less than I do for a plain trim.

 

Well, not always. I have found several salons that will cut my hair for a man’s price. But they are not always open when I need them.

 

The fact is, when I make an issue about it, I ALWAYS WIN.

But my brother does not have to decide, every time he gets his hair cut, whether he is in the mood for a fight. He can just GET HIS HAIR CUT.

 

Perfectly reasonable people have told me to simmer down, that women tend to get more complicated cuts than men, it is not really sexism. They look straight at me and my long page boy while saying it.

 

THEN. CHARGE. BY. THE. COMPLEXITY. OF. THE. CUT.

 

Kids’ cuts are generally one price—apparently when girls turn 18, they magically want more elaborate cuts than when they are 17.

 

This article is more articulate than I about gender based pricing.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/the-extra-cost-of-being-a-woman-214445601.html

In many places it is illegal to charge differently by gender, and this illegality is generally cheerfully ignored. I’d love to hear of a salon being shut down for illegal pricing the way convenience stores get shut down for selling a beer to a teenager, but it does not happen.

 

Try to imagine if the signs said, “White haircuts 15, black 20.” Try to imagine if the sign said, even, “Coarse hair 15, thin 20.” “Republican hair 15, Liberal 20.”

 

 

But here’s what takes me from sad to MY BLOOD IS BOILING.

 

Right now, in 2016, a few days before, for fuck’s sake, the FIRST woman endorsed by a major party is on the ballot for president, right now, when walking around town—and I live 4 blocks from my work—I might see five signs saying women are charged more for a service solely on basis of their gender—RIGHT NOW people tell me there is no need for feminism in the Western World.

 

Fuck that.

SO. MANY. FUCKS.

 

It is not “just hair.” It is the fact that the sexism is so accepted, it’s on hand written signs all over the city. It’s the fact that the patriarchy is so entrenched that when I point out that charging more for a cut just because I am a woman is nonsense, both women and men look at me with pity because they think I am over reacting. OVER REACTING to an economic punishment for having matching chromosomes that I must revisit EVERY month in order to abide by my culture’s standards of beauty????????

Take your willful ignorance and . . . goddamit, I can’t even think of anything as hurtful to the willfully ignorant, smug assholes–ANYTHING that can possibly hurt as much as my daily being faced simultaneously with blatant sexism and patronizing denial.

Advanced boiling it down

 

 

If you have been poor, you are never un poor. We all have seen movies—or maybe even have it in our families—where the ancient ones who now live in Malibu still save toilet paper tubes in case they ever need to start a fire, because they used to pick up coal in the railroad tracks to heat the house during the Depression.

I have had a good job for almost 20 years, but I still get giddy when I use my debit card and the little screen says, “Approved.”

So I will never stop “boiling it down,” getting every last nutrient out of my veg or my meat.

I think it was Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) who said that while necessity is the mother of invention, low budgets are the mother of innovation.  Having been poor—not the type which starves you, but the type where there is nothing in the house but dried beans and spices and only three bucks til the next paycheck, I have gotten really good at discovering food ingredients.

Advanced boiling it down part 1—what to boil down

 

Now that you have gotten good at boiling down a turkey or chicken, you can boil down other things. As in any other bone. You are going to get broth, yes, but also you will probably get some oil or fat, and you’ll want to figure out how to best use that. But first, boiling bones.

 

You can boil bigger bones right in the meal you are going to have, by which I mean you can leave a ham bone in ham soup. Do not do this with any poultry bone, as they are small and could pose a choking hazard.

If you boil the bones quite clean, you can throw them in your composter. They will add niceness to your compost and not add a bad smell, as long as you have made them clean.

 

Yes, you will see me collecting the bones from steaks my family has consumed—they are going to be boiled, remember?? Same with KFC, which makes a fabulous base for soup. Alison Arngrim, who once played Nellie Oleson, said in her memoirs that take out chicken should not be used for soup, but I find the 11 herbs and spices quite a time saver.

 

It’s up to you whether you want to segregate the bones. A soup base made from multiple animals is usually delicious, but if you are going to use the fat, you want to segregate.

Advanced boiling it down Part 2–using the fat

WHAT? FAT IS BAD, why is she USING THE FAT????

First, how: After the broth is done, and the bones are removed, put the broth in a bowl in the fridge. When the fat has solidified, you can either discard it or use it. Your call. It will rise to the top, and you can easily peel it up.

Different fats have different tastes and qualities. By qualities, I mean both the temperature at which it burns, and what the fat does to whatever you are cooking.

Most of us purchase olive oil, corn oil, butter–some form of fat is necessary in cooking, and some kinds provide nutrition. Why throw away something you are going to purchase later in the week? Animal fats CAN be used.

Butter makes anything yummy but burns at a low temperature so you can’t use it for making popcorn, for example. You CAN add a butter taste to popcorn cooked in corn oil by adding a small amount of butter to the oil in which you cook the popcorn.

Chicken fat is good for sautéing. Lard—pork fat—is good for deep frying. Beef fat is tricky. It is good for deep frying but it also solidifies to a rock-like consistency that makes it hard for me to use. Also, it makes food taste good but, to me, does not smell good, so I don’t use it very much. McDonald’s used to prepare their French Fries in beef fat. They were delicious.

Old folk tales tell of the poorer people using tallow candles, richer people using wax. “Tallow” is beef fat, which gives you an idea how hot it has to be before it burns.

My favorite is the fat from a ham. It melts nicely, can be used for sautéing or deep frying, and adds a wonderful, salty taste.

Most animal fats give a flavor and crispness not provided by corn oil.  The very thing which makes olive oil so wonderful–if used right you may barely notice it–is what makes animal fats so paradoxically useful: You always know what you have.

If I die while I’m still young enough to be an active cook, I pity the person who has to clean my freezer, who will find a selection of unlabeled fats. I know what they are and how to use them without labels, you see.

And I’ll go to my grave knowing that at least in the kitchen I have kept waste to a minimum.

 

I GOT LIPS

One tough thing about being an agnostic is I don’t have enough swear words.

 

No god means no way to damn people.

 

Jessica Valenti pointed out, as well, in her book Full Frontal Feminism that most swear words are really a way to insult women. You insult a woman by pointing out that she is one, “You BITCH!” and insult a man by saying there is something woman ish about him, “You pussy!”   Also, male sexuality is good, “He’s got balls!”and female sexuality is bad, “You slut.” You can just as easily say a man is gutsy by saying something is a “dick move” as say it is jerky.

 

So, for years, I have had my mild swear phrase, the equiv of “He’s got balls,” to reclaim female sexuality.

 

As Betty White pointed out, balls are pathetic, anyway.

Me, I got LIPS.

 

I am one LIPPY lady. I got the lips to stand up to you, not take any of your bullshit.

 

Before I go into a tough situation, I ask myself if I got the lips to get through it.

 

Generally, I do. I’d consider it a favor if you’d acknowledge your strength by saying you, too, got lips.  Just throw me the credit now and then.

 

I GOT LIPS.

Horror Story

I am a librarian, which basically means I think for a living, which is a wonderful, wonderful job.

 

So, because of what I do, people are sometimes surprised to learn what I read in my spare time: celebrity biographies. LOVE ‘em.

They’re like fairy tales for grown ups. I love Hollywood romances, I love rags to riches stories, I love when the bad guy gets what is coming to him, like whoever said Lucille Ball couldn’t act.

 

Sometimes I like the sad stories, which put my sorrows in perspective. If you ever want to feel REALLY lucky, read about Gene Tierney.

 

Well, in this week’s celebrity headlines (not a book, I confess, but still) was Jim Carrey, in the most horrible story that ever lacked bloodshed.

 

His ex-girlfriend, who was married when he was with her, committed suicide, and Carrey nobly was a pall bearer at her funeral.

Her husband revealed that he believed Carrey supplied the drugs that she used to kill herself. Yikes, that is bad. And very very sad. And possibly illegal.

But after that, a hand written letter was published, with follow up tweets, that showed Carrey had (likely) given the woman STDs. I don’t mean AN STD, but plural.

OK, these things happen.

 

What made it the most horrifying story I have read in a long, long time was Carrey’s response to her saying he had infected her, which was, “Eh, you might have gotten it from someone before me.”

 

No, no. That is not the correct response.

The response is, “Holy SHIT! You have an STD? What is it? Will you be OK? I didn’t think I had anything, I had better get tested. WILL YOU BE OK?”

 

So he knowingly infected her. And according to texts that are none of my business, it is with two kinds of Herpes—no cure. Her heart breaking letter says she is damaged forever, and that rings true to me.

 

And Carrey bore her coffin at her funeral.

Fitting.

Why am I mad at him? I don’t know him.

What led to his sense of self-absorption that this story ever happened?  Is it white male privilege–the idea that he can do whatever he wants to a woman, because he is the guy? Is it being rich, and surrounded by sycophants?  Was it that he was much older, and likely more dominant as a result? He was divorced from two women his own age; did he only want a woman he could control?

Why do I care?

I guess part of it is validation. I always got a creepy feeling from him, wouldn’t want him socializing with my family, never knew why. (PS, BOOOO on your acting, Carrey; with a truly great actor I pay enough attention to the character that I don’t waste my brain cells speculation what you are like in real life.)

 

I see a story like Carrey’s horrific treatment of his ex and can say to myself, “Ah! I CAN trust my instincts! Next time I get a creepazoid vibe from someone, I’ll believe in myself.”

Or I might say, “WOW. I guess I have been comparatively lucky.”

Boil it down

How to get the most from your turkey carcass.

 

Yay! It is getting cooler!

 

Time to bake, time to broil chickens and turkeys and boil down the carcasses for soup.

 

When my husband and I were just dating, he made a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us. And it was all perfect and I was thinking marriage, and then he WENT TO THROW THE TURKEY CARCASS IN THE TRASH.

 

Oh. No.

 

Deal’s off.

 

No, what really happened is he saw my look of horror and asked me what was going on. I ended up taking the turkey home, returning it as soup, and getting engaged by Christmas.

 

So, here’s what you do:

Put some nice music on, as this will take a while.

When you carve the bird for the first time, carve in medium thick but large pieces. Don’t make them too thin, because they are about to go in the freezer to be served later, and too-thin slices will go dry.

Put the slices in meal-sized portions in freezer containers and get back to the bird.

 

This is where, if you are not an expert carver, it is a good thing. You want some pieces still on the bird. When you get to where carving is no longer realistic, pull pieces off—this will be in the chest cavity area. Smaller pieces can be chopped (later) and used in fried rice or in soups or casseroles.

When you have all the meat off you can reasonably pull, put the carcass in your crock pot and cover it with water, not too deep. You can also (and should) throw in all the veg which have wilted in your fridge but not gotten slimy yet. Even lettuce can be made into stock, go ahead and use it.

 

Boil until remaining meat is off the bones. That will probably take a whole day. You can go do something else.

 

My mother didn’t have a crock pot until I was in High School, but we made stock this way, anyway, by putting the pot of stuff on a cooler part of the woodstove. This could be why I tend to make stock in the fall and winter, even though I DO own a crock pot—all through my childhood we tended to make stock only when the wood stove was operating.

 

OK, so! The meat has fallen off the bones. Let it cool to what used to be called “blood warm.” Not all the way cool, or the fat will congeal and make your life difficult.

 

Put a colander in a large bowl, and pour the meat, bones, and stock into the colander.

 

Go change the music, because this next part will take a while.

 

Have a plate for bones, one for meat, and one for things to throw away. You are going to pick through EVERY solid in that colander.

 

When you have separated good meat from bones, and wilted veg from everything else, put the meat in a container in the freezer. THIS meat is the perfect choice for turkey salad, for stuffing tacos, anything where you want the meat to take on flavors of something else.

 

Put the stock in containers in the freezer, too.

 

Now, you are going to re boil those bones.   Add a tablespoon or so of vinegar, which will help leach out calcium and other good stuff. Boil overnight this time.

 

You will note that the first boiling tastes a good deal like commercial stock, while the second boiling will be different in taste.   Both are good. Probably the second boiling is better for you if you are sick, and the first is if you want to make a soup that tastes a lot like Campbell’s.

Besides making soup, a good home made stock adds heft and nutrition to cooked rice, or the dried beans you make into chili.  If you happen to use instant mashed potatoes once in a while, you can restore some vitamins buy using stock instead of water.

 

And now you have wasted less of the bountiful harvest. Well done.

 

Being an old mother rocks

Being a widow stinks. Big time.

 

But being an older mother is pretty great.

 

Apart from people asking whether I like babysitting my granddaughter, it’s much better than I imagine young motherhood would be. (The first time that happened, I was so horrified I ran right over to the drug store and got dye to cover every last grey hair. Guess what. I don’t care, now.)

 

When my daughter has friends over, we make popcorn, and it is a big deal. We measure out the oil and the popcorn kernels and listen for the popping, and then melt butter to pour over it. It takes a long time, and it is fun. I can entertain an entire cadre of sleepover kids this way.

 

Of course younger parents CAN do this. But for me it is natural, not something I have to learn.

 

I believe I am more patient than I would have been as a younger mother. I can’t prove it, I just believe it, based on the type of person my 20 year old diaries reveal me to have been.

 

I love that by the time my daughter was born, I had already finished college, had a good career, saved some for retirement. I’d achieved enough of my dreams that I would never blame the ones I where I didn’t succeed on the burden of her existence.

 

I admit there are areas I would like her to succeed in where I failed, but being older and more established than my own mother was, I am better able to provide my child the support she needs to succeed—in HER dreams, not mine.

I’ve lived through a lot of fashion trends and music trends, so I don’t think THIS generation is up to no good. “Revealing” clothing now? Naw. I was a teen in the 70s, when nobody wore a damn bra, what do I care about tight Lularoe, or spaghetti straps?

I’m also old enough to know, regarding sexism, that it USED to be we’d notice it but say it was OK (boys are doctors and girls are nurses, that is the way of the world) but now we know sexism is wrong but try to claim that THIS problem is not really sexism (why, of COURSE there’s a good, non sexist reason every single inspirational quote on the school calendar is by a guy!).  It’s rather pathetic as progress goes. And having that sort of perspective makes it much easier to help my child than it would be if I didn’t see the changes as they happened. (Nope, been there, done that, this is bullshit no matter how you dress it up, and my child WILL be on the wrestling team if the only barrier you can come up with is her gender.)

 

Now that I am closer to retirement age than college age, I do have moments of, “What have I done???” This is because I realize that even if I live to be as old as my venerable grandmother, I will surely be dead before my daughter is 50, and that is a sad thing. Nuthin’ I can do about that now, though.

 

I have lots and lots of regrets, but if I had to do it again, I would choose to be a mother older, just as I am.