April 18, 2005

The way we live now, Part I

Last week I received another e-mail from Serena: the new medications aren't working. So it's time for a new cancer treatment, a different "protocol," as they say in med-speak. In English, the translation is, things are not looking good. Actually, things are looking grim.

Serena's tone was upbeat, but I have been unable to reply, because she's the one who's sick, and I'm the one who would burst into tears if I tried to talk to her. Perhaps I'll send her a postcard about Africa. Or about the off-White Rabbit. What can I say?

Telling her my mom is about to have noncosmetic surgery for the first time in her life is not something Serena needs to know. I'm nervous -- as the older, more responsible, and closer in proximity sibling, I'm the one with the health care proxy. Mom will stay overnight in the hospital where she last spent a night -- 41 years ago -- when my brother was born. It's two blocks from my house.

(My brother lives 1,000 miles away, and while his wife has recovered from her hysterectomy, her daughter, the former teenage terrorist, is extremely ill and several hundred miles from where my brother and current sister-in-law live.)

Might Serena want to know that my reaction to bad health news from anyone this year is to have sex? I can't get much more life-affirming than that. This weekend was the first time in more years than I can count that I brought home someone I hadn't known for 20+ years. (I went downtown to hear my college friend's band, and my connection with him goes back 25+ years. He remembers better than I how and where I lost my virginity, but that is a story for another time.)

In this day and age, my one "virtuous" act is not to have intercourse without latex. I say that laughingly, because the friend of a friend (aka a slut and a gentleman) with whom I spent Friday night didn't expect to have sex because he didn't have any condoms. If I hadn't already been lying on the living-room rug, I would have fallen off my chair and landed there: there is not a drawer in my house that doesn't contain safe-sex items.

Be prepared is the Boy Scout motto. It has served me well, in many capacities. Plus, I've made it this far without testing my reproductive system's ability to multiply, and I plan to carry on that way until it is no longer a factor.

No matter what age, boys will be boys: the compliments on body parts that developed of their own accord haven't changed. (At my age, I'm grateful. When I was younger I thought, thank you, but these breasts are not a news flash.) What has changed is, these days, when the boy (50+) involved is living with someone else, you are presented not with an office phone number but with an e-mail address.

Hey, I get the point. I may not like the point, but I get the message. A good time was had by all (that is to say both; I haven't been invited to an orgy since college) that night. While I might like more such evenings to ensue, there's another boys-will-be-boys clause that suggests it won't: men of any age seem to think that once I've been seduced (or the seducer), follow-up is optional.

Few recognize that I'm the kind of girl who does not believe that being in an altered state of mind gives one a get-out-of-the-house-free card for not having the maturity to say more than "good-bye. It's been real," when we part.

I know precisely what a consenting adult is, and I am one. However, I also have the manners of the lady whom I was raised to be, on which I fall back when emotion is not appropriate to express. I can be a lady and a tramp just as well as I can sleep with a slut and a gentleman.

To this day I'm not sure men believe women realize that it takes two. When TCP called me "an easy lay" in college, I was genuinely perplexed. I believe I said, "You were there, too. What does that make you?"

From an earlier conversation, I gathered the friend of a friend was a Republican. Here's where my personal politics become an issue: is it one thing to fool around with a Republican, but another to have one as a companion/boy or girl friend? Am I as open-minded about politics as I am about sex? If the chemistry's right, and it's well past late in the evening, I suppose I can mostly leave political leanings, unless misogynist, in the newspaper for the off-White Rabbit's use.

There are places where I draw the line -- being bisexual, the first is a no-brainer. Having become a teenager the year Roe v. Wade was passed, so is the second. Coming from an addictive family, I definitely have to give substance abuse a pass. I've been a leading actress in that movie for a lifetime, with no opportunity to turn down the role, no matter how it has evolved.

Surprisingly, perhaps, I don't want equal rights -- I have no desire to be a man in any way, shape or form (except in the woods, where the facilities are lacking). I'm quite happy not to be cannon fodder. I do want equitable rights, and I will protest every day of the week to have and keep them. As a one-time woman's historian, I am well aware of how women have been undermined and denied access -- legally to be her own person, to knowledge, to suffrage, to financial credit in the past. And I won't stand aside while my civil rights are trampled.

Looking back at 20+ years with The Croquet Player, I don't think we ever discussed politics. In later years, TCP and I argued about taxes, but there was something amusingly domestic about the capital gains vs. dividends debate, one that is no longer relevant courtesy of a president I whose politics I abhor on every social issue and whose intelligence I question, but one whose economic policies have benefited me.

CC used to complain about politics, but since she never registered to vote, even if I agreed with her position (usually), I had to point out that those who don't register their opposition in a so-called democratic society have neglected a critical part of standing up for First Amendment rights -- specifically, getting her ass to the polls to articulate what she claimed to believe.

That is not to say I'm not as hypocritical as the next person on April 15. The federal tax cuts were quite appealing. I ended up owing more money to New York State and City. However, when I pay locally, I see where the money goes. Pay nationally, and I'm funding a war abroad and domestic policy I don't consider fair or warranted, so the tax cuts, ironically, benefit my own positions on big issues-of-our-day. (I don't think anyone in Congress saw that one coming.)

The only federal contribution I feel decent about is the one that subsidizes health insurance for my friends who work for U.S. government agencies like the EPA. The TSA, on the other hand, falls into the just-when-you-think-you've-met-the-stupidest-person clause I've discussed previously. Let us not venture into the Patriot Act or the right to privacy.

I attended a panel on journalism this weekend, and I couldn't have been more pleased that when the TV network news guy said, "who has time to read blogs?", the Pulitzer-winning former New York Times writer replied: "the New York Times." Regardless of my personal opinion -- having been on its payroll -- the Times is well regarded by many, many people. This includes anyone who doesn't know what goes into the creation of a newspaper, a very large number, as I discovered from the questions posed by the other audience members.

My co-bloggers, it does feel good to me that we are being read by people who get paychecks for doing just that. And our opinions are just as valid, if not more so, than their publications' news agendas. No one's paying us, and we proclaim opinions all over the place.

As Joan Didion once wrote: "writers are always selling someone out, usually themselves." That's a choice I've made here, and it's not brought to you by corporate sponsorship.


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

12:08 AM  

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