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So there’s this article on Fusion titled “Nameplate Necklaces: This s*** is for us” (alternate title: “White Girls: Stop wearing nameplate necklaces”). Obviously, I came across this article because I read Fusion all the time. Just kidding. Obviously, I came across this article because some other white person I follow on Twitter was drawing attention to how crazy it is to add nameplate necklaces to the list of things that are considered cultural appropriation. I’m not actually sure if there is a limit to what “should” be considered cultural appropriation. Being white, I can’t really understand what it’s like to have one’s culture appropriated. I suppose, as a woman who was born female, I can imagine it’s sort of like when Caitlyn Jenner wins Woman of the Year when she’s only been a woman for about 15 minutes. Actually, it’s probably even more like Bono being Woman of the Year when he’s never been a woman for any minutes. Then again, who am I to judge? I don’t know Bono’s life! So I’m back to not really understanding how horrible it is when a white girl wears s*** that’s for women of color.

For the record, I’ve never owned nor worn a nameplate necklace. On the other hand, I don’t know how many things I have worn inappropriately–things I thought I was only wearing but was actually appropriating. I’m suspecting the number is low because I’m pretty white, culturally speaking, and have very little in the way of personal style. I don’t think I’ve ever been cool enough to appropriate something. The only thing I can think of is when I attended my brother-in-law’s wedding in Japan and I wore a kimono for the traditional Shinto ceremony–but that was at the invitation of the Japanese bride. It’s not a thing I would have thought to do on my own, but when someone invites you to her traditional Shinto wedding in Japan and offers you, as a soon-to-be family member, a kimono, it seems like it would be rude to say, “No thanks.” On the other hand, if I just up and decided on my own to wear a kimono someplace, that would probably be considered cultural appropriation.

On our first trip to Japan, my husband and I were visiting a shrine, and a (Japanese) man approached us and pointed out that a nearby tree was known as the “marriage tree.” He brought us over there and showed us how to pay our respects to the tree, or how to bless our marriage via this tree ritual; I’m sorry to say that between the language barrier and my faulty memory, I can’t tell you the precise nature of what he was showing us how to do, and it’s not my intention to sound disrespectful. (Maybe the guy was just messing with us. But he seemed sincere.) To be honest, bowing to the tree felt a little weird to me—not in the sense of “this is foreign and I don’t like it” but in the sense of “I’m not Japanese and I don’t know crap about Shintoism and I feel like a fraud.” But to the man, he was just sharing his culture and inviting us to appreciate it.

So maybe that’s the “get out of jail free” card. If someone invites you to participate in their culture, that’s okay. Maybe if one of my black or Latina girlfriends gave me a nameplate necklace for my birthday, that would also be okay. (Or she could just be messing with me. But friends don’t do that to each other, do they?) The problem is that if I wear my nameplate necklace out in public, no one’s going to know that my friend of color gave it to me. They will probably assume that I am appropriating WOC’s culture, and knowing this, how can I in good conscience wear such a thing? I mean, I could say, “Actually, my friend, who happens to be a WOC, gave it to me for my birthday,” but even I know that’s just what a clueless white person would say. If I were the offended person, I’d be like, “Oh, yeah, I’m sure some of your best friends are black!”

Actually, I don’t think I have any friends of color who would give me a nameplate necklace for my birthday. This is all just hypothetical. It’s something that theoretically could happen. I mean, I never expected to be wearing a kimono to someone’s wedding either.

For the record, the kimono was very beautiful. I’m not sure I pulled it off, what with my red hair and big feet. [1] (Those shoes are the worst. I’m sorry if that’s racist, but at least I won’t be appropriating that part of the culture again if I can help it.) I can understand why someone would want to wear something from another culture because it is beautiful. I guess I can also understand why it gets on a WOC’s nerves when Carrie Bradshaw starts wearing a nameplate necklace and suddenly nameplate necklaces are cool because a popular white girl wore one, even though WOC have been wearing nameplate necklaces for years. But I also can’t help thinking it’s kind of like when hipsters sniff that they liked something before it was cool, and now that it’s cool, it’s been ruined. WOC were enjoying their nameplate necklaces before white girls ruined it for them. I hate to lump anyone in the same category as hipsters, but I just can’t think of a more pertinent example offhand. I understand why it’s different: hipsters are not historically people who have been marginalized by the larger society; they marginalize themselves, on purpose. So of course it’s not the same thing. I get that.

Here’s the thing: I enjoyed reading that Fusion piece, for the most part. I appreciated the author explaining the significance of nameplate necklaces to her and other WOC. It would never have occurred to me that nameplates were a black/WOC thing. I was unaware. I’m glad to be aware of her experience and feelings. What I don’t get is the same thing I don’t get about hipsters being miffed that their favorite band now has thousands of fans who weren’t there from the very beginning: why does it bother you that other people like what you like, even if it’s for different reasons?

I’m sure some people would say that question proves I absolutely don’t get any of the stuff I previously claimed to get, if I don’t get that last part. But I’m trying, I really am. As I said, I’m white—I’ve got the white privilege, I’m lousy with white privilege, along with tons of other privilege. I have zero experience with someone taking an aspect of my culture that is dear to me and cheapening it or whatever else one does when one culturally-appropriates. I can’t even think of a single thing on earth that I think of as belonging exclusively to my demographic group’s “culture.” My husband comes from Scandinavian stock; I can’t decide if this makes him more or less “white” than I am. I have no particular interest in genealogy—it doesn’t do anything for me—but I can trace my ancestors on both sides back about 200 years to…England. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this, as it was an accident of birth I had nothing to do with. (It is kind of a bummer when they have those celebrate-our-diverse-cultural-heritage potlucks. You can’t eat the Magna Carta, amirite?) But to me, everything that’s great about English culture is part of the cultural heritage of every American. It’s not like I own it, as a person of English ancestry; I share it with a host of people who are not of English ancestry, racially speaking. I don’t even think of myself as a person of English ancestry, i.e. that my ancestors lived in England is not a conscious part of my identity. As a white person, I have the luxury of not thinking about my race unless I start writing crap like this.

But like I said, I’m trying. I’m trying to empathize by drawing whatever parallels or hypothetical parallels I can to my own experience. I suppose that as a woman, I am part of a historically marginalized group. Unfortunately, the closest I can get to imagining something like cultural appropriation in that context is my above Caitlyn Jenner remark, which veers uncomfortably close to anti-trans sentiment. I admit that I get a little bent out of shape when Caitlyn Jenner is named Woman of the Year for publicly wearing a dress and painting her nails. Women have been wearing dresses and painting their nails for years, but someone who used to be called Bruce does it and suddenly it’s Woman of the Year stuff. I don’t care if someone who is biologically male wants to live as a woman, regardless of whether she wears a dress or not (women can do anything!)—it’s no skin off my nose, after all. But when someone who lived as a man and enjoyed the privileges of man-living for 60 years claims she’s “just as much a woman” as I am, please forgive me for saying, “Oh, honey.” I mean, what else can I say? I’m happy you’re happy, Caitlyn Jenner, but a newly-transitioned woman winning Woman of the Year is like Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize immediately upon his inauguration: you just haven’t earned it yet, baby. (Alluding to Smiths songs: just what a white girl of a certain age would do.

I say that, and I own it, but I also realize it sounds pretty mean—I reckon it sounds really mean to any trans woman (or person) who has had to suffer through things that I will never understand because I haven’t experienced them. Yet I also notice that this means 45 years of living as a woman, having experiences that a trans woman has never had, qualifies me for exactly zero pronouncements on the nature of womanhood. So trying to relate to the whole “appropriation” issue via my womanhood is a fail.

As a Mormon, I guess I qualify as a religious minority. Historically, Mormons have been marginalized. Some would argue we still are (though I would not, not really). And Mormons are definitely a culture as well as a religion. I’m not sure how one would go about appropriating our culture.[2] It’s kind of hard to nail down in the first place, not unlike our theology. But as long as we’re imagining something super-unlikely, let’s suppose that some not-Mormon person took something that was sacred to us and cheapened or commercialized it. Let’s say some non-Mormon celebrity (famous and therefore influential, sadly) started wearing Mormon temple clothes in public because they thought it looked cool. No one would ever do that, but let’s say they did. Most Mormons would instinctively call that disrespectful and gross, but that’s because it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it for reasons other than mockery. One has to imagine someone wearing Mormon temple clothes because they actually thought it did look cool. It takes a lot of imagination. (You could strain something and hurt yourself, probably.) I can only imagine that my reaction to this sort of thing would be to think a) they look as ridiculous as I do, and b) we appropriated all that temple stuff from the Masons, so they probably have first dibs on being offended.

Anyway, they already made The Book of Mormon musical, which wasn’t appropriation but satire, and plenty of Mormons got their noses out of joint over that because a) Mormons generally don’t appreciate satire and b) Mormons don’t like to be made fun of, especially not with F-words. I did not see The BofM musical, nor do I care to—I have a reasonably high tolerance for irreverent humor, but a fairly low tolerance for scatological humor, which is the same reason I don’t like to watch South Park—but I thought (and still think) that righteous indignation/outrage was a foolish response. It makes us look small, and frankly, insecure. I’m pretty sure Jesus said if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. If you’re going to trash or mock my religion, maybe you’re a jerk (or maybe you’re just misunderstood—I don’t know your life!), but that’s on you, not me. If you want to have a real conversation about my religion, I’m happy to converse with you; if you’re going to be a jerk, go be a jerk without me.

I can say these things about Mormons because I am one and I understand the Mormon experience, but I can’t say to a woman of color, “Your thing about nameplate necklaces makes you look small and insecure,” because I’m not one and I don’t know her experience. I don’t understand her feelings. Is it even possible for me to understand her feelings to the extent that I can understand why she would get bent out of shape over white girls wearing nameplate necklaces? Is there any point in trying to understand, or do I just accept that as a white girl, I have no business wearing a nameplate necklace?

So I’m back where I started, a middle-aged white lady with a free blog and no clue. Where does one draw the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? Is there a line between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation? [3] If so, where does one draw that? How do you know when you’re appropriating something? I’m not really looking for someone to tell me this whole “cultural appropriation” thing is ridiculous. I know some not-(completely)-ridiculous people who have very strong feelings about it, but can’t really articulate the difference between appreciation/exchange and appropriation. I’m not invested in the idea that I should be able to wear a nameplate necklace or a kimono. I’m not even a fan of any sports teams with Native American mascots. On occasion, I enjoy Vietnamese food, but then I read an essay by a Vietnamese-American who was upset that Vietnamese food was trendy now, but white people used to make fun of her lunches when she was young. My instinct is to think that person might need therapy to deal with her issues, but I’m open to the idea of that not being fair. When I was a kid, I thought bologna sandwiches were delicious. I think bologna is gross now. I still like Spam, though. Hawaiians also like Spam. Who liked it first? What does it all mean? I don’t know.

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[1] Even my red hair is, technically, appropriated. I was born a brunette, but I think red hair is beautiful and I like the way I look with red hair, so I dye it red, even if it’s wrong. I have extremely fair skin and burn easily, so I almost feel as though I’ve earned it, but that’s just what a clueless fake-ginger would say.

[2] I was reading some non-Mormon person’s Twitter feed and they were saying how their son wanted to ask someone to Homecoming, but apparently, expectations have changed such that it’s no longer okay to say, “Will you come to Homecoming with me?” You have to do something creative, like with balloons or baked goods or whatever. I was, frankly, astonished. I thought only Mormons did this. (We love theatre! And arts & crafts!) Now it’s what everyone’s supposed to do? Is this the Pinterest-ization of our culture, or has Pinterest simply facilitated the widespread appropriation of Mormon culture? In either case, I don’t actually care. Do what you feel, kids.

[3] I went to a recipe exchange a million years ago, and a friend of mine, who was from Idaho, shared this recipe called “Hong Kong Chicken.” It was a dish her mother made all the time when she was growing up. It consisted of rice, chicken, and cream of mushroom soup (basically). So…where did the Hong Kong part come in, exactly? My friend said, sheepishly, “Oh. Well. You see, most of what we ate was made with potatoes. But this was made with rice. Hence—Hong Kong.” I thought this was adorable (and hilarious). I shared this story with someone recently, and they thought it was offensive, maybe borderline racist. Well, goodness—uneducated about Chinese cuisine, sure, but racist? Can’t we just be glad that we live in a world where more people are eating rice? Maybe Idahoans should be offended when other people belittle their attempts to try new things!

 

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Atheists of Portland Suburbia used to meet every fourth Wednesday at the chocolate café. I don’t think they meet there anymore. I haven’t seen them for a long time. It has occurred to me, however, that we have a lot more Christian book clubs meeting there now. There’s a Christian book club meeting there every time I go in (and I go in every Wednesday). It’s not the same Christian book club, either. At least I don’t recognize any familiar faces. When I’m not sitting next to a Christian book club, I am sitting next to a pair of Christians who happen to be in a deep discussion about God. I’m not kidding. I don’t know if these are budding Christians meeting with their sponsors or what. But there are always Christians there. Always. I wonder if that’s why the atheists stopped having their meetings there. Maybe it was becoming a hostile chocolate-eating environment.

I confess that I prefer the Christians to the atheists, but only because the Christians are quieter. I wouldn’t have minded the atheists if they’d been quiet, but they were always very loud. It wasn’t really their fault; there were just so darn many of them. They took up the whole back room. The Christians are in pairs and small groups, so naturally they are quieter. But it seems kind of funny. When did the chocolate café become the hot spot for Christians? It should be the hot spot for Mormons, since Mormons can’t drink coffee and therefore are less inclined to meet at Starbucks. But there are no Mormon book groups meeting there that I know of. Well, there might be. Maybe they’ve staked out Thursdays. I don’t go to the chocolate café on Thursdays very often.

It’s possible that the atheists became such a large group that they could no longer fit in the chocolate café. Maybe they’ve had to start holding their meetings at Red Robin. Who knows? Or maybe they all realized there’s only so much you can say about not believing in God. (I know, because I had to listen to them saying the same three things very loudly every month for three years. Or was it four? Time flies when you don’t give a crap.)

When the atheists first started meeting at the chocolate café, they were a relatively new group with some definite goals for influencing the greater community. An evangelical atheist group, if you will. I suppose it was destined to fail, in that case. As time went on, they talked a lot less about their goals and a lot more about just being atheists. Let this be a lesson to you aspiring atheist missionaries: less chocolate, more pounding the pavement. Keep your eyes on the prize.

I don’t know, maybe with Barack Obama getting elected, they were all less scared about the country becoming a fundamentalist Christian dystopia. That is also a distinct possibility. Maybe that is the explanation for all the Christians now! I know that I have more reason to drown my sorrows in chocolate these days. But that’s just because I’m a Republican. It has nothing to do with my religious beliefs.

When Jesus comes again, will he visit the chocolate café? I hope so.

 

I’ve had this song on my mind all morning because I’m getting my piano tuned today.

watch?v=olkt2VpUaTc

It’s a new guy tuning the piano. I had a piano tuner I’d been using for about…I dunno. Several years, let’s say. He was a good piano tuner–good work, affordable rates, nice guy–but he wasn’t very professional. Like, he wouldn’t always return phone calls. He didn’t always remember you had an appointment. He was always late, usually by at least an hour. I’ve been threatening to replace him for a long time. Not to his face or anything because I’m too passive-aggressive for that. But behind his back I’ve been threatening to replace him, because seriously, is it too much to ask that you come on time? Or that you come? Anyway. The reason I’ve never replaced him is that replacing him would mean finding a new piano tuner, and you know how I am about change. I mean, if you didn’t before, you certainly do now, don’t you?

The piano was due for a re-tuning in July. The old piano tuner was very good about sending reminder post cards about when the piano needed to be tuned. He was not good about returning my phone call so I could make an appointment, and I guess this time that was the last straw. Yeah, I was so morally affronted that I spent the next three months thinking, “Dude, I really need to find another piano tuner.” Finally, my husband brought home an ad on a little yellow piece of paper that said “PIANO TUNING & REPAIR” and a phone number, and well, it was only another two weeks after that that I actually called the number and set up the appointment. And here he is now. Not on this blog, but in my living room tuning my piano, even as I type. The appointment was 9:00, and guess when he showed up? Nine o’clock. Needless to say, I love him already.

I do feel a little guilty, though. Like I’m betraying my old piano tuner. I know! What’s the matter with me? I don’t know. I’ve just had this anxious feeling the whole time the new guy’s been here, like the old piano tuner is going to drive by my house (because he just happens to be in the neighborhood), look into my living room and see that I’m having someone else tune my piano. And he’s going to think, “Gosh, if responsiveness and promptness were so important to her, why didn’t she just tell me I should return her phone calls and get there on time? I’m not an unreasonable guy! Is it my fault she’s a lousy communicator? Am I supposed to read her mind?” Stuff like that. Intellectually, I think I’m totally justified in my behavior, from a capitalist point of view. Emotionally, I feel unreasonably responsible for the man’s livelihood. (He has six kids!)

On the other hand, I don’t know how many kids this new guy has. He hasn’t spoken much since he got here. He’s been too busy tuning my piano.

Tangentially-related and somewhat-creepy aside: Does anyone else think “tuning my piano” sounds like a euphemism? It’s not. He’s literally tuning my piano. My literal piano. Nothing weird.

Back to the subject at hand, though. Well, I suppose there’s nothing else to say. I’m just waiting for the piano to be tuned and for him to tell me what the damage is. My piano is super-old. It was my grandmother’s, and it was old when she got it, back in the 1940s, or whenever. I think it’s probably almost a hundred years old. It’s an enormous upright grand. Extremely heavy. It’s been through a lot of abuse. For one thing, it’s the piano I learned to play on, and I broke a lot of its hammers during my temperamental-artist phase. Also, about 35 years ago it fell off the back of a truck and bounced down a hill before splattering all over the street. My father had to piece it back together. I’ve told this story before, I’m sure. He pieced it back together, and it was still in tune. It was a miracle! You see why I have to hold on to it even though it’s in terrible shape. It’s like my lucky piano. I can’t connect it with any particular good luck that I’ve personally experienced, but you don’t take a piano that’s miraculously survived a bouncing-and-splattering accident and just…get rid of it. It would be like taking an old person who’d survived six wars and three kinds of cancer and smothering their face with a pillow at night just because they were getting cranky. It’s just wrong.

I do wish I’d taken better care of it over the years. Just like I wish I hadn’t broken my grandmother’s arms during my temperamental-artist phase. (I’m totally kidding. I never broke my grandmother’s arms! Or anyone’s arms. Honest.)

The new piano tuner is discovering the hopelessness of the upper register. This part is never pretty.

DRAMATIC UPDATE: The new piano tuner has finished tuning the piano, and he charged me $15 less than the old piano tuner. AND he said it shouldn’t need to be tuned again for another nine months, and he will call me then so I “don’t have to worry about remembering.” Did I mention I love this guy?

I’m feeling a little less guilty about loving him, anyway.

At this point in time I feel mostly bored with politics and political discussions. Who’s running for president again? Just kidding. I am just barely keeping up with the news. I mainly just know what is going on at the Facebook. I assume Facebook will tell me if any major tragedy strikes. Also, if it’s someone’s birthday. I don’t know what the rest of the world is doing, but on the Facebook people are, apparently, still hung up on the birth control issue, i.e. the government mandating that employers pay for insurance that covers contraceptives. Did I say that even-handedly enough? Because I don’t want to make anyone mad before I’m ready.

As to whether or not insurance companies should cover birth control, my opinion is “whatever.” The health care system in this country in 2012 has a lot of problems. I tend to think that this is not the one most deserving of my attention.

I took birth control pills for a few months back in 1997. Was taking them when I got pregnant with my first child, actually. Ha ha, what a funny time to look back on (now). As I recall, my insurance company paid for them. I mean, I had a $10 co-pay, so I assume my insurance company paid for whatever they cost above that. It’s possible that the cost of the pills was $10 even, but that seems unlikely. If my insurance company hadn’t paid for them, I might have been pissed. Because, you know, it’s medical. What is medical insurance for if not to pay for a medical expense? If I have to get a doctor’s prescription before I can buy them, how is that not a medical expense? So yeah, I get the outrage. However, it’s been a lot of years and a lot of dealing with insurance companies, and I’ve faced the facts of life:

1. Insurance companies don’t want to pay for anything. (That much is a duh.)

2. We’ve become dependent on a system of health care where a third party is supposed to pay for most things, which has increased the amount of things we expect to be covered but also the amount of things insurance companies try not to pay for.

3. The more things insurance companies have to pay for, the more expensive insurance gets. Your personal feelings of indignation over what ought to be covered don’t really enter into this equation.

So this is actually a complex problem, the whole health care/insurance thing, and far too complicated for the scope of this blog post–or any blog post of mine. If I wanted to write about the complexities of the health care and insurance industries and how government relates to all of that, I would hopefully not be giving that skill away for free. So pay me some money and I’ll give you my opinion on how we should manage the health care/insurance thing. Meanwhile, whatever.

No, all I want to write about here is the personal irritation I feel about how people have framed this debate, especially as seen on the Facebook, which hosts lots of indignant people with strong opinions who think their logic is unassailable. This isn’t for money or a good grade that I can put on my transcript, so I’ll just make a list of arguments that bug me.

1. Insurance companies pay for Viagra, so why not birth control pills?

On its face this seems outrageous. I mean, why should old guys whose penises have stopped working still get to have sex? It’s called Mother Nature, dude. Survival of the fittest. Deal with it! I mean, stuff like hearts and livers and kidneys and even gall bladders should be expected to work properly, but your penis? Really? You must think a lot of yourself. Newsflash: No one cares if you never have an orgasm again as long as you live! (Except maybe your wife, but then, what is she doing with an impotent jerk like you?)

Actually, there’s a reasonable explanation for why insurance companies would pay for Grampa’s Viagra but not Suzy’s birth control. Note: I only said it’s reasonable, not that you’ll like it. The reason is that Viagra (and other drugs designed to treat erectile dysfunction) helps a man’s body work the way a healthy man’s body works. If a man can’t get or sustain an erection and it isn’t due to some psychological problem, he has a health problem. Not one he’s going to die from, but one that he may feel he’s going to die from will seriously impact his quality of life. By contrast, birth control pills (and other hormone-based contraceptives) make a woman’s body work in a way that healthy women’s bodies aren’t supposed to work. A healthy woman is supposed to be able to get pregnant. IMPORTANT NOTE: I did not just say that a healthy woman is supposed to get pregnant, only that she is supposed to be able to get pregnant. A woman who can’t get pregnant has a health problem. Not one she’s going to die from, but one that, if she wants children, she’s probably not going to just shrug at and say, “Oh well.”

Viagra treats a health problem. Birth control pills, while perfectly safe (for most women), are not generally associated with treating a health problem. Of course, they can be and often are used to treat health problems. VERY IMPORTANT ASTERISK–more on this in a moment. (Patience, grasshopper.) But getting pregnant is not a health problem. It’s not a disease. Have we forgotten that chapter of feminism? Healthy women who haven’t gone through menopause can get pregnant. Of course they might not want to get pregnant, which is where birth control pills come in, but for the woman who is taking the Pill for contraceptive purposes, she is not attempting to make her body work the way it’s supposed to but attempting to make it not work the way it’s supposed to.

Believe me, mes enfantes, I have no moral or philosophical problem with contraception or people using contraception to their hearts’ content. I’ve used it myself. Religiously. I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread and the internet. Access to birth control is good. Access to indoor plumbing is good, too. Couldn’t live without either one. Can’t imagine why anyone would want to.

Of course, there are non-contraceptive uses of birth-control pills. If you believe the Guttmacher Institute (and you may not, but whatever), the majority of birth-control pill users take them for non-contraceptive purposes, including reducing menstrual cramps and other “side effects” of menstruation (including migraines) and treating endometriosis and even acne. These are all health problems, so in principle, health insurance that purports to cover treatment for endometriosis and chronic pain related to menstruation and, yes, even acne ought to cover birth-control pills. You will get no argument from me there. No, absolutely none.

But–and here I finally reach my point–this line of logic doesn’t lead to arguments about an old man’s Viagra. Why on earth would you bring up Viagra unless you were just really upset that insurance companies enable beyond-their-prime men to have sex while perfectly healthy young women (who deserve to have sex and are a lot more pleasant to think of than impotent men) are not receiving any assistance with enhancing their own sexual experience (by not having to worry about getting pregnant)? The implication is clear: Viagra is only covered because the evil insurance companies care more about letting dirty old men have sex than allowing healthy young women to have sex and not worry about getting pregnant. Well, probably they do, for the reasons I just mentioned above.

But if you want to tout hormone-based contraception as a medical expense, maybe you should keep Grandpa’s sex life out of it. Don’t imply that you’re begrudging him his Viagra. For an effective argument, you might try something like “They cover insulin for diabetics and Prozac for people with depression–why not birth-control pills for women with endometriosis or chronic menses-related pain (or even acne)?” And of course, since there are women whose health and even lives may be threatened by a pregnancy, you could also say, “They pay for my grandpa’s pacemaker, so why not my birth control?” (A bonus to this approach: When Rush Limbaugh accuses you of being a slut who wants the taxpayers to pay for your slutty sex life–which he probably still will–he’ll look even more like a jerk.)

Of course, an insurance company can decide it doesn’t want to pay for birth-control pills to treat endometriosis or any other health problem because insurance companies have the legal right to suck. But as I said before, that’s a separate issue. Not for this blog post (which is discussing annoyance with rhetorical tactics, not outrage at injustices).

2. Covering birth control is cheaper than covering pregnancy and childbirth and health care for the resulting children.

True. But not a good argument for providing everyone with free birth control–because generally speaking, people don’t get pregnant because they lacked access to contraceptives. Unplanned, unwanted pregnancies are usually the result of people a) using contraceptives incorrectly or b) playing Russian Roulette with their fertility because they couldn’t be bothered with using contraception. Don’t let your own prejudices run wild with this last sentence. I’ve known married, middle-class women who engage in “b” with alarming frequency. Fortunately, those women could afford to have more kids, financially and emotionally (although the “emotionally” part was more eventually). If you’re a woman of limited resources, you really have no business with “b.” If you become pregnant, I blame you, not your insurance company or the government. And here I go off on a bit of a tangent–but only a bit, because I can’t tell you how many times I have seen comments like this on the Facebook: “I’d rather pay for birth control than for women getting pregnant to collect more welfare.” First of all, that person is revealing kind of an ugly streak. Second, they don’t seem to understand human nature very well.

I never find myself wishing that my tax dollars had gone to pay for someone’s birth control instead of her full-blown pregnancy and resulting baby because as the wording of “b” makes clear, you can offer someone contraception–even free contraception, contraception that may reside in their very own home a few feet away–but you can’t make them use it all the time. I don’t feel sorry for myself because my tax dollars are going to be spent on this woman and her child; I feel sorry for this woman and her child because she made an unfortunate choice that significantly increased their chances of living in poverty for several years if not the rest of their lives. I assure you my tax bill can handle your poor choices; I’m not sure you can.

So there’s one reason I don’t like that argument. The other reason is that we’re talking about insurance companies (so far), not the government. First of all, most people just don’t seem to get how insurance companies work. Without getting into issues that are beyond my pay grade (i.e. blogging for free), let me break it down for you: The more things (procedures, drugs, etc.) that insurance companies have to pay for, the higher premiums they have to charge (unless they want to go out of business, which most don’t). The more insurance companies cover the cost of these things, the more insulated consumers become from the cost, the higher the cost gets. If insurance companies have to cover all kinds of contraception at no additional cost to the consumer (aside from higher insurance premiums), there will be no incentive for drug companies to lower their prices or to stop them from going up. If the customer doesn’t care what it costs (because she’s not paying for it) and the insurance company can’t refuse to pay for it, why shouldn’t the drug companies charge as much as they want? And don’t think for a minute that they won’t. (Or have we forgotten this chapter of capitalism?) This is especially sucky news for the uninsured, but also sucky news for the insured because (can you guess why? I’ve already mentioned it) they will pay higher premiums.

Second of all, I don’t want to live in a society with the mentality that paying for contraception makes dollars and sense whereas paying for pregnancy and babies should be avoided. Pregnancy and babies are really important to humanity, even if not everyone wants them at every stage of life. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon that says they’re too expensive and insurance companies shouldn’t be such chumps. (If people are allowed to get hysterical and claim that opposing the contraception mandate is a slippery slope to Handmaid’s Tale territory, others of us should be allowed to get hysterical and claim that the mandate is a slippery slope to a world where only rich people are allowed to have children.)

I haven’t even touched on the issue of religious freedom, which is in fact a relevant and important issue, but it seems to be lost in the effort to point out how hypocritical and stupid insurance companies are for not covering birth control. But I don’t have time for that. (Technically, I don’t have time for this, but I’m bored and want to avoid work.)

Here’s my bottom line: Why are we spending time arguing about a government perk that serves already-employed, already-insured people who probably can already afford their birth control? Most forms of contraception are not that expensive. Yes, there are fancy-dancy versions of the Pill for women who for some reason can’t take the cheaper versions, but most forms of contraception serve most women well and are not that expensive. To make birth control pills even less expensive and increase access for those who don’t have insurance, they should be made available over the counter (with pharmacist screenings for safe use), as is already done in several countries. Not only would the increased price awareness among consumers lead to competitive pricing, but women wouldn’t have to pay for the doctor visit necessary for a prescription. Poor, uninsured women win (along with all the other women who would like some birth control pills). (Of course, a woman who needed birth-control pills for non-contraceptive purposes would still need to see a doctor to know that she needed them.) Another plus: Rick Santorum would have to get elected and go full Handmaid’s Tale/Third Reich on us in order for the public to lose access to birth control pills. (That is not nearly as likely a scenario as Facebook would have you believe.)

Well, I could probably go on, but I’m already at 2,425 words and the kids will be home soon. So I guess this concludes this edition of Inflammatory Friday. Next week: Abortion!*

*Totally kidding.

Back in October, I thanked ordinarybutloud for tagging me in her Seven Stylish Things post because it would give me something to blog about. And then I turned around and continued not blogging. Ha ha! Actually, I think I turned around and blogged about something else, and then lost my will to blog altogether. Again–even with a ready-made topic! This not-blogging is a sickness of mine. It starts with not knowing what to write about. Then it turns into thinking of something to write about but not really feeling like it. Then it turns into thinking, “If I’m going to spend time writing, I should write something real, rather than something bloggy.” And that turns into thinking, “I really don’t know what to write about, and everything there is to write about is something I don’t feel like writing about. And I should have majored in math in college.”

Seriously, I think I should have majored in math in college. I remember our senior…golly, what did they call that? Some special evening they had for graduating seniors at my college. What did they call it? It was a thing. All I remember is that my calculus professor introduced me to his wife (who happened to be the Dean of Students and may have met me before but wouldn’t have had any reason to remember me), and he said, “Pat, this is Mad Maidenname. She’s an English major, but she could have been a math major.” And I said, “Dr. E, I wish you had told me that three years ago.” Seriously, I did (wish and say so). (Totally irrelevant aside: I then found out that Dr. E had majored in both math and English as an undergraduate, and that made me like him even more. I have so many regrets about not majoring in math in college.)

I also remember I was wearing white shoes that night, even though it was after Labor Day (and before Easter). Which makes a perfect segue to the business end of my “Seven Stylish Things about Me” post.

Thing 1

Sometime during my sophomore year of college, I was in my friend’s dorm room, where she was getting ready for a thing. She turned to me and said, “Is it too early to wear white?” And I said, “I dunno. What time is it?” I had never heard that you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day. Never! I think it was because I was born and raised on the West coast–not just the “West,” but the West Coast, where people are much less formal about their dress (and just about everything).  Especially in Oregon, where I was born and raised during my formative years.  So yes, I had never heard this rule, and I actually thought it was kind of dumb.  I mean, says who?  Why not?  What’s so offensive about white after Labor Day?  And I still think it’s a dumb rule.  I think it’s a dumb rule, and yet ever since I learned it, I can’t help but be aware of it.  I was aware of it that Senior-Something-Evening, when I was wearing the white shoes.  I didn’t really want to wear the white shoes, because it was after Labor Day and this was Virginia and I didn’t want to look foolish, but they were the only shoes that went with my dress.  I pretty much had two pairs of dress shoes–a black pair and a white pair, and the black pair would not have done, in my opinion.  But perhaps I was wrong.  I’m still second-guessing my decision after all these years.

Thing 2

I no longer own any white shoes.  It’s not worth the angst.  Also, they might be passe.  Or so passe that they’re stylish again.  I don’t know, but either way, I can’t deal.

Thing 3

As long as we’re on the topic of shoes, this is as good a time as any to tell you that although I don’t own many shoes, I really, really like shoes.  I will pass by a shoe display just to see what’s there, even though I don’t need shoes and can’t really bring myself to purchase shoes that I don’t particularly need (because I’m a little cheap that way).  But I appreciate stylish shoes.  My daughter doesn’t like shopping with me because I am guaranteed at some point–or perhaps several points–to say, “Aren’t these shoes adorable???”  And she’s like, “Whatever, Mom.”

What keeps me from being a shoe-a-holic is a) I’m kind of cheap and b) I always think, “What can I wear these shoes with, and where?” and c) I’m a size 9.  If you’re a woman of large feet, you have also probably noticed that most of the cute shoes stop at size 7.  Or, alternatively, that once you move past size 7, the shoes don’t look cute anymore.  But I appreciate shoe style.  I’m not an outgoing person at all–I’m the opposite of an outgoing person–but I have been known to exclaim to total strangers, “I love your shoes!”  Because I love their shoes more than I love my dignity.

I took this picture because I knew I wouldn't buy them, but seriously, aren't they so crazy they're awesome? Now every time I see this picture on my phone, I have regrets. Especially since they were only $5. But where would I have worn them? Or where wouldn't I have worn them???

Thing 4

I am beginning to think this entire post could be about shoes, if I wanted it to be.  I haven’t decided yet.  But here’s another thing about me and shoes:  My brain loves shoes.  My feet insists that shoes be comfortable.  Most of the time I wear sneakers, or “athletic shoes,” or whatever they’re called.  I’ve decided that the best athletic shoes for my feet are Nikes.  I don’t think I will buy any other kind from now on.  I will endure discomfort for the sake of style on occasion.  I wear heels even though they are no longer comfortable (either because I’ve gotten old or I spent too many years wearing flats because I didn’t want to tower over my 5’7″ husband) because they look so much better (especially on my large-ish feet).  But one thing I will not wear is flip-flops.  Not because I find them tacky, but because I find them uncomfortable.  I can’t stand having things between my toes.  (It’s the same reason I will never wear divided-toe socks.)  And those flip-flop toe-thingies can be murder, depending on what they’re made out of.  I honestly think you chronic flip-flop wearers must have callouses between your toes.  I don’t know how you manage otherwise.

Thing 5

Last shoe-related thing, I promise (maybe):  Just out of curiosity, how did you learn how to tie your shoes?  Bunny-ear method, or squirrel-and-tree method?  My dad taught me squirrel-and-tree in a single session, and I was shoelace-independent for life.  My children couldn’t learn to tie their shoes for the life of them until someone (not me) taught them bunny-ear method, and then, voila.  It was like when three separate members of my family tried to teach me to drive using a stick shift, but I could never do it–and then I got put behind the wheel of an automatic and I was like, “Really?  Driving can be this easy?  Why would anyone do it the other way???”  I’m sure that’s what my kids were thinking about me and my esoteric shoe-tying ways.  It wasn’t that I was prejudiced against the bunny-ear method; it just never occurred to me to use it because that’s not how I tie shoes (and once a child learned to do it for him or herself, I washed my brains of the whole affair).  But after having three children fail to grasp the concept of squirrel and tree, I was determined to teach Girlfriend to tie her shoes the bunny-ear way.  And guess what.  SHE DOESN’T GET IT.  Which leads me to believe it isn’t the method, it’s just me.

Thing 6

It would have been better–from an artistic point of view–if I’d just stuck with the shoe theme.  But I realized that I actually don’t have anything else to say about shoes.  Sure, later on this evening I’ll probably think of a couple more things and go, “Doh!  Why couldn’t I have thought of that earlier?  Seven Stylish Shoe Things would have been so much awesomer.  But noooooo…”  The only problem is that if I wait to think of another shoe thing, I’ll never think of it.  So I have to just move on, even if it’s wrong.  Which makes me think Thing 6 should be about my writing style.

I had a white-shoes-after-Labor-Day moment in that last paragraph.  I said “go” when I meant “say.”  I do that, and I know I’m doing it because I’m hyper-aware of all the rules I break.  Sometimes I agonize over breaking them.  Because I definitely know better.  But I do it anyway, because to some extent, I do write the way I talk, and sometimes when I’m talking and I mean “I said…,” I’ll say, “I went…” or “I was all…”-  Because sometimes I didn’t say–I went or I was all.  You know?  Sometimes I was even “like.”  I’m not proud, but that’s how I do.

Something that is more analogous to the white-shoes-Labor-Day thing, though, is when I split my infinitives.  Until my British Lit 201 professor brought it to my attention, I had no idea you weren’t supposed to split infinitives.  Really.  And like the white shoes rule, I thought it was really stupid.  I still think it’s stupid.  But from that point onward, I have not been able to split an infinitive without being hyper-aware of it.  I end sentences with prepositions with impunity, but the split infinitive–it’s a much lesser offense and yet I’m very self-conscious about it.  I do it all the time, sure, but self-consciously.  And not ironically.  I think it’s because it was such a rude awakening to discover that I didn’t actually know all the arcane rules of English grammar.  It was humiliating, just like when I was in my friend’s dorm room and suddenly my whole life of wearing shoes between the months of September and April flashed before my eyes.

Thing 7

People who know me before they read me tell me I write just like I talk.  But people who read me before they meet me are usually disappointed.  What’s that about?  I dunno.  But it’s a thing.

I will never understand why people like Lucky Charms, and by “people” I mean my children.  And, I guess, my husband, since I’m assuming that it was my husband who introduced this cereal to our household.  Half of it’s dried-up marshmallows and what isn’t marshmallows looks like frosted Meow Mix.  No, I have never actually eaten Lucky Charms.  Why would I?  It looks disgusting.  My parents told me that I used to eat cat food when I was a baby, but that hasn’t translated into me thinking that I’d like to eat frosted Meow Mix with marshmallows.  Maybe I just prefer my cat food straight up, I don’t know.

We didn’t eat many pre-sweetened cereals when I was in my formative years.  (That might explain the cat food thing, or it might be unrelated.  You decide.)  The cereals I remember eating are Chex, Shredded Wheat, Grape-Nuts and maybe Wheaties.  Probably Corn Flakes because I can’t imagine my parents not buying something as cheap as Corn Flakes.  Oh, and the occasional Product 19.  Do any of you remember Product 19?  It’s the only cereal my father will eat now, and they only sell it at one store, but I forget which.  I’m not a fan of Product 19, particularly.  But I digress.

I remember eating a lot of Chex cereal, all flavors.  Chex used to be cheap (I’m assuming, because my parents only bought cheap things).  Now it’s only cheap at Christmas time, when we’re all supposed to be making Chex party mix.  (Do you make Chex party mix?  You can buy it pre-made now, of course, but that’s disgusting.)  Back when I was a kid, Chex was distributed by Purina, and it had the Purina logo, which even as a kid I thought was hilarious.  (That might also explain the cat food thing, or it might not.  I’m just giving you as much information as I can.)  That’s about all I have to say about Chex cereal.  It’s still pretty good, but I only buy it at Christmas time.

Anyway, my point–before I started digressing all over the place–was that my parents didn’t believe in buying pre-sweetened cereals.  But only because they were expensive.  We always put sugar on our unsweetened cereals, a practice which strikes me nauseating as an adult, but back then it was just the thing to do.  At some point I stopped doing it, but I don’t think my dad ever has.  Anyway.  I can remember that about once a year my mother would buy some Count Chocula or Frankenberry Crunch.  It must have gone on mad sale once a year.  (Maybe at Halloween?  I wouldn’t know.)  I don’t remember liking those cereals very much.  They turned the milk colors that milk isn’t supposed to be.  I was surprised to learn that they actually still make Count Chocula and Frankenberry Crunch, only I think they call them something else now.  Does anyone out there still eat them?

Later on, my parents became a little more willing to spend money on cereal, perhaps, because when Cookie Crisp was invented, they would buy it for us sometimes.  To this day Cookie Crisp is the only pre-sweetened cereal I remember fondly.  Yes, it has been thirty years since I’ve eaten it, and I realize that it is probably not as delicious as I remember, but I don’t intend to spoil that childhood memory.  I’m satisfied with it.

Occasionally I will come across these discussions on the internet about favorite cereals, and adults will be talking about how much they like Apple Jacks or Froot Loops or whatever, and I just can’t relate.  I might, if I were desperately hungry, eat Apple Jacks or even Froot Loops dry, but in milk, as an actual breakfast-cereal experience?  Ew.

The milk really makes a difference.  I will never, as long as I live, understand people who eat soggy cereal on purpose.  I may not be able to finish writing this paragraph because thinking about soggy cereal triggers my gag reflex.  I knew a guy in college who would purposely leave his cereal in milk for several minutes before eating it because, as he explained it, it was easier to eat it fast if it was soggy.  Okay…  ?????????  The reason you eat cereal fast is so it won’t get soggy.  Making it soggy so you can eat it faster is just…why???  Why????????  [Sobbing]  I don’t understand! 

Needless to say, I hate it when my children leave cereal in their bowls and it gets soggy.  I hate having to dispose of or deal with soggy cereal in any manner.  I’m sorry, did you miss me?  I had to leave the paragraph to throw up.  There are certain cereals that I can’t watch anyone eat because I am too intimately acquainted with their tendency to get soggy almost immediately.  I seriously put up a barrier of cereal boxes between me and my children when they’re eating one of these cereals.  Lucky Charms is one of them.

Of course, the worst offender is Cheerios.  Unless you are new here, you all know about my irrational fear of Cheerios.  You didn’t know?  Well, maybe that’s because I don’t like to talk about it.  Because Cheerios are disgusting.  They’re particularly disgusting in milk, but I find them disgusting in every form.  I always have.  I think I was traumatized as a youth because I saw too many of them pasted onto too many toddlers’ cheeks.  I always swore that I would never have Cheerios in my house, but the problem, of course, is that Cheerios are just so effing nutritious and easy for babies to feed themselves.  So yes, I did end up buying Cheerios for my kids when they were little.  And I hated it.  Hated every minute of it.  I was so relieved when they got older and moved onto less nutritious snacks. (I mean, with the requisite regrets about failing to instill long-lasting healthy habits in my offspring, but relieved nonetheless.)

The thing about Cheerios is that they get everywhere.  No, that’s not actually “the” thing about Cheerios.  “The” thing about Cheerios is that they’re disgusting, but certainly a thing about Cheerios is that they get everywhere, and everywhere is not a place you want disgusting things to be.  I haven’t bought Cheerios for my kids in years (not since they discovered Lucky Charms), and to this day I am still finding stray Cheerios in random places.  Which is disgusting because a) it’s Cheerios, and b) where the hell did they come from?

I’m sorry, but I can’t write any more about Cheerios.  It’s too nauseating.

It appears that I’ve hit the 1,000-words mark anyway, so I guess it’s time to wrap this sucker up by turning the conversation over to you, gentle readers.  What cereals do you like to eat?  What cereal did you eat as a kid that you now can’t believe you ever managed to choke down?  What cereals do you find disgusting?  Do you like Cheerios?  Don’t tell me!  Answer other questions instead.  Just kidding.  It’s okay if you like Cheerios.  Some of my best friends are disgusting like that.

I did not dig ’em.

Just as I was giving up on the idea of ever blogging again, I happened to come across this blog post.  No, you don’t have to click on the link–heaven knows I hate having to do outside reading before enjoying my usual bloggy repast–I will just tell you about it.  It was about the practice of asking people to remove their shoes when they enter your home.  The person who wrote the post thinks it’s rude to ask people to do that, unless you live in a part of the world where that’s the cultural expectation (e.g. Japan).  Apparently, he doesn’t like to remove his shoes.  That’s neither here nor there.  You can read his argument and that thread if you want to, or you can read my blog.  Or I guess you could do both, but since I commented on the thread, I’ll just warn you that there are spoilers for this post there.  Beware!

I don’t actually have strong feelings about removing my shoes in someone else’s home, or about being asked to remove my shoes in someone else’s home.  In our house, we don’t have a no-shoes rule.  I didn’t grow up in a no-shoes-inside household, so it is not ingrained in my psyche that shoes are inappropriate footwear for the indoors.  As it happens, I enjoy wearing shoes much of the time, even inside my own house.  I tend to put on shoes if I plan to work inside my house because it puts me in the frame of mind that I am not just relaxing on my sofa.  I find it difficult to muster up any enthusiasm for work if I am barefoot or in stocking feet.  I must be fully shod, or I am going to be continually tempted to sit down on the couch and read a good book instead of making myself useful.  That’s just how I am, love me or leave me.

Another thing is that my feet get really cold during the winter, and I need to wear both shoes and socks to keep them warm enough.  It might be psychological, or I might have freakishly-cold feet.  I don’t know, but that is another reason why I tend to wear my shoes even indoors (where it theoretically should be warm enough to go without shoes, but somehow it is not).

So obviously I’m not going to ask people to remove their shoes when they come to my house.  That would be dumb.  Number one, I don’t care.  Number two, it really would be rude to ask other people to remove their shoes when I’m not willing to do so myself.  Rude, or just weird.  I don’t know.  Either way, I don’t care if people take their shoes off or not.  I would actually prefer that my children keep their shoes on, if only so I could keep track of where they were.  (The shoes, not the kids.)  But that’s another subject.

Still, I don’t mind when other people ask me to remove my shoes in their home.  It’s their home, after all.  And I would hate to be responsible for ruining their carpets.  I would hate for them to think I didn’t care about their carpets.  So of course I will take off my shoes, if that’s what they want.  I don’t usually have to ask.  Usually it is obvious when you step into a no-shoes house.  For one thing, the carpets still look nice.  For another thing, there are a lot of shoes lined up by the door.  For yet another thing, the person answering the doors is not wearing shoes, and neither is anyone else inside the house.  In any case, I will remove my shoes, more often than not, without asking because I assume that no one is going to be offended if I remove my shoes.  I do not wear socks with holes in them (they bother me), and my feet are reasonably attractive, so I am not embarrassed to show my socks (which are usually cute–I make a point to wear cute socks because I love them so much) or my bare feet (that’s why I paint my toenails–to be seen!), and I don’t imagine that people are disgusted by the sight of them, so what do I have to lose by removing my shoes?  Only the will to work and some extra foot warmth.  So as long as you’re not asking me to do housework in your house, there’s no problem.

If I strongly suspect that I am entering a no-shoes house, I will have my kids take off their shoes, too.  But my kids actually hate to wear shoes and won’t even wear them outside (regardless of the weather) unless I make them (for weather reasons or for going-to-the-store reasons), and so their feet are usually even dirtier than their shoes are.  (They don’t like wearing socks, either, so if they take off their shoes, their socks are bound to follow sooner or later–I have a lot of difficulty keeping them in socks–and so the bare feet are liable to make an appearance at some point, whether I will it or not.)  I do worry about them getting their filthy feet on people’s nice, clean carpets.  But I guess the damage done by filthy feet is not as offensive as the long-term wear-and-tear done by shoes, so far be it for me to second-guess my host’s preferences.

My own carpets are hosed, of course.  Your shoes aren’t going to hurt them.  The kids and I have already seen to that.  I always think it’s funny when people ask if they should take off their shoes in my house, when I myself am wearing shoes and my carpets are clearly, ridiculously disgusting.  I guess they see the pile of shoes by the door and don’t realize I only dumped them there so I would know where they were when I needed them.  I always tell people they can do as they like.  If you’re more comfortable without shoes, by all means, take them off.  But recognize that my carpet may do more violence to your feet than your shoes could possibly do to my carpet.  For something nailed down to the floor, it has seen a lot of this world.  Like a wise old prostitute, there is little that will shock it.

When I was in Japan last year, one thing that did drive me a little nutso was all the rules about feet and shoes and where you could put your feet and shoes.  As I said, I do not mind removing my shoes in someone else’s home, and I don’t mind removing them in someone else’s country, either–indeed, I am happy to do it.  The last thing I want to do is be an ugly American and offend your cultural sensibilities by putting my shod or unshod foot in the wrong place at the wrong time, or whatever.  But this was not the simple “remove your shoes when entering my home” business of well-carpeted America.  It was a whole system of social mores and cultural taboos that was completely foreign to me and which I found difficult to fully grasp.  Take shoes off here, wear slippers there, but don’t wear those same slippers there–put on some entirely different slippers to go to the bathroom, but don’t let the bathroom slippers touch the non-bathroom floors and don’t let the regular slippers touch the bathroom floors, and don’t let your bare feet touch the bathroom floors or touch the non-bathroom floors if they’ve already touched the bathroom floors–it was all a little much for this insensitive American who likes her shoes.  And her feet.  And doesn’t really like to wear slippers, if you want to know the truth.

Obviously, I could never live in Japan because I don’t know Japanese and probably won’t learn it in this lifetime.  Also, I get claustrophobic.  But even if I could get over those two issues, I don’t think I could ever master the shoe thing.  (Needless to say, my children are wholly unsuited to step within the borders of that fine country.  They won’t be doing it on my watch, that’s for sure!)

Anyway, I’ve never thought it was rude to ask people to remove their shoes when they come to your house.  It seems to me that more people than not prefer that you remove your shoes.  I have always assumed our family were the weirdos.  (Generally, it’s a safe assumption.)  So now it’s time for the (social) science portion of the blog post!

Do you wear shoes inside your house?
Do you prefer that guests remove their shoes when entering your home?
Do you prefer to keep your shoes on when not in the privacy of your own home?
Are you annoyed when people ask you to remove your shoes in their house?
How do you feel about slippers?
Could you make it in Japan?

Discuss.

So I was listening to the news on the radio this morning.  As I’ve said before, I tend to be woefully behind on news.  For instance, I had no idea that T-Paw had left the GOP race, until my husband mentioned it last night.  (Really?  T-Paw’s gone, but Newt Gingrich is still there?  Needless to say, I’m disappointed.  Here’s hoping the eventual nominee picks T-Paw as their running mate just so I can continue to have opportunities to say “T-Paw.”)  Anyway, I’m trying to do better; hence, my radio news-listening.  After just two minutes, I was already better-informed than I have been in months.  Did you know that the University of North Dakota has to change its mascot from the Fighting Sioux to something less Native American-y in order to comply with NCAA rules?  I had no idea.  Well, I might have had an idea at some point–I probably could have guessed, but such was not at the forefront of my mind until just this morning, when I heard it on the radio.  You see how being up on the news can change your life?  Don’t you feel better informed already?

Apparently there is an exception to the NCAA rule if the tribe you have named yourself after approves, but the Sioux have not approved.  I can’t say I blame them.  After hundreds of years of maltreatment by the U.S. government and various non-native Americans, it must be nice to be in the driver’s seat for once.  So more power and whatnot to the Sioux, but I was just wondering if I would make the same decision in their shoes.

I remember someone asking Dennis Prager on his radio show how he would feel if someone wanted to name their team the Fighting Jews.  Dennis said he would be ecstatic because it would be the first time in 4,000 years that the Jews have had fans.  (Ha ha.  Oh, and GO JEWS!)  It’s a good question, though.  How would I feel if someone wanted to name their team the Fighting Mormons?  If their mascot was some big dude with a long beard surrounded by a bunch of cheerleading wives?  That would be perpetuating a hurtful stereotype.  And yet, it would also be kind of awesome.  But what if their mascot was John D. Lee impersonating an Indian and throwing tomahawks and crap?  Well, that would be pretty tacky–sort of like naming your team the Fighting Manson Family.  But I would be more concerned about glamorizing violent crimes than I would about how it reflected on Mormons.  Anyway, now we’re right back where we started, with white guys dressing up as Native Americans and not acquitting themselves appropriately.

There is also the fact that religion is not necessarily comparable to ethnicity.  Which brings us to the fact that you don’t see a lot of teams named after Caucasians.  What would you call them, the Fighting Whiteys?  The Fighting Caucs?  That might be offensive, but maybe not on racial grounds.

Which reminds me, when I was in middle school, we were the Ruddock Rebels.  As in Confederate Rebels.  Why on earth a middle school in California would choose a Confederate soldier as its mascot, I do not know.  But that’s what we were.  The school closed after my eighth grade year.  (In fact, I have a t-shirt that says “Rebels’ Last Stand” on it.)  Like the Confederacy, it was destined for demise.  But, like the South, will it rise again?  Well, funny you should ask that.  It’s now a Christian school called “Sonrise.”  So…there you go.  There seem to be a lot of Christian schools called Sonrise, have you noticed that?  I understand why, but what a cheesy name.  Really.  I have no idea what Sonrise’s mascot is, or if they even have one.  Might it be something offensive like…the Crusaders?  The Holy Rollers?  The Fighting (Jesus) Freaks?  What if they decided to call themselves the Mormons?  I think that would be more offensive to them than it would to us.

So many schools have boring mascots.  The mascot for my Virginia Baptist college was the Cougar.  I don’t know why.  Are there a lot of cougars in Virginia?  I googled it and all I came up with was this.  (I’m sure at least some of those ladies are Baptists, but I’m still not getting the connection.)  Say what you will about Oregon team names, but at least they make sense.  The Ducks.  The Beavers.  (Although “Ducks” is a much better name for a team than “Beavers.”  Sorry, Beavs.)  If I make a sizable donation to my alma mater, it may come with the stipulation that they change their mascot to the Fighting Mormons.  Or alternatively, the Gentle Giraffes.  I’m not particular.

Anyway, if North Dakota has to give up the “Fighting Sioux,” I hope they replace it with something at least as cool.  Or at least as offensive (while non-Native American), just to stick it to the Man.  I’m sure North Dakota already has some alternative names in the works, but who cares what they think?  The comments section is now open to your suggestions for North Dakota’s new mascot.  Also for any commentary-slash-anecdotes about cool, offensive, or lame mascots in your past or just out there at all.

* Because the right punctuation can make anything exciting!

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Princess Zurg:  If there were a real Katy Perry and a fake Katy Perry, how would you know which one was fake?

Mister Bubby:  One would sing good and the other one would not.

PZ:  What if they were quiet?

MB:  One would have a devilish look in her eye.

PZ:  Actually, the real Katy Perry would shoot fireworks out of her bosoms.

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Speaking of bosoms, I’ve been wondering lately why women’s breasts get compared to fruit all the time.  I mean, sure, some women’s breasts really are like cantaloupes–some are even like watermelons–but the majority of breasts out there aren’t like anything out of any garden.  I read Water for Elephants the other day, and at one point someone’s breasts are compared to lemons.  And I thought, “Really?  Lemons?”  What does that even mean?  It seems to me that if someone’s looking at or touching your breasts and his first thought is lemons, you might have a couple of different problems.

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Speaking of lemons, Representative David Wu (D-Oregon) has resigned his Congressional seat.  This is old news, but the resignation is officially in effect now.  Republican Rob Cornilles is planning to run for the seat again, after losing to Wu by twelve percentage points last fall.  Does he have a chance in hell?  Hard to say, but my money says he loses by no more than six percentage points this time.

Mr. Wu resigned because of a sex scandal, of course.  People are so uptight now.  Remember the ’90s, when you could have a sex scandal and still keep your job (unless you were Bob Packwood)?  But I digress.  My point was going to be that news outlets kept reporting that Wu had had an “unwanted sexual encounter” with the 18-year-old daughter of a fundraiser, and I thought that was an awfully strange way of putting it.  “He had an unwanted sexual encounter.”  Unwanted by whom, exactly?  Presumably not unwanted by him, since people don’t usually get in trouble for being the recipient of an unwanted sexual encounter (also:  likely story!), so why not just say something like, I dunno, “He made an unwanted sexual advance”?  Or is that just too clear-cut for journalism these days?

Here’s the other thing:  Months before this particular scandal broke, Wu’s staffers were expressing concern that the congressman was “unstable.”  Exhibit A was that he’d sent out a photo of himself dressed in a Tigger suit for Halloween.  And I thought, “Really?  A Tigger suit?  This is where you draw the line?”  Granted, it did look kind of creepy, but is that some kind of crime now, wearing a Tigger suit while middle-aged?  That’s your smoking gun?

But now we see where that sort of thing leads.  Let this be a lesson to all of you middle-aged men out there!  If you find yourself getting the urge to be photographed as a Winnie the Pooh character, for heaven’s sake, get help.

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Speaking of help, my daughter is trying to earn money to buy a ticket to a My Chemical Romance concert, so I have to come up with some jobs for her to do today.  Preferably jobs that don’t require me to be in the room effectively doing the job with her, because I don’t need to buy a My Chemical Romance ticket, so why should I suffer?  This is going to take all of my mental energy, so I have no time left for blogging this morning.  I will talk to you all later.  Au revoir, gentle readers.  Au revoir.

Remember how I was just saying that breastfeeding wasn’t health care?  Well, I just remembered that I can pay for a boob job with my health savings account, so never mind.  If a saline implant is health care, so is a breast pump.  I don’t care what you use it for.

You know what threw me off (aside from the fact that I’ve been really out of it all day)?  The people who are advocating that breastfeeding supplies be counted as health care expenses went for the grand, it’s-for-the-children argument instead of the straightforward, it’s-my-breasts-stupid argument.  That just hit one of my frayed nerves because as much as I like the breastfeeding, I really dislike the practice of guilting women into it.  And when people start claiming that society can save money with breastfeeding because it makes people less likely to get cancer later in life, they lose me completely.  (Sometimes forever.)

So yes, by all means, let’s tell the IRS that a breast pump is a legitimate health care expense.  Maybe not the bottles or the freezer bags because you can’t use those on your breasts, but definitely the breast pumps.  And I can’t imagine why something like lanolin cream wouldn’t count as a health care item.  Does diaper rash ointment count as a health care item?  (Is diaper rash not a health problem?  Are sore nipples not a health problem?)  Nursing pads I don’t know about.  Do maxi pads and tampons count as health care items?  Incontinence pads must.  Or must they?  I don’t know how the stingy the IRS is.  It seems like a year’s worth of incontinence pads would add up quicker than a single breast pump, but then so does a single boob job.  (That’s single boob-job, not single-boob job.  Although there is such a thing as a single-boob job, I don’t imagine you get much of a discount for only doing one.  Anyway.)

I’m reminded of the old controversy about insurance companies not covering birth control pills.  Mine always did.  Well, the one insurance company I had during the six months I took birth control pills did.  Anyway, people were all indignant because the insurance companies would cover Viagra but not birth control pills.  Viagra is certainly a legitimate health care expense, but I don’t see why birth control pills wouldn’t be as well.  (I’ve heard the argument that Viagra fixes something that’s broken whereas birth control takes something that’s working just fine and makes it not work the way it’s supposed to, but that’s dumb.  It’s dumb enough, actually, that I don’t feel the need to go into greater detail than “it’s dumb.”)  I’m imagining that for the purposes of the health savings account, birth control pills would count as a health care expense.  The question is whether or not other contraceptives count as health care expenses, and if so, which ones?  Can you count your condoms as health care items?  I mean, they prevent diseases in addition to pregnancy, so why not?  I’m just asking because I don’t know.  (I wasn’t inclined to sift through the tax code earlier and I’m still not.)

What other items can you think of that should be counted as health care items?  I’m being perfectly serious, incidentally–not trying to be cute or satirical or anything sneaky like that.  I’m just back to wanting to screw the IRS, so let’s do this thing.  Let’s do it right!

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