Living Outside the Box Part 2

As I traveled further in South America, I ran into more fascinating women willing to share their stories.  

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CHLOE

I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none which is one of the problems with enjoying travel because I get up and go whenever I feel like traveling and I don’t have time to really settle into a career.  Most of the jobs I’ve done as a traveler have been in hospitality, working at hostels and things like that.

Finances are definitely something on my mind, but it’s something that I thought about originally when I started traveling.  I just decided it was worth sacrificing.  I’d rather be happy than rich and traveling is what I enjoy doing.

The sacrifices that I think I’ve made is missing things at home.  I was traveling for my father’s 50th birthday, my mom’s 50th birthday, my mom’s 60th birthday.  I’ve missed lots of family stuff, friends having babies, missing my pets.  Just being away from people that I care about but hoping they’ll all still be there when I get back.

Seeing amazing things is what compels me to travel.  I want to do it while I’m young. The most amazing thing I think I’ve seen this time is Angel Falls in Venezuela.  They’ve all been geographical and animal.  I got to hold an anaconda and went on a boat trip in the Amazon.

I think there can be a backpacker culture.  I think there are different types of backpackers, whether you judge that on age or whether people just want to go and party or whether people want to see the sights.

Stereotypical backpacker culture I would define as probably early 20’s, want to see amazing places but also want to spend a lot of their time getting drunk.   I think everyone changes as they get older but I think backpackers generally speaking appreciate the geographical aspects of a new place rather than partying in a new city.

I think if you want the “American Dream”, fantastic, go for it.  I have a two sisters and a brother and that’s what 2 of them want and that is fantastic.  Everyone should do what  they want to do. That’s not for me or at least not yet.

Living outside the box means getting to do things I wouldn’t get to do if I lived in the box. The box is going to be there to back to, so I might as well be out exploring other things.

I don’t think traveling has hindered my personal relationships because I always make it really clear to anyone in my life about what I’ll be doing at that time and I don’t think that I could have anyone in my life who didn’t accept that or want to be a part of that. So if it did potentially have an adverse affect on any of my personal relationships then it probably wasn’t much of a relationship anyway.

I don’t have any real schedule.  If something motivates me to get up and go then I try to earn some money and go whether it’s 2 years between traveling or 6 months.  Actually for this trip it was my boyfriend who motivated me.  We had been traveling between England and Oz because he is English but he wanted to go to South America and I’d always had it in the back of my mind so he said let’s go and we’re here.

I think my family wasn’t over the moon when I started traveling ten years ago because they didn’t think I’d come home.  I didn’t think I’d come home, but I do keep going back and they know that I will.  They now accept that this is what I want to do.

 

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Living Outside the Box

In 2006, I traveled to South America with a backpack and a video camera and collected stories of people who chose not to get sucked into the typical cycle of get a job, buy things, stack up bills, get trapped into a job in a cubicle to pay off the bills and eventually die.  It takes courage to eschew the expectations from family and society to lead a life outside the box.  Meet Valerie, who began living on the road in her middle years.

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VALERIE

“I was made redundant from my job in 2003.  I spent 2004 traveling and had money left over at the end, worked some more and now I am traveling again.  I started in Rio.

On my last world travel I ended up in Peru and fell deeply and passionately in love but had to return to the UK for my nephew’s wedding.  When I made enough money to travel again I started in South America.

I am spending my misspent middle years traveling the world because I can afford to.  World travel has not really increased in price in the last 15 or so years and I now can afford to do what I always wanted to do when I was 20 which is to see the world.  Unfortunately, the options open to me then were hitchhiking the hippie trail to Afghanistan and India which I didn’t do but I’m now seeing all the places I’ve ever wanted to see.  I have a list in my head and I’m crossing them off one by one.  I just love traveling.  I am homeless and living out of a backpack and I love it.

When I was staying in Bariloche (Argentina), I met a 22 year old Israeli girl at the bus station.  We pretended I was her mother so she didn’t get hit on by boys in our dormitory.  Being of my age, I am the invisible woman.  I’ve noticed this in other countries as well.  This sort of matronly motherly figure – so I don’t get the the attention that somebody half my age would which is fine.

I wouldn’t be doing this if I had children because they’d want all my money to finance their own lifestyle.  I don’t think I ever had a maternal impulse in my body. I’m glad I don’t have children because I couldn’t be doing this if I did.

It’s so important to do this because there is more to life than working and let me get this right, I work to live rather than live to work.  I feel that the world is changing all the time and I want to see as much of it while I’m still able to get around under my own steam, not mind sleeping on the top bunk of a dorm and that kind of thing.  I want to see life in countries, meet other people, and not from the inside of a 5 star hotel, air con coach transport everywhere or from the deck of a cruise ship.

This is my third round the world trip.  The previous one was in 2004 when I got my first severance pay and before that in 1993, when I got made redundant from a previous job.  I spent five months traveling around the world.  I flew to New York and booked 4 days in a hostel in Harlem and I didn’t know what was going to happen until I got to Australia.  The night before I left, one my friend’s girlfriends said if you’re going to Boston, give my friends a ring. I rang the people in Boston, they said yes, come visit.   Much the same happened when I got to Aussie and I met up with friends that I knew from England and it was “Where are you going next? Give so and so a ring and you can stay with them.”

It wasn’t until I got to Bali that I was out there on my own and knowing no one and that’s when I really first felt homesick.  I burst into tears in the bath.  But you know, that’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.  After that, I picked up the art of meeting people and chatting with them and traveling with them as far as we were going together and then meeting someone else and traveling onto the next place.

My friends think I am incredibly adventurous and brave to travel on my own.  My opinion is it’s so much easier traveling on your own than traveling with someone else.  I don’t have to compromise and if I make a stupid decision, I can kick my own self and don’t have someone beating up on me saying “Why did you choose to get that bus that broke down in the middle of wherever.”  My mistakes are my own, I live with them.  They’re not necessarily mistakes.  They might lead me to meet somebody who I might travel with or tell me something to do or not to do.”

Confession #35 The Spoon in the Sink Syndrome

 

It’s time to grow up co-workers! Put on your big girl/boy/binary pants! If your colleague does something you don’t like, say it to his face, professionally and calmly.  Once you enter the workforce, it’s time to stop relying on other adults to handle your business.  Notice I didn’t just say adults – I said OTHER adults – which means you are an adult which means stop acting like a child.

I was working for an office as an on call receptionist.  My supervisor called to let me know a co-worker complained to his manager that I had too many bags near my computer and therefore the desk looked untidy.  Ok – let’s stop right here.  There are two scenarios for this situation.

  1. Co-worker walks over to my desk and says, “Typically, the front desk person puts her belongings under the desk.”  I reply, “Sure thing.”   No big deal. A helpful suggestion. Life goes on.

How this series of events played out in real life:

2.  Co-worker walks by my desk and sees a lunchbox and a cloth bag next to the     computer. Petulantly walks away and stews in thoughts of customers cringing at the site of my desk.  She then calls the area manager who oversees several offices to complain about said desk, taking time away from manager’s more pressing workload.  The office manager calls my supervisor to explain deplorable conditions at my work site.  My supervisor then calls me to apprise me of the situation.  I say I am sorry that happened and ask why didn’t the offended person just ask me to put my things under the desk.  I am told some people cannot deal with conflict.

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Conflict?  Conflict is if after the co-worker tells me to put the bags under the desk, I flatly refuse or tell her to shove them up her ass.  That warrants a chat with the manager and my supervisor.  If someone’s idea of conflict is telling an on-call worker (who expects to be told what to do) to put a couple of bags under the desk, I suggest that person curl up in a little ball in the corner and start sucking his or her thumb.

Now, you may ask, why is this post called the Sink in the Spoon Syndrome.  In a previous post  (see link below), I expounded on a former co-worker who took a yogurt laden spoon I had used (and did plan to clean later) from the office kitchen sink and placed it on my desk with a sticky note that said “Clean me” and a smiley face.  I’m sure she thought her actions sent a powerful message on correct workplace etiquette.

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If I were a manager and my report complained to me about an on-call receptionist’s desk, I would resent the several minutes he or she stole from my day.  Petty nonsense can be handled with two sentences as shown in scenario #1.  Instead, it squandered time from two managers.  This is the equivalent of a teacher at recess complaining to the principal about unruly behavior on the playground.   If the kids start smashing rocks into  each other’s heads, that is the equivalent to me telling the co-worker to ram the bags where the sun don’t shine.  Then you go to the principal.

Owning your mistakes is an essential part of behaving like an adult in an office and I am capable of that.  However, ratting on someone about a trivial faux pas is a daily part of elementary school age antics.    Prove you are a grown up who can pleasantly remind someone the expectations of the office.  Your manager will thank you for your maturity.

 

 

 

Confession #34 – Age Discrimination Sucks

It started from a post on LinkedIn from author Brigette Hyacinth: “’He is ‘too old’ for this job,’ the HR manager said to me after we interviewed John (not his real name). John had been laid off by his previous employer due to restructuring at the age of 53 yrs. Ageism in the workplace is very real. I see uproars over every other “ism” (sexism, racism…etc) but everyone turns a blind eye to ageism.”

Brigette hired John in spite of the HR manager’s objections, and she wrote that John’s experience proved invaluable. It’s time, she said, to “stop discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.”

Her words resonated with my husband and me. We are both photographers and videographers, and we have experienced what it is like not to get an email reply, let alone an interview, even though our resumes showed our skills matched the desired qualifications. Fearing our age may be a factor, I suggested taking graduation dates off our resumes.

I posted Brigette’s story to my Facebook page and it struck a nerve. One man said he could get an interview, but once they saw him and his gray hair in person, he could tell they would not consider him seriously.

Our research in age discrimination led us to Ashton Applewhite, a Brooklyn, New York writer and activist fighting against ageism. She pointed us to a campaign called I, Too, Am Oxford that used photography to make an impactful visual statement about racism.

And that has led us to use our photography skills to illuminate the injustice of ageism, “the most socially condoned form of derogating someone based on social category,” as NYU professor Michael North puts it.

In October 2017, after posting ads on Craiglist and Facebook, we launched a website and a Twitter account called I, Too, Am Qualified. It features photographs and statements from people who have been victims of age discrimination. We urge you to visit and tell your story.

Part of the I, Too, Am Qualified visual campaign

This Friday, Dec. 15., is the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Lyndon B Johnson signed the ADEA into law to protect people over 40 from unfair treatment by employers and to prevent bias due to age. But ageism continues to hurt older workers, their families and the economy.

The AARP reports in 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 20,857 charges of age discrimination. Age discrimination makes up more than 1 in 5 of the discrimination charges received by the EEOC. Many instances are subtle. A representative from the Denver field office of the EEOC, described to me the scenario of a manager approaching an older worker just before renewing his or her benefits package and asking if there were plans to retire soon. She called this the “gentle push.”

Ageism has no boundaries in terms of gender, race, religion or creed. It is, as Applewhite writes, “a prejudice that pits us against our future selves.”

When we take a look in the mirror we see maturity, professionalism, corporate knowledge and experience. We ARE qualified and the time has come to put corporate America on notice.

Originally published at TheColoradoIndependent.com on December 14, 2017.

White Privilege: A Misnamed Truth by Guest Blogger James Smith

Welcome James Smith, guest blogger and middle aged MAN gone wild.

 

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I define privilege as having something one should not have: a rich man’s son evading the draft, a powerful man evading prosecution for crimes he has committed. As a middle class (just barely) white man, I do not have this type of privilege. However, I do enjoy the basic rights and freedoms afforded me by the U.S. Constitution – I know how fortunate that makes me. Not because I have something I should not have (privilege) rather, because so many of my fellow Americans do not have these basics. Because of matters as trivial as gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation etc. far too many Americans have a lesser subset of rights and freedoms, and this is wrong. Wrong not because of what I have, rather, because of what they do not.

Therefore, the phrase “White Privilege” is a misnomer. White Baseline is a more accurate term. Human Baseline would be better still. Sadly, for the time being, white baseline better reflects the truth of the matter. Even as a disabled vet clawing my way through the VA, I am emboldened in my battle by the knowledge that I have the basic rights and freedoms afforded me by the U.S. Constitution.

Resenting white people for having what they should have is wrong. Hate, and fight the system that does not afford you the Human Baseline. My fellow white people, please do not fail to recognize how fortunate you are, and never except a nation where your fellow Americans have less than you.

James Smith is a 55 year old father of three grown children and a disabled vet who advocates for other veterans.  He is active in the Denver amateur film scene in several roles and an avid photographer.

Confession #33: Bible Thumpers and the Chosen One

I have been told I am one of the chosen people.  I question if they mean chosen for persecution and jokes about being cheap.  According to a group of born again Christians I met in high school, I was chosen for a more positive endeavor.  If I took Jesus as my savior, my destiny would be fulfilled and I could enter into a holy covenant with God.  I was skeptical but figured, I should learn more about it. What the hell, right? I mean, why not?

My introduction to the glee club of Jesus enthusiasts was a senior named Keith (names are changed so he doesn’t end up hating me) who is still the warm hearted welcoming guy I befriended in Latin class. Where better to get into the scriptures than in a class studying the language of ordinary Christians of the Roman Empire?

I was a junior at the time, not the most hated girl in my class but far from well liked.  In fact, I noticed the only time I saw my friends outside of school was when I initiated it and, as a test of their loyalty to me, I stopped calling all of them.   They proved to be as loyal as Brutus to Caesar.  I was drowning in low self esteem.

On my sweet sixteen, I took one of my sister’s razor blades (I’m not sure if she used it for shaving or for cocaine) and locked myself in my room, loudly threatening to slit my wrists. My father screamed through my locked door that if I was going to do it, I should do it in the bathtub so I don’t make a mess.  No friends, no compassion at home.  Like a prisoner who turns to Jesus when in despair, I turned to a friendly group of teen age born again Christians.

I had long one on one conversations with several of them about the Bible and proof of creation (if we can’t procreate with apes, how could we have descended from them? Duh, Darwin and Leakey). I delved into the myth that Jews have horns (some people still believe this) because of the Moses sculpture by Michelangelo and even had a meeting with a rabbi about this.  Keith confided in me he abstained from sex with his girlfriend, citing his reverence to God and the Bible. Another friend in the group said if you have sex before marriage you will be turned away from the pearly gates.  His analogy was that if you crack an egg to make an omelette and a piece of the shell gets in, the egg is ruined and you have to throw it away.  If we give into our carnal temptations, then we are like that egg and heaven can’t have a bunch of crunchy omelettes running around in it. (I have since then started picking out bits of shell every time a piece gets in when I crack an egg.)

Keith invited me to a weekend Bible study retreat in December. I don’t remember much about the activities, but I’m sure we talked about Jesus and sang songs.  I do remember being told by several people how lucky I was to be Jewish since Jesus was Jewish and so by default I was in some kind of higher category than the rest of them. I thought Jesus would view us all equally but what did I know.

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Even Christians had big hair in the 80’s.

The one thing I most clearly remember is that the retreat fell during one of the 8 days of Hanukkah.  I didn’t know the Hebrew prayer recited over the menorah and I didn’t have a menorah with me.  But I felt like if I didn’t do something I would be a traitor to my born faith.  So I found a candle and stepped outside by myself and said a prayer.  I think it was about hoping to find a way out of my religious confusion. I also apologized to God for not knowing the appropriate prayer for Hanukkah.  All I knew was Amen.

After the retreat I abandoned the Bible studies and Christian social functions and focused on learning about the Judaism.  It seemed the harder the born agains pushed to lead me to salvation through the Good Shepherd, the more I dove into Judaism. The following year, I fasted for Yom Kippur for the first time.

A zillion years later, I moved to Colorado, reconnected with Keith through Facebook and found out he is not only no longer a Christian but also an outspoken critic of Christianity.  He is also gay so it was probably more than respect for Christian values that kept him from sleeping with his high school girlfriend.

I needed the born agains during my lonely junior year of high school.  Jesus didn’t save me but in a way they did.   Wrapped in self pity, I felt like a loser, unpopular and unloved.  The Bible kids may not have succeeded with their evangelical goals, but unbeknownst to them, I was not seeking religion.  I was desperate for people to want to be around me. They may have had ulterior motives, but I didn’t care.  I’m still not sure if the Jews are the chosen people.  I’m just glad I chose to hang out with that group of Christians.

 

 

 

Is it Chic to Be A Jew on TV?

jewish mompicWas the Alex Rieger character in “Taxi” a Jew? There are a couple of allusions to his religion. What about Gabe Kotter in “Welcome Back Kotter”? He did say the Yiddish word  word “yutz” once on screen so probably.  While there might have been a reference or two to Jewish identity, it certainly wasn’t at the forefront of many of the shows back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Today, there are a slew of Jewish characters and storylines on television.  Think “The Goldbergs”, “Transparent” and “Difficult People” (a show I found difficult to watch).  As a Jew, I should be excited about this.  But I wonder – in some of these shows is it symbolic of Jews being more mainstream or are they just easier to make fun of?

Let me pick apart one of my favorite shows, “Transparent”.  I do love it but some parts irk me.  “Transparent” depicts a culturally Jewish, yet non-religious family dealing with the patriarch’s revelation he is transgender.  He has three grown children and an ex-wife played by the actually Jewish, Judith Light.  Ms. Light does an extraordinary job of portraying the mother as authentically neurotic as my mother (sometimes I cringed when her acting hit so close to home).  Yet, I started to get annoyed by her overuse of Yiddish words.  She used “oy gevalt”, “fakakta”, and “mashugana” in one sentence (or some variant of those).  It seemed overkill.  Almost like a schtick to get laughs (pardon my Yiddish).

I loved the scene when the rabbi, Raquel, played by Kathryn Hahn (who isn’t Jewish but should be) has a conniption as the eldest daughter, Sarah, tries to prepare a makeshift seder.  Raquel saw through Sarah’s quest for spirituality through Judaism as a sham and blows up at her, rightfully so.  Her outburst was one of the most genuine reflections on Judaism in the show.

Although there are moments of Jewish cliches in the series, they do show holidays and traditions up close.  I believe the religious facets are part of the story development, unlike some of the other series out there.  I offer my advice to sitcom writers – ask yourself are the main characters purposely Jewish to create a well developed and nuanced character or a vessel for easy jokes?  I don’t want to feel used by these writers the way Cindy from “Orange is the New Black” uses Judaism to get better food in prison.

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A Jewish family at the holidays – a matter of time before the fighting begins.

Seriously, is there a Jewish Renaissance on TV or a ploy for cheap laughs?  It just seems like it’s a more popular gag and people are getting on the bandwagon.  Oh! The Jew thing works!  Most shows focus on the Jewish kvetching and neurosis.  Maybe I need to watch more television (although my waistline says “I think not”) to find a sitcom that incorporates the culture and traditions.    Comedies thrive on neurotic characters.  Perhaps that’s why writers are naturally attracted to that personality type and Jews seem to have a monopoly on that market.

I’m not sure if I’m offended or simply more curious about Hollywood’s interest in Jewish-ness.  When I get curious about intentions, I tend to wander towards a negative train of thought which make me a skeptic.  Oh, how Jewish of me!

While I don’t balk at exaggerating stereotypes for the sake of comedy, it would be nice to see more than just exaggerated stereotypes.  It would be nice to see Judaism develop character and plot and not just be used to increase ratings.

You could say, I am slightly guilty of this ploy in my own web series, Mile High Nancy.  In episode five my on screen mother is nagging me about finding a Jewish doctor before I’m all dried up and undesirable.  In my defense, however, it was hardly an exaggeration.  You’ll have to meet her.

 

 

Confession #31

Taylor Swift and I finally have something in common. Unfortunately, it’s not a gazillion dollars in a bank account or a svelte waistline.  We’ve both been groped by men against our will.  I’m sure we’ve also been willingly groped by men which gives us even more in common, but this post is about the asshats who feel entitled to grab ’em by the “insert body part.”

Specifically, I speak to the epidemic of women silencing themselves when they are publicly molested or verbally harassed by men.  For some reason, WE feel ashamed when they unfurl their fingers and lay their hands where they’re not wanted.  While staying at a Buddhist temple retreat in Thailand years ago, I met an American woman who told me she was groped while riding a train in Japan.  Girls there face the daily trauma of predators groping them on trains.  Because of social pressure to remain silent, girls do not often speak out and accuse their attackers.   However, she wasn’t giving in to societal norms. She grabbed the pervert’s hand, raised it above his head and starting yelling “He’s groping me! He’s groping me!”  She turned the embarrassment on its head and HE ran off the train in shame.  I was so inspired by her story, I almost couldn’t wait until the next time I got groped so I could humiliate the deviant.

I didn’t have to wait very long.  While traveling in Vietnam, I took a boat tour through Hue, to see the imperial capital.  As a solo traveler through Asia, most of the men I met were respectful and harmless and I engaged with the locals as much as possible.  The tour guide seemed nice enough and he and I were sitting at the helm of the boat as we glided down the Perfume River.  During our conversation, out of nowhere, he brazenly placed his hand on my knee and squeezed it.  In my gut, it felt untoward.  I grabbed his hand, raised it quickly and yelled “You have no right to touch me!”  The other passengers stared and he stayed away from me for the rest of the trip.

I caused a scene! A woman made a big deal about unwanted touching.  Instead of internalizing shame I didn’t deserve, I placed it squarely on the degenerate who handled me without my consent.  I embarrassed the shit out of him and it felt great!  I didn’t beat myself afterwards like I had done in the past for letting the guy get away with it.  Why should women keep quiet, our cheeks flushed with humiliation, wondering how we could have avoided the situation? Or worse yet, accepting this is something we have to live with.

At first, Taylor’s mother didn’t want to bring attention to the incident because she wanted to protect her daughter.  I say bring on the attention.  Grab his hand as it’s on your ass or knee and raise it above his head or point at him like a misbehaving child and then yell at the top of your lungs!  It’s a reflex for women to be polite.   Like covering your mouth with your hand as you laugh.

But he made the choice to lay a finger on you and now he’ll publicly pay the price.  His ego is not more important than your dignity.  Men take it for granted we’ll downplay the sexual assault and talk ourselves out of confronting the assailant.

As Ashley Judd said today after being touched against her will by an airport employee, speaking up can be the resolution to the everyday sexism.   And if you see a woman speaking up for herself, support her – don’t look away and be complicit in her victimization.

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From this picture I notice Taylor is wearing red lipstick and I own red lipstick which is one more thing we have in common.

Thank you Nina Davenport

I recently watched a documentary by Nina Davenport called First Comes Love about her journey to single motherhood.  Even those who are not single mothers by choice (SMC – we get an acronym) would find it engaging and insightful but if you are a SMC it hits you on a personal level.  For me it was the trifecta of personal – 1. She chose to be a single mom 2. She chose a known donor  and 3. Her father told her to get an abortion when he found out she was pregnant.

This blog post focuses on the third fecta (I like to make up words). My father was born in 1926 as a Depression era baby.  It is from him that I learned that being in debt is akin to selling your soul to the devil and in this case, the devil is the credit card industry.  I didn’t know my grandparents on his side very well since they died when I was 7, but I remember hearing his mother was strict. I heard a story about how my grandmother slapped my sister across the face because she refused to give her a kiss on the cheek.  The lesson was either suck it up and let your grandma’s whiskers tickle you or love hurts.

After a childhood in poverty, he became a success by middle class standards – a not too “taxing” job as an accountant, a house in the Jersey suburbs, a wife and two kids. And while he is average on the scale of progressive for the GI Generation – doesn’t hate black people but didn’t want me to date one; doesn’t hate gay people but glad I’m not a lesbian, etc.., he has lived a conventional life.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking when I grew up. I’m sure he would have preferred that to my being a single mother by choice. I waited until I was 3 months pregnant to tell him.  Since we live approximately 1,700 miles apart and he never travels, I probably could have gotten away with never telling him and trust me, I considered that option.  However, as much as I knew he would not be thrilled with my motherhood plans, I did not expect the depths of his negative reaction.

I heard a mix of “You’re dead to me”, “Get an abortion” and “You’re crazy” in rapid fire. Like a collection of bad song titles on a mixed tape (or your iPod for you youngsters).  As I mentioned, my dad is on the average side of progressive and is pro-choice – but I was disappointed he advocated abortion for his daughter’s planned and wanted pregnancy.

Soon after that call, he did follow up and tell me he didn’t mean it when he said I was dead to him.  But he did not recant his comment about getting an abortion. My mother, who divorced him when I was 15 and who accepted the circumstances of my pregnancy from the start, told me that my father told her on a few occasions he hoped I would miscarry.  I know his intent was not to be cruel. In this anomalous situation, he could not get a grip on how a single woman could choose single motherhood and the financial hardships that are linked together (unless you’re Angelina Jolie). He was scared for me.  But still, how he expressed his fear was beyond shitty.

I believe there was a sense of embarrassment that his child did not have a child through traditional methods.  He didn’t want me visiting him after my daughter was born because he didn’t want his neighbors to see me with a baby and ask him questions about it. Perhaps his unyielding array of old fashioned principles collided with any sense of unconditional love and humanity.

More than ten years later, my father has accepted that I have a child.  He does ask about her but he has never sent her a birthday card.  He’s spoken to her on the phone but has never expressed interest in meeting her.  I’ve decided I will not use vacation time to go to New Jersey.  He is set in his routine and long distance communication suffices.

While my apprehension about telling my dad about getting pregnant was enormous, my regret at not having a child would have been even more monumental.  I sometimes think single mother by choice should be more accurately called single mother by default.  However, for many women being a single mother is highly preferable to never being a mother.  How we get there is our choice and we can’t live our lives to placate others.

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Confession #29

When I was in college, I was friends with a racist.  Not on purpose.  I was naive enough to believe his derogatory comments about Asians, Muslims, black people and anyone else that did not look like him were simply jokes.  My home was not in hotbed of KKK activity or stomping ground for Neo-Nazis.  I grew up in Bergen County  in New Jersey just outside the racial smorgasbord of New York City and the liberal attitudes flowed into my suburban neighborhood.  I was sheltered from bona fide racism.  In fact, before I knew about the birds and the bees, I told my parents it was racist that two white people could not biologically produce a black baby.

My racist friend grew up not far from me but in a different demographic.  His town, while also considered a suburb of NYC, was more blue collar and lower socio-economic class. Or to be politically incorrect, kind of a white slum.

My friends and I have made racist, sexist, homophobic and other -ist and -phobic jokes.  If you think telling a racist joke, makes you a racist person, that is your opinion.  I don’t share that belief.  Harboring prejudices against people based on their skin color makes you racist.  I think if the intent of a joke is to show your contempt against people of another race, you might be a racist.  However, if your joke is simply funny, then I think it’s fine.  Then again, if you are around people that might take offense or beat your ass for telling a racist joke, then consider another option.

The final straw with my former friend came when we were watching tv together and a commercial came on with Sally Struthers asking viewers to sponsor starving children in Africa.  I believe Alyssa Milano has stepped into Sally’s role.  His response was there were enough niggers in the world and we should let them die.  Due to my naivete, I prodded him to renounce his words and tell me what I wanted to hear – that he didn’t really feel that way and he was just saying those things for the shock value.  He looked me in the eye and told me that is how he truly felt and he didn’t give a damn what others thought.

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It was then that I chose to end the friendship.  When he called me later that week to hang out again, I told him I couldn’t be friends with him anymore and I told him why.  If watching images of babies suffering from illness and hunger brings out your scathing comments about population control, you are not the type of person I can call my friend.  He was completely surprised by my explanation.

I’m sure he didn’t disavow his racism and I didn’t influence him to sponsor a child so I can’t say I helped someone to see the error of their ways.  It was a wake up call to me though, to be more particular in who I call a friend.  To really listen carefully, not just at their words but at the tone.  I shed a layer of innocence with the ending of that friendship.