art, controversies, education, funny stories, nostalgia

Creating “trash” to pay for creating a treasure…

I learned something new this morning as I caught up on what happened during the hours in which I slept. It’s my habit to go to the front page of my Google app and read suggested stories. They’re typically offered based on subjects Google has noticed I’ve read. I’ve been reading Maus, thanks to the enhanced publicity of Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel being banned for 8th graders in McMinn County, Tennessee. Maus is a brilliant work of art based on Art Spiegelman’s father’s experiences in The Holocaust. Because I’ve also been reading up on Art Spiegelman, this morning, Google recommended an article from Cracked.com about another one of Spiegelman’s very popular artistic projects from the 80s. It turns out that Art Spiegelman’s work was controversial, and even banned, when I was a 13 year old kid, too.

McMinn County’s school board “explains” why Maus was banned from the curriculum for 8th graders. Art Spiegelman’s work was banned when I was in the 8th grade, too, back in 1985-86. It’s a shame the school board is so short-sighted. Maus is a book that can reach a lot of young people in a positive way.

I’m ashamed to admit that prior to a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of Maus, although it won a Pulitzer Prize, and the first six chapters were released in 1986, when I was fourteen years old. Although I loved Mad Magazine when I was growing up, and Spiegelman was reportedly influenced by Mad, I didn’t read comic books as a rule. Wikipedia tells me that Spiegelman began working on Maus in 1978, and the comics originally appeared in a comic anthology magazine called Raw, which featured alternative comics for adults. Spiegelman was co-editor of Raw, where work by avant-garde artists who were previously unknown was showcased.

In 1985, when I was thirteen and in the 8th grade, Spiegelman heard that Steven Spielberg was making a movie about Jewish mice who escaped persecution in Eastern Europe. Believing that Spielberg’s film An American Tail, was inspired by Maus, which had been appearing in segments in issues of Raw, Spiegelman searched for a publisher who would make the first chapters of Maus available so that his work would not be unfairly compared to Spielberg’s. The first six chapters of Spiegelman’s masterpiece were published in 1986, comprising the first volume of Maus. The unfinished work earned rave reviews from The New York Times, and Spiegelman spent the next five years finishing the book. Incidentally, I have yet to see An American Tail, although I am a fan of the song, “Somewhere Out There”, which was sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, and appeared on the film’s soundtrack. It’s one of my favorite duets to sing on SingSnap. πŸ˜‰

Maybe it’s time I saw this movie.

Maus took a total of thirteen years to finish and, having spent the last few days reading it, I concur with so many others that it really is wonderful work. But Spiegelman did also have bills to pay as he was designing his masterpiece. So what did he do in those days to make ends meet as he worked on creating Maus? Well, besides teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Spiegelman created a relic from my youth that I remember all too well. Inspired, in part, by the very homely dolls, the Cabbage Patch Kids, which were incredibly popular in the 1980s, Spiegelman and a couple of other guys named Mark Newgarden and John Pound, created trading cards called Garbage Pail Kids.

Garbage Pail Kids first appeared in 1985– again, when I was at the age that the Tennessee eighth graders are at now– and, you guessed it, they caused quite a ruckus. In fact, they were banned in some places. Why were they banned? Well, mainly it was because they were gross, and adults in the 80s were a lot stuffier than they are today. I mean, kids of my era were allowed to do a lot more. We could run amok and be gone for hours every day with no fears that someone would call CPS. We could ride gloriously free of helmets on bikes, and without seatbelts in cars. And there was no such thing as the World Wide Web, so we never had to worry about some of the less savory things that kids today can be exposed to online. BUT– many parents and educators had a HUGE problem with the tasteless Garbage Pail Kids. God forbid kids of the 80s see vulgar comic depictions of a kids doing gross things! We might all turn into hoodlums!

Dan Rather does a report on Art Spiegelman’s controversial art circa 1986…

The trading cards each featured a Garbage Pail kid that had something grotesque and funny “wrong” with it. The characters bore a striking resemblance to the Cabbage Patch Kids, which led to a successful lawsuit. Still, the cards were so popular that they led to a 1987 feature film called The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. There was also a TV series developed based on the characters, but it never aired, due to the extreme controversy surrounding the cards. The article I read on Cracked mentions that the cards made a comeback in the 2000s, but by the time they were back on the market, most people had forgotten about them. And people of the 2000s were much less shocked by comic depictions of kids who looked gross or were doing nasty or vulgar things.

I do remember Garbage Pail Kids, but I never collected them. By the time the movie came out, I was fifteen years old, and totally into my horse. I recall that teachers didn’t like them because they were “distracting”. In fact, I seem to remember that they were so controversial that in 1989, The Cosby Show did an episode loosely based on them, calling them “The Gross Out Gang”. The episode was about youngest child, Rudy, being caught watching a gory horror movie about gross kids that her parents didn’t approve of. Rudy tells her parents that they need to revisit the rules she is forced to abide by, which spawns a fun episode that shows what happens when little girls don’t abide by their parents’ wise counsel.

A clip from The Cosby Show that references “The Gross Out Gang”.

Bill Cosby was practically a god in the 80s, and his show was considered “family friendly” entertainment and “must see TV” on Thursday nights. In those days, there were a lot fewer channels to watch, so a lot of people watched Cosby, not realizing that he was a lot grosser than Garbage Pail Kids or “The Gross Out Gang” could ever be. Ah, but we were so innocent back then. It was much easier for people like Cosby to hide their sins. News didn’t travel as fast, and not everyone had a camera.

It kind of blows my mind that a genius like Art Spiegelman was behind Garbage Pail Kids. But then, I guess in their own way, Garbage Pail Kids were yet another element of Spiegelman’s genius. They were hugely popular, and they no doubt made it possible for Spiegelman to make his mark on the world in a profound way by creating Maus. Isn’t it interesting that Bill Cosby, who is also a genius, but has done some really terrible things to women, was considered “family friendly” to parents of my childhood, but Art Spiegelman, who as far as I know, has never actually harmed anyone, keeps putting out stuff that gets banned? I mean, Cosby has most recently been “canceled” by a lot of people, but he was allowed to influence young people for decades! I remember seeing him on Fat Albert, and The Electric Company, and when he did “Picture Pages”, which I think were featured on Captain Kangaroo and later on Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel.

This man was regarded as the epitome of “family friendly” back in the day. But he was only recently released from prison for drugging and raping Andrea Constand, who was just one of so many women who accused him of sexual assault.

The older I get, the more I think a lot of people have their priorities messed up. I see that the people of McMinn County were heavily in favor of re-electing Donald Trump for president, who has said some things that are definitely not appropriate for kids to hear or read. Why is it that the good people of McMinn don’t have a problem with an admitted pussy grabber in the White House, but they can’t bear the idea of thirteen year old kids seeing a cartoon depiction of suicide or nudity, or reading the word “shit” and “God damn” a few times. I just read the part of Maus in which the word “God damn” was used. It was definitely not used inappropriately, given the context of the situation in the book. Art was furious at his father for destroying his mother’s priceless diaries after he’d had a “bad day”. Since his mother committed suicide in 1968, it made perfect sense that Art would have been outraged enough to curse at his father. And believe me, 13 year olds have heard that particular profanity,β€” and much worseβ€” a lot. I think the issue is, McMinn County simply doesn’t want its children to be exposed to the truths of the terrible sins perpetrated by supposed white Christians in the not too distant past.

I read in the minutes of the school board meeting in which Maus was removed, one of the points made for removing the book was that students today could be disciplined for using the curse words in the book. However, I would really hope that the adults in these kids’ lives teach them that there are times and places for “objectionable language”. I don’t think thirteen year olds are so innocent that they can’t be taught that the word “God damn”, uttered by a very angry person regarding the Holocaust, during which people were systematically MURDERED, is necessarily inappropriate. Curse words, like it or not, have their uses. I would rather someone curse than commit an act of violence, for instance. I rarely ever heard Bill Cosby curse in his comedy routines and television shows, but he surely did do violent things to women. And Donald Trump–the beloved and heavily supported former POTUS in McMinn County– has both said objectionable words and committed violent acts against women– including his first wife, Ivana, whom he presumably had some regard for at the time, I would hope.

Anyway, I am heartened that people have been outraged that Maus was banned in Tennessee. I’m glad to see that it’s back on the bestseller list, and people like me are buying copies of it and reading it. As I mentioned before, McMinn County is actually inadvertently educating people with its ridiculous condemnation of Art Spiegelman’s great book. Banned books are usually the best ones to read. I’ll bet those old Garbage Pail Kids collections are also going to sell like hotcakes, too. Americans are funny that way.

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musings

“Us vs. them…” a statement on the state of things…

Well, once again, it’s Friday. Bill is coming home today after having been gone for the past few days. I started reading Maus yesterday, after having read about the uproar the book is causing in the United States. I’m about five chapters in so far, and I can already see why it won a Pulitzer Prize. I’ve never been a big comic book person and it never would have occurred to me to read a graphic novel before I heard of Maus. And yet, the drawings and dialogue, which author Art Spiegelman has so cleverly created, have really drawn me in. I forced myself to stop reading last night, because I was afraid I’d get too emotional and have trouble sleeping. I think it helps that Art Spiegelman was influenced by Mad Magazine, which was one of my favorite magazines when I was growing up.

Of course, I also started another book on my Kindle app that is potentially equally upsetting. But I don’t find the subject matter of the e-book quite as horrifying as I do the subject of the Holocaust, which disturbs me on many levels. And it’s mainly because I now live in the country that perpetrated those horrors, as I watch my own country go down a similarly destructive path. I only hope that some day, the United States will heal in the ways Germany has, complete with citizens taking full responsibility for the attitude of disdain and hatred people have for each other and the damage that attitude does.

I really think that Maus is deemed “inappropriate”, not because of the word “God damn” and the prospect of young people looking at mice in the nude, but because most young people are not stupid, and some of them will connect the dots. No, I don’t think it’s gotten to the point at which people are being hauled to camps, starved, and gassed, but I think it’s important to remember that the Holocaust didn’t start that way, either. It started with the “us vs. them” attitude, and a charismatic leader who cast blame on people he deemed “undesirable”. Right under the noses of otherwise decent people, he made it okay to be hateful and cruel, simply due to who people were and their life’s circumstances. It eventually got to the point at which people thought of “them” as non-human.

I think the pandemic kind of adds to this phenomenon. There’s just so much disrespect across the board nowadays. People are fed up with the constant rules, restrictions, sickness, and death. That fatigue crosses over into other things… Not that the rudeness didn’t exist before COVID-19, but it’s gotten much worse. I’ve noticed that if you aren’t squarely on one side of the issue, people assume you’re on the side that isn’t theirs, rather than assuming that maybe you’re in the middle. And they seem to think that makes it okay to attack.

Last night, I was reading about the Maus controversy, and the arguments being presented on both sides were stated in ways that were anything but friendly. One very vociferous man… or, as vociferous as a person can be on the Internet, was insisting that taking Maus out of the curriculum was the right thing to do, since it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for all audiences. Anytime someone argued with him, he basically accused them of being “obtuse” or “stupid”, even if their arguments were intelligent and reasoned. He doggedly took on all comers, too. I didn’t respond to the man myself, since he was just like so many other people I’ve run into– strangers who forget that there are people behind the posts to which he was responding. I don’t enjoy arguing with people I actually know, so I knew I wasn’t wanting to argue with that guy. But I did notice that he had a “Red Wave” vote Republican sign on his profile… which automatically makes me wonder if maybe he wasn’t just projecting.

This level of “disdain” doesn’t just come from conservatives, though. There don’t seem to be many “good guys” who are just moderate and normal, and want things to be fair for everyone. Or, maybe there are people like that, but they are staying quiet. I try to write about these things myself, because I think more people need to read a more centrist view. Before Donald Trump came in and wreaked havoc on the Republican Party, I used to think some of the conservative ideals made good sense. But now, it’s being run by a bunch of religious zealots who think it’s “Christlike” to carry weapons and force people to give birth.

Likewise, I don’t like how liberals try to cram their ideals down everyone’s gullets, self-righteously preaching to anyone who isn’t completely on their bandwagon, and arrogantly acting like they’re superior to those who aren’t “woke”. It takes time to change people’s views, even when the views are considered politically incorrect. A person who has politically incorrect views may not be all bad, though. Sometimes, people evolve. I don’t think it’s helpful to unilaterally condemn people… although both sides of the political spectrum are certainly guilty of that practice.

I admire people who are civil. I wish I were more civil myself. I try to be, and I think I’ve made progress over the past 25 years or so, but I still have a temper and strong sense of what I consider to be right and wrong. Like, for instance, a more civilized person might be more magnanimous toward my husband’s ex wife. There are times when the better part of me looks at her with empathy. I truly am sorry she went through the things she did when she was a child. I wouldn’t wish that for any human being, not just because I don’t like to see people suffer, but also because I know suffering causes people to hurt others. It’s a condition that is as contagious as COVID-19.

I mentioned that I’m only five chapters into Maus, but one thing I immediately noticed was at the very beginning of the book, when Art draws himself as a boy who was left behind at the playground and is deemed a “rotten egg”. He sniffles that his friends abandoned him. His father wisely pointed out that most friends turn less friendly in times of adversity. Lock people up, treat them badly, and take away things they need for survival, or even just comfort, and you’ll soon see them turn against each other, and see each other as less than human. To a much lesser extent, we can see this “us vs. them” attitude in daily life, as each side is convinced that the other wants to take over and make things worse for them. In fairness, though, I can see why each side feels that way. I just happen to lean more toward the left right now, mainly because I truly believe Donald Trump and his most rabid followers are very dangerous people.

But maybe these people have always been out there. I just never noticed them before, because we’ve always had people in charge who had at least a scintilla of decency. Donald Trump is probably the most shameless malignant narcissist who has ever lived in the White House. I don’t even think he believes in a lot of the ideas he pushes. He just says what riles people up. He may find that he’s awakened a beast, because I have a feeling that some of the people he’s agitated may turn on him, and not toward decency and diplomacy.

Anyway… I am just a nobody here in Germany, writing yet another post for my little read blog. I sure would like to see some sun… and it will be good to see Bill, who makes what I do worthwhile. I’ll probably get more into Maus today. If you haven’t read it yourself, I recommend picking up a copy; if you can find one. Besides being very cleverly conceived, I find the interaction between Art and his father, Vladek, very moving. I’m gratified to read it. Maybe I should thank the school board in McMinn County, Tennessee for inadvertently educating me. I doubt I would have been determined to read this book if it weren’t controversial and “banned”.

Stephen King is right.

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communication, complaints, condescending twatbags, rants

Just WTF does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Well, it finally happened. I now have a topic to discuss today that isn’t about the Duggar family. Prepare for an epic rant.

Years ago, I was a big fan of Mad Magazine. Unfortunately, I was introduced to Mad by the neighborhood pervert, who had a son who was a few years older than me. I suspect the pervert’s son was the Mad Magazine fan. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I’m just glad he gave me something to look at besides the men’s magazines he usually showed me back when I was a wee lass. Even though I can’t look at a copy of Mad without remembering the Home of the Whopper (as the neighborhood pervert occasionally referred to himself), the fact remains that it was a funny magazine, especially when I was an adolescent. And after all these years, I have managed to maintain my adolescent sense of humor.

Not that anyone really appreciates it…

Back in the early 1980s, Mad Magazine did a parody of public television telethons. I don’t remember exactly what the spoof was about, but I do remember that Big Bird was a participant. The clever cartoonist had drawn Big Bird as he would have been on Sesame Street, introducing the letter for the day. In that particular article, the letter for the day was “P”, and Big Bird introduced it by saying “P stands for ‘prance’ and ‘pad’ and ‘punch’ and ‘puss’ and ‘please’. As in, ‘I’m going to prance over to your pad and punch you in the puss if you don’t please give us money.'”

The eleven year old version of me thought that was just fucking hilarious. I remember laughing my ass off, mainly because I didn’t know that the word “puss” is not akin to the word “pussy”. I had a grand time picturing Big Bird prancing, let alone prancing over to someone’s “pad” and punching them. And of course, because I had never been exposed to the old fashioned word “puss”, and was picturing Big Bird punching someone in the pussy, I laughed even harder.

My laughter is distinctive, and some people find it irritating. My parents were among those who criticized me for the way I laugh. My dad especially hated it, and would tell me I sounded like a cackling witch.

Anyway, after I read that article in Mad, my mom asked me why I was laughing so hard, so I told her. Her response was to get annoyed with me and crankily inform me that the word “puss” refers to someone’s face– hence the expression “sour puss”. In fact, she had a distinctly sour puss as she edified me with that information. I still thought the mental image of Big Bird prancing to someone’s pad and punching someone in the pussy was hilarious, and continued to laugh like a banshee. Years later, I still think that mental image is funny, and I occasionally still laugh about it.

Of course, not everyone thinks the idea of Big Bird punching someone in the pussy is funny. I probably still annoy people, too, even when I’m doing something as innocent as laughing at a ridiculous mental image. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think I’m an asshole, even when I’m seriously not trying to be an asshole.

So what’s that story got to do with today’s title? Keep reading, and I think it will be clearer. Or maybe not. My mind works in strange, tangental ways.

My old friend, Jamie, posted a couple of pictures of himself yesterday. He currently has long hair. I’ve never known him to have long hair, because I haven’t seen him in person in many years. When I knew him offline, he had short, conservatively styled hair. But we have known each other since we were very young, having graduated from the same high school and worked at the same amusement park for a few summers. Naturally, neither of us still looks the way we did in the late 80s, early 90s.

Anyway, Jamie has long hair now, and he wanted to know if he should wear his hair up or down for the occasion of attending his son’s graduation. I’m assuming the young man has just finished college. I didn’t have an opinion on Jamie’s hair or how he should wear it, although I am impressed that he apparently still has so much of it at his age. Instead, I was struck by the rather dour expression on his face in his pictures. I didn’t remember him to be so somber looking when I knew him offline. So I posted, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” That’s a song from Annie, by the way, and it was intended as a lighthearted joke.

Some time later, a mutual friend of Jamie’s took me to task for making that comment. She might have been surprised to know that I actually hesitated before posting it, because as a woman, I don’t necessarily like it when someone suggests that I smile. But I figured Jamie and I have known each other for a long time and he wouldn’t be offended. It never crossed my mind that anyone other than him would raise an objection. I certainly never thought I was going to be confronted about COVID-19 when I posted it.

When Jamie’s other friend initially came at me, I figured it was because she’s apparently a woman, and like a lot of women, she doesn’t like to be ordered to smile. But no… somehow, she got the impression that I was making a statement about mask mandates and COVID-19. She left me a second comment about how she lives in New Mexico, where mask mandates have been reinstated, and is fully immunized and boosted and wears masks and yadda, yadda, yadda. I was initially confused by her laundry list of COVID-19 prevention tactics. Then I got a bit irritated.

I should add that it was late at night when I saw her comments. I was about to go to bed, having enjoyed dinner and libations. And I just didn’t get how she took my statement as being about the fucking pandemic, or why everything has to be about the goddamned pandemic. I never mentioned COVID, vaccines, masks, or anything. I just made a simple comment about Jamie’s joyless expression. It never even crossed my mind that his smile would eventually be covered by a face mask, although I’m certain it probably was. But somehow, this lady seemed to think I was making a statement about the pandemic when I was just reacting to pictures posted by an old friend.

So I responded to her that I live in Germany, am fully vaccinated, have an appointment to get a booster, and mask mandates never went away here. I also have a master’s degree in public health and another in social work. And I’ve known Jamie since I was about 17 years old, and was just kidding.

I didn’t add this, but I could have also told her that my comment had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with COVID-19. And I don’t know how she conflated a comment about smiling to being about masks, especially since prior to my peevish response to her comment, she didn’t know a fucking thing about me. I also didn’t add that, given my background, of course I understand how serious the pandemic is. Of course, we’ve never met, so she wouldn’t have known before I told her. But my initial comment wasn’t even about the pandemic. She read a lot more into it than was really necessary.

She came back with “Good to know.”

WTF? I’m not the one who was being rude. She chose to engage me, by chiming in with an inappropriate and nonsensical comment. Why can’t I add a simple response on an old friend’s Facebook status without some stranger assuming the worst about me and putting words in my fingers? I don’t even know this person from Adam, and she doesn’t know me! She might as well have come up to me on the street and started talking about thermonuclear physics, or something equally as irrelevant.

This isn’t so much a rant about the clueless woman in New Mexico with a Ph.D. who works for the Army, as it is that trying to communicate on social media just sucks. People have lost the ability to be civilized. We all sit behind computer screens and deliver the snark first and ask questions later. I’m as guilty of it as anyone is, I guess. We all seem to read more into things than we should, or we make erroneous assumptions that someone is being rude. Or we put words in people’s fingers– make assumptions about points they never even made. We don’t simply take things at face value. I see it in comment sections all the time, which is why I try hard not to respond in them. Too often, making comments ends up being involved in a pissing match with a complete stranger. No thanks.

Communicating with someone online can sometimes be downright weird, especially when you compare it to talking to someone in person. Imagine having an in person chat with someone you know, and suddenly your friend’s mutual friend, a total stranger to you, suddenly butts in to your exchange with a completely irrelevant comment about socks or something. That’s what it’s sometimes like to communicate with an old friend online. But, of course, communicating online, especially on a public forum, is NOT like having an in person conversation, precisely because total strangers and outsiders to the conversation can butt in with something off topic.

Maybe I am perturbed right now because I really miss offline communications, and actually getting to know people. It annoys me that I wind up interacting with complete strangers just so I can exchange a few words with a legitimate old friend from back in the days before the Internet.

I suppose I could have simply ignored her. Maybe next time, I’ll just do that. Ignoring her doesn’t solve the issue that has so irritated me this morning, though. On the other hand, maybe if we have occasion to interact again, she might have a better understanding of who I am before she pops off with something completely useless and irrelevant. Or maybe not. My guess is that she’s already forgotten about me and our unpleasant exchange.

Adding to my moan this morning are a couple of other things. First off, I somehow managed to break the business end of the Type C thunderbolt cable for my iPad. I don’t know what happened, but the end managed to come loose and now it no longer works. So I had to order a new cable, and that cost me some euros. I ordered early in the morning and Amazon.de said the replacement would get to me today. But, I see that it will probably get here tomorrow, which sucks because Saturday is the one day of the week I might hope to get out of the house and do something fun. Sundays in Germany are often pretty dead… at least if one wants to do any shopping or anything. Delivery people here don’t always leave packages like they do in the States.

And then, another person– someone I don’t know offline, but “met” through Epinions– decided to add a rude comment to a discussion my friends and I had a couple of days ago about Josh Duggar. This dude felt the need to post “YAWWWNNN…” on that topic.

My response to him was to “keep scrolling.” I mean, if you have nothing of substance to add to a discussion on someone else’s Facebook page, and you think what they’ve posted is boring, why not just move on? There’s no need to leave a rude comment that does nothing more than irritate people. Again with the uncivilized behavior, right?

That guy has a tendency to be a grouch sometimes, but he’s not the worst offender. In fact, he rarely chimes in on things on my page. He probably has better things to do than hang out on social media. Given that, he doesn’t need to leave a random comment that he thinks my discussion is boring. But at least he’s not like …tom… Some of my regulars know all about …tom…

…tom… could not resist leaving insulting comments to any and all topics. He was another person I “met” on Epinions. I never liked him much, but decided to try to give him the benefit of the doubt. After awhile, when he would leave those kinds of rude and useless comments, I would respond with profanity. Usually, I would tell him to “fuck off” or “go play in traffic” or something like that. I will admit that’s not very civilized behavior, either. I mainly did it because he was such an insufferable jackass, and it was sometimes fun for me to be unabashedly profane when he asked for it. Remember, I wasn’t on his page; he was on mine.

One day, I finally got tired of the bullshit and kicked …tom… off my friends list. That was kind of sad for me, because he gave me a lot to blog about– or at least vent. On the other hand, trying to have a meaningful conversation with him was a complete waste of time. He would chime in on things, often without having the slightest notion of what the discussion was about. He would leave rude, critical, condescending comments. He had no respect for me, so trying to be friendly with him was not productive. And while cursing is something I do as if it’s my job, I don’t feel good about swearing at people. Not unless I know they enjoy it. I don’t know how …tom… felt about being asked to “fuck off”, but he once told me he wasn’t “unfriending”, even though he seemed to find my page so worthy of criticism. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Maybe that’s the solution. I should just tell people who annoy me to “fuck off” and use my block button. Not caring about how other people perceive me might even be the key to happiness. Another key to happiness is to stop trying to engage with strangers, especially those who make assumptions before they know any facts. And maybe someday, I’ll log off of social media altogether and simply read books, like I did in the days before I joined Facebook. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

People need to learn to come at people where they live… or simply shut the fuck up.

And just to bring this topic back around to where it started before I seemed to go wildly off on a tangent, I’d like to announce the letters for today. Big Bird says, the letters for today are “F” and “U”. As in, “feeling fed up”… and of course you know what else. πŸ˜‰

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memories

The times my dad taught me about enemas, hemorrhoids, and prostitutes…

Today’s post may be disturbing or triggering to some people… Personally, I choose to laugh at these memories, but some readers may not find them very funny, since technically a couple of them are about what many people would consider child abuse. Anyway, you’ve been warned… proceed with caution.

In the interest of writing something that doesn’t have anything to do with current events, I’m going to share a few stories about my dad. Regular readers of this blog may know that my dad and I didn’t have the easiest relationship. He was basically a very good man and he was an excellent provider. But he was also controlling, uptight, and an alcoholic who was occasionally abusive to me. Despite that, he definitely had his moments of hilarity… especially since he was so uptight and military, and I was… well, I was kind of outrageous and frequently shocked him. Case in point, people who know me well, regularly send me this kind of stuff on social media. For some reason, they think I’ll like it.

For some reason this morning, I was reminded of South Park and the episode during which the South Park kids ask Chef (RIP) about prostitutes. He doesn’t want to tell them, and expresses exasperation that they’re putting him in the position of having to explain such a thing. The kids finally goad Chef into bursting into a song about prostitutes, which includes a poor impression of James Taylor…

“Dagnabbit!”

This morning, after I enjoyed a hearty laugh at this memory, I was reminded of the time I asked my dad about prostitutes. Picture it. The year was 1981, and I was about 8 years old. I’d been riding on the bus, where I endured daily bullying from the asshole kids who had grown up in Gloucester County. My parents had just moved us to the county months before, so to those kids, I was a “come here”. However, as Gloucester didn’t then and still doesn’t have a maternity ward in its hospital, a lot of those kids were born “over the rivah”, like I was.

I was born in Hampton, Virginia, as were some of my Gloucester native classmates. A lot of the other “natives” were born in Newport News or Williamsburg. Those nearby cities all have maternity wards. The difference was, they were raised in Gloucester from birth, while I moved there when I was eight. But since my parents ended up staying there for 29 years, I think a lot of them think of me as a “native” now. Anyway, I digress…

Those kids picked on me mercilessly every day, both at school, and on the bus. I used to come home in tears all the time. I was different. I was also obnoxious, but I was just trying to fit in and make friends. For some reason, one day I told one of the kids about the time one of my male cousins offered me money if I’d show him my private parts. To put this in perspective, when this incident happened, I was six or seven years old. He was two years older, so he was eight or nine. I doubt this was anything more than pure childhood curiosity. It was definitely innocent on my end, although I don’t know what my cousin was thinking. We never got along and I’ve never asked him about it. He’s probably forgotten all about it.

Before we lived in Gloucester, we lived in Fairfax County, up near Washington, DC. University Mall, a glorified shopping center that was kind of like an enclosed mall without a roof, was right behind our neighborhood, and I was allowed to go there by myself– completely unthinkable today. There was a Giant grocery store and a High’s convenience store, where I could get candy. My aunt and her family lived in our neighborhood, so I saw my cousins regularly. They were close in age to me and used to walk me to and from school. So when my cousin offered me what seemed like a lot of money just to show him my vagina, I trusted him. Because, at that point, I was not taught that any part of my body was “private”, per se… Remember, it was the late 70s, and he was my first cousin.

Some hours later, my parents found the money and questioned me about it. I told them what happened, and they returned the money to my aunt. I think she gave my cousin a spanking, and that was the end of it. I never came away with the idea that there was anything weird about the story, so I guess I told it in an attempt to fit in with those kids. But the kids on the bus laughed at me, and called me a prostitute. I had never heard that word before, so I didn’t understand why it was so “funny” for eight year olds to call another eight year old child that.

That afternoon, my dad was working in his frame shop, the business he ran out of our house. I asked him what a prostitute is. Our conversation went something like this.

“Dad, what’s a prostitute?” I asked.

“What?” He was pretty shocked at the question, and his brow furrowed because I was so young to be asking.

“What’s a prostitute?” I repeated.

“Where did you learn that word?” he demanded.

“I heard it on the bus.” I replied.

My dad got a look of disgust on his face as he explained.  “A prostitute is a woman who sells her love to people.”

I was a little confused, since love is supposed to be a good thing.  Selling is legal.  So is loving.  So is fucking, for that matter.  But I didn’t press him for more details, because he looked kind of pissed.  

This was the very first issue of Mad Magazine that I ever read. I recently read that Mad has ceased production.

A few years later, the neighborhood pervert, who used to refer to his penis as “the home of the Whopper”, gave me my very first issue of Mad Magazine. I loved reading Mad, back in the day, and I still enjoy it, even though it was introduced to me by a person who used to regularly show me pornography, completely unbeknownst to my parents. They thought of him as a good neighbor and a friend. He even babysat me once or twice, even though he used to show me Penthouse, Playboy, and a strange quasi-medical book called The Sex Atlas. Again, I was very innocent, so I didn’t think what he was doing was wrong. I used to watch whatever I wanted on HBO and was rarely monitored by my parents. It wasn’t until I was much older that a mental health professional told me that what my neighbor did was technically considered sexual abuse of a minor.

Anyway, there I was reading Mad Magazine… I was maybe ten or eleven years old. And I came across yet another word I didn’t know. The word was “enema”. There was a feature on doctors and the running gag was a physician who would prescribe enemas for everything from a sore throat to hemorrhoids.  Naturally, as a somewhat sheltered kid, I didn’t know what enemas were.  I also didn’t have access to Google in those days, so I asked my dear old dad.

My dad was a somewhat formal guy.  He had a sense of humor and could be funny when the mood struck him.  But he was also very military and conservative and he didn’t approve of my raunchy sense of humor. To put this in perspective, my dad– who served almost 22 years in the Air Force– once blushed seven shades of red when Bill told him what “Charlie Foxtrot” is a euphemism for in the service (cluster fuck). My dad didn’t like swearing or other “inappropriate” talk. In retrospect, he probably didn’t like it because it reminded him of his father, who was also an abusive alcoholic, and swore a lot. He and his father did NOT get along.

Still, I was totally innocent about enemas, and my dad didn’t mind teaching me about such things.  I had never heard of them and simply wanted to understand what they were so I could get the joke in my favorite magazine. Our awkward conversation went something like this…

“Dad,” I asked, “What’s an enema?”

Dad put down what he was doing and said, “What?”

“What’s an enema?” I repeated.

He got a strange look on his face and said in a rather matter-of-fact tone of voice, “An enema is a very uncomfortable and unpleasant procedure in which someone forces a tube up your behind and flushes out your bowels with liquid.”

“Huh?” I asked, suddenly shocked and grossed out.

“It’s very unpleasant and uncomfortable.” my dad reiterated.  I guess he hadn’t heard of Fleet’s, which are somewhat less horrifying than the old fashioned enema bags he was likely thinking of.  

I started thinking about it and wondered if my dad was speaking from personal experience.  He probably was, come to think of it.  But somehow, I knew better than to ask him more specific questions about enemas. To this day, I haven’t yet experienced an enema. Certainly not one like he had described. I have witnessed Bill going through them, though, since he’s a man of a certain age.

And then there was the time I asked my dad about hemorrhoids, but all he told me about that was that your intestines come out of your ass and bleed on your underwear.  That happens to be factually incorrect as well as disgusting. 

I really could have used Google when I was growing up, but if I had, I wouldn’t have these funny memories of asking my dad about inappropriate things like enemas and watching him struggle to tell me about them without blushing.  At least I never asked him about douching.  And at least this post has taught me how to spell hemorrhoids. It takes practice, that’s for sure. 

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