Lying Eyes

One of the things I hate the most about the news is the way they slant the news in pictures.  If they want to show support for a person, they pick a flattering picture.  If they don’t, they pick a negative one.

I remember reading news accounts after an acquaintance of mine was arrested for child sexual assault and the picture was a gross, disgusting mugshot that made his outsides look like his insides.  And an internet commentator said, “Look at him.  He looks like a monster.  Of course he’s guilty.”

But I’ve seen him on any given day, and he was personal, affable, funny, engaging, handsome, witty….He was entirely credible as a human being, a trustworthy human being, who would never harm a soul.

When I see videos online or images in the media or elsewbere, I always try to remember that contrasting image.  The image in my head vs the image that was displayed in that moment.  I think it does a disservice to people everywhere to show the most unflattering pictures.  It reinforces that old feeling that ugly people look ugly and goes back to the basic physiognomy concepts.  But real monsters can be pretty.  They can be charming.  They can be nice. They can disarming.  They can be sweet.  They can be thoughtful.  But they can still be monsters capable of horrific acts.  You show the monster in the pictures and people look for monsters who look like monsters.  We need to know the monster that looks like us.  So that we know that monsters can and do look like us.  So we don’t get devoured by the monster with the pretty face, and glib manner who seems so safe and so trustworthy.

 

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Thoughts on Prayers

My experience with directed prayers hasn’t been particularly positive.  So when people ask me to pray for them, I always hesitate, wondering if my prayers will help.  They never helped me.  When I wanted something, when I prayed on my knees, hands outstretched, where was G-d then?  Do I hate anyone in this world so much as to inflict the results of my prayers upon them?

Does it bring peace to believe that someone is praying for their success and their happiness?  I hope so.  I certainly can pray for that.  That wouldn’t hurt right?  Two more thoughts; there’s an old saying that you should always be debt, because then your creditors will always pray for you to live so you can pay them back.

And from the Decameron, the story of the notoriously wicked Ciapelletto who becomes gravely ill.  His hosts are concerned about what people will say about them if this wicked man dies in their house, without receiving last rites, and unconfessed, but the villain assures them he will take care of the problem, just call the priest for last confession.  Nervously, his hosts brings in the priest and Ciapelletto tearfully confesses, as if he was the most broken sinner in the world, the most minor venal sins that you can imagine.  The priest walks away convinced this is one of the most righteous men who ever lived and offering him a burial in his own parish. Then he spreads the story of the righteous Ciapelletto wide and far and people come to pray at his grave and for his intercession, as a saint.  But in some way, isn’t that truth?  Abandoned to all manner of wickedness, didn’t he do this one thing for his hosts, as a gracious favor?  For his own soul, obviously he had not a care, but he put the comfort of his fellow first.  The description certainly made it sound as if he enjoyed having a receptive audience for his last lies, so he didn’t get nothing out of the deal, but mostly he did it for someone else.

Sometimes I prefer the other lesson of the story, that G-d hears your voice and even if you pray at the grave of the vilest sinner; your voice as clear as if it was sung by the purest angel.  But sometimes I prefer this interpretation, that even though one is the vilest sinner, a simple act to act a fellow can transform you into the purest saint, worthy of help and redemption.

Which doesn’t negate what I opened this post with.  My prayers have been proven ineffective repeatedly. Who would ever want them?

 

Oldest and Youngest

My girlfriend’s oldest daughter is engaged. My girlfriend is 5 years younger than me. Today we talked about dresses.  Our families are very close, so she was hoping we could dress in the family color scheme.  And she wanted to dress her youngest girl in an outfit that matched one my child would wear.

We did find matching outfits.  And it will be amazing, adorable, and precious.  But.

Her youngest girl, not even her youngest child.  My oldest child.  My youngest child.  My only child.  It creates a very stark contrast.  My child will fit in perfectly between her youngest two children, and the other family will assume she’s one of them.  And she could be.  And I take nothing away from my girlfriend.  Raising a large family is difficult.  But. But.  It just emphasizes how starkly our realities differ.  Her family stands out everywhere.  A large boisterous bunch that dominates the room.  My family is small; so small, it could fit into hers without even a ripple.

It makes me feel very small and unimportant.  I know that’s paradoxical.  Because they inviting to join their family precisely because we are important to them.  It’s like the failure flowers again.  What they mean to the person who offers it is not what it means to the person who receives it.  Instead of that message of love and inclusion, it feels like a consolation prize.  Even though I know it’s irrational.  We would be just as welcome with 71 children as we are with 1.

The Unlovable Monster

A bunch of things have happened to me over the the last few weeks and I find it perplexing.

I think since most people reading this have no idea who I am, I hope I can say these things honestly, objectively, dispassionately.  Because they really are ordinary every day things.

I went to services with my daughter, as we do, and we were in the children’s service, as we do, and one of the children asked why we always hear the same stories, and do the same things.  And the leader of the service explained that although we read the same story and hear and say the same words, what we take away each time is different.

In fact, we went on to read a story in which a boy wanted to participate prayers, but he couldn’t read and didn’t know any prayers.  He only learned the first four letters of the alphabet.  During the time before when we read the story, one of the children automatically added the fifth letter.  And during this read, the leader made that a part of the story, so instead of showing the boy saying his four letters over and over for a prayer, he said 5.  And I was struck by that.  Just the simple change, from four letters to five.  From yesterday to today, he already knew more now, today, than he did yesterday.  So when she asked what we took away from the story, after the children had expressed their ideas, I raised my hand and expressed mine.  And we talked as a group about how all our moments and all the people we meet give us a chance to grow and learn.

After the service, she thanked me for being there and staying to be part of the service.  And I answered honestly, that I felt her service was the best and it was the only thing that inspired me. And I didn’t think I brought much to the table, but she assured me that she knew for the last few years that her services would be good services there because I would be there to help and support the group.

Two weeks ago, I was invited to a book party.  And a week later, I was invited to a second book party by a woman who wanted to become a consultant to make extra money.  When the second woman found out I’d been invited to a first party, she was upset, not wanting to take money from the other woman.  I assured her I had a large enough order to split between the two parties leaving no one wanting.  Honestly, I was grateful for the excuse to buy what I wanted, since I had felt the order I was putting together was really too large to justify, but split between two, it was just right.  (Oh, nevermind that it’s all the same money, it’s totally different!) So the woman who ran the second party thanked me today especially for taking time to consider her and to find a solution that benefited everyone.  But isn’t that what everyone does?

Today is one of the days that charities seem to solicit donations, so I made a few donations in various places, and besides the usual acknowledgements, one of my friends thanked me for donating to her house of worship.   And some sentimental claptrap about what a good person I am and how much it means to her.

And it doesn’t make any sense to me.  I feel so empty and so monstrous and so unlovable.  If I’m a good person, why don’t I have children?  If I’m deserving of praise, why do my arms and heart feel so empty?  Why do I feel so lost?

Do you even know me?

A friend of mine sent me a book recommendation this morning.  The book she recommended was about bad ass mothers.  It seems like it would be right in my wheelhouse, but I felt my heart sinking.  How many of those stories are about woman like me, who struggled to get pregnant, stay pregnant, have a child?  Not very many, I imagine.  How many are about mothers who did something awesome while managing more than one child, probably most?  And I don’t know, maybe it’s just badly timed, but it made me sad.

I’m not a bad-ass mother.  Motherhood doesn’t make one a badass. Doing badass things makes you a badass.  Doing that while mothering is laudable, but it’s not not defining is it? I feel like I felt about Gal Gadot being “wonder mom.”  Like there’s no hope for me to ever be anything worthwhile.

When I read about Serena Williams said she didn’t feel fulfilled under she became a mother, I remember being furious.  “What are we doing to our girls that they don’t feel like a real person until they give birth to a person?”  Serena Williams.  If she can’t feel fulfilled without motherhood, what hope do ordinary people have?

What hope do I have?

Which is not to take anything away from the one amazing child I do have.

Names

I have OPINIONS on names.  Many opinions. When people tell me their baby names, they do with an awareness that I’m silently judging it.

But.

After the name is selected, or even if it changes post-facto, you will not hear one word of judgement cross my lips.  You will not hear me say or imply in any way that I intend to use a different name.  The name you tell me is the name I will use, and I will use it consistently and with respect.

I mention this, because as strong as I feel about names, I also feel like your name is your own and you get to choose (or in the case of infants, their parents choose) how you like to be identified.  And this is why I had to turn off the radio this morning. Because one of the main conservative tactics right now in controlling and shutting down political discourse is to steal the name of the candidates they don’t like.  And I am totally and completely offended by this.  If you don’t want to call seated Senator Elizabeth Warren by her full title, I get that.  And I don’t care if you call her Warren, Senator Warren, or Senator Elizabeth.  But unless she has given you leave to call her by a nickname, as seated Senator Bernie Sanders has implicitly done by his use of “Bernie” everywhere, you don’t get to choose her name for her.  You don’t get to call Liz, Lizzy, Lizbet, or whatever diminutive suits your fancy.  The reduction of person through stealing their name is a tactic as old as time, and I loathe it.  It echos our racist past where black parents were not allowed to choose names for their children, or if they did, the white masters used whatever they wanted anyway.  It echos the German action of appending “Sarah” or “Israel” to the passports of Jews, and culminates in replacing their names entirely with numbers, and then killing them.

That’s what it means to me.  Stealing their names is the phase one of the dehumanization process.  And I think I’m done being silent about how it makes me feel when I hear people do it.

Emotional Milestones

Had a hard time on the Facebook this weekend.  A lot of baby milestones really brought home the idea that what works for other people doesn’t work for me.  That other people get to have children, and I will need to learn to be content with the one child I’ve managed to wrest from my overwhelming infertility.  It’s hard.

I had a rough weekend in other respects too.  A difficult conversation with my child happened and a follow-up needs to happen to clarify the situation.  But there were bright sparks too.  An unexpected brunch and playdate with my girlfriend and her daughter was rewarding and enjoyable.  I wish things were easier, but I imagine everyone alive wishes that.