Rant, Rant, Rant

27 January 2003

Well, it could have been worse. But who says, "The team I favor lost; I shall now burn a McDonald's?" Timprov says, you know, whatever excuse you need...but I don't think McDonald's is that much the incarnation of evil, for heaven's sake.

And why should the RIAA be able to issue subpoenas? Can someone with some kind of law background explain that to me? They're not, you know, any kind of government agency. Can I issue subpoenas? If I formed a club with some of my friends, could I?

And further idiocy in the paper: some Campbell swim team coaches are in trouble because they let their teams shave before meets together in the girls' locker room. Everybody fully clothed. But some 6- to 8-year-old girls walked in and were "traumatized." By the presence of fully clothed boys in the locker room. Uh...sorry, but no. That's when you tell your kid she's blowing things out of proportion and needs to just deal with it. Yes, the teams needed to get in and out of there in their allotted time slot, but that's a consideration issue. Going on and on about how your kid was traumatized and how boys should never, never, never be allowed in the girls' locker room -- when everyone in there knew they were there and was fully clothed? -- that's just ridiculous. It's encouraging your daughters to deal with a situation by playing victim rather than by using common sense. For example, the little girls could have changed their clothes in enclosed the toilet stalls, or they could have gone out to their parents and said, "Can you get the big kids out of there? We need to change." Or, heck, they could have asked the big kids to hurry up themselves before involving their parents in the matter.

I feel pretty firmly that kids should feel comfortable asking their folks for help when they need it. But I also feel strongly that they should have the ability to handle some things themselves, or at least try.

It seems like there are people on both sides of the political spectrum who enforce weak, victim-oriented behavior in girls. There are the folks who see everything, everything as sexual harassment or trauma. And then on the other side, there are people who want to make sweet little ladies out of their daughters, and then triumphantly hold them up as examples of inherent sex differences when they succeed. Last week a woman wrote into the paper about drafting girls, saying that if it was a choice between her 200-pound, football-playin', rasslin' son and her 100-pound daughter, who couldn't bear to squish a bug and fainted at the sight of blood, she knew who she'd want to send to war.

Well, sure, I can kind of see that. But I can also tell you that if I was that much of a freakin' pansy, my mom would never have signed her name to a letter to the editor stating as much. Honestly. People don't get to be unable to squish a bug -- in California, for heaven's sake, where the ants get everywhere! -- if someone is snapping, "Don't be a wuss, kid!" whenever they start their screeching. And if there's a sex that has room not to deal with blood, let me tell you, it's not women. Girls have the vapors because they learn they can get people to do stuff for them if they do. They aren't made to handle reasonable tasks if they act all delicate and fluttery. It's a power thing, and I really think that's the wrong kind of power to teach your kid.

On the other hand, "I'll sue!" is also the wrong kind of power. They're both dependent power, is the thing. They both depend on someone else to come play back-up. If you're smart, if you're strong, if you're stubborn, if you can deal with a bad situation with resilience and humor, those are things that aren't conditional on other people. You have those things no matter what. But if you're good at whining that you just can't handle something, or if you're good at calling in sympathy or finding technicalities that make other people's behavior against a rule, you're dependent on others to continue to be sympathetic, or to back your technicalities, or to handle your proclaimed inabilities. And at any time, they can just stop doing it.

And, frankly, I think they should.

That letter to the editor about the draft still bothers me. If the woman had just said, "Don't draft my kids, jerkfaces!", I would have said, "Yeah! What she said!" But "Take my son, but for heaven's sake don't take my precious baby girl"? How'd you like to be her son? "Momma doesn't care if you get shot in the head, lamb, as long as your little sister's intact."

Even the size-differential seems suspect to me: do you want to bet that the daughter would have been encouraged to work out and bulk up if she'd expressed an interest in rugby or hockey (or, God forbid, football)? Want to bet that the son would have gotten any support if he'd wanted to eat mostly salads and play the flute? And that's inherent gender difference?

Doesn't mean I think boys and girls are biologically identical. Just means that the environmental stuff does a pretty good job of obscuring anything that might be biological, because it's still so strong. Argh! How many years ago did "Free To Be You and Me" have that song about "Ladies First?" And some people are still trying to invoke their beautiful curls. Or their lawsuits. Same difference.

Whew. Rant mode...well, still on, actually, because one of you readers, in Communicate With M'rissa Week, asked me to talk a bit about "ageism." (See what you can accomplish if only you Communicate With M'rissa? Come on now. It's your turn.) Actually, I'm not sure how much of a rant this is, because most of the cases of ageism I've run into have been annoyances, not genuine problems. None of the editors I've run into have told me to wait a few years before sending them stuff. None of them have tried to pat me on the head, literally or metaphorically, and tell me that when I'm their age, I'll really understand X, Y, or Z. I often put my Asimov Award from '99 in my cover letters, so people can do the math and figure out that the oldest I'd be likely to be is maybe 26. (I'm 24, actually, for those of you who don't know.) So it's not that my age is anonymous in a submission -- although it can be, if I want it to. It's that most of the people in power have more sense than that.

There have been some people who tried to tell me that when I was a real, live grown-up, I would understand X, Y, or Z. They've ranged from well-meaning friends to pathetic losers who were trying to boost their place in some hierarchy by lowering me in it. But I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing, so they're not really my problem. I roll my eyes and move on.

Occasionally people I respect will make generalized age-based statements that I think are just silly and wrong. Columbine, for example, has a stated ideal minimum age for marriages that wouldn't allow me to be married yet, and I've been married for three and a half years now. Some people who make generalizations like that will back off when they encounter me and say things like, "Well, I didn't mean you." Sometimes they'll stand by their idea and allow as how they don't have any power to enforce it on me or anyone else. Whatever. I try not to make any statements that are based on number-age. I try to base those things on maturity milestones instead. And I try not to take it too personally when people inform me with horror that I'm entirely too young for whatever interesting thing it is I'm up to. Mostly, though, I'm afraid that they'll run into someone younger than me who hasn't gotten around to whatever interesting thing it is, and will discourage them from doing it.

Mostly, I try hard to do the opposite: I try not to assume that someone is ready for something at a given age just because I was. Because my response to much of the rest of humanity is either, "What are you waiting for?" or "What are you on about now?" And in either case, "For heaven's sake, get on with it!" That's not to say that sometimes I don't understand what people are waiting for or what they're on about. But it's not always intuitive with people who aren't close to me.

Anyway. My age was more of an issue in college, because I was never of legal drinking age in college. Which meant that if anybody wanted to go to the bar to have a drink and socialize, they were going to Ruttle's or they were going without me. (Ruttle's is a '50s style bar and grill in St. Pete, for those of you who need a scorecard. Good bar snacks, good mozzarella sticks, tolerable hot chocolate.) My friends weren't the barfly type, mostly, but it came up often enough. It was even worse the summer I was in Toledo: "Come on, we'll go over to Windsor." "I won't be legal there, either." "You're not legal in Canada?" There was a coffeehouse that served beer near University of Toledo. Maxwell's, I think it was. It was good. But other than that, I'd just wave, "Bye, you guys have fun!"

Now I'm pretty much legally allowed to do as much as I ever will be. Mark would probably still need to rent cars for us, and our insurance will go down this summer, and if I had any urge to run for a national office, I'd be out of luck. But I'd rather be beaten with a stick than run for a national office, so there you have it. Twenty-four is a fine age to be, and when people get uppity about it, I just subtract a couple of points from how much credit I give them.

Oh, the other age-based annoyance, since one of you asked, is that people at churches assume that I will like "contemporary" services. Which I hate, because "contemporary" means "bad '80s pop." Or occasionally "bad '70s pop." I don't want to be tarred with that brush.

Yesterday's church (nice segue, eh? Eh?) was really hard on me. I could see from the scorecard that we were doing a Marty Haugen setting for the liturgy. Fine and good. I like me some Marty Haugen. Then the organ started on the first piece, and I realized which Marty Haugen setting: the Service of Light. Felt like getting up and leaving right there. Not because it's bad. Because it's good, and it was the setting we were using at the folks' church last time I was there. At home. Recent, strong associations. Also, this setting is happiest with a strong-voiced pastor, cantor, or music leader, preferably an alto or a baritone. (And that's not just because I prefer altos and baritones, either.) Which my folks' pastor is. Which the music leader at church yesterday was not. So it was good music, with strong emotional associations, and it was being butchered. I cried through two of the pieces, and I've had half a mind to teach Timprov the tune to "Let my prayers rise up like incense before you" just so that I can hear it done right again. (The other pieces I can just sing by myself, but that one requires two parts to get full effect.)

Also, last time I heard that setting, I was singing next to my mom. You know how a lot of singers these days do their own harmony vocals? Mom and I can do that without a lot of fancy equipment.

Also, I was having a Fragile M'rissa Day. I hate Fragile M'rissa Days, when I'm on the verge of tears all the time for no good reason. (Can I think of something I would consider a good reason, including bereavement and extreme pain? Well, no, but that's another issue, really, since nobody died yesterday and I was in only occasional and moderate pain.) So I wrote the bare minimum on DBM to satisfy myself that I wasn't entirely useless, and then I read Ventus. Long book, but good, fun, not overly emotionally demanding. That doesn't sound like high praise, but I really did need a book that was engaging without being overly emotionally demanding. It's 660 pages, though, so it took even me awhile. After that, I started Charles de Lint's The Dreaming Place, which is so far a lovely little gem of a book. I'm annoyed with the Amazon reviews that seemed to be complaining because it wasn't long and rambly and didn't involve every single Newford character in at least two scenes and all. Honestly. Not everything has to be long and involved, and frankly, I like Charles de Lint better when he's not.

So. Much to do in this house. Books to write, still. Books to read, still. Cleaning, again. Laundry, again. I swear, we must be the dirtiest people in the world. And so on. I think I'm not so fragile today. I'd better not be, or I'll be most annoyed.

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