A call to men

This is for men. For any man who is shocked at the Weinstein allegations, the Trump allegations, the instances of harassment and assault he may know of already. For any man who wants to take concrete steps to change the world.

I know this is socially unacceptable, but I hereby deliberately challenge every single man who interacts with women or men, with girls or boys, to make a commitment, to pick a step or two from a feminist resource on how to be a good ally, to write a list of options and put it up on your fridge, or on your wall, or in the bathroom on the mirror, and do it. Every fucking day. Do it. You can help us change the world by changing yourselves and challenging other men. Do it now.

Include looking at your own actions and exploring, asking questions of yourself, figuring out where you cross lines and how, what your triggers are, what the thought patterns are which you have and which end up in behaviors like interrupting, mansplaining, persisting without consent, disbelieving women, taking credit for women’s ideas & work, allowing yourself to ride on the emotional and logistical work of the women in your life, etc. Do it because you have power and privilege, because you want to be a better human being, because you believe that we are all better off when we are all willing to do our personal work. Do it.

Here is the piece which inspired this posting:
Heather McCuen

To all the men who want to ‘stand with us’ –
Thank you
But
We don’t just need you by our side
Protection is not parity
and our armor
is already battle tested

What we need
is for you to stand
in all your usual places
without laughing at rape jokes

What we need
is for you to stand
without your usual silence
when your friends suggest
we are waiting to be conquered

What we need
is for you to stand
without your usual silence
when you hear that asshole
tell us to smile
or bend over
or just turn around
for him

Because the collective sound
of a thousand ‘me too’s
is no match
for that silence

What we need
is not
pity
is not
excuses
is not
saving
is not
protection
is not
apology
is not
‘because I have daughters’

But that silence
that seems so small
so much easier than
picking a fight
so much easier than
making a big deal

That silence
that you think we don’t see
that silence
is where men learn it’s okay
to be monsters

What we need
is for you to understand
that what we’re afraid of
isn’t just the monsters

What we need
Is for you to understand
that every “me too” posted by a friend
was born in that silence

So if you really want
to stand with us
then fight for us
in every single silence

Speak that solidarity
against every catcall
Rage the way we do
against the idea of asking for it

Fill the silence
with your outrage
and your love
for us

This is so true, and it makes me cry. Male silence kills. It enables horror. It is complicit. You want to be a good man? Challenge other men. Make it a daily habit of mind and communication and action. Choose a couple of phrases to say and practice them: “Women are people with fundamental human rights”; “You are degrading that person”; “Stop looking at her ass”; “Stop looking at her breasts”; “Stop interrupting her”; “Listen to what she has to say”; “Did she say yes?”; “What you did/are doing is harassment/assault”; “Why do you think it’s funny to joke about women being hurt?” etc., etc., etc.

And to women, if you feel like you’re observing something that’s crossing lines, “Do you need help?”; “Do you want me to intervene?”; “Do you want me to call the police?”; “I’m here if you want my support”, etc.,

Act. Acknowledge the ways in which you have crossed lines throughout your life. Acknowledge them and take active steps to make better choices. Ask questions. Apologize when you make mistakes and try again. Listen. And stop interrupting.

Do it because we are humans, like you. Do it not because women are wives, daughters, sisters, mothers. Do it because we are human and you don’t need to be led by your noses like a donkey to a path which honors and respects over 50% of the human species. Do it because you have a brain and a heart, and because you have a commitment to truth and strength and heart and right action. Do it.

“Protection is not parity.” Support and acknowledgment go a lot further. Commitment. Responsibility. Self-knowledge. Accountability. Work us to change the world now by doing your own due diligence. We cannot wait.

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Stand up, speak out!

A few years ago I was at a Home Depot. I was in the line to checkout, and the person in front of me was a man with dwarfism. As he finished his transaction and turned to leave, the woman behind the checkout counter said, loudly and in the syrupy tone people sometimes employ when discussing small children, “Isn’t he cute? I mean, he’s just so cute, isn’t he?”

I was wildly uncomfortable. I squirmed.

I said nothing.

It is so hard to unstick one’s tongue from the roof of one’s mouth. So often one thinks of the perfect response later. But speak up and out we must. We must start challenging discrimination when we see it; notice and point out microaggressions as well as larger instances of racism, sexism, ableism, etc.

So we have to practice. Think of phrases, I statements. Say them in the mirror. Role play with your loved ones. Practice.

“I am uncomfortable with what you just said.”
“You may not have intended it to be, but what you just said is racist.”
“Stop touching her.”
“That is not ok.”
“Do you need help?”

etc.

We have to move out of our comfort zone and speak up. Take action on others’ behalf. Not necessarily because the person who is speaking or acting inappropriately will hear or listen. But we must start creating a climate in which people are consistently given the message that it is not ok to touch without consent; that it is not ok to use racial slurs; that it is not ok to threaten deportation; that it is not ok to threaten rape; that it is not ok to blame women for having emotions; that it is not ok to demonize and punish anyone for stepping outside your concept of gender; that it is not ok to “other” other people.

We will make mistakes. But we can do this! We can change our cultural norms. And changing one half of the dynamic changes the whole thing.

Large swathes of our citizenry are afraid, and justifiably so. Let’s help make America a safer place, together.

Shock, awe, and blindness in reaction to the loss of Madam President

There are so many things to be said about election night. I haven’t thought about more than a fraction of them, let alone come to any conclusions. But one thing came to me tonight I wanted to write down.

One of the biggest privileges there is in a society is to have the space and room and right to just be. To just be oneself without coercion, constriction. To be assured attention and respect, to be granted significance and relevance for just existing.

These are things that accompany life as a white man (I know, I know, not all men all the time; please, just wait and hear me out.) The reverse is true for minorities and for women, and for children, especially non-white-male kids. From my perspective as a woman, living life in a society which willfully and with malicious intent refuses to acknowledge the existence of more than a narrow slice of who I am, of who women are, takes an immense amount of energy. It takes energy to absorb or deflect daily patronizing communication, aggression, dismissiveness, arrogance, violence, and just the sheer insistence of many men that you make room for their opinions regardless of your comfort level, interest, or need in the moment. It takes energy to hear, for the millionth time, that the real reason there is any sort of issue happening is that you, a woman, are having an emotion. And by default that emotion is messy and inappropriate, because ewwww feelings. There are about a billion other examples, but I am too tired to come up with them.

The fact that women generally speaking apologize way, way, way too much? It’s not frivolous! It’s not random! It’s training and feedback. The pushback that women get for just having an opinion and daring to express it is sometimes incredibly fierce. And if a women so much as mentions that pushback, it intensifies with sometimes scary rapidity.

So.

No or very few role models. A tiny fraction of speaking roles for women in movies, the majority of roles being decoration/girlfriend/way to show man’s relatable flawed nobility. So few women in power. Woman drama = men/baby/rape. Intense and punishing beauty standard. etc. etc.

I see movies and I howl with the anguish of the fact that in popular culture it is impossible that someone like me could be viewed as possessing full humanity, let alone be allowed to express it.

I am human. But the barrage of messaging I receive daily is in contradiction of that fact.

I want to have the space to be me. I want to be able to be me without pushback ranging from merely weird to annoying to scary to violent. I want to live in a world where simply saying, “No thank you” to a date doesn’t mean weeks and weeks of cold sabotage from a colleague. I want to live in a world where expressing my opinion in anything other than a carefully modulated tone is received as being emotional and therefore instantly dismissed. I want to live in a world where I don’t have to watch my friends and I be berated, told that we’re oppressing men, disrespected, simply for setting a conversational boundary along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t talk about that right now.”

The idea that we were on the verge of having our first woman President, and a woman who had the audacity to state that women’s rights are human rights, was extraordinary and exhilarating. I didn’t realize it until the catastrophe of Tuesday night, but I was already stretching and spreading, already expanding my lungs, already starting to send tendrils of myself out into areas of thought and expression I’d (with damn good reason) blocked myself from for decades. I was already anticipating a greater societal space being opened for me to be me with greater safety, acceptance, and even appreciation. I was beginning to communicate more directly with less fear and caution or defensiveness, with more clarity and ease.

I realized all that as my teeth were kicked in right before I got shoved violently all the way back into the cage. It is a cage built of fear and microaggressions. It is a cage constructed, like a placenta, dually by society and by me. Its bars are made of things like holding keys in your hand so that you have a weapon if someone attacks you as you walk to your car at night; the internal debate about whether to smile back when some guy demands your attention on the street and risk being called a bitch (or way, way worse) if you don’t comply. Again, there are a million examples, but I am just too fatigued to list them all, and definitely too tired to be carefully eloquent.

I thought I was going to be able to breathe, but here I am, air moving in and out, but not enough, looking through the bars, yearning, feeling defeated and betrayed.

And. This is only one cage. There are so many. And they interlock. And as a middle class white person I am to varying degrees complicit and responsible and involved in the creation of others.

52% of white women. 52% voted for Trump. More than half. Racism trumped the sisterhood. It is such a betrayal. And I definitely feel scales falling from my eyes.

I am human; they will re-collect and I’ll have to take them off again. And again. But this is evidence so clear.

And it’s not only racism. It’s internalized misogyny, self-hatred. Women sucking down those messages about inadequacy. By 6th grade girls and boys no longer have equal presidential ambitions. And if a little girl things, “Not me,” she also must think, “Not her”. And, “Not them.”

I had a conversation with my AP English teacher in high school once. She said a few things that have stuck with me, having to do with reasons that I had a hard time socially. She summed it up this way: I talked in class and was unrelentingly honest; the boys didn’t like that, and the girls liked the boys and therefore didn’t like it either. I am sure there are oversimplifications in that statement. But damn, it rang true. My manner, my style, my self, did not fit. I was always, always too much. At home, at school, in life.

Of course there’s more to it than sexism. But it plays a role. How many times have girls, taught from the cradle to value boys’ time and attention above all else, overlooked or dismissed or underestimated the value of the girls in their lives? How many fathers have been praised as heroes for simply wiping a baby’s butt or taking their kids to the grocery store, or even, gasp, cooking dinner, when moms’ contributions are invisible except when they’re being criticized?

Men and boys are valued more in our society. And it’s not even something a lot of them notice. It is in the air they breathe. It is an invisible entitlement. Until you say no, or not now, or god forbid, I don’t like you, or you’re incompetent.

Women are trained to value primarily what is happening romantically in other women’s lives. It is often the first or only thing that is asked about. Yes, I know. Not all women, not all the time. But it’s a pattern. I hear so many comments about my girls’ appearance, their dresses, their cuteness. Who ever asks them what books they like to read? Who asks them what sports they like to play? Who asks them what they want to be when they grow up? Almost no one.

Of course women don’t think a woman should be president.

And then there’s the racism. Van Jones referred to a “whitelash” to President Obama’s 8 years in office. It is stunningly, obviously true. And I think the idea, to some people, that a black president would be followed by a woman president, that we might have 16 years of feminazi PC bullshit in the White House, was abhorrent.

Holy shit. Talk about cages. If President Obama were to evince a tiny, tiny fraction of the rage Trump trades in, he’d have been politically eviscerated. Black men are automatically perceived as dangerous. Women are automatically perceived as less capable. In order to just open your damn mouth you have to fight to get out of the cage. And it’s often not even really possible to do so.

So you massage your language, attempt to come up with acceptable content and presentation that won’t scare or offend or anger anyone, hoping that with this sort of stealthy craft the content will get in, make it through the eardrums and into the grey matter, and be considered for itself, on its own merits.

It’s laughable. And it leads to dishonesty, inauthenticity, stress, strain, dissociation.

I want to be free. I want my black and brown fellow citizens to be free. I want every person to be able to stand in the air under the sky, themselves, to face difficulty and trauma and joy and tedium and all that makes up life, without having to massage their personhood into a bland enough container that it won’t offend white male sensibilities.

I thought we were on the road. (I realize that we are on the road. But that’s a later stage/post.) As a woman, I am shocked and wounded. As a white person with some knowledge, I have to admit that I was not seeing clearly. I have work to do. I am not innocent. No one is.

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

A final note: my loving and caring partner sent me this piece. Being cared for, being seen, being understood, being supported; it doesn’t get much better than that. I am grateful for my loved ones, and for the communities and relationships in which these topics can be discussed and compassion and love flow with mutual goodwill.

Ghostbusters!

I saw the new “Ghostbusters” tonight. I came out of the theater glowing, so happy I felt it sparking through my body, off my skin, lighting me from head to toe. Four women. Four women! FOUR WOMEN! Leading the film! Not talking about relationships! The dramatic tension in the movie was NOT about a relationship with a man! Four funny women taking out the paranormal trash!

Was the movie perfect? No, of course not. But I laughed out loud many times. I got my jolt of nostalgia through listening to the music and the visual style of the ghosts. And I was incandescently happy about the lack of sexy-woman-ness in the movie. Oh god, it was so wonderful.

NO FAT JOKES! Not a one. Women eating, joking, getting to know each other. Women screwing up, women being smart, women running but not in an unrealistic superhero way, women getting shit done, and nary a bikini in sight.

It is literally impossible for me to convey how much all that meant to me. It’s like being told, finally, that I get to be a real person. That will be impossible for many people to understand. But the total and complete absence of anyone of my gender who looks like me NOT being the butt of jokes through the movie, or of pity. Oh my god.

I loved “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in a lot of ways. But even Buffy stayed pretty hip by nice tight jowl inside the universe of our screwed up beauty standard. And a lot of the tension in that show was built with more or less standard tropes, having to do with Buffy’s feelings about the various boys and men in her life.

Melissa McCarthy is only 2 years younger than I am. Kristen Wiig is 3 years younger than Melissa. Leslie Jones is my age. My god. Middle-aged, competent, funny, brave, interesting, smart women kicking ass.

Nostalgia is powerful. The patriarchy is yet more powerful, enormously so. Seeing this movie starts to show me how deeply I have absorbed the message that only men can be authoritative, funny, creative, believable, and *real* in that authentic, representative of the human species way. I can feel that programming resisting the data in front of my eyes. When humor, language, physical presentation, emotive expression, and style are all placed inside small, predictable boxes, it becomes hard to even recognize anything else. I remember the first time I had milk fresh from a cow. I was 14 years old. We were staying on a farm B&B in Cornwall. I didn’t like it. It tasted nothing like what came out of our plastic white jugs at home. It was warm, and so strong-tasting. Ew, I thought. It took a few days for my taste-buds to start adapting, for my expectations to change, for my mind and body to open to new experience.

Watching this movie, watching the few others I have seen where the female lead is not driven by romantic love or sexual trauma, and especially where the female lead is doing comedy, has been a similar experience. I almost cannot recognize the material. It is immediately filed away in my brain as not-right, less-than.

In fairy tales, the heroine is (at least in the books of my childhood) almost exclusively the youngest and the prettiest and the sweetest girl. Those stories were always about someone else. The rewards were unreachable, and the lessons learned directed at others. I never imagined myself as the heroine. How could I? I was none of those things.

Movies are even worse. There is visual evidence that people of interest, people to whom we are meant to relate, are in a category and class entirely unreachable by me. I’ve written about that before on this blog.

And so the reaction I describe above seems to me to be to be a societal definition of girl- and woman-hood that excludes everyone else, creating self-hatred, which is then directed outward again at any sort of cultural/artistic expression which counters it or provides an alternative vision.

The sexist backlash against this movie has been predictable and disgusting. Some people act like the makers of this movie and desecrating an altar, reaching into their minds and ruining their memories. And the racist backlash has been even more awful: Leslie Jones felt it necessary to leave Twitter due to the horrific things being tweeted her way. (http://fusion.net/story/327103/leslie-jones-twitter-racism/) The violent, violating, infantile fury of people who want a white world of strong white men and sexy white women is a thing that damages people every day. It must be resisted every day. I think many people forget the necessity of resistance, because it’s the water we all swim in, and it’s made that way, to corrupt and divide and vanish into the murk when challenged.

And so, we give into self- and other-hatred, we dismiss, we acquiesce, we judge.

But I have had experiences where I feel the scales falling from my eyes, where I stretch and breathe and get a different sort of oxygen in my lungs. Spending time in dyke bars does that for me. Spending long and intensive time with women does that for me. Sometimes in a great while a book does that for me. And I am going to watch this movie over and over until I can chuck the societal definitions screaming in my head, and take in what is before my eyes, let it sink in.

A place where someone like me can be fully human.

I saw the movie with a friend who is 22 years my junior. I have known her for 15 years, since she was in elementary school. When the original movie came out I was in my mid-teens, 10 years younger than she is now. The world was a different place then; I was very different then. Being a private cello teacher, I’ve had the chance over the past couple of decades to watch quite a number of kids grow up. I have been so happy to see how many of my female students are involved in sports, reaping the benefits of a more vigorously enforced Title IV. My friend has had since she was a kid a stronger sense of herself and her capabilities than I did when I was a kid, partly due to family environment, and partly to personality. But also, though it’s not linear and there are definitely ways in which things have gotten the opposite of better (gender expression polarization, for example, and the toxic explosion of pink-beauty-princess-defined girlhood), there have been real gains made too which I see manifested in her life and the lives of my students.

Being able to have a feminist joy-fest with her, to share the laughs and the joys with her, was a special gift.

My 7-year-old has been picking up on the pretty significant gender disparity in media and books. She notices. And that is a great thing. I tell her what I think about it, but I cannot tell her what to think about it, not really. What I want is for her to notice. She’s starting to notice the media white-wash, too. I told her this afternoon that I was going to see the movie. I told her I was really excited about it, because it was a remake of one I’d seen when I was a kid, and this one was 4 women. She said, “Oh, and it was all men before?” I said that yes, it was. “And,” she said, “was it all white people?” Yes, I said, it was.

Right now, though I am terrified, horrified, agonized about many things happening in the world, I do believe that change is possible. It is possible to re-learn. It is possible to prioritize justice and love and collaboration. And to do so one has to live it every day. And one has to forgive oneself for the thousands of times one fails to do so.

This movie makes me want to shout and punch things and dance and laugh and conquer and learn and grow.

Thank you to everyone who made it.

The value of music, and of being a musician

In my darker moments, sometimes I start thinking that being a professional musician (in the way I am currently doing it) is an inherently selfish act. Why?

Because I love what I do, and I often don’t get paid for doing it (the performing and the practicing).
Because I could be spending that time with my kids, who miss me when I’m gone.
Because I don’t play for an established large symphony, with a salary and benefits, which would help support my family in addition to the teaching I do.
Because there are lots of much better cellists in the world performing the repertoire I’m performing, and doing a better job of it, so really, who does it benefit for me to be inadequately replicating their efforts?
Because music is not important in the way medicine is, or teaching kids in school. It’s a cultural accessory. Should I really be devoting so much of my time and energy to it?

There are other areas of my mind and heart which recognize the fallacies in the statements above. But in a society which is so focused on money, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of thinking that my worth is inextricably tied to my income, and the ways in which I make that income.

Ted, bless his heart, has started referring to my practice as work when he talks to the kids. He has explained that he believes it needs to be perceived as work, just as much as my teaching hours. So, the other day when I said I was going to go practice, he said to the kids, pointedly, “Yes, Mommy is going to go to work.” His support makes me cry tears of joy, and also of grief for the message I have received in so many other ways that what I do is not really that important. My practice hours have always been the schedule item that most easily falls off the schedule, deprioritized in favor of kids’ appointments, family business & logistics, etc. Also, I am a procrastinator, and so there’s the layer of resistance I feel, the tendency I have to fight to want to go to bed or relax when I have time with childcare, instead of practicing. Because of that latter internal struggle, I am even more apt to blame myself, or to view practicing as a luxury, or something that’s not really crucial in the broader picture. Sexism plays a role here, too; this is an inner narrative to which I am sure a lot of women can relate.

I talk to my students sometimes about the role music can play in their lives lifelong, and I believe in what I say. I believe in the curative, inspirational, meditative, restorative, intellectually and emotionally and physically and spiritually impactful and interweaving powers of music. I believe that it expands our minds and hearts and souls, and that a society that does not highly value art and artists is impoverished in important ways. I believe it affects us holistically, that being involved with music is more than receiving and giving pleasure, that it can help us re-join the disparate parts of ourselves. I believe all of that.

And I also believe that my unique voice, my unique combination of training and heart and mind and intention, is important. I believe that I can contribute something important.

I will always have that internal despair that can yell or whisper or sneer that I am a loser and that what I’m doing doesn’t matter. But I do have examples large and small of the ways in which music has changed people’s lives, in the moment or the hour or the forever. And I need to hold onto those.

I’d love to see readers’ comments with your stories of your relationship with music and what it means to you. Let’s add to the cultural narrative in a positive way, in this, a tiny corner of the internet.

Thanks for reading!

thin privilege

For a lot of my life I thought of privilege narrowly: it simply called to mind someone wealthy and influential. Having been educated by reading feminist and womanist blogs and other materials, I’ve come to understand the limited nature of that definition. I now think of it this way: having privilege means being shielded from the necessity of considering or validating some area of human experience due to its seeming absence from one’s own life or life experience. Virtually all of us have privilege in a variety of ways. And when we are all more willing to acknowledge this and to examine the ways in which this shields us from the sometimes terrible or life-threatening realities of other people’s lives, we will be better placed to make needed improvements to our world.

One instance of this is thin privilege. I’ve had two friends recently comment that once they know someone they don’t really see body shape or how the person looks any more. During the second conversation I realized that that idea has bugged me for a while, and I have now figured out why. Being able to ignore other people’s looks is an instance of thin privilege. For someone who is fat, or is considered fat in comparison with our current beauty standard, not thinking about appearance is not really a possibility. (I hereby acknowledge that to some degree I am extrapolating from my own experience, and that your mileage may vary.)

I started getting called fat in the second grade. It’s weird: going back and looking at pictures of myself from that age, it is clear that I was not fat. I am not sure how that came to be the insult that I acquired. But nonetheless, “fat” is used as an insult in our culture. It is laden with all sorts of other derogatory judgments, including lazy, greedy, irresponsible, etc. Having been the subject of that sort of derision, both explicitly and implicitly, both within my family and without, I have not grown up with the ability to ignore looks. I had my (deficient) looks shoved down my throat early. I am not sure a day has gone by since I was in elementary school that I’ve not thought about how I look, and how I wish I looked different than I do. I am not allowed to forget or dismiss the topic. I am flooded with input in this area by the media all around me, and by commentary from many quarters. How many times a day do the words, “I look so fat,” or, “I feel so fat,” get uttered by you or someone in your immediate vicinity? The intonation and cultural baggage attached to that word means that what people are saying often is really, “I look so ugly.” Sometimes, in my wilder moments, I am tempted to say to a thin woman who says this in my hearing, “Don’t worry, you’re not as ugly as me.”

I am thinner than some and fatter than some. No one, regardless of size, is truly unaffected by our beauty standard, but some people are protected (at least for a while) from some of its nastier impacts by the fact that their appearance is more closely in line with its demands than that of other people.

I think that women are trained to minutely scrutinize their appearance, and to put a fair amount of time, energy, and money, into modifying it. I think that to expect these same women not to scrutinize the appearance of other women, at least to some extent, is unrealistic. I think that if we deliberately set out to celebrate the diversity of beauty there is on our globe, to present people in all their different forms and with their human complexity, we would create an environment in which we could more successfully encourage people to focus on inner beauty and to appreciate everyone for who they are. As it is, fat characters are hardly ever seen on TV and in the movies are heroes and heroines, as positive, healthy sexual beings, as people to be admired, respected, emulated, or desired.

I loved the TV show Judging Amy for many reasons, one of which was that Amy’s mother Maxine, played by Tyne Daly, was an older fat woman who was smart, hard-working, loving, and also sexual. Her relationships were presented in a positive way, with no gawky disrespectful vibe. I was very sad when the show was abruptly cancelled in order to make way for something with a younger, “sexier” main character.

I am not writing any of this to criticize my friends. I think the ability to see through the outer envelope to someone’s inner essence, to appreciate that and focus on it, is wonderful. And I understand and appreciate both the sentiment and the experience. But we live in a world that polices women and girls’ appearance, sometimes subtly and sometimes viciously. It is not possible to forget this when one has been a subject of that policing. Escaping it is a privilege. I dream of a day when such an escape will not be necessary, because we will have embraced our diversity.

Swimming and birthday presents

This morning Ted had an early meeting. Usually I get up, pump, take a few minutes off, and then feed the babies. All of that takes about an hour and a half, and usually includes breakfast. Today there wasn’t time, so he just brought the twins to me when I’d usually be pumping, and I nursed them. Hazel had preschool today, so when I was done feeding the babies there was a good chunk of morning left that was unplanned, unscheduled, open and inviting. On the spur of the moment, my nanny and I decided to take the twins to a swimming pool. I lent her a swimming suit, we packed them up and took off. It was lovely. The pool(s) we went to has three separate pools, including a lap pool, a kids’ pool, and a smaller very warm pool that’s deeper. We went into the latter and walked around with the twins. They seemed to really enjoy it, and weren’t even fazed by being dunked sideways (a technique I learned in swim class with Hazel when she was a baby). There were lots of moms and dads and grandparents with babies. Everyone seemed happy; that small pool was buzzing with conversation, and lit with smiles everywhere. Water is such a wonderful thing, and such a special resource to have available.

The babies fell asleep on the way back. We swung by to pick Hazel up from school, and they slept soundly all the way into the house, and for some time after we laid them down on the floor while we made lunch. I took them up for nap just 45 minutes later, and they slept for another two hours. Being in the water tires them out, in a good way.

This evening Hazel’s next-door-neighbor-kid babysitter took her to a fair/party at her school. Ted and I took the opportunity to assemble her birthday presents and prep for tomorrow, her fourth birthday.

Just before that, after my lessons were over, I ran out to buy a couple of things I’d been thinking of getting for her. I wound up at a drug store looking at containers in which to put the beads of various sorts I bought for her to make into necklaces. I remembered that we were going to buy her a few cars for the matchbox car track our friend gave us, and headed over to the toy section. I found that standing in front of the “Boys'” section, I felt uncomfortable and out of place, and standing in front of the “Girls'” section, I felt angry and out of place. Hmmmm. Neither side of the severe gender stereotyped marketing works for me. And it is indeed a dramatic demarcation. It was surprising to me the degree to which it does affect me, despite all my knowledge and training and education. I even gave up on buying a birthday card. I couldn’t find one that wasn’t geared strongly toward one gender stereotype or the other. We’ll make a card. That’s what we did when I was a kid, and I don’t think I’ve forgotten how, despite the intervening decades. Anyway, after I’d processed that internally for a bit, I looked through the cars, and found a package I liked, of various service vehicles and an ice cream truck. I am looking forward to more playing with the track and cars with my friends and Ted and Hazel. I guess it is true that having kids presents an opportunity to have a second childhood.