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These Just Won’t Stop Clamoring For Attention

They felt so neglected. Seriously, they’ve been eating at me every since I posted my list of twelve bands or artists with at least three albums that I liked the majority of the work upon…these lil fellahs were like But you like the majority of the songs on us too! So what if our creators haven’t had THREE WHOLE ALBUMS that you liked MOST of the songs on..? Think of all the hours you’ve spent listening to us OVER and OVER and OVER and–

OH FINE!! Here they are–single albums that I love not just the majority of the songs on, but ALL the songs on. List tops out at 22 (in order of album release date), and that had better be the end of the whining, Ms. Schizophrenic Subconscious.

1. Mannfred Mann’s Earth Band, Chance (1980). Top three songs: “Lies (Through the ’80s),” “For You,” “Adolescent Dream”

2. Def Leppard, Pyromania (1983). Top three songs: “Too Late For Love,” “Foolin’,” “Rock of Ages”

3. Tina Turner, Private Dancer (1984). Top three songs: “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” “Better Be Good To Me”

4. The Breakfast Club soundtrack (1985). Top three songs: “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, “Waiting” by E.G. Daly, “Fire in the Twilight” by Wang Chung

5. Cinderella, Night Songs (1986). Top three songs: “Night Songs,” “Nobody’s Fool,” “Nothin for Nothin”

6. Guns n Roses, Appetite for Destruction (1987). Top three songs: “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine”

7. Sinead O’Connor, The Lion and the Cobra (1987). Top three songs: “Jackie,” “Mandinka,” “I Want Your Hands On Me”

8. The Lost Boys soundtrack (1987). Top three songs: “People Are Strange” by Echo and the Bunnymen, “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann, “I Still Believe” by Tim Capello

9. Bad Influence soundtrack (1990). Top three songs: “Orane” by Les Negresses Vertes, “Who’s Laughing Now?” by Skinny Puppy, “Out of the Rain” by Etta James

10. Pearl Jam, Ten (1991). Top three songs: “Alive,” “Black,” “Jeremy”

11. Nirvana, Nevermind (1991). Top three songs: “Come As You Are,” “Breed,” “Drain You”

12. Loreena McKennitt, The Mask and Mirror (1994). Top three songs: “The Mystic’s Dream,” “The Bonny Souls,” “Marrakesh Night Market”

13. Tricky, Pre-Millenium Tension (1996). Top three songs: “Christiansands,” “Bad Dream,” “Bad Things”

14. Days of the New, Days of the New (1997). Top three songs: “Shelf in the Room,” “Touch, Peel and Stand,” “Face of the Earth”

15. The Crystal Method, Vegas (1997). Top three songs: “Trip Like I Do,” “Busy Child,” “She’s My Pusher”

16. Marilyn Manson, Mechanical Animals (1998). Top three songs: “The Dope Show,” “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me),” “User Friendly”

17. Godsmack, Godsmack (1998). Top three songs: “Whatever,” “Time Bomb,” “Bad Religion”

18. Gone in 60 Seconds soundtrack (2000). Top three songs: “Painted on my Heart” by The Cult, “Machismo” by Gomez, “Flower” by Moby

19. Def Tones, White Pony (2000). Top three songs: “Digital Bath,” “Elite,” “Change (in the House of Flies)”

20. Kidneythieves, Zerospace (2002). Top three songs: “Zerospace,” “Black Bullet,” “Spank”

21. Eminem, The Eminem Show (2002). Top three songs: “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” “Without Me,” “Sing For the Moment”

22. Blood and Chocolate soundtrack (2007). Top three songs: “Stripped” by Shiny Toy Guns, “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” by Bow Wow Wow, “Haunted When the Minutes Drag” by Collide

What an amazing gold nugget of economic advice…I’m still searching it for a flaw and can’t find a single one.

I am currently finishing a book called False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World, and near the end I happened across the below quote:

This book is not a detailed instruction manual on economic policy…I don’t know what the exact answers are, and anyone who claims to should not be trusted…But certain basic ideas command wide acceptance:

Don’t cut yourself off from the rest of the world. Plan ahead for cities, but don’t force them, and don’t give them more power than they warrant. Try to let your economy do what it is best at, and support it where possible without trying to force it down a predetermined path. Don’t obsess about religious belief, but watch for elites using it to further their own temporal ends. Stop overweening governments from ignoring property rights and the rule of law. Call the bluff of small interest groups that say they represent the whole country–and that can include bankers. Be aware when your country is getting stuck on the wrong path and be alert for opportunities to shift it. And above all, be prepared to learn along the way.

So why aren’t we doing this en masse as our standard economic policy..? It makes me sad that we aren’t really even trying to go in this direction most of the time.

Considering all the decades of love I have lavished on rock music, it’s sad and shocking that I could only come up with twelve.

Had I been willing to lower my standards just a smidgen…to say, there only had to be two of a band or musician’s albums where I liked at least a third of the songs each contained…this list would’ve become completely unmanageable. But no! I stayed strong, and stuck with my final criteria:

A. A band or musician who had at least three or more albums that
B. I have liked the majority of the songs on all three or more albums.

After a full week of cogitating, the winners are below, in order of the number of albums that fit the above criteria and, in the event of tied number of albums, the order in which they occurred to me. Enjoy!

1. Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Physical Graffiti, In Through the Out Door)

2. Nine Inch Nails (Pretty Hate Machine, Broken, The Downward Spiral, The Fragile, With Teeth, Year Zero)

3. Maynard James Keenan (Undertow with Tool; Mer de Noms, Thirteenth Step, Emotive with A Perfect Circle; and V is for Vagina with Puscifer)

4. Stone Temple Pilots (Core, Purple, Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, No. 4)

5. Prince (1999, Purple Rain, Parade, Sign o’ the Times)

6. Heart (Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen, Heart, Bad Animals)

7. Metallica (Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, …And Justice For All, Metallica)

8. Fleetwood Mac (Fleetwood Mac 1975, Rumours, Tango in the Night)

9. Van Halen (Van Halen, Women and Children First, 1984)

10. Alice in Chains (Facelift, Dirt, Jar of Flies)

11. Eurythmics (Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, Touch, Be Yourself Tonight)

12. The Cult (Electric, Sonic Temple, The Cult)

*I told my fiance what I was up to and his initial reaction was to scoff at my difficulties…til he actually tried to come up with his own list and after attempting to cheat multiple times by sneaking artists with only two albums that he liked the majority of the songs onto his list, he was forced to admit that this is a lot freakin’ harder than it sounds at first. 🙂

“Older men, younger women”–not a theme I’ve really spent much time dwelling on, I admit.

One of my favorite bloggers, Hugo, has dwelt on it a lot–I usually flip through his blog posts on the subject and move on, because it’s not a subject that interests me much personally. The depth of thought required to tease out its whys and wherefores always seemed minimal to me, so it didn’t draw me for that reason, and while it certainly can be an evil thing (I’m thinking of countries where grown men regularly marry girls in their teens or even younger–ugh!), in America, usually the younger woman is at least a woman in the legal and physical senses, so my feelings of ire aren’t really roused about the situation. However, I suppose the reasons (at least here in America) aren’t that obvious, not as obvious as they seem, so I may as well throw out my opinions on the subject (being at home all day with a severe head cold and trying to dodge frantic emails from work is really inspiring my blogging output, isn’t it?).

The obvious reason that an older man would want to date a younger woman is that younger women tend to be more physically attractive than older women, right? Well…yes and no. Some younger women are better-looking than some older women, the clearer firmer skin and tauter body structure of youth giving anyone a reasonable boost up the traditional 1-to-10 scale, but the looks gap in our well-fed, generally healthy, beauty-obsessed country isn’t all that gaping, especially depending on what age ranges you’re setting for older vs. younger. So it’s an explanation, but not the explanation–we clearly need to look deeper than that.

How about the old evo-psych line about increased fertility and longer reproductive time of younger women being the attractor…? That one is harder to take completely seriously, considering that in the realm of self-identified “older men” dating “younger women,” the absolute last thing most of these guys appear to want is to settle their younger woman down in a nice suburban nest and have her start popping out offspring right and left–most of them already have more than one kid, from the divorce they recently emerged from, for starters, and even those that don’t appear to be hell-bent on partying like they’re even younger than their new younger woman. At best, it’s a subconscious explanation, and again, clearly not the explanation.

I think one of the better explanations for this phenomenon was provided to me by a past boyfriend who cheated on me with a “younger woman” (again, “older” and “younger” are pretty flexible–I was four years younger than the boyfriend already, and the woman in question was only six years younger than me–but it was, despite that, clearly an “older woman-younger woman” situation in his mind). After the drama and angst died down, several months later, we did manage to have a reasonable discussion of what exactly had been going on there–of course, because I was curious. 🙂 (One of these days I will experience something so traumatic that I won’t inevitably begin, after a healing time interval, to explore exactly Why, Ma? it happened due to my inbuild fascination with how everything works regardless of my past personal involvement in it…but it’s probably going to have to be unimaginably awful, since that day hasn’t come yet and I’ve been through a lot.)

Naturally I had already heard of both the younger women are better-looking! and the younger women are more fertile! memes, but…well, as I said to him months later:

Me: …um, not that I think I’m a perfect “10” or anything, but…I really am having a hard time seeing how she was so much more attractive than me. (I had seen her on two or three occasions before they started messing around.)
Him: She wasn’t.
Me: I mean…she kind of had a little pot-belly, and her teeth, um…(I was getting very uncomfortable, as it seemed the height of bad manners to be dissing someone not present, and catty too, which is something I am not only rarely guilty of, I wasn’t even feeling a hint of at the time of discussion.)
Him: Yeah, I know.
Me: …maybe you were in love with her? (You know, to settle down with her and have kids! The fertility meme..?)
Him: Not hardly.

So, those theories were kind of blown out of the water. But the fact remained that he had wanted to be with her, not me, so…why?

It turned out it did have to do with youth, but not beauty and not fertility. It had to do with his youth, or more accurately, the last remnants of his youth that were slipping away–as he told me later:

I knew you were The One…I mean, you were perfect for me. But she was the girl all the guys at our office* talked about–she wasn’t anywhere near as beautiful as you, her body was nowhere near as good, that’s for sure–but she wore a lot of makeup and spent a lot of money on her clothes–I thought she was really trendy and with-it and, well, she wasn’t very smart. It was pretty easy to get her to do whatever I wanted. So I wanted you, but I wanted that too–someone who spent two hours a day on how she looked, someone who I could manipulate, someone who just did whatever, whenever, no matter how crazy. And I was on the high side of thirty and the thought of everything I’d lost after my divorce, all those years and all the assets I put into my marriage that I’d lost forever–I couldn’t really accept that I’d lost all that forever so I had to feel like I was getting at least some of it back somehow, some way. I didn’t respect her at all, and I didn’t want to respect her either–I couldn’t help respecting you and parts of me, that was totally what I wanted, but other parts, that was the complete opposite of what I wanted.

(*They were coworkers, which is how they met; he and I were not–he had started talking to me on MySpace.)

I thought it very sad (for both him and for me), and still do–and I haven’t seen yet anything that really contradicts any of what he told me as being the reason, the real root reason behind most older men-younger woman dynamics. I know the Hefster is a madly exaggerated example of this phenomenon, but really, it’s the exact same one, isn’t it..?

Hugo clearly is right when he says this is a culturally driven issue more than a biologically driven one, as well, but I don’t know that there’s any way to “fix” it or even any need to “fix” it. I’m not talking about the cheating and lying part, of course–that is completely unnecessary and eminently fixable!–but the part about wanting that particular kind of relationship with a “younger woman,” well…both parties are consenting adults–the “older” women are far better off without men stuck in this particular psychological rut, and the “younger” women in the rut with the men seem to be doing well enough, so why exactly is this a problem..? I think what I’m still not understanding is that–why it’s an issue of much interest to anyone except the involved parties at all.

This is already a week of WTF Internet Stories? moments…

Episode I:

Justices to hear appeal over Wal-Mart gender pay lawsuit
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
March 28, 2011 6:00 a.m. EDT

Wal-Mart says case is too big

The workers bringing suit say women represent more than 70% of Wal-Mart’s hourly workforce, but in the past decade made up less than one-third of its store management. A federal appeals court had concluded there was enough merit in the claims to proceed to trial on a class-action track. Since the lawsuit was filed a decade ago, both sides of the dispute have held discovery hearings, where preliminary testimony was taken to establish facts.

The company has protested the size of the class action, which it called “historic” in scope, saying it would be onerous, with too many disparate issues, to litigate.

“Wal-Mart is arguing in effect there is a large-company exception — that when the company is sufficiently large and the discrimination is sufficiently widespread — it’s just impractical to have a class action,” said Sellers, attorney for the plaintiffs.

“But there is no large-company exception to civil rights claims in this country.”

Um…no, there really isn’t. I’m afraid that the argument it’s too much hassle for us really doesn’t work, no matter how much you personally don’t take seriously the problem…I thought we already weeded out stupid crap arguments like this back in the days of OSHA formation…but monitoring safe working conditions for all those employees is too much hassle..! or child labor laws…but how can we be expected to KNOW if any of all our workers are underage, who could be expected to go through that much hassle to keep track..? Sorry, folks; the size of your company isn’t the law’s problem–your compliance with the law is your problem. If your company’s too big for you to handle, downsize it.

Episode II:

U.S. Products Help Block Mideast Web

McAfee Inc., acquired last month by Intel Corp., has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used in conjunction with McAfee’s Web-filtering software and sometimes to block websites on its own, according to interviews with people working at or with ISPs in the region.

A regulator in Bahrain, which uses McAfee’s SmartFilter product, says the government is planning to switch soon to technology from U.S.-based Palo Alto Networks Inc. It promises to give Bahrain more blocking options and make it harder for people to circumvent censoring.

Netsweeper Inc. of Canada has landed deals in the UAE, Qatar and Yemen, according to a company document.

Web-filtering technology has roots in the 1990s, when U.S. companies, schools and libraries sought to prevent people from surfing porn, among other things.

Today, that U.S. technology is now among the tools used in the clampdowns on uprisings across the Middle East. In Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and elsewhere, bloggers have been jailed and even beaten as governments try to repress online expression.

In Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, head of the banned Bahrain Human Rights Center, which runs a website the government blocks, says he was briefly thrown in a car and roughed up after authorities raided his house last week. The men threatened him with a pipe, he says, and slapped him when he refused to say he loved Bahrain’s king and prime minister.

For the U.S., the role of Western companies in Internet censorship poses a dilemma. In a speech last year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “Censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere. And in America, American companies need to take a principled stand.”

Lately the State Department has spent more than $20 million to fund software and technologies that help people in the Middle East circumvent Internet censorship that is sustained by Western technology.

Asked about that policy, a senior State Department official said the U.S. is responding to “a problem caused by governments abusing U.S. products.” When governments repurpose U.S.-made tools “to filter for political purposes, we are involved in producing and distributing software to get around those efforts.”

Makers of Web-filtering technology say they can’t control how customers use their products. “You can add additional websites to the block list,” says Joris Evers, a McAfee spokesman. “Obviously what an individual customer would do with a product once they acquire it is beyond our control.” A spokesman for Blue Coat made similar points.

Oh, my God. Really? Sure…if you sell a set of kitchen knives to some random dude who walks into your store one afternoon, I think it’s viable to argue that you can’t be expected to control how your customers use your products! when a week later said random dude is arrested for stabbing his entire family to death. However, when Joe Blow, infamous murderer whom you instantly recognize from the news, strolls into your store and strikes up a discussion with you on which brand of knives best slices through human flesh and buys the “Ginsu” set based on your recommendations, when he’s arrested a week later for stabbing his entire family to death, I think you could possibly, possibly have some moral culpability there. Just maybe!

Episode III:

From the CafeMom website:

Title: Your thoughts about daughter’s journal

Body: I just got a look at 14 yo daughter’s journal that she left in living room. She is writing it in hieroglyphs! Is this good, not good, imaginative or just strange? Your thoughts?

…that she clearly got her IQ from her dad, not you..? Okay. 😀 My actual thought, posted was:

# lisakansas
I would say she wants actual privacy in her journal writings, since clearly she’s aware that other people will open it up and read it whenever they feel like it.

hellooooo? 🙂

Childbirth Educator?

Some years ago I used to follow a blog called the Feminist Breeder…I can no longer remember how I came across it in the first place (probably linked from something else I was reading–my Internet surfing is eclectic to say the least), but I liked the blog.  I thought the writer was funny and clever and reasonably literate (only a few grammar and spelling mistakes that weren’t clearly just typos) and I thought both her background (she played bass for Courtney Love!) and her blog name were pretty cool.  However, sometime in the past few  years, I gradually stopped reading her blog.  She was making the transition from interesting person with strong opinions to dyed-in-the-wool-intolerant-fanatic, which even if I agree with the philosophies someone in general is promoting, is not an behavioral mode I can suffer through very long.  This is not an unusual shift in some bloggers, I’ve found, particularly ones who blog alone as opposed to part of a group–being part of a group seems to mitigate an apparently unfortunate tendency to harden and solidify as a person ages (like cheese left out too long, perhaps?) in terms of a person’s points of view–it certainly also contributes to an unfortunate correlation in rise in blog popularity with rise in personal narcissistic tendencies that I haven’t been able to avoid noticing in general (sadly, too).

But I hadn’t thought about her or her blog in a couple of years, not til recently when I popped up SURPRISE! pregnant–as always, I managed to miss the gestational girlfriend boat, too; all my friends went and had their kids in the long gap between my first two boys and my soon-to-be girl, so I am yet-again-female-companionless in pregnancy.  This resulted in me joining an online message board community of moms and moms-to-be called CafeMom (chosen solely because of the several mommy-boards I investigated, it has by far the easiest user interface to deal with quickly and efficiently).  And it has been interesting…sometimes, at least (sometimes it is unbearably puerile and also kind of horrifying in terms of the apparent educational deficits in our public school system, that are churning out these semi-literates–no, I am NOT going to get on a soapbox about the latter, I won’t!  Down, Fido!

One of the more interesting aspects has been the shift in both attitude and technology in terms of pregnacy, childbirth and the rearing of young children since I was last pregnant, which was indeed quite a while ago (15 and 20 years ago at the starts, as a matter of fact).  The movement towards fewer c-sections and the mainstreaming of “natural” (I really find that phraseology distasteful) childbirth was just getting into gear the last time I was gestating; it is now in full swing.  Some aspects of that I highly approve of–I have never been a fan of mindlessly following in the wake of the pronouncements of authority figures, medical or otherwise, and clearly all this information and all these options are really getting women involved in thinking hard and investigating for themselves in the extremely life-changing experience, both physically and psychologically, of motherhood.  However, some aspects of it are rather less pleasant–for example, why must these things always turn into pseudo-cults..?  (Along with illiteracy, that is not the conversation I want to have today, so I will be strong and restrict myself to just that one tiny observation and now, moving on..!)

SO–three things that were new to me were homebirthing (though that was pretty easy to figure out just from the descriptor), childbirth educator (less obvious what precisely that might mean) and doulas (never really encountered that one before at all).   The majority of the posting on CafeMom is slavish in its praise for all three, but just the other day someone started up a thread called Hurt By Homebirth? with a link to a website of the same name.  She was immediately attacked from all sides, but I was curious enough to follow the link and came across a woman who appears to be the Feminist Breeder’s opposite number in the world of twenty-first-century childbearing, the Skeptical OB.  (Love these names. 🙂 )   And not only that, they’ve definitely heard of each other–uglay! (Back when I used to be more a part of the mainstream feminist/liberal blogosphere, I noticed it was a small world–apparently there are many other small worlds out there in the blogosphere.)

In short, though, the Feminist Breeder adores homebirthing (she is about to have one) and is (now–she must’ve started after I stopped reading her) both a childbirth educator and a doula.  The Skeptical OB, on the other hand, hates homebirthing and despises childbirth educators and doulas.   But it was useful to read them both, to educate myself on those three concepts, as new to me as any first-time mom now.

Homebirthing–the procedure of giving birth at home, obviously!  But there are many different sub-flavors of this as well–there’s the kind where you have a certified nurse-midwife (who are registered nurses with a B.S. in nursing and further certification or an M.S. in midwifery) there with you; there’s the kind where you have some other kind of midwife there with you (basically, anyone who calls herself a midwife to your face, can be a midwife–no, there is no consistent standard for being able to call yourself a “midwife”–I could call myself one, with perfect legality), and there is the kind that you do without even the pretense of any medical support around, just family or friends or even, just yourself.

Childbirth educator–this is a person who says she is one, much like the above definition of a non-certified-nurse-midwife midwife–certification is optional.  The mostly highly educated example of a certified childbirth educator appears to have taken a 3-day course in the subject for less than a $1000 one time at some point. Childbirth educators offer and teach courses to prospective parents about their opinions on what said parents should expect during pregnancy, childbirth and the first few weeks postpartum, and are also usually involved in “birth activism” of one sort or another.

Doula–this is a person who says she is one, much like the above definition of a childbirth educator, with the same optional status on any kind of certification.  The most highly educated example of a certified doula is very similar to the most highly educated example of a childbirth educator as well. Doulas are more focused than childbirth educators on labor and delivery, and a lot more more hands-on; their primary job is to physically be there for a pregnant woman during her pregnancy, labor and delivery (and for a little while afterwards) offering emotional support, advice and sometimes running intervention between said woman and whatever medical personnel she has engaged for her childbirth.  (I admit to not being too impressed thus far with my one experience online with a self-described doula on CafeMom, who among other things has repeatedly told several nervous young mothers both that childbirth only hurts a lot if you THINK it will! and that you CAN have a pain-free childbirth if only you do all the right mental and physical things before and during childbirth! oh yeah well, doesn’t SHE know that childbirth DOES hurt because it’s GOD’S PUNISHMENT FOR WOMEN BECAUSE OF EVE AND THE GARDEN OF EDEN! …why not? sigh.  Mindless fanaticism…no, I won’t get started, I won’t..!)

But one bad apple does not a rotten orchard make–I had one OB about 20 years ago, for exactly the length of one office visit, named Dr. Payne (very appropriately named, too)–he got dumped extremely quickly, young as I was, but I’ve met several very nice and very competent OBs since.  So, just because one doula is a misinformation-spreading twit doesn’t mean they all are. So I proceeded to do a fair amount of online researching and…hmm.  Well.  Maybe most of them are, actually.  Very depressing, too, because I do think the idea of a supportive woman during labor and delivery not only sounds nice, I know it’s nice! because it’s what I had with my first son–my certified nurse-midwife and the delivery nurse were the kindest, most helpful human beings on the planet and I still remember them with great fondness (and I still have no idea who the OB was, I may have spotted him once for 20 seconds at some point).  But…

SO, now that I am in the full swing of self-education on the modern twists of childbirthing, how do I plan to proceed forward..?

In terms of a doula:  I am completely uninclined to hire one for myself.  Unfortunately, the propensity for outright lying about medical outcomes and statistics seems pretty pervasive among the breed.  In fact, they remind me a lot of crisis pregnancy center types–a little bit of truth in a whole lot of ideology with a few health-and-life-endangering lies and practices in the mix.  I pass.  I have my fiance for emotional support and I have myself for stubborn insistence on doing what I think needs to be done at any given moment, which I am quite capable of all the way up until I am dilated to 8 centimeters (I speak from experience).  I plan on being happily epidural’d up at that point, as I was with baby no. 2, so I should be good to go for rational decision-making then too, and if by some awful chance the epi doesn’t work (I have heard of that happening, though it didn’t to me with no. 2) my fiance will stand firm for me.  Nobody would ever want to live even a day with me afterwards if I were failed by him at that point and I’m perfectly serene in the knowledge that he knows that fact like the back of his hand.

In terms of a childbirth educator–it’s not possible to imagine that anyone without a medical degree knows more about childbirth than I do, both from study and from personal experience, so that also seems quite unnecessary.

In terms of a homebirth–no.  If I placed more significance on the baby’s well-being than my own, I would flatly refuse on that basis alone–I don’t, but there can be no doubt that homebirthing is indeed something done for the benefit of the woman, not the baby.  I’m fine with that, really–until she and the baby are separable concerns, the woman and her needs and desires comes first.  But I wouldn’t be emotionally happy at home for various reasons, and honestly I might not be physically safe at home either.  I wasn’t diagnosed with pre-eclampsia til I arrived at the hospital leaking amniotic fluid down both legs the night before my first child was born–that would certainly have gone undiagnosed at home, as a urine lab test is required to diagnose it, and the outcome for me, never mind the baby! might have actually been fatal without the subsequent medical support for that condition.

One thing I will say–breast pump technology appears to have VASTLY improved from back when I tried (with very little success) to use them–I’m actually looking forward to using my state-of-the-art double-sided Medela when the time comes. 🙂 (if still choking a bit over the price tag, which is more than the stroller and the car seat put together will be.) Stay tuned!

Required reading.

“I Didn’t Need the Condemnation Then, and I Don’t Need the Approbation Now:” How Other People’s Decisions About Your Pregnancies Have Nothing To Do With What’s Right For You and Everything To Do With Their Personal Agenda

Nineteen years ago, I got pregnant. My boyfriend at the time couldn’t maintain an erection for more than a few seconds after putting on a condom, and neither of us was willing to express our love chastely (imagine that). So, we decided to try the “withdrawal method of contraception” (otherwise known as the “contraceptive method” that only the mentally deficient, very young, or those who don’t really care if they get pregnant or not actually practice).

M boyfriend called his parents (we were both in the military, stationed overseas), told them the sad tale (though I’m fairly sure he skipped the part about the “withdrawal method”) and returned to me with his verdict, aided by their wise counsel–“I think you should get an abortion,” he said.

That surprised me a bit, coming as it was from the man who a few short weeks before had asked me to marry him–like, right then, as in an elopement to some nearby romantic European locale over the weekend and boom! married. After further questioning, he confessed that after speaking to his parents, he had rethought that scenario as well…oh, my poor young broken heart! But, life goes on. Literally!–I needed to decide what to do about the baby, who was busily growing larger and more inconvenient for everybody by the minute.

I didn’t bother calling my parents for a conference on the subject–I already knew my mother would order me to get an abortion, and I hadn’t spoken to my father in three years and didn’t see this as being the best occasion to restart our relationship. And I really had no one else to ask, not quickly; I think if I’d been in any kind of physical proximity to any good friends, I would have asked them for advice, but I wasn’t.

I didn’t have any personal objections to abortion–I was pro-choice then, as I am now. So I did my best to agree with everyone else that getting an abortion was the best choice for me to make. I went so far as to make the appointment and go to the clinic and sit on the bench outside the exam room with my boyfriend at my side. However, I wasn’t happy. Scratch that–I was miserable. I wasn’t in tears yet, but it was a close thing. My boyfriend glanced down at me and said, “You know, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

Oh, my God, it was like the light of Heaven at the end of the tunnel. I stared up into his face and said in a strangled sort of voice, “Do you mean you don’t want me to?”

He looked away. “I didn’t say that,” he said.

Ah. My surroundings returned to their previous gray flatness as I fell back to Earth with a thump. But it was clear to me that right then, at least, I couldn’t possibly go through with it; I told him as much, that I wasn’t quite ready, and we left the clinic.

Later–I can’t remember now if it was later that day, or a few days later–I did decide; I decided I couldn’t go through with it at all. I absolutely believed everyone else still very much wanted me to, and I was quite sure that they wouldn’t change their minds just because I was changing mine–I knew I was going to be going ahead with it utterly alone. But even knowing that, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and so I told my boyfriend. I reassured him that I expected absolutely nothing from him, not then and not ever; I was simply incapable of getting an abortion. I even apologized, very sincerely.

He stared at nothing for a few minutes, then muttered, without looking at me, “Well, then I guess we better get married.”

I hadn’t expected that–I really hadn’t, and found myself suddenly confronted with a new problem, that I just as suddenly could not confess to…that problem being that my desire to marry him somehow wasn’t what it had been just a few short weeks before. As a matter of fact, from an emotional standpoint, it was almost nonexistent. However, from a practical standpoint, it was clearly the best thing for this baby that I, and only I, was insisting on bringing into the world. And I did still love him…I was pretty sure I did, anyway…I squashed those doubts firmly. Now was not the time to waffle! I had a baby to gestate, birth and raise. Time to grow up!

I was madly disapproved of, of course, when my pregnancy became common knowledge in the barracks. This didn’t trouble me much more than I already had been troubled, as already nobody else had liked me for it either, including the baby’s father. But I was very young; I’m making a bit light of it now, but at the time, the whole thing was fairly awful to endure, and I won’t even go into my first visit home to my mother other than to say that if I hadn’t already known what a low piece of dirt I was, I certainly knew it by the end of that visit. But I accepted all the condemnation without much complaint; it was all my fault. I could have gotten an abortion, and I didn’t, and whatever the consequences were, I deserved them.

Now, let us fast forward another nineteen years into the future–present times! (The liveborn results of the previous drama will be graduating from Air Force Basic Training at the end of April, in case anybody was at all curious about how that turned out.) And yes, you guessed it…I am unwed and unplannedly pregnant once more! Well, oops. (This boyfriend had no issues maintaining an erection with a condom on, I would like to say in his defense. And I actually went to the drugstore after work the next day to get the “morning-after” pill after a sexual episode that was not as contraceptive’d as it could have been…they just happened to be out of them. And I was tired of driving. And if there is an “anti-conception” lifestyle, I was living it, and I’m in my late thirties so you know, I thought my fertility was probably close to nonexistent anyway. So, I was wrong. Sue me.)

Nobody other than me and the prospective father was involved this time in the decisionmaking process–as I am still pregnant, it’s probably obvious what decision we ended up making. The friends that know asked first if I was happy about it and upon ascertaining that I was at least reasonably content with the prospect of yet-again-impending motherhood, have been cheerfully supportive and congratulatory. All in all, it’s been a very nice change from my experience nearly two decades ago…until recently, when my gestating state became visually noticeable at work.

Oh, I haven’t been condemned this time round…quite the opposite! Somewhat sickeningly the opposite, actually. I have been stopped in the hallway by no less than three coworkers over the past two weeks, and had conversations that ran much along these lines:

Coworker: Hey–I couldn’t help but noticing–! (glance down at my abdomen) Are you..?
Me: Yep. Knocked up.
Coworker: Oh, I thought you said you were done! Didn’t you tell me your boys are all grown up?
Me: My oldest is, my younger one’s a teenager. Yeah, I thought I was all done too–
Coworker: (emphatically) It’s such a blessing, isn’t it?
Me: Uh…well, more of an accident, really–
Coworker: Are you going to get amnio*?
Me: Well, no, I–
Coworker: Of course not, you’ll love it no matter what!
Me: Er–
Coworker: What a miracle. I’m sure your husband is so thrilled!
Me: (dryly) We’re not actually married.
Coworker: (beaming) But I see you’re engaged! I’m sure you’ll get married before too long!
Me: (surrendering) Yes, thanks. We’re very excited about the whole thing.

So. Somehow I’ve gone from being an irresponsible, entrapping little slut to being a pro-life poster child. Of course, neither was nor is remotely the truth of the matters; yet all parties involved were then and are now quite happy to assign me these roles–emphatically eager to do so, and hadn’t then and don’t have now the faintest interest in how I might actually feel or even who or what I actually am as a person at all.

And every woman, no matter how young or old, single or married, should try to know that by heart going into any pregnancy–that ultimately, the only person’s opinion that really matters about what you do about your pregnancy is your own. Period. Which is why it should always, forever and only be your body, your choice.

*Amnio(centesis) (also referred to as amniotic fluid test or AFT), is a medical procedure used in prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities and fetal infections,[1] in which a small amount of amniotic fluid, which contains fetal tissues, is extracted from the amnion or amniotic sac surrounding a developing fetus, and the fetal DNA is examined for genetic abnormalities.

Part 2: On the dangers and oddity of defining who you are by something you think only your gender can do.

Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male. –Simone de Beauvoir

From the Wall Street Journal article I linked to in Part 1:

Why should [men] grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do.

I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional…

There is of course a lot wrong with the entire preceding paragraph–for instance, her apples-to-oranges comparison of the milestones of “womanhood” and “manhood”–in many cultures over much of our past, for instance, woman was never considered synonymous with adult, not legally, not emotionally and not psychologically–it was a descriptor of the physical capability to reproduce, which is why women never had to do anything other than menstruate to achieve it. When she speaks of the rites of manhood, really what she’s speaking of are the rites of adulthood. But the author has an agenda, and I’m not really interested in spending this entire post unraveling it–I simply needed an example of the defining of selfhood in terms of gender roles, and there we have a classic one.

But it does also illustrate a truth–that women have, in great numbers, begun to ascend to actual adulthood on their own, rather than mere physical maturity. It’s funny in a pathetic sort of way that the ascension to adulthood is defined as an ascension to manhood by so many of those bewailing this supposed chasm in the lives of young men and since it’s not adulthood but manhood, then women are now becoming men so what are boys supposed to aspire to…? (In fact, the above excerpt from WSJ is taken from the author’s own book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.)

So, women can now (at least in theory) do it all (with a few exceptions, such as all-male sports teams and certain military jobs). So can men, as a matter of fact–men are perfectly free to do all the things that women have traditionally done, such as marry young and stay at home raising children and cleaning the house and cooking the family meals…er, but somehow the fact that we are all free, freeee! hasn’t resulted in men flocking back into the marital home in anywhere near the droves it has resulted in women flocking out of it. The sad truth of this is because when men decide that having it all means they get to choose to be perennial children, ie women, they don’t want the childhood deal that women actually had for all those years–they don’t want to have the legal rights and societal respect for their opinions and brainpower equivalent to that a child receives coupled with the boring, dirty, unpaid-save-for-room-board-and-an-alllowance work of supervising small children and cleaning up after and feeding all the children and other adults of the household. They want the legal rights and societal respect accorded to adults, ie men, without having to take on the boring, dirty, unpaid housekeeper/nanny work accorded to women. This is not a deal that was generally offered to women, and this is why an apparent paradox (if both genders can have it all now, why are women using it to expand into men’s traditional roles and men aren’t using it to expand into women’s?) is no paradox at all.

And what about the women who don’t want it all? That’s pretty obviously because, as you see above, with all this new expanding, somehow the boring, dirty, unpaid housekeeper/nanny work is not being shifted from women’s shoulders as they take on traditionally adult male roles, and unsurprisingly, a lot of women feel massively overwhelmed by this. So they take refuge in glorifying the perennial childhood that is the lot of the traditional woman, because since they can’t get out of the boring, dirty, unpaid part anyway, why would they want to add to that..? And some men who don’t retreat into the far more fun version of childhood offered to them are delighted with this, since the women are submitting voluntarily to it. See, they say–this is what women really want anyway! Oh, those evil feminists, all this unhappiness that results from deviating from gender role tradition is their fault…! eagerly seconded by this particular sect of women.

Of course, for women who reject it, the going is rather harder when it comes to those particular men. If you happen to want a man in your life, you are often presented with two choices–submit! or I’ll revert into the perennial childhood that I can retreat into and you can just take care of EVERYTHING yourself since you wanted to invade the sanctum of manly adulthood so badly..! In my particular case, I have always declined to submit. I don’t really know what makes it possible for other women to submit in any kind of psychological comfort to a man’s biologically-based authority–all I can speculate is that other women haven’t had my life experiences, that have resulted in my unavoidable knowledge that there is nothing men can do that I cannot, saving the biological function of producing sperm. I’ve been as tall, strong and fast as men; I’ve been as capable of higher math and scientific analysis as men; I’ve handled weaponry and heavy machinery as well as men; I’ve cared for and protected a family as well as men. I am incapable of feigning belief in the concept that there is anything that men are innately or naturally better suited for than I am, and I am most definitely in all ways biologically female.

Interestingly enough, though, for me, I have no desire to rail about the awful immaturity!! of men and where ARE all the “good men??” as I’ve seen so many women doing in the media. I like to do challenging things, lots of them; if some men prefer to withdraw from the field entirely due to my genital arrangement, okay. Get out of my way, please. 🙂 There are rewards to the pursuit of challenge unmatched by any amount of artificially lengthened childhood play, and these men are depriving themselves of them; they will never be able to deprive me of them, and neither will any colluding woman, however understandable her frustration with the status quo may be. I have no trouble defining myself, because I don’t try to define myself based on an arbitrarily assigned and forcibly externally imposed gender role. My gender is a fact about me, one of many–it is not the fact about me. I do feel pity for the men who are (apparently, according to the anecdata of the media, anyway) falling into this trap, but aside from a mild hope that for their own sakes they rediscover meaning outside traditional gender roles and/or sulky revolt, I don’t really care one way or the other. I don’t worry about my own sons, either–my oldest is already taking on the responsibilities of adulthood, independent of the above mess, and doing so admirably; his younger brother is showing strong signs that he will follow suit. It seems quite possible that other men of their generation will find their way to doing the same.

Part 1: On the dangers and oddity of defining who you are by something you think only your gender can do.

Hugo has a piece up in the Guardian about the recent incident where one high school wrestler refused to compete with another wrestler in his state’s tournament because…why? Well, according to this kid:

“As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.”

Quite silly, and I had mostly dismissed it without much interest, other than to wonder where exactly in the Bible it says Thou Shalt Not Wrestle Girls..? (Really–I’ve read the whole thing, but I must’ve missed that part.) The contention that it could somehow hurt his conscience is of course equally ridiculous; she’s clearly in no danger from him, unless he believes he is somehow far, far superior to all the other boys she has ever wrestled to get to this point. (Given the above quote, I suppose that kind of smug self-willed idiocy isn’t entirely beyond the realm of possibility for him to possess. 🙂 ) I wasn’t going to weigh in on this at all, til I started thinking about it in conjunction with my recent foray into a Mom-oriented message board community on the Internet.

What could those two things have in common? Well, as Hugo points out:

Though fear of losing to a young woman was surely a factor, there’s a bigger story here: the longing of too many young men for all-male spaces, in which they don’t have to compete with women as equals.

And there is a loooot of that going on, in the gender-opposite fashion, on the Mommy message board community, especially the boards devoted to pregnancy and breastfeeding. So many of the women there absolutely, utterly and madly glorify, to the point of near-orgasm, being a mother. Not being a parent…being a mother. Childbirth that is as close as you can get it to the days of cavewomen is practically deified, because your body knows what to do, it’s what God made you to do, just listen to your body and become one with your WOMANITY!! (Yes, I’ve had a natural childbirth–gad, what a phrase–what’s an unnatural childbirth? Pooping the kid out your butt? I’m pretty sure however it comes out is natural, folks, unless demons and fairies are somehow involved. But, I’ve had the drug-free uh, fulfillment, that they refer to as glorious natural childbirth that they tout to the skies, and I’ll tell you what my body was telling ME the whole time—YEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOWCH!)

And the breastfeeding message board…I’ve mostly tried to stay away from it. It is stuffed to the gills with women who are either starving their three-month-olds because their breasts produce maybe three ounces of milk a day but oh no I won’t supplement that evil pediatrician how dare she suggest such a thing just because Junior hasn’t put on any weight since birth?!? my milk is the ONLY THING THAT’S GOOD FOR HIM! or letting their 2 year olds literally tear their nipples off with their teeth (“She just loves my boobies sooo much how can I deny her what she NEEDS TO GROW HEALTHY?!”) or crying hysterically about their 1 year old who is trying to self-wean and getting validation along the lines of “you go sister! stop feeding her anything but breastmilk, she’ll stop trying to get food anywhere but your holy tits after THAT!”

But it’s all of a piece with what Hugo is talking about, and interestingly enough, what a spate of articles seemingly unrelated to all of the above have been going on about lately–one recent example would be one from the Wall Street Journal last month entitled “Where Have The Good Men Gone?”. The contention, of this article and so many other clones of it, appear to be that since the ladies have moved into the all-manly spheres of careers, independent adult living, etc., that now men have been emasculated because there is nothing of their own for them anymore. (Unsurprisingly, the solution always offered by these pieces of toilet paper is that women need to scurry back into the home, heads down, and start seriously kissing some man ass. But that is not central to my current point, so I will leave it alone for now. 🙂 )

What my point is, is that we seem to have large groups of both genders who are incapable of defining their selfhood in any way other than by some activity they must believe can only be performed by their gender. In the case of men, it’s having a successful career and being a breadwinner; in the case of women, it’s giving birth and breastfeeding. The ladies indeed have a point about the giving birth and breastfeeding part–truly, men can’t do that. However, the frantic deification of both does well define the problem with using it to build the framework of your self upon–that part of parenting is really the shortest, by far. The vast majority of parenting occurs after birth and nursing are over–which I do believe is one important, if not-entirely-conscious, reason these broads are are trying to keep breastfeeding going long past the time where it’s important for health reasons to do so–and why other women are so powerfully drawn to things like the Quiverfull movement. They do know, deep down inside, that there is no parenting they do from ages 1 to 18 that can’t be just as well done by a man–therefore, the more time they spend pregnant and breastfeeding, the more they are proving their indispensability, because no one can deny that men can’t do those two things!

Sometimes I wonder if something as simple as more comprehensive science education, specifically in biologics and genetics, would nip at least some of these issues in the bud, at least for men. (Yeah, I’m probably dreaming. But bear with me here.) Men are necessary to our success as a species…no, not because they can do special man things like build and lead and kill stuff–I will write more about that in my next post. But on the most fundamental, biological level of species survival, having a male gender is incredibly desirable. The most primitive forms of life are referred to as asexual, though that’s not entirely accurate–they are really monosexual, and that sex is female. The male gender is a much more recent evolutionary mutation–but an incredibly vital one for genetic diversity. All the most successful species, dominating all top layers of the ecological food chains around the world, have evolved separate male and female genders. And not only for the genetic diversity increasing with every subsequent generation–it is incredibly beneficial to a species to have half its members not ever burdened with the individual drain of physically producing and nurturing its next generation–in fact, to aid via mutual cooperation the feeding and protection of the much more helpless immature specimens while not gestating.

But I suppose that this line of reasoning is rather too abstract for most people to base their life paths and decisions upon…though I don’t think it should be. But more on gender and life roles in Part 2!