Friday, March 19, 2010

John Edwards/Rielle Hunter

Rich and powerful men "cat around " because they can. John Edwards having a mistress came as no surprise to me. His getting her pregnant did, as did her going through with the pregnancy and birth: more and more evidence and a ticking political time bomb. But I thought, "Who are we to judge?" and not just because I liked his politics but because there were very stressful extenuating circumstances in the family. Mrs. Edwards was being treated for terminal cancer as her husband campaigned, with her blessing, for the presidency. There are pretty grim statistics about men leaving cancer-stricken wives, so I could see how darkness and the death-hour could drive a man to take temporary comfort from a young, willing woman.

I am certain that losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a human being. Everyone knows that the Edwardses' teenage son was killed in a car wreck, and to me this puts them, and all who have lost a child, on a separate moral plane, another planet even, because I cannot, I will not, imagine that. Maybe that loss was behind the pregnancy, another chance at life, after one death in the family and another one coming.

For what it's worth, my judging-not stops with Ms. Hunter's recent interviews. "Johnny," as she calls her paramour, could not be honest with his wife because he knew "he would be pummeled." He can open his heart to Miss Rielle because " I won't abuse him." She goes on with the usual bimbo shtick about the proper way to treat a man. I guess Mrs. Edwards didn't know how to do that between funerals, the campaign trail, and chemo.

Rielle Hunter needs a good tight bitch-slap and Johnny should be shot. What kind of a man allows his mistress to trash his bereaved, dying wife and the mother of his children in front of the world? This is more tasteless than "South Park."

I am left to conclude that Mr. Edwards is just one more immature, entitled pretty-boy with his brain in his zipper.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010


One morning when I was twenty-two and living in Rochester, N.Y, I was twirling the radio dial and heard a poet asking, "Who put the malt into the sea?" I have been a National Public Radio listener ever since.

For decades, I have prepared dinner while listening, and so NPR became part of the children's lives, too. All three of them remember the sun going down, the furnace kicking on, the smell of cooking, and the theme music to "All Things Considered." Younger Son, as a baby, thought that the radiators played that song, and Older Son still gets a Pavlovian hunger reflex when he hears it.

When Older Son was about four, a radio commentator was talking about the meaning of life as my child ate with his hands out of sheer spite. I tried to re-direct, not give it the dignity of a response, all that educated parent stuff, but when he made eye-contact and flashed a possum-eatin' grin I lost it and yelled, "Use your spoon!" just as the radio sage did the big reveal. I'll always wonder what I missed, unless, in some Zen koan way, the meaning of life is...use your spoon.

One rainy September evening when Daughter was about six, we were making chocolate chip cookies together when we heard that Dr. Seuss had died, and my little girl solemnly suggested we dedicate the cookies to his memory. He would probably like chip, two chip. Years later, when she was in high school, she was upstairs in her room while I was in the kitchen listening to Gene Simmons of "Kiss" being intolerably rude to Terry Gross on "Fresh Air." I was thinking, "I cannot believe this!" when Daughter came down the stairs saying, "Can you believe this jerk?" She'd had NPR on in her room!

I think my favorite NPR night was Terry Gross interviewing Tom Jones. Younger Son is a comic genius, and the retro, concert panty-throwing mystique of Tom Jones set him off. He imitated interviewer and guest: "Now, Mr. Jones, you are a rather ridiculous man, wouldn't you say so?" (Welsh accent) " I suppose I would, m'love." Ms. Gross played some old recordings, and the wailing vocals and 1970 brass struck YS as hilarious. Mr. Jones told about how he'd actually passed out in the recording studio from the force and duration of the last note of the Bond theme "Thunderball." Ms. Gross cued it up. We listened, thunderstruck (get it?) to the first few bars of what may be the most ridiculous song ever written, and then a sing-along erupted, louder and louder, until that last phrase: "And he fights (bahm bahm bahm bahm bahm!)/ Like Thunder/ (huge intake of breath) / BAAALLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!"

"Thunderball" is now a thing in our house and the centerpiece of Younger Son's Bond Theme set that he keeps on his iPod for holidays.

I'll bet you thought NPR was just The News.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Don't mature!"

"Mature people do all the shitwork!" is what the middle-aged man in a two-year-old's body shouts to a group of children in Jules Feiffer's "Tantrum."

I've just finished cleaning the refrigerator. I contemplate the psychology of shitwork.

The refrigerator took a long time to clean and was very unpleasant because two other adults live in this house and neither of them cleans the refrigerator. It would not occur to them because they have always lived in a household in which a wife or mother cleaned it before it became a biohazard. If I asked them to clean the refrigerator, they would make excuses, stall, and finally do a poor job of it. Yet we are family (blood and meshpocha) and we love each other.

I know all about teaching people how to treat you. I've never had a problem being vocal about not wanting to do all the cleaning and I tried to teach the children when they were growing up to be communitarian and responsible. It is hard! It is hard because shitwork sucks and there is something in people that will do almost anything to get out of it. We used to own slaves, and we still designate classes of people to do the shitwork.

But in the is corrosive.

Over the years, I have reasoned with my family, and I have had emotional outbursts. Nothing has ever made them pull their weight in maintaining our home. Of course, any dog, if beaten enough, will stay off the couch, but this is where I falter. I do not want to be head Dog Beater with the people I love (I am speaking of adults and kids old enough). Where is their responsibility? They love me, but shitwork sucks and society has until recently been structured so that the wife/mother does it. I've met all kinds of resistance, from blank-eyed stonewalling to various excuses. One that stands out in my memory is, "The kitchen is clean by male standards!" delivered with a sidelong grin, translated, "I gave it a half-assed swipe and you'll have to finish it and when you complain I'll make Martha Stewart jokes and use it as an excuse not to make any more attempts." Second prize: "I can't remember when it's Wednesday (garbage) night." Honorable mention: "I just don't see the mess." Those are not adult attitudes.

My loved ones don't mean to hurt me. Unconsciously, they simply don't believe they should have to do shitwork. They would hate a dirty home: I've never heard anyone say, "I love the smell of catbox in the morning!" I have had to make a unilateral effort to make them understand that their failure to clean up after themselves is unfair to me, and I haven't done well. Dog-beating isn't my thing.

Daughter once said I had "an out-moded, feminist perspective." Could be. But her boyfriend cleans. He cleans up after himself, and he cleans their apartment, bathroom and all, without being asked, and properly. So she has more Time, which is what life is made of. And she isn't living with chronic resentment. Maybe it's a legacy of those outmoded feminists. Maybe it's maturity. Either way, I'm happy for her!