RSS Feed

Category Archives: Mothers

Preventative Mastectomy

Posted on
Angelina Jolie wallpaper

Angelina Jolie wallpaper

So what do we think of Angelina Jolie’s preventive mastectomy, and of the procedure in general? Right from the get-go I want to say that I honestly do not  judge Jolie or any other woman who decides on this course of action, nor do any of us have the right to do so. It’s entirely up to each woman to do what she thinks best for herself–which doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. Or maybe it’s not actually an opinion, it’s more about what I might do in the same situation.

When I first heard about preventive mastectomy a few years ago I was horrified–especially since some women were having it who didn’t know what their chances of getting breast cancer were. Maybe their mother had it, or even an aunt or female ancestor further back. That seemed to me the height of paranoia, even female self-hatred. Jolie’s mother died of ovarian cancer in 2007, however, so Angelina got herself  tested. She has an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. Eighty-Seven Fucking Percent. PLUS, a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer. Lousy odds.

From what I’ve read in comments and op-eds, women are doing most of the talking, and the majority are cheering Angelina on, congratulating her courage and noting the depth of her demonstrated motherly devotion. She deserves the cheering, and the public kudos for undergoing such a radical procedure that’s left her without breasts for the next half of her life. Jolie’s fairly young–37–which is a huge factor when making this kind of decision, but it can probably work in either direction, I would think. At my age, for instance–67–I wouldn’t do it. What for? We’re all gonna die of something. Were I 37, though, I don’t know if I would have made the decision to live without my breasts. Then again, 87%…Still…

Whoa, it’s so fucking hard!

I’m wondering how this is going to affect Angelina’s life. Will she lose out on any acting roles because of it?

English: Gwyneth Paltrow at Sensuous launching...

Gwyneth Paltrow 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

People magazine recently featured Gwyneth Paltrow on their cover, captioned as The Most Beautiful Woman In the World. I did a double-take, on line at the supermarket, and then I laughed out loud. Gwyneth Paltrow? My sister once described her as “bland,” comparing her to Marilyn Monroe. I think Paltrow is kinda cute…but The Most Beautiful? Shit, I remember when Liz Taylor held that distinction–but she deserved it. If you ask me–and nobody has–Angelina Jolie deserves the moniker today. Maybe Michelle Pfeiffer, but I suppose she’s too old (and come to think of it, Liz was considered beautiful in her 60s). Gwyneth Paltrow? The Most?

 

I’ve gotten off track here, but I do have a point. If the Hollywood power mongers think GP is more gorgeous than AJ, what will they think of a breastless AJ? Does that sound awful? Am I a bad person for thinking and/or saying that? I can’t be the only one to whom these thoughts occur. I honestly do think Angelina is just as gorgeous post-op–after all, I was never privy to her breasts! But knowing the ways of the world and the people in it, I strongly suspect these issues are, at the very least, on people’s minds.

I knew a woman who had breast cancer that wasn’t diagnosed until it had reached Stage 4. Everyone expected her to die soon. Ultimately she had a bone marrow transplant of her own bone marrow–and she lived another ten years, so she was around until her kids grew up, more or less. It makes me wonder: Couldn’t someone with a strong chance of getting breast cancer get checked every six months or more and have the mastectomies if and when those fucker cells do invade her body? Just askin’.

Anything you don't need, Lenny?

Anything you don’t need, Lenny?

I keep remembering a scene in Law & Order where Anita (S. Epatha Merkerson) patiently explains to Lenny (Jerry Orbach) that the articles he skips “on your way to the sports section” are kept in her night table drawer. He and partner Ray (Benjamin Bratt) scoff at the idea of a woman hesitating about surgery when it can save their life. She aims a deadly glare at Lenny and asks, ” Oh yeah? Can you think of a part of your body you might wanna keep?”

I can. Angelina, you are in my heart and mind a lot these days. With all the people thinking about you, feeling for you, talking about you, your vibe on Planet Earth must be so powerful, this might be a good time to do something daring, something risky…oh, yeah…you already did. Good luck baby girl. In my book YOU  are The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, bar none.

Big Blue Eyes

Posted on
Garry Moore, quintessential 50s TV emcee. Photo: Wikipedia

Garry Moore, quintessential 50s TV emcee. Photo: Wikipedia

Some time around 1950, my mother sent away for free tickets to some corny daytime television show. I don’t recall what it was, only that it wasn’t a soap opera or game show. The emcee, to whom I was rude, blunt, and contemptuous, might have been Garry Moore. The sponsor I vividly remember: Chef Boy-ar-Dee. At

Chef Boyardeethe end of the program each mother-child pair marched across the stage, shook the emcee’s hand, and received a can of ravioli. This ceremony was televised, was part of the programming.

When it was our turn, the emcee smiled at me and cooed, “Where’d you get those big blue eyes?” Four years old, I thought he was an idiot. “I was born with them!” I said, silently conveying the tag, “Stupid!” He was taken aback, but luckily we had to keep moving so the next kid could get a can of ravioli.

My little playmate Barry was home in his Bronx apartment watching TV and sucking his thumb. When I came on camera he shrieked, “That’s my Marcy!” Or so his mother told me. I guess he didn’t notice my bitchiness—or maybe he was used to it. Or maybe it made perfect sense to Barry that I called a grownup on his bullshit: of course I was born with my blue eyes—where else would I have gotten them? For years I’d tell this story for laughs, proud of my youthful honesty. Now, having reached an age where I know who I am and how I got here, I see that my behavior came from a personality in development, one that I cultivated and honed and carried with me into the future. It was not a personality likely to generate success in most areas of life.

The evidence was on my quarterly report card: in first grade, when they only gave out “S” for Satisfactory or “U” for Un, straight S’s ran down and across for every subject but one: “Works well with Others.” Unsatisfactory! Marcy does not work well with others! These days a parent who saw a report card like that would rush their kid to the nearest shrink. My parents ignored it.

Cartoon: Dane Anthony

Cartoon: Dane Anthony

 

This wasn’t really unusual; in fact, it would’ve been considered odd if they had consulted a shrink. That’s the way my generation’s parents were: they pushed us out the door in the morning and expected us back by supper. We were to do our homework without their help, do well in school, wash our face and comb our hair. They were nothing like today’s “helicopter” parents.

The other day I heard someone roughly my age on a podcast, talking about the parenting style of the generation who raised us, who raised me. It might’ve been Marc Maron, who I listen to a lot, but he’s younger. Whoever it was, he joked that our parents won World War II, saving us from living in a Hitleresque world

Photo: "Life Under Nazism" at from Center for Holocaust & Gender Studies/http://www.chgs.umn.edu/histories/documentary/nazilife/index.html

Photo: “Life Under Nazism” from Center for Holocaust& Gender Studies/http://www.chgs.umn.edu/histories/documentary/nazilife/index.html

under Nazism; now what more could we possibly want from them? The guy he was talking to said he didn’t think our generation could’ve done it, that we could not have won the war. He had a point.

Still. I’m not the only one who was raised by a system of benign neglect (or worse). I’m not the only one struggling not to be bitter, who genuinely wants to stop blaming my parents for my problems. I’m not the only baby boomer who would like to be able to forgive them.

Dead or alive, they deserve no less.

Great Guilt Trip With Babs

GuiltTrip

It’s not that there’s anything astounding or remarkable about Guilt Trip, the new comedy with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, mother and son on a road trip through hell. What’s so good about this movie is how utterly REAL Barbra is in the role of Joyce Brewster, a 60-something widowed mother. Most women of our generation will recognize themselves and their friends in the character–but when I say Streisand is real in Guilt Trip, I’m referring to more than characterization. Her acting is real in Guilt Trip; it’s possible she’s never done so well in any previous film. Anne Fletcher, who directed Guilt Trip, seems to have known exactly what to do with her.

I’m assuming direction makes the difference: in so many of Barbra’s movies–from Funny Girl to Prince of Tides right on up through Meet the Fockers–she has a tendency to overact, but in Guilt Trip I didn’t see a single instance of her usual emoting. Every smile, tear, conversation, and subtle reactions are conveyed in a way that is seamlessly real, and if I’m overusing that word, it’s because nothing else can better describe Streisand’s performance and persona here. Maybe it’s just, as Mick LaSalle says in The SF Chronicle, “Maturity has released something in Streisand, who, having gone beyond trying to sell herself as a babe (as in “The Mirror Has Two Faces”), has a new warmth.”

Seth Rogen is Streisand’s son, Andy Brewster, an inventor hawking his organic cleaning fluid on their road trip. Andy’s humorless presentations doom his product before it can get off the ground. He rejects Mom’s advice to zip up his performance, and who can blame him when it’s thrown at him amid  600 other pieces of advice to drink more water, visit his high school sweetheart, see a shrink, yada yada yada. Sounds like a stereotypical Jewish mother, but it doesn’t come off clichéd. I saw the picture with my son, and we both related to the mother-son dynamics. Besides, Mom is vindicated in the end, when Andy finally takes her advice and it pays off. In between rejection and triumph, of course, they have to travel a long long road. It’s great fun for the audience if not the riders.

628x471

(Above: Barbra as Joyce Brewster eats a humongous steak dinner in an hour, thereby getting it free.)

As an old Barbra Streisand fanatic who’s been watching her since 1963, hasseen every one of her movies, most of them multiple times, owns most of her recorded work and had a personal Streisand adventure of sorts (see my post on meeting her in a New York HoJo), I have the right and the credentials to criticize or praise her (though so does everyone else, come to think of it!). I say this because when I checked out  Rotten Tomatoes to see what film critics and ordinary viewers are saying about the movie, I was disappointed–even kind of hurt, since so many of them dismiss GT as crappy drivel for little old ladies. You know, us old fuddy duds who don’t know a thing about le cinema but adore false sentiment. Oh, boo hoo and a big boo to you too! I laughed my way through most of Guilt Trip, was emotionally moved, and saw a two-hour sliver of truth and beauty. I don’t expect every movie to transform my life. A lot of them don’t even transform my two hours of watching! This one had side-splitting laughs and the whole thing was fun. Which is enough for any piece of entertainment to deliver.

 

Ravi Shankar Dies at 92

December 12, 2012 (12/12/12) 

Shankar

1. 1969. I’m in the playroom—which is actually a second living room!—in my house in Rocky Point, Long Island, under the headphones, listening to Ravi Shankar playing sitar. I am stoned on Maryjane. The kids are asleep down the hall, each in their own pristine, beautifully decorated, bedrooms. I breathe in time to the strumming of the sitar, and at some point I see myself, with utter clarity,  on the ceiling, sitting cross-legged in the right-hand corner near the window, in front of the bookcases. I am looking down at myself on the couch. I am so amused by this vision, I wouldn’t mind if it went on forever and ever.

I cannot remember if I got scared and pulled myself down from the ceiling, I only recall coming out of it within a few seconds/minutes/hours? Whether scared or not, the visual memory has stayed with me all these years, especially when people talk about out-of-body experiences and the like. This was my first out-of-body experience, inspired by the music of Ravi Shankar.

images-6

2. 1972—I take my kids to the Kingston Drive-In to see The Concert for Bangla Desh. It’s very long, three hours I think, and filled with images of starving children. Many questions are asked by  the kids, aged five and seven, such as “If the people have no money, why don’t they just go to the bank?”  The music is wonderful, with George Harrison headlining. He jams with Ravi Shankar, who also plays with his regular musicians (photo above), and does a solo or two. As he’s strumming on the sitar—you could’ve heard a pin drop, in the drive-in no less!—I hear heavy sobbing in the back seat. I turn around. Daryl can barely speak, he’s crying so hard. “This music is so sad!” he says. Soon he is able to articulate what’s sad, beginning with the starving people and the pained look on Ravi Shankar’s face, and spreading outward to emotions about his father, who I recently divorced. I don’t recall the specifics, unfortunately, but I’ll bet Daryl still remembers this.

George Harrison & Ravi Shankar

George Harrison & Ravi Shankar

 Playing with George on the Night Shift?

Ravi Shankar, what a pure and wonderful gift you shared with us. I hope to see you on the other side.

Playing By The Rules: Check Your Premises

Politicians are always squawking madly that America works best when her citizens “Play by the Rules” (PBTR). The rules to which they refer are, at their most basic level, work hard, save your money, and don’t get into debt (that last one might be out of date). Depending on how disciplined you are or can be, more complex levels of the rules include heterosexual marriage, children, home ownership, and a zillion other lifestyle tweaks that add up to being a good clean-cut American citizen. Those who PBTR are rewarded, primarily, with enough money to make their lives comfortable or even luxurious. They can afford to buy  fun stuff—boats and vans and summer homes—travel to the far reaches of the globe, and go on adventurous vacations like jungle safaris, parachuting, and other wild thrills. Or they can simply accumulate lots of jewelry or cars or let the cash itself pile up.

Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan recently made a rather shocking statement: he said, expressing hostility towards them, that some people don’t want to PBTR. They don’t. Want. To play. By the rules.

I’ve been mulling this over since he said it, and you know what? He’s absolutely right! A lot of us do not want to PBTR. I am one of them. I’ve lived my entire life far outside the rules—consciously and intentionally.

I am a writer. Pre-Internet it was nearly impossible to make money writing, and even today, most of us cannot, do not, and will not work 9 to 5 jobs out of which we spin hot careers. We already have hot careers: as writers. Unlike most careers, however—except for the plum jobs like corporate newsletter editor and a very few others—writing doesn’t support its practitioners immediately, if ever. Writers have to find ways to support our careers until they support us. Sometimes they never do, and we surrender to some other occupation. Or we just surrender, period, and litter the landscape with our exhausted bodies. Or we keep on keepin’ on, usually unhappily, our lives a study in subversion of the rules and its deprivations. This is, of course, true not only of writers but of all artists: photographers, painters, sculptors, and other creative geniuses. We comprise a sizeable chunk of the American populace that doesn’t PBTR. This has always been the case, and it always will be.

Then there are those whose art is creative living: there were more of these back in the late 60’s, called “hippies.” I knew people who took the hippie lifestyle a lot further than I did: living on the land, sometimes communally, in teepees, cabins, and tents. My kids and I (usually) lived in a traditional house, though not strictly in PBTR circumstances.  For awhile we lived on a hilltop buried in snow half the year, in one of five cozy little bungalows huddled in a protective semi-circle, in each of which lived a single mother and one or two kids. I was the only adult with a real job—secretarial of course—to supplement my paltry child support check. I remember one of the women, a conservative’s worst nightmare, who claimed it was more principled to let the government support mothers via welfare so they’d stay home with their kids than for her to leave them every day for a job. As a feminist striving for independence, I found this rather shocking—but as time went by, I came to see her point of view as viable. I still do. In order to see it differently, I first had to check my premises—an idea promoted incessantly by Paul Ryan’s mentor, Ayn Rand.

“Check your premises” was, in my opinion, the most sensible thing Rand ever said—but Paul Ryan evidently didn’t pay attention to this piece of Randian philosophy. He hasn’t checked the premises that underlie the practice of playing by the rules. When he says some people don’t want to, he’s assuming evil premises, one of which is that if you don’t PBTR, you’re lazy. You’re not working hard. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in my experience: there were times when I held three “part time” jobs that added up, both in hours and muscle power, to more than one. Sometimes I cleaned houses, and worked like a dog. And yes, sometimes I got lucky–like when I collected unemployment–and I got to take it easy.

And what’s so terrible about enjoying life? What’s wrong with spending your days playing music with your kids, or taking them ice skating? What’s so terrible about having a little bit of fun? Come on, tell us, Mr. Ryan: what’s wrong with having fun? Why, when you accuse us of not PBTR, do you attach evil premises to the practice? When I—or another artist or hippie–says someone doesn’t want to PBTR, it’s just a statement of fact. The underlying premise is neutral, with no value judgment attached. Really.

If not playing by the rules is simply a statement of fact without moral value, where does it leave us? At the end of the American Way of Life? Is that what Paul Ryan and those who believe so fervently in PBTR are afraid of? I don’t have an answer. I just think it would be a damn good idea if everyone, especially the people in power, would take a minute or two to check their premises.