Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering all who serve

In honor of all who have served, I am devoting the day to a deep dive into Rachel Maddow's Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. I've poked around the book enough to know it will be a disturbing and important read, consistent with Maddow's premise that the decision to go to war should be difficult, painful and require sacrifice by all, right from the get-go. 
We can do better.

We should, collectively, anguish over a decision to go to war, Maddow suggests. As it is, we've drifted into systemic acquiescence--to appointed bureaucrats, military careerists and multinational service providers who profit (powerwise or moneywise) on the backs of the precious few who volunteer their service, their lives. We can do better.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Barbaric rituals 2: the "gender-reveal" party

Kids? Okay, but cut us a break.

Just when you thought the cult of parenthood might have peaked, what with the drop in birthrate and all, here comes the newest tsunami of overindulgence: the so-called "gender-reveal" party.
This emerging (mal)practice invents yet another platform for breeders to put the fruit of their loins on display--and coerce family, friends, colleagues and neighbors into lavishing more attention on the happy couple. Gifts, anyone? 

If you've yet to be introduced to the delights of "gender revelation," get acquainted by reading "A Boy or a Girl? Cut the Cake" as reported by Alex Williams and Kate Murphy for The New York Times--the photo alone, well...see for yourself.

I first heard about these ordeals from a Facebook friend who had been hired to bake for such an event. The mother-to-be ordered 3 dozen creme-filled lemon cupcakes capped with yellow fondant and topped with bits of green gummy worms formed into a  question mark. The baker was sworn to secrecy as to the color of the creme filling--pink or blue. 

"When the guests bite into the cupcakes..." the baker began. "The sex of the baby oozes into their mouths," I finished the thought for her. "Well, the filling oozes into their mouths," she clarified. "But yeah. That's pretty much it."

Gag me.
At least in the circles that Williams and Murphy describe in their article, typically the parents-to-be go into these parties on an even footing the guests, clueless as to the sex of the baby in her womb until the big moment when the news is revealed for all in a squirt of creme filling, or when a sealed envelope that has traveled from ultrasound technician to baker to party is ceremoniously opened and a blurry image of the wee one's sex is held aloft.

Yum, it's...a boy!
Sometimes, the envelope is dispensed with and the cutting of the cake is the main attraction. Here, the couple cuts the cake (they've practiced, they're ready) to reveal a sex-coded object (the article cites a pink shoe, as one example) or a lucky guest discovers the a small sex token in a telltale forkful. 

Greg Allen, who blogs at, is quoted in the Times article and says it all. "The whole connection of cutting into the cake to find out, like it's a stand-in for the utuerus, is sort of sickening."

I'll say.  Stay tuned for part 3.

*half what it was 60 years ago according to the CDC's Recent Decline in Births in the United States 2007-2009

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Barbaric rituals 1: the baby shower

“Are you a boy, or are you a girl?...”—The Barbarians, 1965

Last week ago, in a show of support for a young friend, I went to a baby shower—my first in 20 years. I had no idea what I was in for.

Fourteen of us were gathered for a feminist circle jerk: women of three generations trading way too much information about his and her morning rituals, pumping breast milk and episiotomies. And the games.

The silliest game was a Stasi-style race to accumulate points for catching others uttering any of 23 forbidden words—23 in honor of the 23-year-old mother-to-be. 

Come on, guess!
The most objectionable, a guessing game in which 10 different chocolate bars were wrapped in disposable diapers and heated in the microwave, then passed around the room so each of could guess which was the Milky Way, which the Three Musketeers and so on.

It's a boy!
The baby’s sex had been determined by ultrasound days before the gathering and put on display: blue balloons, blue lemonade (food coloring!), blue denim paper plates and bandana-print paper napkins, blue M&Ms and more—all of which had to be cleared from the premises before the arrival of the father-to-be, a sweet and quiet boy, who we were told didn’t want to know the baby’s sex ahead of time.

Let him be.
Good for him, I thought. Watching him edge into the gathering and clumsily accept a flurry of high-pitched congratulations, I imagined his decision to wait to learn the baby’s sex until the baby was ready to declare himself was an attempt to claim for his son a brief moment, entirely his own, when who he might become is blissfully unencumbered, all about possibilities.