TBT: A Letter to the Kid

Thanks to Elyse and Skepchick for noting that Throwback Thursday doesn’t have to mean just photos. This was a very personal post, but enough people unconnected to the situation said that it meant something to them that I think it’s worth sharing again. It’s been five years. The kid is no longer a kid, and I’m incredibly proud of her and how well she’s doing.

Hey, kiddo.

Yeah, I’m calling you kiddo. I know you’re a little old for that, but that’s part of the problem, you know. Your world has been forcing you to be older than you are, without giving you the tools that adults get for dealing with all that responsibility. That’s nothing like close to fair, so I’m going to call you kiddo to remind us both of that.

You deserve the chance to be a kid, and it’s not your fault you’re not getting it. Parents are supposed to be able to take care of themselves before they produce anybody else who needs taking care of. Yours didn’t do that before you were born, and neither one of them has been able to do that during your lifetime. In fact, they’ve needed you to take care of them. You couldn’t, of course. You were (and are) “only” a kid, and all the adults in your parents’ lives haven’t been able to help them. Asking you to take care of them is only you to do the impossible.

You have every right to be angry with them, but neither of them has been able to deal with your anger. You’ve had to put it away, hide it to keep from hurting them. But doing that only hurts you, because it makes you think there’s something wrong with being angry at them. There isn’t.

Kids aren’t supposed to be responsible for their parents’ feelings. Continue reading “TBT: A Letter to the Kid”

TBT: A Letter to the Kid
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When Denial Works

We tend to give denial a bad rap. Saying that someone is “in denial” is not a compliment. Telling people that you yourself are in denial is a confession. It isn’t something we brag about.

There are good reasons for this, especially among activists. It’s hard to convince anyone something must change if they’re in denial. Whatever you want to change just isn’t a problem, or maybe it doesn’t even exist. You can’t come up with plans of action that will work if you can’t look at all the moving parts. You can’t sell people on your plan unless you’re willing to accept the ins and outs of their psychology. Denial is a professional hurdle for activists.

On top of that, those of us who are skeptical or atheist activists have a certain vested–if not always properly placed–pride in seeing the world the way it is. Denial is the enemy. It doesn’t just impede our work; fighting it is our work. Sometimes, however, I think we take our antipathy for denial too far. Continue reading “When Denial Works”

When Denial Works

Short Trip, Long Week

Work is still nuts, I’m still sick, I have a bunch of commitments hanging over my head, and there is now time pressure to turn the construction site that is our house back into someplace that can comfortably hold more than two people for a while. Things may be sparse around here this week.

In the meantime, you can catch up on how the panel in Chicago went at Brute Reason. Ian has his own impressions as well.

It was funny. I had to remind myself that Ian and I hadn’t met before in meatspace. Andrew and Miri and Kate and Chana I’d met and talked to before, and I enjoyed seeing again. Jamie and Lynne and William I’ve interacted only barely with, so it truly felt like meeting someone for the first time. Sikivu and Tony are people whose work I admire and whose scholarship I’m still working to integrate into my own thinking, so it was grand to have a (far too short) opportunity to pick their brains. Ashley and Emmett I mostly saw at too much distance for anything but knowing I need to talk to them again some other time. Debbie and Brianne are old friends by this point.

Ian, though…well, I almost forgot we’d never spent time together. It took standing next to him and realizing I didn’t think he was that tall–or maybe that I was that short–to remind me. Funny.

Then there was the fact that he referred to me as a stealth “intellect” in his write-up. That’s going to take some time to assimilate. When Ian says I don’t advertise myself as an intellect, it’s because I don’t think of myself that way.

Being an intellectual is so far from the world in which I grew up that it just doesn’t compute. I don’t know the shibboleths. I speak the language only as an acquired vocabulary and without the ease that comes from been trained to it by native speakers. When it comes to the cultural trappings, I’m a fraud.

I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that those aren’t the bits that matter.

Short Trip, Long Week

When Am I Passing?

On my father’s side of the family, there exists an old family bible. It is what genealogy we have for a family that doesn’t talk about itself or its traditions much. It shows that the family was originally French, though the name was changed after being deemed by some unspecified someone to be too hard to spell.

In among the marriage records for a family that seems never to have been very large, there are two that would be surprising to most modern owners of family bibles. They simply say:

On [some date], [one of my multiply great grandfathers] took a wife.

They don’t say this because no one knew who the taken wife was. In each case, she was one of my multiply great grandmothers. In each case, she had a name.

Those names were not recorded in the family bible because two of my multiply great grandmothers were not Christians. Their heathen names could not be allowed to sully such a holy book, possibly because the only person in the area literate enough to record the marriage was the priest. In other words, they were (almost certainly) from a society indigenous to the lands along the Canadian-American border. They were First Nations.

Continue reading “When Am I Passing?”

When Am I Passing?

Why #IDidNotReport

All this lack of sleep. All this having to continually focus on a single topic to keep it on track. All the sneers. All the yelling. And what finally makes me just throw my hands up and sit down and cry? [Warning: There’s a fair chance I’m about to do the same to you.]

This.*

look it’s all ok for people to say she can decide what she wants to do with the threats. NO IT IS NOT! Continue reading “Why #IDidNotReport”

Why #IDidNotReport

Battle Scars

There is no content here this afternoon. If you want content, go read Lyz Liddel’s hugely heartening post on the Secular Student Alliance and the work of all these wonderful student groups. It hews very closely to her speech at the Freethought Festival, but it gets me every time nonetheless. It heartens me to no end to see people organizing this way at an age when I had all I could do to sort myself out.

Read it. It will make you happy.

Now, the reason I don’t have content of my own for today is not for the squeamish. Thus, it’s tucked below the fold. Continue reading “Battle Scars”

Battle Scars

Never a Wild Thing

I have an odd confession to make, even odder in that I’m making it on the day of Maurice Sendak’s death. I didn’t like Where the Wild Things Are as a child. I didn’t want anything to do with Max, and the story was somehow…unsavory. I read it, but it never took a place in my heart the way so many books have over my life.

From where I stand now, not liking Max is perfectly understandable. He is everything that is least likable about small children: egotistical, demanding, pointlessly cruel. There isn’t much to like.

Still, that isn’t why the book left me cold. No, that happened because it just flat-out confused me. Continue reading “Never a Wild Thing”

Never a Wild Thing

Say, "Thank You"

There I was, standing in the student union of the University of Wisconsin Madison, in front of someone I won’t mention yet, next to PZ. On the other side of PZ were Richard, Matt, and Brianne. JT should have been there, but he’d already left when someone got the bright (obvious) idea to put all the FtB bloggers together and take a picture. As punishment, JT will have some interesting picture of himself composited into the group.

In front of me, surreally, were half a dozen people with camera phones and a small crowd gathered to watch the proceedings. Continue reading “Say, "Thank You"”

Say, "Thank You"

What Maternal Instinct?

A repost, so I don’t completely kill myself trying to do all the things this week.

I was over at a friend’s house last night. I held her two-month-old baby for a bit because, you know, it’s polite to express some interest and it had been a while since I’d held a baby. One gets to thinking of them as fragile if one goes too long without touching them. Well, I do.

The baby was well-behaved, past the wrinkly stage, mostly healthy. Everything that is supposed to make babies so adorable was there. Tiny, wee fingernails? Check. Dimpled fingers and wrists and knees? Check. Instant grasp of proferred finger? Check. Deep dent in the upper lip? Check. Overlarge, luminous eyes? Check. Impromptu, trusting nap? Check.

Impulse to talk baby talk? Continue reading “What Maternal Instinct?”

What Maternal Instinct?

Taking Off the Act

Today is a travel day. In lieu of fresh writing, have a repost that almost none of you read the first time. The original of this post is here.

Thursday morning, my iPod was speaking to me. In a half hour walk to work, three songs all talking about the same subject–acting.

Is there anybody in there in this self-inflicted tomb?
If you peel away the layers, is there someone in this room?

Of course, they were all talking about it because I was already thinking about it. From an email I sent earlier in the week:

I’ve never met an actor who wasn’t in character backstage as well as on. They’re just different characters. That’s what makes acting as a profession so simultaneously appealing and appalling.

Successful acting requires that you be someone else for a while. It isn’t enough to speak the lines and to make the gestures called for in the script. We’ve all seen the sort of dreadful productions that result. You don’t have to dive into the excesses of some of the method actors, but you must at least put on the mannerisms–physical and vocal–and the body language of the part.

There’s no way to do this without being affected by it. Continue reading “Taking Off the Act”

Taking Off the Act