An Open Letter to Bristol Palin

Congratulations for your expectant second child! Children give us purpose and hope, stretch our limits, and hopefully teach us to be better people.  You’re already a mom of course, so you know what you are committing to when you choose to continue this pregnancy.

I know you’re being terribly shamed right now, both by people who should be your colleagues and friends, and by people who have been your enemy since you were a teenager.  I’m sorry for that. I felt it on a much smaller and more private scale as a pregnant 22-year-old unmarried Christian woman. I felt stares on my naked ring finger every time I went outside with my obviously pregnant belly. 

I caved to that pressure and married a man I shouldn’t have.  But you didn’t.  Despite all the jeers and click-bait headlines and late night talk show hosts raking your 16-year-old self across the coals and your mother’s active vice presidential campaign,  you didn’t marry that boy. And that gave you a different life than if you had.

Now at 23 you’re expecting again.  What should be a time of joy for you is clouded in disapproval and slut-shaming.  People are calling you a hypocrite for getting pregnant despite your paid work promoting abstinence.  They ignore where you are being consistent with your anti abortion views by continuing pregnancy in circumstances that are less than ideal.

The fact is, the conservative position on sex is contradictory.  Being denied birth control and abortion gives you no hypocrisy-free corner to turn to. You are not the first pregnant unmarried Christian woman and you won’t be the last. Half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned.  Teen pregnancy is highest in areas without comprehensive sex education and reliable birth control access

Abstinence fails. Birth control fails. Some will choose to continue pregnancy and some will choose to end it. I’m pro-choice and to me that means welcoming all choices,  including your choice to have another child at this time, with or without a wedding ring. 

Toxic Marriage Advice for Straights

MSN Lifestyle section devoted a column to incredibly old-fashioned and frankly gross advice for women married to men. (I guess now that the rainbow flags are up, we can go back to ignoring all other relationship possibilities). Having married a man in my past, I couldn’t help but read the advice with that specific relationship in mind.

This piece was published in April but i was too busy fleeing an escalating domestic dysfunction situation to heed the advice then. From the “liberal” mainstream media,  wives are to never expect these nine things from their supposed partners in life:

1. To choose between you and his mother. It goes on to specify “whatever your issue is with his mother… drop it.” Somehow I suspect the “relationship experts” and authors who contributed quotes for this piece were not thinking of my ex-mother-in-law attempting to kidnap my infant son, but it does say “whatever your issue” so maybe felony crimes are just something you overlook for marital harmony. 

2. To listen to you like a female friend would.  Gosh I love my female friends – badgers and cats and alpacas. Oh did you mean to say human females? I think we’re calling them “women” these days. According to MSN females communicate by “expressing feelings and connecting emotionally” and yet for inexplicable reasons have chosen to share our deepest intimacy with someone evidently incapable of such “gossip”.

3. To never notice another woman. It goes on to say “it’s unreasonable to expect your husband to divert his glance whenever a pretty female walks by.” I admit, if a glorious and gorgeous she-elephant came striding down Main Street, I’d wanna look too. Oh wait, I see you used the interspersed generic term “females” when you meant “women”. Again.

4. To give up his passions, whether professional or personal.  Gosh what was I thinking, asking my husband’s priorities to change somewhat as we got married and were expecting a baby? I should have left his personal passions for drinking to excess and pretending to be twenty-one forever be.

5. To be a different man. By god, I got knocked up by an alcoholic abuser and that’s who I should have stayed with, by this advice. And no expecting things to ever change! I’m suddenly reminded of the suicide rates for American wives before the advent of accessible divorce.
6. To stop seeing his friends.  Apparently only guy friends are actually needed; women don’t count and are the kind of threat you should force him to cut out. Because that’s super healthy.

7. To remember every moment in your relationship that was special to you. Well sure “every” moment is a bit much but this clarifies that husbands shouldn’t be expected to remember their anniversaries.  If he’s capable of remembering player stats well enough to play Fantasy Football, he can remember one date.

8. To share all your interests. Oh my god, we finally agree! But there’s no reason this should be gendered.

9. To be the bigger person when you’re acting childish.  Well gee, I guess that depends on what’s being labelled that way. “Giving silent treatment and withholding affection (especially sex) is juvenile.” Now I know why no author was willing to have their name on this byline, because they knew what a nuclear reactor of rage this would awaken in the breasts of millions of abused women. I don’t wanna distress my readers but the worst moments of my life happened when my then-husband decided withholding my own body wasn’t a right I had. This isn’t just bad advice, it’s rape advice. 

Some of these points work if balanced with awareness for abuse and danger – like getting a long with a difficult in-law for a day. Some work if we ignore the unnecessary gendering – like having friends,  passions, and interests outside the marriage.  But this last one is horrible through and through.

Your body is yours to “withhold” as much and as often as you damn well please. Don’t let any guru, priest or patriarch tell you otherwise. 

Autistic Pride Day

For Autistic Pride Day, I interviewed my autistic son who is nine.

How do you know you’re autistic?

Because of how fast I am.

Are you proud to be autistic?

Yeah.

What do you like about your autism?

All the things I can remember,  except for spelling long words like “assembly”.

Is there anything you don’t like about your autism?

It makes playing with other kids harder. I get really frustrated when people don’t understand the word I’m saying.

If you could choose autistic or not autistic,  what would you be?

Autistic.

Social Model of Single Moms

It’s hard being a disabled single mom,  because it’s hard to be disabled and hard to be a single mom. But what makes each of those so hard is often society.

The social model of disability is based on this idea. Many of the barriers to an easy life for disabled people are human-made barriers – like stairs complicating access for a wheelchair user, or a social preference for intense eye contact complicating access for some autistic people. 

Much of the resistance to making a more accessible world comes from ableism, the belief that disabled people are less worthy. Opponents will usually frame their objections by insisting we disabled are a minority they should not have to cater to, or a special interest group asking for special treatment,  or – in a very capitalist way – by pointing put we are not their target market.

Disabled people are far more likely than their abled peers to experience prolonged unemployment, under employment, poverty, and even homelessness.  This, again, is a product of ableism more often than a direct reflection of our abilities as nd impairments. Societal fear and disgust of disabled bodies, and a capitalistic puritanical work ethic lead to disability benefits well below poverty line. 

I suggest there are similar cultural, often capitalistic barriers to an easy life for single parents,  particularly single moms.

Annual preschool tuition is now higher in most major cities than tuition at many public universities,  which has skyrocketed as well. Childcare reimbursement welfare programs are extremely limited, covering only part of the cost, only for already employed parents, only for a period of weeks,  if at all. This barrier to work access is human made. It does not need to exist. If we as a culture did not despise and fear single mothers, we would not make access to employment so challenging. 

I know I’ll be thinking of this more in the days ahead, both what forces are at work creating these barriers and how best to move ahead. What do you think? Leave me a comment. 

Because I’m White

I was around six years old and I wanted candy from the corner store.  It was at the intersection of a major road and I wasn’t supposed to go by myself, but I did. I hopped on my teal blue Huffy and went to the store. But before I made it inside a white male police officer asked me what I was doing at the store by myself. I thought he would tattle on me to my mom. I panicked and hopped back on my bicycle and booked it for him. The cop followed me in his car and after I ran in the house, he knocked at the door and spoke with my mom or grandma,  telling them to teach me I shouldn’t run from cops.

I was 14 and my friend Leah and I had snuck out my bedroom window that night. We were playing on a hill near the grocery store,  pushing a shopping cart up the hill and then riding in it back down. A cop saw us, stopped us, detained us. He threatened to have us arrested for theft, but really he just called my mom and left our punishment up to her.

I was 17, out past legal curfew,  and driving my grandma’s car without her permission or knowledge.  Some friends were fucked up from partying and needed a sober ride home, so I had gone to pick them up. I managed to back into a cop car in the left turn lane after my light turned red and I was too far into the intersection.  He pulled me over, scolded me, and followed me to go drop off my friends.  I didn’t get so much as a ticket. 

I lived to adulthood a hundred times over, not because my parents were over protective,  not because I toed the line and followed the rules,  but because I’m white. Of course those were all experiences I should have survived,  but that’s not why I survived.  I survived because I’m white.

5 Things Girls Who Wear a Lot of Makeup Want You To Know

1. We know it’s a lot.

Chances are good we wore a more natural look for years before adopting this style.

2. We did it like this on purpose.

If I’m wearing primer, foundation, blush, bronzer,  highlight, concealer and more it’s because I intend to create a polished look.

3. We don’t really care what men like.

Okay maybe some of us do but our makeup skills probably developed based on what we like to look like.

4. We will take “You look like a porn star” as a compliment. 

Have you seen the eyeliner wings on porn stars?! Phenomenal skills.

5. We love to talk shop.

Ask us how we got our liner so tight or how to find the right foundation for your skin tone.  Most of the time we’ll be glad to tell you.