vendredi, janvier 13, 2012

My forbidden subject

There's a topic you won't see a lot of in my blog.

I don't write many posts about politics.

I used to write more.

Going back a few years, I'll see posts about Supreme Court decisions and other actions that piqued my fascination or fury.

But now our country is even more polarized that it was five or six years ago andI worry that it might be too divisive for some of my readers.

It's not that I don't have feelings and opinions.

I'll throw something up on Facebook if it's an article that catches my interest -- and though it's usually from someone in the mainstream media (that itself is a mark of socialism to some), it generally doesn't overtly reflect someone's bias.

First of all, I worry about offending someone.

Secondly, I worry that I'll get into a spitting contest with someone -- bad enough in person, it can be much worse online.

So I talk to my friends, mostly other journalists -- the ones I know will understand my passions, whether they be conservative, libertarian, liberal, or a mix of all.

Recently I've been in turmoil about the way the Israelis used our passports for targeted murders.

Who is killing Iranian scientists now? I talk to a FB friend about that out of public view.

These are hot potatoes, and I don't want to add to the foolishness online by continually venting about them -- unless, of course, I've checked my facts.

Unless I know I can back them up.

There are plenty of well-informed bloggers and Facebook posters -- one of them is my friend Christopher in North Carolina. Watching him respond to posters, you know that, most of the time, he's done his homework. I don't always agree, but I do respect his opinions.

As a creature of congenital moderation, I'm not always sure that I want to voice strong political opinions online.

So mostly I stick to family issues, religion, and dating.

You can make some sense of them.

Wait...did I just say that?

mercredi, janvier 11, 2012

A mother's 'unseemly' pride?

I got a phone call yesterday that made me very happy.

At the same time, I felt vaguely shamed.

The caller, the headmaster of our local, new magnet school, told me that my son had been accepted at our local magnet school -- and how competitive it was to get in.

He told me other things that don't belong in this blog.

When I tried to tell his father, he made it evident that he didn't want to hear all the things that parents normally tell each other when a child has been successful.

I was left feeling a little guilty -- and a lot rebellious.

It's about him. And about me. And about the past.

My family's past, in which my brother's learning challenges and my father's anxiety were always storms on our horizon.

My brother grew up up in a family in which academic achievement was the standard, not the exception.

In my family of origin, I was the slacker.

Even my mother's mother used to talk about being held up to the standard set by the "Berger boys" (I believe that one of them became a judge).

As bright as my brother was, trapped in a system where learning disabilities weren't well diagnosed or treated, his challenges had to have negative consequences.

I don't know if he ever made peace with these expectations. That's one of the questions I would love to ask him now.

Perhaps he would have gotten healing for with the difficulties he had -- had he lived. He was already well on his way...

I want to believe it.

As I believe that, eventually, my daughter will own her talents and her voice.

When her father rebukes me for praising his son, I think it is, in part, because learning hasn't come easily to his daughter.

We have to look for other reasons to praise her -- while continuing to hold her accountable for making an effort.

But anyone who says that academic success doesn't make a child's life easier, other things being equal, is straight up lying.

Ask any parent who has a child with learning differences. Or one who has one child who does, and another who doesn't.

When my child talks about his historical "insight", I do a gentle parental smackdown. No need for the kid to become cocky.

No one knows what will happen in the future. Who knows? He may lose motivation, get distracted by girls, or meet tough subjects that will be problematic.

Already math shows some signs of being one of these subjects.

My praise is calibrated, balanced, muted. But like a fire, it glows -- it is a chance not to rest on his laurels, but to celebrate his journey towards being a man of character.

mardi, janvier 10, 2012

Dating dumb: a user's manual

Dating dumb?

It's not what, or who, you think (nein, nein, nein) -- the ditzy blonde of so many old Hollywood comedies. After all, the stereotype of the clueless flaxen ones is a ridiculous slam. Isn't it?

I used to think that dumb dating was only done by college students, or by young adults in their early twenties in the grip of hormones and experimentation.

Why did I EVER take him up on that dare last night?

Whose room am I in - and where did she go?

Oh my gosh, why did I ever go out for a drink, or five drinks, with my t.a.?

But I have found that it's possible to act your shoe size, not your age -- well, at any age.

A persistent mistake that people make is dating in the wake of a separation.

I'd like to see statistics on how long those relationships last.

And then, of course, there are those of us who roll the dice and date the men or the woman who has just begun to sort his or her life out.

Then there is dating someone with wildly different expectations -- he wants a relationship that leads to marriage, she is happy, after a difficult marriage, to be alone.

There is dating someone significantly older, or younger -- as I found out on a nightmare of an excursion to meet up with a guy from Columbia, Maryland, who made it clear as soon as we'd met that he was looking for someone younger. (duly noticed)

And then, yes, of course, there are men and women who date others of greatly disparate intellectual abilities. I don't understand it, and I don't think it works in the long run. That said,
people have all kinds of reasons for getting into relationships -- and some that may be strong enough to keep them there.

Sometimes dating dumb means dating promiscuously.

And sometimes it means holding back. I make lots of mistakes of the holding back variety, doing my utmost to discourage potential suitors by making it clear that dating me will involve dodging axes, swallowing fire, swimming with crocs and climbing out of moats.

Lots of moats.

But in the end, it probably is wise not to be too hard on ourselves if we make mistakes.

Because that's how we learn, isn't it?

Or at least, I sure hope it is.

dimanche, janvier 08, 2012

The secret language of love

I've heard that it's possible to stumble into somebody who speaks a language that holds the (a?) key to your heart.

It's not something that I've ever experienced.

No, I cannot be that categorical.

First of all, let me say that I don't buy into the Western definitions of love. Eros, agape, filial love --note that they were all definitions constructed by guys.

And we all know that men are "better" at compartmentalizing than women are. I don't believe that love fits into little boxes.

Today I saw a Facebook photo of my son, with another boy sitting on his lap. Both of them have broad grins on their faces, arms slung casually around each other's shoulder.

My son and this boy, who are both straight, are really, really good friends. They'd probably do anything for one another. They'd be mortified if someone said they loved each other.

But I wonder if what they feel isn't at least akin to it.

I have a female friend of many years with whom I have shared many of the big experiences of our lives: marriages, births (in my case) a marriage crack up.

I'm sure that I love her -- although it's not likely that I need to say it.

My marriage, though no fault of my husband, or perhaps through both our faults, was no school for love. I have learned much, however, from our children.

My love for them is like a stream that flows perpetually underground, coming up now and then to exult in the sun, before sinking increasingly into the background as they age.

And from a man I learned something of tenderness, and forgiveness, and compassion.

Was this akin to love? Could we have done better?

I have no idea. But I do not think I was deluded.

What about what happens when one doesn't expect to feel affection -- and it steals upon one in unguarded moments?

What IS that habit of easy discourse, the sense that one already knows the words yet to be spoken, the rueful humor that speaks of a deeper, spiritual comradeship?

What of a knowing circumscribed by its very context, and larger than its original intent?

Perhaps it's better to speak of loving, an action verb, than of love as a theory. We like to make love sacred, when it is but a chain ordinary choices.

Or perhaps, sometimes, not so ordinary.

What is the loving action here? What does it mean to speak of friendship when the more that could be is outside the boundaries of time and space?

For to be loving is to be a friend -- and to put the other person's welfare at least on par with one's own.

Do loving actions always entail sacrifice of one sort or another? Does faithfulness mean a rule of discipline for a rebel heart?

All of these questions -- little wonder, then, I am alone.

And in the night, I shout silently -- I still know how, even if I define it differently than you. I still know how to act lovingly -- forgive me if I sometimes get the act wrong. I'd rather ache, you see, than refuse to pick up and look hard at this thorny gift, as my fingers bleed.