Sally McBurger-flipper

I should say this is in response to the clever rant I have seen on facebook a few too many times. Google sally mcburgerflipper if you want to read it in all it’s mean-spirited, false-choiced, poor-against-poor glory.

 

 

I get it.

I do.

When you get on a rant against something, and the words come pouring out in a way that is biting and bitter, alliterative and clever, it’s fun. It feels good. It’s intoxicating and self-stroking. Writing and reading those rants is fun. I get it. It’s like all sorts of sins, you get so wrapped up in the wave of feeling good that you forget about the people you’re hurting. You forget your manners. You forget that you’re writing and sharing about real people.

I’m not going to try to change your mind about minimum wage. But I’m also not going to sit quietly while otherwise good people trash, disrespect and condemn people they don’t know. Because I know Sally McBurger-flipper.

My mom worked for minimum wage or close to it until she got too sick to work. She was a real person, a good person. She wasn’t some anonymous, ignorant bad-decision-maker who deserved nothing better than to be poor and struggle. She was a real woman who took care of her kids and grandkids. She looked after her neighbors. She taught her kids to check in on old people and shovel a mailman path.

I know other Sallies as well. They are hard working people doing their best to help their families make ends meet. Battered women trying to start fresh after moving out of a shelter. Older adults who lost their houses to foreclosure or their husbands to cancer and have to go back to work, or work outside the home for the first time. They’re young, single women who have decided abortion is wrong and are trying to raise their child and finish school.

These are real people. Not some convenient, faceless caricature for you to throw under the bus while you throw your lot in with the top 5%. It’s not them or you. It’s them and you.

Those military salaries you found so clever to cite in order to justify minimum wage staying low? What do you think the moms and dads of those young men and women are doing? Some of them are certainly working minimum wage jobs. They’re real people with real troubles. Granted, some of them have made bad decisions. Some make repeated bad decisions. Some struggle with mental health issues.

But why on earth do you feel like it’s ok to speak about them as if they are some sort of faceless parasite? What kind of values system says it’s ok to look down on the working poor as if they’re not humans deserving of consideration?

Why on earth is it ok to pay them less than a living wage for a hard day’s work? These jobs aren’t “designed” for high school kids anymore than agricultural work is “designed” for migrant labor. They’re designed to make money for the business. It is entirely possible to pay a living wage for hard work AND make money for the business and its owners.

There is enough money in this economy for everyone if more of it flows down after it flows up. The problem is people and businesses hoarding cash and relying on government assistance to help their low level employees make ends meet.

Please, try to remember that the people you look down on are somebody’s mom or grandma or grandpa. They’re real, complicated humans who deserve better.

PTDS

So we goes to the dentist.  Sanad and I.  He was very interested in the goings on.  He asked about what kind of instrument the hygienist was using, what size and shape.  They talked in secret dentish language about amalgams and porcelain fillings and recision and other things I didn’t understand.

He watched her, looked in my mouth while she tortured me with that metal stick.  When she took the X-rays, she told me to breath through my nose and  wiggle my toes.  By coincidence, he had just told me about the “dentist’s secret” he had learned in Libya.  That secret was that if you have to do a procedure which might gag a patient, you need to tell them to lift their left leg.  That way the patient would think what he or she was doing had something to do with circulation and be distracted enough that they wouldn’t gag.

He wasn’t impressed when she said, “wiggle your toes, breath through your nose.  It helps you concentrate so you don’t gag.”  He kind of thought he was spilling the beans about the anti-gagging advice.  I almost explained that I a girlfriend in high school had instructed a whole group of us on how breathing through your nose was the best way to keep from gagging.  And she really seemed to know.

Back to the Dentist.  As I was on my back looking at the special pearly light, with the hygienist was poking around the base of my teeth, I had a flashback.  I remembered why it was that I hadn’t been to the dentist for 2 years.  She grazed a nerve.  Just barely touched it enough to make my mouth water and send warning sparks to my brain.  When she did that I twitched a tiny bit.  It was enough to make me remember the last time.

Last time it wasn’t the hygienist, it was the dentist.  He didn’t just graze it, he nailed it with the angled poker of the apocalypse.  Nailed it so good that I actually jumped up from the chair and bit him.  I bit the dentist.  Not hard, but hard enough.  He apologized and only nicked it one more time during the visit.

Turns out that Sanad has worse teeth than me.  He doesn’t floss (he finished dentistry school at home, but to no avail).  So I didn’t have to be embarrassed about my teeth at all.  Having him watch my mouth fill up with spit and blood and get spritzed with water wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Ahem… Awkward

Is it me?  Or is going to the dentist kind of a private thing?  I think of it as more invasive than a gynocological exam.  That may be why I haven’t been for a year or two.  They never should have told me I had such great teeth that I didn’t need to come in every 6 months, I could come in every 9 months to a year.  Wooohooo!  I went a little overboard on the whole deal.

Which is fine.  It isn’t even so terrible going to the dentist nowadays.  When I was a kid, we’d walk up to Dr. Bussen’s office.  Good God, it was like going into the 50s.  The equipment was old, he was old, his fingers were fat, his breath smelled like what I can only call Dental Carrion.  And in the strange karmic-cosmic-ironic-poetic-justice way that childhood has of making sense, it was on the same block as the candy store (have I waxed nostalgic about Roith’s Pharmacy and Kenny’s Market?). I digress.

I have this appointment tomorrow.  And I have this house-guest from Libya.  He just finished dentistry school in his country.  He’s been asking since he got here (2 months) if he can accompany one of us to the dentist’s office while he’s here.  I tried to throw him off the scent by telling him about the neighbor boys’ appointments (both brothers in one fell swoop), but alas, he wants to come with me tomorrow.

Alls I’m saying is it kind of makes me a little icked out.  I can’t say why, but it does.  He better not ask if he can prod my teeth in any way.  Because he can’t.  I’m willing to bet that by 2pm tomorrow I will know why I felt uneasy abou this.  Yeeesh.  I’ll get back to you.

Veterinary Moral Superiority

This is really a story about people, not about animals.  You know how I feel about pet stories.

I love animals.  With a few caveats.  I don’t love birds very much.  I don’t love animals with more than 4 legs.  My dislike increases as the number of legs increases, with the possible exception of octopuses, (octopum, octopae, octopi).  I don’t like the wet parts of animals, no matter how many furry feet they have.  This turns out to be hard to explain to dogs. But I digress.

I like animals so much that I have living in my house right now four cats and 3 birds.  Two of those birds are sitting on a clutch of eggs.  It’s too many animals, not even legal.  But we manage.  And they make us laugh.  To my mind, an animal pays the rent by either becoming food, making food, killing rodents, lowering my blood pressure, warming my lap or my feet, purring in my ear at night, making me laugh, alerting me to trouble or helping me break the ice with strangers.

It’s gotten to the point where I feel real dread going to the vet with my animals.  I can’t take the judgment.  The vet yesterday was classic.  I should have known it was going to be bad the day I made the appointment.  I decided I could save some time and trouble by scheduling two kitties one right after the other.  What have I always said about feeling clever?  Feeling clever is the first warning sign of impending humiliation.

Babykitty is our fat cat.  She’s morbidly obese, bus-stop fat.  Grossly overweight.  But not altogether stupid.  She completely outsmarted me.  She hid her plus-sized self somewhere in the house, and didn’t even come when I poured food noisily into the food dishes.  I didn’t find her until I returned from the appointment.  By that point she was lounging casually on the third floor. No I am not clever.

Although I did avoid having to explain to the vet that I understand the health risks of having an overweight pet and that I knew her life expectancy was shortened.  Also I didn’t have to decline tooth cleaning for the cat and feel like a negligent pet owner and listen to a lecture about gingival health in cats.  I didn’t have to explain that we bought immunizations in Wisconsin (except for Rabies) and for 40 bucks had already done the distemper and other annual shots for 4 cats.

It’s not just that I’m cheap, and it’s not that I can’t afford to have the vet give the shots and clean her teeth.  It’s that the 4 hundred bucks seems like it is so much better spent on feeding the poor or clothing the naked than on immunizing and cleaning the teeth of a domestic animal whose only real purpose is to amuse me.  World peace?  Global warming?  Overpopulation?

When did there start being a moral imperative to do weight control and dental care on cats in addition to birth control, palliative care and contagious disease prevention?

OMG 3

Our latest weird interactions have revolved around the fact that he seems to not have typical inhibitions. This is not cultural. It’s him. It isn’t a Latino deal. A few times I’ve walked by when he’s in the bathroom peeing. He doesn’t close the door. Everyone pees, I know. But every visitor I’ve had has made sure they close the door securely when they do it. The norm is to use the bathroom closest to the bedroom they are staying in (and close the door). When he didn’t close the door to the bathroom he shares with Jasper, it sort of amused me. It more than sort of disturbed Jasper.

When he used the main floor bathroom (just off the living room) and left the door open, I found it surprisingly disconcerting. To walk into the living room and realize there is a man (who isn’t even my kin) in the next room urinating is weird. But like usual, I tried to talk my self out of it. What’s the big deal. He obviously feels completely at home here. That’s great. It means I haven’t come off as nearly as stressed as I feel. Good for me.

But after the third time I went to use said bathroom and sat upon a wet toilet seat, I couldn’t stop obsessing about how it was all wrong. I’d hear him go into the bathroom and I’d start obsessing, he shouldn’t be in that bathroom, he should be closing the door, he should be lifting the seat, he should aim, he should clean up his mess… And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to tell him that it wasn’t OK to pee on my seat and on my floor. I even know how to say “aim” in Spanish.

I have boys. I’m not easily shocked. That said, what’s the right way to bring urinary etiquette up with a 21 year old man? Why did I care? If it embarrassed him, good! But for some stupid reason, I was too embarrassed to bring it up. So I fussed and festered and fumed (and diligently checked the seat and floor before I used the toilet). I got to be like a dog. You know how they can be sitting peacefully and then the dog satellite passes by, and their heads jerk up? And their ears prick up? I could be visiting neighbors and suddenly hear this guy go into the downstairs bathroom back at my house, that’s how obsessed I got.

My boy-raising experience has prepared my to not be surprised by things that turn up during laundry or room cleanings. While cleaning the room of someone who shall remain nameless, I found a book under the mattress that made me chuckle. It was “Lesbian Vampire Tales”. I threw it onto the charity pile (because the poor deserve bad porn just as much as anyone else). But Roberto happened by soon after and immediately zeroed in on it. He picked it up and asked (no glint in his eye, no bashful smile) if he could read it. I smiled and said, “Sure, I bet it will be pretty interesting.”, knowing that both lesbian and vampire translate quite directly.

For weeks after he picked up the book, he could be found sitting in front of the fire in the living room, Lesbian Vampire book in hand, pencil, notepad, two Spanish dictionaries and an English dictionary at the ready. He read, wrote, flipped pages and muttered to himself. I checked out his list which was usually parked on the footstool by the fire: moan, nipple, thighs, take-off, arch… He was getting the gist of the story.

I always tried to answer his questions as if it were the most normal thing in the world for this 21 year old house guest to be asking his 38 year old host-mom about whatever the word or phrase might be (“toe-curling, making out”). I never like to make people feel ashamed, but sometimes I wish they’d just do it themselves. I felt like the conversation about precocious puberty in American girls could have been treading on thin ice, but I wasn’t sure until he started to talk about when he got his semens, and when his cousins got theirs. I could easily have gone the rest of my natural life without ever hearing about his semens or what it meant for someone to actually get them. Clearly an what my friend Maggie would call an OverShare.
When I taught English I prided myself on teaching all the body parts to my adult students. If it made me uncomfortable, it was important enough that I just pushed ahead anyway. So even if I got creeped out by Roberto sitting in one chair reading the lesbian vampire tales, and Jasper next to him reading Japanese comic books , I just went on making dinner. They were both reading. Good for them.

Then I cleaned out the bathroom closet and what should pop out from between some linens but a little red book with the title, “1001 Ways to Drive a Man Wild in Bed and Satisfy Him Every Time” or something close to that. Thinking that how to satisfy him seems like it would be a pretty short chapter, not an entire book, I didn’t put it into my reading pile. It went into another charity pile. This time I put it face-down in the hall. I didn’t really want to have to explain it to anyone who happened by while I was cleaning.

Later in the day Roberto came up to me with the book in hand, “May I read this?” I looked up and winced, “Well yeah, but I bet it’s pretty stupid.” to which he responded, “But I like so much to learn the things.” He was headed back upstairs when a thought occurred to me,” Roberto, maybe don’t read it in front of Jasper, OK?” He seemed puzzled, “OK, sure…” And then another thought occurred to me, “And I think you shouldn’t bring it to work with you.” This made more sense to him and he headed up the stairs again. But then he had a thought, “I brought the other book with me (biting lezzies), but I only read it on the bus.”

He teaches in an elementary school. But the fact that he rides the school bus to school sort of escaped me. I started to try to explain to him that if he read a book on the (city) bus about satisfying a man every time, he might get attention he didn’t want. He looked at me blankly when I said I thought he shouldn’t read it on the bus. “No? Why?” If he were anyone else, I would have thought he was yanking my chain.

“Don’t read it on the bus, just trust me.”

After I realized that he was probably talking about the school bus, I felt better about telling him I couldn’t explain it further, but that he shouldn’t do it. (Note to self: look up Spanish word for “creepy”.)

I think the final thing that snapped me was when he started to get his bus money from the family change jar. What a petty and stupid thing. But once I latched onto it, I couldn’t let it go. The first time he asked if I had some quarters, I tipped over the change jar and handed him his 50 cents. I thought it was a one time deal. Over the next 7 days every time he left the house, he’d tip the change jar and get his bus fare.

I started to get resentful. I could hear the change jar from across the house, from the back yard. My hearing became more acute, almost bat-like. I complained to my friend. I was not just bothered about the fact that he was harvesting all the quarters from the jar, but I was bothered by the kind of person I was becoming. It was making me crazy.

Diane said, “He’s taking your money. That’s a boundary. You have to have boundaries.” But how could I bring it up without calling him a thief? “Move the jar.” Diane is a genius. I moved the jar to the third floor. Two days later he came looking for me.”Um, Lisa? Where it is the change jar?”

I had to say, “Roberto, you have to pay for your own bus ride. You can’t take money every day for your bus. ” He looked confused. I got him fifty cents from my purse and said he had to get his own change from now on. “Where I can get the change?” We talked about banks and stores. During the whole discussion, his brow never unfurrowed. I felt like a miserly biddy.

But now he’s gone. Every day at 4pm I watch the neighbor kids get off the bus and I have no sense of dread. He stopped by the other day to pick up some things and he stayed just long enough, which was not long at all. Watching him leave was like watching a whole flock of chickens, a couple goats, a pig, a bat and a dog all head back out to the barnyard where they belonged. I was happy.

Meeting minutes, my style

I used to be the treasurer of a newly formed Parent Teacher Association. My son’s high school. The fact that I was treasurer should give you pause. It gave me pause, but they really needed someone. These are the kind of minutes I take at meetings, be forewarned. It’s been long enough since the meeting, I think I can put these out to the world.

I’m trainable enough to have changed all the names.

I was feeling, I don’t know… Bored and oppressed by this group of well intentioned, but totally boring and self-important parents, of whom I am a member. It’s just that I’m a short-timer, since my son is graduating in June. So I was having trouble getting worked up about whether they meet in the south shelter or the north shelter for the annuual welcome picnic. I think there were a dozen emails back and forth about which corner of park so far away as to be nearer to Wisconsin than to St. Paul. Which park got almost no discussion.

Also, I was less than rapt by the discussion of whether the school was going to provide appetizers or cake after graduation. I think it was the comment from the Edina mom that sent me into my own la-la land,

“Well, did we explain to them about how we discussed the time-frame of graduation, and little kids, and why we thought cake and coffee would be enough?”

Yes, it turns out, we had discussed this with them. They didn’t care. Like me. They wanted appetizers and They are the School Administration, so they win. But watching this poor Edina mom’s forehead furrow in puzzlement and concern about the issue was just too much for me.

I started to analyze the people there. No not analyze. Judge. No, critique. Observe. Whatever I was doing, I was looking really busy:

There’s the lovely girl with a fabulous 17 year old body that she is sure is hers for all eternity. She did nothing other than look beautiful and sullen and spoiled. She didn’t deserve my critique. I heard her saying, “Hmmmph. I’m so pretty. My mother bores me. I wish she didn’t flirt with Mister Biskits (highest ranking school official in attendance). Hmmph. Does this shirt make my boobs look good? Of course it does. Everything does. How’s my hair? It makes me want to pout. But first I need to fling it from side to side a little. There. Now I am going to feel sorry for myself. Hmmph”

Then there was the face painting woman whose eyebrows look like she had painted them on herself in an attempt to look surprised all the time, or like she got botox. But judging by her hair, which I thought was wet from the shower, but did not dry over the course of a nice long meeting, so I am now suspecting was greasy… Well it doesn’t jibe with the botox type, so I think they were just painted on. But why so high up? It seems to say,

“Hey! whaddya know? I can’t hear you! But I’d like to be the communications director. Surprised? Me too!”
She is also hard of hearing. I am empathetic, but part of me is really bothered by her hearing loss. I need to think about this. Is it that I think she’s not listening to me, in addition to not hearing me? I don’t know. Probably a way of distancing myself from the possibility of that happening to me. Which it almost surely will. That hearing loss may be one of the reasons she seems mildly autistic to me.
And the lawyer in a very clingy bright pink shirt and a lovely grey suit had beautiful brown eyes once upon a time, before her hair started falling out and distracting me from them. But now her interesting shape, with one breast popping out of her unsupportive bra and the other not, and her interesting big belly with a belt cinched around it? Those things made it almost impossible for me to pay proper attention to her lovely string of pearls. Plus, this particular woman almost always looks really concerned, but speaks with a lack of affect that unnerves me when paired with the aforementioned look of concern. It comes across as,

“I am really worried and tired, yet excited about Valleyfair and the oceans of money we might make. But at the same time, I am confused about it.” While she discusses the fund raiser at Valley Fair.

I have little to say about the woman who came in late with her daughter. I suspect she felt almost as bored and superior as I did. But you never know. Maybe I was giving her too much credit based on her natural hair color, her skinny little ankles, classic pumps and her Land’s End clothes. Her daughter also got points for not dying her light brown, hair-colored hair, even if she absolutely made no secret of her boredom. They both give the vibe of,

“We’re not here to impress you. We’re listening. Our clothes are just revealing enough to let you know we are women. My daughter will flash cleavage, but she will immediately hike up her shirt to cover it. That’s how it’s done. I care so little that I can wear pumps without hose or a tan, my tiny ankles do all the talking.”

The Edina mom, who looks eerily like a character from Deep space 9, (Odo) is probably a really nice person. She dresses impeccably, has lots of makeup on, but it looks not too obvious, except whatever she has done to her eyebrows to make them go away. She always finds a way to work Edina into the conversation, which bugs me just a little. But then again, don’t I always try to work St. Paul into every conversation?

I should cut her slack. She graduated from my high school. Plus it seems like she’d be willing to take one for the team, if by taking one for the team, one meant giving head to Mister Bizkits. Her unabashed adoration and flirting with him totally gives me the creeps. “Ma-aark, are you going to work all night again? be Up all night? You don’t really sleep, do you Mark? You worrrrk all the time, and it is so very sexy. You’d fit right in in Edina.”

Mean, mean mean. And Nathaniel? (the secretary) Well he acts just disgusted enough to get a pass from me on the meanness. He behaves himself, and he’s the only guy most of the time. What could I say, the guy drove me to the last two meetings after I went totally AWOL because I couldn’t find parking two meetings ago.

And he does a great job of seeming to float above it all. Except when he fires off an email to every god damned person on earth, smearing the administration with feces. But I think he’s learned his lesson. He appears to say,

“I’m here. I’m dutiful. I don’t want to make trouble, but could you repeat that? Spell it? I’m not trying to stir things up, but don’t fuck with me because I’m secretly a tightly wound can of whoop-ass.”

And Sarah. Don’t have much bitching to do about her. Her new highlights looked good. I always get the feeling that her eyelashes are stuck to her eyelids. That her eyes are somehow stuck open. Wide open. But she’s good, doesn’t seem full of herself, that buys her lots of mercy.

Rachel. Oh Rachel. What can I say that isn’t too, too mean? Her shoes were cute. Her legs were meaty, and her thighs were white and big. I wish I had that sort of acceptance of my body. I wish I could say,

“these are my legs, these are my thighs, you know you wanted to see more of them, so here they are. I shaved so I could wear this skirt so you could look at the place where my thighs push together when I cross my legs, the tightly smashed space where my thighs cuddle with each other under this flimsy piece of demim. I think I’ll sit across from the only male present in the room.”

I wish I had that confidence, so if I say anything about her, it will be transparent jealousy. Instead of of her great comfort, I say something like,

“These are my thighs. These are my legs. Don’t they make skirts longer than full length? I will shave in the summer, just so when something peeks out, it isn’t hairy in addition to being pale, veiny and flabby. You might love to see it, but only in the dark, and we both know that. I think I’ll sit right along side the only male in the room. Well, until mister Biskits comes in, then I’ll start hiking up my skirt because Republicans are easier to seduce, and it’s fun to make him uncomfortable. ”

It’s good I’m getting out of there, because it’s affecting my mental health. I think I’m going to need therapy to get rid of all these voices in my head.

I think I’m so damned Clever

We’ve got this house guest. He’s sweet. I think. I mean, I hope he’s sweet and these misunderstandings we keep having are all due to the language and culture barrier. But anyway. I started to get hives today, so I think I need to talk about it. Just between us, right?

Our guy doesn’t like veggies. At all. We’re trying hard to eat more veggies, and we buy a lot of them. We use them to supplement the stuff we call food, such as meat and potatoes. We actually have been trying to eat them as if they are food, which for a while made us feel kind of clever. Bad move. Never feel clever. You are not clever, neither am I. Feeling clever is just a prelude to feeling stupid. Remember that.

That and a 12 step program will take you pretty far. And my 12 stepping friends, don’t think I can’t tell this is a perfect time to accept the things I cannot change or change the things I can. I know, but I’m still working my program. I’m starting again tomorrow.

We continued to eat our vegetables, and serve them to our guest. He’s a long-term guest, so we kinda figure he might as well get used to it. What I, as the primary cook in the house neglected to consider seriously enough was how annoying other people can be in tiny (petty torments) but repetitive ways. So when he picked the garden-fresh green beans out of the pad thai, no big deal.

When he ate none of the marinated garden tomatoes with cucumber slices and summer squash medallions, it hurt just a little. I asked him if he liked any vegetables. He said, “some”. When he picked the olives and lettuce out of his bean burrito, it was starting to annoy me. I asked him, “What vegetables do you eat?” because it seemed that I was going to throw a lot of vegetables away figuring this out. He liked broccoli! What luck for me. The shipment from Farm in the City came yesterday and it had beautiful broccoli in it.

I served him a garlicky rice dish with lime, and some broccoli. When I served him the rice he pushed it away and said it tasted “extrange”. Then he tried to use the new vocab words I had taught him just minutes before. Unfortunately enough for both of us, I taught him both “nasty” and “gross”. Neither of which were appropriate for the situation. I had to tell him (with a great big American Mom smile, and a spatula pointed at him for emphasis) that you never tell the host mom that her food is nasty. Never. He should feel free to tell his friends at school the next day, but the only acceptable thing to tell your host mom is that it’s delicious, but you are allergic to garlic. He was sorry.

He ate the teensy flower tops off the broccoli and left the pencil-sized stems on the plate with the rice. He pushed the plate away and made himself some fried eggs.
Grrrr. This was starting to make me mad. Never let petty torments make you mad. It merely feeds the torments and drains you of crucial IQ points. Paradoxically you will have surges of feeling clever. You are not clever. I am not clever. We are average. And vulnerable.
Dinner tonight was a pesto pasta with harvest vegetables. Fresh basil pesto, garden green beans, garden carrots, mushrooms, and chicken breast sauteed in onion and garlic. Oh yeah, and aslo, broccoli picked yesterday. But I couldn’t stand the thought of him biting the teeny tops off the broccoli. I couldn’t stand it. The idea of what dinner was going to be like was giving me hives. Serious hives.

He was going to pick out everything but the chicken and the pasta. And say nothing. And pick out the all chicken pieces from the serving dish for himself. This was making me mental. But as I was cutting up veggies (every slice making me stupider while I dwelt on this issue), I was inspired.

I know! I’ll just chop this broccoli up with the chopper into pieces too small for him to pick out! Then he’ll have to eat them! I laughed a Snidely Whiplash laugh as I chopped up the broccoli.

I took pictures of the aftermath. I am not clever.