Sunday, March 13, 2011


While walking the dog today, my iPod shuffled onto this sweet little song: How Could Anyone? It had been years since I'd heard it. But it grabbed me by the throat (isn't that what Bruce said this morning?) in that way songs sometimes do, remembering. Sislisters, I know y'all remember the retreat I'm thinking about. One of those rare moments where I was, indeed, convinced that I deserved to be treated as though I were beautiful, even if I wasn't.

Then the song grabbed me around that jaded thinking part. (Sorry, not sure in which anatomical part this resides. The bile duct?) And I thought, "Oh my God, could I be any sappier?" Could that song be any more insipid? Isn't this an example of a whole era of parenting gone wrong. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone is smart. Everyone deserves a ribbon, a medal, a trophy. You can do anything you want to do.

And somehow we're left with children who believe the world owes them, big time. Entitled and full of expectations, they have no sense of who they actually are. Then they show up on "American Idol," with auditions that make some of us cringe but attitudes that are cringe-worthy for most of us: "How can you not see how wonderful I am, you loser judges?"

Then my jaded thinking part was sidetracked while the dog almost pulled me down while chasing down a squirrel. After wondering how a 40lb dog could almost pull down a very large woman, I wandered back to a snippet of conversation among friends this morning about the things people sometimes say. "Oh, you're going to wear THAT color?" "Oh, that's the quilt you just finished? It looks, um, nice," or the ever-popular opaque review "Well, THAT was something."

Sometimes, we need to hear hard truths. Sometimes, we need to hear love. As friends and lovers, children and mothers, how do we know when we should say what? Does what we say matter as much as how we say it, or what kind of a place we say it from? I dunno. It seems like I get this wrong more often than I'd like, putting my foot in it when I don't mean to be mean, when I mean to be anything but mean.

What I do know: there is a world of difference between assuring children that they are fabulous in every way (which is something they usually know isn't true, anyway) and assuring them that YOU think they are fabulous because of every little silly thing that you love about them. And isn't that latter truth far kinder than a fake cheerleader assurance that they're number one? Particularly when they're not?

And there is never a time when anyone needs to be told they are ugly, stupid or worthless. Rare are the times when a truth that will hurt cannot be told in a gentle way, or a gentler time. So, if you see me out on roller skis this spring, be sure to tell me to tell me how fit I look in my workout pants, rather than noting that I look like a porker in my too-tight workout tights, ok?

I'm not sure which part of the anatomy (throat versus bile duct) won this round . . . .


Monday, March 07, 2011

Mommy goes to college?

So we've all heard about it by now, the post-lecture sex toy lesson at Northwestern University. Was this demonstration valuable as an educational tool (pun intended?) Guess that depends on how you define "valuable." Was it worth the price paid for it ($0.00, as it wasn't officially part of a class?) Yes, about that, I'd guess.

Feel free to argue about the legitimacy of a course of study entitled Human Sexuality, but it is an academic field at most universities. As such, it seems reasonable to me that this course would include a lively and graphic discussion of sex toys. But I can't imagine that it was necessary to give a live demonstration for the professor to make any particular point on the need for--or use of--sex toys.

Most courses and professors manage to make their points without demonstration, as much as hands-on learning is valued in the earlier grades.

Would it be possible for me to write this without double entendres? Apparently not. :-)

The Professor involved doesn't seem to be making the argument that it was necessary, though. In an alarming display of common sense that is sometimes absent from post-secondary academia, the demonstration occurred after the class ended and attendance was entirely voluntary.

So it wasn't necessary and it wasn't valuable. Clearly, I must be up in arms about it and want to protest as a concerned mother? Nope.
Sex is an adult topic, one legitimately studied in post-secondary education. Northwestern University is an institution where adults are educated. And as a tuition-paying parent, I'm ok with treating my progeny as adults.

While Mommy and Daddy may be paying tuition for educating these adults, they are no longer in charge of the education their children receive. Having parents show up to protest their children being exposed to such depraved lessons seems fairly out of touch with reality to me.

The reality is this: when your child leaves for college, you are no longer in charge of them or their experiences. If you ever were. If they choose to take a course on Human Sexuality, and then they voluntarily stay after class to watch a demonstration they've been told will be graphic, and they don't leave if/when it becomes very graphic, then the resulting experience is theirs to deal with.

If a student was offended or made uncomfortable or felt strongly that this particular event was a waste of their valuable academic time, then it falls on the student to say so--not the parent.

If I am disappointed about anything regarding this scenario, it is the apparent absence of discussion by female students concerning orgasm achieved with a modified sawzall, sexual roles, or a broader discussion of S&M and women (and whether the use of such a toy is S&M.) Those discussions might seem more than academic.

Perhaps those discussions are, in fact, happening. But we and the media seem far more interested in discussing how offended we are rather than stepping back to see whether any learning might actually be taking place from the experience.

Sometimes reading the news makes my head hurt. Guess I should go back to bed (no secret meaning there--I'm sick!)