Wednesday, March 27, 2013

27 March 2013

When I was in middle school, I was teased and called names. You learn to shake off a certain amount of this. By the time I got to middle school, I was used to a fair amount of name calling and meanness. I could just put my head down and ignore the people who were calling out to me to get my attention, just so they could look me in the face and laugh when they made a joke at my expense. People saying they liked my homemade pants, where could they get a pair; boys pointing at each other saying, "He likes you!"; the names like fatso and tub of lard were familiar. I had heard them from my own mother at some point in my life. She didn't like fat kids either.

But one day when I was in the hall on the back end of the gym, having either just come from gym or from the bathroom nearby, a boy called me Blubber Lips. I was mortified. I didn't even know that was a thing. I knew I was fat, there wasn't anything I could do to hide that fact. But blubber lips? Is that a Thing, a Bad Thing, to have fat lips? It bothered me a lot at the time even though I have no idea which boy said it and, truth be told, whether he was actually talking to me. I assumed he was, because it felt like most random comments shouted out in my direction were towards me, even though I tried to ignore them and pretend they weren't about me at all.

For some reason, the thought that there was another part of my body that could be fat and considered unattractive, a body part that I just had never considered as problematic, that was just hard to take. I think after that I deliberately tried to make my lips look as non-fat as possible. I kept them closed tightly often times.

A few years later I was in a musical with a local singing group. A woman was helping me apply stage make-up, and she drew a line around my lips with lip liner before she filled it in with lipstick. She told me she was making my mouth a little fuller as I had thin lips. I do? I asked in amazement. I wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing either, but it seemed like fuller lips were better. It was just a statement of fact, and I wasn't sure if it was good or bad, but later I realized I wanted fuller lips. I was a person with lips not big enough for the rest of her, it would make more sense if all of me was big, I thought.

My top lip is thin. It seems to have always been problematic. It has a scar, and it is uneven. When I was 7, I was in a bike accident. A boy deliberately rode into me and knocked me over...I think. I lost a bit of time around the accident. I remember riding down the street with a group of girls, going as fast as we could, and seeing this group of boys in a driveway. A boy was on a bike, at the top of a ramp, smiling. The next thing I remember is waking up as my dad was carrying me down the street to my home. He was wearing a maroon shirt, and my face was against his chest. I was in pain. My hands were torn up, with flesh gouged out of them, and my lips were a mess. I must have landed right on them. I had a giant swelled lip that was black and red. It looked like the bubble in a pizza crust at that pizza place at the mall.

My parents took me to the emergency room, and I had stitches. I remember lying on the table and feeling so sleepy, looking at the lights. They told me to put ice on my face to reduce the swelling. My mom and sister thought I looked so terrible that I remember being very diligent with the ice pack, wanting to impress my mother with my healed face. It worked, she was excited when it started to look better. I remember lying in bed at night, looking at my poor chunked out hands and crying that someone would hurt me like that.

My mom was angry at the boy who did it, and started making me go out with her into the street whenever she saw him playing. She would go up to him and yell, "Look what you did to my daughter, look what you did to her! Are you proud of yourself?" That was embarrassing, and I started resisting going outside, so she'd yell from the doorway. Eventually she got over it, thank goodness.

When I talked to friends about the accident, they told me I was passed out on the street and bleeding, and you could still see the blood stains. I couldn't see them when I went to look--they looked like old oil stains, there was no blood. And I wasn't damaged internally, so it wasn't like I was coughing up blood, as they said I was. Oh, the melodrama of that age. The girls also told me that the boy's mother came up to me and told me to get up go home and stop faking it. I was really angry at her for saying that. I wanted her to admit she was wrong. My sister apparently brought some kids by the house to look at me through the window, saying I was a monster. I don't remember that ever happening, thankfully, although maybe I would have thought that was funny. I remember getting to eat poundcake cut into little squares. My lip healed, but there was a scar at on the top lip where the little peak was supposed to be, and my lips were forever asymmetrical after that, although that probably isn't uncommon anyway.

I asked my father about that accident when I was an adult, what did he see when he came to get me. He said I was just sitting on the curb, crying. I seemed stunned. He told me come on home, but because I seemed out of it, he picked me up and carried me.

The other day I was putting lotion on my face, and lamenting that I have my mother's thin top lip with very little peak--unlike my husband and my daughter's beautiful little cupid's boy lips. My scar isn't even noticeable anymore, but it's the same darn lip my mother had, that's why I have thin lips. She did too. At that point I remembered when that boy called my Blubber Lips. I'm 46 now and was only 12 then, and he may not have even been yelling at me, but I carried it anyway. Funny how those things stick with you and come back at the oddest times. It probably explains some of my insecurities and why it is still easy for me to believe that I get less respect because I am a fat woman. But in some ways this can be freeing.

15 December 2012

Guns are violent. Guns are inanimate and often silent, but in their function they are violent. They are like the forces of nature in that way, and reflect the natures of human beings who created tools that are useful and violent to help them persevere against a capricious and often violent world. Many things are strong, deadly and operate with a violent effect, but guns were created specifically with one need in mind--a way to concentrate power into a wieldable form, a power that is beyond what the physical bodies of humans can achieve without a tool. All weapons, all tools are a way that we use our intellect to extend our physical abilities to gain an advantage, and a firearm is a tool in that sense. But to see a gun, to see a photo of a firearm has a specific effect on us, produces a specific reaction. We know the significance of them; we know they are created to kill. Even if we never fire a gun except at a target, and see guns only as a type of sport, we know the original purpose of target practice. This is true of weapons.

Yet we are able to distance ourselves from the violence of guns, knowing we have them for a purpose we hope never to encounter. We can view them in a historical context that is colored by the very bloody, deadly conflict between humans so that guns are just part of this noise, a somewhat interesting and admired part of it. We can evaluate the tactics of war like a game and reenact these wars in recreation as an enjoyable pastime. We will adhere to a religious belief in which the instrument of torture and death of our Savior becomes the symbol of the Savior's sacrifice. Eons pass, and we distill very real things into symbolic ones, and then change the meanings. Humans do this all the time. It's one of the things, I believe, that is uniquely human. It takes a certain amount of intelligence to be calculatedly violent. Yet we maintain that ability to gloss over the significance of things so that as biological organisms, we can continue to thrive and reproduce. Many many things suffer at our hands, and we laugh at their suffering, deeming it part of nature.

Part II, written after December 15th
People love guns, people hate guns, people imagine a world with no guns; they should imagine a world without violence, for a world just as motivated by greed and self preservation in the gathering of resources but one without technology is a part of history. The truth is not necessarily revealed by facts. It may be ludicrous to talk about guns as being protection for women when more women and children die today because of firearms. But we are talking at cross purposes, comparing the statistical with the ideological. Do you believe, at your core, that you have the right to take up a weapon and defend yourself and your loved ones? Are you a pacifist. If you are not, what are the limits of the weapon you should be able to choose? Does the Second Amendment even address this? It seems very vague and insufficient for our purposes today.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed could be interpreted as there shall be no governmental regulation of any kinds of weaponry. But there is, of course. We regulate and control when and where firearms can be used, who can own them and who cannot, and what kind they can own.

A Constitution that cannot change or be interpreted in such a way to reflect the needs of the people in the society it is used to govern is useless. Philosophical beliefs can transcend time and space, the good ones always will. But we can't take 200 years of technology and ignore it. We are dealing with an issue of rights in a world where what was once not even something someone could imagine is now beyond possible. We can argue that the technology we have is too dangerous and we need to find ways to reign it in because our culture and society are such that we demand this as a people who elect leaders to govern us. We can interpret the Constitution literally, and therefore say we believe that we are limited to the firearms technology available at the time. We can't, however, say that there are only two options: no firearms, or unlimited weaponry. We aren't allowed to own nuclear suitcase bombs. We are allowed to interpret and write laws that we feel will serve us best as a technology.

Ultimately I do believe that people have the right to arm and defend themselves. I do believe people have the right to work together to interpret and change the laws in a way that is beneficial to society as a whole, in a way that is Constitutionally sound. I feel that, like the abortion issue, we are comparing apples to oranges. When you look at the issue of individual owning and using firearms, and when you look at the issue of people having abortions, the thought at first might be that these things are terrible and basically exist to end the life of living things. Just like most women who choose to have an abortion aren't saying, "yay, I get to kill a fetus", most people who use weapons aren't saying, "I'm going to go kill some children." People are making decisions about what is best for themselves and their family, even if it comes at a price that seems too high to others. I'm always amazed, I must say, when people who want to reserve the right to kill another human or group of humans to preserve their property as well as their safety, don't believe that a woman should have the right to end the pregnancy in her own body before the baby could ever exist outside of it. If there is a repercussion from the Universe and the State in making this decision, then each person has the right to make that decision for him or herself and deal with both the legal and spiritual fallout.

With the culture, the history, the ideology around the myriad of dangerous technology, whether weapon or not, we will never be able to keep people from dying violently, before their times. I'm willing to be proved wrong, I'm willing to try, but part of me believes that there are worse things than dying by a firearm. When I think of that woman in India, pulled gang raped to death, and thrown off the bus, I think it would have been better for her to have been shot.

I started writing this on December 15th, but I kept it as a draft for a long time