there is a lot of stuff going on

N'oreastercanes and Random Penguins and Disney Wars. And that's just the stuff happening not immediately in this household. We have incomplete Halloween costumes, uncarved pumpkins, a choir concert in *looks at clock* two hours, the better half of a marriage who has only a handful of days left to cast that early ballot, exhausted other half of the marriage who spent all weekend shaking hands and hugging people and talking about books and asking questions about books (OK, that last one isn't a bad thing, just an exhausting thing), library conferences to prep for, classroom parties to prep for, food to cook, animals to feed, homework to cry over. SO MANY THINGS.

There are things I want to talk to you all about. Heathcare anecdotes and admonitions, the climate and it's fucked up shenanigans, how I want to lobby for a month of the year to be called Don't Be A Dick To Other People Month So That We Will Learn Important Lessons And Thus Won't Need A Month Dedicated To This Sort Of Thing Any More. I want to talk about the trouble with Good 'Ol Boys' Clubs and I want to make jokes about politicians who want to get rid of FEMA only to then chastise the federal government for not getting relief aid to communities faster.

So many things I want to talk about.

But that choir concert is now in *looks at clock* one hour and fifty minutes, and I am still wearing my Zombie University t-shirt and dirty jeans. The kid who is singing is said concert is not wearing his white shirt and black pants, but is instead in his underpants playing Minecraft. The other two children have disappeared.

Just know, my friends, I really want to be stirring you up right now, two weeks before the election, but I am going to need a lot more coffee than I have injested today to make that happen. Possibly also Hermione's timeturner.

It will happen. Yes. It will. (the blog posts, not the timeturner, alas)

Until then, I have a project for you. Let's think up all the future titles of the inevitable picture book Ann Romney will write.

Here's a couple to get you started:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Needs to Get a Job
Don't Let the Mexican Drive the Bus!
Alexandar and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dressage Horse

OK – your turn! Come up with some good ones. I expect a long list when I come home tonight after a hundred hours of elementary choir songs. 

Early voting! Done! (With only a few admonitions and one set of buttocks used as drums.)

(Just a warning, I feel like this post is about to be filled with adverbs. Apologies.)

Remember how, a couple of days ago, I encouraged everyone to bring their 600 children with them to vote? Ostensibly, this offers an example of civic pride and shows your kids long lines of people who care enough about our country to make their voices heard. It shows what a great place America is, when you see lines filled with people of all sizes, shapes, colors and, uh, smells. IT'S A VALUABLE TEACHING MOMENT!

Pretty sure this is what I said. Or what I implied. Or somesuch.

So, today, to put my money where my loud mouth is, I took my own 600 children with me to go vote early. Technically, I have only 3 kids, but it sures feels like 600 when you're waiting in line at the grocery store in front of floral department and behind a row of voting booths that begin to take on the appearance of giant, precarious, dominoes waiting to be knocked over on top of several (probably ordinarily very friendly) geriatric cranks.

On the way to the early voting place I announced to the kids, "Hey! Who wants to go vote?" They were very enthusiastic, piping up with, "I do! But I have to poop first!" and "Can I bring the Kindle Fire?" and "When you go up on stage will we sit in the audience?"

This elicted a round of explanations and a trip to the restroom. Then we were ready.

Upon arrival at the grocery store, we were excited to notice that everyone else in line had probably cast their first ballot in the Harding-Cox presidential election. Perhaps we could ask them pointed questions about the history they've lived through. Perhaps we could just whisper and hope to not get caned.

Bucking the trend (har), were two adorable hipsters in front of us. One of these adorable hipsters was also name Kari – elicting this question from one of the poll workers, "Oh, wow, are you related? Is it a family name?"


At first glance, the folks in line were all friendly. We were all there to vote, right? It's a celebratory thing! Hooray! The big brown eyes of my spawn even managed to earn a few begrudging smiles. But then the people in line were done with us. Initial smiles faded. My brood and I were not being Serious Enough About Voting. We did not bring the correct Gravity To The Situation. And, probably, the children's attempts at small talk ("So, have you heard of Minecraft?" "Do you know my nurse, Anne?" "I learned a bad word in school today that starts with an F") did not help our cause at all. Ten minutes later in line and our relationship with our elder line-mates had grown fractious. Perhaps a metaphor for the country at-large?

Ike-a-saurus was doing his best to imitate one of those whirlygig firework things that spins out of control until it lands on your face and sets your hair on fire. The girlchild was doing her best to spell the bad word that starts with an F that she learned about at school today (I swear she didn't learn it from me. She can't read my blog yet.) The older boychild was attempting to thwart polling place rules by turning on his iPod to play his portable Minecraft. I was attempting to prove to my elders that I am not the worse mom ever, and that I take voting very seriously, and that is, in fact, why I brought the children to begin with, because isn't it valuable to teach them—- Yeah, no one cared.


Here is where I made my first big mistake. (First, you ask? Surely, everything up until this point has been a mista— NOPE.) My mistake was agreeing to let the people in line behind me go ahead of me so that I could get a quick refresher on how the voting machines work. I was pretty sure I could handle the knob and the buttons, but I didn't want to do anything stupid to render my vote useless.

400 hours later when the poll worker in charge of explaining the machines was finished with her spiel and with waving around her laminated aircraft-safety-looking pictorial instructions, the kids were staging a revolt and there were no open booths left.

Ike threw himself into a display of roses and the girlchild entagled her arms around my waist so that I was trapped in a kind of parasitic yoga position.

Finally, a booth opened up in the middle of all the other booths. There was barely room for me in there, with my pointy elbows, so imagine how it worked as I tried to crowd the kids around me. Immediately, Ike began to yell, "I CAN'T SEE! I CAN'T SEE!" and the oldest boychild began laughing and then asking questions like, "What does straight party mean? Isn't that demeaning to gay people?"

At this point, I was still trying to put in the damn validation code.

The woman next to us turned around and snarled at the oldest boychild. "You may not lean on the booth, you will knock it over!" She had huge nostrils and was possibly a witch, though she wasn't wearing gloves and I couldn't see if her feet had no toes.

Sam backed away quickly. Ike continued jumping.

"I'm going to take Ike to the men's restroom," my six-year-old daughter offered, helpfully. "NO!" I shouted, and everyone turned, yet again, to stare at us.

"Just, please, please, be quiet and stand still. Just for a few minutes," I begged the children. They appeared to not hear me, so I tried again in my Zuul voice and they quieted down.

So I quickly ran through through my ballot, voted for everyone who is not a sociopath woman-hater, and just as I clicked CAST BALLOT I turned to catch Ike playing bongos on the possible-witch's ample hiney.

"No!" I shouted. "You do not play drums on people's butts!"

And with that I whisked the 600 children out of the grocery store and into the parking lot. We happily affixed our "I voted early" stickers, and breathed in the humid afternoon air that smelled and felt like chicken nugget jello.

"Can we get chicken nuggets?" the children asked immediately, and in unison.

"No," I said.

"But this is a democracy!" one smart mouth countered. "We should get a vote!"

So I let them vote and when they proved a majority for chicken nuggets I invalidated all of their votes because they could not provide me proper identification.

In conclusion, I would like to continue advising everyone to vote, but would also like to amend my initial plea to bring all your children with you. I'm not saying don't bring your children, I'm just saying you might want to plan some extra time. That's all. And feed them beforehand. And use your Zuul voice in the car before you get into the polling place. And remind everyone that drumming on people's butts is a thing best enjoyed at home, or when you are visiting Uncle Joe Biden.

Also, it's a good idea if everyone poops first.


Now go vote!

I still can’t find my book

so I gave in and bought another copy to tide me over until I can find the original copy. Then I'll give someone the new copy, or maybe just keep it in my purse in case I lose the old copy again. Either way, it doesn't matter because I'm not writing this to tell you what I'm going to do with my copies of EB White's essays. I'm writing this because I want to quote one of the essays. It's from 1941 and was written from a small cottage on one of the Florida keys.

"In the kitchen cabinet is a bag of oranges for morning juice. Each orange is stamped "Color Added." The dyeing of an orange, to make it orange, is man's most impudent gesture to date. It is really an appalling piece of effrontery, carrying the clear implication that Nature doesn't know what she is up to. I think an orange, dyed orange, is as repulsive as a pine cone painted green. I think it is about as ugly a thing as I have ever seen, and it seems hard to believe that here, within ten miles, probably, of the trees that bore the fruit, I can't buy an orange that sombody hasn't smeared with paint. But I doubt that there are many who feel that way about it, because fraudulence has become a national virtue and is well thought of in many circles."

See there? 1941. And he could be talking about politics in 2012. 

Live-blogging the last presidential debate of 2012!

I'm going to do it. I mean, we've all had our minds made up for weeks, right? This one is just for fun, right? Romney could eat a baby and Obama could be played by a talking horse and no minds will be changed AT ALL. So let's have a little fun while we all enjoy rage-induced aneurysms tonight. Yes?


See you back here at 8 pm CST. 

8:02: Best news so far tonight: Ari Shapiro and his dreamy eyes will be commenting on the debate when it's over. PBS FTW.

8:04: I'm already imagining the bad lip syncing. "Hi there, devil harpoon." "My pleasure, horse farts."

8:05: Has Romney won all the tosses? CONSPIRACY! Maybe the coin toss machine is provided by Hart Intercivic.

8:08: Every single time I hear someone say Libya my train of thought goes A) plutonium B) 88 miles per hour C) NOOOOOOOOOO

8:10: Oh, ho! Gender equality and education for the middle east, Mr. R? Maybe we should get on that here at home, too, good sir.

8:12: "The 1980s are calling and want their foreign policy back!" SEE?! I am not that far off base with my Back to the Future brain shenanigans.

8:17: Every time Romney tries to be all, "Hey, we're friends here, why attack me like this?" my head wants to explode. O is not attacking you, dude. He's pointing out that you are a lying liar who lies. And then lies again. And then keeps lying while lowering his voice to try to sound like Reagan.

8:20: Assad must go. Assad will go. Will he go in a boat? Will he go with a goat? Will he go with some fun? Will he go with big fat guns?

8:22: You know what would be awesome? If these guys were all wearing American flag contact lenses.

8:26: "I wish the US government would intervene in all these other governments. But when it comes to our own government, I wish the government would GO AWAY." 

8:28: "I wish people would educate women and give women more rights… in all these other countries."

8:30: "I will not cut a military budget" Good to know, Mr. OH MY GOD WE'RE HEMMORHAGING SO MUCH MONEY WE CAN'T EVEN PAY FOR PELL GRANTS.

8:33: I like that the tone in which Romney just said "I gotta policy" was very much "right here in my pants, asshole." Bring it.

8:35: "Latin America is a huge time zone opportunity for America." This is point four in the five point point plan? Interestingly enough, we have a lot of Latin Americans in our own time zones RIGHT NOW. Working jobs here RIGHT NOW. So, we want them to self-deport back to their own more convenient time zone? And learn how to run call centers? My brain. It hurts.

8:37: Slashing education funding undermines our future. YES. DUH. And Romney's comeback? Oh, well, standardized tests blah blah blah. *headdesk* Oh, wait, I mean *headfloorbecausethereisnomoneyfordesks*

8:42: I'm still stuck on "I'd get rid of Obamacare on day one." I can't even think of a joke. Except that without Obamacare a whole lot of kids with pre-existing conditions won't get the medical care they need, and thus won't be healthy enough to fght in the future wars the Republican party is salivating over. That's not a joke, though, is it?  

8:45: Pretty sure with that little submarine bit, Obama just called Romney a fucking idiot, but in a very FCC-friendly way.

8:49: I am fighting with you about all the things I agree with you about! We agree on these things AAARGH. Let's keep fighting about how much we agree on these things!

8:56: Do you ever get the impression that Obama would like a "Bring your opponent to work day" so that he could trot Romney behind the closed doors of the white house and be all, "Do you SEE THIS, motherfucker? These crazy ass clowns of the world that I have to work with? You think I can just go pee on a tree in North Korea to prove I'm the boss of the world? Not how it works, man. Not how it works." I get that impression.  

9:02: I like how when Obama gets pissed his whole face narrows to a point. It's like his entire face focuses. That is a scary pointy face. I would not want to see that face when I brought home my report card.

9:04: And that right there, folks, was Bob Shieffer saying politely, "Fuck off, you interrupting interruptor."

9:08: Is this live blog a little bit boring? Sorry guys. I keep wiping my sweaty eyebrows and getting distracted by the chocolate covered almonds in the other room. Also, I was promised that Mitt was going to eat some decaffienated babies during this debate and that has not happened yet. YAWN.

9:13: Let's use drones to take out all the things we don't like! [ladies, keep a veeeery close eye on your uteri]

9:15: This has given me a very good idea, actually, this whole using drones to kill everyone we don't like. I could start my own small business wherein kevlar underpants are made to sell to feminists. Think I could get tax breaks? Maybe I could get some time zone friendly Latinos to work in my factory?

9:18: This, I think, is the best, most important point of the night. If everything goes to hell at home, how can we help the world? If our kids aren't educated, if they are sick and not taken care of, if their parents are broke, if it's impossble for anyone but rich people to go to college, then our country is FUCKED FROM THE GROUND UP.  

9:20: I hope Mitt is planning to give us 96-hour days, because he has a LOT on that Day One agenda, doesn't he?

9:22: This whole "don't attack me" bullshit makes me want to… uh… attack something. Obama is attacking your ineffectual plans, dummy. If he wanted to attack you, he would put on his lucha libre mask and smack you with his chair.

9:27: The condescending hand pat on the table is saying "I see your battleship and raise you Reagan-voice."

9:30: Energy sources of the future! FINALLY we get to the worm hole / teleporter part of this debate.

9:34: "Oh, hey, folks," says Mitt. "I'm an honest conciliator. Except for the part where I lie all the time and my kid talks about punching the president." 

9:36: Now it's time for Ari Shapiro to come on PBS and calm us all down by allowing us to fall helplessly into his dreamboat eyes.

9:38: I think I'm done now. Am I done now? I feel like it's time for more chocolate covered almonds and maybe a drink of an alcoholic variety. 

I’ve lost a book

Instead of getting any work done this morning, I've been through the house at least three times looking for a book. I just saw it the other day, so I know it hasn't actually disappeared, and yet, it's nowhere.

I can tell you where it's supposed to be, though. It's supposed to be on my desk right on top of the volume of collected poems by Billy Collins and under Sharon Creech's Love That Dog and next to an Ogden Nash book and just in front of Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity. These are the books I keep on my desk so that when I need a little burst of inspiration I can pick one up and remember how writing is supposed to look and feel and sound.

But the one I'm missing is the most of important of all. Or, at least, the most important for today. It's a collection of essays by EB White, so droll and smart and cranky and wonderful, I can lose myself in them for hours – really, for days. In some of the essays, he talks about living on his farm and in others he talks of the city. He talks of politics, both minutely local and terrifyingly large. He talks about his pup, Fred, and about a raccoon mama and about pigs and birds and wood-burning stoves. Everything he talks about is with a smidge of whimsy and a huge dollop of intelligence, and often there's a nice sprinkling of a hidden kind of lovely melancholy. Every time I pull that book out and read something I feel like my heart and my brain both grow three sizes.

And now it's lost.

I checked the pile of books by my bed. I checked the pile in the bathroom. I checked the two piles in my sons' room. I checked the upstairs bookshelves and the downstairs bookshelves. I checked the stack of books by the window in the kitchen and the stack under the side table in the living room. I checked the niche in the wall where I sometimes lose books because I set them there when I need a sandwich. I even checked the top of the fridge (where I have been known to hide books that I don't want the kids to run off with). Can't find it, and now I'm bereft. 

Here's a great quote explaining the pull of EB White's essays (from a 1977 article in the New York Times): "With his relaxed serendipitous technique of seeming to stumble on his subject by way of the back door, he lends you confidence that you don't really have to know much about a thing to write about it intelligently; you need only possess the skill to write, along with a lot of sanity. Thus, if you've got the hang of it, you can arrive at the subject of disarmament by way of Mary Martin's furniture, or at the prospects of American democracy by the route of a dachshund named Fred."

These essays are not blunt and angry, even though the ultimate topic may be something worthy of being blunt and angry about. They are languid trips down sun dappled paths where before you know it, you are staring into the face of an angry raccoon or being chastised by an off-kilter neighbor, and yet you're smiling and nodding, or shaking your head and wincing, and then you're past the scary part and back on the path only you have a new found respect for the topic and for the man who took you on the stroll to begin with.

I can never, honestly, hope to write essays like EB White, but I can hope to take some of the things he's done and make them my own. To be an esaayist's essayist is a nice thing to be, and yet, it's also nice to reach a wider audience. Is it possible to add a little more fire to the languid walks and turn them into a kind of EB White – Molly Ivins Mr. Toad's Wild Ride? That's what I would like to do with my writing. I'd like to take the wheel and spin you into walls that crack open just as you think you're a goner. But instead of making you cry out, I want to make you laugh and say AH HA! Or shake your head and give me a rueful fingerpoint.

There is a way to write an essay where the reader feels a little out of control, a little unsure of where the whole thing is heading and then BAM, right at the end it all makes sense. This is something I would like to practice. And to practice it, I need my copy of EB White's essays.

So the hunt continues. For the right words, the right topics, the right guiding hand, and the right book. And just like the book, I know those words and topics and that guiding hand are out there somewhere, it just happens to be somewhere beyond my reach.

I will keep looking. 

Why should you vote?

I was thinking that today we could discuss why voting is important. I mean, yes, duh, we all know why voting is important – so we can get those little football-shaped stickers to wear and be all smug in line at the grocery store. But deeper than that – why should anyone vote when:

"it's all rigged to begin with"
"they only give us a shitty two-party choice"
"[fill in your home state here] is so [red/blue] my opposing vote will never make a difference"

Here's why, in the words of my 10-year-old: "You should vote because it gives you a choice in picking out a leader." When I played Devil's advocate and said, "But I want to vote for a Democrat and Texas is predominately Republican, so why should I worry about voting if the Republicans are going to get the electoral votes anyway?" He answered, "If you don't vote then you have NO chance of winning. If you do vote, at least you have SOME chance." And then he looked at me with that classic "mom you don't know anything" look and went back to his Minecraft.

So before you ALL give me that look and go back to your Minecraft, I've set up a little FAQ here to help us all remember that we do not have to actually be the cynical assholes we play on the Internet.

Please vote on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. Let me repeat that in case your state muffed up your voter registration card (but only in Spanish) and told you your voting day is November 8th. YOU VOTE FOR PRESIDENT ON NOVEMBER 6TH. EVEN IN ARIZONA. EVEN IF YOU SPEAK SPANISH.

Q: But what if it's snowing/raining/hailing/too cold/too hot and I don't feel like going to the sketchy school/church/grocery store in my precinct?

A: 32 states and DC allow early voting. So if you're worried the weather may be crappy on November 6th, then vote early. If you don't like the smell in the elementary school where you have to vote on election day, then vote early. In Washington and Oregon, you don't even go to polls. You just mail those damn ballots in. If you aren't sure how things work in your state, here's a handy guide.

Q: Oh, holy shit, that line is long.

A: Yes. There may be long lines. But this is one day of the year. And even if you get snowed on or rained on, this is your chance to have a say in the American political process. Even if you're jaded. Even if you believe your vote doesn't count. You still GET THAT VOTE. You are lucky that you have the freedom to be too lazy to vote. But don't be too lazy. Be pleased that you don't have to worry about the military shooting you in the face because your finger was dipped in purple ink. Then go vote.

Q: Why should I vote for someone I don't like instead of writing in Mickey Mouse as a form of protest?

A: You want to throw your vote away? For every vote you're willing to toss in the garbage, there's some nutjob out there full of hate and misogeny who WILL vote. The trash can gets your endorsement, while someone actually on the ballot gets the batshit's x-marks-the-spot. Your protest just hands more votes to people you oppose. It says, "OK, lunatic, Imma let our country value your say over mine." You know one of the reasons why this country is fucked up? Because the lunatics LOVE TO FUCKING VOTE. They love to see you write in Marilyn Monroe. They eat that shit for breakfast with sprinkles on top. When you throw away your vote, you are helping the lunatics win. So pick a side that you feel is less populated with fringe psychopaths and VOTE. Choose a side as if your life may depend on it, because one day it might.

Q: OMG, I am going to have to bring all of my dozens of screaming children with me.

A: This is OK. You will teach them about their civic duty, and you will have the opportunity (if you want) to vote for someone who supports your right to have affordable contraception and healthcare so that maybe four years from now when it's election day you won't have to have a quadruple stroller accompany you in the voting booth.

Q: What do I do if I have to work two jobs and can't take time off to vote? If I leave early I won't get paid for those hours and we really need the money.

A: This sucks. But I have a few suggestions: look into voting early or voting by mail. Many states will allow you to vote by mail with no excuse. Some require an excuse. Please know that voting by mail often has a cut-off date that is earlier than the general election date (at least I think so), so you'll have to do some research. Here's a site that has a lot of helpful information.

I also suggest that if you are unable to vote early or by mail that you take the hit financially and get those hours off if you can. I know that really sucks, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry there are people in this country who go out of their way to make it difficult for others to vote. But this investment you make in taking time off of work so you can vote is an investment in your future. And I know that sounds cheesy, and that it probably makes you want to roll your eyes or punch me, but it's true. If you make the sacrifice to vote then you can cast your ballot for the candidates who will support people like you. If you mark your ballot you can have your say in choosing the decision makers who fight for wage increases and healthcare and other normal-mortal-beings costs. In the state of Texas, if everyone who worked two jobs to make ends meet went out and voted; if everyone who has six kids and can't afford doctor bills or groceries went out and voted; if everyone who wants to see themselves or their wives earn equal pay for equal work went out and voted we might see a drastic change in traditional voting returns.

Q: It's all a scam. It's all rigged. Why should I bother?

A: You know how you un-scam it? You know how you un-rig it? You vote. You pick a side and you vote. The un-scamming and un-rigging won't happen overnight. But think about this: if more people get out of their chairs and into voting booths, change can happen. Startlingly out of touch politicians will learn valuable lessons when actual normal regular non-hateful reasonable busy people take the time to cast a ballot. Because you know what? As hard as it to believe sometimes, normal regular non-hateful reasonable busy people are the MAJORITY of people who live in this country. If we all cast aside our cynicism for one day so we can cast a ballot, we will see change happen. Is it so naive to think that we can, one day, have a Congress that works together, along with the president and Supreme Court to make thoughtful and helpful and important legislation? I know it sounds incredibly pie in the sky, but think about it. Why is there such sniping and fighting and divisiveness in politics? Because THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE VOTED INTO OFFICE. Is it naive to think that if the reasonable people banded together and voted other reasonable people into office, that things might be different? Maybe. But don't you think it's worth a shot? Sure there will always be differences of opinion, but will there always be hatefulness? If both sides of the aisle stand together and say ENOUGH IS FUCKING ENOUGH, can there be change? I'd like to think so. But maybe I also like to think that one day a unicorn will clip-clop up to my house and poop a lovely rainbow on my doorstep. Cynicism is hard to shake. Even so, you gotta vote. And don't just write in your favorite unicorn's name.

The truth of it is this: the way our country is set up, we are allowed to scream from the rooftops how much we hate or love an elected official. We can yell our outrage or devotion into the vast depths of canyons and interwebs and into the 24-hour stinking tar pits of television "news". We can call radio stations and love on or fight with people all we want. We can make signs and protest. We can write letters. We can write blog posts with swearing in them. But to have your voice truly heard you have to cast a ballot. If you want your screaming and teeth gnashing and frustration and adoration to be acted upon, you have to vote. And you have to get your like-minded friends to vote. And you have to help the disenfranchised to vote. Because we can talk all we want, but nothing changes if we don't stand by our words with votes. 

If you don't like any of the candidates you have to choose from, then choose the least horrifying candidate and begin advocating for someone new to run in the next election. And I don't just mean this for the presidential race, but for all elected office. Do you think your state legislature is out of control? Find better legislators. Do you think your school board is all kinds of fucked up? Find better school board members. We can whine and cry and cry and whine all we want, but this country is set up so that we can offer and then choose sacrificial souls to assist in the betterment of society. We can find better souls. We can vote.

You can vote.

You must vote.

No excuses.

November 6th. (Unless you can vote early, in which case VOTE EARLY, DAMMIT.)

Don't let opposing politics make you apathetic.

Don't let over confidence make you apathetic.

You don't have to be ignored. You don't have to be a pawn. You are the boss. These people work for you. Don't forget that. And don't let them forget it, either.


Do it.


In which I get SHOUTY about how equal pay for women and women’s need for contraception might weirdly have something to do with each other

From a comment on yesterday's binder post:

"Tomorrow I'll look for your blog on Obama's answer on this question – and how women's need for contraception has something to do with equal pay."

I will happily tackle this request! And I thank you for asking.

I would like to apologize for not going the full on snarky route where I point out that Obama's argument during the debate followed the natural flow of the question, which began, "In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace…" and ended with "…specifically, females earning 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn." I will not go into the nitty-gritty details of how he eloquently answered the question, listened to Romney's answer, and then followed up by bringing the question around back to general inequalities in the workplace. If I did that, then I would be pointing out that maybe some people didn't listen closely or smartly to the conversation, and then I might worry about inviting bad karma upon myself for calling you, basically, inattentive and clueless.


How does equal pay have to do with workplace equality and contraceptive choices?!


(We can worry about karmic retribution later.) 

Let's pretend I am a lady. And let's pretend you have a penis. Now let's pretend we work in the same office and have the same job title and I make 72 cents for every one dollar you make. Let's also pretend that I have to get an IUD because birth control pills give me ocular migraines and so increase my risk of having a stroke, thus rendering them unsafe for me to ingest. And let's further pretend that my health insurance is not legally required to cover contraception. My out-of-pocket expenses to get an IUD would be around $1000. Or maybe I don't get ocular migraines, but my body chemistry requires a certain type of hormonal pill that costs $75 a month. That's $900 a year. So now I don't just make 72 cents on the dollar compared to you, I am also out another $1000 for the year. My salary just took a hit because of my ovaries. Again.

BUT GET THIS. I am married. And let's say you are married, too. I work outside the home and your wife works outside the home. I am not interested in having another child at the moment and you and your wife are also not interested in having a child at the moment. Both our families are paying for birth control. Both women in each family make 72 cents on the dollar compared to male counterparts. Both women pay upwards of $1000 for family planning. Both women ARE GETTING PAID LESS than both men. YOUR WIFE gets paid less. This means YOUR WIFE BRINGS HOME LESS MONEY TO YOUR HOUSE. Thus, YOUR WHOLE FAMILY HAS LESS MONEY.

You know how your whole family would have MORE money? Fair pay for women and insurance coverage for birth control.

You know another way your whole family would have MORE money? If you had a penis and were married to another penis.

Did your head just explode?

Mine did.

So that, friends, is how Obama is able to take a question about fair pay and workplace inequality and turn it into a question about contraceptives being covered by workplace-provided health insurance.

And that, also, friends, is another example of just how deep-seated and unrecognized sexism and paternalism is in our society. If I frame an argument about equal pay for women in a way that points out their male spouses see less money in their households because of this inequality then suddenly lightbulbs go off everywhere.

Obama said that equal pay and contraception are not just women's issues, they are family issues and economic issues, and he's right. If I earn the same amount a man earns, my WHOLE FAMILY has more money. If my $1000 a year contraception is covered, my WHOLE FAMILY has more money. Dudes can buy more lawnmowers with this money. Gals can buy more adorable panties. Or maybe wait. Maybe we can all BUY MORE FUCKING GROCERIES with this money. Maybe we can afford more gas for our cars. Maybe we can buy an extra birthday present for our kids. Or pay for the mortgage. Or afford the natural gas bill. Maybe MORE MONEY GOES INTO THE ECONOMY if women get equal pay. Maybe MORE MONEY GOES INTO THE ECONOMY if we do not have to scrape for dollars to pay for unplanned pregnancies. Maybe there are LESS ABORTIONS if women have access to affordable contraception. Maybe LESS PEOPLE ARE ON WELFARE if women earn equal pay and have contraception.

It seems to me Republicans are all about less people on welfare, less abortions, and a more robust economy. Well, surprise motherfuckers. If you pay women equally and offer them affordable (even *gasp* free) contraception, you get ALL THE THINGS YOU WANT. Except you also get women who have an equal footing with men. And you don't want that, do you? Not really. So just like the Congress is willing to tank legislation for the sole reason that it came from the president, Republicans are willing to whine and cry and wring their hands about the economy and welfare and abortions all while doing everything they can to block the path that would benefit the former and decrease both the latter.

Contraception has EVERYTHING to do with equal pay. And equal pay has everything to do with contraception. And contraception and equal pay have everything to do with the economy and jobs and welfare and abortions and all of those things. AND, not only does contraception have to do with equal pay, it has to do with YOU. Even if you are a dude and you aren't married. Why? Because you have a penis and you like to use it. It's a two-way street, folks. And it's time that both sides of that street were funded equally.


And also why I don't really worry that much about my karma for saying it. I think, I – and my like-minded friends – might not be the ones needing to worry about karma in this situation.

Wherein I rail on and on about the b-word and the vaginas that inhabit them

Before the Internet diverts us to the next bloom of idiocy in this algae pond we call politics, it seems important, nee REQUIRED, to discuss these goddamned binders of women. DON'T RUN AWAY. I really mean it. Let's discuss why this whole thing exploded last night.

What's the big deal, right? As governor, Romney was looking to hire more women. He was presented with women's resumes. He hired some of the women. Why would socialist liberal elitist feminist vaginae get all ramped up about this? Women were given jobs! They were given flex time to take care of their families! Who gives a flying fart about binders when Romney's Massachusetts administration went out of their way to hire qualified women for important jobs? I mean, SHUT UP, INTERNET. Right?

Except, wait. Didn't he just say he needed help finding qualified women to hire? Meaning that all those years he worked at Bain – a tiny little business requiring drastic tax cuts to hire people – he never came across any "qualified" women coworkers? Never any women partners in the business? In his whole professional life he couldn't call on ONE woman to join his cabinet? He had to get outside help to find those resumes for him?


And when asked if he supported fair pay for women, Romney couldn't answer. He wouldn't answer. He didn't answer. He did, however, emphasize that women needing to leave the office at 5 so they can cook dinner for their families was A-OK with him. But you know what? Women aren't the only people in this great nation who know how to make a pot of mac 'n cheese. What if a woman needed to stay at work for a late conference call and her husband had to go home to make the hot dogs? Is he in a binder full of men who make hot dogs? No he is not. Though, to be fair, he may be in a binder of men who have redundant jobs. Or a binder of men whose jobs would be more cheaply filled overseas.

Because here's the thing – the heart of this icky truth – to Mitt Romney you are not a person. You are an asset or you are a liability. If you have a vagina you have a slash against you already. (Sorry.) If you have a vagina and you are raising a child on your own you have many, many marks against you because – as Romney so eloquently stated – you are more likely to raise a violent, gun-loving psychopath.

So what he's saying, underneath all the platitudes and the pandering and the binders, is that women need to be at home taking care of their born-in-hetero-marriage babies. Men need to be working past 5 pm while their dinner is kept warm for them.  

He's saying that it's OK for women to get paid .72 on the dollar because they are not the go-to "qualified" applicants for jobs. They only really need jobs when there's such a glut of employment all the men are already taken! That's why he has these binders, you see. Binders of women who can finally be employed because it's finally OK to have someone working who cannot fully commit to a day's work because she has be at home hashing out what to whip up for supper.

He's saying, "Aren't you proud of me, that I'm such a stand up guy I have piles and piles of women's resumes all neatly sorted and collated?" 

He's saying, "Isn't it enough that I have these binders? That I know these women exist? Does it even matter that there are more women in the binders than in the workforce?"

He's saying, "I won't pay you equally if you're a girl. Also, I don't like it that the government can assist you if you are a girl, and you aren't making enough money to pay your bills, and you have no partner."

He's saying, "I will strip you of your healthcare, of the preventative measures to help you not birth an AK-47 wielding sociopath. I do not support funding to help teach your children how to adequately protect themselves from becoming single parents. In fact, I do not support the funding to teach your children about anything – unless it's to take a standardized test, drive a tank or fly a bomber."

He's saying, "It's better for babies to grow up violent than it is for them to have a loving same-sex set of parents."

He's saying a lot when he talks about these binders. And I hope you're all listening while you're posting your funny memes to Facebook. It's interesting to me how people glommed on to this binder thing so quickly. I think some people definitely saw it immediately for what it was, and I think others just thought it was funny. But even in just thinking it was funny, there was a deep down unrest. A kind of knowledge on the cellular level that this statement was not just ill-advised, but so much more than that. Because in these easily mockable moments there is a stark truth. And that truth is even if the words come out wrong, the sentiment is there. The sentiment does not get changed. Maybe he could have said "binders full of women" differently. Maybe that asshole from Missouri could have said "legitimate rape" differently. But does it matter?

I am here to offer this answer: NO.

It doesn't matter how it's phrased, because the phrase comes from a notion. And the notion comes from an ideology. And the ideology comes from a deep-seated system of beliefs. And those beliefs are that women are not equal citizens. And as much as these men – these politicians – will argue that this is not what they mean, it is. As much as they talk about sitting at tables across from ordinary Americans, across from the unemployed, across from the under-insured, across from the over-taxed, across from the beleaguered Olympic committees, what they are saying is that there is one thing they look for first: genitalia. And if yours doesn't match theirs, woe be to you.


Put that in your gaddamned binder. And file it under W, right before "Women."

With sincere apologies to Laura Numeroff (and, really, to everyone)

If you toot in front of the preschool,
your child will call you out in front of everyone.

When your child calls you out in front of everyone,
you will lie and say that it's thundering (even if it's sunny outside).

When you lie and say that it's thundering,
you will feel very guilty because this is a *church* preschool.

Feeling guilty will make you apologize.
To God. 

You look for a rainbow to see if God heard your prayer.
Looking for a rainbow makes you think of unicorns.

And their farts.

"Why aren't unicorns real?" you wonder. "Narwhals are real."
Thinking about narwhals will remind you of a story you wrote once.

You hurry home.
You dig through your notebooks, then remember the narwhal story is on your computer. 

You sit down at your computer to find that story,
but then your Facebook tab is open and you see something about a fish climbing a tree and forget why you were at your computer in the first place.

Forgetting about things while at your computer is hungry work.
You look for a snack.

Ooh. You find a cinnamon roll.
Then you remember: it's actually against the law to eat a cinnamon roll without also having a nice cup of coffee.

You make coffee.
And compliment yourself on remembering all the laws of cinnamon rolls.

Sitting back down at your computer you have a hazy recollection of horned beasts and God.
What day is it again?

Better find the calendar.
That's right. Monday.

Mondays are so nice sometimes. No really.
They can be quiet. Perfect for working.

Crap! You should be working!
THAT'S why you were at your computer!

You settle in to revise a manuscript when you start to feel itchy.
Not actual itchy, itchy-inside-your-brain itchy.

Is your brain itchy because of too much coffee?
No, that's not it.

Is your brain itchy because you're growing a unicorn horn?
No, you feel no horn stumps.

Maybe you need more coffee to figure out why your brain is so itchy.
You go make more coffee.

While you're in the kitchen making more coffee you see the clock. Oh no!
It's already time to pick up your kiddo from preschool!

You chug the coffee and run out the door.
Whew! On time. Your kiddo kisses you hello and walks with you outside.

This is when you find yourself amongst a crowd of kids and parents.
You also find yourself with a tinge of indigestion.

And chance are, if you find yourself amongst kids and parents, AND you recognize a tinge of indigestion,
you will also find yourself apologizing to God

Because you've just lied and told everyone it's thundering
thanks to your child calling you out  
for tooting in front of the preschool.