Thursday, December 22, 2005

back to the ol' homestead

Tomorrow morning early we leave for TN, the place of my birth, for Christmas but much more importantly, for my mei-mei's wedding. It will be gay, it will be fun, it will be one ultra-hip soiree.

I guess the next post will have a bunch of pictures to show you all what fun you missed...

Monday, December 19, 2005

theological reflections on "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"

One of my favorite perennial Christmas classics is that edition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer where Burl Ives narrates as Sam the Talking Snowman and sings. You know, the one where the little figurines move around jerkily but endearingly. (For some interesting info about this classic, click here.)

My favorite character in this thing is Hermey, the Elf who wants to be a dentist. Herbie reveals this sick unnatural ambition in a conversation with the Elf Boss, who lectures him threateningly:

Hermey, miserably: Not happy in my work, I guess.
Head Elf: WHAT??!
Hermey: I just don't like to make toys.
Head Elf: Oh well if that's all...WHAT??!! You don't like to make toys?!
Hermey: No.
Head Elf, to others: Hermey doen't like to make toys!
Others: (repeat it down down the line) and in chorus: Shame on you!
Head Elf: Do you mind telling me what you DO wanna do?
Hermey: Well sir, someday, I'd like to be...a dentist.
Head Elf: A DENTIST? Good grief!
Hermey: We need one up here...I've been studying it, it's fascinating, you've no idea, molars and bicuspids and incisors--
Head Elf: Now, listen, you. You're an elf, and elves make toys. Now get to work!

The ontology undergirding the Head Elf's reprimand of Hermey leaves no room for consideration of an elf who deviates from his "nature" by not liking to make toys. It's simply inconceivable. Hermey's attempt to "fit in" is stymied when, engrossed in the task of providing teeth for some dolls, he misses elf practice and suffers another confrontation with the Head Elf, which concludes with the Head Elf's vicious assertion, "You'll NEVER fit in!" Miserable, Hermey jumps out the window in self-imposed exile, his only option to be true to himself.

Rudolph's situation is parallel. Born with the disgusting congenital deformity of a red glowing nose, his parents are horrified (even his own mother can only weakly offer, "we'll have to overlook it," while his father goes so far as to actually hide it by daubing mud on his son's face.) Later, at the "reindeer games," Rudolph outshines the other reindeer in skill, but when his prosthesis falls off, everyone gasps and his erstwhile playmates mock and shun. The authority figures echo this attitude: the Coach gathers everyone up and leads them away, saying loudly, "From now on, we won't let Rudolph join in any of our reindeer games!"

Santa's role throughout most of the cartoon is to legitimize the prejudices against the misfits already evident in lesser members of the Christmastown community. When Santa visits the newly birthed Rudolph, his unthinking prejudice becomes plain when he comments that Rudoplh had better grow out of it if he ever wants to be on his team of flying reindeer. Santa's behavior at the scene of the reindeer games is even more disturbing; like his pronouncement at Rudolph's birth, he says, "What a pity; he had a nice takeoff, too." For Santa, Rudolph's skill is less important than his nose, an arbitrary physical attribute. A distant and authoritarian figure, Santa is unaware of Hermey's plight (apparently the welfare of elves is beneath his notice) and condemning of Rudolph's gall in considering himself a reindeer of the same worth and dignity as the others.

Rudolph and Hermey get together, and a few lines of their "misfit theme song" are revealing:

"We're a couple of misfits, we're a couple of misfits--
What's the matter with misfits?
That's where we fit in.

We may be different from the rest...
But who decides the test
of what is really best?"

In "Christmastown," those who decide "the test of what is really best" seem to be the tyrannical and thoughtless majority, reinforced by authoritarian sanction by Santa, the pseudo-benevolent despot. Those who question the status quo--those who are already marginalized--are mocked, punished, and driven out of the community.

Over the years it's become apparent to me that this simple children's cartoon contains some real subversive elements: Hermey's misfit-ness is the result of apparent "choice," but the kind of choice where the alternatives are to be true or false to oneself. Rudolph's misfit-ness is the result of birth rather than choice. Change "dentist" to "gay" and "red nose" to "black skin." Now the subversive message is clear: Santa is racist, the Head Elf and the elf community is homophobic, and "Christmastown" is really "Whiteytown."

Given this subtext, the change of heart on the parts of Santa and the Head Elf at the end are more than just the formulaic ending to a well-known Christmas fable. Although it takes a prodigious feat of community service on both Hermey's and Rudolph's parts (each requiring skills peculiar to their misfit-ness) to bring the authorities and the community to repentance, repentance is indeed the note sounded in the conclusion. Everyone, including Santa, apologizes to the misfits. And in the end, difference is valorized rather than exiled.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


my nose, my nose
is a snot hose

she blows she blows
where it all comes from
nobody knows.


I read in a book somewhere that this can happen in pregnancy. I think this means that I can look forward to this miserable slimy condition from now until June. I'm trying everything I can, to no avail: I sleep with Breathe Right strips on my face (unpleasant to remove but at least marginally helpful to keep you from drowning in your snot while you sleep); I've been using Brent's Neti pot every morning (unpleasant because it can make you feel like you are actually drowning but does a swell job of flushing out your snotty head). I run through boxes of tissues. Today I think I'll add walking around with a stinky mentholatum mustache. See what desperation leads to? (And yet, I really like breathing...and I bet the kid does, too.) But now my throat hurts because there's so much snot that while I think the majority of it is content to get blown out of my nose, some of it is impatient and has found an alterative way to make me miserable: the post-nasal drip. I know my body's wigging out on me, but this is ridiculous: how can it be so far gone that it's into producing not just one but two rivers of snot? Shouldn't it be concentrating on making other bodily fluids, that amniotic sac stuff, all that extra blood that's supposed to be circulating? Why snot? When the kid gets old enough to ask questions, I won't be telling about how dreadfully cold it was when I was pregnant, or how my back hurt, or whatever. I'll be saying, "when I was pregnant with you my body tried to drown me in snot. It was horrible. I still haven't forgiven you completely." This will probably produce a warped vision of human procreation during those formative years--but come to think of it, if the kid grows up thinking that sex involves inordinate amounts of mucus, perhaps that will serve as useful deterrent come adolescence...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

a link

This is a link to a message from Dale Pauls at Stamford Church of Christ that I picked up off the forum at For anyone wondering why I bothered to do such a crazy thing as audition for the Vagina Monologues, here it is, in Dale's words.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Hi everyone.

Last Friday I tried out for the PTS production of the Vagina Monologues. Last year was the first time for the Vagina Monologues to be performed at PTS, and I wasn't able to be a part of it, or even go see it, so this year I was determined to get involved somehow. Then, I forgot all about it and just happened to be walking past the Women's Center and saw that I had almost missed my chance...and part of me said, oh well, it's for the best, I'm a busy woman. But another part of me, maybe it was my vagina, decided to kick my butt and make me ashamed of my apathy and whaddaya know, I scrawled down my name for a time slot and so that was that.

I didn't get a real part (waaah) but I am part of the Vulva Choir. That's good enough. I have to say, it was liberating just to try out, really.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


When I was at HUF (spring '97), I saw a mosiac of the Slaughter of the Innocents on the floor of a cathedral--it may have been Siena, but I don't really remember. I can, however, still see the depiction of the soldiers spitting babies on the bayonets, weeping women reaching out vainly for their children. It was a shocking thing to see and it disturbed me so profoundly that I ended up trying to process the experience by writing it into a short story.

In Matthew, where the story of Herod's decree to kill the male babies under two is told, Jeremiah is quoted: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

This pregnancy has been nothing but joy for me. Even the weeks of muscle soreness, constant urination, and low level but chronic queasiness were a mark of something special, something happening that set me apart and gave me a reason to be happy. Getting pregnant was like falling off a log. I have those fears and anxieties that everyone has, but there's no special reason to worry, or particular thing to fear. I have every reason, my shelf-full of preggie books tells me, to assume that things will turn out perfect.

But I know some Rachels. Some Rachels who are desperately hoping to someday have what I have, what I have and have taken for granted. Some Rachels who, despite their own inconsolable grief, can still say to me, I'm happy for you. And now that I have some inkling of what it means to have, imagining suddenly not-having wrecks me. Now that I understand that a pregnancy, from the moment you see that dumb little blue line on your generic test from Target, changes your whole life because now, now suddenly, there's a new human being in your life, whose presence cannot be ignored or denied, whose presence has changed absolutely everything.

So I wonder why. Why are there Rachels? Why me? I find myself so grateful for this wonderful thing that has happened--but I shudder to call it a gift, because it means that there are others who don't receive this gift, and that begs for explanation. Even worse to call it a blessing: why me, why not Rachel?

In the midst of my joy, I am sad. I am sad for the Rachels I know, and I am sad because I know that no matter how happy they may be for me, truly, that my joy makes some part of them sad. The bigger and rounder I get, the more obvious my own good fortune becomes, the more the question must haunt them: why her, why not me?