Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Pain in the Nose on My Face

When I was a girl of quite an impressionable age and imagination, I learned that a swift, forceful blow to the nose can kill a person.  I am wholly aware that the probability of death from this action is remote, that the force and angle of such a blow must be precise for the nasal bone to penetrate the brain, and that I should not worry about this impending doom; yet this knowledge has developed over time into a phobia that is equally hindering and laughable.  (A fear further complicated by the fact that my mom describes my nose as perfect, making me even more protective of my this, most promising physical feature.)

Because of my nose issues, I don't like sudden movements toward my face.  Games with balls make me nervous.  Braden and I do play catch, but I prefer baseball, where the glove serves as a barrier, to football, where a spiral pass could be fatal.  Of course, my athletic prowess ends at catch, but if I were to play sports, I would enjoy soccer, mainly because headers are optional, but don't even think about placing me on the net in volleyball.  (I played volleyball in the seventh grade. Lack of skill was not the only reason I wasn't a starter.)  Tennis I hate for all together different reasons, but that green ball propelled at you by a grunt and a racket makes it the worst of all the ball sports.

Crowded rooms are also a danger zone.  No, I am not claustrophobic; it is the worry of a rogue elbow in my face, not the crowd itself, that sets me on edge.  For this reason, I like to keep at least an arm's length of personal space between me and other people when I can.  I have to know you well to be comfortable enough to receive a hug or a kiss and I usually close my eyes during both in order to relax enough to accept it.

I never request that someone "toss me" something; I walk over and get it myself.  During a cold read of "Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain" by Jessica Mitford with my AP Langsters last Spring, I got lightheaded at the descriptions of what happens to a corpse's face during embalming.  I abhor the 'I got your nose' game that some sadist created to entertain toddlers (and yes, I deprived Braden of the cognitive experience the game supposedly elicits).  Unaware of the specifics (and compelled by a gift certificate), I once had a facial; I escaped before the torture set me to hyperventilating.

In addition to all the mental implications of my phobia (and the anecdotes above sadly only scratch the surface), it also impacts my corporeal health.  When I have a cold or sinus infection, I am physically unable to use nasal spray or a Neti Pot even though I know that both could ease my pain and save me the $20.00 doctor copay.  Merely thinking of shooting those liquids in my nose turns my stomach.  Instead, I invest in Puffs with Aloe and demand a prescription for Amoxicillin.  (My last doctor wanted to give me a steroid shot in the nose to ease my suffering.  She is no longer my doctor.)

Mine is not a phobia so debilitating that it prevents me from living life, but it obviously upsets some ease of existence.  Some people are irrationally afraid of speaking in public; I am just like them when it comes to irrational fear of being killed by my own nose.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chivalry was Killed by the Women's Rights Movement

Each year I ask my Senior students to consider the following question: Is Chivalry dead in American teenage culture?

Typically, even after a two week unit on Chaucer and other Medieval literature, during which we address the concept of Chivalry and all its elements--Justice, Faith, Largesse, Humility, Loyalty, Courage, Franchise, Prowess, Defense, and Nobility--the majority of them are only able to muster: Chivalry is dead for some teenagers, but not for others.  These students then highlight how some teenagers hold doors or volunteer to be chivalric, but that those who are rude to teachers (or other elders) do not behave chivalrically.  (In my class, Chivalry also functions as an adverb.) Essays by these students revolve solely around the element of loyalty (or kindness in their modern perspective), and for that reason are quiet flat to read.  (And yes, they butcher the pronoun 'some' in the writing, making the essay vague as well as unoriginal.)

Occasionally a student successfully identifies possible reasons why American teenagers seem void of chivalric understanding and capability.  An eloquent commentary about Chivalry as a learned behavior that identifies a cultural shift away from serving a greater good and toward individual dominance transpires to show the student's awareness that the world just isn't what it used to be.  These essays stand above the previous example, but because they usually end with a trite claim that 'the world would be a better place if we all were a little nicer,' the cliche' squelches the argument.

And then there's the student whose perspective completely blows me away; a student whose depth of thought and understanding of culture far surpasses that of his or her peers; a student whose argument about the death of Chivalry compels me to question my own position on the topic.

This year a student presented such a claim.  The student--let's call him Dan--asserts that "Chivalry has become a concept absent in today's teenage culture and women are to blame....Whatever causes the increased promiscuity of females has made men lower their ideals of how to treat women.  Whether is it the media or just social pressure to accept the new 'norm,' when women lower standards of lady-like behavior, men will follow...If ladies refuse the lifestyle of loose dating and actually require guys to treat them right, they will get what they want.  What women fail to realize is that they hold the key to chivalry being reinstated in society."

Being a liberally minded, 'I am woman, hear me roar' kind of gal, my first response to Dan's position was that of annoyance.  How dare he place the blame for this problem on solely women when men hold equal responsibility in dating and relationships.  And then I reread the essay again and again and even again; the more I read it, the more logical it sounded.

Promiscuity and equality are not synonymous or contingent; having one does not mean accepting the other.  The Women's Rights Movement was founded on the principles of equality for women in regard to taxation, employment, property ownership, legal rights and responsibilities and other politically and professionally driven desires. (Want to know more about Women's Rights? Read The Declaration of Sentiments.)  Nothing in the historical documents indicates a correlation between these rights and the practice of Chivalry; yet many women, myself included from time to time, confuse gentlemanly behavior with domination and control, assuming that allowing (and even expecting) a man to treat a woman according to the fairness of her sex negates the progress made for women in the past 150 years when in fact, if what Dan declares is true, women hold the key to Chivalry in society.

If only all women could agree that females set the tone for equality and Chivalry; in that prospect lies great power--a manner of power that could change American culture in ways more profound the the Women's Rights Movement ever imagined.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

If I were to pin-point when the enchantment of Halloween evaporated for me, I would readily be drawn to the year my sister was born, the year I went Trick-or-Treating as Strawberry Shortcake, the year of my first store-bought costume--the year I was seven.

Prior to that year, my mom elicited the aide of her Singer sewing machine to stitch for me traditional princess, witch, and clown costumes.  But none of these impressed me as much as the authentic Native American Indian attire she crafted with precision and care for both me and my younger brother.  Suede pieces latticed together with leather rope.  Beaded detailing on the smock of my dress and on the front plate of Travis's shirt.  My long, blond braids entwined with leather and feathers; his fine hair set away from his face with a simple, yet authentically inspired, headdress.  If not for the betrayal of our Irish, freckled complexions, we looked authentic.  Our mom's love was rewarded a thousand-fold with the compliments from strangers as we wandered the streets in search of treats (being far too scared of tricks).

Store-bought costumes (as manufactured in the early 80s) just didn't cut it.  The plastic, front only masks, held on by a length of elastic that, in a feat of gravity would twist itself around your hair like a python on a man, ripping it out in clods, were a flimsy rendering of the character's features.  The costumes themselves choked at the neck, rose in the crotch, and anticipated a flood at the ankle.  Instead of embodying believable characters, the costumes bred laughter, and, as a result, my discontent.  And thus, I abandoned Halloween as a magical time of year (and sought that magic in literature and movies--and, much further down the line, in parenting--instead).

As a mom, I understand the mystery and wonder that Halloween holds for children.  I enter each witching season intent on building for Braden an experience similar to the ones my mom crafted for me, to brainstorm homemade costumes for him to wear Trick-or-Treating.  For his first official Halloween, he was set to go as Winnie the Pooh, a hand-me-down plush costume (not homemade), but when he saw the factory manufactured bee costume I had donned, he 'buzzed' after me until I let him wear it. That year started an eight-year tradition of purchasing Halloween costumes for Braden instead of making them, a tradition much less festive, yet much easier, than concocting something original on my own. 

The closest I came to original costuming was the year he went as a ghost, but you don't really have to be crafty or innovative to cut up a sheet.  Sadly, before that night was over, the ghost costume had to be hung like a toga. It seems five year old boys don't glide as gracefully as Casper, and after the fifth or sixth face-plant, a college frat boy seemed safer than a friendly ghost.

In defense of store bought costumes, the frightening skeleton he paraded as when he was five and ominous zombie skateboard punk he embodied last year were both much cooler than anything I could have imagined; yet I wonder if, as his mother, I should demand more from myself for All Hallows Eve.

And these are my mommy-fueled fears:  Does Braden enjoy the rituals of childhood in a manner as memorable as I had the fortune to experience as a girl?  Should I gauge his experiences by my own past or by a barometer we set for ourselves?  Do I allow the ghost of Halloweens past to haunt the present or do I exercise them while Braden still shivers at things that go bump in the night?

Monday, October 17, 2011

13 Nights of Halloween, Saucy Wench Style

Each year, ABC Family heralds Halloween by airing its annual "13 Nights of Halloween" programming, which includes a litany of spooky movie must-sees such as Beetlejuice, Hocus Pocus, and The Adams Family.  The standard scares, mixed with a new ABC Family Feature movie and a few frightening tales from some of the ABC Family series, provide thematic showings guaranteed to raise the haunted spirits of even a Halloween Scrooge such as myself.

In homage to ghosts and ghouls, shivers down your spine, shadows on the wall, things that go bump in the night, and monsters under the bed, I bring you "13 Blogs of Halloween," a series of posts dedicated to frightening topics in the world of the Saucy Wench.  Like ABC Family's "13 Nights of Halloween," it promises to be spookily entertaining.

Come for more tomorrow...if you dare...